Thomas H Brooke.

History of the island of St. Helena online

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of resolution to enforce this order, and to
oblige the Company's ships to lie close in shore,
occasioned the loss of two of them, namely, the
Queen and Dover, both of which were taken on
the 1st of June, 1706, by a French force, under
the command of Monsieur Desduguieres, on his
return from India. At seven o'clock in the
morning a signal was made for two sail in sight,
and report described them as large ships, under
Dutch colours, approaching the island ; at ten
they were opposite Banks's ; and a gun being
fired from thence (according to custom), they
lowered their topsails, and saluted with five
guns. One of them immediately stood towards
the Queen, and running along side, poured in a
volley of small-arms from the tops, which the
Queen returned by a broadside, but was soon
boarded, and taken. The enemy then hauled
down their Dutch flag, and displayed French
colours ; and both proving two-deckers, the Do-
ver was also obliged to strike. As soon as this
breach of the law of nations*was perceived, or-


ders were given, by the Governor, to fire upon CHAP.
the enemy from the batteries ; but a sufficiency -
neither of powder nor match was at hand, and I
many of the spunges did not fit the guns. This
occasioned such confusion and delay, that the
French, with very little molestation, cut the
cables of their prizes j and, after firing a few
broadsides at the batteries, were soon out of the
reach of gun-shot. Monsieur Desduguieres had,
some years before, visited the island, in time of
peace, when he had been suffered by Governor
Poirier to sound about the coast wherever he
pleased, and to send his officers into the coun-
try, on pretence of shooting ; but it is said they
were very differently employed, and made what-
ever surveys they thought proper ; so that the
French commander was well aware of every
cirumstance that could oppose the execution of
his plan. From several large ships passing the
island immediately after the capture of the
Queen and Dover, it may be inferred, that
Monsieur Desduguieres might have brought a
larger force to accomplish his design, had he
thought the difficulty of the object would have
required it. To guard against a second misfor-
tune of this nature, the Company positively di-
rected that all their ships, whilst they remained
at St. Helena, should moor close in under Lad-
der Hill : and ordered, that no ship whatever


CHAP, should be suffered to pass Banks's Battery, with-
'. out previously sending in a boat to request the

to 1708. Governor's permission for anchoring. The ut-
most endeavours were likewise exerted to carry
forward the defensive works at Rupert's Valley,
which had been commenced some time before,
but had received much damage from floods.

The establishment of a new East-India Com-
pany, in prejudice to that already existing, is an
occurrence so far connected with the present
History, that it cannot with propriety be passed
unnoticed. The jealousies and party spirit
which resulted from the clashing of different
concerns and rival interests, could not fail to
create trouble, and even some degree of ani-
mosity, in the settlements abroad, as well as in
England; nor was St. Helena totally exempt
from these disturbances. The orders for exact-
ing a duty of twenty shillings a ton from every
East-India trader, not in the Company's service,
that required refreshment at the island, were
repeated during Captain Poirier's government ;
and in consequence of the refusal of supplies to
one of the new Company's ships, except in
terms of the old Company's orders (who were
the sovereigns of the island), the commander
endeavoured to obtain by force what he might
have procured in a legal manner ; and sent a


boat manned and armed, towards one of the CHAP.


leeward valleys for water. The Governor, how-
ever, frustrated the attempt by detaching a part
of the garrison, with orders to roll down stones
on the watering party, but not to proceed to
further hostilities, unless the boat's crew com-
menced a fire. Shortly after this, the new
Company sent an agent to reside at St. Helena,
for the purpose of communicating instructions to
the commanders of their ships. But as this was
a measure for which the Governor and Council
had received no sanction from their employers,
the agent was informed, that whatever letters he
was intrusted with, should be delivered to the
persons to whom they were directed ; but that
he himself must embark for England by the first
opportunity. A termination to these, and simi-
lar differences, was shortly after effected by the
incorporation of the old and the new Companies
into one, under the title of the United Company
of Merchants of England, trading to the East-
Indies. On this occasion St. Helena was trans-
ferred from the old to the united East-India
Company, in whose possession, as Lords Pro-
prietors, it has ever since remained.

