Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Maroon War settlement of 1739

Cudjoe and Colonel Guthrie under Cudjoe’s cotton tree

The escaped slaves of Jamaica had one big advantage over slaves in many other places, that the geography of the island provided them with areas where they could hide and live with much less fear of discovery.  The original Maroons were freed or runaway Spanish slaves, whose name is thought to come from the Spanish word cimarrón, meaning wild or untamed.  Over time two main areas of Maroon settlement developed, the Trelawney Maroons lived in an area around Maroon Town and Accompong in the Cockpit country, and the Windward Maroons lived on the northern slopes of the Blue Mountains.

The territory occupied by the Maroons was ideally suited to guerrilla warfare, although that name for the technique would not be used until the time of the Peninsular War at the end of the 18th century.  Led by an extremely able commander called Cudjoe, with his brothers Accompong and Johnny in the West, and sub-chiefs Quao and Cuffee in the East, the Maroons avoided open fights preferring ambush.  Camouflaged from head to foot in leaves, surprise and their accurate shooting often brought them quick victory after which they would melt back into the woods to prepare another attack.

Various armed attempts to subdue them were made by British troops and in 1734 a Captain Stoddart led a party that attacked and destroyed Nanny Town in the Blue Mountains.  The town was never resettled and even now is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of those who died.  Nanny the Maroon chieftainess after whom the place was named is now a National Hero of Jamaica.  Although the Maroons had suffered severely under this attack many escaped, some to build a new village further inland and others removed to the Cockpit area of Trelawney.

Maroon raids increased and so did the fear of the colonists that they would encourage a mass uprising of slaves on the plantations, where they now outnumbered white settlers by about 14 to 1.  The Jamaican Assembly voted money for a large-scale campaign and the Maroons found themselves in a desperate situation, however the government did not realise this and, eager to end the fighting, they sent Colonel James Guthrie with a detachment of militia, and Lieutenant Francis Sadler with a party of soldiers, to seek out Cudjoe and offer him favourable terms for a peace.`

The negotiators exchanged hats as a sign of friendship, as depicted above, and the treaty was agreed on 1 March 1739 beneath a large cotton tree, afterwards known as Cudjoe’s Tree.  Under the settlement Cudjoe and his followers were all to be free, and any slaves who had joined them were given the choice of remaining with the Maroons or returning to their masters.  It would be interesting to know if any did, somehow I doubt it!  A land grant was made to the Maroons of 1500 acres in Trelawney, where they would have hunting rights and it was agreed “That they shall have liberty to plant the said lands with coffee, cocoa, ginger, tobacco, and cotton, and to breed cattle, hogs, goats, or any other flock, and dispose of the produce or increase of the said commodities to the inhabitants of this island”.

In addition Cudjoe and his followers were to assist the British in pursuing any remaining rebels and in the case of foreign invasion they would assist the British against the invader and in return would receive their protection.  The Maroons agreed not to harbour runaway slaves but to return them for a reward of ten shillings per slave.  Cudjoe himself was given the right to dispense justice within his community and the succession was assured, naming Accompong, Johnny, Quao and Cuffee, and after their deaths such leaders as might be appointed by the Governor.  The Maroons were required to build and maintain a road to Trelawney Town, and four white persons were to be nominated to live with the Maroons in order to facilitate communication with the government.

Following the agreement with the Maroons the Jamaican assembly rewarded several negroes who had assisted the authorities to bring about the peace.  Three men named Cuffee, Sambo, and Quashey were manumised and their owners were compensated to the value of £40 per man; and two women called Venus and Affiba were also freed with their owners being paid £30 for each.

One further consequence of the events leading to the peace was the award of £1500 to Guthrie (who however died in June 1739) and £600 to Francis Sadler who subsequently received land grants totalling 1200 acres which formed the basis of the Montpelier estate.  When Francis Sadler married Colonel Guthrie’s widowed daughter Janet Hynes in 1742 he extended the Montpelier estate still further.  This Francis Sadler, who took the name Francis Sadler Hals when he inherited Halse Hall from his half brother, was the son of Mary Rose whose life in Jamaica has already been described on this website.

