Sturge Town, located in the Dry Harbour Mountains of St Ann, was one of the first free villages in Jamaica. The original village consisted of 120 acres, about eight miles from Brown's Town.
It was established by the Reverend John Clarke, a Baptist Minister with the assistance of Joseph Sturge, the Quaker philanthropist and leader of the anti-slavery movement, who had visited Brown's Town in 1837 in the course of his investigation of the Apprenticeship system. From Mr Sturge's investigation which showed that the Apprenticeship system was not working as it should, all former slaves were freed on August 1, 1838.
Taking up the initiative
However, there was nowhere for these people to live. Clarke took the initiative with the assistance of Sturge and purchased the land on which the people could settle. Mount Alba was bought and several villages were created. Sturge Town was one of them where approximately 100 families settled.
The total purchase cost of the land was 700 pounds sterling of which 400 was put up by 80-90 freed people. They and a few additional people paid the rest in instalments.
Clarke was an early supporter of the Free Village Movement. He came to Jamaica in 1835 and ministered at Brown's Town Baptist Church. The significance of the church was that it helped to establish the permanent settlement of Sturge Town as it was utilised as a school and was close to the first settlement in the area.
Like most early settlements in rural Jamaica (19th century), Sturge Town grew as an agrarian society in which ex-slaves were given an opportunity to provide for themselves. This usually took place on or around former plantations. Sturge Town was no exception as it was established on a former sugar estate.
-- Information from Institute of Jamaica
According to the National Heritage Trust, in this newly formed village, "each house had a separate acre of land where, in addition to provisions, there were a number of pimento trees and in some instance sugar cane was cultivated. Pimento is a traditional export crop in Jamaica, and was probably sold by the Sturge Town people. Surpluses of other tree crops such as mangoes and breadfruit were probably also sold for distribution in the island markets."
Editor's Note: Sturge Town is known for:
The John Canoe or Jonkonnu has a very long tradition as a folk festival, incorporating both African and European forms. The ‘Jonkonnu’ Festival is secular in nature and its performance at Christmas time is merely historical.
It was conceived as a festive opportunity afforded the slave class by the planter class, as Christmas was one of the few periods when the slaves were relieved of their duties. Hence, Christmas formed an appropriate season for festivities as all normal business activity on the island was halted by official decree and all males were called up for military service, augmenting the population in the larger towns. Therefore, ample opportunity was given to the slaves to show off their talents to the spectators who had also been given time off from work. From as early as the beginning of the 18th century masked and costumed performers have paraded the streets of Jamaica most often at Christmas time, but also at state functions, receiving money and food in return for their performances.
There is a bit of controversy as to the source of the name of the festival. While some believe that the origin of the name is unknown, others contend that the name and principal character are honourable memorials to John Conny, an active, successful black merchant near Axim along the Guinea Coast around 1720. John Conny was an important historical person. He worked for the Brandenburg Company, having command over three trading forts – Pokoso, Takrama and Akoda on the coast of Ghana. Over time, the spelling has varied, with British influenced writers spelling the name John Canoe, while the Jamaican spelling more closely resembles the pronunciation – Jonkonnu.
Traditionally, the Jonkonnu festival was held on a regional basis accounting for differences in characters, costumes and performance styles. The English influenced troupes never include animal characters. Instead their core members are usually a king and queen, courtiers and incidental characters bases on the English masquerades. The traditional and English based troupes dress differently with the latter wearing ‘fancy dress’, while the former demonstrated a strong African influence.
Notwithstanding these differences to be recognized across the island, traditional Jonkonnu most often includes as core participants, the cow head, the horsehead, the devil, the different categories of warriors and Indians, as well as a character known as Pitchy-Patchy.
The more popular characters are quite worthy of further mention as their presence in the festival evoked a mixture of fear and excitement in onlookers. The Jonkonnu cowhead attire is made from a pan, or from half a shell of a coconut, with holes allowing for the insertion of real horns. The headdress is worn over a headwrap and a wire screen mask with painted facial features; a cloth tail is attached to the dancer’s backside.
