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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ellers, and shall deposit in the office of the Secretary of this Colony a
land surveyor's certificate of the description of the locality of the land.

(Signed) L. Storm van S'Gravesande.

River Essequebo, the 17th March, 1769.

By command of the Honourable the Director General, and the Hon-
ourable Members of the Court of Policy.

(Signed) Peter Bout Wonters, Secretary ad inter.

While this was the condition of matters in the Esse-
quibo, the colonists began to turn their attention to the
Demerary river, where adventurers had already taken up
some allotments in 1741. Four years afterwards, in 1745,
permission was granted by the Chamber of Zealand to
recognise those settlements, and to issue grants along
the whole river. Commander GRAVESANDE was in
charge of both rivers at this important period in
their development. From the earliest chart extant of
the river Demerary, in possession of the late Dr. MANGET,
and the tabulated statements thereto attached, we know
the name of the grantee, the area of land granted, and
the date of grant ; for instance Lot 42, known as ta Huy
Amelices, now "Amelia's Ward/' was granted in 174$
to John Heyliger, the same embracing 1,500 aqre$
on the right bank of the river ; while Lot 50 known as
Christiapburg was granted in 1748 to Mr. D'ERVEN
Christian Finnet, embracing 2,000 acres on the left
bank of the river.


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It is evident that GRAVESANDE must have been a com-
mander of great ability, whether his aftions were guided by
written instructions, of which we have no record, or whe-
ther he simply a£led on his own judgment. There is strong
presumptive evidence that the Commander had very ex-
tensive powers given him as to the granting of land ; for
we find that, in the case of the grants on Grote Creek,
large territories were granted, probably to favourites,
the boundaries being roughly described as " as far as the.
tide flows," ; and these titles are still recognised, al-
though the land is only used for timber cutting. The
chart in question points to his having been as-
sisted by able surveyors and other advisors, ; it bears
evidence that the Demerara river had been carefully
surveyed and the boundaries of concessions laid down
prior to any having been granted, for the date of the
grants are in no way in sequence with the number of
allotment ; for instance, Lot i, part of the washed away
Plantation " Best" was the last concession given off, in
1769, to Jan Jacob Becker.

At the death of Gravesande in 1773 the young colony
of Demerary had risen to such importance as to call for
Courts of Policy and of Civil and Criminal Justice ; these
were established at " Borslem" an island 20 miles up the
river, but in the following year the seat of Government
was removed to Stabroek. In 1789 there would appear
to have been considerable differences of opinion between
the old colonists of Essequibo and the younger branch
settled on the Demerary. These differences were inquired
into, and in 1 789 we find the plan of redress or new
constitution for the Government of the united colonies
was introduced ; and there can be little doubt that along

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Land Titles. 85

with the new constitution, strifter rules were introduced,
regarding the mode of settling the lands along the rivers
and seaboard, and that the rules and regulations of 1792
were framed about this time. Hence we find Major
BOUCHENROEDER engaged between 1795 and 1804 in
surveying and laying down a complete chart of the colo-
nies from the Corentyn to the Amakoroo inclusive.
Van Cooter'S chart of the West and East Coasts
of Demerary made its appearance ; and from the records
it is evident that a block, 750 roods in depth by
100 roods in width, had been the stipulated size
of grants long prior to the Land Regulations of
1792, as on both East and West Coasts, the lands had
been granted and occupied long prior to 1 792 ; thus the
regulations in question may be looked upon as locking
the door after the steed was stolen. At the same time in
the main they seem to have been framed upon the un-
written law which guided the Commander and Council
of Ten in assigning the coast lands, which in their nature
called for different rules from those suitable for the river
estates. For instance, the grand highway by which the
river planters transported themselves in their tent boats,
and their more clumsy balahoos, with produce to the
vessels in the offing, was not available on. the coast-
lands ; hence the introdu&ion of the road clause into the
concessions ; and the regulations in regard to the main-
tenance of the roads appear to have been rigidly
enforced. The acre money of 3 stivers per acre for
front lands has fallen into abeyance, and is now
chargeable against the back lands : while the charge
of 2 stivers for the back lands appears to have been
dropped altogether. With these trifling exceptions the

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orders of the States General in 1792 regulate most of
the land in the colony to this day. By the articles of
capitulation in 1803 it was stipulated that the laws,
usages &c, of the colony should remain as they were
before ; and, as the regulations already referred to em-
braced the only written record of the mode of settling
the lands of the colony these were engrafted on to the
present statute book, and remain unrepealed to this

Let us see what these regulations mean from a mone-
tary point of view; —



Grant of 1769.
To build a house say ... ... ... ... $ 2,000 00

Regulations 1792.