So successful was the peace agreement of 1739 that it lasted for more than fifty years.

The full text of the agreement and the subsequent Act of the Jamaican Assembly can be found here.


A note about the picture: When I first saw the picture of Colonel Guthrie and Cudjoe I thought it an attempt to belittle the latter with a caricature. However he was described at the time as being very short and squat with a large lump of flesh on his back, and a strange wild manner. He dressed in a tattered old blue coat, white knee breeches, a head tie and a small round hat. His gun was an old Spanish musket with powder and shot, and he carried a machete worn in a leather holster.


What’s in a name? – Searching Jamaican Parish Registers

A rose by any other name…

Old parish registers (OPR for short) are an invaluable source of genealogical information, but sadly are often only as good as the parish clerk or vicar who wrote in them. Some are written in beautiful script and contain additional information about the father’s occupation or the street in which the family lived, others are terse to the point of being almost useless without supporting information from another source.

If you have access to Ancestry, take a look at the registers for London where you can view the images of the actual pages. For example the early eighteenth century marriage records for St Lawrence Jewry in the City of London are clearly written and give the parish of both partners, but the later records in the same volume for baptisms and burials are untidy and hastily written although they do give the date of both birth and baptism, and the location of the burial.

Accuracy can be a problem and the record of the baptism of Robert Cooper Lee, whose parcel of ribbons gave this website its title, is doubly inaccurate – for the clerk of St Michael Bassishaw wrote his mother’s name as Sarah instead of Frances and his date of birth as the 4th of September when I know from a letter of his daughter Frances that it was the 15th. These problems can be much worse when dealing with the early Jamaican registers.

You can view the images of the early Jamaican parish registers on the Family Search site, which is free. These images are also available on microfilm through local LDS family history centres, although you may have to order them in for your local centre and pay the postage.

The coverage for different parishes varies a lot, with some of the earliest records in St Andrew (from 1664), St Catherine (from 1668) and Vere (from 1694) whereas Kingston only starts in 1721. Time, mould, insect attack, hurricane and fire took their toll on the records and they were sometimes copied to preserve them, not always with a hundred percent accuracy.

Until the Family Search site completes the computerised indexing of the records, you are dependent on either paging through a particular parish and time period, or using the hand compiled indexes whose images are also available. These are not in fully alphabetical order, but are organised by letter of the alphabet with blocks of records covering a period of years. If you are lucky the one you are looking at will have an annotation in the margin telling you what period it relates to, but not always. The index will give you a volume and folio reference in the form 1/23. Because the images cover two pages of the register an entry at 1/23 might be on image 12 or somewhere either side of it. Be aware that not all records are indexed, that marriages are only indexed by the name of the man and that a child’s baptism may be indexed under the mother’s name if it is illegitimate even if it later took its father’s name.

To have a good chance of finding the records you are interested in, it helps to understand family naming conventions in the eighteenth century which often followed a quite regular pattern. Where a couple were married and their children were legitimate, the eldest son was usually named after his father or one of his grandfathers, and the eldest daughter after her mother or grandmothers. It was also common for a surname to be used as a first name and the surname of a grandparent to be used as a middle name. For example Thomas Beckford married Mary Ballard in 1703 in St Catherine, Jamaica, and their eldest son was called Ballard Beckford, as was his son. The second Ballard Beckford’s daughter was named Mary Ballard Beckford.

Don’t be surprised if you find that a couple use the same name repeatedly – high infant mortality often meant that a father would make several attempts to carry on his name – if you see the same name repeated, look for a corresponding infant burial between the two baptisms. Robert Cooper Lee’s father Joseph had two attempts at a namesake before his youngest son survived.

