St John Anglican, Black River, St Elizabeth

Known as….

St Elizabeth Parish Church
Black River Anglican Church
St John the Evangelist Church

St John Blk River 1Although a tablet on the tower notes the laying of a foundation stone in 1837 it is believed that the church is much older.

St John Blk River 3

“The first stone of this CHURCH was laid on the 18 day of July in the Year of our LORD 1837, the Honble D. ROBERTSON being Custos, the Rev Thos P. WILLIAMS, Rector.  J. MILLER & A. MOORE Esq. Churchwardens.  CRAWFORD & SMITH builders”

St John Blk River 2There are mural tablets erected inside the church in 1828 to the memory of Robert Hugh Munro and his nephew Caleb Dickenson. Munro bequeathed his estate in trust to his nephew and the church wardens and their successors to form a free school for the poor children of the parish.

St John Blk River 4The tombstones outside the west entrance are for Duncan Hook (1741 -1779) and his four children by a ‘free mulatto’ who lies beside him. He had to have a special act of Assembly passed to give his mistress and their children the same legal status as white people. Without it they could not have been buried in the churchyard. [adapted from]

Duncan HOOK  1741 – Sep 1779 age 38; William HOOK died 01 Nov 1776 age 4 ;         John HOOK died 30 Jun 1778 age 2;  Henry HOOK died 21 Jul 1779 age 11                Thomas HOOK died 12 Oct 1783. Erected by Elizabeth DUNCAN their mother

St John Blk River 5Sacred to the Memory of Mrs Elizabeth DUNCAN who departed this life on the 28 day of May 1812 aged 71 years.  This tribute of filial affection was erected by her daughter Mary HOOK.

Another daughter, Elizabeth went on to marry William BAWN, Merchant of Black River.

St John Blk River 6” Here Lieth interred the body of Elizabeth HOOK, daughter of Duncan HOOK late of this place, Merchant, who departed this life the 6 Sep 1795 aged 33 years.  Here alfo [also] lieth the remains of Tace Hook BAWN who died 28 Oct 1786 aged 8 months 11 days.  Catharine Hook BAWN died 22 Sep 1789 aged 7 months 5 days. Daughters of William BAWN of this place, Merchant, by the faid [said] Elizabeth HOOK. Who from tender regard and Affection has caufed [caused] this Tomb to be erected to their Memory”



IMG # SURNAME Given Name Died In
ElzSJ08 BROOKS Deborah, Mrs 1820s
ElzSJ06 BURLTON Edward James 1840s
ElzSJ01 COKE Edward Francis 1860s
ElzSJ01 COKE Juliana 1860s
ElzSJ13 CUFF George 1850s
ElzSJ22 DICKENSON Caleb 1820s
ElzSJ05 FARQUHARSON Charles 1820s
ElzSJ02 FARQUHARSON Charles 1830s
ElzSJ19 FARQUHARSON Charles Frederick 1850s
ElzSJ02 FARQUHARSON Eliza Frances 1860s
ElzSJ02 FARQUHARSON Jacob Beninger 1860s
ElzSJ02 FARQUHARSON Matthew 1840s
ElzSJ02 FARQUHARSON Matthew 1850s
ElzSJ02 FARQUHARSON Nicholas Wright 1850s
ElzSJ19 FARQUHARSON William Tatham 1840s
ElzSJ19 FARQUHARSON William Tatham 1850s
ElzSJ25 FRANCIS Harold Roy 1990s
ElzSJ11 GALE Henry 1760s
ElzSJ07 HENDRIKS Gilbert Emmanuel 1860s
ElzSJ12 JAMES William Rhodes 1840s
ElzSJ16 LEYDON Henrietta 1840s
ElzSJ21 MUNRO Robert Hugh 1790s
ElzSJ23 PHILLIPS Henry 1860s
ElzSJ20 POTTER James Samuel 1890s
ElzSJ24 ROBERTSON Duncan 1850s
ElzSJ14 SHAKESPEAR David 1820s
ElzSJ04 SIMPSON Willaim 1860s
ElzSJ09 STONE Frances Barclay 1810s
ElzSJ15 STONE George, Rev 1820s
ElzSJ18 TAYLOR Edgar George 1950s
ElzSJ03 WALLACE Thomas 1840s
ElzSJ10 WARREN Margaret 1800s
ElzSJ10 WARREN Thomas, Rev 1800s
ElzSJ17 WILLIAMS Thomas Pierce, Rector 1860s



IMG # SURNAME Given Name Died In
ElzSJ34 ALLEN Edward V. 1960s
ElzSJ36 ALLEN Violet Blanche 1990s
ElzSJ35 BOWEN Florence 1950s
ElzSJ28 BOWEN Frederick Braganza 1930s
ElzSJ29 HARRISON A. E. 1930s
ElzSJ27 MacPHERSON R. J., Rev 1920s
ElzSJ37 PENFORD Patty 1790s
ElzSJ31 STEWART Donald Ashley 2000s
ElzSJ30 STEWART F. E. L. 1940s
ElzSJ32 STEWART Lynette Mary 1980s
ElzSJ26 TAYLOR Edgar George 1950s
ElzSJ26 TAYLOR Mary Louise 2000s
ElzSJ33 WILLIAMS David 1970s
ElzSJ37 WRIGHT Rebecca Dunston 1800s


BLACK RIVER, the town

The town of Black River, established close to the banks of the river after which it is named,Blk River 2 is one of the oldest in the island. The exact date of its establishment is not known. Black River was designed by the LEYDEN brothers of England, three wealthy men who were substantial land proprietors in the area. The town itself, because of its port, was vital to the slave trade. Slaves were brought here and sold at auction at Farquharson Wharf. In the early days, the Black River was crossed by a “Float”. It took pedestrians, donkeys loaded for market, mules etc., across. This was replaced by an extension bridge made of wood. When the bridge started to erode, the representatives for the parish invited the Colonial Secretary to see the condition. As a result, the present bridge was built. The bridge was officially opened by Sir Edward Denham in 1938.

