Grenada, The Spice Island
Roche, Preudhomme, Donaldson, Campbell, and More
Most of the surnames in my mother’s line were found in Grenada. Her grandfather, Samuel Edward Roche, came to Grenada in the late 1840’s or early 1850’s and lived first in Grenada and then in Carriacou (small island to the south considered part of Grenada) until he died.
The island of Grenada was booming in the 1800’s. It was called the “Spice Island” and lived up to its name and more. Papayas, guava, breadfruit, bananas, mangos, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, tobacco, and much more could be found in abundance on most of the plantations. Ships came and went overflowing with people and goods for markets all over the world. Up through the 1940’s “Lady Boats” went from island to island complete with dancing and dining for the enjoyment of islanders and visitors.
Parties went on regularly at Government house; estate owners shipped elaborate furniture from England, India or France; the latest clothes were purchased from Paris; and jewelry was designed and purchased to adorn the lovely ladies. Land was purchased and sold for profit overnight. They thought it would last forever, but it didn’t.
Samuel Edward Roche arrived there about 1850 and must have thought he had found Paradise. He was working for the British Government and was supposed to only stay for two years and then return to England. According to my mother, when he didn’t go back home, his family disowned him. The beauty of the island, the freedom from the constraints of English society, and his wife and family there must have made his decision to stay an easy one.
It was a time of excess in almost everything that was done. The wealth trickled down to many of the servants and slaves in the manor of gifts and the granting of freedom (manumission).
In 1834 the British Government demanded that freedom be granted to all slaves and that wages be given in exchange for work. To their credit, many of the plantation owners had already freed their slaves by 1834. Those who had not, were now made to comply. Those slaves who left, found work elsewhere. Many of the newly freed stayed on at the plantations and worked for their old masters for pay. That was the case with Dr. Romney’s slaves who not only had benefit of a hospital on the plantation, but also were taught to read and write.
Dependent Upon The Weather
Always on the fringe was the fear of losing it all to the weather. Some of the crops took 20 years to mature so a hurricane could wipe out a lifetime of work in one hour or less. Loans would be taken out at the Bank either to buy more land or to plant new crops. A bad year could cause a default on a loan and loss of land. A few good years might tend to make one careless and forget that the land and the plantation owner’s finances were at the mercy of the weather.
Tourism Replaces Trade
During the 1900’s, foreign markets became more active and took away many of the customers that the growers had come to depend upon. Today the island fruits and spices are either eaten by the land owners or sold locally at markets and the landowners make their living by working at various professions in the towns. Many have left for England, Australia, Canada and America.
Tourism has taken the place of the merchant trade. The beauty of the West Indies, the deep blue/green water, the white sands, and the friendliness of many of the people now draw tourists to Grenada and the other islands in cruise ships. The money is now to be made in satisfying the tourists who stop to shop at the local stores. The hotel owners and the government are the ones really benefiting from tourism.
American Retirement Community
Another interesting development is the large number of retirees from the U.S. who have built beautiful large homes on one side of the island. There is a whole community of Americans who are stretching their retirement incomes by living in Grenada.It is illegal there for local residents to possess American money so there is a thriving underground black market in American cash and goods.