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The Mountravers Plantation Community, 1734 to 1834

Christine Eickelmann

This study chronicles the lives of all people known to have lived on Mountravers sugar plantation on the Caribbean island of Nevis, from its early beginnings until 1834 when slavery ended in British colonies and the apprenticeship period began. It is the first known longitudinal study of an entire plantation population in which a variety of primary sources has been meshed together: plantation records, business correspondence and accounts, official slave inventories, parish registers and legal documents. Secondary sources have been used to underpin arguments or when there were no original records available.

More than 850 named enslaved individuals have been identified. Their existence established, researched and recorded, they have emerged from obscurity and now can take their place in history. They stand as representatives of the millions of Africans and their descendants who have laboured in the plantations of the British Caribbean.

In addition, this study explores the lives of white plantation employees and their families. Several of them owned personal slaves and, as far as possible, the lives of these people have also been investigated.

The structure

Part I provides background information about the island and its early history, the development of the plantation and how sugar was made.

Part II is in seven chapters, to split up the biographies but also to convey a sense of time passing and of different people inhabiting the plantation at different times. Each chapter covers a number of years. The length of time a chapter covers was determined by the availability of slave inventories. Because some inventories were compiled when owners changed, some chapters relate to discrete periods of ownership of the plantation.

Each chapter begins with a brief preamble. Then follow introductions of varying lengths. They outline events on Mountravers, in Nevis and the wider world and put the period covered in each chapter into context. Following on are the individual, numbered biographies. All chapters in Part II follow this structure, except for the first which covers the period from the early beginnings until 1734. In this the development of the plantation is told in relation to the successive owners who built up Mountravers. The names of over one hundred enslaved people are mentioned and whatever is known about their lives is included but for this early period too little information is available to warrant separate, numbered entries.

Part III contains three chapters. A lengthy introductory chapter covers several general themes relating to overseers and managers, then follows a chapter with the biographies of the employed men who worked on Mountravers before it was sold. The majority of these are brief but for managers who served from 1734 until 1807 (when the Pinneys sold Mountravers to the Huggins family) the stories are more complete, and they form a separate chapter.

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PART I - Contexts

The island of Nevis
Geography, geology, climate
A brief outline of the early colonial history of Nevis, to 1685
Mountravers: an overview
How sugar was made

PART II - The enslaved people
Chapter 1 Azariah Pinney and others: how Mountravers developed from early beginnings to 1734
Chapter 2 John Frederick Pinney: the absentee and his plantation (1734-1761)
Chapter 3 An interregnum: the William Coker years (1761-1764)
Chapter 4 John Pretor Pinney, the new owner, arrives ... and stays (1764-1783)
Chapter 5 Under absentee ownership again (1783-1794)
Chapter 6 John Pretor Pinney's son takes over (1794-1807)
Chapter 7 Mountravers under the Huggins family (1807-1834)

PART III - The employed men

Chapter 1 An overview
Plantation employees
The work
Living conditions and leisure time
Wives, mistresses and children
Transience and resistance
Chapter 2 Overseers, boiling house watches and some managers, 1685-1807
Overseers and managers employed on Charlot's, Proctor's and Mountain up to 1761: Mr Stanilife, Mr Wesbury, Thomas Crosse, Thomas Copping, Christopher Wattis, Laurence Haddock, 'the white boy Croker', James Wignall, James Browne, Thomas Wenham, John Macdonald 'Le Scot', and Henry Jefford.
Overseers and boiling house watches, 1761 to 1807: William Vaughan, Thomas Arthurton, Richard Gurley, Thomas Peaden, John Hay Richens (Gingerland), James Bowrin, John Pearce, John Andrews, John Fisher (Woodland), George Frost, Joseph Batterton, Samuel Bennett, John Keepe, John Frederick Coker, Nathaniel Clifton, William Price, John Smith, William Nicholson, John Beer, Dominick Alvarez, Moses Levy, John Cheyney, George Vaughan, John Coker, William Powell, William Thomas Williams, and David Jones.
Chapter 3 Managers, 1734-1807
Father and son, James Browne and Joseph Browne (1734-1761)
The rector's son, William Coker (1761-1764 and 1786-1790)
The cousin, Joseph Gill (1783-1785)
The brother-in-law, Doctor Thomas Pym Weekes (1790-1794)
The glazier's sons, James Williams (1794-1803) and Henry Williams (1803-1805)
The Creole, Joseph Webbe Stanley (1805-1807)

Postscript: Mountravers after 1834

Appendix 1 Resources and processes
Appendix 2 Timeline
Appendix 3 Abbreviations and glossary



Please note that, except for the use of brief quotations or brief excerpts with proper attribution to the source, this study or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever, nor any work derived from it, without the express written permission of the author. For permission, please contact c.e.eickelmann@bristol.ac.uk.

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Maintained by Christine Eickelmann (Last updated: 2 April 2018)