Plantations of Antigua: the Sweet Success of Sugar: A Biography of the Historic Plantations Which Made Antigua a Major Source of the World's Early Sugar Supply

Plantations of Antigua: the Sweet Success of Sugar: A Biography of the Historic Plantations Which Made Antigua a Major Source of the World's Early Sugar Supply


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It sits there, dormant, nestled in a small bowl or serving-size packet, waiting to be spooned into a cup of coffee or tea; spread across some cereal; or dropped into a recipe for cake, pie, or other scrumptious treat in the making. It is so readily available, so easy to use, so irresistibly tasty.

But few people stop to realize the enormous economic, social, political, even military, upheaval this simple-looking, widely popular food enhancer has caused in many parts of the world. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, even into the nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth, sugar cane was a preeminent crop upon which economies succeeded or failed, societies grew, and money flowed like . . . well, sugar!

A region particularly impacted by sugar was the volcanic islands of the Caribbeanvirgin soil enriched by crushed coral and limestone, and blessed by unlimited sunshine. The result was soil so rich for planting that the necklace of island colonies and small nation-states became a massive source of the worlds supply of sugar. Antiguas 108 square miles, an island of undulating hills and indented coastline, fell into this category.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524687311
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 10/20/2017
Pages: 334
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.91(d)

About the Author

Agnes C. Meeker, MBE is a sixth generation Antiguan on her Mothers side, all of whom have been involved in the sugar industry. She takes great pride in her Caribbean island country and its rich history, and works tirelessly to preserve that history for future generations. She devoted more than 20 years of research to document the historical information contained in this volume about Antiguas sugar plantations, and the two additional volumes that will follow. She has been engaged with the Museum of Antigua & Barbuda for 20-plus years, and in 2016, was presented with the distinguished Member of the British Empire award by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace for founding Antiguas St. John Hospice.

Read an Excerpt


Boone's Plantation

The Ownership Chronology:

Ownership prior to 1678: Walter Burke.

1670: William Boone, planter. On Antigua 1665, still living in 1710.

1672: William Boone, still living in 1685; leased 10 acres from Ralph Haskins, also a planter.

1676: William Boone: A Quaker, imprisoned by Major Thomas Mallet

1678: On May 20, Walter Burke, a planter, sold 20 acres to William Boone, a planter and Quaker.

In the 1678 census of Antigua, William Boone had four white men, two white women, and three white children "in family, with one negro."

1700: William Boone married Mary Ronan.

1715: Samuel Boone. Will dated 1716.

1717: The Tortola census, taken in November, shows William Boone as born in Antigua, with "one woman and fifteen negroes."

1733: Joseph Boone married Rachell Soanes. He died 1750.

1740: Colonel William Dunbar. d. 1749.

1760: John Delap-Halliday. Owned 85 acres. b. 1749; d. 1779/80.

1788: Admiral John Hallliday Tollemache. 1777/78 Luffman map.

1790: John Delap-Halliday. b. 1749; d. 1780. 85 acres.

1852: John Tollemache. b. 1805; d. 1890.

1872: Charles Crosbie.

1878: G. John Crosbie.

1891: The heirs of Colonel Crosbie.

c1900: John J. Camacho. (d. 1929).

c1940: Lee H. Westcott Sr. 1933 Camacho Map

1960: Blue Waters Hotel, built by Osmond Kelsick, the only Antiguan squadron leader in the Royal Air Force during World War II.

2000: The heirs of Lee Westcott. d. 2012.

2003: The mill site is sold to Blue Waters Hotel.

The magnificent sugar mill on this plantation stood water-side on the northwestern tip of Antigua, where the Caribbean and the Atlantic shake hands. Early settlers had carved a rock formation, known as "Boone's Chair", enabling local Carib Indians to sit and look at the intersection of the two seas.

A prominent rumor among the settlers was "that before you could sit in the chair, you had to make the sign of the cross and pay some money or you would suddenly be forced out of that chair and into the ocean by a spirit, so whenever I follow Affie Goodwin (Duer's estate) to sit in the chairs, we would make the sign of the cross and pay a penny or two." The "Chair" disappeared centuries later with the construction of the Blue Waters Hotel in 2003.

"To Shoot Hard Labour" by Keithlyn and Fernando C. Smith

The mill's location was spectacular, enabling residents of the estate (and now guests at the hotel) to view ships coming and going; a suggestion that those early residents most likely enjoyed a rich bounty from the sea.

