A Brief History
-=Adapted from St. Ann Chamber of Commerce Travel Guide=-
St. Ann, believed to be the site of the earliest Taino settlement in Jamaica, is one of the oldest populated regions of the West Indian islands tracking back to 650 A.D.
Columbus first arrived in Jamaica in 1494, landing on the shores of St. Ann Sevilla la Nueve, now named Seville and located just west of St. Ann’s Bay was the first Spanish settlement in Jamaica. It was here the first sugar mills were established by the Spaniards before 1526. St. Ann’s Bay gradually developed as a fishing port with many warehouses and wharves. After 1655 when the English captured Jamaica, the parish of St. Ann was later named after Lady Anne Hyde, the first wife of King James II of England.
The name Ocho Rios, is not what it purports to be. Ocho Rios does not have “Eight Rivers” as its Spanish name implies. The English confused translation of Los Chorreras (river rapids), the name which the Spanish had given the area.
The catalyst for Ocho Rios growth as a town was bauxite. The bauxite facility and deep-water pier constructed by Reynolds Jamaica Mines west of town began to shape Ocho Rios as a tourist destination. The St. Ann development council began strategic development of Ocho Rios as a modern town in the 1960’s.
The great people, events and social movements that have swirled around St. Ann have certainly made this parish unique in Jamaica. When Columbus first arrived in St. Ann and “discovered” Jamaica, the island was already well-populated by Tainos, an Arawak people who had migrated up from South America.
Columbus wasn’t the only one who changed the course of history in St. Ann. Fast forward to the dawn of the 20th century. Two of the world’s most prominent cultural influences, Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley, are both from St. Ann parish.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey championed the rights of Africans throughout the world during a critical period in their evolution. Born in 1887 at St. Ann’s Bay, his writings and speeches on dignity and freedom for black people everywhere have influenced generations of civic leaders. It made him Jamaica’s first national hero.
Garvey, born just 40 years after the abolition of slavery in Jamaica was raised as a member of the St. Ann’s Bay Methodist Church. Visitors still find the church much the same as in Garvey’s life. At 14 he was apprenticed to a printer. The press on which he earned his trade, at Eclypse Printery, 44 Main Street, has been declared a national treasure.
Born in 1945 at the St. Ann hamlet of Nine Mile, Robert Nesta Marley sang prayers in the form of reggae rhythms, and they spread around the world. In the West, Bob Marley’s music remains hugely popular 27 years after his death. In the Third World, however, his themes go much deeper, inspiring people to demand their freedom. In Jamaica, he is nearly a national hero. His music is heard everywhere.
Marley died of cancer at 36. Jamaica gave him a state funeral in the National Arena, He rests in a mausoleum at Nine Mile, in the hills of St. Ann where he started. Pilgrims come to pay their respects. His music lives on with no end in sight.