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Bermuda's History from
1700 to 1799
events with role in American Revolutionary War and afterwards
Archibald Forbes (see About
Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda
To refer to this
web file, please use "bermuda-online.org/history1700-1799.htm" as
- 1700. In St. George's,
Bermuda, the Globe Hotel was built as a residence for Governor Day.
- 1700. In Bermuda, in addition
to a fleet of 60 sloops, 6 brigantines, 4 ships, 300 to 400 two-masted boats
for coastal waters, Bermudians built large boats for foreign clients as well. It was one of the best years ever for Bermuda ship-building. The
industry lasted for about 150 years. Only with the age of steam and beyond
did the industry decline. Today, no vessels are made commercially in
- 1701. With war between Britain
and France imminent, the British Government decided that Bermuda should be
protected by regular soldiers. The small military force, the Independent
Company of Foot, was sent from England.
- 1701. May. On HMS Lincoln, the first 50 full time soldiers arrived in Bermuda
Benjamin Bennett, who had commanded a company in Ireland. They were detached
from the 2nd Foot over protests of General William Selwyn who had clothed
them in England. They were headed by Captain Lancelot Sandys,
with Lieutenant Robert Henly and had 2 sergeants, 2 corporals, 1
drummer and 50 privates. They became known as the "Independent
- 1701. Governor Bennett brought
the Silver Oar, emblem of Admiralty jurisdiction, to Bermuda and
initiated the practice of placing it before himself at meetings of the
- 1701. In St. George's,
Bermuda, Fanny Fox's Cottage was built on Duke of Clarence Street.
- 1702. Queen Anne ascended the
- 1702. Britain entered
the War of The Spanish Succession, against France. This war also
included a French campaign, with Allied Native Nations (Indians)
against British possessions in North America. The previous year, with
this war looming, a Company of Regular infantry had been sent to
Bermuda and made an 'Independent Company (the first Regular Army
deployment to the colony). With the onset of the war, the militia in
Bermuda was strengthened. Six hundred men were armed and trained with
lances. A troop of Horse Grenadiers was raised amongst those
wealthy enough to afford a horse. The war continued until 1713.
- 1704. In Bermuda, another Act
to punish the "insolence of Negroes" was passed, this time with castration.
The act was repealed in 1705 at the insistence of Whitehall as it
containing "some inhumane penalties," although "whipping and
imprisoning" were considered acceptable.
- 1705. In St. George's,
Bermuda, the Old Rectory was built.
- 1705. In St. George's,
Bermuda, Reeve Court was built by Dr. Thomas Holland, minister of the
parish church. For centuries, it was the tallest building in the
- 1706. Spanish and
French forces seized the Turks, until then controlled by Bermudians
who were unable at that time to defend them successfully.
- 1710. Bermudian
forces succeeded in expelling Spanish and French from the Turks
Islands, in what was probably Bermuda's only independent military
- 1710. "Verdmont," now a
Bermuda National Trust museum, in Smith's Parish, was first built,
partly by slaves.
A Bermuda silver tankard was made by Thomas Savage Sr, (1664-1749) a
silversmith who worked in both Boston and Bermuda. He
was born in Boston and trained as a silversmith from 1678 to about
and his family moved to Bermuda in the early 18th century and he is
known to have lived and worked in Bermuda between 1706 and 1714. Only
14 pieces made by Savage are recorded in the standard reference book
on Boston silversmiths. Seven of these pieces are tankards and almost
all of these have Boston rather than Bermudian associations.
- 1711. In St. George's,
Bermuda, the Tucker House was built.
- 1711. In Bermuda, an
Order in Council was issued to authorize the master of any ship greater
than 44 feet to use as many Blacks and or slaves as crew as he thought
necessary. But it limited the number of whites to six.
- 1711. So many slaves
wore fine clothing and fancy dresses to their own balls and gatherings
that the Bermuda Assembly passed a law that forbade masters from
allowing their slaves to "wear any silk, lace, ribbon, rings,
bracelets, buckles, . . . nor other ornaments." These "merry
meetings and midnight festivals" reflected a synthesis of
European fashion and African and Native American traditions perhaps
best exemplified by the costume, dance, and music of gombey dancers.
Despite the reforming efforts of the Assembly, numerous clandestine
public houses served rum and bibby (a liquor made from fermented
palmetto sap) to black clientele, sites where slave sailors could
relax after months at sea. Goods and specie flowing in Bermuda's
internal slave economy testify to the success of Bermudian slave
sailors in obtaining creature comforts for themselves and for the
slave community as a whole, while their celebrations and rituals
reveal their ability to create and maintain cultural traditions
independently expressed from that of the white families with whom they
- 1712. Earliest documented
evidence of knowledge of Argus and Challenger Banks for fishing and
- 1712. When the
original owner of Verdmont in Smith's Parish, John Dickinson, died
in this year, only two years after Verdmont was built, he had 14
slaves, many of them associated with his maritime travels. It is
possible slaves may have lived in the lower level of one of the
cottages of what was then the Verdmont Estate.
- 1712. On September 8 the
first of two very severe hurricanes that damaged many Bermuda buildings
including St. Peter's Church in St. George's. Bermuda's first settlers
had built almost everything out of cedar wood, including commercial
buildings and churches. It was as a direct result
of these hurricanes that the decision was taken to quit building
structures of wood and instead make them out of limestone, to better
withstand hurricanes. New construction methods were developed to cut
stone from hillsides to create solid limestone buildings. (Many still
- 1714. George I ascended the
throne of England.
- 1715. Britain went to
war with Spain and Bermuda's Independent Company of troops was alerted.
- 1716. Another very severe
hurricane damaged many Bermuda buildings.
All ninety-two Bermuda-registered vessels were sloops.
- 1716. Christ Church, or Old
Devonshire Church, was first built, from an earlier religious edifice
that had first commenced in the 1660s. It replaced a place of worship
that blew down in a hurricane. (It was reconstructed after fire from arson
in the 1970s).
- 1718. In Bermuda, another
slave conspiracy was feared. It was reported that Negro men had grown
very impudent and insulting of late. In fact, some slave conspiracies
began, known as the "poisoning plots" until 1730.
- 1718. May 10. Nathaniel
Catling came ashore in Bermuda and went to see Governor Bennett. He
told the Governor that he was one of the crew of the Bermuda sloop
"Diamond". On April 14 they were sailing off Rum Key in the
Bahamas when they were intercepted by the pirate ship
"Ranger" commanded by Captain Vane. The pirates beat up the
captain and all the crew of the "Diamond", and looted the
vessel of a black man and 300 pieces of eight. Nathaniel Catling was
singled and hanged by the neck until they thought he was dead. When
they let him down on the deck, he was seen to revive, whereupon one of
the pirates hacked him across the collarbone with his cutlass and
would have continued until he had murdered him had not one of the
other pirates persuaded him it "was too great a cruelty".
The pirates' final act was to set fire to the
- 1718. May 15. 5 days
after Catling made his report, Edward North, the commander of the
Bermuda sloop "William and Martha" came to see Governor
Bennett with a similar story. He said that his ship had been attacked
by Vane off Rum Key within 3 hours of the attack on the
"Diamond". The pirates had boarded his vessel, violently
beaten him and his crew, then dragged one of the seamen to the bows,
bound him hand and foot, and tied him to the bowsprit. As he lay there
helpless on his back, the pirates put burning matches to his eyes and
the muzzle of a loaded pistol in his mouth, thereby to oblige him to
confess what money was on board. In this instance they did not set
fire to the ship, but Captain North reported that while they were on
board, the pirates were continually cursing the King and the higher
powers, and swearing damnation on the Governor."
