Retreat Estate

Searching for the Retreat Estate Great House

On Saturday, I turned off the hard road at the River Bumpkin Farm sign and made my way down the marl (weathered limestone) road to the office of the farm. There I met the good folks who worked at River Bumpkin Farm and they gave me a tour of the ruins of the Retreat Sugar Mill. The great house no longer exists.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Retreat was a property owned by Jane Stone who was a slave and became the wife of Jonathan Barnett who owned Barnett Estate. She also owned the nearby Hampstead Estate (covered in a previous blog). Retreat Estate had 180 slaves at the time of emancipation.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 11.43.19 AMIncidentally, I will charge off in a different direction here and discuss the capture of John Rackham by Jonathan Barnett, Jane Stone’s husband. John Rackham was better known as Calico Jack (he liked to wear calico), the pirate. Calico Jack is best remembered for two things: He designed and flew the famous pirate flag consisting of a skull and two crossed swords and also he had two female pirates in his crew…Mary Read and Anne Bonny. He cruised the Leeward Islands, the Jamaica Channel and the Windward Passage between 1718 and 1720.

Retreat Estate Governor Nicholas LawesGovernor Nicholas Lawes of Jamaica directed Captain Jonathan Barnett to take two privateer sloops on a mission to hunt down Calico Jack. The Tyger was heavily armed with several guns and twenty Royal Navy sailors and some British Army troops. At 10:00 PM on 20 October 1720, the Tyger discovered Calico Jack’s ship, the William at anchor in Dry Harbor Bay. The crew was drunk and sleeping as the Tyger silently approached the ship. Captain Barnet demanded that they surrender to which Calico Jack replied with a few shots from a swivel gun. The Tyger replied with a broadside and Barnett ordered his men to close and board the William. The pirates retreated to their cabins and the British sailors and troops quickly rounded up the pirates including a drunken Calico Jack.

Calico Jack and his pirates were taken to Port Royal tried on 16 November and hung on 19 November (speedy justice in those days). Mary Read and Anne Bonny pleaded pregnancy and avoided hanging at the time. Anne Bonny escaped but Mary Read was hung, but not before she issued the now famous saying, “If Calico Jack had fought like a man; he need not be hanged like a dog.”

The Sugar Mill

Kenroy Birch (also known as “Bug”) took me on a very informative tour of the ruins and surroundings. He pointed out the various plants. The farm also grows 27 varieties of bananas. The gentle trail wound along the river shaded by the verdant foliage.

The sugar mill was constructed adjacent to the Martha Brae River to harness the water to turn the rollers to crush the cane. The water was brought to the site via an aqueduct, which turned a water wheel, which via gears turned the rollers. The water mill was in operation until 1850 when it was shut down and the sugar mill operation was consolidated at the Hampstead mill using steam power.

Cane juice extracted from the rollers ran through gutters to the boiling house where it was stored in large cisterns call clarifiers and tempered with lime to remove the dirt. The juice was then heated and the scum was removed to be used in rum making. The purified liquid was boiled in a series of copper cauldrons of decreasing size, each getting smaller and hotter. The last copper was the smallest and hottest and the final product was a combination of sugar and molasses. The sugar was then taken to the curing house where in was put in wooden barrels (hogheads) with holes in the bottom to allow the molasses to drain out. After several weeks, the sugar, called muscovado, was ready to ship to Europe. For centuries, the skimmings were discarded until the enterprising sugar estate owners realized they could ferment it and produce rum. The crushed cane was stored in a trash house, allowed to dry and then used to fire the furnace in the boiling house. The products of both the curing house and the distillery were loaded on bamboo rafts and floated down the Martha Brae River to the coast to be loaded on ships.

River Bumpkin Farm

If you are looking for an educational adventure, I suggest the River Bumpkin Farm. You can go on the walking tour of the ruins and then having worked up a sweat, go tubing or kayaking in the Martha Brea River. They also have a beach and mountain bikes for a bit of additional exercise. When you get hungry, a canteen is available. The contact information is: Website:; Telephone in North America: 1-877-768-8370; Telephone in The Caribbean: 1-800-744-1150; Telephone outside North America: 1-305-663-4364.


Retreat Estate Map | 1850




Retreat Map copy


Retreat Estate Photo Gallery



Retreat Estate Location Map



Tags: , , , , ,

About Dr. Raul A. Mosley

Raul is the founder of the Fort Worth Portrait Project (FWPP). He holds a Ph.D. in Public Affairs & Issues Management from Purdue University. After teaching for 16 years as a university faculty member at both Purdue and Indiana University, Raul moved to Fort Worth and founded the FWPP in 2014.

2 responses to “Retreat Estate”

  1. Linley Hooper says :

    Thanks so much for your interesting reports – I have interests in the Mackinnon family of Halse Hall, the Rev Davies of St James and the Reddish & Ashby families of Falmouth & Martha Brae


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: