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General => General Discussion => Trinidad and Tobago History => Topic started by: Tallman on February 14, 2012, 10:58:49 AM

Title: The Merikins
Post by: Tallman on February 14, 2012, 10:58:49 AM
How the Merikins came to Moruga
By Louis B Homer (T&T Express)

December 5, 2011

Next Year's bicentennial commemoration in the US of the War of 1812, is linked to an important part of Trinidad's history.

It was the engagements in the Atlantic States of Maryland, Virginia and Georgia, between the United States and Britain that led to the founding of the Company Villages in Moruga.

During the battle Britain lost to America, the black soldiers who fought against their ex-masters as Corps of the Colonial Marines in British service were later sent to Trinidad in companies where they became known as the Merikins.

The war that lasted for two years had developed a peculiar relationship between black American marines and the British. The Colonial marines who were former slaves believed the British King had come to free them, while the British saw the black American marines as a source of fighting power to curb American expansion.

After the war, Alexander Cochrane, Vice-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief in North America issued a proclamation in 1814 inviting those who may have been disposed to emigrate from the United States, to board a British vessel where they would be taken to one of Britain's overseas possessions and set free. An estimated 761 marines took up the offer and came to Trinidad in six batches or companies.

The first company consisted of 71 men who were settled in a place called Dunmore Hill and Mount Elvin, in Naparima.

The second company consisting of 72 men settled near Indian Walk, east of Princes Town, the third company of 70 men were settled at Mount Pleasant, east of Princes Town, the fourth company of 70 men was settled in Guaracara near Sherringville, north of Princes Town, the fifth company of 70 went to Lengua, south of Princes Town and the sixth company went to Matilda Junction, east of Princes Town.

John Mc Nish Weiss, who has done considerable research on the Merikins, recalled, "The first two lots comprising 140 civilian refugees were settled in Laventille and Caroni. A third group arrived from Bermuda on the HMS Carron, about a dozen landed in Port of Spain and 53 at Naparima."

Within weeks of their arrival in Trinidad, protests from estate owners in the Naparimas were sent to the Governor. He informed them later, "Naparima was the best place for them because of the superior fertility of the soil."

According to historian Father Anthony de Verteuil, "By May 1818 the refugees seemed to have lived very successfully. In 1825 they produced about 2,000 barrels of corn on the ear, over 4,000 barrels of rice, from a settlement comprising 187 women, 396 men and 300 children."

The Merikins were seen as model settlers for several decades. Of the hundreds who made the journey to Trinidad, most were urban artisans. Some were disappointed with the opportunities offered to them, with the result that many returned to the US. Those who stayed were granted 16 acres of arable land to hold in perpetuity and to grow crops that were needed for their survival.

"Each company village was under the supervision of a sergeant or corporal, recruited to ensure proper discipline among the refugees."

The refugees, being former colonial marines, were well acquainted with severe corporal punishment, and this system was practised during the early years of the company villages.

To get the Merikins started, the government provided shelter, tools, and some cuttings and seeds for planting. Some individuals also received an outfit of clothes, a blanket, and for the first few weeks a daily ration of plantain and salt meat. On arrival they immediately engaged in subsistence agriculture by planting corn, cassava, bananas, rice and other small crops that would provide them with food. Some worked as blacksmiths, carpenters, and masons on adjacent sugar and cocoa estates. Others worked as woodmen felling trees for the new settlement and construction of access roads.

Essentially they were a religious people, involved in the Baptist religion practised in the southern States of America.

Local Baptist ministers who visited the villages from time to time reported that while the majority of the villagers practised some form of religion, no progress was made in Fourth Company settlement.

Some settlers were not satisfied with the area set aside for them. Historian and author Michael Anthony stated, "The Fourth Company regarded the land they were given consisted of poor soil and it was a hard bargain. After investigating their complaint they were settled in another area called New Grant."

K O Lawrence, commenting on the state of religious practices in the villages said, "Although there were no clergymen at the settlements there were among the settlers five men who were described as 'Anabaptist preachers' who held Sunday services with the settlers."

Historians are of the view that the Baptist faith was brought to Trinidad by the Merikins. John Hackshaw, a former member of the Merikin fraternity stated, "The American settlers brought with them the Baptist faith of the Second Great Awakening, and combined it with the Gullah culture from Georgia. With the coming of missionaries of the Baptist Missionary Society from Britain, the Baptist faith in the Company Villages declined, but despite the schism between the so-called London Baptists and the rest, the Baptist congregation of the villages retained little visible African influence in their practice."

Those that settled in the Company Villages were exposed to the Baptist Missionary Society's influence, those that settled in the North of Trinidad practised the beliefs they brought from America with the inclusion of African religious practices and beliefs and out of that came the "Spiritual Baptists" which contains both elements of Protestant Christianity and many African rituals unique to Trinidad and Tobago.