The location also would have enabled the mill to benefit from the trade winds, which turned its enormous sails to rotate the large sugar cane crushing rollers below. As of 1817, under the continued ownership of John Delap-Halliday, the estate still consisted of 85 acres, with labour provided by 101 slaves.

The mill remains in reasonably good shape today despite its age, and still shows some of the exterior rendering over the lime stone blocks, a finish plaster of sorts applied during construction to protect the soft lime stone.

The area around the mill now features a number of private residents as well as an extension of the Blue Waters Hotel, so the mill no longer dominates the landscape.

* * *

"On the 12th (of September), Capt. Francis Burton issued a Warrant to the aforesaid Chapman to apprehend the Body of the said William Boone, and carry him to the Fort till he should be discharged by the Governor; the Fort being about five Miles from W. Boone's house.

"So the said Boon submitted, took his Leave of his Wife and Children, and was sent to Prison, where he remained five Weeks and five Days, and underwent great Hardship, for he was grievously bitten by Vermin, and through much Wet and cold was so denummed, that he was almost like a dead Man. The Governor being applied to, protested that he would not release him til he had paid Charles Goss.

"On the 14th the Governor with the Council and Assembly came to the Fort, where Boone's Wife and Children were then with him. But, though many spake on his Behalf, and the Governor's Brother, in Compassion to Boone's Family, would have had him released, nothing could be done; for Mallet had so incensed the Governor with false Accusations against Boone, that he would not release him saying, He could do Nothing of himself Nevertheless, after forty Days the said Field-Marshall Goss came to Boone's House, and took away a Cow big with Calf, which he would not willingly have sold for 3000lb of Tobacco, and having led away the Cow. Boone was set at liberty." "History of the Island of Antigua" by Vere Oliver, Volume I.

* * *

In 1774, John Halliday owned seven plantations, including two of the most important, Boone's and Weatherill's (#5), in St. John's Parish. The Halliday family is of old covenanting stock and has figured in the history of Scotland, County Galloway, since the sixteenth century. John was born earlier in the 18th century, the nephew of William Dunbar, son-in-law of Francis Delap. He was Antigua's Customer Collector of 4 1/2% export duty from 1759 to 1777. He served in the island's Assembly from 1755 to 1757 and again in 1761, and apparently had large mansions on at least five of his plantations.

A meal, served at one of Halliday's homes was "extremely pleasant, and so cool one might forget that they were under the Tropick. We had a family dinner which in England might figure away in a newspaper had it been given by a Lord Mayor, or the first Duke in the Kingdom.

"I have seen Turtle almost every day, and tho' I never could eat it at home, am vastly fond of it here, where it is indeed a very different thing. You get nothing but old ones there, the chickens being unable to stand the voyage; even these are starved, or at best fed on coarse and improper food. Here they are young, tender, fresh from the water, where they feed as delicately, and as great Epicures as those who feed on them.

"They laugh at us for the racket we make to have it divided into different dishes. They make but two, the soup and the shell. The first is commonly made of old Turtle, which is cut up and sold at Market, as we do butcher meat. It was remarkably well dressed to day. The shell indeed is a noble dish as it contains all the fine parts of the Turtle baked within its own body; here is the green fat, not the slobbery thing my stomach used to stand at, but firm and more delicate than it is possible to describe. Could an Alderman of true taste conceive the difference between it here and in the city, he would make the Voyage on purpose, and I fancy he would make a voyage into the other world before he left the table.

"The method of placing the meat is in three rows the length of the table; six dishes in a row, I observe is the common number. On the head of the centre row stands the turtle soup, and at the bottom of the same line the shell. The rest of the middle row is generally made of fishes of various kinds, all exquisite.

"At Mr. Halliday's we had thirty-two different fruits ... yet in the midst of this variety the Pineapple and the Orange still keep their ground and are preferred."

"Journal of A Lady of Quality" by Janet Shaw

* * *

Aubrey J. Camacho, a Portuguese from Madeira, landed in Antigua about 1878, and immediately began buying established estates. He initially owned two (Bellevue #36 and Briggin's #22) totaling 967 acres, but within three years he also owned Langford's (#6), Mt. Pleasant (#7), Dunbar's (#8), Otto's (#16), Wood's (#12) and Jonas's (#85), adding an additional 2,000 acres to his holdings, all within the confines of St. John's Parish.

His son, John J. Camacho, assumed ownership of the Boone's Estate about 1900. He was a Catholic and suffered the embarrassment of being married in the Anglican Cathedral because there was no Catholic Church on Antigua at that time.

