Gems from the Archives – 78 Negro burying ground in Basseterre

One of the questions we are often asked is “where were the enslaved buried?” For those who lived and worked on the estates the answer is usually on the estate itself. But there were a significant number who worked in private homes in towns and villages as servants, porters, and even skilled workers whose services were available for rent by anybody willing to pay the enslaver for the privilege. There were also those who were said to be “working out”. These were enslaved persons who were free to find their own work and negotiate a price for it and return to their enslaver once a week to give him/her the share of what had been made.

There was also a number of persons of African descent or of mixed heritage who were free and had homes in the towns and villages. These persons often had no real rights, which probably meant that they were not buried in the church yards.

Today thanks to the continued assistance we receive from Ruth Case, we have the transcript of a document that points to one of the places where our black ancestors were buried. The document is the decision in a civil suit brought by Webbe Hobson against John Heale, a vintner or wine merchant for the settlement of debt. A house belonging to Heale was auctioned and purchased by Thomas Tuckett. The house was surrounded by Losack estate on the Eastern and Northern sides, by Nevis Street on the Western side and by the “negroe burying ground” on its southern side. Seaton Street had not been cut at the time of the document. This means that the cemetery was in the area between the Anglican Church Hall and the Methodist School room which at that time would have placed it just outside the church yard of St. George’s.

It will take more discoveries in the records and possibly some archaeological work to pin point the exact area but at least now we have confirmation of the existence of such a place and its general location.

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