After a few years the Baptist faith grew among the settlers and a new spiritual movement called the Shango (Orisha) emerged. As the villages grew and rivalries between the different groups surfaced, new churches were built in each village. However, the dominance of the London Baptist church was evident and it became the main religion in the Company Villages.

From this group emerged two missionaries, Rev George Cowen, and Hamilton who were responsible for establishing the Cowen Hamilton Secondary School at Moruga.

At Fifth Company, Ebenezer Elliot, better known as Pa Neezer, a descendant of the Merikins, had established himself as a spiritual healer and one who possessed prophetic powers.

He was a direct descendant of an original settler called George Elliot who had arrived in 1816 from the Colonial Marines of the Chesapeake Bay, one of the main areas involved in the 1812 Civil War in the US.

He was also feared as an obeahman.

He was largely responsible for bringing African and Orisha worship to the village.

Pa Neezer, as a leading Orisha organiser, gave Moruga its obeah fame that still endures today.
Title: Unveiling The History Of The Baptist Companies
Post by: Tallman on February 14, 2012, 11:01:35 AM
Unveiling The History Of The Baptist Companies
By Zahra Gordon (T&T Express)

August 26, 2011

The Gopaul Lands, Marabella bedroom of Augustus Lewis is filled with pride, disappointment and anger as about 10 people of Merikin descent convene for a weekly meeting to discuss the Merikin Heritage Project—a blueprint for celebrating the history of six companies of African-American soldiers settled in Trinidad in the early 1800s.

They do not usually meet in Lewis's bedroom or with unpleasant feelings, but the circumstances on this particular Saturday are exceptional. Lewis, founder of the organisation, recently suffered a stroke and was unable to leave the room; this was also the week after members had been informed—a mere five days before the scheduled opening on August 17, 2011—that the planned exhibit on the history of the Merikins of Moruga would be postponed until further notice.

Members say that National Museum officials cited "lack of funding" and "lack of ministerial support" as the reasons for this untimely action. When they received the information, three visiting overseas lecturers scheduled to speak at the opening had already arrived in this country.

"Why did it take so long to figure out that they didn't have enough funding?" asks Professor Tina Dunkley, Director of Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries in Atlanta, Georgia. "As budgets go, being appropriated for a certain amount of projects and programmes, why, at the very last moment, with no indication or notifying of the people who've already bought tickets and elected to come? To put them in that kind of situation is very awkward."

Dunkley is also of Merikin descent—fourth Company—and has recently located records, through national archives in both Port of Spain and London, of her enslaved ancestors who were soldiers the British Army during the War of 1812, which afforded them freedom.  At the end of the war, six companies were eventually settled in south-east Trinidad between 1815 and 1816 in what is now known as the Company Villages along the Moruga Road with each being granted 16 acres of land. The name "Merikin" derives from American. While this amazing story is detailed in the booklet The Merikens: Free Black American Settlers in Trinidad 1815-16 by anthropologist John McNish Weiss, it has also been kept alive through the oral histories of descendants.

While browsing a catalogue of a Merikin family reunion held in Trinidad, Dunkley spotted the unusual name—Bukusu—of a great-uncle she remembers her aunt constantly speaking about. Dunkley was delighted to connect with the Trinidadian Merikins as well as share her research at an evening of lectures and discussions, "We the Merikins" hosted in First Company Village on August 17th. A visual artist, Dunkley is currently producing work for an exhibition on the history of her family and the Merikins.   

The postponement of this exhibit, however, was yet another disappointment that has left some members to believe they have only themselves and other interested or generous citizens to depend on. The Merikin Heritage Project has morphed from what began as a family fraternity to what is now a non-profit organisation under the full title of Foundation of the Devil's Woodyard Volcano and Heritage Sites Company.

The Amphy & Bashana Jackson Fraternity began in the 1980s and hosted Merikin family reunions, but there was soon a call for expansion that would benefit and enhance the lives of the entire Merikin population.

In 2004, the formal name was adopted following meetings with UNESCO representatives when the plan to use 97 acres of land near the Company Villages, Moruga, for the Merikin Heritage Project was developed. UNESCO approached the group as 2004 had been declared the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle Against Slavery and its Abolition. The proposed project includes a museum, a research institute, an indigenous fruit orchard and other agricultural endeavours. 

However, both UNESCO and Trinidad government officials involved in the meetings have not followed through on any plans or promises although Lewis says that the Merikins and their villages are protected under the National Trust of Trinidad & Tobago.