To build a house ... ... $ 2,000 00

10 Negroes at $400 each ... ... 4,000 00

Huts for same ... ... ... 600 00

Construction, Roads and Bridges ... 2,00000

Towards general survey, 200 guilders 64 00 $ 8,664 °°

Annual charges compulsory —
Up-keep of roads & bridges, 100

roods % 100 00

Interest on original outlay at 6 0/0 120 00

Acre money at 3 stivers per acre... 12 00 $ 232 00

Over 250 acres, 92 s - cent per acre
By the Ordinance of 1873—
250 acres at $10 per acre .. ... $ 2,500 00

Cost of survey and travelling expenses 86 48 $ 2,586 48

Interest at $ 0/0—62 cents per act* par annum.

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Land Titles.


Aftual cost of poldering land, ioo roods



at $8 per rood


... $ 8oo*oo

Drainage and shipping sluice



750 roods side line and middle walk ...


... 4450*00

100 roods Dack dam A



Back dam koker ...



$ 7,800.00

This amount at 6 0/0 per annum = $468*00 or $1*87 per acre, and
added to original cost of 62 cents per acre gives a total cost of $2*49
per acre per annum.

This last, without any obligations for acre money or con-
stru&ion and maintenance of roads, bridges &c, &c.
The regulations of 1792 are pretty stiff and indicate
that before a colonist became a settler he had to have
either Capital or Credit, and not simply be a loafer to
take up land and sit down in indolence.

A universal cry has arisen against the high rate for
Crown lands, but when the above figures are taken into
account the cry is untenable, especially as regards
alluvial flat soils along our sea coasts and rivers under
tidal influence, seeing that these lands when poldered
and drained, lease rapidly at from #12 (£2 10) to #24
G£5) P er acre P er annum. While this holds good of such
lands, there are thousands of acres in the interior that
would be dear at an annual tax of one cent per acre ;
hence a distin&ion ought to be drawn between the two
descriptions of land.

It is evident in the face of the various sub-divisions of
-property which have been allowed by the Govern-
ment and admitted by the Judges of the Supreme
Court, that some law or regulations meeting the various
cases of converting by transport, land held only during
Her Majesty's pleasure, into freeholds ,must be on record.

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At an early stage of the colony's growth this must have
forced itself upon the Government of the day, for when
Stabroek became too small for the citizens it was
natural that the proprietors of the various surrounding
coffee estates should part with pieces of their concessions
to form a township, even if they had to pay a penalty
oi £i sterling per acre in accordance with clause 9 of
1792. One thing is clear, and that is, the descendants
of the early concessionists have been fortunate in finding
themselves in possession of a township instead of an
abandoned coffee estate. If ever an unearned increment
was participated in, it was in the case of " Vlissingen ;"
when an abandonee! swamp now partly covered by
the Botanical Gardens, was purchased for the public
at the fabulous price of fifty pounds sterling per

The formation of villages is another proof of the legal
subdivisions of concessions into freeholds ; for instance
Ordinance 18 of 1845 admits of Daggarad, Mocha and
Westfield, on the Essequibo Coast being divided into
freehold village lots, the whole being now known as the
village of Queenstown. This was the earliest ordinance
acknowledging and giving status to village communi-
ties, and it has been followed up by various ordinances
recognizing and laying down rules for the management
of these now freeholds.

Where doubts have existed as to the validity of a title
to property, it has been a common pra6lice to allow the
property to be levied upon for arrears of monies expended
upon roads &c. The property went under sequestration,
and was in due time sold, when the owner became the
purchaser, got letters of decree, and started fair with a

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clear title ; thus shutting out all others who might claim
♦ an interest \n the property.

