Livestock and Sugar: Aspects of Jamaica's Agricultural Development from the Late Seventeenth to the Early Nineteenth Century

by Verene A. Shepherd
Livestock and Sugar: Aspects of Jamaica's Agricultural Development from the Late Seventeenth to the Early Nineteenth Century
Verene A. Shepherd
The Historical Journal
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The Historical Journal, 34, 3 (1991), pp. 627-643 Printed in Great Britain

University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica

The study of the agricultural history of Jamaica, particularly after the seventeenth century when England seized the island from Spain, has traditionally been dominated by investigations of the sugar industry. Recently a few scholars have deviated from this path to examine in varying degrees of detail, agrarian activities which did not represent the standard eighteenth- century West Indian route to wealth. Foremost among this growing body of literature are articles and papers on the livestock industry (and livestock farmers), arguably the most lucrative of the non-sugar economic activities in rural Jamaica, perhaps until the advent of coffee later in the eighteenth century.' Intended as a contribution to the historiography of non-staple agricultural production in colonial Jamaica, this article traces the early establishment and expansion of the important livestock or 'pen-keeping' industry.' But the history of pens must also be located within the context of the dominant sugar economy; for during the period of slavery, pens were largely

* I wish to thank Professor Barry Higman of the department of history, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and Dr Philip Morgan, department of history, The Florida State University, for their useful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

Among the most notable of these articles and papers on livestock and livestock farm (farmers) in Jamaica are D. G. Hall, 'Fort George Pen, Jamaica: slaves, tenants and labourers', Association of Caribbean Historians Conference, Cura~ao, 1979; Hall, 'Runaways in Jamaica in the mid-eighteenth century: one man's record', department of history, U.W.I., Mona, Seminar Paper I 984; Hall (ed.), 'Thomas Thistlewood in the vineyard I 75-5 1 ', Jamaica Journal, XXI, 3 (1g88), 16-29. (This article is part of Hall's more detailed In miserable slavery -Thomas Thistlewood in Jamaica, 175~1786(London, 1989) Thistlewood became an overseer-pen-keeper in western Jamaica); B. W. Higman, 'The internal economy of Jamaican pens 176-1890', Social and Economic Studies, XXXVIII,(198g), 61-86; V. A. Shepherd, 'Problems in the supply oflive-stock to


sugar estates', Mona, 1986; Shepherd, 'Obstacles to the expansion of the pen-keeping industry in Jamaica', Mona, 1989. (These ideas are more fully developed in Shepherd, 'Pens and pen- keepers in a plantation society: aspects of Jamaica's social and economic history 174~1845',

(unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, university of Cambridge, 1988) and P. D. Morgan, 'Slavery and livestock in eighteenth-century Jamaica', Conference on Cultivation and Culture, university of~blaryland, April 1989 Higman's recent Jamaica surveyed (Institute of Jamaica, 1988) also devotes a chapter to pens from a cartographic perspective.

Livestock farms were styled 'pens' in Jamaica. The term 'pen-keeping' evolved as a description of the livestock industry and the proprietors of pens were styled 'pen-keepers'. See


dependent on the sugar estate to provide markets for their outputs. Indeed, pens expanded as a result of the growth of the sugar industry and, therefore, the importance of the livestock industry in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Jamaica is best appreciated by examining its economic links with the estates.

The rise of pen-keeping in Jamaica owed much to the Spaniards who occupied the island from I 494 until I 655;3for along with soldiers, priests and settlers, the ships of Christopher Columbus had brought to Hispaniola in 1494 war horses and beasts of burden. In 1495 followed the jennets, mares, cattle and pigs.4 These animals were later introduced into Jamaica, where they multiplied considerably on the southern savanna lands. Most were reared by open-style ranging; but the Spaniards also seemed to have enclosed cattle in hatos or pens in the areas formerly employed by the Arawaks in the cultivation of maize5 Both types of stock-rearing had been practised on the lush, warm pastures of Andalucia where this enterprise was a profitable means of earning a living and had been transferred to the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean.6 By 1515,Jamaica had also become a major open-range hog-rearing island. Such activities took a heavy toll on Arawak conocu farming and hastened the decline of the Arawak population by I 5 19 However, the suitability of these lands for pasture and their accessibility to the ports, and therefore export markets, were important factors determining their conversion into livestock farms and the disregard of indigenous welfare.

The early Spanish settlers also planted subsistence crops, fruits and sugar. ~es~ite

this fairly diversified agricultural economy, the livestock industry emerged as the most important economic activity. Two factors accounted for this agrarian pattern. First, the decline of the Arawak population, the shortage of African slaves -increasingly used as an alternative labour force in 'Spanish America" -and the aversion of the soldier-settlers to manual labour, meant that the island suffered an acute labour shortage. As livestock husbandry was less labour intensive than plantation agriculture, cattle and horse-rearing were vigorously pursued. Second, there was a great demand in peninsular Spain for cow hides for the leather industry.' Although some lard and smoked meat were

F. G. Cassidy and R. B. LePage (eds.), Dictionary of Jamaican English (Cambridge, 1967), p. 345 and Shepherd, 'Pens and pen-keepers', pp. 4-10,

E. Long, History of Jamaica (3 vols., London, 1774) in British Library, Add. MS I 2,404, fos. 176, 182. See also F. Cundall and J. L. Pieterz, Jamaica under the Spaniards (Kingston, 1919)) p. 26 and F. Morales Padron, Jamaica Espariola (Seville, 1952)) pp 268-93, 357-72,

P. Martyr, Historie ofthe West Indies (London, 1675), p. I I and A. P. Whittaker, 'The Spanish contribution to American agriculture', Agricultural History, 111 (1929)) 2-3. Long, History ofJamaica, I in B.L., Add. MS 12,404, fo. I 76. Hatos also developed in Cuba for large-sized cattle or steers. See the Cuban economic research project, A study on Cuba (Miami, 1965), P. 60.