"We believed we needed people to assist and the people who we believed would assist are trying to spoil whatever plans we have," says Michael Toussaint, member of the board of directors.The directors are continuing with their efforts, however, and are planning a festival to be held in 2012 – the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

Akilah Jaramogi, who was the organisation's liaison for the exhibition is questioning the UN declaration of 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent. "I went to UNESCO. I sat there with Susan Shurland and Hart Edwards. I did submit a proposal to them only to be told there is no money. I went to the foreign affairs ministry; I had a conversation with Mr Green, also to be told there is no money. So how serious is thing about International Year of People of African Descent when we are showing you directly that we are ready to tell our story to move forward and the state wasn't prepared. No one was prepared to really work with us"

The Merikins however remain a close-knit community and are determined that their story will be told. Like Dunkley, many believe it is their duty to keep this history alive: "It was an honour to be among diasporic Africans who possess considerable knowledge as to the fate of their ancestors during the epic of enslavement. We in America are most familiar with Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, but to excavate yet another epic saga of people who chose to relieve their souls on fire by escaping during a war, and taking up arms against their oppressor is just a story that must be shared. Our fore-parents had no means of uttering, except among themselves, much less, writing, about their harrowing plight," says Dunkley.

To find out more information about the Merikin Heritage Project and updates of events, contact: Akilah Jaramogi 689-7794, Augustus Lewis 658-3367, Phyllis George 720-2336. To make a donation to their efforts: First Citizens Bank, Marabella, Foundation of the Devil's Woodyard, #1936195
Title: 'Merikins' of Iere Village
Post by: Tallman on February 14, 2012, 11:02:58 AM
'Merikins' of Iere Village
By Louis B Homer (T&T Express)

February 4, 2011

Historians believe that some Amerindian tribes called Trinidad Iere – Land of the Hummingbird.

But when Christopher Columbus "discovered" the island in 1498, he named it La Ysla de la Trinidad. The new name was in fulfilment of a vow he made before setting out on his voyage.

Iere Village, near Princes Town, is the only place that bears the name given to Trinidad by the early inhabitants.

Iere Village is small but historically important, and lying on the western border of Princes Town, was formerly called Mission.

The Amerindians had developed a trace from Moruga to Mission, which survives today as the Moruga Road. For many years, this village remained dormant until the arrival of John and Sarah Morton, two Canadian missionaries who came in 1868 and established the first Presbyterian church in Trinidad.

The Mortons were known for their work with the East Indian society, as well as Presbyterianism.

When they died, their bodies were interred in a tomb at Iere Village. That tomb is now overgrown, on the compound of the first Presbyterian church to be built and which still stands today.

Rev Idris Hamid, a minister of the Presbyterian Church, remembered the history of the Mortons.

"Morton, of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, Canada, the pioneer missionary of the Presbyterian Church, came to Trinidad because of a throat infection. The couple was on a holiday trip to the Caribbean, and having nothing to do when they landed, John wandered about the sugar estates and was drawn to the plight of the working conditions of the East Indians on the sugarcane plantations, and he vowed to return to assist them in improving their living conditions."

He returned and settled in Iere Village in the days when sugar was king.

Iere Village, at the time, was important to the sugarcane industry.

What is left of the village now are memories of the glorious past, such as the harvesting of cane bull carts which often brought traffic to a halt, as the carts drawn by zebu bulls hauled the cane to the factory at the nearby Usine Ste Madeleine.

Not many residents remember the history of the village.

Angela Gay-Persad, president of the Iere Village Council, said, "All the old heads have died without leaving information about the past."

She is determined, however, to revive the knowledge of the village, as well as to bring about social and economic changes to Iere Village.

"I was born in the village and I have worked among the residents and if we are to move forward, our first need is a community centre to carry on classes to equip the youths with a skill that can help them to get a job," she said.

Gay-Persad is regarded as one of the busiest women in the village. She was around since the roads were unpaved and had attended the old Iere Village primary school, which was built 138 years ago.

A new primary school was recently constructed and the annex of the old school building is now used as a temporary community centre.

As she closed the doors to the old wooden building at the corner of Coryal Road, she said, "If you going to highlight Iere Village, make sure you state that we need a community centre."

She said the membership at the centre is very small. "But whenever we are having any activity to improve the lives of the villagers we get the full support of the villagers."

Pulchan Siew is 90 years of age.

He has been living in Coryal Road for the greater part of his life.

He told the Express, "When I came to live here, there were only two houses, and this road passing in front of the house was only mud, and it was the headmaster at the school that spoke to the warden and asked him to pave the road."

Siew retired from working on Malgretoute Estate before the closure of the sugar industry. Coryal Road is a short distance away from the first Presbyterian church to be built in Trinidad. It has its own history.

On a steep hill, a former black American soldier named Paul Jackson bought several acres of land on which his family of 18 lived. In time, the place became Jackson Hill and there are ten members of the Jackson family still living there.

Jackson was one of the "Merikins" who came to Trinidad in the 18th century, when some 800 former slaves and freed men arrived in Trinidad in companies, following the defeat of the British during the war of American independence in the 1770s.