- 1719. On November 17, the
Cobbs Hill Methodist Chapel in Warwick Parish, Bermuda, was built by
slaves at night.
July. It is believed that in Bermuda black involvement in the maritime
trading economy began, arising from a meeting between Bermuda
Governor Benjamin Bennett and his Council, arising from reports of a
number of white Bermudian sailors colluding with pirates. The concern
was that these white sailors, acting as pilots, would lead pirates
through the treacherous shoals of Bermuda to the Islands. But of even
more concern was the fact that the number of local whites available to
defend the island was being depleted by overseas trading. Bennett was
particularly worried about the salt rakers in Turks Island.
He declared at that meeting that pirates
were taking these men and that it was “...very detrimental to the
Inhabitants of these Islands”. (Minutes of the Governor’s Council,
Bermuda Archives, 1706-21, p. 120). The low white male population and
its military implications were likely reasons for Bennett’s plan to
arm and muster slaves. By an Order-in-Council
it was declared that the number of white men employed in the local
merchant marine be circumscribed. It was hoped this would deprive the
pirates of potential pilots and at the same time expand the number of
men available for the muster. Thereafter,
no vessel of 40 feet or more keel and belonging to and departing from
the Islands was to have “...any more white Sailors than
Twelve...”; and no vessel of 39 feet keel or less was to take out
any more than nine ‘white’ sailors. All captains of vessels of any
dimension whatsoever could take out “...as many Negroes or other
Slaves as he or they shall think proper". All sailors taken out
by vessels were to be brought back to the Islands by the same vessels
on which they left. Hence began the
expansion of the international reach of local ‘black’s trading’,
as ‘Negroes’, ‘Mulattos’, and ‘Indians’, in bond or free,
would begin to slowly expand their presence in the Bermudian merchant
marine. Between 1708 and 1720, about 28 percent of the men
constituting a sloop’s crew were ‘black’ according to 18th
Century documents. This rose to 34 percent in 1720. Those
who were employed as mariners within the ‘black’ community were
not all Bermuda-born and raised; and among the community of sailors
were men with at least a foreign and plausibly Spanish Caribbean
heritage. Slave labour shifted from performing diverse agricultural
tasks to skilled artisan crafts.
A few male slaves had fished, hunted whales,
and salvaged wrecks in local waters during the company period, and
these early maritime slaves were among the first recruited by
Bermudian masters embarking on inter-colonial trade.
Other male slaves, particularly boys,
learned seamanship when their owners eschewed planting and took to the
A third group became sawyers, joiners,
caulkers, blacksmiths, and shipwrights and formed the backbone of the
colony's shipbuilding labor force.
As more and more slaves were integrated into
the maritime economy, the shipping fleet swelled and the island
prospered from its increased trade.
a white perspective, the shift enabled white masters who went to sea
to use their previously underemployed male slaves more productively.
- 1720. Of the 17 boats in
Antigua, 9 were from Bermuda.
- 1721. Robert
Dinwiddie commenced his role as a colonial administrator with his
appointment in Bermuda (see 1751). A graduate of the
University of Glasgow and with his parents successful merchants in
Glasgow he became the Collector of Customs, a post he held for 16
years. Later, he was the Governor of Virginia.
- 1721. The
third Government House was started, yet again in St. George's, on
the site largely occupied now by the Unfinished Church.
- 1721. The Silver Oar,
brought to Bermuda in 1701 by Governor Bennett as the emblem of
Admiralty jurisdiction, and initiated by him as the custom of placing
it before himself at meetings of the Governor’s Council, was
purchased by the Bermuda Government.
- 1722. When Colonel John Bruce
Hope became Governor, major work was done on Paget Fort (or Queen's Fort
as it was sometimes called). It seems likely that the rocks on which the
lower battery stood were undermined by the constant pounding of the
waves, particularly in the winter. It took several years to complete the
repairs on both Paget and nearby Smith's Forts, at great cost.
- 1724. Bishop George
Berkeley proposed a scheme for the erection of a college in Bermuda for
"the converting of the savage Americans to Christianity."
- 1724. Henry Rost, a
German national, applied unsuccessfully to the Bermuda legislature
for financial help in establishing a vineyard in Bermuda.
- 1725. The
"William" vessel was seized by Robert Dinwiddie, Bermuda
Collector of Customs, for smuggling and for having a substantially
black crew (3 of 4 crew members).
Master of the William was Solomon Frith. He successfully smuggled a
hogshead of Virginia tobacco by discharging his white crew at Turks
Islands and taking a slave crew on to Virginia. By law, slaves could not
testify and therefore he could not be found guilty of smuggling for
lack of witnesses. She was acquitted from seizure.
- 1727. King George II was enthroned.
- 1727. Fourways,
in Paget, was built of native coral stone and cedar. It was commissioned by
John Harvey of Harvey's Bristol Cream fame, who made it his home. It was
aptly named Fourways because it spread modestly in all four directions and
was enclosed within two and a half acres of walled gardens at Amen Corner, a
vital crossroads in Bermuda for over 250 years. Fourways' reputation for
gracious hospitality was established from the very beginning. Guests
attending Mr. Harvey's elegant dinner parties enjoyed lavishly cooked meals,
an excellent wine cellar and - because they were forced to travel many miles
by horse & carriage - they were offered overnight lodging as well. For
more than two centuries this lovely Georgian home was retained as the
private residence of the Harvey family and several other owners, and
remained a fixture on the Island's social scene. Extensive renovations and
additions were made, but the uniquely Bermudian character of the house was
- 1728. Bermuda received a
shipment of military supplies from Britain.
- 1728. Militia Act 1728
created 'The King's Independent Company' of 50 men in Bermuda, taking
part of the name of the earlier Independent Company.
- 1730. June 6. After being tried on
June 1, Slave Sally Bassett, owned by the estate of Francis Dickinson, of
sentenced to death and then burned at the stake on a scorching hot day for
poisoning several persons including her master Thomas Forster who owned
Sally's grand-daughter Beck, his wife Sarah Forster and Nancey, a household
bondswoman. Sally was charged with giving Beck the poison that Nancey
discovered in the wall of the kitchen outlet. She always maintained her innocence and said God would
send a sign to prove it. People then found
the Bermudiana flowering out of her ashes and Sally became a focus of the
anti-slavery movement. Bermudians refer to a really hot day as a Sally
- 1730. An Act affecting Negroes and
other slaves imported into Bermuda was approved. It levied a tax of £5 on all
imported slaves, except those arriving directly from Africa. The Population
was then 8,774 - 5,086 white and 3,688 black.
- 1731. In St. Georges, Bermuda, the
Mitchell House (now the St. George's Historical Society) was built.
- 1732. Establishment of Georgia
as a British Colony, by James Oglethorpe.
- 1736. In an inventory made for
Colonel John Trimingham, there were 18 Bermuda-made carved chairs in his
living room, made partly or wholly with cedar - and mahogany imported
from the West Indies, much prized. It was a good time for Bermuda-made
- 1737. Between 3 September and
31 December, 38 sloops entered or cleared Norfolk, and of this total, 25
were registered in Bermuda, the famous cedar-built Bermuda sloops. Their
hulls, with significant dead rise, combined with low freeboard, less
superstructure and lighter spars to enable them to increase speed and
stability. Strong, light cedar found in abundance in Bermuda, and used for
framing as well as planking, reduced vessel weight, and the common sail
plan, with raked mast and square topsails, made Bermuda sloops good sailors
with speed under fair conditions.
- 1741. In Bermuda, the Spanish
privateer Francisco Lopez landed a raiding party at Boat Bay in Southampton
Parish. The Spaniards seized local fishing boats and towed them behind their
ship. The local militia and two armed Bermudian sloops arrived too late to
retrieve them. The boats and the retreating Spanish were never heard of again.