' C. Bishko, 'The peninsular background of Latin American cattle-ranching', Hispanic American Historical Review, XXXII (1952)~513 and D. Watts, The West Indies: patterns of development, culture and environmental change since 1402 (Cambridge, 1987), p. 84.

' For more on this topic see F. Bowser, The African slave in colonial Peru, (California, 1974) and

L. B. Rout, Jr., The African experience in Spanish America: 1502to thepresent day (Cambridge, 1976). Bishko attributes the great demand for cowhides in Spain to the late medieval shift of the


exported, primarily to Havana, cattle became increasingly important for their hides, which formed the major item of export from 'Spanish Jamaica'.

This thriving livestock industry was not in evidence at the time of the English capture of the island in 1655. After the first decade of the seventeenth century, the rate of demographic decline on the island accelerated. Not only had the Arawak population been virtually decimated by I 6I I, but Spanish colonists drifted to areas of the Spanish empire where the presence of mineral wealth offered quicker enrichment possibilities. On the eve of the English conquest, therefore, Sederno, a Spanish resident, noted that 'this island had formerly a large population of Spaniards, so much so that [while] there were [once] seven towns...only St Jago de la Vega now remain^'.^ In 1655, however, there were 'now a little over three hundred colonists, mostly poor people. Nearly four hundred and fifty men bear arms including the hunters and country folks, all of whom are labouring people.. .and lacking in military discipline '.loAccording to contemporary writers, this depopulation of Jamaica not only caused the Spaniards to become too short-handed to pen their 'stock' -which then reverted to a wild state -but facilitated an easy English conquest.ll

The revival of pen-keeping and the restoration of the lucrative export trade in hides were not immediate concerns of the Cromwellian expeditionary army. Rather, disappointed at the mineral and bullion poverty of Jamaica, the soldiers set about to destroy wantonly evidence of Spanish occupation. Not only did they wreck the buildings of the capital, but, as W. J. Gardner noted, Cromwell's soldiers 'ruthlessly destroyed vast numbers of the herds of cattle which a little before had covered the plains around Spanish Town and that [sic] on the edge of which Kingston now stands'.12 Gardner, influenced by Edward Long, further records that:

twenty thousand cattle had been killed and the rest driven so wild that it was almost impossible to catch them.. ..Horses, once accounted as 'the vermin of the country ', had become so scarce by the end of the I 7th century that ships had to be sent to fetch some from thence.13

This mutinous attitude displayed by the early English soldiers and which

peninsular tanning and leather traders from goat and sheep skins to the tougher, if less workable, cow hide. This item also formed the basis of an important export trade to Italy, France and the Low Countries. As internal production was inadequate to meet the external demands, Spain relied on her colonies to supply hides for re-export. Thus, where mineral wealth was absent, Spanish colonies were developed into important producers of hides. This was equally true of Cuba, Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico. See Bishko, 'The peninsular background', p. 513; F. Knight, Slave society in Cuba during the nineteenth century (Madison, 1970)) p. 3; M. D. Clausner, Rural Santo Domingo: settled, unsettled and resettled (Philadelphia, 1g73), p. 71; F. A. Scarano, Sugar and slavery in Puerto Rico: the plantation economy of Ponce, 180~+1850 (IYisconsin, 1984), pp 4-40 and

J. L. Dietz, Economic history of Puerto Rico: institutional change and capitalist development (New Jersey,

19861, PP. 4-8. Cundall and Pieterz, Jamaica under the Spaniards, p. 35. lo Ibid. This figure excludes the black population. l1 Ibid. l2 W. J. Gardner, History ofJamaica, 1655-1872 (London, 1909 edn), p. 36. l3 Ibid. ; Long, History of Jamaica, I in B.L., Add. MS 12,404, fos. 190, 192.


was aimed at forcing Cromwell to abandon Jamaica as a possible English colony, did not have the desired effect. By 1657, conditions in the island had reached crisis proportions. Food supplies from England were irregular and according to Long, as 'these early settlers all had a dislike against settling and planting in this part of the world and made no effort to do so',14 starvation and famine-like conditions resulted.

At this time the English began to make the first efforts towards reestablishing the pen-keeping industry in the island. Their task was difficult. Lowland tamed animals had been the first to be destroyed, and by 1656 all had been killed. Consequently, hunting parties had to be organized to secure wild cattle from the forested interior. Not surprisingly, the value of horses in this venture was quickly appreciated, giving rise to the development of the 'horse-catchers'.15 In this pioneer stage of the island's colonial development, livestock were hunted and killed mainly for food. The export of hides was also revived. To facilitate these activities, pens were established in English Jamaica in the late seventeenth century. In this period they had an independent economic dynamic. Their importance grew as, with generous land grants offered as inducements to settle, the population of the island slowly increased and the market for fresh beef expanded. This expansion encouraged more settlers to invest in the pen-keeping industry and the penning and breeding of cattle were protected by law.16

In the I 670s and early I 68os, characterized as the extensive diversified production stage of Jamaica's economic development, pen-keeping experi- enced only moderate expansion. Some future sugar planters in St John's parish, such as Francis Price, intent on accumulating the capital needed for the establishment of a sugar work, at first engaged in pen-keeping.'' Indeed, by the time of Sir Hans Sloane's visit to Jamaica in the late seventeenth century, cattle had 'received a proper share of attention from. .. the settlers','' the wild cattle had been tamed, and 'the Savanna pens were.. .abundantly stored with neat kine ...'19 But plantations of minor staples -tobacco, indigo, cotton, cocoa ginger -the contraband trade and bucaneering activities engaged the attention of the majority of settlem20

l4 Ibid. fo. 190. l5 See D. Knight, Gentlemen of fortune: the men who made their fortunes in Britain's slave colonies (London, 1978)~ pp. 3S8.

