Royal agricultural and commercial society of Briti.

Timehri: the journal of the Royal agricultural and commercial society of British Guiana online

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The Hurricane in St. Vincent. 69

wet indeed but without having sustained the slightest
personal injury.

At Owia, the north eastern extremity of the island, a
most dreadful catastrophe occurred. Here resided Mr.
Johnson Littledale, a brother of one of the Judges of
the English Northern Circuit, who on that dreadful morn-
ing of the nth of August was killed in his bed by the
falling in of the house, a greater part of which was blown
into the sea. His housekeeper also perished in the
ruins, and a daughter had her arm broken. For one
whole week, no one could approach their dwelling by
land ; for the roads had been completely blocked up with
fallen trees, and the bodies were committed hastily and
without ceremony to the ground by some Carib Indians,
who swam across the creek to ascertain what had hap-
pened. I might enumerate to you many other melan-
choly occurrences and several providential escapes, but
I have confined myself merely to those in our immediate
neighbourhood, where the storm was severest, lest I should
fatigue you with the length of my details.

I will now turn to the events which happened subse-
quent to the hurricane. When it at length subsided,
about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, having raged with its
greatest violence from 9 to 12, there was a dead calm.
The torrents of rain ceased, the dense masses of clouds
passed away, the air was serene, and the sun burst forth
resplendently as if to shew us a little respite to pre-
pare for the melancholy night which was fast approach-
ing, and to which we looked forward with no pleasing
feelings for where were we to lay our heads, and how to
provide for its approach. What a singular and melan-
choly contrast presented itself when we cast our eyes



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JO TlMEHRI.



from earth to heaven ! Above us — the clear blue vault
of heaven scarcely intercepted by a cloud, the air cool
and calm ; below — but how shall I describe the horrors of
that sight ! the scene of desolation which presented itself
mocks all description ; materials of the most incongruous
description were heaped together in confused masses
around us ; others strewed over the fields or carried to
the most astonishing distances. Scarcely a building ot
any description was left standing, and even the stone
walls and pillars were thrown down. My own residence,
the manager's, overseer's, the sugar works, hospital,
megass house, cattle sheds, were all either destroyed
or seriously damaged, and out of 210 negro houses
only 20 were left standing, so that our own indi-
vidual loss is estimated at not less than £12,000
sterling ! The breadfruit, plantain and other fruit
trees have been almost entirely destroyed, and
the vegetable and provision grounds so materially
injured as to threaten us with famine. The trees on
the mountain sides, where exposed to the gale, were
stripped of every bough and leaf, and left like large
maimed blasted trunks, affording no shade to the cattle,
and conveying forcibly to the mind the appearance of
a raging fire having passed through them, or as if a
giant had stalked through the land, and with uplifted
arm had swept away with one dire swoop every vestige
of human industry. I have observed that such was their
appearance only where exposed to the fury of the gale,
for such are the peculiar and grotesque forms of the
mountains and hills, rising as they do frequently to
edges so pointed and sharp that there is scarcely room
for the foot to pass, and separated from each other by



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The Hurricane in St. Vincent. ft

numerous rocky defiles, that the leeward side is only
partially affe&ed by a wind blowing in the opposite
dire&ion. Riding along the sea coast after the hurri-
cane and looking up these narrow valleys, you would
observe one side leafless with bare and whitened trunks
while the other side retained its verdant green ; tike sum-
mer and winter occupying the opposite sides of the same
hill* When the eye had viewed these scenes of desola-
tion for a while the thoughts naturally reverted to self,
and to the situation in which we were left by this awful
visitation. Our first objeft was to obtain shelter for
the night ; and, as the evening continued fine, I pointed
out to the negroes the necessity for taking advantage
of so favourable an opportunity to search among the
ruins of their cottages for articles of bedding and clothes f
and to have large fires made to boil their pots, and to
ensure them a comfortable supper. As the -evening
closed in myself and family took possession of the upper
part of the building that had been saved — the stord
room, where we placed our bedding on the floor. The
cellars beneath and other parts of the sugar works were
occupied by six or seven hundred negroes, more fori-
tunate in this respeft poor creatures than many of the
people of the neighbouring estates, who had *io roof to
cover their heads, and no better lodging than a little
thafteh raked together under which they crept night after
night. As to ourselves, our situation was no enviable
one ; beneath a burning copper roof, amidst the mingled
delicate perfumes of hogsheads of salt fish, sugar, paint,
oil, our medicine shop and other agreeables, reposing
upon bales of osnaburg and blue cloth, and surrounded
by bags of nails; coopers', carpenters', and agricultural



