Founding date: 1777
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Several of the old estate buildings, and the sugar mill itself plus the cotton (or gin) house, have been turned into apartment buildings, with walls two-to-three-feet thick. When the land had been cleared and planted with cotton, there were no other buildings adjacent to the estate and the view from the property extended to the sea where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic. That is difficult to envision today because the former Crosbie’s estate is now one of Antigua’s major housing developments.
It is said that on a full moon night residents can hear the sounds of moaning and the rattling of chains near the shore, where slaves were once led into the sea.
Estate Related History/Timeline
John Crosbie, the Major General’s son, owned a plantation known at the time as “Hughes” in Popeshead. It was bounded on the north by Boone’s (#1) and Crosbie’s, on the east by Langford’s (#6) and Crosbie’s, south by the High Road, and west by Boone’s and Langford’s. The estate no longer exists, assumed to have been assimilated by one of the abutting plantations.
The William Crosbie Estate Papers, dated 1792-1816, include correspondence concerning Crosbie’s estate and the land of his agent/manager, John Otto Bayer (Baijer), in Antigua. The letters provide an interesting look at the activities and attitudes of the plantation operators and slave owners in the English Caribbean colony of Antigua in the early nineteenth century. The correspondence deals mostly with financial and operational concerns: expenses, property values, debts, loans, securities, deeds, slaves, stock, crops, rum and sugar. Other correspondents and individuals referenced in the letters include Lord Moira, Admiral McDouall, Gilbert Jones, Esq., Colonel Handfield, John Crosbie (heir), Charles Crosbie, James Wood Bursar (St. John’s, Cambridge), Lady Amelia Carpenter, Colonel Knox, General Marsh, the Duke & Duchess of Newcastle, and Baron Deimar. The papers are filed chronologically.
The University of Florida has a collection of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s papers and letters of Major General John Crosbie, which may be viewed at ufdc.ufl.edu/results/brief/2/?t=crosbie.
Joseph Erskine, a Scottish sheep owner who purchased Crosbie’s in 1933, actually lived on Market Street (Scots Row), not on the estate property itself. He began cotton farming on the land, quickly lost his shirt, and sold all 305 acres to Lee H. Westcott for £600 in the mid 1930’s.
Westcott hailed from Waterville, New York, and landed in Antigua in 1922 while on his way to Brazil. He was “persuaded” to remain on the island to assist in the installation of the Hornsby diesel generator, which had been given to St. John’s electric power company. He purchased the Crosbie’s estate from Joseph Erskine in the mid-1930s, and the estate became part of the Northern Cotton Belt when cotton was so urgently need during World War II. His effort to convert an overgrown 300-plus acre sugar plantation into an arable cotton farm was no easy task. Westcott was the first farmer to introduce machinery into agriculture, which he did with the purchase of an International Harvester wheeled tractor. Still, it took over a year of back breaking work by fifty employees from the village of Cedar Grove and the island of Montserrat, to dig out huge acacia (cossy or cassie) trees and prepare the soil for planting cotton.
In the late 1940’s, Westcott and three other cotton farmers on Antigua spent two years negotiating with the Antigua Trades & Labor Union, but could not reach an agreement. This fruitless effort caused all four to go bankrupt, and the estate no longer participated in the development of cotton in the Northern Cotton Belt. In addition to Westcott, the other three St. John’s Parish cotton farmers to go belly-up were Martin Schaffler of Weatherills (see #5), Aubrey Camacho of Marble Hill (see #9), and Anthony Shoul of Thibous/Jarvis & Judges (see #34). Some Montserrat workers were brought to Antigua to pick cotton, but that initiative also was thwarted by the unions. Bankruptcy of his cotton venture prompted Lee Westcott to turn the Crosbie’s estate into a real estate development, undoubtedly the largest single development of its kind undertaken by Antiguans: 310 acres of prime ocean view land.
Crosbie’s Development Ltd. was formed in 1958, but the company struggled for four years, blocked repeatedly by the government administration of Antigua’s first Prime Minister, V. C. Bird. Finally, after underbrush and cassie trees had again overgrown the infrastructure the company had paid to install (road, water and electricity), the company began its development plan and began selling seaside lots for 30-to-60 cents per square foot. Selvyn Walter, “Not a Drum Was Heard.”
As of 2012, almost every surveyed lot sported a building. Initially, a covenant stipulated details of construction regulations, but it was largely ignored over the years, resulting in a somewhat scrambled layout of housing and businesses. However, the area remains highly desirable because of its proximity to St. John’s and the airport.
Several of the old estate buildings, and the sugar mill itself plus the cotton (or gin) house, have been turned into apartment buildings, with walls two-to-three-feet thick. When the land had been cleared and planted with cotton, there were no other buildings adjacent to the estate and the view from the property extended to the sea where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic. That is difficult to envision today because the former Crosbie’s estate is now one of Antigua’s major housing developments. It is said that on a full moon night residents can hear the sounds of moaning and the rattling of chains near the shore, where slaves were once led into the sea.
Enslaved People’s History
Based on contemporary research, we have little information to share about the enslaved peoples from this plantation at this time. At most the mill had 67 slaves. The legacy of slavery remains because there is a folktale that on a full moon night residents can hear the sounds of moaning and the rattling of chains near the shore, where slaves were once led into the sea. However, we will continue our quest for more information about these vital individuals.
- 1777/78 Samuel Martin owned land in this vicinity. (177/78 per map by cartographer John Luffman.)
- 1770: General John Crosbie d. 1797.
- 1788: This estate was known as Mount Prospect
- 1790: Ownership changed to John Crosbie. Will: 1814
- 1797: Major General William John Crosbie. He served in the British Army during the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars d. 1797
- 1820: The estate consisted of 210 acres, 67 slaves
- 1829: General John Crosbie
- 1832: General Crosbie also owned the Hughes estate in Popeshead, which was bounded on the north by the Boone’s Plantation (#1) and Crosbie’s, on the east by the Langford’s Plantation (#6) Crosbie’s on the south by the High Road, and on the west by Boone’s and Langford’s. The Hughes Plantation no longer exists; most likely assimilated into one of the other named estates.
- 1851: John Crosbie
- 1872: Charles Crosbie is listed in the Horseford Almanac as owning both the Crosbie’s and Boone’s estates with combined land of 300 acres
- 1878: G. John Crosbie
- 1891: Ownership shifts to the heirs of Colonel Crosbie
- 1921: W. C. Abbott. 305 acres
- 1933: Joseph Erskine
- 1835/36: The plantation was owned for several years in the 1930s by Lee H. Westcott. d. 2012
- 2000: Ownership by the heirs of Lee H. Westcott