l6 Instruction to Governor Modyford from Charles 11, 18 Feb. 1664, P.R.O., C.O. 138/1; 'Proclamation of Charles 11, Laws of Jamaica, 1681-1759, I, 9; H. Barham, Account of Jamaica, 1772, London, British Library, Sloane MS 3,918, fo. 56 and Long, History of Jamaica, I, in B.L., Add. MS 12,404, fos. 199-205. The law imposed heavy fines on those found unlawfully killing livestock. It also stipulated that grazing farms be fenced. See C. Leslie, A new history of Jamaica (London, 1740)~ pp. 167-8. See also, Laws of Jamaica, 1681, Anno 33, Caroli, 11, Cap. x, p. 9.

l7 M. Craton and J. Walvin, A Jamaican plantation: the history of Worthy Park, 1670-1970 (London, 1970)~ pp. 3-42, NO precise figures are available to indicate the number of planters who made a start in this manner or established estates on former pen lands.

Is Gardner, History ofJamaica, p. 79.

l9 J. Roby, A history ofSt James (Kingston, 1849), p. roo, and Sir Hans Sloane, A voyage to the islands (2 vols., London, 1707)~ 1, pp xiv-~XXV.

20 See R. Dunn, Sugar and slaves (North Carolina, 1972)~ pp. 149-87; R. B. Sheridan, Sugar and slavery (Barbados, 1g74), pp. 210-16; N. Zahadieh, 'Trade, plunder and economic


By the end of the seventeenth century, there were still well below ~oo pens in the island. As the livestock industry struggled to recover from its earlier destruction, marked expansion was not experienced until well into the eighteenth century.

From a mere seventy-three 'pens' in 168~," located primarily in the southern parishes, the island had over 300 by I 782." By this latter date, the location of pens had been expanded to include parishes in the western and northern sections of the island, most notably St Ann, St Elizabeth and Westmoreland. The principal factor in the phenomenal increase in the number of pens in Jamaica was the development of the sugar industry as the principal and dominant economic activity. The change from the cultivation of minor staples and other economic activities to sugar, was not as quick and revolutionary as in Barbados. Indeed, limited capital, and a small labour and settler population for long delayed Jamaica's equivalent of Barbados's 'sugar revolution'. By the end of the seventeenth century, however, greater infusions of capital and population, particularly through the forced migration of Africans (the slave trade), and a more generous land policy initiated by Governor Modyford, had combined to set Jamaica on the way to being a 'sugar island'. The island's varied physical environment, though, enabled small-settler entrepreneurs who lacked the capital to invest in sugar, to occupy and farm lands unsuitable for the cultivation of the cane. While some of these non-sugar producers were engaged in production for the export market, others were primarily geared towards the domestic market. The most notable of these internal producers were the livestock farmers, whose growth and expansion by I 740 depended on the sugar sector. The sugar economy had created a new market for a number of products. The estates, for example, provided a large market for food and draught animals -the two types of goods produced on the pens. However, the production of food on independent pens was simply a secondary activity and was not geared towards fulfilling the estates' demand for this commodity. Indeed, the sugar estates had a high import co-efficient in foodstuffs, particularly flour, salted beef and fish. Additionally, the establishment of supplementary food-producing units by some sugar planters and the existence of the slave provision ground system combined to limit the part of the estates' food market to which internal producers could have access. Although the

development in early English Jamaica, 1655-1689 (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of London, 1984) ;Zahadieh, 'The merchants of Port Royal, Jamaica and the Spanish contraband trade, 165j-1692', William and Ma9 Quarterb, 3rd Series, XLIII (1g86), 570 and Zahadieh, 'Trade, plunder and economic development in early English Jamaica, 165j-1689', The Economic History Review, xxx~x( I 986), 205-22.

Dunn, Sugar and slaues, p. 169. This calculation was based on Bochart and Knollis, A new and exact ltlapp ofthe island ofj'amaica c. 1684, C.O. 70016. This figure probably also included a few hog crawles. Simpson and Craskill's map of 1763 grouped pens with 'non-sugar units', so that this makes it difficult to obtain an accurate idea of the number of livestock farms. See Simpson and Craskill, Itlap ofJamaica, 1763, C.O. 7oo/16. 22 Gardner, History ofj'amaica, p. 161.


estates did purchase fresh beef from the pens -regularly for their white

population and periodically for the slaves -pen-keepers sought other outlets

among the comparatively small free population not resident on the estates.

Greater opportunities for the growth of internal producers existed in the market for livestock, for the sugar plantation economy created an extraordinary demand for livestock (as well as for pasture and other pen services). This was because before the development of chemical fertilizers and until draught animals were largely displaced by motor transport, sugar estates relied heavily on animals for draught and other purposes.

The types of animals most in demand on sugar estates are clearly indicated by the early Jamaican estate records of accounts called the accounts produce. These were steers (oxen), mules and heifers. Steers and spayed heifers were often referred to in the accounts as 'planters' stock'.23 Though the pens sold a considerable number of horses, these were used more for the racehorse industry and for riding by the white supervisory class, than as work animals.24 This was in contrast to the trend in England where by 1850English farmers, with some regional variations, had virtually dispensed with the working of cattle in favour of the use of horses. After the Napoleonic Wars, more favourable price conditions and the increasing efficiency of horses in farming caused the emphasis in cattle husbandry to shift to beef prod~ction.~~

In Jamaica, however, competition from the horse-racing industry and the expense of procuring, feeding and maintaining horses, determined their unattractiveness as a source of draught animals.

