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San Francisco Bay 1800s.

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On the Trail of the Arawak.

Barbados' earliest known inhabitants were the Arawak Indians. They were driven off the island by invading Carib Indians from Venezuela, who then left Barbados around the time the first Europeans sailed into the region.

By the early 1500s all signs of Amerindian life had vanished. In 1536 Portuguese explorer Pedro a' Campos stopped over in Barbados en route to Brazil and named the island "Los Barbados"' - the bearded ones, presumably after the island's fig trees, which have long hanging aerial roots.

Although known to the Portuguese and Spanish, the British were the first settlers. In 1625, Captain John Powell landed on Barbados with his crew and claimed the uninhabited island for England. Two years later, his brother Captain Henry Powell landed with a party of 80 settlers and ten African slaves. The group established the island's first European settlement, Jamestown, on the western coast at what is now Holetown.

The slave population in 1629 was still diminutive with not more than 50 Amerindian and African slaves working the land, in construction and in homes. This low slave population was due to few persons being able to buy slaves at that time. Slaves in Barbados came from various tribes out of the forest region of West Africa, during village raids. Some of the African tribes were Eboes, Paw-paws and Igbo. In 1636, officials passed a law declaring all slaves brought into Barbados, whether African or Amerindian were to be enslaved for life.

Slavers were so full of zest that they sometimes grabbed Irish and non-Irishmen. On March 25, 1659, a petition was received in London claiming that 72 Englishmen were wrongly sold as slaves in Barbados, along with 200 Frenchmen and 7-8,000 Scots. So many Irish slaves were sent to Barbados, between 12,000 and 60,000, that the term "barbadosed" began to be used.

The Cromwell Family, Slavery,Segregation. Adelaide M. Cromwell, Author.

Oliver Cromwell, Slaver

After Oliver Cromwell defeated the royalists in the English Civil War, he turned to Ireland, who had allied themselves with the defeated royalists. What happened next could be considered genocide. The famine (caused by the English intentionally destroying foodstocks) and plague that followed Cromwell's massacres reduced the population of Ireland to around 40%. Anyone implicated in the rebellion had their land confiscated and was sold into slavery in the West Indies. Even catholic landowners who hadn't taken part of the rebellion had their land confiscated. Catholicism was outlawed and catholic priests were executed when found. Cromwell ordered the ethnic cleansing of Ireland east of Shannon in 1652. Soldiers were encouraged to kill any Irish who refused to relocate.

“During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, [Oliver] Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.”

African slaves were still relatively new, and were expensive to transport such a long distance (50 sterling in the late 1600's). Irish slaves on the other hand, were relatively cheap in comparison (5 sterling). During the 1700s, the main source of labor for cotton and tobacco was indentured servants from Europe, while Amerindians from the Guianas were imported to teach agriculture.

As the cotton and tobacco industry started to fail because of the lack of labour, due to terrible conditions for indentured servants, the sugar industry emerged. Sugar in Barbados at that time was used only for feedstock, as fuel and in the production of rum.

In 1807 the International Slave Trade was abolished giving slaves hope of freedom, but abolitionist missionaries and antislavery debates seemed to hinder the process, ultimately causing the 1816 Revolt by Bussa of Bayley's Plantation. By 1834 slavery was abolished in all the territories of British rule.

Because of the instability within the Caribbean, the British Parliament was forced to emancipate over 80,000 slaves at this time.

September 10, 1898, The Daily Gleaner, Kingston, Jamaica

The Sugar Conference at Barbados
Mr. Burke's Speech
Full Report

The delegates from the various West Indian Colonies to take part in the Convention to bring to the notice of the British Government the serious plight in which the West Indies are placed and the ineffectiveness of the remedies up to the present proposed for the amelioration of their condition, arrived on Saturday, the 3rd int. The delegates Were:

    Hon. B. Howell Jones, 
    Mr. R. G. Duncan and Mr. H P. Mackay, of Denierara; 
    Honbles G. Fenwick, W. C. Dyett, and Mr. Edgar
    Tripp of Trinidad; 
    Hon. Constantine Burke, of Jamaica; 
    Hon. J. Comacho and Mr. W. Foote, of Antigua. 

    They were met by the deputation appointed to
    receive them, and joined by 
    Hon Dr. Chandler
    Messrs. C. P. Clarke, M.C P. Foster, M. Alleyne, and J. Gardiner Austin, Jr., M.C.P., the the delegates representing Barbados.

The first meeting was held at the Commercial Hall, when the resolutions were discussed and the form in which they were to be placed before the public meeting, agreed upon. After an agreement with respect to the resolutions, the Conference adjourned, and at 3 o'clock met in the Council Chamber, when the resolutions were proposed and adopted. In spite of it being mail day, and although there were many planters absent in consequence of that most distressing and painful event which took place on Friday afternoon last the death of the Honorable A. J. Pile there was a large and influential gathering of persons representing the commercial and agricultural interests of the island.


The Hon. S. C. Burke was interviewed by a Gleaner reporter yesterday morning aboard the Atrato, and gave his views on the Sugar Conference at Barbados, whence he had just returned.

"It was a very satisfactory conference," he said, "and the opinion expressed was unanimous that unless the Imperial Government takes the question of the deplorable condition of the West Indies in hand at once and in a proper spirit, there will be no chance for the colonies."

Maritime Maps.

"Was the question of annexation to the States brought up?"

"Yes, it was mentioned by one speaker Mr. Comacho, the representative of Antigua; but when we framed the resolution, it was determined not to insert anything about it inasmuch as we thought it would not be advisable to send home anything savouring of a threat."

"What is your own opinion about annexation?"

"Mere nonsense. The States have their hands full with Cuba and Puerto Rico, and don't want Jamaica. And, from the point of view of our own interests, I think it ia not at all a good thing to put it forward at the present moment. Our population in nearly all black and coloured, and we must remember these people have the ultimate determination of the question."

"What was the general opinion of the Conference?" Did it really consider any good would be done?"

"The opinion of the Conference was hopeful that eventually England would be obliged to do something for us."

"What did you think of the condition of Barbados?"

"I could not express un opinion from what I myself saw; but on every hand I heard that unless something was speedily done in her behalf she would be ruined; and with her vast population that is a terrible thing to contemplate.

I should like to express gratification at the manner in which we were entertained. We were taken off the ship by the Chamber of Commerce, and were breakfasted at the Club. Then we went to work in Conference at the resolution and and at 3 o'clock in the afternoon the public meeting was held, at which the resolutions were discussed and carried. There was to be a great banquet for the delegates at night, but, owing to the death of Mr Pile, it was abandoned, and were entertained to dinner privately."

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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