Hello to my 9 x great grandfather, Theophilus Patey. In 1656, he was getting married to my 9 x great grandmother Elizabeth Baker. They were on the small (21 x 14 miles) eastern Caribbean island of Barbados, in St. Michael’s Parish.
He was probably 23, and she was about 20. Both had recently come from England.
They soon had eight children. Yet with the high disease and mortality rate on the island, five of their children died very young. Three other children survived. Finally, in the 1670s, the family moved to Charles Town, in the province of Carolina. Their most long-lived daughter, Elizabeth Patey, married Major John Boone, who founded Boone Hall Plantation on the 470 South Carolina acres given him by Theophilus Patey. (See my post of January 8, 2013).
Theophilus and Elizabeth were probably among those “good families” and “well-to-do Royalists” who were given land in the new colony of Barbados. Glancing at their ancestors, I’ve found one “Sir” and one “Lady.” Early English settlers like these, with “good financial backgrounds and social connections in England,” embody the British Empire beginning to take shape.
In those early years, the island of Barbados was free for the taking. King James claimed it in 1625, and the first settlers arrive in 1627. There were 80 settlers on that first ship, including 10 slaves. These slaves may have been “kidnapped or runaway English or Irish youth,” or they may have been African slaves. The Barbados settlement was financed by a London merchant who held the title to this island and two others, with the blessing of the Crown.
The Barbados economy, along with its slave population, rocketed upwards in the 1640s. That’s when the Sephardic Jews in Dutch Brazil taught Barbados planters how to cultivate sugar cane, and the Dutch slave traders began to sell them both equipment and African slaves. These slaves often died from bad conditions, overwork, and a climate of disease in Barbados. Yet Dutch ships could always replenish the slave supply. Later, whites from Britain and Ireland were also transported to Barbados, as indentured servants or prisoners, for heavy labor.
So Barbados struck it rich, and that London merchant shared in the profits. With no labor shortage, and with a Triangle Trade that guaranteed them slaves and a market for their sugar, Barbados had more trade by 1660 than all other English colonies combined.
Yet a few dominant white planters began to consolidate all that wealth. And gradually, other whites, depressed by their declining income and fearful of slave uprisings (three uprisings failed in the 1600s), began to leave the island. Slaves from Africa kept coming, though. In 1644 Barbados had about 22,000 whites and 800 Africans. By 1700 there were about 15,000 whites and 50,000 Africans. My ancestors Theophilus and Elizabeth took part in this exodus, leaving between 1670 and 1678.
Whites moved from Barbados to Virginia, Georgia, the Carolinas, and the entire east coast of North America in the 1600s and 1700s, so that many people can trace their ancestors to Barbados.
Part 2 Next Week: Civil War in England comes to Barbados.