Mules were used primarily for draught purposes. They were used to take off the crop from the fields and to transport sugar to the wharf. Up to twelve mules at a time were also frequently used to transport coffee to the wharf.26 In the early years of the sugar industry, mules were also used along with cattle to turn the rollers which ground the juice out of the canes at the mill. By the nineteenth century, however, they were largely displaced by steers and spayed heifers. Contemporary sources provide no explanations for this shift, but one can speculate that the dual income yielded by oxen was attractive to both pen- keepers and sugar planters. The former could benefit directly from the sale of young oxen to sugar planters and the sale of beef when oxen had reached the end of their working life. The mule, on the other hand, was not used for meat and realized little of a return upon the completion of its working life. At the same time, the mule was unsurpassed in its hardiness as a draught animal. Sugar planters also perceived the benefits from the use of oxen which could be

23 Jamaica Archives, Accounts Produce U.A., A.P.), 1840, 1B/11/4/84. These Accounts related to the properties of absentees, but provide a window through which the pens can be viewed generally.

24 Phillippo observed in I 843 that 'the stock required for agriculture are...oxen, horses, mules'. He acknowledged, however, that horses were used mainly 'for the saddle'. See J. M. Phillippo, Jamaica :its past and present state (London, I 843), p. 8j.

25 J. A. Perkins, 'The ox, the horse and English farming 17je18jo', Working paper in economic history, 3/1975, university of New South Wales, dept. of economic history, school of economics, pp. 2-1 j,

26 Radnor Plantation Journal, 1822-6, National Library of Jamaica (N.L.J.), MS 180


sold to pen-keepers or butchers as beef cattle at the end of their working life on the estates. In both cases, cattle contributed to the risks involved in farming.

A partial indication of this change is supplied by the data on pens returned in the accounts produce. In I 740, for example, the 'working stock' sold by the twenty pens represented in the accounts included 19 steers, 8 heifers and 7 mules. In I 760, 144 steers, 54 mules and I 2 heifers were sold, and in I 780, 278 steers, I 8I mules and I g heifers were disposed of to estates. By I 820, however, 3,162 steers, I, I 62 spayed heifers and only 5 I I mules were sold through the internal trade. By 1840, the number of mules sold by the pens represented in the accounts had fallen to 283, compared to 2,461 steers and 1,006 heifemZ7

Cattle were important sources of manure for sugar estates. They were also used as draught animals, but predominated as mill animals. This presumably influenced the use of the term 'cattle mills' to refer to all animal mills even those also powered by mules. Up to I 740, cattle mills were almost exclusively used on sugar estates, though other forms of power were being explored. As Charles Leslie records, in that year 'the mills that are most in use here are cattle mills, but lately, some substantial Planters have One or Two Windmills, and some Three'." Windmills were at this time regarded as curiosities, however, and according to Leslie 'the late President Ascough erected One at his Plantation to Windward, which is a very curious Piece of rnechani~m'.~~

As sugar estates proliferated after 1680, the demand for livestock to provide all of the above functions increased. Pens were established to help to meet this demand, and this assured for them a role in Jamaica's colonial economy.

The direct relationship between the expansion of the livestock industry in Jamaica and the evolution and growth of the sugar industry was best established by Edward Long. After discussing what he termed the 'sugar revolution' with its creation of land monopolies by those who bought out the thirty-acre farmers to create larger sugar estates, he explained that 'to sustain these sugar estates, large breeding farms were req~isite'.~' Pens, as a result, did not suffer the fate of coastal provision farms and plantations of'minor' staples; for whereas the increasing dominance of sugar in Jamaica in the eighteenth century stifled the production of competing staples other than coffee,31 the growing demand for livestock on sugar estates was met by an increasing number of pens. Far from giving way to sugar, therefore, by I 740 pens along with sugar estates had 'swallowed up by degrees all the little settlements around; which from their contiguity, and being ready cleared for canes or pasturage, the lordly planter has found convenient to be purchased, and added to his territory '.32

As further indication that pens were not sacrificed for sugar cultivation, Edward Long explained that:

27 J.A., A.P.,1740, IB/I I/~/I; 1760, IB/I 1/4/3-4; I 780, I/B/I 1/4/g; 1820, IB/I 1/4/54-6

and 1840, IB/I 1/4/84-5. Leslie, A new history of Jamaica, p. 318. Ibid.

30 Long, History of Jamaica, I, in B.L. Add. MS I 2,404, fo. 220.

31 Grown on lands unsuitable for either pens or sugar-cane

32 Add. MS 12,404, fa. 31 I.


...some have imagined, that the sugar estates have increased at the expense of sacrificing many of the farms or penns; but that this has not been the case is manifest from the great increase in the number of Negroes; which would not have happened if the settlers had done no more than remove their Negroes from penns to sugar estates ...It is more probable, that the augmentation of sugar estates has been the means of increasing the number of penns, by enlarging the demand for pasturage and

By the outbreak of the American revolution, therefore, Jamaica was being described as an island of 'large sugar plantations and "cattle ranches"'.34 From beginning as a step towards diversification, therefore, pen-keeping had by the eighteenth century, evolved into a prop for sugar monoculture.

The number of cattle in.Jamaica from year to year and the extensive use of cattle mills on sugar estates throughout the island in the period of slavery, help to indicate the extent to which livestock was vital to the plantation economy. In 1734 Jamaica had 74,846 head of cattle.35 Six years later, Jamaica's colonial agent, James Knight, compiled a table of the number of slaves and cattle in each parish based on the returns of a tax of twelve pence per head on slaves and three pence on cattle. The total was 99,239 slaves and 84,313 cattle.36 Table I, compiled from Long's History of3amaica, shows that Knight's figure for cattle is somewhat higher than Long's calculations, but the difference might be explained by the absence of figures in the table for St David, an essentially penlcoffee parish. There is also some discrepancy in the figures for cattle for I 768, by which year, according to calculations from the poll tax roll authorized in that year, cattle had increased to 133,773 head,37 6,443 lower than Long's calculations of 142,~ 16 head of cattle in the twenty parishes.3s However, this confusion could have resulted from the difference between taxable and working stock in the island. Taxes were not levied on working stock and so would not have been represented on the poll tax roll relating to sugar estates.

