Jamaican Family Search Genealogy Research Library


by Daniel L. Ogilvie


Continued from Trelawny 11

See History of Trelawny list of pages and links



In the good old days when sugar was king and rum the son of Bacchus, Good Hope was the hub for the Parish of Trelawny. It was at this center that all planters met to discuss the economy of the sugar industry and cogent matters. It was the meeting place for conviviality. The primary reason was due to the fact that John Tharpe and Sons owned more estates than any other in the Parish. These were Good Hope, Covey, Lansquinet, Merrywood, Pantrepant, Potosi, Top Hill, Wales and Windsor. He also owned more slaves than any other one proprietor in Jamaica, viz., 2,583 in the year 1829. Good Hope was the residence of the Tharpes. Good Hope was, from records available, built by Colonel Thomas Williams in the year 1744. On a Tablet thereat is the following inscription "Colonel Thomas Williams, jnr. from the Parish of Westmoreland began to settle this estate April ye 7th, 1774, and named it "Good Hope". The Great House was built in 1755. This was then a part of St. James. Trelawny Parish came into being in the year 1770.

In an Almanac for the year 1828, we find several Williams's as proprietors for estates in Westmoreland. Among them are the Honourable Martin Williams as owner of "Old Hope"; John Williams, the owner of "John's Hope", and Joseph Williams owning "Long Pond", "Anglesea:, "Cairucurran", "Carawiba" [Carawina?]. It is quite evident that the Honourable Martin Williams may have been related to the Colonel, the then owner of "Good Hope", in Trelawny. The names of the properties have classic soundings. The buildings on this property are exquisite and bears testimony to good workmanship and to the wealth of the proprietor. Colonel Williams was succeeded by Mr. Obediah Williams, his son. How the property changed hands, is obscure. Tradition says that Mr. John Tharpe was overseer to Mr. William and after his departure and residence in England, the finances of the Estates were reduced to a low ebb and in disgust the estates were passed over to Mr. John Tharpe. We find that in the year 1802, the price for sugar in London was 36/6 per cwt. This was a period of great depression in the West Indies. Lady Nugent in her Journal for 1808, wrote that Mr. Tharpe of Good Hope, Trelawny, came next to Mr. Simon Taylor of St. Thomas in respectability and as owner of extensive properties in Jamaica . . . .Sir George Nugent and Lady Nugent visited Good Hope on the 2nd April, 1802, and were guests of Mr. Tharpe. Good Hope was in those days an exclusive Colony. It had its Doctors, its own Church, "St. Peters", Foundry and all the requirements essential for the group of Sugar Estates. It had its own Wharf and Offices in Falmouth as well as Town residences. The present Collectorate and Customs House with its pier was the Shipping emporium . . . Two homes in Falmouth, one in Market Street and the other on George Street, known as Mrs. Marie Tharp Doig's premises were also part of Good Hope's holdings. We cannot, however, reconcile facts and history with tradition as regards the disposal of those estates by the family of Williams. Our records show that the Williams in 1829, were still in possession of estates in Westmoreland and the decline in the price of sugar had no disastrous effect. The greatest slump in the price of Sugar came after the Napoleonic war in 1815, when England paid a bounty on Sugar supplied by the Continent to the detriment of her West Indian Colonies. This period saw the closing down and abandonment of a number of the Sugar estates. Up to 1815, Jamaica produced annually about 120,000 tons of raw wet Sugar valued at £6,000.000, and after that fateful war and until the year 1897, or thereabouts only 14,000 tons valued at £120,000 were exported. Of this quantity one-fortieth was purchased in England and the balance by the U.S.A. This goes to dissipate tradition as to how the properties were acquired by the Tharpes . . . Tharpes were in possession in the year 1802. These estates were taken from the Tharpes after the Emancipation of Slaves in 1838. The new conditions being untenable and uneconomical bearing in mind that each slave previously made a net profit to his owner of £11 per annum. Mr. Tharpe owned over 2,500 slaves. They were liquidated about 1840. The several estates being purchased by separate persons. One Mr. Coy, an Englishman, acquired Good Hope, Covey and Pembroke. They were inherited by a Mr. Shearer and afterwards sold to Captain Alexander Oppenheim who threw them up as uneconomical and in the year 1912 they were purchased by Mr. John F. Thompson, an American gentleman. Mr. Thompson had to expend quite a tidy sum in the transformation of ruinate to good pastures. War broke out in 1914, and he made quite a good penny from Logwood. He planted the properties in coconut and had it stocked with the best cattle and horses. With his inherent enterprise he had several acres planted in Cassava and established Machinery for starch production. His Saw Mill also catered for a good supply of labour, all this was abandoned as they became uneconomical. The now famous Good Hope Hotel was eventually founded by him and it is still continuing under his family name and enjoying well merited success. Among the distinguished visitors to this Hotel were Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein in 1914, the late Duke of Kent and his Duchess, and all the Jamaica Governors up to date. The industries of Good Hope are "Coconut, Cattle and guests".