On the 8th of September, 1707, Captain Poi-
rier died of a lingering disease, and was suc-
ceeded by Captain Goodwin, who governed


CHAP, about eleven months. During; this period, the


- Alarm- House,* on the ridge dividing a branch of

to'nos. Rupert's Valley from that of James's, was built,

and the works at Lemon Valley repaired. On

* Extract from consultation, the 24th of September,

1707 :


" Whereas it hath been, for some time past, intended
" and thought on to have a house built on the Alarm Ridge,
" for the lodging of arms and ammunition, and posting of
" two soldiers, in order to guard the ammunition and to fire
" the alarm guns there as soon as they descried any ship or
" ships, or upon the hearing of Prosperous Bay guns fire ;
" it is an hour before those guns are fired after the" Bay
" guns ; and also for the conveniency of lodging the whole
" party posted there in the night time, to prevent their
" going home to their several houses, as usually did ;
" and we thought it very necessary and convenient to go
" and take a view of the said Alarm Ridge, to see which
" was the most convenient place to build a house on.
" Upon the viewing of Lemon Valley, to consider what was
" needful to be done there, with the approbation of John
" George Newman, Engineer, have laid out a platform of
" three guns, to be erected on the east side of the valley,
" with a house of thirty feet long and ten broad, with a
" chimney ; and that a powder-room be built at the back-
" side thereof ; and that a platform of two guns, with a
" small powder-room, to hold only cartridges of powder,
" on the west side of the valley ; both of which are upon
" two little hills, clear from any floods, and will certainly
" make the place impregnable."

N. B. The force at that time allotted for the defence of
Lemon Valley, consisted of an officer and two soldiers.


the 24th of August, in the following year, Cap- CHAP.

tain Roberts arrived from England as Governor, 1

and Captain Goodwin in consequence returned
to his former situation of Deputy-Governor, and
soon after died.

As we now approach a juncture when the
island was rescued from a state of disorder and
degradation by the able and energetic measures
of Governor Roberts, and as his wise admi-
nistration forms a most striking contrast to that
of his predecessors, it will be proper to re-
serve the account of his government for a new





The building ofMunderfs Point battery The present
castle in James's Valley commenced Hopes of dis-
covering a gold and copper mine, fallacious Lime-
quarries discovered Improvement of the Company's
lands Sugar, rum, wine, brandy, bricks, and tiles,
made on the island General improvement in respect
to planting and enclosing Re-publication of the old
laws Application from the inhabitants in consequence

Answer Government-House in the country erected

Plan for fertilizing Prosperous-Bay Plain Resig-
nation of Governor Roberts, and succession of Gover-
nor Boucher His government Resigns.

CHAP. As security to the island was the first object of
_ importance, the Governor's earliest attention

tTm-i. was directed to the defences. On the day he
landed, the engineer received instructions to
give in a plan for a battery, to be erected at
Munden's Point ; and two days after, a resolu-
tion was passed in Council to construct the pre-
sent square fort in James's Valley, and also a
new Government- House. For the better com-


pletion of such structures in a permanent and CHAP.
substantial style, it was deemed expedient to

. .11 From 1708

obtain a cement superior to the mud-mortar ap- to m*.
plied in ordinary buildings ; and the importation
of chalk from England, to be burnt into lime at
St. Helena (a measure adopted on a former oc-
casion), being attended with great expense and
inconvenience, it was judged essential to obtain
that necessary article, if possible, on the spot.
A reward of one hundred dollars was accord-
ingly offered for the discovery of this useful
substance ; and, in the course of seven weeks, the
researches of Aaron Johnson, a soldier, were in
part successful ; but the quantity he could pro-
cure being inconsiderable, he was not deemed
entitled to the whole reward. The offer, there-
fore, of a remuneration in proportion to the
capacity of the quarry, was published, to stimu-
late further exertions. But in this research ava- .
rice soon received another incitement. Appear-
ances of gold and copper ore were discovered,
in Breakneck Valley, by Captain Mashborne, a
member of Council; who, as well as many
others, was prosecuting his search for lime. A
proclamation* was, in consequence, issued, of-

* From consultation, 22d February, 1709 :

A Declaration by the Governor and Council.