In 1768 also, there were said to have been 648 sugar estates in the island (three fewer than Long's estimate of 651) of which 369 had cattle mills, 235 had water mills and 44 had wind mills.39 This means that the number of cattle mills in the island in I 768 was thirteen less than the number in I 763. (See Table 2.) On the other hand, the number of water and wind mills had increased since 1763, showing a gradual shift away from cattle mills. Such a shift could have affected pen-keeping by cutting out the need for livestock for mills; but even though rivers, topography and wind currents determined the selection of wind mills, water mills and tide mills in the West Indies, most planters in Jamaica still kept a cattle mill or two in case of emergencies as they were considered more reliable. Drought-prone parishes also realized the necessity of catering for the precariousness of the water supply. The case of St

33 Ibid. fa. 308. 34 Sheridan, Sugar and slavery, p. 232.
35 Long, History ofJamaica, I, in B.L., Add. MS 12,404, fos. 39-192.
36 F. W. Pitman, The development of the British West Indies, 170~1763(New Haven, 191 7)) pp.

367-77. 37 Ibid. 38 These figures represented a combination of the production of pens and livestock imported. 38 Pitman, The development ofthe British West Indies, pp. 367-77.

LIVESTOCK AND SUGAR 635 Table I. Sugar works and cattle, by parish, for 1740 and 1768
Sugar     Sugar
Parish     Cattle     works     Cattle     works
                -        -
St Catherine     8,581     3     10,402         ?     
St Dorothy     5,468     8     4,661     I2
St John     2,837     28     2,726     2 I
St Thomas-in-the-Vale     4,8 13     48     5,782     4'
Clarendon     12,299     ?     14,276     70
Vere     8,580     7     7,462     '9
St Mary     2,972     '9     7,996     49
St Ann     2,342     20     6,207     22
St Andrew     5,244     34     4,626     ?
Kingston     607     None     923     None
Port Royal     158     None     170     I
St Thomas-in-the-East     5,256     44     9,007     66
St David     No figures available     
Portland St George     '78 1,024     3 4     1,651 3,42'     29 I2
St Elizabeth     9,695     32     16,947     3'
Westmoreland     8>921     32     '3,750     69
Hanover     2,631     39     8,942     7'
St James     1,204     I9     15,137     95
Trelawny     Still part of St James     8,130     4
All Island total     82,810     340     142,216     612

Source: E. Long, History of Jamaica, 11, Add. MS 12,405, fos. 39-192.

Note: ? = Not stated. Totals given are thus incomplete.

Jago estate can be cited as an illustration. Throughout 1822, the attorney for the Mitchells's estates in Jamaica complained to the proprietors about the severe drought in the island especially in St Catherine. This had affected the use of the water mill on St Jago estate, thus forcing the estate to revert to the cattle mills. According to the attorney, 'St Jago is now getting on as fast as they can with the Old Cattle Mills -the water having entirely failed and is not likely to return now before the May season'.40 The rains did come in May, but by December St Catherine was again in the grip of a drought, forcing the attorney to write that 'St Jago has lost the use of the.. .water again and will be obliged to go on with the cattle mills'.41

An indication that, despite technological changes in power, cattle mills were dominant in Jamaica's sugar economy even in the nineteenth century, is

40 Letter from the Attorney to Messrs. W. R. and S. Mitchell, 17 Feb. 1822, Jamaica Archives, Attorneys' Letterbook, 1B/5/83/1. 41 Ibid. Letterbook, 30 Dec. 1822.

636 VERENE A. SHEPHERD Table 2. Distribution of mills in Jamaica b~ parish, 1763 Mills
Parish     Cattle     Water     Wind
-    -                -
St Thomas-in-the-East     34     17     2     
Portland     2 I     5     -    
St David     2     5     -    
Port Royal     I     I     -    
St George     10     4     I     
St Andrew     23     5     -    
St Catherine     3     -    -    
St John     25     2     I     
St Thomas-in-the-Vale     35     7     5     
St Mary     33     I5     7     
St Ann     4     12     I     
Clarendon     2 I     38     2     
Vere     14     -    3     
St James     38     7     2     
St Elizabeth     I 8     10     I     
Hanover     50     -    8     
Westmoreland     42     I2     I     
St Dorothy     8     -    -    
Total     382     150     34     

Source: Simpson and Craskill, Ma! of Jamaica c. 1763, C.O. 700/16.

Robertson's map of Jamaica.*' Table 3, compiled from this map, indicates that the island had 656 cattle mills in 1804, compared with 68 wind mills and 333 water mills. Furthermore, as there were 830 estates in Jamaica in 1804, this further strengthens the argument that even where alternative forms of power were utilized, cattle mills were maintained for emergencies, for there were 1,077 mills in all. Again, parishes where the water supply could be unreliable were especially careful to maintain cattle mills in addition to their water mills. Clarendon is a good example. Of 59 estates in Clarendon, only I 7 or zg per cent did not have a water mill; for the proximity of the Rio Minho or its tributaries to most estates made water a natural choice of power. Nevertheless, estates such as Danks, Clarendon Park and St Toolies also had cattle mills.43

This continued dominance of cattle mills indicates the extent to which mill type was dictated not by efficiency but by the state of available technology and by topographical and locational factors. Mills varied in efficiency by up to 50 per cent according to their power source. Water mills (where water was always

42 J. Robertson, 'Maps of the counties of Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey ', 1804, N.L.J. 43 Ibid. 'Map of the county of Middlesex'.