- 1744. Freemasonry was acknowledged
to exist in Bermuda when the Earl of Strathmore, Grand Master of England,
appointed a Provincial Grand Master for the Islands of Bermuda.
- 1746. So many prisoners-of-war were
brought in by Bermudian privateers that the only place available to
accommodate them was Paget Fort. They were guarded by locally-quartered troops
and had a food allowance of one shilling a day.
- 1747. As a result of the
Militia Act 1747, with the War of the Austrian Succession looming and
providing a potential threat to both Britain and Bermuda, the Troop of
Horse Grenadiers earlier established was split into Eastern and Western
- 1747. The death, in Bermuda, at more
than 100 years old, of Sarah Durham (nee Hunt). Her husband - who pre-deceased
her - was several times Commander-on-Chief, Bermuda. She was the child
of Richard Hunt and his wife Sarah, of Bromley, Kent, England, who arrived in
the Bermuda Islands in 1647, with their child, also named
Death of Thomas Savage Sr, (born 1664) a
silversmith who worked in both Boston and Bermuda.
1750. The size of the
Bermuda fleet of ships had grown and diversified to 115 vessels:
eighty-one sloops, fourteen schooners, eighteen brigantines, and two others.
The speed of the Bermuda sloop made it a highly
sought-after carrier whose masters found ready customers in ports abroad,
especially during wartime.
The flexibility of the rig allowed it to sail in wind
conditions that kept square-riggers at anchor, and the shallow draft of the
typical Bermudian hull could navigate over sandbars that stopped larger
vessels and up rivers to reach markets deep in the North American interior.
The durable, native Bermuda cedar from which the
sloops were built was highly resistant to rot and marine borers, giving
Bermudian vessels a lifespan of twenty years and more even in the
worm-infested waters of the Chesapeake and the Caribbean.
sloop was wonderfully adapted
to overcoming many of the physical and geographic obstacles in America's
inter-colonial trade, a factor that played no small part in the island's
vessel circa 1750
1751. November 20. Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie
(born 1693) of Virginia and his family, after setting sail a few days
earlier from Bermuda, arrived in Williamsburg to take up his new post in
Britain's largest overseas colony, retroactive to July 4, first
under Governor Willem Anne van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle, and then, from
July 1756 to January 1758, as deputy for John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun.
Since the governors at that time were largely absentee, he was the de-facto
head of the colony for much of the time. When the Dinwiddie family arrived the Governor's Palace was under repair.
Arrangements were made for their temporary residence at the house next door,
today the Robert Carter House. It would be a year before they could relocate
to the Palace, and no sooner had they settled in than construction of the
ballroom wing began. Dinwiddie came from a line of Scottish merchants, but
moved into colonial administration as a young man. His first assignment took
him to Bermuda, where he met his wife to be, Rebecca. She was the only child
of Andrew Auchinleck, the colony's principal Anglican minister and once,
briefly, acting governor. Dinwiddie was much older than she. They were
married in Bermuda, and in 1738 their first daughter, Elizabeth, was born.
The younger child, Rebecca, arrived three years later. Life in Williamsburg
with two young ladies—the girls were ten and thirteen when they
came—must have been a busy round of household management, lessons, and
social activities. As
lieutenant governor, Dinwiddie saw the beginnings of the conflict on
Virginia's frontiers that led to the French and Indian War. He was a firm
advocate of British expansion into the west. He sought the help of the
Indians and the other British colonies in the struggle against the French,
pressed the legislature for defense funds, and favored the use of regular
armed forces in place of the less reliable militia. Dinwiddie made George
Washington a lieutenant colonel in 1754. Generally, Dinwiddie was able to
work in harmony with the Virginia Legislature. He did, however, prompt a
serious conflict with the House of Burgess shortly after he took office. In
hope of increasing the British King's revenues, Dinwiddie tried to levy a
fee for land patents, which would also require landholders to pay quitrents
to the Crown. This precipitated the famous "Pistole Fee"
controversy, in which the lower house charged that the governor had imposed
an unlawful tax that endangered colonial liberty - a precursor of the
arguments of the American Revolution. The
pressures of office and the war badly taxed Dinwiddie's health. At his own
request he was relieved of office in 1758, and with his wife and two
daughters returned to Britain. He died in London on July 27, 1770 leaving his widow and daughters comfortably established. Daughter Elizabeth
died at thirty-five, unmarried. Rebecca Dinwiddie died in London in 1793,
101 years after her husband's birth.
1752. Like the rest of the British
Empire, Bermuda changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.
Eleven days were lost when September 3 under the old system became September
14 under the new one.
Bermuda, near Port Royal, of St. George Tucker, who became famous in
Williamsburg, Virginia (see 1827).
- 1755. The death, in Bermuda where he
had close family ties, of the South Carolina planter and historian Edward Wigg. He was believed to have been buried at St. Peter's Church.
- 1758. After the Seven
Years' War began, a Troop of horse and a Regiment of Foot of nine Companies
was formed in Bermuda arising from the Militia Act 1758. Each of the
nine Parishes was to provide a Company under the command of a Captain, a
Lieutenant and an Ensign. The Troop of Horse would have, in addition to
these officers, a Cornet and two Brigadiers (not the high UK Army rank).
- 1759. The Honorable George Forbes,
originally from Strathdon, Aberdeenshire and an emigrant to Bermuda, by then a
Councilor and member of the Executive Council of the Bermuda Government
- purchased Paget Island - then called Paget Ford Island and 36.35 acres
- in St. George's Parish for sixty pounds sterling.
- 1760. King George III was
enthroned in Britain and acknowledged in Bermuda by the Colonial
- 1760. The Bermudian
anti-Jews bill in effect since 1674 was repealed. This was written into
the repeal bill: "For as much as these islands are supported by trade
only it must be very prejudicial to prevent any person from trading in the
said islands. And for as much as our neighboring islands who have permitted
Jews to trade there have reaped great advantage therefrom, the said act so
laying an imposition on all Jews trading here must have been very
prejudicial to the inhabitants of these islands...."
- 1761. A slave or servile conspiracy was
uncovered in Bermuda. Over half of the black population laid plans in a bid
for freedom. Six slaves were executed, including one female. The Legislature
reacted by banning all black festivities including Gombey dancing.
- 1762. A Watch Law was enacted in
Bermuda. Any slave not found by night where they belonged would receive 100
- 1763. The French ship
"L'Union" struck a reef in good weather and sank off Bermuda. It has
yielded good wooden artifacts.
- 1763. The end of the Seven
Years war led to the withdrawal from Bermuda of the Independent Company of
Militia. It was replaced by a detached Company of the 9th. Regiment of
Foot, from Florida. Although it was attempted to bring this unit up to
strength with men taken from the Bahamas Independent Company, it never had
more than 20 Privates ( a Company of that day being comparable to a modern
platoon, with 45 to 50 men).
- 1763. Isaac Chauvet, a
French national, applied unsuccessfully to the Bermuda legislature for
financial help in establishing a vineyard in Bermuda.
- 1764. August. Appointment of George
James Bruere as Governor of Bermuda, formerly a Lieutenant Colonel in the
British Army. He arrived in Bermuda with his wife and nine children on the
Prince of Wales, and remained in office for the next sixteen years.
- 1764. A French flotilla from Santo
Domingo attached Bermudian salt-rakers in the Turks Islands, destroyed their
houses and effects and carried them off as prisoners. Bermudians had been
salt-rakers there since 1678 but the capture made the British Government in
London look into the real ownership of the Turks Islands. They were deemed
part of the British Crown but part of the colony of the Bahamas. Bermudians
living there were given advance notice to quit.
