History of Portland

Portland – Famous Personalities

 Hon. Roy Thompson was born in Kensington on August 6, 1933. He was a policeman and spent 41 years 2 months in the Jamaica Constabulary Force. He is one of six Jamaicans to have moved from the rank of Constable to Commissioner. He was appointed Custos of Portland on October 20, 2000.

Dr. Donald Rhodd is the Member of Parliament (M P) for east Portland. He became MP in January 1998. He is an opthalmologist

T.P.Lecky an agricultural icon was born on December 31, 1904 in Swift River, Portland. During his lifetime Mr. Lecky served in various positions in the agricultural sector. His Dedication to research in this field led him in the production of the Jamaica Hope Dairy Cattle, the Jamaica Reds, the Jamaica Blacks and the Jamaica Brahman. He spent over sixty years in livestock research, which resulted in the island’s leading beef cattle breed the Jamaica Red Poll.

It is said that at one time Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis and Rudyard Kipling were regular faces around town. Also seen regularly in Port Antonio was Errol Flynn: dashing, suave, jet-setter and movie star who owned Navy Island at one time.

Portland – Legends

Folly – The Legend

A young American decided to build a summerhouse for his bride.  The house was built on land at the eastern headland of Port Antonio harbour, with a commanding view of the sea. When the house was completed, it was a splendid vision in white.  The house with its magnificent columns were white, the flowers which adorned the gardens were white, so too were the doves, the monkeys and the peacocks, which the young bridegroom kept in the gardens. As soon as the young bride set foot in the competed house, to her dismay, a wall crumbled.  In building the house, sea sand was used in the cement mixture. Distressed, she fled the scene, vowing never to return.  Her distraught husband pined away and soon died.  His remains, at his request, were put at a point where the seawater would splash upon the grave.

Fact is, although the house wasn’t correctly built, it survived longer than the legend would make one think.  The bride was not very young either.  In fact, when she came to Folly in 1905, she was already a grandmother.  What is more, her husband died in 1912 and photographs taken as late as 1914 show that she continued to live at Folly long time after his death. Apparently her husband was first buried on the property, but his remains were eventually shipped back to the United States.  The mansion at Folly stood for some 30 years before the roof fell in.  It is believed that the mansion was constructed using either sea sand or seawater in the cement mixture.  This led to corrosion of the iron reinforcing rods.  There is nothing to substantiate the story that everything was white.  However, there were some monkeys on the property.

Portland – Special Attractions

Somerset Falls

Tumbling down the hillsides, Daniel’s River makes a beautiful painting of the landscape.  Miniature waterfalls along the narrow gorge add to this awesome scenery, with the mist and the steady rush of water blotting out the outside world.

The Non-such Caves

As the popular story goes, these caves were “ discovered” in 1957 by a goat that seemed to have lost its way.  Many Portlanders take this “discovery” to task, as having been home to Tainos in a bygone era, the caves were only rediscovered in 1957.  Mother Nature seems to have used her free hand to create similar structures to what man has created to adorn the chambers.

Blue Lagoon

A 55-meter (180 ft) deep extinct volcano, surrounded by lush tropical foliage, underground streams feed the Blue Lagoon.  In its heyday, this area was famous for water skiing.

Rio Grande

In recent times, rafting on this river has become a great tourist attraction.  Rafting starts at Berrydale and continues for about 4 kilometres ending at Rafter’s Rest.

Reach Falls

Situated in Manchioneal, these breathtaking falls are a scenic highlight of the area.

Crystal Springs

This is a recreational centre which boasts 156 acres.  Among the facilities offered are fishponds and river, picnic grounds and a garden.

Navy Island

Seven minutes by boat from Port Antonio.  Attractions include a guided tour by reservation.  There are also cottages and villas, a marina bar, restaurant and white sand beach with water sporting activities.

Titchfield School

The main building of Titchfield was at one time a military barracks, built in 1743 to protect planters against invasion and attacks from the Maroons.  Fort George, which overlooks the harbour, was built in 1729.  Titchfield was founded in 1786 as a “free” school for the education of the youth of the parish.

Fair Prospect Comprehensive High School

This is the location of the Fair Prospect Windmill Tower.  The Tower was used to lift water from an underground source, which is now a dry cave.  The tower was converted to a residence, however, the integrity of the exterior of the windmill is maintained.