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72 TlMEHRfc



tools, we remained for a whole month, until our resi-
dence was partially restored for our reception. The
thermometer being frequently above 90, we were com-
pelled to remain all night with the windows and doors
open, which subjected us to the visits of hundreds of bats,
and myriads of mosquitoes and ants, all peculiar annoy-
ances in their own way, some stinging, others biting,
and the bats dabbing your clothes and linen with
their wings dipped in molasses. The first time I
occupied this rude lodging, so great had been my
exertions and consequent fatigue during the day, that I
slept soundly and without waking ; but on the succeeding
nights, stung by the mosquitoes, and devoured by the
ants which crawled in every direction, I frequently started
from my broken slumbers, drew on my slippers, and
wrapping my dressing gown around me seated myself at
the door to catch each passing breeze, or took my usual
solitary walks amidst the ruins, to observe that no depre-
dations were committed, and to see that all the fires and
lights were extinguished. This was the more necessary
as so many inflammable materials, thatch, dried leaves, .
pieces of wood, lay strewed around in every dire&ion,
and the negroes are proverbial for their negligence and
carelessness. Nor was the precaution unnecessary from
what I observed to occur on other estates. One evening
as I was seated at the door as usual, I suddenly perceived
in the distance a pillar of fire rise up above the horizon,
rage furiously for about an hour and then subside. I
wished to proceed to the point of danger, but as the
night was dark and the roads obstructed with trees and
I was hesitating what steps to take, feeling always
anxious to render every assistance in my power, I



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The Hurricane -in St. Vincent. 73

observed that it was evidently getting under, and that I
should run considerable risk without any necessity for
venturing thither. Next morning I ascertained that it
had taken place at Langley Park, Mr. CRICHTON'S resi-
dence, who, finding that the mansion admitted the rain in
every room, had fitted up a range of outbuildings for the
temporary reception of his family and had only that even*
ing completed the thatching of the roofs, taking the
precaution before he retired to entreat the domestics to
beware of fire, and examined the rooms himself to ascer-
tain that all was safe. A few moments after intelligence
was brought him that it was on fire, he rushed out and
observed a burning patch on the roof, little larger than
the palm of his hand, caused by a servant placing a
candle on the shelf too near the thatch. It was barely
out of his reach ; but in an instant the whole roof was
ablaze. Fortunately the night was calm, and the fire rose
up in a huge pillar without extending to any of the other
buildings some of which were within a few yards. The
mansion itself had a narrow escape, for just as the fire
died out, the land breeze began to blow from the hills
dire&ly on the house ; which must have been reduced to
ashes had the fire occurred half an hour later. As it was,
it produced the greatest consternation among the house-
hold, who on the alarm of "fire" being given, leaped
from the windows and conveyed the furniture to the lawn
in the park. I assure you I viewed the scene, though
from a distance, with no little dismay, for fire following
upon the calamities we had already experienced, would
indeed put a finishing blow to all or any hopes of recov-
ering from our losses.
On another occasion, as we were one evening returning

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74 TlMEHRI.



from a walk to see what- progress had been made in the
restoration of our mansion, I perceived a red glare of
light on the horizon as of the setting sun. I commu-
nicated to my family and to Mr. HARRISON who \vas
with us my fears that another fire had broken out.
They thought that it was only the dying rays of
the setting sun, but a moment undeceived them. " Look
there again, see the deepening glare how it bursts
forth — Good God, another fire, when will our calamities
end ? Saddle the horses instantly, lose not a moment,
we may be of . some service." — I had traversed that
morning the road that had been cleared. I felt that
I must and would go. My orders were promptly obeyed
and the horses were brought round. — I vaulted into the
saddle and galloped off with Mr. HARRISON at a furious
pace to the point of danger, which we reached after a
perilous ride, at the termination of which I found myself
when only some few hundred yards from the fire, tra-
versing a deep gully or ravine which a short time before
had been a good road, but now washed away into a deep
hole. My horse stood still on a sudden and refused to
proceed — I dismounted and leaped him up, though when
I examined the place next day, I was at a loss to con-
ceive how either my horse or myself could have got
there, much less got out again with safety. As soon as
I extricated myself from this difficulty, I galloped on-
wards to the sugar works at Rabacca, where I found a
large assemblage of negroes and some white people,
most of them looking on in stupid amazement, some
giving contradi6lory orders, others alarmed for their
own safety, many and loud voices, but few hands at
work and these ignorant how to proceed, one ordering