- 1765. Bermuda families living in the
Somerset Bridge area formed themselves into a social group called the Somerset
Bridge Club and began their own private library, for members only.
- 1765. On September 4, in Ayr,
Scotland, Claude William McCallan was born, the son of William and Jean
McCallan. He was shipwrecked on Bermuda's north reefs in 1786. He was rescued
with his shipbuilding tools by a local fisherman, Daniel Seon. McCallan never
left Bermuda. Instead he selected a local bride, Lucy Burrows Mercer, and
erected his lovely home in 1799 to 1800 near where he first arrived, at Callan Glen in Hamilton Parish. At one
point, Callan Glen it owned all the property east, south and west of
- 1766. Governor George
Bruere, earlier concerned about the casual and almost paternal way some
slaves were treated in Bermuda and two years after his appointment, made
a speech to the House of Assembly in which he proposed the need for stricter
controls, including "...haveing the Doors lock'd where they are, under
the inspection of a white Person." Familiar with the control of slaves
in other colonies, he advised the Bermudians to Bring your Negroes to a
better regularity and due obedience... prevent their unlawfull Assemblys,
Thefts, and pernicious practices of leaving their Masters Houses and going
to meetings... by night."
- 1767. 21 March.
Bermuda's House of Assembly resolved to appoint a Committee consisting of
its Speaker and eleven other members to address His Majesty the King (George
III) on "the tyranny and oppression of the Governor" if they
deemed it necessary during the House's adjournment.
- 1767. The
British Government took a more formal interest in the waters of the western
Atlantic with the establishment of the "North America" Station
of the Royal Navy.
The detached Company of the 9th. Regiment of Foot, having arrived in
Bermuda from Florida in 1763, was returned to Florida, leaving Bermuda
without a regular garrison. Except for a period during the American War of
Independence, the colony's military defence was left, thenceforth, to its
own militias until 1793.
- 1772. November. Customs
officers seized the sloop "Molly", suspecting a cargo of foreign
rum. The Captain Perient Trott, owner Alex. Stockdale and others boarded the
vessel, forced off the officers, and made for sea. (Bermuda and the American
Revolution; Kerr, W; pg 37).
- 1774, early. The ship
"Industry" of Limerick was stranded on the north rocks. The
ship was stripped by Bermudians. (Bermuda and the American Revolution; Kerr,
W; pg 37).
- 1774. 20 August. Governor
George Bruere of Bermuda wrote to the Colonial Secretary, the Earl of
Dartmouth, to report that some Bermudians were showing sympathy for the
rebellion on the North American mainland. "As the People here have
thought themselves of Sufficient Consequence, to Choose Delegates and
Address the Congress at Philadelphia, I hope the Government will think they
have Sufficient Reason to put some Check upon them and Support the few
Officers of Government."
- 1775. April 19. Britain and
the USA went to war, with the Battle of
Lexington, outside Boston, the "shot heard round the world."
June. Governor George Bruere of Bermuda lost his eldest son John, who was
killed fighting as a Lieutenant in the British Army at the Battle of
- 1775. August 14. To the great outrage of
Bermuda Governor George James Bruere, himself a former British Army
Lieutenant Colonel, a party of armed Bermudians led by Colonel Henry Tucker,
having previously plotted to do so illegally, furtively approached under
cover of darkness, overpowered a single militia guard and scaled the high
walls of the Powder Magazine in St. George's. The air vent that capped
the magazine was quietly pried away and a man lowered by rope into the
magazine where he was able to unseat the door from its hinges being careful
not to cause a spark and set off the dry gunpowder stored within. They then
proceeded to steal nearly all the island's British Army entire supply of 100
barrels of gunpowder from Powder Magazine. They rolled the gunpowder down
the hill to the shores of Tobacco Bay where a pre-arranged group of
locally-made cedar dinghies were present to carry the precious cargo out
beyond the reef to the waiting American sloops. The Charleston, SC committee of safety
had sent the schooners "Lady
Catherine", "Charlestown" and "Savannah Packet". They
had arrived secretly by night and had stayed clear of the reefs, also out of
reach of British boats based in Bermuda then in Castle Harbour. The American
ships, led by the "Lady Catherine" with 40 crew and Captain
George Ord as its master, reached Charleston safely and deposited the powder
with Captain John Cowper of North Carolina, Colonel Henry Tucker's agent in
Charleston. The powder was later used to good effect at Fort Moultrie. The
daring robbery later became known as Bermuda's 1775 Gunpowder Plot. As a
result, the Continental Gongress embargo was then (briefly) lifted.
- 1775. August 14. After
the Pennsylvania committee of safety engaged the sloop "Lady
Catherine" Capt George Ord master, with 40 men as delegation to Bermuda
to trade powder of St George's for exemption from the embargo, they made
away with Henry Tucker's (of Somerset) 8 (1/2) barrells of powder. He
credited the powder to Capt John Cowper, of North Carolina, Henry's
Tucker's agent in
- 1775. August 15. By dawn an
alarm was raised that the magazine had been raided and a Bermuda Pilot boat
was dispatched to chase down the American sloop, the ships of the British
Navy being too slow on the water to catch her. The Pilot boat eventually
caught up to the sloop but being vastly outgunned by the American it turned
around and headed back to Bermuda. However, the pilot boat skipper and crew
identified the sloop as the Lady Catherine of Virginia. On shore, the
British militia scoured the island looking for the gunpowder thieves. The
Governor posted a reward of 100 pounds sterling for any one who would
testify against the gunpowder thieves. Despite the size then of this
reward, there is no record of anyone willing to give evidence against
Colonel Henry Tucker and his men. It was probably due to the huge
influence of that family at that time., both in Bermuda and America. (Two of
the Colonel's forefathers had been Governors of Bermuda). The Governor was
furious and reported his anger to the King back in England. Later that day,
a British Army Captain of militia found and burnt a Bermuda sloop being
fitted out for an overseas journey by one of the US sympathizers. It
transpired that Colonel Tucker was in the process of having built at a
shipyard at Mangrove Bay in Somerset for that purpose. Tempers flared among
other local residents also sympathetic to the cause. A Royal Navy sloop
boarding party also sent to investigate was armed with fixed bayonets. The
increasing number of rebellious Bermudians initially kept the militia and
naval party at bay.
- 1775. August 16. The infamous "Gunpowder Plot" created a
sensation in Bermuda where those loyal to the Crown were outraged at the
treason of certain Bermudians. However, the friendliness shown by the USA
towards Bermudians did not last forever. British Regular Army troops were brought in to
prevent another such plot.
- 1775. In Philadelphia, the
American Continental Congress announced a trade embargo against all colonies
remaining loyal to the Crown. When Bermuda tried to bargain with salt, the
American colonies refused and requested gunpowder instead. George Washington
himself wrote to Bermuda, saying the cause was just for him to obtain the
supply. A copy of his letter is still available in Bermuda for
interested locals and visitors. A group of Bermudians became
sympathetic to the Revolution.
- 1775. American invasion of
Canada, ultimately unsuccessful. It was the first major military initiative
by the newly formed Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The
objective of the campaign was to gain military control of the British
Province of Quebec, and convince the French-speaking Canadiens to join the
revolution on the side of the Thirteen Colonies. One expedition left Fort
Ticonderoga under Richard Montgomery, besieged and captured Fort St. Johns,
and very nearly captured British General Guy Carleton when taking Montreal.