Seaman’s Valley

This property has on it the ruins of the Seaman’s Valley Great House and the first European cemetery in this area of Portland.  Here George Fuller, famous English superintendent of the Moore Town Maroons was buried.  The Seaman’s Valley road leads to Moore Town, the oldest settlement of the entire valley, and also to the headquarters of the Eastern Maroons.

Cenotaph – Port Antonio

The Cenotaph, Port Antonio, is situated opposite the market.  It was erected in 1929 by voluntary subscription and is dedicated to those who died in the First World War.

On each side of it are four marble plates, one bearing the following inscription:

 

“In memory of the sons of Portland

who made the supreme sacrifice in

The great war.”

De Montevin Lodge

De Montevin Lodge situated on Fort George Street, Port Antonio, is a very good example of Victoria Vykes gingerbread architecture.  It is considered to be a mansion in New England, ships captain architecture, complete with marble tubs and basins and etched glass windows. It was the home of Eugene De Montevin Gideon, M.D., born in Portland on the 21st of May 1885.  He was the eldest son of the Honorable D.S Gideon and Mrs. Gideon. The De Montevin Lodge itself is over a hundred years old.  The house was run as a guesthouse before it was bought over 35 years ago.

Old Nanny Town

This Maroon citadel was not by any means the nearest site to reach.  Situated on Nanny Town Hill High above sea level, this was the most famous settlement of the Maroons.  It had over 140 houses, most of which were burnt by the militia and rebuilt by the Maroons during the four years of fighting which preceded the treaty. It has been named after Nanny, the great Maroon leader who brought the Maroon many of their victories during the first Maroon War.  Built around 1723, it was not discovered by the English until 1728, when Sambo, an African led them to it. Today there is little to see, but the ruins of the barracks built by the occupying troops between 1734 and 1740.  A plaque commemorates the occupancy of Nanny Town by Colonel Brooks and the British troops under him.

Moore Town (New Nanny Town)

In 1739, Cudjoe, Nanny’s brother, signed a peace treaty with the British.  The Maroons thereby became the first group of blacks to succeed in gaining their freedom from their colonial masters.  Nanny, however, refused to sign a treaty with the British but agreed to a truce.  Nanny’s Maroons, after the truce, divided themselves into two groups, one of which went with her brother Quaco to Crawford Town and the other group followed Nanny to a new settlement, New Nanny Town, now called Moore Town.

The success of settlements like Moore Town, depended to a large extent on the quality of the Superintendent and Moore Town was fortunate in obtaining good ones.  The most famous of these was Lt. George Fuller, an Englishman, who became the Acting Barracks master, and later Superintendent at Moore Town between 1809 and 1823.  He also started the Fuller family through marriage with a Maroon girl. Moore Town is today governed by a Colonel, a Maroon given the honorary title earned by his ancestors.

RAFTING ON THE RIO GRANDE

Rafting on the Rio Grande is a unique experience and one that has been enjoyed by royalty is one of the most popular attractions of Portland.

The Rio Grande is one of the major rivers of Jamaica. The river’s course passes through some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery in the island. The rafts are made of the sturdy bamboo that grows wild in Portland. The art of making these rafts has been passed down from father to son for generations. Each raft is thirty feet long, with a seat mounted towards the rear on a raised platform to provide room for two persons. The trip begins at one of the two beaches upriver. The first of these is at Grant’s Level, and is about a half-mile above Berrydale Landing, the second beach. At both, raftsmen await like Jamaican gondoliers to take visitors on this scenic trip.

Once the raftsman shoves off from the landing, the beauty of Jamaica unfolds like a kaleidoscope of colour as the river twists and winds through the hills. The raftsman has a load of intriguing information about the river and about Jamaica. The rafting trip terminates downriver at Rafter’s Rest where the river meets the sea.

 Portland – Transportation and Communications

From Port Antonio…

to Kingston                                         98 km    (61 miles)

to Mandeville                                      188 km  (117 miles)

to Montego Bay (MoBay)                  214 km  (133 miles)

to Negril via MoBay                           298 km  (185 miles)

to Ocho Rios                                      106 km  (66 miles)

to Falmouth                                        177 km  (110 miles)

to Savanna-la-mar                            264 km  (164 miles)

to Spanish Town                               113 km  (68 miles)

to Black River                                     251 km  (156 miles)

The Ken Jones Airstrip near Port Antonio, is capable of accommodating light planes.