A Squatter's Title is recognised as a quasi title to pro-
perty* and in most cases h^s arisen from undisputed pos-
session over a long term of years. There are often cases ;
especially conne&ed with grants, up the rivers, where
there is an excuse of papers getting burnt, hence loss of
"Title Deeds/' this has been allowed, although there are no
good grounds for such aflion on the part of the Executive,
3s all grants of land should be traceable through the chart
already referred to coupled with the records in either the
archives of the Registrar's or Crown Lands Department ;
any doubts on this head would be removed by stri6t ad-
herence to clauses 9 and and 10 of No. 9 Ordinance,


The most important change of all that has taken place
in the transfer of land is that due to the contests
that have taken place between labour on the one hand
and produftive capital on the other. A contest which
has ended on the side of labour, and which has banished
the Anglo-Saxon element, thereby transferring the bulk
of the really valuable lands of the colony at a less price
than the original cost of construfting roads and bridges
into the hands of a class who have neither capital and
industry to turn them into any useful purpose ; thus a class
of pauper proprietors has sprung up on the ruins of the
energetic early settlers and is a drag upon the really in-
dustrious classes of the community.

The cry is often raised to open up the crown lands of
the colony ; the colonist who has taken the trouble to
make himself acquainted with the length and breadth of
the colony knows full well that there are no crown


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lands to open up, all the fertile land is already absorbed.*
The greater part of it is fast falling back into a state
of nature, through the operation of the foregoing cause.
As a forcible example of this, one has only to look at
that once grand seftion of the colony which is embraced
between Golden Grove and Madawyne Creek on the right
bank of the Demerara river, and on the left bank
from " Vive La Force" to the Sandhills. With very few
exceptions all has already fallen back to primeval jungle*
This state of things could never have been foreseen by
any of the original grantors ; and with the present cry for
an altered Grown Lands Ordinance, one of the first
clauses should be for the enforcement of the maintenance
of the soil in such a stale as to minister to the wants of
the public ; and, concentration being strength ; the
original intention of the early grantors of having
a continuous cultivation should be adhered to, and the
most fertile and well watered large territories of the
colonies should not be allowed to remain in a state of

Such a sound law would soon have its effeft ; and
instead of an indolent race clamouring to have their
roads, drainage, and dams kept up at the cost of the
industry of the colony, there would be a people who
would put their shoulders to the wheel and make an effort
to save that on which every negro places great value, " his

Mr. LUBBOCK in his paper read at the Colonial Institute
instances the exports from British Guiana in 1884 at
£2,312,592, of which £190,921 or t** was other than

* The writer here evidently refers merely to the lands on or pear th$
coast.- Pp,

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Land Titles. 91

sugar. After the liberal way in which the local Govern-
ment has a&ed during the last 30 years in attempting to
foster other industries, these praftical figures ought
to point out to those having the welfare and guidance of
a rural peasantry in hand, that however unpleasant the
name of sugar and sugar labour may be to the vulgar
mind, it is to that produ&ion that we as colonists have to
cling for our existence as a civilized state, and that the
small cultivator as well as the large sugar planter should
stand shoulder to shoulder in assisting to increase the
production of such a money-circulating produft, and this
can only be brought about by wholesome division of
labour, as in other countries ; one man growing the raw
material, and the other manufa&uring it into the finished


M 2

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Colonial Jottings.*

By W. C #. F. McClintock, y.P.

JHEN I was last in New Amsterdam, Berbice,
with little or no occupation at that time, a
thought struck me that during the few days
left before my departure for the sister county my time
would be well spent in paying a visit to the Upper
Berbice River, and with that objeft I increased my crew
from five to nine Indians.

I ascended the river some distance above all wood-
cutting establishments, and until I reached a landing
named by Indians "Savanna-land.' 1 At this part of the
river the forest fringing its banks scarcely extends thirty
rods inland, which was a most agreeable surprise to me
— for, instead of struggling for hours through a dense
forest — as I have frequently done — before reaching the
desired objefl, I landed almost at once on a magnificent
savanna, studded here and there with small clumps of
trees giving it the appearance of a well kept demesne.