The other expedition left Cambridge, Massachusetts under Benedict Arnold,
and traveled with great difficulty through the wilderness of Maine to Quebec
City. The two forces joined there, but were defeated at the Battle of Quebec
in December 1775. Montgomery's expedition set out from Fort Ticonderoga in
late August, and began besieging Fort St. Johns, the main defensive point
south of Montreal, in mid-September. After the fort was captured in
November, Carleton abandoned Montreal, fleeing to Quebec City, and
Montgomery took control of the city before heading for Quebec with an army
much reduced in size by expiring enlistments. There he joined Arnold, who
had left Cambridge in early September on an arduous trek through the
wilderness that left his surviving troops starving and lacking in many
supplies and equipment. These forces joined before Quebec City in December,
where they assaulted the city in a snowstorm on the last day of the year.
The battle was a disastrous defeat for the Americans; Montgomery was killed
and Arnold wounded, and the city's defenders suffered few casualties. Arnold
then conducted an ineffectual siege on the city, during which Loyalist
sentiments were boosted by successful propaganda campaigns, and General
David Wooster's blunt administration of Montreal served to annoy both
supporters and detractors of the Americans.
- 1775. September 6. General
George Washington, Commander in Chief, 13 Colonies of what later became the
USA, not knowing that British gunpowder had already been stolen in Bermuda
and shipped to America, wrote this letter (see below) to the Inhabitants of Bermuda:
"Gentlemen, In the
great conflict which agitates the continent, I cannot doubt but the
asserters of freedom and the right of the constitution are possessed of your
most favorable regards, and wishes for success. As descendants of freedom
and heirs with us of the same glorious inheritance- We flatter ourselves,
that, though divided by situation, we are firmly united in sentiment. The
cause of virtue and liberty is confined to no continent or climate- It
comprehends, within its capacious limits, the wise and good, however
dispersed and separated in space and distance. You will not be uninformed,
that the violence and rapacity of a tyrannic ministry have forced the
citizens of America , your brother colonists, into arms. We equally detest
and lament the prevalence of those counsels, no alternative but a civil war-
or a base submission. The wiser Disposer of all events has hitherto smiled
upon our virtuous efforts. These mercenary troops, a few of whom lately
boasted of subjugating this vast continent have been checked on their
earlier ravages, are now actually encircled in a small space, their arms
disgraced, and suffering all the calamities of a siege. The virtue, spirit,
and unison of the provinces leave them nothing to fear, but the want of
ammunition. The application of our enemies to foreign states, and their
vigilance upon our coasts, are only the efforts they have made against us
with success. Under the circumstances, and with these sentiments, we have
turned our eyes to you, gentlemen for relief. We are informed there is a
very large magazine on your Island under a very feeble guard. We would not
wish to involve an opposition, in which from your situation, we would be
unable to support you; we know not therefore to what extent to solicit your
assistance in availing ourselves of this supply; but if your favour and
friendship to North America and its liberties have not been misrepresented,
I persuade myself- you may, consistently with your own safety, promote and
further the scheme, so as to give it the fairest prospect of success. Be
assured that in this case the whole power and exertion of my influence will
be made with the honorable Continental Congress, that your Island may not
only be supplied with provisions, but experience every mark of affection and
friendship, which the grateful citizens of a free country can bestow on its
brethren and benefactors." (The original is in the safekeeping of the
Bermuda Historical Society).
- 1775. The "Scorpion"
was sent by Gage and Admiral Howe to remove Bermuda's cannon from the
Islands, fearing that the Americans would take the ordnance after the
powder. (Bermuda and the American Revolution; Kerr, W; pg 53).
- 1775. US Congress authorized
Mr Edward Stiles, of Pennsylvania and a former Bermudian, to send the brig
"Sea Nymph" Sam Stobel master, to Bermuda with cargo (such as
lumber, soap, and candles).
- 1776. May. The sloop
"Betsy & Ann", Ben Tucker master, was given permission to
exchange 1700 bushels of salt and two puncheons of rum for provisions at
Greenwich, Cumberland, NJ.
1776. Summer. St George Tucker, his father and one other purchased
the sloop "Dispatch" to smuggle rice, loaded with salt at Turk's
Islands in Nov 1776, and proceeded to Virginia and sold the cargo.
- 1776. Summer. Admiral Lord
Howe sent two Royal Navy sloops of war to interrupt Bermuda trade with the
rebellious colonists of America, the
"Nautilus", Capt John Collins, (arrived Jun 19, departed Oct 20
1776), and the "Galatea", Capt Thomas Jordan, (arrived Sep 7
- 1776. St George Tucker
purchased the sloop "Adelphi" for trade as he had the
"Dispatch" above. He apparently chartered the sloop to Norton and
Beale, master George Gibbs.
- 1777 Bridger Goodrich bought a
fine Bermuda sloop, a prize of the "Galatea" and refitted her as
a privateer. On his initial commission he took 5 prizes of which two were
Bermudians which he brought back to Bermuda. His seizure of Bermudian
vessels raised a storm of indignation particularly at the Western end of the
Island and Henry Tucker of Somerset formed an association to boycott Bridger.
The latter took this opposition in his stride and engaged himself to marry
Elizabeth Tucker, a kinswoman of Henry; the association's threat took little
- 1777. Bermuda was invaded briefly
by the USA. During the American Revolution, British militia soldiers manned
the isolated 17th century battery near Wreck Hill on Somerset Island in
Bermuda. The old fort had a strategic position protecting the West End
Channel. It was one of the few passages through the dangerous ring of reefs
for sailing ships. The soldiers at the fort had the presence of mind to
exchange gunfire with two armed brigs that advanced in a threatening manner
although they then flew British colors. The brigs, thought to include
Bermudian expatriates familiar with local waters, answered with broadsides
from their cannon, lowered their Union Jack flags, hoisted the red, white and
blue striped ensign of the United States of America and proceeded to invade
Bermuda with landing parties. To avoid meeting this much bigger force, the
Bermuda based militia men retreated from the battery. The Americans spiked
their guns and destroyed the walls of the fort but were forced to retreat
themselves when more local soldiers and a Royal Navy detachment responded to
the alarm. The Americans escaped on their ships in what became only the second
time in the history of Bermuda that it was invaded.
- 1778-1779. British troops were
sent to Bermuda, as the result of the local militia failing to deal with the
pro-American sentiment. Some took charge of a condemned vessel
"Southampton" apparently against the wishes of the customs
officers. The first permanent British Army garrison was established.
- 1778. St George Tucker
sent the "Adonis", Capt Trimingham to Curacao, the ship falling to
the French on return.
- 1778. The British sailing vessel
Lord Amberst struck a reef and sank. Much of its glassware was later recovered
and is at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.
- 1779. The Bridger Goodrich
fleet of Bermuda privateers maintained such a blockade in Chesapeake Bay
that Governor Thomas Jefferson wrote John Jay, President of the Congress
"Our trade has never been so distressed since the time of Lord
- 1779. December 1. "HMS
Delaware" arrived in Bermuda from America, carrying
officers and men of the Royal Garrison Battalion.
- 1780. When an American named Pinkham
arrived in Bermuda, there was a big revival in the business of whaling. He
taught Bermudians how to cut blubber with spades, thus avoiding waste. For
more than 50 years, it was one of the colony's most important
- 1780. July 27. In the
annals of the Massachusetts Historical
Society there is a record of a treasonous, co-operative accord between
Bermudian men of high status and the American military. An
invasion of Bermuda was discussed with the Honourable Timothy Pickering, Jr,
of the American Board of War by a Captain B. Joel of Bermuda. He
gave the names of those from Bermuda, including a judge and secretary of
Government, a doctor and comptroller. He drew up a map showing which
buildings in the Bermuda capital housed "Friends of
America." Colonel Timothy
Pickering, Jr. had headed up the Salem/Essex Militia, with whom he had been
associated before the revolution against tea and other taxes began.