Table 3. Mill Qpes by parish and county, 1804
    --    Mill type         Total no. of
    Wind    Water     Cattle     Mills     Estates
County of Cornwall I Hanover                 
2 St James 3 Trelawny 4 Westmoreland 5 St Elizabeth                 
County of Middlesex 6 St Catherine                 
7 St Dorothy 8 St John g St Thomas-in-the-Vale 10 Vere I I St Ann 12 Clarendon                 
13 St Mary                 
County of Surrey 14 St Andrew 15 Kingston 16 St George 17 St David 18 Portland 19 St Thomas-in-the-East                 
20     Port Royal                 
Total Grand Total                 
(all counties)                 

Source: J. Robertson, Maps of~he counties of Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrq uamaica, 1804)~N.L.I.

N.B. Manchester and Metcalfe were not yet formed.

available) turned fastest, most continuously and reliably and were the cheapest to run once in~talled;'~ but not every estate had access to rivers or ponds or could afford to have aqueducts built for the diversion of water from distant sources. Wind power was cheap but capricious. Wind-powered mills

" M. Craton, Searching for the invisible man: slaves and plantation life in Jamaica (Cambridge, '9741, P. 2.

638 VERENE A. SHEPHERD were the most constrained locationally, requiring an exposed hill-top site. Consequently, in contrast to plantations in the Eastern Caribbean which had the advantage of a more favourable location, only a small number of favourably situated plantations in Jamaica utilized them.45 Estates in the vales of St John's parish, for example, had no use for wind mills. Animal power, it was true, turned mills slowly and was relatively expensive as there was a constant need to replace the animals and was less efficient than water power. But animal mills were relatively free of physical constraints and could be placed more easily wherever the planter chose. In addition, the animal supply was fairly reliable. Even in other parts of the Caribbean such as in dry Antigua, unsuitable for water mills, but where nearly every planter had a wind mill, plantations also had at least one cattle mill to use when the north- east trades failed.46

Theoretically then, Jamaica's sugar economy afforded a relatively substantial market capable of acting as a dynamic factor in the development of the pen- keeping industry in the island. The average estate in the late eighteenth century, for example, needed a starting livestock supply of 80 steers and 60 mules,47 and by the early nineteenth century, at least IOO working steers annually.48 The total demand for steers alone in 1789 when there were 710 sugar estates, was therefore 7 I ,000. By I 820, the annual demand for steers had dropped to 56,200,49 matching the decrease in the number of estates and therefore the demand for working animals. At L18 currency each in the late eighteenth century and between Lzo and L30 each in 1820, this would still necessitate a considerable annual expenditure on oxen alone.50 Bryan Edwards records that the annual replacement cost of working animals to each estate was L300 currency in the I 790s,~' but this would increase with the rising prices of livestock in the nineteenth century.

A11 Jamaican estates kept some animals, but as the profitability of the sugar business encouraged specialization, some entrepreneurs avoided diverting production factors into secondary activities -at least at tirnes when the prospects of the sugar market seemed favourable. At such times the use of estate lands for livestock rearing was uneconomical for the sugar planters.

45 B. W.Higman, 'The spatial economy ofJamaican sugar plantations; cartographic evidence from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries', Journal ofHistorica1 Geography, 13, I (1987), I 7-39 and Watts, The West Indies, p. 193.

46 The estates in Antigua had the advantage of nearby Barbuda -a source of draught animals, slaves, harnesses and leather goods. See D. G. Hall, Five ofthe Leewards (Caribbean Universities Press: Ginn & Co. 1g71), p. 59.

47 B. Edwards, The history ofthe West Indies (2 vols., London, 17g3), I, pp. 253-4.

48 Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 29 Oct. 1782, Cambridge University Library; Vanneck Manuscripts, Jamaican Estate Papers, U.E.P.), Box 2, Bundle 10.

49 This calculation is based on contemporary accounts indicating that each estate needed IOO oxen annually in addition to mules and heifers. There were 562 sugar estates in 1820.

50 These prices relate to locally bred livestock. Imported animals usually cost less

51 Edwards, History ofthe bVest Indies, I, 259.


639 Thus, from the late seventeenth century when sugar emerged as the dominant crop, most estates were buying livestock from the specialized pens. By 1740 about 23 per cent of the estates owned by absentee proprietors were involved in the purchase of livestock from internal sources.52 By 1760 they had improved their participation to 36 per cent and this percentage increased each ~ear.~"he extent of participation of units owned by resident proprietors cannot be substantiated with any degree of accuracy, except to say that there is indication from the accounts produce that they purchased animals from pens owned by absentees. Cartographic and non-cartographic sources indicate that the main internal sources of supply came from the parishes of Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, St Catherine, and St Ann. Supplies also came from the combined penlcoffee units in Manchester. In these parishes, there were significant acreages unsuited for either cane cultivation or coffee and which were turned over to pasture. By 1820, in fact, a pattern of regional crop specialization had developed in Jamaica with distinct ecological zones supporting particular crops -the result largely of topographical differentiati~n.~~ Despite the proliferation of local livestock-producing units across the island from the late seventeenth to the eighteenth centuries, internal supplies of animals were never adequate to meet total demand. In I 768, for example, Edward Long estimated that Jamaica's 651 estates needed 3,900 mules per annum. With 200 pens supplying at most twelve mules each, a shortfall of 1,500 remained.55 In 1820 when over 56,200 working animals were needed annually, the island's pens supplied only around 39 per cent of this number.56 The shortfall in this, previous and subsequent years was filled from external sources, chiefly Spanish America. Between 1729 and 1739, for example, an annual average of 826 animals were imported. A total of 14,456 animals were imported in the next decade5' and by 1825 the annual average was I 1,836. Indeed, 59, I 82 were imported between I 8 I 5 and I 8~5.~~

In all years, the trade was dominated by Spanish America. In 1832, for example, 97 per cent of the island's expenditure on horses, 98 per cent on asses, loo per cent on mules and

98.5 per cent on cattle went to Spanish Ameri~a.~' Thus, Jamaica was less dependent on Britain and North America as sources for animals. Where the participation of these countries was significant was in the area of supplying thoroughbred horses and at times, high breed cattle to improve the local strain.

