Archive for August, 2013

The Original Settlement of St. Christopher

In 1620, Thomas Warner, who had been adventurous at heart since boyhood, joined an expedition under Captain Roger North. Captain North had been hired by a small group of wealthy Englishmen to found a settlement on Guiana, near the Amazon River.

Captain North landed a contingent of his followers on Guiana, and promptly sailed back to England. Among those left on Guiana, was Thomas Warner and a man known as Capt. Painton In 1622, there not being much to do on Guiana, Capt. Painton convinced Thomas Warner that they should sail to St. Christopher, an island in the area. Warner agreed and sailed from Guiana with a group of fifteen other men.

Warner arrived at St. Christopher and went ashore on January 28, 1623. Upon landing, Warner was met by a group of Caribs, including their Chief,
Tegreman and several Frenchmen, castaways, who were living with the Caribs and planting tobacco.

Warner and his group remained on St. Christopher several months and engaged in planting tobacco and living and eating as the others who lived there. Warner’s group built crude shelters and also a fort on the hill in the center of the island. They ate cassava bread, fish, potatoes, plantains and pineapples. They drank nicknobby, a drink made from potatoes.

Their tobacco crops were ripe and ready to harvest when on September 19, 1623, a hurricane destroyed everything included the dwellings and tobacco crops..

Undaunted, Warner and his men rebuilt the dwellings into stronger houses and planted more tobacco. They also finished building the crude fort

The new crop of tobacco ripened and Warner, after putting a man in charge of the small settlement, sailed to England with his harvested tobacco. Once in England, Thomas Warner looked for his old friend, John Jeaffreson. Together they sought funding for a settlement on St. Christopher. A wealthy merchant, Ralph Merifield, agreed to fund the expedition.

The three men worked out an agreement of partnership. The terms, Merifield would provide the funds, Thomas Warner would sail back to St. Christopher with as many volunteers as could be found. Once on St. Christopher, Warner would send word to Merifield and Jeaffreson would sail with a cargo of supplies and another contingent of volunteers.

Thomas Warner left England with sixteen other men, including his thirteen year old son, Edward.

On January 18, 1624, Warner dropped anchor on the Western side of St. Christopher, near Old Road Bay.

On the 19th of September 1624, once again a hurricane destroyed the crops. Warner repaired the damage and planted more tobacco.

Jeaffreson arrived on St. Christopher on March 18, 1625 with a shipload of supplies. Meanwhile, Merifield was so pleased with the result of his investment that he applied for a charter for himself and his two partners, Thomas Warner and John Jeaffreson. Merifield easily obtained a patent from King Charles on September 25, 1625.

The patent stated that “Ralph Merifield, his partners and agents were permitted to traffic at the islands of St. Christopher, Nevis, Barbuda and Montserrat. Thomas Warner and after his death, John Jeaffreson, would have governance of these islands.”

Note that these three men, Ralph Merifield, Thomas Warner and John Jeaffreson, now owned and held title to St. Christopher, Nevis, Barbuda and Montserrat, islands which the Spanish, under Columbus, had claimed for Spain. This title having been granted by the King of England. To be sure, Spain would not be too happy about this.

Also, in 1625, the French, led by Pierre Belain, Sieur D’Esnambuc arrived on St. Christopher.

Anne-Marie Danet

An African Village

I was born with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. This allowed me to make acquaintances and friends with many and diverse people.

Among the people I was privileged to have as friends, several women whose ancestors were of African descent. One woman’s grandmother had been born in slavery. She had been a young girl of about twelve years at the time of emancipation. My friend was known as Miss Sarah.

Miss Sarah was tall and of medium build. She was not fat and not exactly thin. She was solid. Her skin color was a rich golden brown, like a dark walnut. Miss Sarah wore long dresses, gathered at the waist and reaching to her ankles. The top of the dress was long-sleeved and reached up with a high collar. A large apron covered the front of her skirt. Her head was covered with a wrap around clothe.

Miss Sarah was a cook who sold cooked food to the public. She also sold fruits in season and ground provisions.

Every Saturday afternoon Miss Sarah could be found sitting just outside a fence with a tall wooden gate which was always kept closed. Miss Sarah was surrounded by her pots of hot of souse, pans of blood pudding and trays of fruits and vegetables.

The French people of the village at the Carenage, Altona and Honduras Estates came to purchase Miss Sarah’s wares, every Saturday afternoon.

My acquaintance with Miss Sarah was during the years when I was between ten and thirteen years, in the middle 1930s. My mother always took me with her when she went to buy souse from Miss Sarah. I was about ten years of age the first time I met Miss Sarah. I liked her right away and she took a liking to me.

I was a child who was being raised by the whole village, including the people of African descent. Every time I met someone new, I was full of questions. I wanted to know all about my new acquaintance. And I was full of questions for Miss Sarah. She answered as best she could.

When I was about eleven years of age, I was usually sent alone to buy the souse from Miss Sarah. I always tried to get there ahead of everyone else so I could be alone with Miss Sarah hoping she would tell me about what lay beyond the tall wooden gate.

It was not until I was twelve years of age that Miss Sarah finally decided she could trust me with her secret. She told me her story.

Miss Sarah told me that her grandmother had been born in slavery. Her grandmother was twelve years of age when all the enslaved people had been emancipated.

A few years after having been given their freedom. a group of persons, an extended family. had struck out on their own, to create a village similar to those that existed in Africa.

The area chosen for the village was forested like a jungle. There was a marsh nearby teeming with prawns, a shrimp-like animal. These were edible. In the marsh, there were also frog-like creatures, (which the people called Crapos) The sea was not too far away and it was teeming
with fish. On the land, there were edible roots and grasses bearing edible seeds.

Over several months, every Saturday Miss Sarah related more of her story, Miss Sarah continues.

The younger men very quickly cut trees and stripped them of branches. The elders showed the younger men how to construct huts from the cut trees and from some that were left standing, and how to create the huts so that they would remain dry when it rained.

There were already on the land, a few trees whose fruit were edible so these were preserved. The women and older children cleaned the area of shrubs and prepared the soil for planting. It was hard work but they wanted to be independent. The group survived and prospered. Children were born and elders passed on. Sarah’s grandmother had grown up and was mated with a man of the village who was not too closely related. Sarah’s mother had been born.

In the early years, up to 1865, there were no other humans in the area. but there were wild hogs and other small land animals which provided food.

Starting in 1865, the French people arrived at the Carenage, on the other side of the area. Slowly, the two groups, Africans and French got acquainted and interacted positively, each group residing in their chosen area.

All this had been related to Miss Sarah by her mother.

I was only a child and did not quite understand the value of the information shared by Miss Sarah. It was many years later that the true value of this story was realized by me. I now share it so that it will not be lost.

There are several people who knew Miss Sarah, including some who lived in the enclosure where the original village once stood. From one of these persons, I was assured that that Miss Sarah’s family name was Brooks. Was it her maiden name? Or was it her married name? That I have yet to find out.

Anne-Marie Danet