Portland – Main Towns

The two main towns of the parish are Port Antonio the capital and Buff Bay.

Port Antonio is regarded as the cradle of the tourism industry having been the first town in the country to accommodate tourist visits as a result of the emergence of the Banana Industry. It has the distinction of having two harbours and one of its main features is the Navy Island, situated on its western harbour. Port Antonio in recent years has been assuming increasing importance as an economic and cultural centre, and it is the hideaway of some of Jamaica’s most exclusive tourist accommodations.

Portland – Health

There are sixteen health centres in Portland. There is a community hospital at Buff Bay and a public hospital at Port Antonio.

Portland – Film

As early as the 1950s, Portland was considered an ideal filming location. More than 700 film and screen recordings including industrial films, features, television series and television commercials have been shot in the parish. Popular productions filmed in Portland include Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Island in the Sun, The Harder They Come, Club Paradise and Legends of the Fall.

 Portland – Tourism

The tourism industry continues to be the single most significant sector contributing to Jamaica’s economic growth. New opportunities have been created to reach record levels of visitor’s satisfaction, increased stopover and repeat business. Tourism also serves as a vehicle for the social upliftment of the Jamaican people. Tourism contributes to social infrastructure, community development projects, community heritage preservation and development projects.    Jamaica’s tourist industry was born in Port Antonio over a century ago when Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker built the island’s first hotel, the “Queen Anne Titchfield Hotel” in 1891. Tourism continues to be one of Portland’s leading industries.

The famous Boston Jerk Pork has given The Jamaica Tourist Board its foundation for its annual Jerk Festival where over 40,000 people attend in July. There is also the Annual Busso Festival at Swift River in August. Busso is a mollusk found in the rivers in Portland. Dishes served included Busso soup, Busso patty, Curry Busso, Jerked Busso, Stewed Busso and Busso Punch. The International Marlin Tournament is held in Port Antonio in October each year. These three activities are designed to showcase Portland and to attract tourists to the parish. The Jerk and Busso Festivals are prime examples of community tourism.

Portland – Agriculture

Portland is known for its vast contribution to the country’s agricultural output and its main areas of contribution are in the cultivation of bananas, coconuts and breadfruits for both the domestic and foreign markets. Most of its coastal strip has been designated as land suitable for cultivation with almost no limitation. No other agricultural land has been attributed with this description in Jamaica.  The Banana industry has never returned to its original yield of the eighteenth century but this industry still continues to contribute significantly to the country’s total yield per year.

Captain Bligh is credited with introducing breadfruit and Otaheiti apples to Jamaica via Port Antonio in 1793. These were initially introduced to provide food for soldiers, slaves and settlers everywhere. Today, the main crops grown in the parish are coconut, bananas, breadfruit and coffee. Coffee production has expanded. The aromatic and exquisitely flavoured Blue Mountain Coffee is world famous. The prestige of the brand ensures that it fetches top prices in the world market.

 

Portland – History

Portland was named for the Duke of Portland who was a Governor of Jamaica between 1722 and 1726.  Portland is a combination of the parish of St. George and a part of St. Thomas.  At one time Port Antonio was renamed Titchfield, but since the old name continued to be used the new one was abandoned.

In 1723, in an attempt to populate the parish, the Governor offered a grant of 30 acres of land to every white protestant wishing to settle in Portland and to every free mulatto, Indian or Negro a grant of 20 acres.

When people did not respond to the offer the Governor increased his incentive to include provisions of beef and flour and an offer to free them from taxes and arrest for three years. These attempts failed as the immigrants from the British Isle were unable to withstand the rigors of cultivating high up on the mountainsides.  Also the maroons who lurked in the Blue and John Crow Mountains were adamant that Europeans would not settle Portland. Most of the white settlers were useless against the maroons.  The only force seemingly able to withstand them was the “blackshot” Negro slaves, freed men and mulattos.  The maroons got all their firepower through raiding plantations or purchasing from the enemy. The 1730’s saw a series of battles between the maroons and the British.  When it seemed that the maroons were about to destroy Portland, the British captured Nanny Town, the maroon settlement whose leader was the woman who was later to become Jamaica’s first National Heroine: Nanny. The Titchfield Hotel, built by the United Fruit Company in the mid 1800’s, was the hotel of Port Antonio.  During the early days of Portland tourisms, the rail service was the convenient way of travelling from Port Antonio to Kingston and even on to Montego Bay.

