Saint Elizabeth Parish
Saint Elizabeth is located in the southwestern section of the island, bordered by Manchester to the east, Westmoreland to the west, and Saint James and Trelawny to the north. Saint Elizabeth’s capital is Black River, located at the mouth of the Black River.
It is believed the parish was named after Elizabeth, the wife of Sir Thomas Modyford, who was the first English Governor of Jamaica. Saint Elizabeth originally included most of the southwest part of the island, but in 1703 Westmoreland was separated from it and, in 1814, a part of Manchester. Saint Elizabeth has a population of about 150,000 and some of the other major towns are Santa Cruz, Malvern, Junction, Balaclava.
Saint Elizabeth covers an area of 468 square miles, making it the second-largest parish (behind Saint Ann). Much of the land is dry grassland called savannahs and is used mainly for agriculture. There are three mountain ranges - the Nassau Mountains, the Santa Cruz Mountains which end in a precipitous drop of 1,600 feet at Lovers' Leap, and the Lacovia Mountains. The Black River is the longest river in Jamaica and flows for 25 miles. Because of the parish’s limestone foundation, there are 44 caves including Mexico, the island’s longest, Yardley Chase Caves, Wallingford Caves, and Peru Caves which have impressive stalagmites and stalactites.
There are traces of Arawak/Taino Indian presence in this part of the island, particularly in the cave at Pedro Bluff. When the Spaniards came, they established ranches on the savannahs. The walls and wells they left are reminders of their occupation. The British settled in 1655 and concentrated on planting sugar cane. Saint Elizabeth prospered and Black River became an important seaport (closed in 1968). Logwood, used to make Prussian-blue dye in the 18th and 19th centuries, was exported to Europe via Black River, in addition to sugar and molasses. Electric power was first introduced in Jamaica in a house called Waterloo in Black River in 1893. In 1903 the first motor car to come to Jamaica was imported by the owner of Waterloo. In those days the town had a horse-racing track, a gambling house and a mineral spa for the wealthy at the west end of the town.
Saint Elizabeth’s rich mineral deposits include bauxite, antimony, white limestone, clay, peat and silica sand, which is used to manufacture glass. But the chief industry is still agriculture. The parish is known for its watermelons, seasoning, tomatoes, onions, cassava, and pineapples. The one remaining sugar factory is the Appleton Estate which produces fine blends of rum. While logwood is not longer needed to produce dye, it is now used to produce a popular honey made from logwood blossoms. A considerable amount of livestock are also reared in the parish. And fishing is quite good here as well; Middle Quarters is known as the Shrimp Capital of Jamaica.
One noted person born in this parish is former Jamaican-British javelin thrower and heptathlete Theresa "Tessa" Sanderson, born in Saint Elizabeth in 1956. When Sanderson won the gold medal in the javelin at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, she became the first British black woman ever to win Olympic gold. She is still the only British woman to win a throwing event. Others born in the parish include reggae artists Lorna Bennett (Newton, 1952), Fantan Mojah (born Owen Montcrieffe, 1953), and Sir Donald Burns Sangster (1911-1967), the second Prime Minister of Jamaica, who appears on the Jamaican $100 bill and has an airport named after him - Sir Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.