History of St. Elizabeth

St. Elizabeth-Bays and Beaches

Among the bays and beaches present are:


Malcolm, Black River, Parotee, Starve Gut, Calabash, Great Pedro.


Galleon, Hodges, Crane, Fullerwood, Parotee, Fort Charles, Billy’s Bay, Calabash Bay, Great Bay, Treasure Beach


There are 44 caves in the parish of St. Elizabeth. The following are some of the more popular ones:

Mexico – the longest in the island

Peru Cave – located near Goshen, displays an impressive growth of stalactites and stalagmites

Yardley Chase Caves – situated on the south coast, at the foot of a 457 metre (1,500 foot) limestone cliff (Lovers’ Leap)

Wallingford Caves – near Balaclava – famous for the fossil remains of large extinct rodents discovered in 1919-20 by H.E. Anthony.

Preservation Sites and Wetland Areas include:

Government (Crown Lands)               –           8,564 hectares (18,841 acres)

Private Woodlands                             –           19,734 hectares (43,415 acres)

Scientific, Nature Reserves                 –           Holland Swamp Forest

Natural Parks                                      –           Cockpit Country

–           Black River Lower Morass

Wetlands Sanctuary                            –           Luana Point Swamp

–           Lower Black River Morass

Wildlife Sanctuary                              –           Luana Font Hill

Mineral Deposits

St. Elizabeth, unlike other parishes, has a number of mineral deposits adding to the rich natural resources of the parish. These include bauxite, antimony, white limestone, alluvium, clay, peat deposits in the Black River Morass and the Great Morass are estimated at 6.5 million tons (6.6 million tonnes) and extensive silica sand deposits are located in the Black River area of Hodges. This is used in the manufacturing of glass.

Other resources are logwood, sisal, bull and sable thatch palm.


St. Elizabeth-Attractions

The Cockpit Country

The Cockpit Country is a large area in west-central Jamaica that derives its name from the ‘cockpit’ krsat limestone which has the appearance of an overturned egg-tray.  This area measures approximately 450 km2 and though centered in the parish of Trelawny, has extensions into St. Elizabeth. The Cockpit Country is conekrast, consisting of yellow and white limestone that erosion and chemical dissolution have sculpted into a dramatic topography of rounded peaks and steep-sided, bowl-shaped, closed depressions. The Cockpit Country vegetation is the largest and most intact example of wet limestone forest in Jamaica.  Its flora exemplifies the outstanding endemism of the West Indies.  And, most of Jamaica’s 550 native ferns grow in this area.  Additionally, the Cockpit Country’s topography and vegetation create habitat for 27 of Jamaica’s 28 endemic land birds.

Apple Valley Park

Apple Valley Park is a nature park set on the Black River in the unspoiled countryside of Maggotty, a rural community in the heart of the parish of St. Elizabeth. Nestled at the western edge of the Appleton estate and rum factory, the 500-acre property is also sited in a rainforest, the exploration of which is a must for all visitors who wish to have a truly authentic experience of hiking through a tropical forest. It is the water all around, the trickling waterfalls, the man-made ponds for fishing, and paddle-boating that all add to the quiet charm of Apple Valley.

Black River Safari

A big treat, for holidaymakers, young and old is the Black River Safari tour. This is a serene trip up Jamaica’s longest river. This is also a journey up one of the islands few, easily accessible waterways, along which you can see rare tropical animals and an abundance of flora and fauna – even crocodiles – on their natural habitats. The Black River Safari has been said to be as breathtaking as a tour of the Florida Everglades and the operators of the tour will take you on an hour-and-a-half-long safari up seven miles of this fascinating wetlands area.

Lover’s Leap

Farther south and a little off the beaten track is Lover’s Leap in Southfield. Legend has it that two young lovers, forbidden to see each other again, jumped to their deaths at this spot, 1700 feet into the sea below so that they could be together forever.

Y.S. Falls

Very close to the town of Black River is Y.S. Falls, said to be probably the most beautiful and unspoiled in Jamaica. This privately owned property offers unparalleled tranquility. Here you can discover a quiet valley and a waterfall that cascades down 120 feet of beautifully formed rock into tempting swimming holes.

Appleton Estate Distillery

This 4,400 hectare plantation nestled between the Nassau mountains and the Black River valley dates back to 1749 and still produces a blend of rum reputed to be the world’s oldest and a rum of choice. A tour of this estate and distillery will yield Appleton Rum samples for all imbibing visitors.

Holland Bamboo

Formerly Bamboo Avenue. 17th century landowners planted bamboo along both sides of the road in the hope that the foliage would provide them with shade during their travels across the usually torrid savannahs. It is one of the most photographed areas in Jamaica.