Maureen Rawlin, an offspring of the Jackson family, said her great-grandfather was living at Sixth Company, Moruga, but he bought several acres of land at the highest point in Iere Village to "make garden to support his family".

She said, "Is one big family living in this area. We were told that our forebears were Merikins who came from South Carolina."

Not far from the Presbyterian church is one of the first mosques to be built in Trinidad.

Yusuf Mohammed, the caretaker, said, "At one time, it had plenty Muslims living here and they built two mosques."

Not far away is a Hindu temple, proof that while much may be wrong with Trinidad, religious tolerance of its people is not one.
Title: The Company Villages of Moruga: A Reference Point for Heritage Development
Post by: Tallman on February 14, 2012, 11:04:30 AM
The Company Villages of Moruga: A Reference Point for Heritage Development
By Peter Taylor (T&T Newsday)

June 21 2007

My fascination and childhood curiosity with names such as 5th and 6th Company and “Hard Bargain” villages was rekindled when I renewed my acquaintance with Anslem Blake resident of Hindustan Road, New Grant.

These names resurfaced in 1990 when, while a research assistant at the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of the West Indies St Augustine, I was asked to assist some young students in their preparation for the mock United Nation Conference taking place that same year.

My task was to guide these young persons, drawn from throughout the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago, some from the above mentioned villages, to the relevant research material at the University and elsewhere, appropriate to theie chosen country.

Not having then yet read Michael Anthony’s Towns and Villages and despite visiting my relatives as a child on King Street, Princes Town and neighbouring villages, my curiosity continued unabated up until recently, when in cursory conversation with Blake, I resolved to find everything I could on the history of the Company Villages.

My point of departure was a book entitled the Saga of the Companies published in 1978 by Boysie Huggins, found in the National Library.

This fascinating book brought to life a most unique and thrilling history of how the company villages came to be so named.

Huggins’ documentary notes that the original settlers to this area were African American soldiers who had fought for the British in the War of American Independence during the 1770s. These former slaves were offered their freedom in return for fighting for the British.

In November 1775, Lord Dunmore, the Governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation promising freedom to all slaves who deserted and fought for the British. Tens of thousands of slaves escaped to the British lines. Britain having been later defeated in this war, was asked to find a home for their soldiers. Huggins:

“Unwilling to send them to England, and not being able to settle them either in Canada or Australia…the British finally decided to send them to their newly acquired possession…Trinidad.” This transportation took place in the early 19th century and the Afro- Americans and their families were sent to Trinidad in six batches or Companies.”

Upon arrival, the settlers were deposited in the southern part of the island. The British kept its promise and gave the head of each household 16 acres of land and freedom from slavery. This land became known as “blood land” due to the nature of its acquisition.

Thee “company” villages are situated along the Moruga road, and are five in number. 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. The 2nd never reached Trinidad and is rumoured to have landed in Jamaica.

These “Merikins” (mutation of the world American) as they came to be known, numbered 574 in all, and settled in the middle of the jungle. Michael Anthony (Towns and Villages observes:

…after placing them there the Government never looked back to offer any help and the settlers…never forgave Woodford for his…fair promises to them before they arrived.

“It was a good thing that these men were of tough military fibre for it appears that it was now they had to turn towards clearing the land and preparing a place to live. They felled trees, thus clearing the area and also they used the wood of those trees to make houses. They planted crops…and set about the task of making roads and many of the roads that are in the company villages today were made by them during that period.”

Of immense historical interest are the origins of the present day names of many of the roads in he community. “Indian Walk” got its name from the daily trek made by the Guarahoon indigenous peoples of Venezuela who came to trade their goods.

“In time this track through which they walked, came to be described as the Indian Walk” (Anthony p 91).

Huggins illuminates the origins of various place names.

“The Guara-joons over-nighted at Rest House Road, a Gov’t Rest House until the 1920s. At Indian Walk is also Petit Café — where women did brisk trade selling edibles to the travelers. The travelers would then continue their journey to what is today Princes Town. To shorten this journey, one Ma Matilda, who owned land adjoining the Fair Field and New Fancy Estates allowed passage through her land, thus reducing the journey.” Thus Matilda Road.

Mandingo Road got its name from the descendants of the Mandingo tribe of West Africa who settled in the area. So too the Congos, hence Congo Block.

