St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Falmouth Jamaica is a beautiful edifice but the legacy of the people who built it and first attended it is anything but beautiful. We went to Falmouth one day and spent some time wending our way through St. Peter’s Anglican Church built in 1796.A friendly woman welcomed us. She says she volunteers six days a week showing visitors around her historic church. I wonder if she knows the history of some of her church’s founders?The pews in the church are originals over 300 years old. A Jamaican plantation owner donated the money for the pipe organ. It has been taken apart because the church is currently being renovated. This little girl was running around in the church possibly the daughter of one of the workers doing renovations. The pulpit is shaped like an eagle in flight with intricate carvings on the wings. Many of the gravestones in the church cemetery are over 200 years old. Some graves were decorated with seashells. Apparently this is a custom practiced in places in the world where African slaves were sent. They said the sea had brought them to their new country and the sea would return them to Africa when they died. “The sea brought us- the sea shall take us back.”There are goats everywhere in Jamaica including the church graveyard.
I was intrigued by the language used on the memorial plaques in the church. This is one example for Samuel Earnshaw owner of the Colchis plantation. After reading his noble tribute I was shocked to learn the truth about Mr. Earnshaw. A man of unassuming manner and unimpeachable integrity who from a spirit delighting in acts of generosity and benevolence, distributed the blessings of life bestowed upon him by the Divine Power with a cheerful and liberal hand. He died the 19th of September 1824. Affectionately deplored by his afflicted widow, regretted by his numerous friends, and not unlamented by those who personally unacquainted with him yet were sensible of his reputed worth and sincerity.
Checking the 1824 Jamaica Almanac I discovered the generous and benevolent Mr. Earnshaw was also the owner of over 350 slaves and the afflicted widow who so affectionately deplored him is featured in an anti-slavery pamphlet printed in 1830.
A report concerning……..A mulatto female slave, Eleanor Mead of Colchis estate in Jamaica. Her owner Mrs Earnshaw, for some offence, ordered her to be stripped naked, held prostrate on the ground and given 58 lashes of the whip. One of the people ordered to hold her down was one of her own children. She was then , still semi naked, put in the stocks with her feet fastened. All this was at the order of and in the presence of Mrs Earnshaw ‘a lady of humanity and delicacy’.
And the plot thickens. Reading an excerpt from a book called The State and Law of Manners in Jamaica I discovered that abolitionist supporters took the case of Eleanor Mead’s harsh punishment to court and during the trial it was brought to light that the before his death Mr. Samuel Earnshaw man of unimpeachable integrity had taken his slave Eleanor as a lover and Mrs. Earnshaw inflicted her unreasonable punishment on Eleanor because she was jealous of her deceased husband’s affections for the woman. During the court case testimony showed that Mrs. Earnshaw had tried to punish Eleanor in the past but her husband had always intervened. Now that he was dead she was not to be stopped!
What next? I’d love to research some of the other memorial plaques I photographed in the church and find out more about the people being lauded and praised for their virtues.
Other posts about slavery in Jamaica……..