This Maroon village was named for its founder who was also the brother of Cudjoe. This village is now the only remaining Maroon town on the western side of the island. The leader of the town is called Colonel and traditional Maroon ceremonies are held on the sixth of January every year, in celebration of the signing of the Maroon treaty and the founding of the town.

Interesting Place Names in St. Elizabeth

Middle Quarters

Said to have got its name from the quarter sessions of court held in that village. Now popularly known as “shrimp country”.

Mount Ajax

A mountain named for Ajax of Greek legend.


Formerly pepper pen and before that Pimienta – so named by the Spanish because of the many pimento trees. Pepper is thought to be a wrong translation of Pimienta.


This name reflects the attitude of the Maroons during their early years. Visitors were not generally encouraged, and if the leader did not sanction someone’s entrance, he was led through the most tortuous routes, in the hope that this would lessen his curiosity.

Guthrie’s Defile

This area was named for an officer of the Jamaica Militia, Colonel Guthrie who made peace with the Maroons. Guthrie met with Cudjoe and granted the Maroons full freedom along with some 1,500 acres (606ha) of land for use as a settlement.

Chew Manga

Located near Balaclava, this area was given the name of a place in Kenysham, England.


This is a Welsh place-name


This name originated in Moravia, and is said to have been first used by the early Moravian missionaries.


Persons unaccustomed to being shod would sling their shoes over their shoulders and choose this particular spot to “shoe themselves”.


This area at the foot of Spur Tree Hill has been aptly named. After heavy rainfall, water flows through this town from three different directions, making navigation extremely difficult.

Giddy Hall

Once known as “Gideon Hall”, after its first owner, it is not certain when the name was changed to “Giddy”.

Labour-In-Vain Savannah

This name came about as a result of the annual drought in St. Elizabeth, which makes it difficult for farmers to predict an exact harvest time.

Language peculiar to St. Elizabeth

You pretty too – You are not worthy of my attention

Dung home     – In St. Elizabeth

Who you be?  – Who are you?

St. Elizabeth- Main Towns

St. Elizabeth has several other towns of some importance. These are Santa Cruz, Malvern, Junction and Balaclava. Other organised towns within the parish are Maggoty, Lacovia, Bull Savanna, Southfield, Newell, New Market, Siloah and Middle Quarters.

Constituencies and Parish Council Divisions

There are four political constituencies with four Members of Parliament, one for each constituency and 14 Parish Council Divisions in St. Elizabeth. These are as follows:

Constituency                                                                    Parish Council Divisions                                                        MPs

South Eastern  – Myersville, Southfield, Junction, Malvern                                                                        Franklyn Witter

South Western- Brompton, Black River, Mountainside and Pedro Plains                             Dr. Christopher Tufton Donald Buchanan

North Eastern  – Balaclava, Siloah, Braes River                                                                                               Kern Spencer

Santa Cruz

North Western            – New Market, Ipswitch, Lacovia                                                                            J. C. Hutchinson



St. Elizabeth-Industry and Investment

The major areas of economic activities in the parish are agriculture and bauxite mining, making the parish one of the principal contributors to government revenue. Tourism in the parish is at a minimum but has great potential for development given the natural attractions in the parish. The focus on manufacturing and industry has been increasing with local and foreign investments but it is agriculture that continues to dominate the economy. It is projected that these economic activities will continue to experience growth and development, especially with the south coast being targeted for a number of investment projects specifically aimed at packaging and promoting the natural attractions available there.


Until early in the 20th century, the savannahs in the north of St. Elizabeth were used for raising cattle and horses, and cassava cultivation. In recent times however, severe periods of drought have become a characteristic feature of this area. As a result, farming is not as extensive as before and with the growing population, the vast savannah lands have gradually been divided into clusters of small plots. Also, many of the areas formerly used for grazing and tree farming have been gradually reduced. Sugar cane cultivation have taken up some of the lands formerly used primarily for coconut and mixed farming. The main crops now grown on the savannahs are tomatoes, watermelons, carrots, escallions, green onions, sweet peppers and tobacco. Corn (maize) is also grown and is primarily used as livestock feed. Only the top 15 centimeters (six inches) of the loam soil in south St. Elizabeth can be considered fertile. The soils below this consist of red clay, which is totally infertile. As a result of these soil conditions, St. Elizabeth farmers have devised ingenious methods of farming in order to make the best use of their resources. One particular method used is that of ‘fly penning and mulching’, used mainly on small plots. Using this method, small plots are planted out with specific crops and savannah grass is used as mulch on these plots. Livestock (usually donkeys) are then tied in these plots and they are fed and watered by hand. The animals provide manure for the soil, and they are only moved when the crop is well established and has begun to grow. As soon as more savannah grass is available this technique can be repeated in another small plot. This method allows for the growing of several crops during a specified period, even if there is little or no rain. Despite the long periods of droughts experienced in the parish, St. Elizabeth is known as the food basket of the island producing a large quantity of ground provisions, root crops, fruits, vegetables, tree crops, peas corn, sugar, rum, pimento, coffee and ginger. Some are produced for the export market and some for local consumption the lowlands of St. Elizabeth include properties such as Gilnoc, Fonthill, Pepper, Longhill, Goshen, Friendship, and Warminster among others, which are all famous for the quality of their cattle, horses and mules. The parish is also famous for its involvement in horticulture.