" That Captain Edward Mashborne, in digging of lime-
M 2 " stone,


CHAP. f er i n g a reward of two hundred and fifty pounds
_ for the discovery of a gold mine, and one hun-

From 1708 *

to 1714. dred and fifty pounds for a copper mine. But
no signs of either could be found. The sup-
posed gold discovered by Captain Mashborne
proving, when assayed in England, to be mar-
casites, as whatever particles of metal it con-
tained could not be separated, but evaporated
in fume. Whilst numbers sought to gain one of
the highest prizes, the less lucrative object of
lime was not forgotten ; and the exertions of the
Governor and Captain Mashborne were crown-
ed with success, by their actually finding moun-

" stone, in Breakneck Valley, amongst 'em sent some that
" was mixt with other stones and dirt ; which, being tried
" in the fire, there was found mixt with it several specks
" of gold. And Mr. Daniel Griffith since has sent to the
" Governor two sorts of minerals, found the last week, by
" Charles Rothwall, a soldier, lodging at his house : the
" one is gold, the other we take to be copper; samples
" whereof may be seen at the Governor's house. Where-
" fore, for the encouragement of any person that shall *^e
" industrious towards finding a mine thereof, he shall have,
" as a reward for his trouble, two hundred and fifty pounds
" for the gold, and one hundred and fifty pounds for the
tl copper mine : and this rainy season being the most pro-
" per time for looking into all the water-falls and streams,
*' we desire they may apply themselves diligently there-
" abouts, being assured there are such mines upon the
" island."


tains of extraordinary lime-stone at Sandy Bay.* CHAP.
A kiln was immediately ordered to be built L
there ; and it was ascertained by experiment JO^TH.
that the process of burning could be performed
as well by ebony as by coals. The ebony-tree
is an indigenous production of the island, and
formerly grew abundantly in many parts ; but,
its bark being adapted to the purpose of tan-
ning hides, which were exported to Englandand
the West-Indies, quantities of these trees had
been unnecessarily destroyed, by stripping the
trunks and not taking the trouble of barking the
branches ;t a practice which caused a shameful

* From consultation, 19th July, 1709 :

" Our necessity is so great for want of coals, that we
" thought it would have put a full stop to our work ; but
" find that ebony- wood will burn lime : and being in-
" formed that there is huge quantities of that wood which
" lies dead on the hill, near Sandy Bay, the Governor and
"Captain Mashborne went there to view it, and found
" the report true; for that there is abundance indeed;
" and just by that place where the wood lies is mountains
" of extraordinary lime-stone; and it will be much cheaper
" to our Honourable Masters to bring lime from thence
" ready burnt (being light), than to fetch that sort of
" wood, which is very heavy, and bring it to the Castle in
" James's Valley."

f From consultation, 19th July, 1709 :

M 3 " Forasmuch


CHAP, destruction of at least three trees, where one


1- would have sufficed. To prevent a total extir-

From 1708
to 1714.

" Forasmuch as the red-wood and ebony-wood, whose
" barks are fit for tanning leather, are most of 'em de-
" stroyed by the tanners, that for laziness never took the
" pains to bark the whole trees, but only the bodies, leav-
" ing the rest of the bark on the branches, which means
" has destroyed all those trees, at least three for one ; and
" therefore, to prevent the like for the future, and to pre-
" serve and recover so useful and necessary a thing for the
" island use; Ordered, that no more hides be sold to the
" people ; for that we are about to engage one John Or-
" chard, a tanner, who has offered himself, to tan and
" dress those hides at three shillings and six pence a piece ;
" all other skins at the prices following : viz. a calf skin
" at one shilling and six pence, a sheep skin at one shil-
" ling and six pence, and goat skins at six pence each ;
" and have supplied him with one of the Honourable Com-
" pany's blacks, to help and assist him, it being too much
" work for himself: and the said Orchard hath obliged
" himself to learne and teach the black his trade of a tan-
" ner and currier, and that articles of agreement be drawn
" accordingly. The advantages proposed to our masters
" in this matter are thus: First, the preservation of the
" trees. Secondly, as we used to do, to sell those hides to
" tanners at three shillings a piece, and that, when tanned,
" sold them again from twelve to fourteen shillings a piece,
" so that, one with another, we may probably clear seven
" shillings a hide. And, if shipping comes, we may be
" able to tan two hundred in a year (besides all other
" skins), which will clear seventy pounds a year, if sold
" out, besides the advantage of the small skins: and if wee

