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TOURS - Seaford Town | Montego Valley | Trelawny
Tour 9 - Through Seaford Town to Accompong
Excerpted from the book, Tour Jamaica, by Margaret Morris
By the Catholic church at Reading turn L up LONG HILL,
climbing as the road winds along the side of a steep hill. About 6 miles
out turn R for LETHE and MOUNTAIN
RIVER RAFTING. Midway a sign points R to BUSHA'S
COUNTRY RESORT a rambling house set in a lush
peaceful garden on BushaîAddison's family farm. It has comfortable
moderately priced bed and breakfast rooms, self-catering studios, restaurant,
bar and swimming pool.
At a fork in the road another sign points R to NATURE
VILLAGE FARMS well worth a visit despite almost 2 miles of bad
road. This very secluded site is almost encircled by the Great River with
campsites, water and electricity. As we went to press a restaurant and bar
were almost complete and there were plans for kayaking on the river. The
proprietor, Leroy "Duggo" Dunkley, a local Robin Hood is one of
the main sponsors of SEBA, a champion football team. He bulldozed a hill
to build their home pitch - an international sized football field with hills
on either side providing the grandstands. Weekly matches are attended by
crowds of fans. Another site is sometimes used for open-air reggae festivals.
The village of Lethe shows unmistakable signs of attention from its leading
resident - attorney and Minister of State for Tourism -Francis Tulloch and
his wife. The Tullochs operate the Mountain River Rafting tour which starts
just upstream of the slavery-built stone bridge spanning the Great River
and ends in a banana plantation. A tour of RHEA's WORLD,
a riverside botanical garden, mini-zoo and museum and the Lethe Village
tour (featuring songs by local schoolchildren) include lunch and an opportunity
to taste drinks and liqueurs made from local fruit. Overnight accommodation
is also available.
Back on the main road the turn L to ROCKLANDS BIRD FEEDING
STATION in Anchovy is signposted. ANCHOVY
is an outpost of Montego Bay, compact and scruffy. One mile past here the
Mount Carey Baptist Church on a hill R was the rural headquarters of the
Rev. Thomas Burchell, an English missionary who worked vigorously for the
abolition of slavery. In 1957 the church was destroyed by an earthquake
and rebuilt in character with an obelisk commemorating Burchell.
The road L before MONTPELIER's erstwhile
railway station leads to the historic and photogenic St. Mary's Anglican
church, built on the site of a slave hospital and continues on to the BLUE HOLE NATURE PARK -still in an embryonic stage as
we went to press. Natural attractions here in danger of development include
a fine view over the valley, a riverhead, stream and mini-waterfalls. Montpelier
estate is now the site for a large citrus project, a joint venture between
the largest local bank NCB and a foreign company. In the days of King Sugar
the estate was owned by John Ellis, son of George Ellis, a Chief Justice
of Jamaica who has the distinction of accidentally introducing Guinea Grass
when he imported some rare birds and their favourite birdseed. The birds
died, the seed was thrown away, grass sprouted and quickly spread providing
a nutritious fodder that now grows wild all over the island. As you drive
around Jamaica you can identify it on the banksides by its tall vivid green
blades and feathery seed heads.
Turn L at Montpelier along the GREAT RIVER
valley through BICKERSTETH to SEVEN
RIVERS where the government's Coffee Industry Development Co.
has a farm and nursery and offers extension services to small farmers. Coffee,
intercropped with bananas, coconuts and citrus all grow in this moist and
frequently misty valley. The mini-town of CAMBRIDGE
has a police station, supermarket, pharmacy, bank, bakery, betting shop,
video-shop and other modern necessities.
On the road to MARCHMONT L Mother Read's
gaily painted Mount Faith United Holy Church of Jamaica Inc. offers 'healing
consultations' Monday to Thursdays. Further on, past ferny cliffs is R,
a Rastafarian retreat and King Selassie I Nature Roses Garden. At Marchmont
your options are:
SEAFORD TOWN is a township settled by German
immigrants in 1835. After the emancipation of the slaves, the Jamaican authorities
encouraged working class Germans to come to the island to supplement labour
on the estates and to increase the number of white residents in case of
future black uprisings. The Germans, all struggling farmers, were lured
with promises of land and animals. But the land assigned to them was poor
and the animals few, a pig or goat and a few hens. About 350 of them settled
on 500 acres donated by Lord Seaford (an Ellis of Montpelier now raised
to the peerage). Tropical diseases, unfamiliar climate, crops and tools,
infertile soil, the suspicions of the blacks and the snobbishness of the
whites were just a few of the hardships encountered by the Seaford Town
Germans. Many died, others moved away, but a hardcore remained.
In 1837 a Catholic mission was set up by an Austrian priest, and became
the focus of the township. The story of Seaford Town is the story of a succession
of compassionate and energetic Catholic priests. Today, the Sacred Heart
Mission comprises the church, a basic school, clinic and a technical school
run by the government of Jamaica but built and funded by the Catholic Bishops
of Germany. In the 1970s Father Francis Friesen established the mini-museum
beside the church where you can learn more about the German connection.
Poignant exhibits include the immigrants' testimonial of thanks addressed
to the Captain of the ship Olbers that brought them to Jamaica and dated
Christmas day 1834. They wrote: "had not poverty exiled us from our
native land we would have tendered you a worthier gift than these lines".