Also St Mary’s Village or Preau Village, named after one of the African personalities in the area.
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: Dutty on February 14, 2012, 12:01:35 PM

During the battle Britain lost to America,

REAL good read dey dread...... except for the lil bit of Mr Homer's revisionist history above

interesting that the american names get 'bred' out of existence in T&T....for all intents and purposes dem fellahs shoulda be runnin tings on the island, kinda like how they became so dominant in Liberia

I now await tt-sc rebuttal about how great he military was back den and how some brits, red indians and slaves coulda never buss dem up
Title: The Merikens
Post by: zuluwarrior on March 29, 2012, 07:34:33 AM

The Merikens

 By Bridget Brereton

Story Created: Mar 28, 2012 at 10:56 PM ECT
Story Updated: Mar 28, 2012 at 10:56 PM ECT )

Tomorrow is Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day, when we celebrate the tenacity and faith of the Spiritual Baptists on the day when, in 1951, the colonial law which declared their mode of worship to be illegal was revoked.
There is more than one view about the beginnings of this faith in Trinidad and indeed, probably more than one valid "origin story". But it's clear that one vital, and early, influence was that of the Merikens, who brought with them from the United States the Baptist faith so widely held by enslaved and free African-Americans in the southern states.
Many people know about this group's existence but are vague about how the Merikens came to Trinidad. It's often thought they were former slaves who had fought for the British in the American War of Independence (1776-83), which isn't correct—though many enslaved men did, in fact, serve with the British troops in that war.
An article in this newspaper published earlier this month had the Merikens coming to Trinidad "following the defeat of Britain and her allies in the Civil War". Wrong again. Britain wasn't directly involved in the Civil War (1861-65) which was—as the name implies—a conflict between the northern and southern states of the Union over slavery.
In fact, the Merikens came here after a rather obscure war between Britain and the young United States known as the war of 1812, which began exactly 200 years ago and ended in 1814. (It was when the president's mansion in Washington was burnt and the US national anthem was written during a siege of an American fort near Baltimore).
During this conflict, many enslaved African-Americans in the southern states joined the British forces, responding to the promise of freedom if they did. Most were enlisted in the Corps of Colonial Marines. After the war, recognising that their fate when the British left would have been grim indeed, the British military and naval authorities shipped them out of the United States. Some were settled in Trinidad with their families, starting in 1815. This is the origin of the Company villages in southern Trinidad.
Thanks to an invitation from the US Ambassador, I was able to see a new documentary film last week, called The Merikens, which accurately and imaginatively tells the story of how these people came to Trinidad. The result of a collaborative effort between the US Embassy and the British and Canadian High Commissions, the film was made by the husband and wife team of Judy Chong Dennison and Anthony Dennison, with inspired creative direction from Dahlia Dennison, their daughter.
Using silent actors who "play" the Merikens, featuring superb cinematography and stunning views of Trinidad's Chaguaramas peninsula and the off-shore islands, this film evokes the courage and tenacity of these people through beautiful images, a well-written and spoken narrative script, and interviews with a wide range of people, including several Meriken descendants (such as Hazel Manning, Augustus Lewis and Akilah Jaramogi).
One point that is made with great clarity in the film was that the two pillars of the Meriken story were their fierce determination to be free men and women, and their deeply held Christian (Baptist) faith. This should give pause to those persons who believe that pride in African ancestry and in African-American, or African-Caribbean heritage is somehow incompatible with belief in Christianity.
And the Merikens and their descendants were (and are) proud people who celebrated their unique past. In 1850, a full generation after they had arrived here, the English Baptist missionary George Cowen held a special service to commemorate emancipation at the Mount Elven Baptist church, near New Grant. He found that many of the descendants of the Merikens stayed away because, they said, they were not "fuss augus negroes"—people freed on August 1, 1838, by the British emancipation decree—but had been settled in Trinidad as free people long before. But some attended, and when Cowen read parts of Frederick Douglass' autobiography, "they recalled their experiences in the United States, and the horrors they escaped by aid of the British fleet".
In 1888, 70 years after the Merikens' arrival here, a visiting commission held a meeting at Fifth Company Village and found a strong, cohesive community still inhabited mainly by their descendants. Its leader was Robert Andrews, who called the village his "dominion". The son of two of the "old Americans", both former slaves in the United States, Andrews was literate and politically sophisticated. He had signed the petition for constitutional reform, which the commission was investigating, on behalf of many illiterate people in his district.
He and several other Merikens of the district, such as Alexander Wood and Philip Hill, gave evidence to the commission, setting out clearly their desire for elected members in the Legislative Council, "to make a House of Council where the Black could sit as well as the White", in Hill's words. These men were so well-informed and so confident in their views that the very colonial Commissioners were impressed almost against their will.
The Merikens' story deserves to be better known, and the new film should be shown widely—especially to young people.

• Bridget Brereton is Emerita Professor of History at UWI, St Augustine, and has studied and
written about the history of T&T, and the Caribbean for many years
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: Blue on March 31, 2012, 02:30:25 AM
More Merikins stuff

A list of the original settlers:

All John's papers on the subject:
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: Bakes on November 23, 2012, 10:40:22 PM
REAL good read dey dread...... except for the lil bit of Mr Homer's revisionist history above

Wait... so you trying to argue that the British didn't lose the Revolutionary War to George Washington and dem?  They win and decide to give up the colonies then?


