Tag Archive | River Bumpkin Farm

Potosi Estate

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. There I met the good people who worked at River Bumpkin Farm and they gave a tour of the ruins of the Potosi Sugar Mill.

Thomas Partridge, the original owner named the estate after the fabled Bolivian silver mine. He also owned an adjacent estate, Hampstead (which I have covered in a previous post). Upon his death, his son, Thomas Partridge Jr. inherited the property and upon his death, the property passed on to his two sisters. One of the sisters, Elizabeth, married John Tharp in 1766 and this was the start of the many estates he owned on the Martha Brae River.

John Tharp was born at Bachelor’s Hall, Hanover, Jamaica in 1744. He was educated in England and returned to Jamaica to work at the Potosi Estate, eventually marrying Elizabeth. In 1767, he sold Bachelor’s Hall and purchased Good Hope, Lansquenet and Wales estates. By the end of the eighteenth century, he owned most of the estates in the area including Bunker Hill, Covey, Merrywood, Pantrepant, Unity and Windsor. He also acquired Dean’s Valley Estate in Westmoreland and Chippenham Park in Saint Ann where he lived the later years of his life and died in 1804 at the Good Hope Great House.

John Tharp had four legitimate children: John, William, Joseph, Thomas and Eliza. Five years after the death of his wife, he had a daughter by one of his slaves and she became his favorite child. She married well in England with an annual income of six hundred pounds. In 1792, Tharp married again but a scandal erupted when his wife had an affair with the husband of his daughter Eliza so he moved to Good Hope where he spent the rest of his life. John Tharp became estranged from his children and left his entire fortune to his baby grandson, who turned out to be mentally ill, resulting a horrendous lawsuit. In 1840, the Jamaica Almanac lists John Tharp’s heirs owning 22,409 acres. In April 1836, there were 224 slaves on the estate and John Tharp, Jr. received 4,494 pounds for compensation when they were emancipated.

Kenroy Birch took me on a very informative tour of the ruins and surroundings. He pointed out the various plants. The one that most intrigued me was the prickled lala thorn tree. The story goes that if a young man wants to find out if his girl is true to him, he will climb the thorn tree. If she is willing to pull the thorns out, then she is the one for him. 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 mill had an innovative system of delivering the cane to the mill from the fields above the mill. The builders constructed a cane chute made of dressed stone. The cane was delivered to the top with ox cart and then pushed into the chute, which delivered it to the mill in the valley, one hundred feet below.

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.

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.

River Bumpkin Farm Contact Information

Website: www.IslandRoutes.com; Telephone in North America: 1-877-768-8370; Telephone in The Caribbean: 1-800-744-1150; Telephone outside North America: 1-305-663-4364.

Potosi Estate Photo Gallery

Potosi Estate Location Map

Jamaica-Trelawny

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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: www.IslandRoutes.com; 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

 

Jamaica-Trelawny

Hampstead Great House

 

Mike Schwartz told me that in order to get to the Potosi Estate I needed to turn on the marl (weathered limestone) road and follow it to the River Bumpkin Farm, an adventure concession owned by Sandals Resorts. I made my way down the five kilometers to the adventure company and was then told that they couldn’t give a tour of the Potosi Estate but if I could come back tomorrow, they would be glad to help me. I told the office girl about what I was doing and she suggested I go look at Hampstead Great House back on the same road. I back-tracked to the great house and there I met Paul Robinson who gave me a tour of the exterior of the great house and the sugar factory.

Hampstead was a property owned by Jane Stone who was a slave and became the wife of Jonathan Barnett who owned the Barnett Estate. She also owned the Retreat Estate nearby the great house. The Retreat sugar mill (I will cover it in another blog) ran using a water wheel on the Martha Brae River. The Hampstead sugar mill ran by cattle power. In 1850, the owner consolidated the two mills at Hampstead using steam power. At the time of emancipation, the estate had two hundred slaves.

The great house is remarkably nondescript. At the time, it was a really great house, but today, I’m afraid that it would be considered a middle class house. I drove to the top of the hill and as I started to take pictures, Paul Robinson, the caretaker, met me. He was unwilling to let me enter the house but gave me a first class tour of the property. We viewed the original kitchen outbuilding with a brick baking oven, as well as the barracks, where the house slaves lived. We then left the top of the hill and drove down to the ruins of the old sugar mill and rum distillery. I saw the furnace that both boiled the cane juice as well as made steam to run the steam powered mill. He also showed me the well, the water tank, the factory pond and the ruins of the building where the sugar was processed.

In order to get to this great house, take the Martha Brae exit from the north road, drive through Martha Brae on the way to Perth Town and follow the signs to the River Bumpkin Farm (to be described in a later post). Turn off the paved road, at the River Bumpkin Farm sign and about a mile up the road, you will see a coconut plantation on the left and a narrow track up the hill to the great house.

Hampstead Great House-19

Hampstead Great House Photo Gallery

Hampstead Great House Location

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