Good Hope and Covey have 1,800 acres with over 500 heads of Cattle, Wales and Potosi, 2,000 acres with over 800 heads, all incorporated as Good Hope Estates. The sceneries are marvelous. Beautiful and well kept commons and pastures and every possible device has been introduced to make it up-to-date without any destruction of its antique variety. It is well watered by the Martha Brae River where fishes abound. The undulating hills are pleasing and easily accessible and the atmosphere charming and invigorating. Additional notes will be found under Churches history.


Many have had the erroneous idea that the Africans were made slaves by the white man. This is an unfounded fallacy as everyone claiming any knowledge of history will agree. Even Bible students should have a fair conception to lead the less informed instead of promulgating a doctrine prejudicial and damaging to the white man. We have no brief for this race, but desire to enlighten and give a fair and impartial narrative.

Slavery has been by conquest and is as old as the hills. The Israelites were made slaves by Pharoah in Egypt - they were not bought or enchanted by music as some silly persons conjecture the Africans were. The Englishmen were slaves to the Romans also by conquest. We cull the following from a very old book entitled "The Bible Class Reader":-

"A few years before the consecration of Gregory to the sacred office (of Pope) when he was walking in Rome, he saw some handsome youths from Britain exposed for sale. He asked whether the inhabitants of that Island were pagans. They are, was the reply. "Alas", said he, sighing deeply, that the prince of darkness should possess countenances so luminous? What is the name of the nation? "Angli", it was said. "Their countenances are indeed angelic: it is to be regretted that they are no co-heirs with the angels in heaven. From what province do they come? "Deira or Northumberland". "It is well," said he, "de ira, snatched from the anger of God. What is the name of their king?". "Ella", was the answer. "Then Allelulia should be sung to God in that Island," said he. The pious Gregory felt so much interested, that he had some Saxon youths instructed in Christianity and sent them back to England with Augustine over them, towards the close of the sixth century etc."

The Englishman has never forgotten that they were civilized by the Italians insomuch that that memory of gratitude was demonstrated when the recent Peace Treaty was signed. The Anglo-Saxon wanted no reparations from Italy and the Treaty was the mildest ever.

Let us revert to Africa, the land of cannibals and heathens and the most absurd and repugnant superstitions - the land of our forefathers. That country was divided up and still is to a lesser extent, among Chiefs as heads of tribes. It was no common thing for one tribe to make war on the other tribe under the most trifling grievance, real or imaginary. The battle was decided by a show of strength and the conqueror would seize as many of the people, freemen or bondsmen, as captives. They there and then became slaves to the conqueror in similar fashion as the Israelites were to the Egyptians. With their number annually increasing, these slaves were sold to anyone desiring to purchase them. Nor were the purchases only white men, the Africans themselves bought them. Students of history will remember that it was not long ago that the system of Slavery existed in Abyssinia and it only came to an end when the British Government refused to recognize that country until slavery was abolished.