Fascinating story.

EDIT:  Just came across this video from PBS in the involvement of black sailors in the War of 1812
Title: The Merikins: heroes of the forgotten war
Post by: Tallman on July 04, 2016, 12:27:18 PM
The Merikins: heroes of the forgotten war (
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: Tallman on July 04, 2016, 12:45:32 PM
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: weary1969 on July 11, 2016, 09:29:59 PM
Never heard about them until Powers said that Mrs. Manning was a descendant. So Google my bff was my next step. Only too see there is information here.
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: Deeks on July 12, 2016, 04:35:14 AM
Actually I saw that in the Sunday Guardian many moons ago. Early 70s. Only recently I read Mrs. Manning was a descendant. Pretty cool stuff, ah tell yuh.
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: Jumbie on July 12, 2016, 06:13:50 AM
I'm from the village of Guaracara and it's kinda sad that were never taught (even verbal discussion among elders) that the Merikins were some of the original settlers. However, when I was a kid my dad found an old pipe (smoking) while tilling the soil in his garden (a former cocoa estate) and besides being very old looking, the pipe part where you'd put the tobacco was carved in the shape of a black mans head. Would be interesting to have it dated.

Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: Deeks on July 12, 2016, 08:31:36 AM
I think villages like 5th and 6th company are names of the Merikins soldiers army companies. I like reading the historical stuff of TT and the Caribbean. The funniest one is about the town of Hardbargain. From what I read(hope I have it correct), Some former slaves or freedwomen actually, were given plots of land. But they refused because it was stoney and not fit for agriculture.  They were steadfast in their protest, so much so, the governor said "those women drive a hard bargain". I laugh when I read it. But I can't seem to find the article on that.
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: Jumbie on July 12, 2016, 12:37:09 PM
I think villages like 5th and 6th company are names of the Merikins soldiers army companies. I like reading the historical stuff of TT and the Caribbean. The funniest one is about the town of Hardbargain. From what I read(hope I have it correct), Some former slaves or freedwomen actually, were given plots of land. But they refused because it was stoney and not fit for agriculture.  They were steadfast in their protest, so much so, the governor said "those women drive a hard bargain". I laugh when I read it. But I can't seem to find the article on that.

that's what I read somewhere also. Hardbargain is not to far from Guaracara (same football and cricket leagues) and funny enough, many of the surnames called in the video are prominent families there.. Jackson and Huggins. 
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: Tallman on July 12, 2016, 01:37:33 PM
Never heard about them until Powers said that Mrs. Manning was a descendant. So Google my bff was my next step. Only too see there is information here.

I mehself is ah descendant.
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: Tallman on July 12, 2016, 03:15:06 PM
I think villages like 5th and 6th company are names of the Merikins soldiers army companies. I like reading the historical stuff of TT and the Caribbean. The funniest one is about the town of Hardbargain. From what I read(hope I have it correct), Some former slaves or freedwomen actually, were given plots of land. But they refused because it was stoney and not fit for agriculture.  They were steadfast in their protest, so much so, the governor said "those women drive a hard bargain". I laugh when I read it. But I can't seem to find the article on that.

Yes, this is correct.

Of the remaining three, the Fourth was established at what is now eponymously called Hardbargain (Williamsville) due to the dissatisfaction with the difficult nature of the soil in that territory.
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: Deeks on July 13, 2016, 08:16:27 AM
One thing of note as pertain to the difficult nature of the soil in Hardbargain. I can remember the first time I played in Skinner Park, I was struck by the soil which was a black shale soil as oppose to the red dirt up North. And also playing in Palo Seco Velo. on a very rainy day. My uniform was black by halftime.
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: weary1969 on July 13, 2016, 08:34:57 AM
Never heard about them until Powers said that Mrs. Manning was a descendant. So Google my bff was my next step. Only too see there is information here.

I mehself is ah descendant.

Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: weary1969 on July 13, 2016, 08:36:22 AM
I'm from the village of Guaracara and it's kinda sad that were never taught (even verbal discussion among elders) that the Merikins were some of the original settlers. However, when I was a kid my dad found an old pipe (smoking) while tilling the soil in his garden (a former cocoa estate) and besides being very old looking, the pipe part where you'd put the tobacco was carved in the shape of a black mans head. Would be interesting to have it dated.


I did O level and A level history and never heard about these people. Patos educate meh even in death.
Title: Re: The Merikins
Post by: asylumseeker on February 15, 2018, 11:30:01 PM
Finding a Lost Strain of Rice, and Clues to Slave Cooking
By Kim Severson, The New York Times.