With the arrival of tourism and the export of bananas, Port Antonio and Buff Bay thrived.  However, misfortune struck in the form of hurricanes and Panama disease, which virtually destroyed the banana plantations.  Despite the decline in banana exports, and the subsequent decline in Port Antonio’s economy, the capital town has bounced back and today is the hideaway of some exclusive tourist accommodations.

Portland – Geology and Mineral Deposits

The Blue Mountain Range consists of layers of metamorphic and igneous rocks, which contain iron ore deposits.  The rocks in the Rio Grande Valley carry some copper deposits, while in the Marshall Hall area, high-grade manganese ore may be found.

Elevations

Blue Mountain has the highest peak in the island.  The walk up is a popular trek for the adventurous that seeks the unsurpassed beauty afforded at this elevation. Portland shares the crest of the Blue Mountain peak with St. Thomas at a height of 2,256m above sea level. The Blue Mountain East Peak reaches 2,248m above sea level and a few other points strive to match those heights along the Blue Mountain range: These include Sir John’s Peak at 1,930m above sea level and Portland Gap at a height of 1,675m above sea level.

Rainfall

Portland lies in the direct path of the prevailing northeast trade winds that bring rain, and its hilly features conspire to trap the winds and ensure almost daily rainfall.

 

Portland – Location & Overview

Portland is the most northeasterly parish in Jamaica. Bounded on the north and northeast by the Caribbean Sea, on the west by St. Mary and on the south by St. Thomas. The parish covers 89.86km of the island’s total coastal area while its maximum width is approximately 20.8km. Portland’s coastline stretches from Hectors River in the east to Windsor Castle in the west.

GEOGRAPHY

AREA

814 sp. km (approx. 314.3 sq. miles.)

POPULATION SIZE

78,900

DENSITY

97 persons per sq. km

251 persons per sq. ml

The sometimes-daily rainfall accounts for the lush scenery along the Portland countryside. The mountains are huge fortresses, rugged, steep, densely forested and seemingly impregnable – layers and layers of mountains seven thousand, four hundred and two feet up to the Blue Mountain Peak.  The Blue Mountain Peak itself is found in both Portland and St Thomas. In contrast to the rugged mountains there is the lush plain of Long Road in east Portland. The seacoast towns of Portland are Hope Bay, Orange Bay, St. Margaret’s Bay and Buff Bay Forest reserves are on the upper slopes of the Blue Mountain. Along the ranges of the highest elevation point in Jamaica lies 103.6km of unexplored wilderness and rich rain forests. Despite the felling of timber and clearing of the lower slopes, much of Portland’s interior remains inaccessible.

Portland – Overview

Portland has one of the most picturesque country sides and boasts a stretch of seacoast extending along the northeastern tip of the island from Happy Grove to Windsor Castle. Portland is a parish of rivers and streams, sparkling water falls and secretive limestone caves. The entire coastline is dotted with caves, bays, rivers, waterfalls and verdant hills.  Port Antonio, the capital, is found on the narrow strip of land, nestled between the Blue Mountains and the generous effervescent spray from the Caribbean Sea. It has been described as one of the loveliest harbours in the world. Rafting is one of the most popular attractions in Portland and was made a popular sport by Errol Flynn. Flynn was a Hollywood celebrity who fell in love with Port Antonio and took along his cosmopolitan crowd to taste the delights of the parish. He was intrigued by the quaint mode of transport, rafting down the Rio Grande. He and his friends are still remembered by some of the older raftsmen for their frequent jaunts down the Rio Grande.

It is said that Flynn used to sponsor rafting contests and would provide trophies and cash prizes for participating raftsmen, visitors in turn would place their bets for the winning raft. Agriculture brought tourism to Portland and Jamaica through Lorenzo Dow Baker an American sea captain, who made Jamaica’s first shipment of bananas from Portland to the United States.  Baker, an enterprising man soon realized that he could make his journey even more profitable bringing in tourists on his trips down for more bananas. This trade led to reliable connections between Jamaica and North, Central and South America as well as Europe.

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