Mischievous capital have often been made of the mistreatment meted out to the Slaves. We have no doubt of this as a fact, save that it was not general but isolated. One gains inspiration in reading the history of England and learn of the barbarous custom of the country in olden days. If a white man had tied a black man back to a wheel and cause it to revolve slowly until all his bones are broken, it would be said 'it is because the sufferer was a black man'. But this was only a part of the white man's punishment. Were a black man to be confined in a dungeon for nineteen years before being brought to trial and then found guilty and executed, the same argument would be used. Yet this was the fate of Mary, Queen of Scots. Sir Walter Raleigh suffered the same martyrdom for fifteen years. All these incidents took place during the sixteenth century despite the existence of the Magna Charta of 1215. We all say that these acts of torture could not take place today. Quite so. No one any longer believes in the Divine Rights of Kings, but in a Democratic form of Government in which the people are masters of the sword, and not the Kings. The other day in conversation with a prominent friend of ours who is of African descent, he remarked on the rapid strides made by the black man. That what they had accomplished in a century, took the white man over fifteen hundred years. He had entirely forgotten that the white man made civilization with the sacrifice of flesh and blood and our originators. The other races only copy - a much easier and less costly process. We make the foregoing observations with the hope of mollifying any shock that may occur to you by the facts arising in the lives of our African forefathers in Slavery, particularly in the parish of Trelawny.

The Parish of Trelawny appears to have possessed more slaves than any other parish in the Island. For this assertion we rely on the "Jamaica Almanac" for the year 1820 of which we are the fortunate possessors. The slave population in that year is given as 25,654. Of course, Trelawny then had 88 Sugar Estates in operation. Of this number the Tharpe estates had 2,583 on their nine properties, viz., Covey, Good Hope, Lansquinet, Merrywood, Pantrepant, Potosi, Top Hill, Wales and Windsor. These slaves were said to have received great consideration and humane treatment at the hands of their owners. Naturally, they were regarded as so much asset. The prevailing price of a good able-bodied male slave was £30. At Good Hope they had a resident physician, a hospital and a Church of the Established Faith. Tharpe's generosity and indulgence was said to have cost him his estates. It was proverbial among the people that it was "never mind" that caused Mr. Tharpe to lose his estates. He lacked business ability and astuteness. His slaves were given comparative freedom. When Emancipation arrived, many of these bondsmen refused to leave their master. They even exhibited sorrow when by force of financial circumstances, he had to surrender some of his properties in consequence on the decline in the price of Sugar. On many of these properties were Englishmen deported as a penalty for their crimes in the Mother Country.

The system was one of Indenture for a number of years.

On the 27th. January, 1817, the Clerk of the Vestry was directed to address a letter to Mr. James Allardice the Overseer of Braco Estate, signifying that the Justices and Vestry as a Council of protection, have examined the situation of a Negro man slave named Sambo now belonging to Braco, and who appears to have been punished by his direction with great severity - the Justices and Vestry therefore admonish Mr. Allardice against committing an act of the kind in the future.

In 1774, the Justices and Vestry ordered that Dr. Thomas Bradshaw be paid the sum of £40, being for a Negro man slave named Adam, his property, who was executed for the murder of a white man according to law.

The most reprehensible act that we have come across in our research was that recorded in the Vestry records of the 30th. September, 1789: Resolved that the Church Wardens to pay Michael Lynch the sum of Two Pounds for his trouble in burning a Negro slave, the property of Edward Jackson, Esq., pursuant of his sentence. We were wont to believe that such atrocity on human beings were relegated to this distant past of which we are writing, but to our amazement and horror, we read in the Gleaner a few days ago that on the 29th. August, 1949, at Naseru, Basutoland, in Africa, "the Basutoland High Court sentenced one man to death and five to prison terms for the ritual murder of another native who was skinned alive before being killed. The victim was scalped, his tongue, eyes and nose cut out and then his body skinned while he was still alive. Man's inhumanity to man with the gravest vengeance.