After the eldest son and daughter, children were then named for the siblings of their parents, or after an aunt or uncle or their godparents. Sometimes they were named in honour of a family friend. Robert Cooper Lee, whose eldest son named after his brother John died young, named one son after himself; one after his friend Richard Welch; Matthew Allen Lee after his friend John Allen and Scudamore Cooper Lee after his friend Scudamore Winde. In turn John Allen named his first son John Lee Allen. Name patterns like this can often be helpful in tracing patterns of friendship especially if backed up by bequests in Wills.

In Jamaica the records are complicated by the number of illegitimate children, many born to white fathers and slave or mixed race mothers. In the early history of Jamaica slaves were not usually baptised or married in church as it was feared that if they became Christian they might acquire the rights of Christians. However from the earliest days there were free blacks and free people of mixed race – often the product of liaisons between white planters and merchants and their slaves or housekeepers. The latter were often free women of mixed race who moved between communities having some of the privileges of the white world, and as described in the article about Mary Johnston Rose, sometimes acquiring the status of being legally white.

When it came to recording the baptisms, marriages and burials of black and mixed race Jamaicans the local vicars varied in what they recorded. Some white fathers happily acknowledged their children and their names appear alongside the name of the mother in the register. However the child’s surname may be indexed as either the father’s or the mother’s.  For example in 1748 John  Lee and Mary Lord had a child baptised as Mary Ann Lord, the name she was buried under soon after.

In the case of the children of Mary Johnston Rose her sons Thomas Wynter and William Fuller took their father’s surnames and she was generally known as Mary Rose, although her mother was Elizabeth Johnston. That she used the name Mary Johnston Rose strongly suggests that she was the acknowledged daughter of a man called Rose, albeit not legitimate. In letters she is referred to as Mrs Rose, but beware of assuming that Mrs means that a woman was married – the title Mistress was used for both married and single women, and Mrs was also sometimes a courtesy title rather like Madame in French was used for an older woman.

The Jamaican registers may or may not tell you something useful about the ethnic origin of the person. The St Catherine’s register has the marriage of Emanuel Angola and Malina Angola in 1671, which only hints at African origin through their names. In 1677 Peter Moore and Black Betty were married as ‘free negroes’, but on the same page the marriage record of a mulatto and a negro does not tell us whether they were free. There was no requirement on parish priests to follow a set form in what they recorded, and as a result the records are fragmentary, inconsistent and sometimes very hard to read!

By the middle of the eighteenth century it is becoming more common to record the status of an individual, and children are baptised using all the various categories of colour discussed in an earlier posting.  Whereas a legitimate child almost always has both parents named, the illegitimate may have none – but almost always its colour is recorded. Watch out for abbreviations such as ‘Mul.’ Or simply ‘M’ for mulatto, a letter Q (which can look like a 2) for a quadroon.  Such is the segregation of people according to their colour that some of the Kingston registers actually had separate sections for Whites and People of Colour.

Civil Registration began in Jamaica on the 1st of April 1878 but some districts did not record until up to five years later. The Family Search site has over one and a half million records for Trelawny Parish Civil Registration Births, 1878-1930, and over 280,000 other indexed records from 1752-1920.

The rejoicing will be great on the part of this user when the fully indexed records are finally available online.

So good luck with your searches, and good hunting!



Mary Johnston Rose – How to become legally white

Sample of eighteenth century Indian chintz.

The Spanish Town census, featured here recently, listed three people who were described as “free Mulattoes or Descendants from them admitted to the privileges of white people by Acts of the Legislature”.

They included Mary Johnston Rose and her son Thomas Wynter. Mary was a free mulatto, the daughter of Elizabeth Johnston who died in 1753 a free negro. Mary may have been born as early as 1700 when there is the baptism of a Mary Elizabeth daughter of Elizabeth Johnston ‘a negro wench’ on 5th July 1700. If this is the right mother and daughter then Elizabeth was probably a house slave at the time and later freed. It seems probable that Mary’s father was one of the Rose family, possibly Francis Rose (1656-1720), or William Rose (d. about 1724).