There is also an immigrant's letter dated May 1835 and published in a German
newspaper warning others not to come. Life in Seaford Town has never been
easy and most of the younger Germans have emigrated to Canada or the U.S.
Currently, less than a third of the population of small farmers are of German
stock but the influence of the original settlers still pervades the neat
village with its gabled wooden houses so reminiscent of farm cottages in
the Weser valley.
Head for ST. ELIZABETH via GINGER
HILL or NEWMARKET. The Ginger Hill
road is shorter, rougher, more isolated; punctuated by small cultivations
of bananas, cane, cocos, pineapple and ginger. Ginger, a hardy and prolific
plant grows wild on the banksides. It produces a fleshy root which is dried
and powdered. In Jamaica the fresh root is crushed and used to flavour homemade
drinks such as ginger beer or sorrel. (The crimson bracts of the sorrel
are steeped to produce a spicy and decorative brew - add rum to taste and
you have an indispensable ingredient of Christmas cheer.) En route you will
meet more donkeys than cars, also farmers heading loads of grass or coco
suckers. Coco, a starchy tuber is roasted or boiled in soup.
If times are hard (and they usually are) you may even see women breaking
stones at the roadside. After Ginger Hill the road descends, offering fine
views over the plains of St. Elizabeth: the canefields of HOLLAND
sugar estate, the BLACK RIVER and BLACK
RIVER MORASS all the way to the sea. At the REDGATE
signpost continue downhill to the starting point for the YS Falls tour (See
Mandeville and the Southcoast section).
The alternative route via Newmarket is longer but smoother and offers
the haunted Soldier Tomb at the roadside at STRUIE,
commemorating infantryman Obediah Bell Chambers, killed by slaves in the
Christmas Rebellion of 1831, who apparently died a soldier and a honest
man. Legend insists that his severed head fled the scene and that sounds
of clashing swords can still be heard here at night.
NEWMARKET is a thriving centre despite the
fact that it is periodically inundated by water rising from underground
after severe rains. In 1979 after tropical storm Bob deluged the southwest
of the island the water level reached 30 feet covering many of the buildings
and there was talk of relocating the town. Instead, a number of new buildings
were erected on higher ground and this section is called New Town or Lewisville
after a popular local politician Neville Lewis.
At MIDDLE QUARTERS pause to sample the local
delicacy: hot peppered river crayfish. YS is a private cattle property and
leading racehorse studfarm. Export papayas are also grown. Cross the YS
river by a slave built bridge and on through WHITEHALL
to MAGGOTTY, a market centre once the site of
spectacular waterfalls which were sacrificed many years ago for hydro-electricity.
Interesting detour: Proceed three miles further east to APPLETON
SUGAR ESTATE, owned by J Wray &
Nephew Ltd., the island's oldest and largest rum distillers. (See Mandeville
and the South Coast: Appleton Rum Tour).
North of the Maggotty roundabout is the COCKPIT COUNTRY with its forest-clad
limestone hills shaped like witches' hats. The wild 'karst' terrain, the
result of weathered limestone covers 500 square miles, much of it uninhabited
and some of it unexplored. Turn R at RETIREMENT
onto a narrow road that hugs the hill, with panoramic views over the plains
to the headquarters of the western Maroons at ACCOMPONG.
The name Maroon is a corruption of the Spanish Cimmaron meaning untamed.
The Maroons originated from the Spaniards' slaves who took to the hills
when the British captured the island. Joined by other runaways they roamed
the interior farming, hunting, harrying the settlers and frequently besting
the local militia and British army. During the first Maroon War, when his
people were being harried by the British army the Maroon leader CUDJOE (alias KOJO) sent a group led by his brother
ACCOMPONG to occupy this district. The peace
treaty signed with the British in 1739 ceded the settlements of TRELAWNY TOWN and Accompong to the Maroons and gave
them certain freedoms including the freedom from taxation. The Accompong
Maroons did not join their Trelawny Town brothers in the second, unsuccessful
Maroon rebellion of 1795 and were rewarded with some of their land when
the Trelawny Town Maroons were exiled or dispersed. Thus Accompong became
the only Maroon settlement in western Jamaica and the Maroons there were
granted additional lands in 1838. Officially, the land is held in common
but house land is considered privately owned. Currently, a few of the younger,
more activist Maroons are concerned that encroachment by the Jamaican government
is nibbling away Maroon territory.
Today -especially since the crackdown on marijuana farming - Accompong
is an impoverished rural district and its population depleted by emigration.
The population of Accompong is about 1000, the tradition that only Maroons
are allowed in the village has softened over the years and the office of
Colonel is largely ceremonial. The Colonel, once elected for life by public
acclamation is now chosen every 5 years. The incumbent Colonel is Corporal
Meredith "Merdie" Rowe a member of the Jamaica Constabulary's
Flying Squad based in Montego Bay.
A monument at the Accompong crossroads commemorates Cudjoe, the leader who outfought and outwitted the British army for many years before assenting to a treaty at the nearby Peace Cave. On January 6 each year, Accompong celebrates TREATY DAY with feasting, dancing and drumming. Rituals include the feeding of the dead in which only Maroons can participate. Traditionally, only male animals are killed for the feast, the cooking is done by men, and no salt is used. Maroons and non-Maroons gather from far and wide and the celebrations can go on for three or four days.
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