Colonial Planter: Christopher Irvine Part 1

Today’s blog post was written by Dr. Jesma McFarlane. Dr. McFarlane is a genealogical researcher. She was formally a zoologist who completed her post graduate work at Howard University, Washington D.C.,U.S.A. Her scientific background is an integral part of the foundation for her many years of genealogical research.

There are burial sites scattered throughout Tobago where former plantation owners are interred. Christopher Irvine, a plantation owner, died January 30, 1840 and was buried at Strawberry Hill, a section of the former Runnemede Estate in the island of Tobago, West Indies. The relic of his tomb, located on the former estate, is testament to his presence and that era of colonial occupation.


Ruins of Christopher Irvine’s Tomb (the tomb is built from coral blocks and the trestle bed with the details of his epitaph can be seen from the opening)

His historical sojourn extended from Tobago to the United Kingdom and was affected by both the English (1778 and 1793) and French (1781) occupation of the island.  Christopher Irvine bought this Strawberry Hill property that was advertised in Tobago, St. Vincent, Grenada and London, from estate owners George and William Forbes about 1791.

Based on the minutes of the House of Assembly, it appears that William Forbes under the Treaty of Versailles, 1763, purchased 400 acres of land identified as Lot #36, Courland Division in 1770. He and his brother George were also co-partners in Culloden estate (an estate in the same parish). Around 1780 William and George became indebted to Miles Barber, a merchant in Liverpool, England. They decided to mortgage 300 acres of Lot #36 (having previously sold 100 acres to John Hamilton, of which we will write about in another blog) and also a security on the crops of Culloden and the crops of the estate, which was involved in a £300 debt. Christopher was the only bidder and had to pay, based on the appraisal, £5 per acre for the woodlands, £15 per acre for lands with provision, and £10 per acre for brush land. He paid most of the cost and while awaiting a title proceeded to clear 240 acres, cultivated the greater part in sugar cane, restored the sugar works and other buildings and acquired 14 enslaved persons.

However, he had to petition the Tobago House of Assembly in 1793/1794 to procure his title before paying the full sum.  The petition was brought to the House of Assembly on August 11, 1794 and stated in part “…arrête  pour offrerer l’investiture de fief simple de trios cents acre de terre partie do lot no. 36 de la Paroisse de St. David de lisle de Tobago, et de quatorze negres esclaves autrefois appurtenant au feux William and George forbes habitants de cette isle in la personne de Christophe Guillaume Irvine Citoyen.”



Sugar Mill Ruins


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