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TOURS - Seaford Town |  Montego Valley |  Trelawny

Tour 10 - Montego Valley and Maroon Town
Excerpted from the book, Tour Jamaica, by Margaret Morris

At the crossroads west of Westgate shopping centre turn L and travel between the banana fields and mango orchards of Barnett estate, owned for many generations by the Kerr-Jarrett family. The late Francis Kerr-Jarrett, Custos of St. James and patriarch of the clan, erected the cross visible on the rim of the mountains to your right. Cromarty, the stately mansion R above a phalanx of Royal Palms was once owned by press magnate Lord Beaverbrook. Now it is the home of the ebullient Slidie Jo Witter, an ex-cane cutter who went to England and made a fortune in South London real estate. At Fairfield R a road leads up to Doctors Hospital, a small private hospital, and the erstwhile Fairfield Country Club with a small theatre used by the Montego Bay Players. The fork R leads to KEMPSHOT. Take the L towards ORANGE RIVER LODGE. As the Westban. It's banana time again sign suggests you will be seeing a lot of banana cultivation on this trip. Westban, a private company owned by the farmers was created as a catalyst to achieve another 3000 acres of banana cultivation in western Jamaica -enough to make export feasible from Montego Freeport. Approaching the village of JOHNS HALL, try to ignore evidence of Montego Bay's environmentally unfriendly municipal dump off the road R at Retirement, once an Arawak settlement. A curious sign R, Our God reigns at Johns Hall Aggregate Ltd. announces a large quarry. Further on, Jasper, a friendly woodcarver displays some interesting pieces. His prices, he says, "depend on the people pocket", in other words, they are negotiable.

A sign directs you L to ORANGE RIVER LODGE about 1 mile to another Slidie Jo Witter enterprise. The hilltop great house on a scenic 980 acre estate cultivating bananas, citrus, and coffee has been remodeled and restored to provide comfortable accommodation for eco-tourists, everything from campsites to triple bedrooms with private bath. The garden is rich in shrubs and a variety of trees -starapple, guinep, tangerine, mango, June plum, avocado, soursop, cedar, guango and Royal Palms. On a hill overlooking the great house and its fine garden there is a new 24-room hotel with swimming pool and tennis court. Eco-options include hiking, horseback riding, river swimming and exploring.

Nearby, the remote district of SALTER'S HILL is a farming community and the site of Moses Baker's Baptist church which has been relocated to Johns Hall. Baker, a freed slave from Carolina in the U.S. was preaching in Kingston before he was brought to St. James by the Quaker owner of Adelphi estate to preach Christianity to his slaves.

Back on the main road into John's Hall there is an interesting stop L at Calimento, a mini-nature park operated by Rastafarian "Ossie Dread". Johns Hall like most rural villages straggles along the main road for a mile or more. Proceed, steeply to SPRINGFIELD with a large Baptist Church and all-age school and along the spine of the hill to WELCOME HALL where the R fork can take you through MOUNT HOREB and BIG BOTTOM to CAMBRIDGE and from there to SEAFORD TOWN (see Tour 9). There are fine views over the MONTEGO VALLEY as you proceed to KENSINGTON, the ex-sugar plantation where the last slave revolt began. It was from this vantage point that the signal for the start of the Christmas Rebellion was given: the slaves set the trash house ablaze and the fire was clearly visible for miles around. The event is commemorated by a plaque erected on the roadside by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust which says: 'A freedom torch was lit here . . . On Tuesday night December 27th 1831 the trash house on Kensington estate was set on fire signaling the start of the last slave rebellion in Jamaica when the slaves led by Johnson, Campbell, Gardiner and Dove forced the militia guarding the area to retreat to Montego Bay. Over 50 estates were burnt. In the reprisals 500 slaves were killed including Sam Sharpe who had organized the slaves to demand freedom. As a result of the outbreak the movement to abolish slavery was greatly accelerated.

On this route you may see dozens of uniformed schoolchildren, girls in sky blue and white, boys in khaki on their way to the large MALDON TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL which, like many schools in Jamaica, runs two shifts. Turn L at POINT to Maldon where there is also an interesting Baptist church founded in 1838, destroyed by earthquake in 1957 and rebuilt within a year by the late Rev. Dr. C.A. Morgan, pastor, politician and something of a legend in his lifetime.

MAROON TOWN is a scattered community of small farmers. The largest business, and all-purpose shop belonging to the Chin family is an unofficial community centre. Maroon Town was settled originally by the remnants of the Trelawny Town Maroons. In 1739 by the Treaty that ended the first Maroon War 1,500 acres between here and Trelawny Town (now called FLAGSTAFF) were ceded to the Maroons led by the redoubtable Cudjoe. The second Maroon War erupted in 1795 after the British had the temerity to flog a Trelawny Town Maroon in Montego Bay for pig stealing. The Maroons, invincible guerrilla fighters were defeated only after the British imported bloodhounds and Amerindians to track them down. Their warriors were exiled to Canada, the rest of them scattered and Trelawny Town became a British army post. At Flagstaff, banana cultivation's conceal traces of the district's sanguinary history: military graves and the foundations of a barracks. The old parade ground is now a playing field. Amiable local farmers like Mr. and Mrs. Wesley Read, Mr. Fred Gracey, Mr. Charles Chambers and his son Nelroy will regale you with tales of old, pointing out landmarks like GUN HILL - where the Maroons mounted a captured cannon and slaughtered a company of British Dragoons as they filed into a cockpit now called Dragoon Hole. Local lore maintains that 99 of 100 soldiers were killed there and the lone survivor "went and told the Queen" that the British army would never vanquish the Maroons, so she decided to use bloodhounds.

The (very unpredictable) road loops through Flagstaff past SHAW CASTLE and returns to Maroon Town from where you can proceed to ACCOMPONG (settled by and named after Cudjoe's brother). You will travel around the edge, or through the COCKPIT COUNTRY via FLAMSTEAD, GARLANDS, MOCHO, NIAGARA and ELDERSLIE - through hilly farm country where the banana is making a modest comeback.

At Elderslie, spelunkers should ask for Mr. Westin Thomas at the shop in the square. He owns the WONDROUS CAVES at nearby COOKS BOTTOM and can arrange for a guide. The caves contain a stream and underground lake. At Elderslie, the L fork leads to Accompong (see Tour Through Seaford Town to Accompong). If you take the R fork through MULGRAVE and MERRYWOOD you are within striking distance of the large IPSWICH CAVES (about 6 miles) and then YS FALLS (14 miles). The large Ipswich Cave has three entrances, the most used being a tunnel up to 40 ft. wide and 25 ft high.

Options for your return route to Montego Bay include via YS , MIDDLE QUARTERS and NEWMARKET, via YS, GINGER HILL and SEAFORD TOWN, or via Middle Quarters to the southcoast and over WHITHORN HILL.

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