There is no record of how Mary acquired her education, but that she did so at a time when most women, whatever their colour, were illiterate suggests that she had a favoured upbringing at the hands of her father.

Mary was said to be related to Rose Fuller (a plantation owner and key player in island politics; Francis Rose was his great-uncle and William Rose his cousin) and she was his housekeeper for about twenty years until he returned to England in the summer of 1755, landing at Portsmouth on the 18th August. The role of housekeeper frequently equated to that of common law wife and there was clearly a strong degree of affection between Mary and her employer who was the acknowledged father of her son William.

After Rose Fuller left Jamaica he sent her various items, including a carpet. In May 1756 she wrote that these were “such marks of your esteem for me as I shall never forget” and she forwarded a list requesting calimancoe[1] shoes, coarse linen (probably for servant or slave clothing), chintz (perhaps Indian chintz such as pictured above), tea and a white beaver hat. She sent him some boxes of sweetmeats “which will serve to remind you that you have left here a person who always thinks of you”. In a further letter in December 1756 she wrote “I most heartily thank you for all your favours which have been very great to me, but notwithstanding them, I have often known the want of your being here, since your departure. May you long enjoy your health is the sincere wish of your most affectionate honourable servant Mary Rose”.

Clearly she missed him, but knew that she would never see him again.

Mary had two sons by different fathers – Thomas Wynter who was probably the son of Dr William Wynter; and William Fuller – born on the 28th of January and baptised on the 18th of April 1735 – who was the son of Dr Rose Fuller. From a letter written by her nephew Robert Kelly to Rose Fuller in 1758 we know that William Fuller was sent to England to be educated at his father’s expense, but as nothing further is heard of him it seems he probably died young. Robert Kelly was the son of Mary’s sister Ann Rose, and his father was one of the five Kelly brothers whose Wills are on this website, most probably John Kelly who died in 1740.

Mary also had a sister Sarah Johnson, a niece called Peg whose child she took in when Peg was drowned in a storm, and nephew and niece John Schutz Johnson and Ann Rose – Sarah’s children.

Thomas Wynter, William Fuller and Robert Kelly were all classified by Jamaican society as quadroons and as such did not have the same rights as white people, although having mothers who were free meant they too were free. However in 1745 Mary applied for herself and her sons to be accorded the same rights as whites, and in 1746 the English parliament confirmed an Act of the Jamaican Assembly granting those rights.

“At the Court of St. James 17.12.1746.  Present the King’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council.  Whereas the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Island of Jamaica with the Council and Assembly of the said Island did in 1745 pass an Act which hath been transmitted in the words following viz An Act to Intitle Mary Johnston Rose of the Parish of St. Catherines in the said Island, a free mulatto woman and her sons Thomas Wynter and William Fuller begotten by white fathers to the same rights and privileges with English subjects born of white parents.  The Act was confirmed, finally enacted and ratified accordingly.”

This was not a wholly unusual event, there were a handful of such Acts each year from the early eighteenth century onwards, but the proportion of all the mixed race adults and children granted such rights was small and it does indicate that Mary had some influence over her own position, albeit presumably through the fathers of her sons, both of whom were members of the Assembly at the time.

Had her sons been born a few years later their position would have been more difficult, for in December 1761 the Jamaican Assembly, alarmed by the numbers of mixed race illegitimate children of the Plantocracy inheriting from their white fathers, passed an Act to “prevent exorbitant grants and devises to Negroes”.  William Wynter was one of three men to sign a protest against the Bill.

Nevertheless the Act was made law and so in 1783 Mary’s son Thomas was forced to petition for the rights of his own mixed race children William Rose Wynter and Mary Mede.  The baptism record for William Rose Wynter lists him as a mulatto so it is possible his mother was black.