Mr. Camacho was described as "the most powerful and wealthiest Antiguan in his time. He had ten sons (his own cricket team!) and one daughter, who married Lee Westcott Sr. (Camacho), was responsible for starting the Ovals Cricket, Football and Tennis Clubs because the English whites refused to allow the Portuguese to join either the Antigua Cricket Club (Recreation Grounds) or their tennis club located on the premises now occupied by The Lion's Club."

"Not A Drum Was Heard" by Selvyn Walters

Boone's Great house had been constructed of beautiful white cut stones by slaves. As its owner in the early 1900s Camacho had the building painstakenly dismantled, the white stones cleaned, and carefully moved them to Church Street to a location he had donated to the Catholic Church. The edifice became St. Joseph's Church, which was badly damaged during the earthquake of 1974. A new Cathedral was commissioned by the Catholic Church around 1998.

The architect for the new building was Richard McCullogh, the site chosen for the modern Cathedral was east of Michael's Mount below Mt. St. John Medical Center. The old church was allowed to deteriorate, but may be part beneficiary in the renovation of the entire block, which also encompasses Government House (2015).

John J. Camacho and his wife, Mary Gomez, also owned Millar's estate (#59), which was seconded to the United States during World War II to be used as the Officer's Club, as well as a house in town which was willed to the Catholic Church and became Bishop's Lodge. Bishop's Lodge comes replete with quite a large garden and has been recently put up for sale. The Camacho's had no children, donating most of their £52,624 estate to the Catholic Church.

The British abolished slavery in 1833, and the British Parliament gave a legacy award (Antigua 1) to Boone's of £1,437. 4s. 1p. for granting freedom to 108 enslaved. The awardee was John Tollemache; the beneficiaries deceased were Daniel Hill and Vice Admiral John Richard Delap Tollemache. Unsuccessful were Daniel Hill, George Wickham Washington Ledeatt and William Lee.


Crosbie's Plantation (Mount Prospect)

The Ownership Chronology:

1777/78 Samuel Martin owned land in this vicinity 1777/78 Luffman map.

1780: General John Crosbie. d. 1797.

1788: This estate was known as Mount Prospect.

1790: Ownership changed to John Crosbie Will: 1814.

1797: Major General William John Crosbie. He served in the British Army during the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars. d.1797

1820: The estate consisted of 210 acres, 67 slaves.

1829: General John Crosbie

1832: General Crosbie also owned the Hughes estate in Popeshead, which was bounded on the north by the Boone's Plantation (#1) and Crosbie's, on the east by the Langford's Plantation (#6) Crosbie's on the south by the High Road, and on the west by Boone's and Langford's. The Hughes Plantation no longer exists; most likely assimilated into one of the other named estates.

1851: John Crosbie. 210 acres.

1872: Charles Crosbie is listed in the Horseford Almanac as owning both the Crosbie's and Boone's estates with combined land of 300 acres.

1878: G. John Crosbie.

1891: Ownership shifts to the heirs of Colonel Crosbie.

1921: W. C. Abbott. 305 acres.

1933: Joseph Erskine.

1835/36: Lee H. Westcott.

1930; The plantation was owned for several years in the 1930s by Lee Westcott. d. 2012. 1933 Camacho map

2000: Ownership by the heirs of Lee Westcott.

* * *

Several of the old estate buildings, and the sugar mill itself plus the cotton (or gin) house, have been turned into apartment buildings, with walls two to three-feet thick. When the land had been cleared and planted with cotton, there were no other buildings adjacent to the estate; the view from the property extended to the sea, where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic. That is difficult to envision today because the former Crosbie's estate is now one of Antigua's major housing developments.

It is said that on a full moon night residents can hear the sounds of moaning and the rattling of chains near the shore, where slaves were once led into the sea.

John Crosbie, the Major General's son, owned a plantation known at the time as "Hughes" in Popeshead. It was bounded on the north by Boone's (#1) and Crosbie's, on the east by Langford's (#6) and Crosbie's, south by the High Road, and west by Boone's and Langford's. The Hughes estate no longer exists, assumed to have been assimilated by a neighbouring plantation.

Joseph Erskine, a Scottish sheep owner who purchased Crosbie's in 1933, actually lived on Market Street (Scotch Row), not on the estate property itself. He began cotton farming on the land, quickly lost his shirt, and sold all 305 acres to Lee H. Westcott for £600.

Westcott hailed from Waterville, New York, and landed in Antigua in 1922 while on his way to Brazil.

