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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

Note: A full day's tour. Start early and take a picnic. If you want to travel at a more leisurely pace you have the option of an overnight stop. Countrystyle, the Mandeville-based company has listings of comfortable rural bed and breakfast accommodation.

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:

  • 1. Straight ahead to GINGER HILL, Accompong and St. Elizabeth.
  • 2. Left (2.5 miles) to the cool village of CATADUPA, virtually isolated unless or until the railway resumes. En route turn L at the sign for CROYDON ON THE MOUNTAIN -a tour of champion farmer Dalkeith Hanna's hillside farm where coffee, pineapples and citrus grow on carefully engineered bench terraces. The tour includes lunch and reservations are necessary. Having made it to Catadupa you may be game to proceed to MOCHO and back to Montego Bay via MAROON TOWN, the condition of the road being anybody's guess.
  • 3. Turn R for ST LEONARDS and HILTON HIGH DAY TOUR which offers a day in the country with walking tour, a introduction to village life and buffet lunch with rum punch and roast suckling pig. Bed and Breakfast accommodation is also available here.


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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