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The Hurricane in St. Vincent. 75

what another had just effefted. The manager, Mr. Car.
MICHAEL, who had called upon me in the morning and
informed me that his residence had sustained no injury
by the hurricane, and congratulated himself on not having
suffered any personal loss whatever, was now (so soon
and so sudden a change may a few hours make in our
affairs) the very person whose property was most in
danger. The fire originated in a thatched stable and
sheep pen within a few yards from his house, through the
obstinacy of an old woman of 80 who had been forbid-
den to smoke her pipe when so many dangerous mate-
rials were strewed around. She had gone slyly into this
outbuilding to indulge in the luxury of a whiff once
more ; a spark fell and all was in a blaze in an instant.
On one side Were many outbuildings, on the other the
manager's house, and close to it an extensive range of
sugar works. Time passed — the fire was spreading — all
seemed* alarmed — but few exerted themselves. The
most judicious plan I could think of was to form lines
of demarcation round the fire and to enclose the blazing
materials within a square, so as to cut off its communi-
cation with any other building. I seized a hoe, then a
spade and shewed the negroes that I wanted a trench
cut all round, into which every relic of the fire was
to be thrown, and the square gradually lessened, by some
hoeing inwards whilst others brought buckets of water,
and baskets of sand to throw on the parts which threa-
tened most. They began at length amidst the din of
voices, shouts and contrary orders, to comprehend my
plan, and as they not only heard my voice, but saw my
own exertions — for I knew better how to handle a spade
than any one there, and a hoe as well as most — they

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76 TlMEHRI.



worked hard, cheered on by the buckras ; and poor
CARMICHAEL who himself went about almost demented
came to me again and again to thank me for the efforts
I was making on his behalf. In about an hour we had so
narrowed our square, or rather circle, which form it now
assumed, that it became a little mound beneath which the
embers were buried. No signs of fire .remained, though as
a precautionary measure, it was deemed advisable to ap-
point two watchmen for the night. After some refresh-
ment we remounted our horses, well pleased at what we
had effefted in so short a time. A night or two after,
another fire broke out on a different estate, but as it was
only a cottage it began to subside before my horse could
be saddled. These repeated alarms made me use every
precaution at home. Whenever I awoke in the night, I
started up, threw my dressing gown around me, and
assuming my large straw hat, with a stick or cutlass in
hand, (to seize or frighten any depredators I might dis-
cover) I took my solitary rounds. Imagine to yourself a
tall figure, with a loose robe, broad hat and glittering
cutlass proceeding by moonlight, clambering over broken
materials, traversing at one time the long line of sugar
works, at another ascending the hill, pacing amidst the
ruins of my own mansion, or with folded arms standing
on the platform round which my gallery ran, whilst all
beneath were reposing in silence, the rays of the moon
falling on the ruined buildings and the incongruous
masses of trees, stones, thatch and wood which seemed
to defy the efforts of men to restore them to order in any
reasonable period. These were my regular rounds
every night, once or twice, to ascertain that all
was safe. Yet sometimes in spite of all my en-