Between the years 1798 and 1799, the slaves gaining inspiration from the Maroons, created much confusion in this Parish which produced a nervous tension on the local Government as the following report presented to the Justices and Vestry on the 12th August, 1788, illustrates: The Committee reported that from the most strict and accurate inquiry into the present state of the new settlements in the interior of the Parish, it is with much pain that we have to report that from the unfortunate circumstances, this Parish having been since the Maroon War, so much infested by a body of armed Runaways on the frontier, who have carried fire and destruction wherever they have appeared and have murdered several of the inhabitants, there has been a total check of the settlement and improvement of their back lands and that it appears to us that a great many of the old settlements have been deserted and the inhabitants driven into the lowlands (among the many instances which might be adduced in proof of this affirmation the following are mentioned as a few: Edward Fleeming, Thomas Johnson and eight others. Most of these had well established settlements and were in a progressive state of improvement. But there are also others whose settlement were but commencing and who had been discouraged from carrying them on and who had been obliged to abandon them: Ed. Knowles, John B. Irving, John James, to this list might be added the back lands provision grounds of a great many of the Estates which had been thrown up entirely or every much neglected. Your Committee beg leave further to report that such as been the situation in this parish from the frequent attempt of the Runaways to disturb the frontier settlements and Estates, that they have been under the necessity from the urgency of circumstances to go to a very considerable expense, not less than £400, in fitting and keeping out parties for their protection and security but which they are happy to say has been attended with the utmost benefit to the Parish as well as to the Island at large by the apprehending and destroying of a number of Runaways. Your Committee further report that as these Runaways are not yet entirely suppressed but are still making their appearance and disturbing the back settlements, the Parish is still under the necessity of continuing to fit out parties at very great expense. On the whole it appears to your Committee that the great discouragement at present to the settlements of the back lands, has been owing to the Runaways who are the remains of those who have been with the Maroons and that there are a great many who would return to their settlements as well as others who would be ready to commence settlements were they to obtain the protection which had been promised them by placing bodies of Troops in the interior of the county."

The above was presented in response to the request of the Duke of Portland on behalf of Earl Balcares for submission to the House of Commons which had requested a report on the "present state of the Negro and properties."

On the 21st January, 1805, it was Resolved that the Vestry being desirous of rewarding a brown man by name of William Reid for his services in heading a party of Blackshot who apprehended a number of notorious Runaways last month, have decided to ask George Reid Esquire, the owner, to know on what terms he will manumit the said William Reid and also to inform them by what means his manumission can be obtained. The George Reid referred to was the owner of Friendship Estate and lived on the same spot of land that this article is being written. The property was called Reid's Friendship. It would appear, however, that either the slave or the property or both were acquired by Sir Simon Haughton Clarke as on the 14th March, 1814, it was recorded "Resolved that the Vestry pay to Sir Simon Haughton Clarke, Baronet, the sum of £140 for a mulatto slave named William Reid", the same William Reid who was given command of the confidential Blackshots, sanctioned by His Grace the Governor.

All slaves had their master's surname irrespective of the name of their father, be he African or Englishman. [Note from JFS: that statement is incorrect, and is not reflect the data in the Parish Registers, Wills, and elsewhere.]

In the year 1818 owing to the outbreak of violence, a letter from the Vestry of St. James was read offering to go half the expenses of the Trelawny Blackshot. It was decided to reply in effect, "that the Vestry of Trelawny cannot consistently with their duty to the Parish agree to the proposition of the Justices and Vestry of St. James, but have no objection to their employing the Blackshot of Trelawny for that purpose at their own expense and will readily cooperate with the Parish of St. James as to the employment in future for the mutual benefit and advantages of both parishes.

The annual supply of Clothing for Slaves was fixed as follows: Adult - 10 yards oznaburg, 4 yards Baize, 1 Hat, 1 Cap, 1 Headkerchief; Children, 7 to 16 years old - 7 yards oznaburg, 3 yards Baize, 1 Hat, 1 Cap, 1 Headkerchief; below 7 years - 5 yards oznaburg, 2 1/2 yards Baize, 1 Hat 1 Cap, 1 Headkerchief. Knives and Thread as usual.

As civilization progressed more protection was afforded these unfortunate human chattels, as we find that on the 27th April, 1818, Mr. Thomas Kerr Vernon was appointed Solicitor for the Parish for taking defence of all Slaves placed on their trial before a Court and before a Jury and that the Parish pay all his expenses.

