The Cave River Plantation

One of the early coffee plantations established in Upper Clarendon was the Cave River Plantation. The 1029¼ acre property[i] was situated squarely on the boarders of St. Ann/Clarendon boarder and in close proximity to the Vera Ma Hollis Savannah which prior to 1740 was the home of a group of maroons called Veramahollis by the colonial authorities.[ii] The Cave River Barracks erected in the 1730s helped to secure the small number of white owned properties in the area.[iii]

Cave River Plantation was owned by Stephen Sharpe, and absentee planter from Yorkshire, Great Britain. After his death in the early 1800s, the property fell to his wife Sarah and their son. The estate was to be administered by Thomas Reid, a property owner who was resident in Jamaica. Reid was however negligent in carrying out his duty, and a man named James Graham took forcible possession of Cave River Plantation in February 1817. The situation was however soon resolved as the matter laying claim to the plantation, Graham was dispossessed by a Jury. Further references to him in the records in relation to the property was only as a buyer of cattle. The courts named Robert Fairweather as Receiver for Sarah Sharpe and her infant son.[iv]

Under the stewardship of Robert Fairweather, the estate of Stephen Sharpe increased significantly. At the time of Sharp’s death his estate was reported to value £6256.15.0 and of this, £5295.0.0 represented the value of fifty enslaved persons on the property.[v]

Davy  Dick Robin  Old Jack Leah
Anthony  Thomas Jack  Shanty Jane
Moses  Charles Billy Smart
Ogie Sharp  William Harriet Jackson Bashiba
Sam  Peter Patience Old Daphne
Neptune  Nero Sylvia Mimba
James  Sammy Charlotte Cuba
Thomas Sharp  London Amelia Betty
Quanoo  Hardtimes Luanda Amey
Cuffee  Jeffrey Eleanor Sharp Jenny o/c M. Mitchell
Will  Bacchus Old Jenny Cham
Molt Phiba Ann Eliza
Thomas Craig Rose
Chary Mitchell Eve
Amelia Polly
Sarah Woofe Suckie


By 1829 however, the number of enslaved people on Cave River Plantation increased exponentially by way of purchase. The acquisition of enslaved persons begun from about 1823 with the purchase of eight persons from a slaveholder in Clarendon, I.C. Pownell.[i]


This continued to such an extent that by 1829 Cave River Plantation was able hire out 822 persons to the neighbouring Cave Valley Estate in St. Ann.[ii]

While coffee was the mainstay of the plantation, it could not be depended on to deal with the day a to day expenses on the plantation as oftentimes payment for export crop was received after being sold in England. As such, the hiring out of jobbing slaves to surrounding plantation, the rental of pastureland, the sale of livestock and wainage formed an important part of the revenue base of the plantation.[iii]

Further, like many of the properties in Upper Clarendon, pimento trees were planted on Cave River Plantation and these also provided useful revenue. Pimento seeds were harvested and sold inland as well as shipped to Britain along with barrels of coffee.[iv]

When the shipment of both coffee and pimento declined significantly, there was a marked increased in these other enterprises and the introduction of new products for sale such as lumber (cedar and mahogany planks) and shingles.[v]

In the early post-emancipation period, the Cave River Plantation continued to produce coffee and pimento for export. However, by the late 1840s with the decline in the export trade, portions of the plantation were sold under the management of Stephen Glave.[vi]  This continued to such an extent that by 1930, the property was reduced to 222 acres and was rented to tenants by then owner Samuel William.[vii]

[i] Register of Return of Slaves 1B/11/7/86, Jamaica Archives.

[ii] Crop Accounts No. 68 (1830), Jamaica Archives.

[iii] Crop Accounts Nos. 52, 54, 55, 59, 61-63, 65, 66, 68, 70, 74, 76-78 (1830), Jamaica Archives.

[iv] Crop Accounts Nos. 55, 59, 61-63, 65, 66, 68, 70, 74, 76-78 (1830), Jamaica Archives.

[v] Crop Accounts Nos. 76-78 (1830), Jamaica Archives.

[vi] Crop Accounts No. 89 (1845), Jamaica Archives.

[vii] 1930 Valuation. Jamaica National Heritage Trust.


[i] Thomas Harrison Map 1888. The Lands Department.

[ii] Jamaica Council Minutes 1682-1688. Ms. 60 Volume 4. National Library of Jamaica.

[iii] Philip Wright and Paul F. White. Exploring Jamaica: a guide for motorists, London: Andre Deutsch Limited, 1969, 85.

[iv] Crop Accounts No. 52 (1818 & 1819), Jamaica Archives.

[v] Inventory 1B/11/3/126, Jamaica Archives .