This industry, the oldest industry in the parish, still plays a major role in the economy. There is one active factory at Siloah, Appleton Sugar Estate – which produces the famous ‘Appleton Special’ rum. The other was located at Holland, near Middle Quarters, but has closed.


This industry has, within a short time, become the major economic factor in the parish. Early in the 1950s, Kaiser Bauxite Company started mining in St. Elizabeth. This eventually led to Alumina Partners of Jamaica (ALPART) in 1969, starting operations of their bauxite mining and alumina manufacturing at Nain in the parish. Unfortunately this was closed in 1975. Alpart, along with Reynolds Jamaica Mines, continue to mine extensive property in the parish. Alpart, together with its sister company, is perhaps the largest single earner of foreign exchange for the Government of Jamaica. Through salaries and wages, locally produced goods and services, taxes, royalties and bauxite levy, Alpart injects more than $2.5 billion into the Jamaican economy each year.


St. Elizabeth provides river fishing unequalled in Jamaica and its sea fishing is also of the best. Middle Quarters, located on the edge of the morass is known as the ‘Shrimp Capital’ of Jamaica. Passing motorists can buy this delicacy, cooked and highly seasoned from roadside vendors. The Black River supports this important shrimp and freshwater fishery, which earns an estimated $3 million yearly.


The quality of craftwork produced in ST. Elizabeth, is of a very high standard particularly since the development of community craft centres. Hats, bags, baskets, mats and other articles made from locally grown thatch and sisal, have found favour throughout the island and have finally established the parish as a leading craft centre. The parish also enjoys unmatched or competitive resources and skills for manufactured products such as handicraft, wood products, metal fabrication and sewn products.

Food Processing

The parish has a food processing plant at Bull Savannah for the processing of tomatoes, carrots and pineapples under the brand name Village Pride. A cassava factory was established at Goshen in the parish, as well as pimento leaf factories at Giddy Hall, Bogue and Braes River.

Other industries include Glass and Abrasives.

St. Elizabeth-Location and Geography

St. Elizabeth lies to the southwest end of Jamaica, bordered on the north by St. James and Trelawny, on the south by the Caribbean Sea, on the east by the parish of Westmoreland and on the west by Manchester.  The parish covers 1,212.4 square kilometers (468.1 square miles) of the Jamaican land mass. The northern and northeastern sections of the parish are mountainous, while an extensive plain occupies the central and southern districts. Running through this plain from north to south is the Santa Cruz range of mountains, which terminates at the southern extreme with a 1,600-foot precipice. Much of the land in the parish consists of dry grasslands called savannahs, marsh and swamp, forest and scrub woodlands. The predominant use of land is for agriculture, which includes the production of sugar cane, mixed farming and citrus. The parish has an extensive area of alluvium from the boundary with Manchester to the one with Westmoreland.  In the northeast of the parish there is also an extensive flat area called the Nassau Valley. The rest of the parish is white limestone with some brown patches of yellow limestone. The plains of the savannahs are mud-caked brown wastes in the dry weather but which is very fertile when it rains.

Outside of the rainy season, the parish is dry for the rest of the year.

Main Elevations

  • Santa Cruz Mountains reaches a height of 457.2 to 914.4 metres (1,500 to 3,000 feet)
  • Nassau Mountains 182 to 475 metres (600 to 1,500 feet)
  • Malvern 724 metres (2,375 feet)

Main Rivers

St. Elizabeth is physically dominated by the Black River, which, with its many tributaries is considered one of the finest and longest rivers in Jamaica. It begins as a stream in the hills of neighbouring Manchester before it disappears underground for several miles, to rise again near Balaclava in the north of the parish. The river carves its way across St. Elizabeth for 53.4 kilometres (33 miles). It is navigable for about 40 kilometres (25 miles) and has traditionally been used as a conveyor of goods into the interior of the parish. At its source in the mountains, it tumbles down gorges, then fed by its many tributaries, flows across a large plain, known as the Savannah, before it creeps sluggishly through morass lands and empties into the sea.  Some of the main tributaries feeding the Black River include the Y.S., Borad, Grass and Horse Savannah.