In the year 1820 there were 27,000 slaves in the Parish and the local Parish rate was 6/8 per head paid by their owners, plus a Road Tax of 4/9 each.

In 1821, it was resolved that £100 be paid John Cannon, being the reward offered by the Justices and Vestry for the discovery of the murderers of Henry Edwards, the late Overseer of Linton Park Estate. Cannon, being a slave, it was suggested that his manumission be sought. Chester Estate was to be paid £30 per annum on account of John Cannon until his manumission could be obtained.

In October, 1823, the Duke of Manchester, Governor, called on the Custos to furnish him with a Census of the Parish in regard to the number of places of Religious worship, number of slaves attending; (if greater number of persons that the Churches can conveniently hold). Number of Schools and children attending; number of educated children; number uneducated under 14 years of age; number of Clergy, School masters. Catechists would be required for the education of the whole population, slaves and Free-people.

Step by step we were marching towards an improved civilization.


There have been hundreds of greater tragedies in nautical life, but in this small Island of Jamaica the loss of the barque "Fontabelle" is without parallel. Not so much in the material destruction, but the human lives and the circumstances connected thereto. In this historical brief, we divest it of much superlative and adornment and record facts which came to us verified. This good ship had been in the port of Falmouth for some weeks, nothing unusual in the days of the good old sailing ships. They had to wait for their cargo of Sugar and Rum. It was on the 31st day of October, 1874, that the "Fontabelle" decided to leave the port in command of Captain John Nicholson, who had made several voyages before in this "Dawson liner", a little less that 600 tons burden. The sea was calm, the Hurricane season of August had passed without serious consequences. The usual trade wind in the morning was very light. All sails were set except the mizzen. The Pilot aboard and his canoe manned by seven men had the cable connected to the bowsplit and took the ship in tow to produce a momentum, to facilitate steering. With flags flying the other ships, six or more in port, signaled "adieu and safe voyage". Off she went through the then intricate channel (it having been widened during the years 1903 and 1938) accelerated by the current of the Martha Brae river. She had cleared the port and the Pilot disembarked about two miles from shore. The wind had ceased and the "Fontabelle:" became almost stationary, no perceptible headway could she make. At about noon on that fateful day the swells increased, the ship rolled and tossed. Later she began an inland drift towards the shores of Salt Marsh, a village 3 miles from Falmouth to the west. The waves began to pound the coral rocks which surround the Island's coast. In a vain attempt to retard the drift all anchors were lowered. The captains of the other vessels in port, by their binoculars espied with much justified apprehension the jeopardy in which their brother sailor was in. Captain Roach and Captain Hopewell of the other two Dawson liners the "Medina" and "Blanche", rowed in their pinnace for fully three miles to render assistance. It was now about 7 o'clock and as at this time of the year nights come on very early, darkness was on them. Every human effort and ingenuity were applied to circumvent any possible disaster. Captain Roach and Hopewell persuaded Mrs. Nicholson, the wife of the Captain of the ill-fated ship, to go ashore while there was yet time, as by their nautical experience they foresaw that the weather was ominous. "Oh no, no," she replied, "in life was well as in death, I will remain with John. He has always been loving and good to me, so I will not desert him in this hour of trial and agony". Despite the pleadings of even her partner, she was immovable. No effort could prevail on this good woman.

All through that murky starless night, dark as doom with the whistling wind increasing in intensity, the good ship with all her anchors taught, she rolled, she plunged like a maddened bull in chains. The freak hurricane was now in full force, one anchor chain is broken, the sails although furled, became flagged, the riggings broke and the spars splintered. The last anchor chain broke, all hopes of saving the good ship and its precious freight abandoned. "Well lads," cried the Captain, "we have done our best - each man look for himself." She was now on the coral rocks. Too late, the hull of wood which may have taken a year to assemble, trembled and was within an hour ruined and grounded into splinters and beyond recognition. The timbers became scattered and roamed the sea in an endeavour as it were, to find a resting place. Captains and sailors clung to passing bits of lumber, and grasping any object seen floating, in a vain struggle to save their lives. Doomed men encouraged their comrades as only those who go in ships can exhibit that unselfish gallantry. It was all in vain. Beneath that murky, starless sky, was a dreadful screaming for help which was utterly beyond the reach of would be rescuers.

