Saint Ann Parish
Saint Ann is centrally located on the north coast of the island, roughly halfway between the eastern and western ends of the island, and is bordered by Trelawny to the west, Saint Mary to the east, and Clarendon and Saint Catherine to the south. Often called the Garden Parish because of its beauty, Saint Ann’s capital is Saint Ann’s Bay.
St. Ann is one of the oldest populated areas in Jamaica, dating back to 600-650A.D. It is thought to be the earliest Arawak/Taino Indian settlement. When Christopher Columbus first came to Jamaica in 1494, he reportedly landed on the shores here, at a place now called Discovery Bay (although this is under debate). On his 4th voyage, he returned to Jamaica and was marooned for a year (1503-1504) at Saint Ann’s Bay, which he called Santa Gloria. The first Spanish settlement in Jamaica was at Sevilla la Nueva, now called Seville, just to the west of St. Ann’s Bay. It was established by Juan de Esquivel, the first Spanish Governor of Jamaica and was the third capital established by the Spanish in the Americas. The first sugar mills were established in Sevilla la Nueva before 1526.
After 1655, when the English captured Jamaica, Saint Ann's Bay gradually developed as a fishing port with many warehouses, jetties and four wharves. Ultimately renamed Saint Ann after Lady Ann Hyde, wife of King James II of England, the parish covers 468 square miles and is Jamaica’s largest parish. With a population estimated at 170,000, with 11,000 living in the capital, Saint Ann is one of the more populous parishes. Some important towns located in St. Ann are Discovery Bay, Runaway Bay, Claremont, Brown's Town and Ocho Rios.
The Dry Harbour Mountains represent the parish’s highest elevation at 2,500 above sea level. Because of its limestone formation, Saint Ann is noted for its many caves (about 60) and numerous sinkholes. The Moneague Lake is one of the few large “lakes” in the island - it is believed that the lake originates during periods of heavy rainfall from underground water which backs up and rises when the normal channels are unable to take the increased flow. The White River forms the boundary between St. Ann and St. Mary, flowing for 17 miles. The names of the other main rivers are Dunn’s, Negro, St. Ann, Great, Roaring, Cave and Pedro.
Bauxite is the most significant mineral deposit in Saint Ann parish and is located close to the surface over ¾ of the parish. Two bauxite mining companies were established in the parish - Reynolds Jamaica Mines Ltd. (1952-1984) and Kaiser Aluminum (1953). The latter is one of Jamaica’s largest single taxpayers and has contributed significantly to the parish infrastructure and development of the community. In fact, Reynolds Jamaica Mines was instrumental in the development of Ocho Rios when the company built a deep-water pier just west of town to ship bauxite ore which they moved there by conveyor belt over six miles from the mines.
The major economic activity in Saint Ann is tourism, at Ocho Rios and Runaway Bay. Along with Montego Bay and Negril, Ocho Rios is one of Jamaica’s most popular tourist destinations and tourism is the major employer. It has always been number one for cruise ship arrivals, but now must compete with the new port facilities built in Falmouth, Trelawny. Agriculture in the parish has declined because farmland is increasingly used for housing. However, the main products are banana, coconut, pimento (allspice), coffee, citrus, ginger, sweet potatoes, yams and annatto. Sisal is also cultivated in drier areas. The parish is also noted for cattle rearing, horses and hogs, but livestock-rearing has declined as well.
Saint Ann is the birthplace of reggae artist Winston “Burning Spear” Rodney OD (St. Ann's Bay, 1948), Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley OM (Nine Mile, 1945-1981), one of the most well-known reggae artists of all time, Donat Roy "Jackie" Mittoo (Browns Town, 1948-1990), a founding member of the Skatalites, and The Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey (St. Ann's Bay, 1887-1940), one of Jamaica's seven National Heroes. Marcus Garvey, publisher and journalist, championed the rights of Africans throughout the world during a critical period in their evolution. He is also recognized as the most important prophet of the Rastafarian religion.
For a fascinating look at land ownership in Saint Ann in the 19th Century, check out the 1840 Jamaica Almanac. You will find the names of the owners of many of the plantation great houses mentioned in our page on cultural and historical things to see in Saint Ann.