Pickering's irregulars stopped short of a strategic spot from which they
could have annihilated the Redcoats streaming back to Boston from their
drubbing at Lexington and Concord, and guerilla losses on that retreat.
Capt. B. Joel wrote to Pickering, who by then was
Adjutant General and a member of the US government's Board of War: "I
trouble you once more to mention a circumstance I did not until now think
proper to make public, & which I intended to communicate only to you. In
the attempt on Berd. I have likewise a design of seizing between two &
three thousand pounds in specie, which the governor always keeps by him.
Money arising from the Custom of the Island for which he gives the Collector
Bills, on England from the Admiralty, and from his own revenues. With this
he pays the Garrison, and furnishes the Barracks, Commissary, & other
departments. With the approbation of the (War) Board I could induce a
merchant of this City (?Boston), from view of private interest &
emolument to furnish a vessel for the attempt." The
phrase "in the attempt on Berd." is taken to suggest a possible
invasion, either for total control, or only as a singular attack of Bermuda.
Capt. Joel also transmits with his letter a list of those sympathetic to
whatever he was cooking up with Pickering and augments that roll call with
the map showing some of their homes in St. George's. Had
Joel's papers been discovered by Bruere or British officials, it would
perhaps have resulted the removal of his head, along with those of the
treasonous worthies, a number of whom sat on the Governor's Council. The
Joel map of St. George's of 1780 with adjacent islands and forts was known
to Bermudians and was published by Dr. Henry Wilkinson in his four-volume
Bermuda books much later.
- 1780. September 10. Death of
His Excellency, Governor George James Bruere, Lieutenant Colonel in His
Majesty's Service, at the age of 59 years. He was put under the floor of
St. Peter's Church, in a manner coldly contemptuous of his person and his
office, probably resulting
from the Anglo-American War of 1775-1783. Bruere
did not make it through the end of that conflict, which was resolved with
the Treaty of Paris in 1783. He had arrived in Bermuda with his wife
and nine children on the Prince of Wales in August 1764, and remained in
office for the next sixteen years, until his untimely demise, probably from
the scourge of yellow fever. One daughter, Frances, married into the Tucker
family, descendants of the former Governor Daniel Tucker (1616-19). Among
his good works, Bruere spoke against the evil of slavery, years before it
came to the fore in the London Parliament. He took a keen interest in
agriculture, which he thought was a neglected economic arena, and it that
regard he and his wife bought 60 acres to the north of the Town of St.
George to grow grapes with the intention of producing a very fine
became ill in July 1780, probably due to stress after the locals stole his
gunpowder and gave it to the Americans, and died two months later, said by
the great Bermuda historian, Dr. Henry Wilkinson, to be "the victim in
the eyes of his family of five years of incessant strain and foul
play", a situation brought on by the machinations of the locals in
their dealings with the rebels in what became the United States of America
three years after his death. Because he died of fever he was
buried under St. Peter's Church, St. George's. Bruere,
a former British Army Lieutenant Colonel who lost a son also in the army
fighting the Americans, was outraged when he discovered what had
happened and put up a reward for the capture of the Bermudians responsible
but to no avail. Bruere
was Governor from 1764 until his death. Of all Bermuda's governors since
1612, his term of office was the longest. He had a difficult time during the
American Revolutionary War and is thought to have died of stress caused by
the interplay of Bermudians and Continental rebels, as well as the yellow
fever. His portrait hangs in the Bermuda
National Trust's Tucker House museum in the heart of St. George's.
Late Governor George Bruere was succeeded as Governor of Bermuda by his son,
also George Bruere (1744–1786), who as a lieutenant in the 18th
Regiment of Dragoons, Royal Hussars, (with his brother John who died there)
had been wounded at Bunker Hill, and who in 1777 had married Martha Louisa
Fatio, then aged fourteen. The younger Bruere was Lieutenant Governor of the
Bermudas from 1780 to 1781.
- 1781. 40 acres of cotton were
found growing in Tucker's Town, which led directly to the British government
encouraging the planting of cotton as a commercial crop in 1788.
- 1781. December 16. An American
Browne born in Massachusetts 27th Feb 1737 but who had fallen foul of
rebel bigotry and fled to England, where he was called on by Lord North from
his (he said) 'profoundest retreat' , took over as Bermuda's Governor. He
had been a friend of John Adams who thought him a solid judicious character,
which turned out to be correct as on arriving to take up office, a lesser
man would have thought his task insurmountable.
The Islands had a serious lack
of food, especially bread and prices were exorbitantly high. The towns were
crowded with Loyalists and rents had risen to unprecedented levels. Both
smallpox and typhus were present and unchecked in their course. His official
residence was in such a state of disrepair it struck him with horror. Enemy
prisoners where everywhere taking notes on everything and the danger of
attack was greater than ever before. Browne set about organizing island
affairs appointing other Loyalists to key positions, one from Virginia as
attorney general another from Massachusetts as chief justice, he reinstated
the local militia officers and made whaling license free. He took numerous
measures and initiatives that went down well with the islanders. He in fact
turned out to be a model governor and the islanders had quickly taken to
someone who had suffered so much for his loyalty to the Crown. He was able
to see that the likelihood of America becoming independent meant this
enchanting, tranquil, beautiful isle of pink sand would make it the
'Gibraltar of the west' and imperative for British commerce, so he built up
the island's small garrison. Independence was also pretty obvious to the
Loyalists and more and more of them arrived and collected at the east end of
the island, but were dispersing to other colonies almost as soon as they had
arrived. At the end of the war when Loyalists were being evacuated from New
York he had them re-provisioned before continuing their journeys. With peace
declared, Bermuda was quick to restart trade with the USA and he pressed for
it to become a free port, for such he appointed another Loyalist from
Connecticut as comptroller. Browne's summing up at the end of his
governorship in 1788 was "Bermuda is divided on domestic business but
is united in it's loyalty to His Majesty."
- 1780s. The Bermuda fitted dinghy
started racing. Teams of black sailors who were slaves competed against each
other for their master's honor, prize money and often a turtle dinner.
- 1782. May 9. At sea, late
in the US War of Independence, the masthead
lookout of the Continental frigate Deane saw a strange sail on the horizon.
The vessel with the raked-back masts to leeward was a Bermudian privateer,
Regulator. Only fast runners, privateers, and warships cruised the
waters off the Carolinas. She was caught on a lee shore with nowhere to run
and her sixteen six-pound cannon no match for the frigate's twenty-eight
twelve-pounders. Trapped and out-gunned, Captain George Kidd struck his
colours and Regulator fell prize to the United States navy. The
men of the Deane were amazed to find that 70 of the 75-man crew on the
Regulator were black slaves. Kidd and his four officers were the only white
men on board. A further surprise occurred
at the vice admiralty court trial of the Regulator when, breaking with
precedent, the Massachusetts justices offered the slaves among the crew
their freedom rather than condemn them, as forfeited chattel, to be sold at
a man, the black Bermudians declined the offer and asked instead to be sent
to their island home as prisoners of war on the next flag-of-truce. Rather
than embrace the freedom offered to them by this new republic, they chose to
return to Bermuda and slavery.