St. Elizabeth-History

St. Elizabeth was once the largest parish in Jamaica.  It was split to form parts of Westmoreland and Manchester, and named in honor of Lady Elizabeth Modyford, wife of Sir Thomas Modyford, Governor of Jamaica between 1664 and 1671.  Today St. Bess is the third largest parish in Jamaica. Early settlement in St. Elizabeth began in the Pedro Plains where the Tainos, the first known inhabitants of Jamaica, occupied the coastline and lead a simple life. Though the original Tainos died by the 17th century, persons of Taino descent from Surinam came to settle in the parish in the 18thcentury and their descendants are there to this day. Columbus arrived in Jamaica in 1494 and the Spanish colonized the area. The Spanish were interested in cattle rearing and soon the thriving cattle ranches were the focus of the parish. The Spanish were greatly helped in their battle against the English in 1655, by the slaves who they had brought here during their over 150 years in Jamaica. When the Spanish were defeated, the slaves who did not manage to flee to Cuba, retreated to the impenetrable Cockpit Country, which included parts of St. Elizabeth. These fleeing slaves became known the Maroons and, today, St. Elizabeth remains home to the Maroons of Accompong, one of the most famous Maroon towns in Jamaica. St. Elizabethans played an instrumental role in the Sam Sharpe Rebellion of 1831. It is documented that about 20 to 40 percent of the slave population fought in that uprising. The communication pattern of the rebels followed the valleys of the Black and Great Rivers and they relied in the network of the religious meetings that had been founded by the dissenting Christians. In the wake of the uprising, armament caches were found at several locations and there was substantial property loss amounting to 22,146 sterling pounds in value.

Black River, among the oldest towns in the island, is reportedly the first to have received electricity. The Leydens brothers were among the earliest settlers in the parish, and they are said to have imported Jamaica’s first motorcar. The brothers are also said to have introduced racehorses to the island, thereby aiding in the establishment of the once famous Black River racetrack.  Racing fans from all over the island came to this track, making it one of Black River’s biggest money-making ventures. This little town of Black River, now the parish capital, can boast its popularity in the 19th and early 20thcenturies as a fishing spot, colourful balls and banquets – often held at ‘Court-house’ and its annual circus that attracted visitors from far and wide. Unfortunately, the outbreak cholera in 1850 brought most of these activities to a halt. Since then Black River, and indeed the entire parish of St. Elizabeth, has never quite returned to the former level of social vibrancy that made it a popular entertainment and recreational centre for Jamaicans from all across the island. Though the social scene has changed significantly, the parish has forged ahead in agricultural production, providing the bulk of Jamaica’s vegetable and fruit provisions. The Black River supports an important shrimp and freshwater fishery. And best of all, St. Elizabeth’s diverse geographical patterns make for a landscape as rich and varied as the heritage of its people.


The St. Bess population is said to bear out eloquently the country’s motto, “Out of Many One People”, as there is a high concentration of people of diverse ethnic origins, including Amerindian, African, Maroon, Mulatto, Dutch, Spanish, German and British.

Size and Density

At the end of 2000, St. Elizabeth had a population of 148,600 people with a population density of 119 persons per square kilometre. The parish has become increasingly urban with Santa Cruz, Balaclava and Southfield exhibiting the most impressive growth in population since 1991. The population of the parish is considered quite young, as 43 per cent are below 20 years old.

Crude Birth and Death Rates

A total of 2,172 live births were registered in 1996, representing a crude birth rate of 14.6 per 1,000 of the population.  In 1996, the number of registered deaths for the parish numbered 718. On the basis of these registrations, the Crude Death Rate for 1996 is 4.8 per 1,000 population.

St. Elizabeth-Overview

St. Elizabeth, the third largest parish, is well known as a pioneer in a number of activities. It is the first parish to organize and implement “Homecoming Week” through its ‘Homecoming Foundation’ which was formed in 1994.  Through the Foundation, St. Elizabethans are mobilized locally and internationally to develop and implement strategic plans for the economic, social, environmental and cultural development of the parish. The parish, also called St. Bess, is known for its red dust, fish, and for its propensity to produce some of the best melons and tomatoes in the island. It is said to be the ‘breadbasket’ of Jamaica.   The only navigable river in Jamaica, the Black River and Bamboo Avenue, one of the most photographed spots in the island, are two other outstanding features of this parish.