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The Hurricane in St. Vincent. 77

treaties, persuasions, and threats, I would in the depth
of the night hear in the cellar beneath me the
sound of the steel and flint striking a light; and then
the perfumes of the pipe ascending through the crevices
of the floor, conveyed to me the certainty that my wishes
bad been disregarded. If they heard the least sound
of footsteps approaching, all was at once hushed and
still, the light immediately extinguished; and when I
declared my determination to make an example of
those who persisted in striking a light where they were
surrounded with planks, staves and shingles on every
side, they stoutly and with the greatest sangfroid denied
that there ever had been one, though the place was at
the same time filled with such a strong odour of tobacco,
as left no doubt of the fa6l. On one occasion I per-
ceived through the crevices of the door a glimmering
light, I approached cautiously and listened, but all was
still, I warily opened the door and looked around.
Sable forms and dark features laid around me in deep
slumber. In the distance was a glimmering taper, and
extended at length by it was an old woman, now over-
powered with sleep. As I approached I saw that the
light proceeded from two wicks placed in the melted
tallow at the bottom of the candlestick. They were
burnt low, and only within two inches of some
chips of wood and close to a heap of boards and
planks. I was thunderstruck at the destruftion that
menaced us, but my presence of mind did not forsake me.
I took the candlestick in one hand and placing the other
before the light so that I might be able to retrace my
steps without stumbling with it among so many in-
flammable materials, I cautiously sought the door and



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78 TlMEHRI.

the moment I reached it threw the light to the ground
and felt thankful that my steps had been so providen-
tially dire6led. So far for the occurrences which imme-
diately succeeded or were connefted with the hurricane.
I ought now, in justice to ourselves, to proceed to de-
tail to you, would my time or remaining space admit, the
methods that we as well as all the neighbouring gentle-
men adopted to repair our losses, and to show how,
greatly vilified and traducechas we have been as cruel and
merciless planters, we consulted the welfare of our negroes
before all other obje&s, Jeaving and negledting every-
thing else, even ^ur own residences and comforts, as of
secondary moment, untilj^eirs were first attended to ; but
this I must defer until I next write to you.




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J



Land Titles.



By Hon. William Russell.




J HE conveyancing solicitor who has been ac-
customed to dive into mysterious boxes
labelled "Title Deeds", and has waded through
acres of closely written vellum recording the most
minute details of every transaction connected with a
property from its earliest history, all being carefully
scanned and considered before a single rood of the
property can be alienated, would be surprised to find in
this colony no mysterious boxes, and that the Registrar's
office fulfils all the duties of record connefted alike with
the largest or the smallest properly, and that a single
deed, costing #16, or £3. 6s. 8d., with the necessary notice
in the local press, enables the proprietors to transfer, or
burden by deed of mortgage, the whole or part of their
land. While this is now the established custom of the
colony, it was evidently not the intention of the early
Dutch law-makers that the records of the Registrar's office
should alone be sufficient proof to warrant the transfer of
property. It was clearly their intention, as set forth in
clause 6 of the States General's orders of 1792, that
a correct chart of all concessions, lands and possessions
in the colony should be executed, with the necessary
records, and it was for this purpose that acre money was
first instituted.

Later on, coming down to the English possession, we
find in Ordinance 9 of 1873 the appointment of a Crown
Surveyor and Assistant Surveyors, with their duties de-



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8o TlMEHRI.



fined particularly in clauses g and io, to the effett that a
Register Book of all crown lands and forests has to be
so alphabetically arranged as to afford a ready
means of reference for all land transa&ions, such
record to be always open to the inspe&ion of the
public! for the trifling fee of 48 cents. Had the institu-
tion of this register been followed up, in 1873, by strength-
ening the Crown Lands Department, so, as to carry out
these clauses in their integrity, including a complete
chart of the colony, many of the burning questions which
arise as to the titles of land would have been avoided.
I allude more particularly to the question which has now
arisen in regard to the ownership of the back lands of
Plantation Mocha in No. 3 Canal.

It may not be out of place to note the various changes
that have taken place in regard to the possession of trafts
of land or concessions since the first Dutchman landed
upon the Pomeroon River in 1580. From the meagre
records that are to be found, it is evident that the first
settlers formed themselves into village communities, and
that they cultivated the surrounding lands for the com-
mon weal. These communities must have suffered great
privations, the Spaniards harassing them on the land,
and the buccaneers closing them in from the sea. By
degrees they seem to have found a way to the Massarooni
river under the leadership of one Jost van der HOOD,
as we find the remains of a small stronghold at Kykove-
ral Island, at the jun&ion of the Cuyooni and Massarooni,
where in 1602 Jan VAN PlERE with his hardy band
of adventurers joined the band ; with the result that the
lands along the Essequibo were soon studded with small
settlements.