- 1783. Captain
Andrew Durnford, Royal Engineers, wrote his "Bermuda Defence
Report" of that year: "To
the unequal distribution of that carbonate of lime in solution . . . I
attribute, not only the caverns and sandflaws, but the pinnacle . . . The
most remarkable groups are at Tobacco Bay, St. George's Island, and at the
Cerberus, 5th Rate 32 gun ship, apparently launched in 1779, struck rocks in Castle
Harbour and sank. (Note, on January 10, 1777 an American shore battery drove
away HMS Cerberus, it is not known if it was the same one). Her commander was Sir Jacob Wheate — a Royal Navy
captain. Where she went down is now a dive site also known as the Musket
Ball Wreck. It is not known whether Wheate was aboard when she sank and
survived, or was not aboard at the time. He is believed to have died later
that year, from yellow fever and was buried underneath St. Peter's Church (a
corpse believed to be his, from a coffin plate found by it, was discovered
in August 2008 during excavations).
September 3. Treaty of Paris ended the War between Britain and the USA. The
defeat at Yorktown caused a change in the British government. Prime Minister
Lord North and the Tory party were ousted, and the Whigs, under Rockingham,
assumed power. This new government opened negotiations with the American
commissioners in Paris. The American had eight main goals, four of which
were considered to be essential to any peace settlement, and the other four
to be favorable additions. The four essential terms included 1) Independence
from Great Britain and removal of all British troops from United States
territory; 2) Settlement of all boundaries; 3) Canadian territory to revert
to those boundaries before the Quebec Act; and 4) American rights to fish in
the Grand Banks and use of Canadian shores to dry and cure the catch. (The
optional terms included Britain ceding all of Canada to the United States,
British payment for damage caused by British military action, a formal
apology by Parliament admitting that Britain was wrong to have caused the
war, and allowing American ships and merchants to have the same rights and
privileges of commerce as their British counterparts within the British
Empire.) By November 1782, the British and American commissioners had
reached agreement and signed preliminary terms of peace. However, under the
terms of the Franco-American alliance, this peace treaty could not go into
effect until Britain and France reach agreement. In turn, France had an
additional alliance with Spain, so no Anglo-French treaty could go into
effect until Britain and Spain also reach agreement. Unfortunately, Spain's
nominal contribution to the war was counterbalanced by the most ambitious
territorial demand - the return of Gibraltar by Great Britain. The French
proposed that Gibraltar be returned to Spain, that Great Britain be
compensated by awarding her several French islands in the Caribbean, and
that Spain cede control of Santa Domingo to France. The war-weary British
expressed interest in this plan. In September 1782, Spain had mounted an
expedition, attempting to retake Gibraltar. Negotiations were frozen as all
eyes turned expectantly to view the result. It was a humiliating failure,
which, together with the French naval defeat in the Caribbean, reinvigorated
the British and hardened their negotiating position. Spain and France were
now forced to be more accommodating at the negotiating table. The British
put forth a proposal in which they would retain Gibraltar, but Spain would
be bought off by awarding her East and West Florida. The Spanish were also
reluctant to accept the Mississippi River as the western border of the
United States, having their own claims to the territory between the
Mississippi and the Appalachian Mountains. (Spain had gained control of
Louisiana after the Seven Years War.) France, on the verge of bankruptcy,
pressured Spain to accept this settlement and thus end the war. Finally, on
January 20, 1783, all parties reached agreement and an armistice was
declared. A change of British government and minor modifications to the
French and Spanish treaties, as well as Anglo-Dutch negotiations, delayed
the final ratification of the Treaty of Paris until September 3, but on that
day the War for American Independence officially concluded.
After the Treaty of Paris ended the American War of Independence with Great
Britain the national geography of North America was re-written in
British eyes. From the Royal Navy came the new order. Operations off and in
Bermuda came under the "River St. Lawrence and Coast of North
America and West Indies" station. The
loss of most of the American colonies in the American Revolution left
Bermuda as the only British port between Halifax and the West Indies: an
ideal location for a Royal Navy dockyard.
The forts built in Bermuda by the British Army were intended to protect the
islands against a hostile takeover from the United States, and they
performed their job admirably, even if a shot was never fired in anger.
- 1784. In Bermuda, a slave named
Quashi was convicted of murdering his master John McNeill and was hanged on
- 1784. January 17. The beginning
of a Bermuda newspaper. In the town of St. George, Joseph Stockdale arrived
from England to edit, print and publish The Bermuda Gazette. He was the King's
Printer in Bermuda. He also delivered mail along with the newspaper as a
public service. This successful mail system continued intermittently until
an official postal system was established on March 6, 1812.
- 1784. On March 1, in one of its
first editions, the Bermuda Gazette reported snow fell in Bermuda on the night
- 1784. Postal service in Bermuda was started by Stockdale
in the town of St. George. He placed a letter box outside his office on
Bermuda Marine Assurance Company issued its first policy to cover a shipment
of cargo from Bermuda to Philadelphia (but went out of business by 1811). As
the trade between Bermuda and North America expanded, British insurance
companies were encouraged to appoint and support general agents in Bermuda.
- 1787-88. Because
Bermudians did not confine their fishing, hunting for turtles
and whaling to home waters, they went for cod off the Newfoundland Banks with
34 sloops of 30-60 tons, manned by 8-10 men and a Newfoundlander pilot,
Newfoundland complained to London. Bermudians were forbidden to further
violate the terms of the Treaty of Paris, 1763. Bermuda's Governor Henry
Hamilton had to ensure this was obeyed.
- 1788. Birth of Bermudian slave Mary
Prince at Brackish Pond, on a farm owned by Charles Myners. Her mother was a
household slave and her father was a slave in the shipbuilder's yard at Crow
Lane. Her story is both the first-hand account of slavery in Bermuda and the
first ever compiled by a woman. She was sent to the Caribbean to work in the
Turks Islands, then taken to London by new master John Wood, tried to escape,
came under the protection of the London-based Anti Slavery Society and her
story became famous.
The Royal Engineers arrived in Bermuda from Britain to begin the
refortification of the islands.
- 1788. Major Andrew Durnford was one
of the officers who arrived from England. He re-built Paget Fort.
Lieutenant Thomas Hurd RN began his vitally important work of charting the
whole of Bermuda, a process not completed until 1797. Among his unique
records is the earliest detailed record of North Rock,
the northernmost point of Bermuda, and the chart contained a proposal for
the building of a lighthouse and gun battery on the platform of reefs. It
also had a vignette of the six main pinnacles, of which only one is now
extant. What happened to the others is not readily known, though hearsay
suggests they may have been used as targets for modern artillery practice.
Hurd spent almost a decade in Bermuda waters charting the extensive reefs
and plotting the channels through them, including the only major one for
large ships, off the east end of St. George's Island. His work set new
standards for such charts and he was appointed the second Hydrographer to
the Royal Navy in 1808. At his death in 1823, Francis Beaufort, who invented
the wind force scale for indicating wind velocity for shipping, succeeded
him in that office.
- 1789. The Bermuda Ship
Registry was established.
- 1789. Under the Militia Act
1789 a Volunteer Artillery Company was raised to augment the Troop of Horse
and the nine Companies of the Regiment of foot. This consisted of 20
Privates, 2 Sergeants and a Lieutenant.
- 1789. Legislation was
passed in Bermuda to give statutory recognition to the property-based
criteria for the franchise and for candidates in general elections. This
Act, which closely paralleled relevant British law at the time, established
minimum property values of forty and two hundred pounds for voters and
election candidates respectively.
- 1790. Following a petition from a
number of merchants in the Central and Western Parishes, the Bermuda
Government appointed a Commission to acquire 145 acres for what became later
the town, then city, of Hamilton. Regulations governing the incorporation
required the streets to be 50 feet wide, with the land on the harbour side
reserved for wharf development (now Hamilton Docks). Average price of town
property was then £20 per acre (about $1.60). Similar property today would
fetch in excess of $4 million.
- 1791. The merger of the
formerly separate British colony of Maine, with Massachusetts, before it
again became a separate state later.
