Linden History Series
Did you think that
Mackenzie was discovered by
George Bain Mackenzie, the geologist who started
the bauxite plant? Do you know the significance of the
court house at Christianburg, one of the longest standing
buildings in the area, as well as the significance of the
wheel behind the courthouse? Have you heard of Maria
Elizabeth, Three Friends, Noit Gedacht, Speightland? Do
names like Alli*censored*, Paterson (Patterson), DeNiewerkerk,
Spencer, Blount, Binning etc ring a bell?
Well, let me take you back to times before Mackenzie.
Yes, there was life before Mackenzie, and Iíll fill
you in. For those who do not know, in 1914, George
Bain Mackenzie, an American geologist of Scottish
descent, arrived at Wismar in a small canoe paddled
by an Amerindian, ostensibly to check out reports of
bauxite found in the area. Even before Mackenzie, as far back as
1868, according to one report, government geologists had discovered
rich bauxite deposits at Christianburg, but it was not
until 1906 that Sir John Harrison, Director of Science and Agriculture,
confirmed that the discovery was indeed bauxite. Between
1910 and 1911, Sir John published a series of papers in a
Geological Magazine about the discovery, and shortly thereafter,
between 1913 and 1914, two permits to explore for bauxite at
Christianburg, Wismar, and Akyma were issued to a Mr. Evan
Wong (Memorandum on the Occurrence of Bauxite in British Guiana,
Argosy, 1937). The next move was to acquire thousands of
acres of land on behalf of the Demerara Bauxite Company
(Demba.) It was around this time that Mackenzie appeared.
What most people are not aware of is that a vibrant community
existed before Mackenzie arrived. As a matter of fact, the Dutch,
who lived in the area before the British, had established sugar
plantations in upper regions of rivers before the British began to
cultivate the fertile coastlands. Wismar, one of these plantations,
once owned by an Englishman named Anthony Somersall, was
bought by John Hoo-a-shoo, grandfather of a later Evan Wong
who worked at Demba prior to nationalization. The Hoo-a-shoo
family also owned the Planba mines which they eventually sold
to Demba. Plantation Christianburg, later owned by John
Dalgleish Paterson, employed over 2,000 workers, mainly in the
woodcutting business (see adjacent view of the great house). Paterson
began buying up as much land in the area as he could get
soon after his arrival at Christianburg. Later, he bought up tens
of thousand of acres all the way to the Essequibo. The Paterson
story is one that has intrigued many over the years.
Paterson, reputedly a Scottish army major, acquired Plantation
Christianburg, a sugar estate, from a Dutchman named Christaan
Finet shortly after his arrival in the area in 1810, over 100 years
before Mackenzie came. It was Paterson who consolidated and
even monopolized the woodcutting business in the area, establishing
one of the first water powered sawmills in then British
Pattersonís great house of the 1800s, which later became Christianburg Court House. continued on page 7
RH Carr plying the Navigational Channel of the Demerara River.
Photo credits: For the historic early photos in this article, The Lindener thanks Messrs. Paul
Mueller and Joseph Murray. A special thanks to Mr. Evan Wong of USA, formerly a Demba
Servicesí General Superintendent, for the information on the roles of both his grandfathers
in establishing the Mackenzie bauxite era.
Some photos were digitally corrected and/or colorized by The Lindener.
Guiana. Paterson had contacts in Georgetown, such as the Bookers
brothers, and a great deal of the wood used for Georgetown
buildings came from his sawmill. He even built his great house,
now the court house, which has stood the test of time. Some may
remember that there was a long stelling in front of the court house
as well as two cannons. Paterson sounded these cannons when
many of his friends and business partners visited him. In his book,
Twenty-Five Years in British Guiana (1872 Ė 1897), Henry Kirke,
a Dutchman who was the Sheriff for the Demerara area, recalled
visiting Patersonís great house and meeting Mrs. Paterson (Jane
McKell) and her son John Jr. who were running the business.
Kirke expressed astonishment at the house which he described as
ďone of the best built in the colonyĒ, and he described the opulent
interior which was comprised of furnishings which Paterson had
brought from Scotland. Today, most of the stelling as well as the
cannons are long gone, but the waterwheel from the sawmill still
remains, a solitary monument to the past (see above).