Although Thomas Wynter was listed as a Millwright in the 1754 census, by the time of his death in 1789 he was able to leave £1000 to his daughter Mrs Mead, and an annuity to Mrs Hemming the mother of his two children, and to direct that Hampshire Plantation and Prospect Penn and all his other real estate and slaves in Jamaica should be sold by his Executors for the benefit of his children. His estate was valued at £65,820 and the money from the sale was put in trust invested in securities in England.

After a career in the Army, William Rose Wynter ended his days in England dying in Devon in 1846, and his sister married an English vicar and also left Jamaica for England. The descendants of William Rose Wynter through his son Thomas Rose Wynter can be tracked down through the nineteenth century, also in the Indian Army and later in Cornwall. The descendants of Mary Elizabeth Wynter Mead nee Hemmings can be tracked into the late twentieth century.

When Rose Fuller died in 1777 he left his house in Spanish Town to the lifetime use of Mary Johnson (sic) Rose “to whose care and attention under God I conceive my life has been more than once preserved in several dangerous illnesses I had in Jamaica”. He left her an annuity of £100 Jamaican currency (worth a bit over £70 sterling) annually for her lifetime, which was the continuance of a similar annuity he was already paying her. She was also left the lifetime use of the contents of the house except for what might be needed for the use of his attorneys managing his property from the Grange, and he requested, but did not require, that she might live at the Grange Pen to assist the attorneys when necessary. Mary was also left the use of six female slaves with any children they might have, again for her lifetime; and mention is made of her chaise and horse. Clearly she was left well provided for, but she later supplemented her annuity by letting out lodgings and she was able to buy her house in Spanish Town. She died a relatively wealthy woman.

On the 19th of March 1783 the parish register for St Catherine recorded the burial of “Mary Rose mulatto Old Age”. She had reached the age of over seventy and possibly as much as eighty three, a very good age in Jamaica, after a full life which had seen her and her sons become legally white.


If you would like to know more about women and the African Diaspora, and about Mary Rose, you can find it in Gendering the African Diaspora, Indiana University Press 2010, which contains a paper by Linda L. Sturtz entitled Mary Rose: “White” African Jamaican Woman? Race and Gender in Eighteenth Century Jamaica.

The letters written by Mary Rose and others referring to her are in the collection of the Fuller papers held at the East Sussex County Record Office at Lewes, England.

[1] Calimancoe was a dense, and expensive fabric used for shoes, stiffened petticoats and waistcoats. It was a shiny fabric with a striped or chequered pattern made of wool with silk or mohair.


The Portrait of Frances Lee


Francis Cotes (English, 1726-1770), Portrait of Miss Frances Lee, 1769.

Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William D. Vogel M1964.5. Photo by Larry Sanders.


This beautiful portrait of Frances Lee was painted for her parents by the English artist Francis Cotes in 1769 and today hangs in the Milwaukee Art Museum. If she looks rather solemn perhaps it is because she had been sent away from her family to school in England and neither she nor they could know whether they would ever meet again.

Frances Lee was born in Spanish Town Jamaica on the 31st October 1758, the eldest child of Robert Cooper Lee and Priscilla Kelly, and was baptised in the St Catherine’s parish church Spanish Town on the 23rd of January 1759. The parish register entry for Frances reads:

“Frances Lee a Quadroon” and on the line below, John Venn the vicar who transcribed the registers wrote “I believe a white illegit. child “. Technically since Priscilla Kelly was a free quadroon, Frances was in fact an octoroon.

In late 1767 or early 1768, at the age of nine, Frances (known in the family as Fanny) was sent to school in England. It is not clear whether there were specific fears for her health, although she suffered health problems throughout her life and early mention is made in the family letters of a six month period away from her school in Streatham.