Next morning along the beach at Salt Marsh, the bodies of most of these unfortunate brave sea gallants were found rent and torn and in some cases the features battered beyond identification. Fifteen men lost their lives, including three Captains, in this sad and poignant disaster. The Captain's wife, ah! That noble soul with an indomitable courage, and Henry Jones, a native boy, were the only ones who did not perish. Mrs. Nicholson while struggling to keep afloat in that stormy night and when the last vestige of hope, strength and phenomenal courage were ebbing, with corpses floating on the foaming billows around her, inducing surrender in her desperate struggle. "I will cling fast to Thee, O Lord, though the waves buffet me." In answer to her prayer like a guardian angel her faithful Newfoundland dog, Samuel, arrived when defeat was apparent and imminent, grabbed her by the hair, restored hope and with that a fresh struggle ensued. After toil and pain and difficulties exceeding human endurance the stars of hope leaped forth before the adorning morn she surveys the heavens. She reached the shore at morn, battered and torn in body, aggravated by a mental anguish not alone of the cruel ordeal she had suffered but intensified by the fate of her beloved and adored husband and other brave men who had perished in that awful tragedy. "But oh for a touch of the vanished hand and the sound of a voice that is still."

The community who had kept anxious vigil that night, as dawn spread the saffron mantle over the land, were early on the scene and vied with each other in providing comfort and cheer to this unfortunate and lonely lady. Bitterly did she cry for the loss of her loving husband, poignant was her reference to her children at home in Scotland. How could she tell them when she reached home, that their father was no more. Her agony, despite the pleadings and sympathies by the kind women around her, may be better imagined than described. After some weeks of medical attention and the ministrations of the good folks around, she left for home in the "Medina". Many, many letters of gratitude were later received by the people of Falmouth from Mrs. Nicholson.

Henry Jones, the native boy who had strapped himself to a spar, and with first-hand knowledge of the lay of the land, was picked up on the beach with broken limbs and with his body much bruised. He lived for many years after as a land-lubber, never again to face the perils of the deep.

The most appalling spectacle of this grim tragedy was the collecting of the remains of these fifteen sailors from various points of the beach where they were deposited by the angry sea. Fifteen coffins with the remains of these British braves were conveyed for 3 miles to the Falmouth Parish Church for internment. Every man and woman volunteered to do something indicative of their sympathy. Hundreds of carriages of which there was a plentiful supply in Falmouth, took part in the procession. Thousands assembled to witness the obsequies. The shrieks of the women followed by children pierced the ears and hearts of the multitude gathered there - a picture of real affliction - heart-broken sorrow, weeping, sobbing, clenching hands in a battle of sympathy, low groans went up until exhaustion robbed them of strength. The dignity of class was suspended in this display of human feeling. Shops were closed and men, women and children joined the procession in lament as the corpses proceeded on the last journey of the flesh. This grief, this sympathy were genuine expressions of the friendships entertained for these sailors who had for years past, associated themselves with people of the Town. Falmouth was in mourning for over one month when all flags remained at half-mast. Conversation centered on this pathetic subject for years. Fathers told their children generation after generation and ever and anon the scene was rehearsed with sorrow.

Mrs. Nicholson returned to her home in Scotland but never forgot the people of Falmouth who were kind to her. For years she kept corresponding with friends, showing profuse gratitude for their kindness and sympathy.

About the year 1926, John Holder, a local Fisherman, discovered vestiges of the wreck and in diving unearthed several pounds in coins.

"The many men so beautiful,

And they all dead did lie,

And a thousand thousand slimy things

Lived on: and so did I."

Continued at History of Trelawny part 13

Used by kind permission of Donovan Ogilvie and the late Pearl Ogilvie

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