" employ


pation of this wood, restrictions and limitations CHAP.
were not only laid on tanning, but the process of '
burning lime was, in a few weeks, suspended,
and the completion of the battery at Munden's
Point postponed, till coals could be procured
from England. In the mean time, the blacks
were employed in breaking lime-stone, in Ru-
pert's Valley, where it appears a quarry had been
discovered. As the engineer of the island had
been dismissed from his situation,* Government
was probably less anxious to forward defensive

" employ shoemakers to work 'em up, wee are apt to be-

" lieve that this article will yield our Masters one hundred

" pounds a year, at least; the loss of the work of the black

" and all other charges deducted."

* " The Governor reports to the Council, that he ob-
" serves the Engineer to be useless, running headlong
" about business, without his directions ; which being fully
" considered in Council, give their opinions of him: That
" Christian Frederick Vogell is rather Pyoneer than an
" Engineer, and no gentleman, by his actions and be-
" haviour, and is altogether useless to serve. the Honour-
" able Company in any capacity, as being idle, ignorant,
" and lazy, not knowing how to obey orders, or give di-
" rections, by which means our Honourable Masters have
" suffered.

" Resolved, That the said C. F. Vogell be dismissed the
" Honourable Company's service from this day."
M 4


CHAP. wor k S) until professional assistance could arrive
ro^Tros from England.

to 1714.

Whilst these measures were in train for forti-
fying the island and port, other points of mo-
ment were not disregarded. The state of the
colony, in respect to planting and pasturage, de-
manded attention j particularly the condition of
lands belonging to the Company, whose con-
cerns had heen much neglected, and even their
interests sacrificed to private views, by permit-
ting individuals to exchange unfenced grounds
for improved Company's farms. The regula-
tions noticed in the third chapter, obliging land-
holders to render an acknowledgment to the
Company of one shilling annually for every
beast pastured on the waste land, appears to
have been entirely overlooked ; till Governor
Roberts, by the confiscation of five head of
cattle, put an end to any further violation of this
law. The fences upon all the Company's lands
were ordered to be completed with the utmost
expedition. Groves of gum-wood and lemon-
trees were planted, and nursed, and much care
was bestowed on the cultivation of the shrub
from which the castor-oil is extracted.

To carry forward the Company's works and
plantations, it was judged requisite to procure


two hundred slaves, in addition to the number CHAP.

\ f

already employed, which amounted to seventy- -

, , , ' From 1708

six, men, women, and children ; and to provide to 1714.
sustenance for such an augmentation of num-
bers, became a subject of necessary consideration.
A committee of three members of Council was
ordered to survey all the Company's plantations,
and report upon their capability ; and to ascer-
tain what contiguous grounds would answer for
the cultivation of yams.* By the committee's
report,t it appeared, that, after throwing out

* Extract from consultation, dated the 18th April,

" The increase of the yam plantations is of so great im-
" portance, especially since we have writ for two hundred
" blacks more ; and therefore the Governor is of opinion,
" that we ought to increase the plantations to three mil-
" lions of yams : and since it is the opinion of this Coun-
" cil that it will require no less than one hundred and
" twenty acres of good ground to plant three millions of
" yams;

" It is ordered.

" That Captain Mashborne, Mr. Griffith, and Mr. Ba-
" zett, go forthwith, and survey this island in those parts
" that are nearest to any of the Honourable Company's
" plantations, as also the plantations themselves, and to
" make their report."

t On the 21st of November following, the Committee of



CHAP, the exhausted plantations, no more yams could
1 be raised than would suffice for fifty additional
persons. But the hill between Friar's and
Breakneck Valley, which had always been re-
garded as an unproductive waste, attracted the
attention of Governor Roberts, and he judged
that, with the aid of water, about two hundred
acres of it might be turned to very good ac-
count. After consulting with several experienced

Survey presented their report to the Council ; the result of
which appears by the following extract from the consulta-
tion of the same date ; viz.

