Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Wednesday | October 21, 2009
Home : Lead Stories
Maidstone: one of the original free villages

This man stands proudly beside the stone that marks the entrance to Maidstone in Manchester. - Contributed

Maidstone in northwestern Manchester was one of the original 'free villages' founded by Moravian missionaries in the early post-emancipation era.

Missionaries subdivided land, often from abandoned estates or poor backlands, for occupation by the newly free population under church sponsorship.

It is believed that the Maidstone area was named by early English settlers living in nearby Adams Valley. According to the stories, the settlers thought the shape of the surrounding hills resembled the breasts of maidens.

Many stones

It also said the settlers noticed the hills had many stones.

There was a Maidstone Plantation which estate records show was owned by Thomas Frith, then by his executor John Webb, and eventually by Hymen and Judah Cohen.

In December 1840, the Moravian missionaries purchased 341 acres of the plantation and subdivided the land into a total of 98 plots, from one to 15 acres in size.

The plots were sold under generous terms to ex-slaves, allowing them to escape the high rents charged by planters.

Lots of one to two acres cost approximately 6, while 10 acres and over cost 60-70.

The ex-slaves helped each other to clear land, build wattle and daub houses, and prepare fields to grow coffee in addition to cash crops.

Settlements built by Moravian missionaries always included a church and a day-school. Soon, Maidstone grew into a large, irregularly shaped village and the Maidstone peasantry became known as one of the sturdiest and most independent in Jamaica.

For the past three years on August 1, an Emancipation Day Fair has been hosted on the grounds of the Nazareth All-Age School in Maidstone. The school now houses a museum of artefacts from the plantation era.

Home | Lead Stories | News | Business | Sport | Commentary | Letters | Entertainment | Profiles in Medicine |