After landing, and burying one gallon of rum, in the
hope of having the use of it for my crew on my return
to Berbice, I started across the savanna at a quick pace
until I reached a tributary of the Demerara River named
Mannaca-secaru, which name, in the Arrawack language
means dry leaf of the manicole palm — that part of the

* The following notes have been supplied to me at various times
by my friend Mr. W. C. H. F. McClintock, so long resident on the
Pomeroon River, as Postholde:* and afterward as Special Magistrate,

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Colonial Jottings. $3

leaf which Warrau Indians make use of as wrappers for
their cigars : there was only one family on this ctteek,
from whom I hired a corial to convey myself and *crew
to the Demerara River for the purpose of purchasing a
supply of cassava bread &c, &c. The provisions I bad
brought with me from New Amsterdam were intrusted to
six of my crew as carriers, but after I left them they
returned to the place I first landed, dug up the rum I had
buried in a jug, and on the savanna all six Indians
became intoxicated, and fought, and during the fight
destroyed all the provisions. But to my great disappoint-
ment there was no bread of any kind to be obtained in
Upper Demerara River, the consequence being that ii*-
^tead of returning to the Berbice River the following day
"as first arranged (the distance across the savanna from Ber.
bice to Demerara via " Mannaca-secaru" is only a walk
of ten hours) I was obliged to descend the Dem-
erara, as far as Post Ampa, "before I could obtain
bread and other necessaries for my return journey.
On approaching the forests bordering the Mannaca-
secaru Creek, a large size tree — which the wind had
thrown down— lay across our path. I took it at a jump
but knowing that Indians rarely jump when travelling
by land, owing, as I suppose, to having loads to carry, I
^as curious to see whether they would climb on the tree,
and then slide off, or walk round by the head of it to re-
join the path; and it was just at the moment of
their state of uncertainty I fortunately discovered that
a large bush-master snake was underneath the tree,
and immediately under the spot I had jumped over. I
beckoned to the Indian nearest to me not to climb upon
the tree but to walk round it, and to bring his gun— an

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order he quickly obeyed and shot the snake. The Indian
in question being " a peaiman" or sorcerer dragged the
dead snake some distance into the bush, and there com-
menced to cut out the fangs which he afterwards secured
to the cotton string which supported hisloin cloth.

The superstitions of the aborigines of British Guiana are
too well known to require any comments from me. A
sorcerer, or " peaiman" when armed with the fangs of a
snake, more particularly those of a bush-master — is intend-
ed to play a very important part amongst his Indian pa-
tients, believing as they do, that a peaiman possesses the
power of warding off sickness by blowing on the patient
through his closed hands, and squeezing the parts affe6ted,
while wielding his " sac-sac" or magical gourd. He
rails most violently against the evil spirit for inflifting his
patients with sickness, and, while extolling his professional
skill as a medicine man, does not hesitate to assure his
patient that his recovery is certain. Finally he exhibits
to the credulous patients the fangs of the much
dreaded bush-master snake, which he tells the sick Indian
he took out of his body, all of which the poor benighted
Indian firmly believes. As a rule it is only the
Indians who live on, or in the neighbourhood of, the
Missions, who will take our medicine ; but they
require much Nourishment while under our care, as
our medicine is so much stronger than the Indian bush
remedies. Missionary efforts have accomplished wonders
amongst the Indians of this colony ; but in the more dis-
tant parts rarely visited by missionary, the voice of the
peaiman reigns supreme.

It was during the rainy season I walked across
from river to river, and seeing the banks of Demerara

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Colonial Jottings. 95

full to overflowing, a thought struck me that by
making use of a woodskin instead of a batteau
or corial, I would be able to perform the journey
from " Mannaca-secaru" Creek to Post Ampa in two
days instead of three days, — the time usually occu-
pied by travellers. In the hope therefore of making
the journey agreeable, and for other reasons, I hired
a woodskin and two Indians as paddlers, who knew
the short cuts, for my track then lay not in the
river but through the forests. By adopting this course
all the windings of the river were avoided, which
materially shortened the journey, reducing the time
occupied in travelling to thirty hours instead of
three days.