" Hairing duly considered the report aforesaid, we
" finde

" Yams planted 477,340

" And all the new ground that is, or
" can betaken in, that is fitt to plant
" yams in, will contain. 675,956

Which makes in all 1,153,296

" Total of the old ground to be thrown

out.. . 118,000

" Total of the planted yams, and yams
" to be planted 1,035,296

** Which shews that we have not, nor can raise, provisions
" for above fifty blacks more; and that the charge to
" fence in the same will amount to five hundred and se-
" venty pounds fifteen shillings and four pence."


planters, he submitted his ideas to the consider- CHAP
ation of the Council, and proposed to convey a
stream of water from the springs at the Planta-
tion-House to the head of the ground intended
to be enclosed, where he designed to excavate
one or more reservoirs, to guard against the
effects of drought, or a failure of the springs.
It was calculated that fifty acres of the new
ground would produce one million five hundred
thousand yams ; that this quantity, together with
the five hundred thousand supplied by the planta-
tions already in cultivation, would be sufficient,
with Indian corn and beans, to maintain, be-
sides the garrison, an additional population of
two hundred blacks ; and that, if the whole two
hundred acres were enclosed, they would be
adequate to the maintenance of one thousand
persons. Such a system would not only put a
stop to the expense annually and necessarily
incurred by the purchase of those articles, but
would also ensure an abundant supply of vines,
and a sufficient stock of canes to make sugar,
both for home-consumption and exportation.
At this period, sanguine hopes were entertained
of success in the manufacture of the last article.
The Council unanimously concurred in authoriz-
ing the Governor to prosecute his plan at his
own discretion ; and in thirty-four days a plen-
tiful stream of water flowed to the head of the


CHAP, new ground. About sixty acres were immedi-
'- ately ordered to be enclosed ; and, by the ex-

From 1708 . , .

to 1714. pense incurred at the commencement or the
work, the Governor was of opinion, that the
whole could be completed for a less sum than
his first estimate of one thousand two hundred
and eighty-nine pounds twelve shillings. The
remainder was determined to be taken in as
soon as leisure would permit, and it appears that,
in the year 1717> the work was finished by Go-
vernor Pyke.

It is remarkable, that scarcely any further
notice is taken of this plantation in any subse-
quent record ; and it is difficult to say why it
was suffered to go to ruin. The soil appears
good ; there could be no deficiency in the
article of water, as, even so late as the year
1732, it was in contemplation to continue the
water-course from thence to James's Valley, for
the supply of the ships, the stream in that val-
ley having become rather brackish by a mixture
with the salt springs in its progress to the sea.

The failure of Mr. Cox in his attempts to
bring sugar and rum to perfection, and the un-
successful experiments of professed vine dressers
and vintners, did not, as has been already ob-
served, discourage the hopes of Governor Ro-


berts. Sugar-canes were found to flourish in
Sandy Bay, and in other situations. In a very
short time, the Governor reported his success to * I7H
the Council, and was enabled to exhibit samples
of sugar, rum, wine, and brandy. He also ascer-
tained the practicability of making bricks and

* On the 15th of August, 1710, the Governor exhibited
to the Council a sample of St. Helena sugar; whereupon
the following resolution was passed :

" That a pound or two he sent to our Honourable Mas-
" ters, by the next shipping; and that they may be ac-
" quainted that we have found the following articles since
" Governor Roberts came here : viz.

" Lime,


" Brick,

" Cut-stones, for building,

" Sugar,

" Rum,

" Mineralls of severall sorts.

" Upon which we are now resolved to fire nine guns '
" to drink our Honourable Masters' good health, and suc-
'* cess to the island : for we are well satisfied this island
"will turn to account, and not be a dead charge, as it
" ever has been, if our Honourable Masters will be pleased
" to encourage it, and supply these people with necessarys ;
" and then there will be no aversion against improvements,
" but showers of blessings of these people will come to


CHAP. To the influence of example in the good ma-
1 nagement of the Company's farms, and as an
encouragement to the industrious, was added
the force of proclamations to promote improve-
ment ; and persons to whom the appellation of
drones became applicable, were sent off the
island, and their lands allotted to others.

Many of the inhabitants derived a consider-
able income from letting out their slaves to the

Online LibraryThomas H BrookeHistory of the island of St. Helena → online text (page 10 of 30)