Then in May 1768 her uncle Joseph Lee made a trip from Jamaica to England, leaving in haste because of fears for his health. While in England he visited his niece at Mrs Endleigh’s school in Streatham. It is likely the school was recommended by the Fuller family who had a house there. At first Fanny did not recognise her uncle, perhaps because she had not seen him for so long or perhaps simply because she did not expect to see him in England.  Joseph however was able to report that she was ‘admirably improved’ and ‘in extreme good health’.

I have been at the school where every thing is in the utmost Order and Regularity…Mr Fuller and myself have been all over the School and seen the Beds and other accommodations which are all with the greatest neatness and elegance.

It was important for the family to verify that Frances was being well cared for since even expensive girls’ schools could be chill and unpleasant places. In an account of Camden House where his daughter was until her death in 1797, Arthur Young recalled that ‘The rules for health are detestable, no air but in measured formal walk, and all running and quick motion prohibited, preposterous! She slept with a girl who could only hear with one ear, and so ever laid on the one side, and my dear child could do no otherwise afterwards without pain, because the vile beds are so small they must both lie the same way…..She never had a bellyful at breakfast.  Detestable this at the expense of £80 a year’.[1]  Why he allowed his poor daughter to continue there is a mystery to me.

On his first visit to the school Joseph stayed an extra day in order to see his ‘pretty niece’ dance. While in England he spent some time on business trips, on sightseeing and on family visits out of town, but he saw Fanny in London when she was staying with friends and he reported in a letter to his brother having seen her again and said that he considered her to be ‘the Flower of the School’. Fanny had become a firm favourite with her Uncle Joe, and there were plans for a family celebration during the Christmas holidays with her Aunt Charlotte Morley, and her three Morley cousins.  Joseph confessed to Robert that he had taken the liberty of presenting Frances with a new silk dress for the winter – possibly even the one in the painting.

The portrait must already have been commissioned by the autumn of 1768 because Joseph promised his brother that he would see it finished during the Christmas holidays. In March 1769 Joseph wrote to his brother

I have had her Picture drawn by Cotes who is in great repute here and is considered as next to Reynolds in the Art and when it is completed it shall be sent to you by the first safe Opportunity – the Price will be a few Guineas beyond the sum you mentioned which I apprehend will not be disagreeable to you as it will always remain a handsome Picture even after she has outgrown the likeness.

There was a delay sending the picture ‘a very strong likeness of her’, so that it could be put into a ‘neat Italian fluted frame’ and it was not until October that year that it was finally despatched to her parents in Jamaica .  The cost was thirty Guineas ‘the usual sum for a picture of that size’, and the frame cost an additional six pounds eight shillings. You can see the shipping order that included the portrait here.

At school in Streatham, Frances received a letter written by her father in April and carried by Mr Moulton, a friend who presented her with a guinea from her mother.  A Christmas letter from Frances had reached her parents together with a purse and ‘swordknot’ (an ornamental tassel attached to the pommel of a sword) that she had made for her father.  The main news to reach her was that her young brother Robert was to sail for England. Joseph Lee remained in England long enough to meet his six year old nephew, who was sent to Harrow School in the autumn of 1769, and finally returned to Jamaica in 1770 where he died in 1772 at the age of thirty-six.

In 1771 Robert Cooper Lee brought his family back to England and like many who had made their fortune in Jamaica he never returned there. The portrait of course came with them. Frances, who suffered from health problems throughout her life, never married. She inherited substantial Jamaican interests from her father and from two friends and lived to a comfortable old age dying at her home in Devonshire Street, Portland Place, London on 7th December 1839. Her younger sister Favell married the banker David Bevan and according to Audrey Gamble (née Bevan) who wrote a history of the Bevan family[2], the family failed to buy the portrait of Frances Lee back at an auction in the early twentieth century and so it rests now, beautifully restored, in the care of the Milwaukee Art Museum.






[1] M. Dorothy George, London Life in the Eighteenth Century,  Penguin, London 1966,  p.342

[2] Gamble, Audrey Nona, A History of the Bevan Family, Headley Brothers, London. 1923.