The search for the missing grain led to Trinidad and Thomas Jefferson, and now excitement among African-American chefs.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Among the biologists, geneticists and historians who use food as a lens to study the African diaspora, rice is a particularly deep rabbit hole. So much remains unknown about how millions of enslaved Africans used it in their kitchens and how it got to those kitchens to begin with.

That’s what made the hill rice in Trinidad such a find.

The fat, nutty grain, with its West African lineage and tender red hull, was a favored staple for Southern home cooks during much of the 19th century. Unlike Carolina Gold, the versatile rice that until the Civil War was America’s primary rice crop, the hill rice hadn’t made Lowcountry plantation owners rich off the backs of slaves.

It didn’t need to be planted in watery fields surrounded by dikes, which meant that those who grew it weren’t dogged by malaria. You could grow it in a garden patch, as did many of the slaves who had been taken from the rice-growing regions of West Africa. This was the rice of their ancestors, sustaining slaves and, later, generations of Southern cooks both black and white.

Even Thomas Jefferson was a fan. Some researchers think he is the one who helped spread hill rice throughout the South, giving gifts of the African seed from a 30-gallon cask a ship captain brought him from Africa in 1790. But by World War I, the rice had all but disappeared, a victim both of cheaper imports that were easier to produce and of the Great Migration, in which millions of African-Americans left the rural South.

Mr. Dennis had heard about hill rice — also known as upland red bearded rice or Moruga Hill rice — through the culinary organization Slow Food USA and the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, the group that brought back Carolina Gold in the early 2000s. He’d also heard stories about it from elderly cooks in his community. Like everyone else, he thought the hill rice of the African diaspora was lost forever.

But then, on a rainy morning in the Trinidad hills in December 2016, he walked past coconut trees and towering okra plants to the edge of a field with ripe stalks of rice, each grain covered in a reddish husk and sprouting spiky tufts.

“Here I am looking at this rice and I said: ‘Wow. Wait a minute. This is that rice that’s missing,’” he said.

It is hard to overstate how shocked the people who study rice were to learn that the long-lost American hill rice was alive and growing in the Caribbean. Horticulturists at the Smithsonian Institution want to grow it, rice geneticists at New York University are testing it and the United States Department of Agriculture is reviewing it. If all goes well, it may become a commercial crop in America, and a menu staple as diners develop a deeper appreciation for African-American food.

“It’s the most historically significant African diaspora grain in the Western Hemisphere,” said David S. Shields, a professor at the University of South Carolina and chairman of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, who works with Mr. Dennis on historical culinary projects and was with him that rainy day in Trinidad.

Mr. Dennis, 38, believes food is the living bearer of history. He has devoted himself to promoting the cooking of the Gullah-Geechee Nation, the descendants of West Africans who lived along the coast from North Carolina to North Florida. Their cooks created the peanut stews, okra-laced purloos and seafood that define Lowcountry cuisine.

“What I am doing is searching for my culture through food,” he said.

But how did the rice travel to that field in Trinidad? Dr. Shields has a theory.

It begins during the War of 1812, when British soldiers promised land and freedom to a small group of West African slaves along the Eastern Seaboard if they would take up arms against their masters. They did, and each was given 16 acres of undeveloped land in southern Trinidad. They came to be called the Merikins, a Creole rendering of the word American.

One group was the Fourth British Marine Company, from the Georgia Sea Islands. The rice, which Dr. Shields believes can be traced to Jefferson’s barrel of seed, was among the crops the group brought with them to Trinidad.

The missing piece of the puzzle would have not been found if it hadn’t been for Trinidadian ethnobotanist Francis Morean, a man with Merikin roots who has recorded interviews with most of the 60 or so Merikins still growing hill rice on the island.

Mr. Morean had traveled to the American South in September 2015 as part of his exploration of African diaspora cooking. He had heard about Mr. Dennis, but wasn’t able to find him. Then, a few months later, Mr. Dennis reached out to him on Facebook, and the two bonded over their interest in using agriculture to keep their shared heritage alive.

Still, no one had made the connection between the rice in Trinidad and the rice that had been lost in the American South. Most students of Gullah-Geechee cuisine thought Carolina Gold was the only rice that enslaved Africans in the coastal South had cooked.

Mr. Morean organized a small rice symposium in Trinidad in the winter of 2016, and asked Dr. Shields to present a paper on the island’s hill rice. Also on the guest list were Mr. Dennis and Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine, the elected leader and official spokeswoman of the Gullah-Geechee Nation, who often employs Mr. Dennis to cook for official events.

Dr. Shields, who is part of a global effort to find new ways to grow rice on dry land, began his research, and realized that the Trinidad hill rice might be linked to the missing American rice, which in turn could be traced all the way back to the West African rice fields.

