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Mission becomes Princes Town Renamed after royal visit
« on: January 21, 2013, 02:31:55 AM »
Mission becomes Princes Town
Renamed after royal visit...
By Louis B Homer South Bureau

Story Created: Jan 20, 2013 at 10:52 PM ECT

Story Updated: Jan 20, 2013 at 11:30 PM ECT

Among the rural villages in Trinidad, Mission (renamed Princes Town) has the distinction as a leading community in inter-religious development in Trinidad.

Four known religions had their beginnings in or within the geographic area of Princes Town — the Roman Catholics, Presbyterian, Muslim and London Baptists.

It was the proliferation and teaching from the gospel, Koran and Gita that accounted for the rich, multi-religious society for which the village is famous.

In October 1687, it became home to the Catholics when the Catalan Capuchin monks of Spain had selected the area to establish a mission at Savana Grande (Princes Town). There they built a hut and dedicated it to the Annunciation of Nazareth.

Despite the apparent success of that mission, the native Amerindians in other missions did not take too kindly to the monks in Arena. In that mission, there was a massacre in 1699, and several monks and the Spanish governor were killed.

The Presbyterian Church in Trinidad had its early beginnings at Iere Village, which lies on the outskirts of Princes Town. Rev John Morton, of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, Canada, the pioneer missionary of the Canadian Presbyterian Church, arrived in Trinidad in 1867 looking for a cure for a throat infection and diphtheria.

THE FIRST: Iere Presbyterian Church built by Rev John Morton. —Photos: LOUIS B HOMER

At that time, the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland had three ministers in Trinidad and a church at Iere Village on the verge of abandonment.

After several visits to East Indian workers on the sugar cane estates, Morton decided to return to Canada and present a case for the establishment of a church to provide religious teaching to East Indians.

Morton presented his concern to the leaders of the Church in Canada and, on approval, he and his wife Sarah returned to Trinidad on January 6, 1868. The next day, they reached Iere Village with a carpenter and $600 to effect repairs to a church building that was falling apart.

Morton then began his pastoral work in Iere Village. There he found the people curious and friendly. They treated him with respect and even sought his help and advice.

Soon he turned to education, and within three months of his arrival in Trinidad he started a school on March 23, 1868, with three East Indian children on his doorstep.

To promote his cause for education, Morton visited the children at their homes in Mount Stewart and encouraged their parents to send them to school. That was the beginning of a system that in later years mushroomed into a number of Presbyterian churches and primary and secondary schools in Trinidad.

The London Baptist Church had its beginning in 1843 with the appointment of Rev George Sherman Cowen, a member of the Baptist Missionary Society. Cowen had done a considerable amount of work among the 'Merikins' living on the outskirts of Princes Town. It is not clear whether the Third Company Baptist Church or Fifth Company Baptist Church was the first in the village.

Although information concerning the construction of the first Muslim place of worship at Iere Village is sketchy, it is generally accepted that the mosque on the outskirts of Princes Town was the first to be built in Trinidad.

But there is more to the ancient village of Mission, which lost its original name following a visit by two English princes. On January 20, 1880, Princes Albert and George, sons of the Prince of Wales, and grandsons of Queen Victoria, visited Mission and planted two poui trees on the grounds of St Stephen's Anglican Church to mark their visit.

STILL STANDING: A poui tree planted on January 20, 1880 on the grounds of the St Stephen's Anglican Church to mark the visit of Princes Albert and George on their visit to Mission.

The princes arrived in Trinidad on the SS Bacchante on their way to Australia, and travelled to Mission, and then on horseback to visit the mud volcano at Hindustan.

Shortly after their visit, the Port of Spain Gazette reported, "We have on reliable authority that henceforth Mission will be known and distinguished by the more flattering and certainly more appropriate name of Princes Town." And so the Mission of Savanna Grande became Princes Town.

Historically, Princes Town has also been associated with the rail system, which had its beginning with the formation in 1859 of the Naparima Harbour, Land and Tramway Company.

It was first introduced as a facility to transport sugarcane from the estates to the factory at nearby Usine Ste Madeleine, and later as a passenger train hub that took commuters from Princes Town to San Fernando.

By 1860, the tramway transported passengers in and out of the town, making stops at Cross Crossing, Victoria Village and Ste Madeleine. Later it became the nucleus of the Trinidad Government Railway.

With the start of the sugarcane industry in Trinidad, Princes Town became a major administrative centre for several sugarcane estates in Naparima.

Small and large estates sprang up around the town and a factory to grind raw sugarcane into sugar was started at nearby Ste Madeleine in 1882 by the Colonial Company.

The factory was then regarded as a prize of the British.

Princes town also served as the main artery for traffic leading to Rio Claro and Mayaro. Additionally, it was the gateway to Devil's Woodyard and villages in the Moruga district. Between Princes Town and Moruga a significant number of former US Marines, referred to as Merikins, occupied vast acreages of agricultural lands granted to them by the British government.

The Merikins had arrived from the United States in 1816 and had settled in six villages along Moruga Road.

From that community came Pa Neeza, an early descendant who advanced his popularity as a herbal doctor. When he died in 1969, he was buried at the Fifth Company cemetery. His tomb is among several sites in Trinidad that have been declared by the National Trust as "a place of interest".

The sugar industry that had helped to build the economy of Princes Town was closed in 2003, leaving hundreds of workers on the breadline. With the closure of the industry, there was a decline in activities in the town as well as the surrounding estates.

In the area of culture, the early East Indian families brought to Cedar Hill, an area on the outskirts of the town centre, the festival of Ramleela.

Cedar Hill is generally regarded as the first village where the cultural practice began. The amphitheatre in which the festival is held ranks among the best in Trinidad for open-air theatrical performances.

The lands on which the amphitheatre is located were donated to the Ramleela organisation of Cedar Hill by Usine Ste Madeleine. Every year, thousands of patrons descend on this site to take part in the celebrations.

After 133 years in existence, the residents continue to play a meaningful role in all aspects of Trinidad culture. It still remains the centre of stickfighting, which is part of the Carnival celebrations.

Every year on January 20 an observance called Princes Town Day is held in the town under the auspices of the Princes Town Regional Corporation.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 02:40:32 AM by truetrini SC »