Paterson had a dozen children with two colored women,
Elizabeth Hill and her niece, Jane McKell. Though he did
not marry Elizabeth, who bore him five children, he did marry
her niece after sending Elizabeth to live at Plantation Ameliaís
Ward, which he also owned. When Paterson died in 1842
(his will was probated by one of the Bookers brothers), his
heirs sold some of the land that he had amassed. In the
late1890ís, Patersonís son sold the entire estate, including the
sawmill at Christianburg, to the government for a great deal
of money since the government wanted to build a light railway
system connecting Demerara and Essequibo. This railway
system was needed because of the dangerous rapids which
impeded the transportation of goods to the Essequibo area.
The idea was that goods could be transported to Wismar via
the Demerara River then sent by rail to upper Essequibo.
Sprostons acquired the contract to build the railroad.
History states that Paterson arrived in 1810 with two companions,
Blount and Spencer, who also settled in the area.
Blount acquired land at Old England, and Spencer lived at
Three Friends, which he named in honor of himself and his
two companions, Paterson and Blount. In her book, Run
Softly Demerara, Zahra Freeth described Spencerís great house
on a hill as being complete with a moat and drawbridge. Spencer
became a Postholder, essentially a government agent for
Amerindian affairs. He lived with Hannah Simon (Simmons),
the daughter of an Amerindian chief. The Spencer line is
also interwoven with that of Robert Frederick Alli*censored*, a
Scotsman who lived in the area before the arrival of the Three
Friends (Blount, Paterson, and Spencer) in 1810. Hannah
Simon had a daughter, Nancy, for R.F. Alli*censored* and that
daughter later married Spencerís son, John Jr. Their daughter,
Maria Elizabeth, had part of the bauxite mining area
named for her.
The old sawmill waterwheel which operated at Plantation Christianburg, is still there.
The Christianburg lumber operations taken over by the Government and operated by
Sprostons to supply crossties for the Rockstone railroad and greenheart dock pilings.
Paddle-wheel steamer freight at lumber-mill stelling on the Demerara in late-1800s.
continued on page 8
The acting treasurer of the newly
formed D.C. Metro Chapter/ LFU,
Carmen Barclay Subryan was born
in Linden, where her ancestral roots
run deep. She attended Christianburg
Scots School, Mackenzie High
School, and Guyana Teachers College.
In 1968, she left for Howard University
where she received her B.A.
(Honors), M.A. as well as a Ph.D. in
1983. She has been on the faculty at
Howard University since 1974.
Always deeply interested in her roots,
Carmen has written two novels about
life in the Mackenzie area. The first
one, Black-Water Women, explores
the lives of four women in the area,
and the second one, Black-Water
People, is a historical novel about her motherís family, the Alli*censored*s, one of
the first European families in the area. She is currently working on her
third novel, Black-Water Children. Carmen can be reached at
About the Author
The Alli*censored* story is particularly interesting since in the 1950ís
the family was forced to sue the bauxite company which was attempting
to displace them. Incidentally, they won the lawsuit because
Alli*censored* left a will, which was probated in 1822, giving his
plantation, Noit Gedacht (Retrieve), slaves and all, to Ann
Mansfield, a colored woman, and their eight children ďforever.Ē
The story of how Mackenzie used deception to acquire much of
the Alli*censored* land, which included Speightland, supposedly to develop
orange groves, is well known in the area. Alli*censored*, who had
arrived in the area in the late 1700ís, more than 150 years before
Mackenzie, had become the fast friend and business partner of
John D. Paterson, whom Alli*censored* trusted to be the executor of his
will. Because of the will, Alli*censored* descendants were able to win a
favorable settlement with Demba which was attempting to displace
them so that it could build the alumina plant. But the Alli*censored*
line extended far beyond Retrieve. In the 1890ís, Kirke wrote of
visiting Seba (Sebacabra) in the upper Demerara, which was owned
by an Alli*censored* who had a white Scottish wife.
Numerous descendants of the Alli*censored*s, Blounts, Patersons,
and Spencers still live in the Linden area, their lives intertwined
Carmen Barclay Subryan
An old family plot at Speightland.
not only with each other, but also with numerous others who
have settled in Linden. Thus, when you hear of names such
as Binning, Barclay, DeClou, Flemming, Gittens, Van
Gronigen, and Yansen, among others, you are hearing of descendants
of Europeans who lived in Linden long before Mackenzie
was even a dream.
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