On that wet morning in Moruga, Trinidad, he had his answer.

“When I got out of the car and walked toward the field and saw the rice just about to be harvested, I knew it had to be the real thing,” he said. “It was like you see the story made flesh. You see something that has existed as really an abstract possibility suddenly become real.”

Glenn Roberts, the founder of Anson Mills, immediately jumped on board. There is no one as fanatic about Southern heirloom grains as Mr. Roberts, whose South Carolina company led the revival of Carolina Gold rice and several other Southern heirloom grains.

Mr. Roberts arranged to have about 80 pounds of the Trinidad rice shipped to the United States. A few pounds made its way to Edouardo Jordan, the Southern chef who opened the restaurant Junebaby in Seattle last year. Mr. Jordan cooked with it and loved it.

The rice performs differently in the kitchen than Carolina Gold, which works best in wet or creamy recipes like Hoppin’ John or risotto. Hill rice is better dry, with an okra stew or a sauté or chutney piled on top.

Mr. Jordan is so enamored that he is trying to find farmers in the Northwest to grow it, once the seed is approved by the Agriculture Department.

“If we can bring this back,” he said, “the historical back story could deepen the development of African diaspora food in America and better tell the real story of Southern food.”

At another rice symposium held by the Carolina Rice Foundation in April, Mr. Dennis prepared hill rice for everyone. He cooked it the way he had learned to during his time in Trinidad, simmering it in coconut water until the rice became starchy. Then he covered the rice with chutney made from grinding toasted benne seeds; an herb called shadow benne that is similar to cilantro; some bird’s-eye peppers, and garlic with a little oil. It was delicious.

Like many a detective story, this one has some loose ends.

Michael Purugganan, a New York University biology professor, was at the Charleston event. He had been part of a team that in 2015 sequenced the genomes of Oryza glaberrima, the African crop now grown by descendants of escaped slaves in the South American country Suriname, and connected it to rice that grew in Ivory Coast.

That discovery was concrete evidence of the high level of rice-growing knowledge among African slaves, and marked the first time genetics had been used to pinpoint the origin of a slave crop in the Americas.

Could the Trinidadian rice be another example? Dr. Purugganan took the rice to his laboratory in Greenwich Village and sequenced its genes.

It turned out not to be indigenous African glaberrima, but more likely a Japonica rice that made its way from Southeast Asia to West Africa between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Amy Lawton-Rauh, a Clemson University professor of genetics and biochemistry who is working on the genetics of hill rice, is using population genomics tools to test whether the hill rice has a more complex history. It could even be a hybrid, she said, and not necessarily linked to Jefferson’s rice.

So much rice may have been passed around among slave families and descendants that there is no way to be certain where the seed originated, said Christopher Wilson, director of experience design at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

“It might be too much to just give credit to Jefferson,” Mr. Wilson said. “We know about him because we have records. But people miss just how big rice was, and how much money was involved and how much history we have no written record of.”

Still, he is as excited as anyone about the hill rice. He has introduced Mr. Roberts to a horticulturist at the Smithsonian to grow and display some of the hill rice. Last summer, Mr. Wilson invited Mr. Roberts to discuss the rice alongside Michael Twitty, a culinary historian and the author of ”The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South” at a Smithsonian event.

Mr. Twitty, who first heard about the rice from Mr. Dennis, has embraced it. It fits in nicely with his work, which includes researching the links between Southern food and West African cooking.

For the event, Mr. Twitty used it as the base for a chicken stew, made in the style of the Mende people of Sierra Leone, that he cooked with palm oil, onions and garlic. “I don’t really like brown rice at all, but it’s not like that,” he said.

His appreciation goes beyond taste: The rice helps validate the African experience in America. “It’s another living artifact that automatically wipes out any nonsense about the earliest years of African-American food,” he said.

For now, no one is growing the rice commercially, but Dr. Shields and Mr. Roberts hope it will be embraced by Gullah farmers, and spread from there. In the meantime, they hope to find an economical way to import it from growers in Trinidad.

For Mr. Dennis, the chef, a steady supply would ensure that his purloos, like the rice-and-okra dish called Limpin’ Susan (often referred to as the cousin or wife of Hoppin’ John), would have a new dimension.

He also hopes that the rice will eventually sell at a price that most cooks can afford, and that African-American home cooks will come to see the hill rice and other traditional dishes as healthier alternatives to a popular perception of soul food.

“We’ve been warped into thinking it’s mac-and-cheese and collard greens,” he said.

African-American cooking, at least as defined in the Lowcountry, is about slow-cooked peas and vegetables and specific strains of rice, he said.

“Culturally, this rice is a hidden story of the African-American and enslaved narrative,” he said. “A lot of our ancestors were not able to read or write, so a lot of stories aren’t able to be told. But we can cook this rice, and we can tell the story.”