Although inadequate numbers, competition for land with sugar estates in some parishes, high cost of production and inability to compete with foreign suppliers whose animals cost considerably less were factors militating against the ability ofJamaican pens to satisfy total internal demand, they nevertheless

52 J.A., A.P., IB/II/~/I. 53 J.A., A.P., 181111413-4.

54 Shepherd, 'Pens and pen-keepers', chap. 3. 55 B.L.,Add. MS 12,404, fo. 330.

56 J.A., A.P., I B/I 1/4/54-6. 57 B.L.,Add. MS I 2,404, fo. 330.

Naval Officer's Returns, 181 5-25, Jamaica House of Assembly Votes (J.H.A.V.) 181 5-25 and Blue Books ofJamaica (B.B.J.) 1822-5,C.O. 142134-8, 5g B.B.J. 1832.

640 VERENE A. SHEPHERD supplied a far greater proportion of the island's needs than did any other non- staple producers elsewhere in the English-speaking Caribbean." The accounts produce provide a partial idea of the amount of money that sugar estates spent on the purchase of animals from the pens. In 1782, for example, Golden Grove Estate in St Thomas-in-the-East spent &3,ooo on the purchase of oxen6' -significantly more than the approximately I 6 per cent of total annual estate contingencies estimated by Edward~.~' Pens benefited greatly from such trade. A small sample of I I per cent of the pens returned in the accounts produce in 1820 (representing roughly 5 per cent of the island total) reveals total earnings of 420,014 I 7s. 8id. currency from livestock sales to estates. These pens earned more from such sales (69 per cent) than from other important income-generating activities such as jobbing, wainage, pasturage, the sale of food (ground provisions and fresh beef) and wood. These other sales and services combined yielded &8,924. 13s. 3id. or 31 per cent of the total earnings of &28,939. 10s. I ~d.Taken singly, jobbing represented g per cent, pasturage 4 per cent, wainage 4 per cent, provisions g per cent and miscellaneous items (rents, shingles, wood, staves) 5 per cent. These percentages of course, varied from pen to pen. Forest pen, for example, earned only 2 per cent from non-livestock sources.63 In addition to having a ready source of young working animals, sugar estates benefited from the pens in several other ways. Their use of pens for pasturing their 'stock', for providing extra 'hands ' especially during crop time and for providing transportation for the crop have already been noted. Pens also supplied estates with food provisions such as plantains and fresh beef, particularly during wartime conditions when external supplies were disrupted. But the pens also provided a ready market for the estates' 'used' animals. Animals at the end of their working life on sugar estates were sold to the pen for fattening. These were then killed in the pens' butcheries or sold to independent butchers. James Stevenson, attorney for the Scarlett's estates noted in 1800 that fat cattle from these properties fetched up to &40 a head -almost as much as for young cattle.64 The economic relationship between pens and estates which was unique to Jamaica in the British Caribbean, can best be illustrated by reference to the history of satellite holdings. In Jamaica, sugar planters often established their own pens as an alternative to complete reliance on independent pens or external producers. Such satellite units also not only helped to solve the problem of inadequate pasture-lands on some estates, but were important supplies of working animals, food, grass, fuel and extra labourers. Those located in higher (and cooler) elevations, were vital in the seasoning of African newcomers up to 1807. Thereafter, they assumed increasing importance as a location for sick slaves as planters adopted socially ameliorative measures

Shepherd, 'Obstacles to the expansion...'. Taylor to Arcedeckne, 29 Oct. 1782.

" Edwards, History ofthe bVest Indies, I, p. 259. 63 J.A., A.P. IB/I 114154-6.

64 James Stevenson to Mrs Scarlett, 8 April 1800, Hull University, Brynmor Jones Library, Scarlett family papers, DDCA/~I / I 7.


aimed at preventing the high mortality rates and improving the low rate of fertility among their slave populations.65

Golden Grove estate and Batchelor's Hall pen, both located in St Thomas- in-the-East, typified the relationship between sugar estates and their related pens in Jamaica. Unlike some satellite holdings, Batchelor's Hall was not contiguous to Golden Grove, but as it was located in the same parish, was fairly easily accessible. As was usual in such cases, both properties were run by the same attorney, though they had separate overseers and kept separate records.

Batchelor's Hall served Golden Grove in seven important ways. First and foremost, it provided the livestock needs of the latter. Golden Grove thus did not have to devote much needed cane land to pasture. According to Simon Taylor, the attorney, 'Golden Grove is as good for Breeding as Batchelor's

but he did not recommend that any part of the estate be developed for this purpose as the land on the estate was more suitable for cane, 'and should be used for In 1765 the pen was still struggling to achieve maximum efficiency, but Taylor assured his employer that as soon as it was well stocked 'that place will ease the contingencies of your e~tate'.~'

Second, Batchelor's Hall fattened the estate's old, meagre cattle and pastured its breeding stock after the crop. Later, when a butchery was established at the pen, such fattened stock was killed and the estate provided with fresh beef. This can be considered a third function.

