Jamaica Fiwi Roots

The Settlement of the Germans in Jamaica

There are communities today, in the western portion of the island that were built back in the mid-1800s to facilitate German settlers arriving in Jamaica as part of a program called "Bountied European Immigration". Plantation owners became concerned about finding laborers to work plantations, when slavery was abolished in 1834. As part of the agreement to free the enslaved population of African, a period of transition was agreed, when the newly freed people would be apprenticed to the planation for a period of four years.

Most of the plantations in Jamaica existed on the fertile plains and on coastal lands. The mountainous interior of the island was still relatively undeveloped. Plantation owners worried about the possibility that once emancipated, ex-slaves would desert the plantation and establish themselves in the mountainous interior, whether legally or by squatting, subsisting on farming and hunting. The alternatives, they reasoned, was to either import immigrant laborers to replace the blacks that moved into the interior, or import immigrants to occupy the interior so as to deny ex-slaves the opportunity to acquire land in the interior or to find employment beyond the plantations... and so the bountied European immigration program was born.

The program took three forms; a) individual plantation owners made their own arrangements to procure immigrants. b) a government appointed agent would recruit immigrants on behalf of planters, and c) the appointed agent would recruit settlers for three county townships that would be established by the government.

The First Germans in Jamaica

The first batch of Germans to arrive were imported by Solomon Myers, a German Jew, who owned a small coffee plantation called Mount Pleasant in in the mountains above Buff Bay. This group of 64 Germans, recruited by Mr Myers's brother in Bremen Germany, arrived on a ship called Anna in Kingston on May 24, 1834 and consisted of 25 men, 18 women and 21 children. For his effort, Mr Myers was rewarded £15 per immigrant, by the Jamaican government. The group had a diverse set of practical skills that would have proved useful in building small settlements; there were weavers, tailors, coppersmiths and ploughmen to name a few. The original goal of settling them on his property however, eventually failed. Some settled in an area close by, which is today called Bremen Valley, in the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, about 9 miles from Holywell. Others left his employment for locations in other parishes.

In December of the same year, Mr Myers possibly encouraged by the government's payment of £15 per immigrant, brought another much larger group of 506 Germans, from Bremen to Jamaica. They arrived in Port Royal on a ship called Olberes, where they were transported to various plantations around the island. He received around £3,700, for this batch. He was also eligible in accordance with a new governmental resolution that had just been passed, for an additional £9 per head, for every person imported into the island for agricultural employment.

Deployment of the First Germans in Jamaica

The table below shows the where the two batches of Germans totaling 570, brought to the island by Solomon Myers under the bountied European immigration, ended up.
Arrival DateShip# ArrivedReceiver/DestinationNumber of People
May 24, 1834 Anna64Solomon Myers, St Georges (now Portland)64
Dec 27, 1834Olberes506Solomon Myers, St Georges (now Portland)20
Hamilton Brown, St Anns Bay150
James Hylton, Dry Harbor Mountains, St Ann45
Samuel Anderson, Montego Bay20
Robert Watt, Black River (150* received, 102 sent to Lacovia)48
    - Watt's estate in Lacovia, St Elizabeth102
Dr Spaulding and another unknown proprietor, possibly destined for Clarendon and Manchester 120

Table data source: Bountied European Immigration into Jamaica, Douglas Hall.
(*) Note: The distribution of the combined two groups of Germans, is off by 1. It is not clear which of the recipients received the additional person, or if the total was incorrect and should have been 569.


Establishment of County Townships for European Immigrants

Planters had the option of procuring immigrants on their own, or rely on agents of the government to act on their behalf, but the legislature always had the idea of creating communities in the interior of the island, where immigrants would be brought in and settlement. The three County Townships that were planned for this purpose were;

  • Altamont, in the county of Surrey. Located in Portland, about 11 miles west of Port Antonio, inland from Hope Bay.
  • Middlesex, in county of Middlesex. Located in St Ann, close to Guys Hill, a location with close proximity to the borders of St Ann, St Mary and St Catherine.
  • Seaford, in the county of Cornwall, located in Westmoreland in the hilly interior about 4 miles from the border of St James.

Article published in The True Sun
Published in London, November 6, 1834

Of the three, Seaford Town is the most well known German settlement of all the racially German locations on the island. The story starts with the following article that was published in a German newspaper, which was later reprinted in a London newspaper that follows. .

"LABOURERS FOR JAMAICA -- A fortnight ago a caravan of 800 persons, men and women, youths and girls, set out for Jamaica. Most of them are from Westphalia, only 28 being from the principality of Waldeck. The conditions to which they have agreed are hard; they must labour as servants for five years for a few acres of land, at the expiration of which they enter on the possession of their little property. Their future prospects are therefore not very brilliant."

The original settlers of the Seaford Town were part of the 800 persons referenced in the article The first 532 of the 800 Germans referenced in the article, arrived at Rio Bueno on December 10, 1834. Eighty-five were sent to local plantations, the remainder were taken to Montego Bay, where 198 were sent to plantations in the western parts of the island, and the remaining 249 were slated to form the first settlers of the Seaford County Township, but the planned housing was not complete. After some delay spent in temporary housing, the immigrants were shipped off to the Town to complete the houses, themselves. They were joined a year later by small group that was part of a shipment of 250 Germans, the majority of which were destined for private plantations.

The agent appointed by the legislature, who was responsible for arranging and recruiting the ~800 German settlers, was William Lemonius. Thanks to him, there are many other towns across the island, predominantly in the western parishes, that have pockets of Jamaicans descended from the early German settlers.