He was "persuaded" to remain on the island to assist in the installation of the Hornsby diesel generator, which had been given to St. John's electric power company. He purchased the Crosbie's estate from Joseph Erskine in the mid-1930s, and the estate became part of the Northern Cotton Belt when cotton was so urgently needed during World War II.

His effort to convert an overgrown 300-plus acre sugar plantation into an arable cotton farm was no easy task. Westcott was the first farmer to introduce machinery into agriculture, which he did with the purchase of an International Harvester wheeled tractor. Still, it took over a year of back breaking work by fifty employees from the village of Cedar Grove and the island of Montserrat to dig out the huge acacia (cossy or cassie) trees and to prepare the soil for planting cotton.

In the late 1940's Westcott and three other cotton farmers on Antigua spent two years negotiating with the Antigua Trades & Labor Union, but could not reach an agreement. This fruitless effort caused all four to go bankrupt, and the estate no longer participated in the development of cotton in the Northern Cotton Belt.

In addition to Westcott, the other three St. John's Parish cotton farmers to go belly-up were Martin Schaffler of Weatherill's (see #5), Aubrey Camacho of Marble Hill (see #9), and Anthony Shoul of Thibou/Jarvis & Judges (see #34). Some Montserrat workers were brought to Antigua to pick cotton, but that initiative also was thwarted by the unions. Bankruptcy of his cotton venture prompted Lee Westcott to turn the Crosbie's estate into a real estate development, undoubtedly the largest single development of its kind undertaken by Antiguans: 310 acres of prime ocean view land.

Crosbie's Development Ltd. was formed in 1958, but the company struggled for four years, blocked repeatedly by the government administration of Antigua's first Prime Minister, V. C. Bird. Finally, after underbrush and cassie trees had again overgrown the infrastructure the company had paid to install (road, water and electricity), the company began its development plan and began selling seaside lots for 30-to-60 cents per square foot. "Not A Drum Was Heard" by Selvyn Walters

As of 2012, almost every surveyed lot sported a building. Initially, a covenant stipulated details of construction regulations, but it was largely ignored over the years, resulting in a somewhat scrambled layout of housing and businesses. However, the area remains highly desirable because of its proximity to St. John's and the airport.

* * *

The University of Florida has a collection of the late 1700 and early 1800 papers and letters of Major John Crosby.

The William Crosbie Estate Papers, dated 1792-1816, include correspondence concerning Crosbie's estate and the land of his agent/manager, John Otto Bayer (Baijer), in Antigua. The letters provide an interesting look at the activities and attitudes of the plantation operators and slave owners in the English Caribbean colony of Antigua in the early nineteenth century.

The correspondence deals mostly with financial and operational concerns: expenses, property values, debts, loans, securities, deeds, slaves, stock, crops, rum and sugar. Other correspondents and individuals referenced in the letters include Lord Moira, Admiral McDougall, Gilbert Jones, Esq., Colonel Handfield, John Crosbie (heir), Charles Crosbie, James Wood Bursar (St. John's, Cambridge), Lady Amelia Carpenter, Colonel Knox, General Marsh, the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle, and Baron Deimar. The papers are filed chronologically.


Hart's & Royal's Plantation

The Ownership Chronology

1600s: Late. Ownership by Isaac Royal (Rial, Ryall, Royall) d. July 27, 1739

1739: Isaac Royal, Jr, his son. b. 1699.

1770: The property was sold; no buyer has been identified.

1788: Barry C. Hart. See 1777/78 Luffman map.

1829: John Furlonge. 206 acres, 123 slaves.

1851: C. William and F. Shand. 206 acres. William: b. 1784; d. 1848.

1872: Thomas Jarvis. 209 acres.

1878: C. J. Manning.

1891: Victor Guffay.

1921: Amelia Gonsalves. 219 acres.

1933: Leonard Henzell 1933 Camacho map

1950s: Antigua Syndicate Estates.

1985: Lotte and Malcolm Edwards, mill site and 3 acres.

* * *

The stone windmill of this estate remains intact and in excellent condition. It is the focal point in the garden of Malcolm and Lotte Edwards. The former Club Colonna Beach Hotel stood on Royal's Bay, which suggests that the estate originally stretched all the way down to the sea. It has a fascinating history.


Excerpted from "Plantations of Antigua: The Sweet Success of Sugar"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Agnes C. Meeker, MBE; Donald A. Dery.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction, vii,
Preface, xi,
Plantation Description, 1,
The Plantation Index, 257,
Registry of Plantation Owners, 259,
Acknowledgements, 275,
Bibliography, 277,
Addendum, 280,

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