Meanwhile, the horsehead is made from a mule’s skull, equipped with and articulated jaw, and attached to a pole. It is painted, eyes are added, and the player covers himself with a piece of cloth. The rest of the costume is left up to the individual performer but generally consists of white tennis shoes, pants, and a shirt in contrasting colours and patterns.
Another character that may reflect an African heritage is Pitchy-Patchy. He is usually the most flamboyant and athletic troupe member and appears in both Jonkonnu and Masquerade bands. His costume is made of layered strips of brightly colored fabric. Contemporary oral tradition claims that this costume is based on a vegetal prototype (layers made up of plant leaves). The eventual transition from a costume of layered straw or palm fronds to one of layered strips reflects the increased distribution of such materials, an increase in prosperity, or merely a visual statement of an urban image rather than a rural one.
The Devil carries a pitchfork and wears a cowbell attached to his backside. His headdress is a cardboard cylinder on top of which rests a flat rectangular cardboard section. The entire costume is black. Meanwhile, another male plays Belly Woman, a pregnant lady whose antics, especially her ability to make her belly move in time to the music, are designed to amuse the onlookers.
Warrior Jonkonnu wears a foil-covered cardboard heart on his chest and strands of beads; his wooden sword is painted silver. In addition to the obligatory head cloth and mesh mask worn by all performers, warrior wears a cone-shaped headdress with feather or groups of feathers at the top of the cone, which is adorned with mirrors, cutouts and old newspaper photographs.
Wild Indian wears a very similar costume with the exception that he carries a tall cane and cross-bow. Although a tradition of the ‘common’ people, Jonkonnu has also received official recognition. In more recent times, however, Jonkonnu is mostly seen on such important state functions such as the second celebration of Carifesta, held in Jamaica in 1976. Also during the mid-1970s Michael Manley’s People’s National Party actively supported many grass-roots cultural forms, giving official sanction to Jonkonnu performances. The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission has hosted competitions in the field, opening up avenues for public performances.
The above Article from The National Library of Jamaica
Moneague in St. Ann is known for its disappearing lakes but Lake House in Moneague is know for its ghost that vanishes as quickly as it appears.
Lake House belonged to a prominent lawyer -- Findlater Roper -- who was also a well known land speculator. It is said that the ghost is one of his daughters, Christine, who lived at Lake House. She died tragically at a young age leaving behind several small children.
The house is situated against a backdrop of beautiful landscape, as it is poised majestically atop a hill. It was built in the late eighteenth century during the time known in Jamaica as the 'Georgian period'( 1720-1850,), in a town once considered to be the town of the landed gentry. The name was coined as lakes can be seen from the house. The original stone foundation can be seen upon entering the property and the timber wood used for the construction of the upper house and living quarters can be seen within the house and into to the basement.
The two-storey building with its high ceilings, polished wood floors and original shuttered casement windows offers a mirror into regal Jamaican old-style country living. The Lake House remains one of the structures the town is famous for.
Located near the main road, the Lake House not only offers easy access into to the town of Moneague with its warm, friendly and helpful people but also to the nearby resort town of Ocho Rios and the business hub and main city, Kingston.
Accommodation consists of three large bedrooms. Two bedrooms are furnished with antique four poster beds and their own private bathrooms.
The largest bedroom, with its own bathroom has antique twin beds and a double bed for larger accommodation. The rooms can be rented individually.
Wrapped around its own hill, like a spiral, is the driveway to this spacious great house. Its solid stone foundations show signs of a fortified room with gun slots from the 18th Century.
The early history is vague but in 1910, Sir John Pringle bought the house for his daughter, Minnie Simpson. At the centre of the house is a large dining hall with bedrooms opening out from it. Sir. John added the extensive verandas and pepperpot roofs but the basic design is traditionally Jamaican, constructed with Spanish walling. The double-sided entrance steps are built from local cut-stone.
Minnie Simpson moved into the house in 1925. Like her father, Minnie had a vibrant personality, was a pioneer of the cooperative farm movement and was considered a revolutionary in her day. The Lucky Hill Cooperative Farm evolved as a result of her efforts.
Minnie Simpson's home and cooperative remain in good condition. The simple business she established for the local people and for the use of local crops has now become well-known as Walkerswood Caribbean Foods. They now export to countries all over the world from their factory in the village.
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