Fourthly, Batchelor's Hall's slaves jobbed on Golden Grove whenever the need arose there, even if this set back the schedule of the pen. Jobbing was especially needed to put in the spring plant 'which never can be done by the Estate people as the mill is then always about'.69 Jobbers planted guinea grass at the estate and fetched wood from the pen for the mill when coal and trash were in short supply. When Golden Grove's four trash houses were destroyed by fire set by slave pipes in I 793, the pen's slaves had to go to the estate to help to cut brush wood for the mill. Batchelor's Hall's slaves again came to Golden Grove's rescue when floods did extensive damage to the estate in I 793. AS the estate's slaves undertook the routine jobs, the pen's slaves did the repairs. Taylor afterwards remarked that 'I do not know what we should have done at Golden Grove after the flood had it not been for the Batchelor's Hall negroes '.'O

65 See J. R. Ward, British West Indian slavery, 175~1834:theprocess ofamelioration (Oxford, 1988).

" Taylor to Arcedeckne, 27 Sept. 1781,J.E.P., Box 2, Bundle 9. 67 Ibid.

Taylor to Arcedeckne, I I Nov. 1765,J.E.P., Box 2, Bundle I.

69 Taylor to Arcedeckne, 3 Sept. 1787,J.E.P., Box 2, Bundle 13.A similar relationship between the Blagroves' properties was outlined by Henry Blagrove. He noted in his journal that 'Orange Valley Pen and Orange Valley Estate have a special relationship. At the pen, we breed planters' stock and buy them for Orange Valley Estate, work them for a certain period of time carrying canes to the mill, sugar to the wharf -and other estates' works -and when at Orange Valley they become useless they are draughted or sold to Bell Air Pen and there put in guinea grass pastures, fattened and then sold to the butcher'. See Journal of Henry John Blagrove, Jamaica Archives, Private Deposit 41411-2, 2 I March 1842.

70 Taylor to Arcedeckne, 4 Sept. 1794,J.E.P., Box 2 Bundle 19.


The pen served three other important functions. It supplied extra provisions for the estate when war conditions or drought disrupted the latter's supply. In 1833 for example, Batchelor's Hall sold 1,359 plantains, 426 cwt of ground provisions and 80 lbs of arrowroot to golden Grove.71 Batchelor's Hall Pen was used for the recuperation of sick slaves from Golden Grove, especially those afflicted with yaws. The rationale for this is given in the following extract from Taylor's letter :

I desired for the future that when any of them get the yaws, that they might be sent to Batchelor's Hall Penn which is a dryer situation than the estate and to be there kept cleaning the pastures as exercise is reckoned good for that disorder and it is the lightest work negroes can be put to.72

Some concern with the high rate of mortality, especially among newly imported slaves, and with the low birth rate caused sugar planters to use their pens for the seasoning of new slaves. Taylor felt that a pen was the best place for seasoning 'new negroes' in the first year as well as to encourage slave women to reproduce. He noted that 'a Penn is certainly better calculated for negroes to breed at than Estates for there is no light work on them [estates] for negro women'.73 On pens, on the other hand, newly imported slaves could do light tasks such as weeding and cleaning the pastures.

Finally, pens provided an outlet for estates' old, 'weakly' and ineffective slaves. Thus, instead of renewing the labour force for the pen through the purchasing of new slaves, 'weakly' slaves from Golden Grove were drawn off for the pen. These were used to clean pastures already established, 'but by no means to open new land to be put in Grass and make fences, which require able people and such cannot be spared from the estate'.74 For such tasks, a few new slaves were purchased.

Although the primary role of satellites was to serve the needs of their related estates, in the nineteenth century a significant part of their income was earned from links formed with non-related properties and individuals. In 1833, for example, while Batchelor's Hall Pen earned &1,148. I IS. 8d. from the sale of beef, provisions and working stock to Golden Grove, it earned &2,380. 8s. I ~d. from non-related propertities and individuals. Restated as a percentage of total earnings for that year, dealings with Golden Grove represented 31 per cent of the total earnings of Batchelor's Hall in 1833.'~

71 Crop Accounts, 1833, J.E.P., Box 2, Bundle 60.

72 Taylor to Arcedeckne, 10 April 1768, J.E.P., Box 2, Bundle 3.

73 Taylor to Arcedeckne, 5 July 1789, J.E.P., Box 2, Bundle I I.

74 Ibid. 10Oct. 1783. See also B. C. Wood and T. R. Clayton, 'Slave birth, death and disease on Golden Grove Estate, Jamaica, I 765-1 8 10', Slavery and Abolition, 6 (1g8j), 99-1 2 1. See also Wood, Slavery in colonial Georgia, 173-75 (Athens, 1984), pp 101-2 for a similar pre-occupation of southern planters with mortality rates among 'new negroes'.

75 Crop Accounts, 1833, J.E.P., Box 2, Bundle 60.


This article has traced the evolution and expansion of the livestock industry in Jamaica from the occupation of the island by the Spaniards to its capture by the English in the mid-seventeenth century. Before sugar became the dominant export crop, pen-keeping represented an important element of diversification in Jamaica, maintaining its independent economic dynamic. By

1740, pens had become virtual adjuncts of the dominant sugar economy providing in addition to working animals, a variety of services including jobbing, wainage and pasturage. The estates also relied on pens for food and at times utilized them for the seasoning of 'new negroes'. Pen-keeping thus represented an alternative path to wealth for those small-scale entrepreneurs lacking the capital to invest in the more lucrative sugar industry. However, livestock-farming in the period of slavery was a precarious enterprise. In times of buoyancy in the sugar industry, pen-keepers could gain considerable earnings. Conversely, as estates represented their principal markets, any crisis in that industry could cause economic chaos -even ruin -for livestock farmers. The effects of this economic dependence was most marked in the later nineteenth century after the abolition of slavery. A depressed market for live- stock and a shortage of labourers forced some pen-keepers out of production. By the 18gos, however, they had broken their link with the sugar estates, assumed an export dimension and were catering for an expanding local consumer market for beef and dairy products.

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