Over time, the town grew in size and importance and in 1773 it replaced Lacovia as the capital of St. Elizabeth.

The town has many important historic sites and structures and the buildings are of varying architectuBlk River 1ral styles. You will find examples of Georgian, Jamaican Georgian, British Colonial and Jamaican Vernacular architectural styles. Invercauld Great House, located on High Street in Black River on the harbour front was built in 1894 by Patrick Leyden for a member of the Farquharson family.

Waterloo Guest House stands on High Street in Black River.    Blk River 4It is the oldest facility of its kind to be found in the town and was the first home in Jamaica to be lit by electricity. It was originally owned by the Shakespeare family, said to be relatives of William Shakespeare. It was then purchased by John Leyden, an Englishman who, along with his brother, brought the first car to Jamaica. The house was named after the battle of Waterloo. The Leyden brothers lived with their wives at Waterloo. [adapted from]



Blk River 5This plaque is placed as a lasting and solemn tribute in honour of our 133 African Ancestors who were massacred by drowning November 29 – December 1, 1781 by Captain and crew of the slave ship Zong during it’s voyage to Jamaica.  The ship docked in Black River on December 28, 1781.  At this site the enslaved were prepared for sale in the Black River Slave Market.

[Transcript] The Zong, originally a Dutch ship named Zorg, which was later captured by the British and renamed, was owned by a consortium of influential Liverpool merchants – John, William Blk River 6and James Gregson, Edward Wilson and James Aspinall.  It left Merseyside, Liverpool, on March 5, 1781 for the West African Coast, captained by Luke Collingwood.  The date the Zong arrived in West Africa is not listed, however, the records show that it traversed the Gold Coast and in particular the Cape Coast, Anomabu, Adja and Agga, looking for hapless African victims to kidnap and transport to Jamaica.  On Sept 6, 1781, a total of 440 Africans faced a life and a future of uncertainty as the Zong left the Gold Coast for Jamaica.

The large number of Africans and the cramped and inhumane conditions on-board caused sickness and death to characterize the journey of the Zong.  Based on the evidence, as many as 60 Africans died within seven weeks of the voyage.  But the death toll would rise as Collingwood had to determine what to do with the many other Africans who fell ill.  If those who were ill eventually died from natural causes, the merchants or the consortium would have to absorb the financial loss; but the insurers would pay, the captain reasoned, if it could be proven that the Africans drowned.

Within a few days, 133 Africans whom the crew thought were least likely to recover were chained, ankle by ankle, then thrown overboard, weighing them down with balls.  Some 55 Africans were thrown overboard on Nov 29, and 42 on Nov 30.  In his defense at the court case that ensued, Collingwood posited that the lack of water influenced his decision, a claim refuted by one of the crewmen. In fact, when the ship arrived in Black River on Dec 28, it had over 400 gallons of fresh water on board.  Despite this, 26 more Africans were thrown overboard on Dec 1, while 10, in a last act of defiance, committed suicide.  Some historians claim that one African managed to climb back on-board.  The Zong arrived in Black River on Dec 28, 1781 with 208 Africans, 232 less than it had when it departed the African Coast – a mortality rate of 53 per cent.  This ranks among the ships with the highest mortality rate and is noteworthy because the largest number of deaths was deliberate and premeditated.  Even more disturbing is the fact that the journey took an inordinately long period of 112 days, compared to the average 60-day length of Middle Passage journeys.

The case of the massacre on the Zong was brought to court on March 6, 1783 (Gregson vs Gilbert) – not because a case of mass murder was being brought against Collingwood and his crew, but because the underwriters refused to honour the £30 per African loss, which the Liverpool consortium was demanding.  The insurers underscored their refusal with the argument that they saw no justifiable means for the mass murder.  They argued, and justifiably so, that Collingwood did not execute his full professional responsibility, as contrary to his protestations, evidence existed which showed there was sufficient water on board the ship.  A second trial was ordered and this time the case was presided over by Lord Mansfield in the Court of the King’s Bench.  Here, the underwriters reiterated their position that it was negligence on Collingwood’s part and that the owners, not the insurers, were liable.

The Zong incident, exposed initially by Olaudah Equianao, who gave details of it to Granville Sharp, creating an anti-slavery uproar, was clearly “an outrage against humanity”, and serves as a gruelling reminder of the atrocities committed against our ancestors and the vagaries of a system that continued for too long.  We honour the memory of these ancestors.

Institute of Jamaica & The Jamaica National Bi-centenary Committee Dec 28, 2007


1 Response to St John Anglican, Black River, St Elizabeth

  1. Pauline Leyden says:

    I really enjoy this I would really like to know the name of John Leyden brother.

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