I was delighted with the appearance of the country I
passed over. The clumps of trees scattered through
extensive meadow-like tra6ts of land, covered with rich
vegetation of sweet grass and a variety of flowers, brought
vividly to my recolleftion many park-like places I had
seen in the old country, and I felt assured that if the
lands lying between the rivers Berbice and Demerara
were in the hands of persons of experience they would
soon be turned to profitable account either as cattle farms
or for agricultural purposes. I felt so much persuaded to
this opinion that I jotted down in my note book the fol-
lowing remarks made at the time : — " The traft of land
lying between the river Berbice and Demerara is, in many
respefts, better calculated for colonization than any other
part of British Guiana ; first, and chiefly, the healthiness
of upper Berbice River is proverbial, the river water
throughout the year, is pure and wholesome ; again the
savannas arc extensive, and their formation, generally,

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undulating, would save expense in drainage; much
of the land is rich, well watered, free from forest, and
ready for the hand of the ploughman ; the land would
yield coffee, cotton, and tobacco, besides being well
adapted for pasture or for agricultural purposes. The
Indians inhabiting the district referred to (with whom
it would be absolutely necessary that settlers should live
on the most friendly terms) are far advanced in civiliza-
tion, industrious and most efficient in the art of squaring
timber, and as there are several wood-cutting establish-
ments already high up the river they would afford great
accommodation to such of the settlers as might
prefer disposing of their materials, on the spot, to
conveying them to the town of New Amsterdam for sale,
a distance of more than one hundred miles from the part of
the river on which the settlers would be located. The trees
which line the banks of numerous creeks of the upper
Berbice are of the most valuable description, and, in great
abundance, would, at all times, afford the settlers constant
and lucrative employment. This, coupled with the advan-
tage of transport free from difficulty or danger (craft
intended for transport service might load near the spot
the trees are cut down) would advance the value of the
traft of land, to which allusion has been made as being
particularly well suited for such persons as feel disposed
to try their hands at small industries/'

The soil in several parts I visited was rich and emi-
nently qualified for the cultivation of coffee and tobacco ;
and the soil of the savanna to which I have already alluded
is equally rich as the hills of the Monica River where, at the
present day, Spanish Arrawack Indians continue to culti-
vate coffee with every success, and until recently tobacco*

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Colonial Jottings. 97

also, which they made into cigars and afterwards sold them
for twelve dollars a thousand.

The soil of the numerous hills of the Waini and Barima
Rivers is rich, consisting of ochreous clay intermixed with
some mould and gravel, and almost the best kind of soil
for the cultivation of coffee. The coffee at present grow-
ing on Conuballi Hill, in the Waini, and again on the hills
of Moruca River, and also on Cabacaburi mission,
Pomeroon River, is the best proof I can offer in support
of what I have stated respe&ing the superior quality of
the soil of the elevated sands of those rivers.

I had occasion, in a previous communication, to re-
mark that a Mr. S., a traveller had visited Pomeroon river,
and had extended his journey to the Waini. Mr. S.'s let-
ter of the 15th April, 1829, gives me to understand that on
his return to Pomeroon he found it necessary to write a
"sharp" letter to the Post-holder of Pomeroon in answer
to some unfriendly remarks the Post-holder was reported
to have made about the traveller ; but without entering
into particulars the apparent coldness between the two
men may be told in few words as follows :—

The Government of that day under General Murray,
afterwards under General D'Urban, attached so much
importance to the arrival of Spaniards to settle in this
colony that instru6tions were sent to the Post-holder to
watch over them, and to forbid all unnecessary inter-
ference with them by travellers or by any other persons ;
indeed, that persons wishing to travel through the north-
west distritt of the colony must provide themselves with
passports. Mr. S. being looked upon as a spy, and lest
his mixing among the Indians of Moruca, &c. should


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Online LibraryRoyal agricultural and commercial society of BritiTimehri: the journal of the Royal agricultural and commercial society of British Guiana → online text (page 7 of 25)