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Land Titles. 8i



At Cartaboo point (the promontory between Cuyooni
and Massarooni), the property of the TlERENS family is
still to be traced in the foundation of buildings* and
various slabs, marking the graves of that family.

The inquisitive pioneer who takes the trouble to search
along the sides of the river at this point is sorely puzzled
to account for Europeans selefting such thoroughly
sterile land on which to settle, judging from the scanty
yield of cassava and other provisions now grown by the
descendants of the early settlers, who have lost all tinge
of the European. To white men it must have been
starvation, and the parent country in a deplorable state,
before her sons could be forced into such a free exile.

Van PlERE seems to have had a long reign, for it is
evident that he was at the head of affairs when these were
removed to Fort Island in 1613 ; for, in 1621 his name is
mentioned in connexion with the first introduftion of
African slaves by the Dutch Government. Fort Island
appears to have been the early seat of government of the
young colony, as it is there that we find the first authen-
tic records ot the country, under the administration of
one GRAVESANDE. In 1634 the colony had risen to such
importance that a Commander was appointed in the per-
son of J. VAN DE GOSS ; from which date a line of Com-
manders follows until 1742, when L. S. VAN S'GRAVES-
ANDE was appointed to that high position, and under his
rule in 1751 the two rivers Essequibo and Demerara
were united under one Commander, GRAVESANDE, who
held that important post until his death in 1773.*

On the 17th March 1769, there seems to have been an

* A slab in Fort Island church marks the resting place of that able
man.

L



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82 TlMEHRI.



^extraordinary meeting of the Administrative body of the
colony under Laurens Storm van S'Gravesande, at
which they had before them an application from some
adventuresome colonists who wished to embark in the
empoldering of land within tidal influence at the mouth
of the Essequibo. The Boerasarie Creek seems to have
been the starting point of the concessions made that day.
The lines granted to Jan Baptist Struvys embraced
316 roods fa$ade by 1,500 roods in depth, now known as
Zeelugt. This grant of 316 roods fa£ade evidently em-
braced the Boerasarie Creek, as shown on the diagram
produced on the chart herein after mentioned. Zeelu^t
is now confined to the west bank instead of the east as
described in the concession. Another grant made
that day was to DANIEL PiEPERSBERG, of 242 roods
fa£ade by 1,500 roods in depth, now known as Tuschen
de Vrienden, and again to HENDRICK MlLBORNE,
of Vergencegen of exaftly the same dimensions as the
preceding concession ; and so on to the various lots ex-
tending along the river. As the wording of these con-
cessions may be considered to embrace the land regula-
tions of that day, we produce that of Tuschen de Vrienden
at full length.

We, Laurens Storm van S'Gravesande, Director General in and over
the Colony and its Rivers Essequibo and Demerary, as likewise Colonel
of Militia and Burghers under jurisdiction of the High Mighty States
General of the United Netherlands, and Councillors of Policy on behalf
of the High Mighty the Honourable the Administrator of the West
India Company in Council of Ten Assembled.

Do by these presents grant and permit to Mr. Danl. Piepersberg to
take, occupy, and in right of ownership to possess a certain piece of
land in the River Essequibo on the East bank, commencing at the up-
permost trench of Plantation Zeelugt situate on the Boerasirie Creek of
the length of two hundred and forty-two roods and a depth of fifteen



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Land Titles. 83



hundred roods, provided that the Grantee shall well and properly culti-
vate the said lands with such plants as shall be considered most ad van-,
tageous, also to cause a good and substantial house to be built thereon,
without the right, however, to sell or alienate the aforesaid unless with
our permission. Reserving to ourselves for and in behalf of the Hon-
ourable the West India Company the right of preference as also the
right to cut wood on the side lands if required. He shall moreover not.
be allowed to hinder, molest, or impede the free Indians or casual trav-



Online LibraryRoyal agricultural and commercial society of BritiTimehri: the journal of the Royal agricultural and commercial society of British Guiana → online text (page 6 of 25)