- 1792. In Bermuda, Freemasons
established Prince Alfred No 233 (EC), originally chartered under the Moderns
as No 507.
- 1793. With the threat of war with
France, the Governor of Bermuda directed Major Andrew Durnford to build a new
Barbette Battery on the height of the land above Paget Fort on Paget
- 1793. Arising from the
French Revolution, a detachment of the 47th Foot of the British Army was
posted to Bermuda as part of the garrison and from that time for nearly
two centuries it was decided by the British Army that units of it would be
posted to Bermuda to augment the colony's defences.
- 1793. Hundreds of people arrived by
boat in Bermuda, refugees from the slave revolts in Haiti and Santo
- 1793. June 29. the Town
of St. George, first established in 1612, was officially incorporated by Act
of Parliament and received its first Mayor, Major Andrew Durnford.
- 1793. June 29. In Bermuda, the
then-infant town (now City) of Hamilton, named after Sir Henry Hamilton,
Governor 1778-1794, was incorporated by Act of Parliament, with the motto
"Hamilton Sparsa Collegit" meaning "Hamilton had brought together the
scattered." The Freeholders were granted authority to elect from among them 1
Mayor, 3 Aldermen and 5 Common Councilors.
- 1793. The town of Hamilton was
incorporated as the site of Bermuda's new capital instead of the town of St.
- 1794. First Customs Warehouse,
later, Town Hall, now offices, was built in Hamilton.
- 1794. With the Militia Act
1794 and the end of the American War of Independence, Bermuda began to
assume an importance to the Admiralty that would see it become the base of
the North America and West Indies Squadron, and the site of the only full
Naval dockyard West of Portsmouth, England except for Halifax in Nova Scotia
and of possibly more strategic importance in the event of invasion of Canada
by the USA. With the above-named Act of the Colonial Assembly it
replaced the single Volunteer Artillery Company with three Companies, each
of eight Privates. At this time, the Commanding Officer of the Militia
decided what uniform was worn, which each man provided at his own expense.
the Captain of each company of foot had to provide for a Colour, a drum and
a fife. Horse Troopers had to provide their own mounts. Bermuda also assumed
great importance to the Admiralty, which determined to develop Bermuda it
throughout the Nineteenth Century as a naval base, dockyard, and admiralty
headquarters. The concurrent build-up of the regular military garrison to
protect the naval base meant that Bermuda's militia later came to be seen as
- 1794. October. Admiral
Murray, Royal Navy, learned of Lieutenant Thomas Hurd’s finding at Bermuda
and sent the frigate Cleopatra there “to bring information of a
Harbour, which I learned was lately discovered there, fit, it was said, to
admit Ships of any Class.” The resulting report described the new
anchorage as having “capacity enough for all the Navies in the World to
ride in from 7 to 9 or 10” fathoms.’
- 1795. January. First elections of
officials in Hamilton. Daniel Tucker, Mayor; Richard Peniston, Joseph Stowe,
William Hall, Aldermen; Benjamin Cox, George Harvey, Richard Darrell, William
Morris and one other as Councilors.
- 1795. August 11. Captain
Francis Pender, Royal Navy, earlier dispatched to Bermuda by Vice-Admiral
the Hon George Murray, RN, arrived as a passenger on HMS Oiseau (formerly a
French frigate, captured). His orders included the stipulation he
acquire some of the fast sloops of the island for service in the Royal Navy.
He ordered the building of such Bermudian vessels, renowned for their speed
and agility, especially being able to sail sail close to the wind.
- 1795. September 30. Vice
Admiral the Hon. George Murray, RN, arrived in Bermuda on HMS Resolution.
It was accompanied by HMS Cleopatra and HMS Thesly. The warships
were piloted safely through the reefs by James Darrell (born
1749, died 1815, then a slave) and into what later became known as
“Murray’s Anchorage” in St. George's. For his skill as a pilot,
Admiral Murray later (see 1796) ordered the Royal Navy to purchase Darrell's freedom and
appoint him one of the first of the Island’s “King’s Pilots.
- 1795. October. After Admiral Murray,
Royal Navy, paid his quick visit to Bermuda, he named his Flag Captain the
“Superintendent of the Port” at St George’s, directing him to
establish a depot there and to purchase several fast Bermuda-built cedar
vessels for use as advice boats. So began the two-century association in
the Royal Navy.
- 1795. Captain Francis
Pender, Royal Navy, on behalf of the latter, purchased a Bermuda-built cedar
sloop, which he called HMS Bermuda, and put it under the command of
Lieutenant Thomas Hurd, RN, then engaged on a survey of the Bermuda reefs.
Hurd was also searching for a channel to allow Royal Navy warships to enter
the inner anchorages of the island.
- 1795. One of the first
acquisitions of the Royal Navy in Bermuda in an area removed from Castle
Harbour was the purchase of a then-small house on the North Shore of
Bermuda, with some uniquely valuable land. What made it attractive for the
Navy to purchase Seven Wells was the fact that (a) it had seven wells of
fresh water immediately available for Royal Navy purposes and (b) was
located adjacent to Devonshire Dock, from where the fresh water could be
taken in barrels to ships-of-war.
- 1795. A
channel, afterwards named the North Shore Channel, was established for
British shipping and a major anchorage was found at Castle Harbour at the
east end of the island. Thus a Royal Naval depot was first established in
Bermuda, at St. George’s.
- 1795. The
first three vessels commissioned by the Royal Navy from Bermudian shipyards
were Bermuda cedar-built 200 ton, 12-gun sloops-of-war, commissioned as
HMS Dasher, HMS Driver and HMS Bermuda. There were to be many more.
- 1795. Wreck Hill, Somerset,
was bought by the Royal Navy which then considered the site an ideal one for
- 1795. A slave conspiracy in Bermuda
was alleged to have been instigated by Haitian Mulattoes who had arrived from
Haiti in 1793.
- 1796. February. Royal Navy
contracts for two cedar Bermuda-built sloops were given to Claude McCallan
and John Outerbridge who built vessels at Bailey’s Bay, Hamilton Parish,
and Nathaniel Tynes the Elder, whose shipyard was on the North Shore in
Devonshire Parish. Those two yards produced HMS Rover and HMS Hunter,
classed as 16-gun Royal Navy sloops and later referred to as two of the
fastest ships ever built in Bermuda.
- 1796. March 1. "I do
hereby declare the said Jemmy Darrell to be exonerated and released from all
and all manner of Slavery or Servitude whatsoever, and I do earnestly
request all Persons to treat him, as a Man actually and bona fide
Free." With these powerful words, Governor James Craufurd released him
from his enslavement. (He was also made a Kings Pilot on May 23, 1796.)
Pilot Darrell's life, however, as a free man was not much different than
during enslavement because of legislation consistently introduced to limit
rights of the freed slave. He, however, fought these regulations which
sought to limit his hard-earned rights. Pilot Darrell earned his freedom
through his abilities and steadiness in navigating the British Rear Admiral
George Murray's flagship through the Island's reefs to Murray's Anchorage
safely in 1795. he Admiral recommended that he be freed and commissioned as
a Kings Pilot. Pilot Darrell's freedom, however, brought little relief as
Bermudian legislators fearing free people of colour to be the primary
instigators of slave conspiracies, continued to curtail their rights.
- 1796. Bermudian slave
abolitionist St George's Tucker wrote and published "A Dissertation
on Slavery: With a Proposal for the Gradual Abolition of it," in the
State of Virginia.
- 1796. November 12. The
Bermuda Gazette and Weekly Advertiser published a special report.
November 12, 1796
- 1796. December 2. Death in Bermuda at the
age of 46 of His Excellency, Governor William Campbell, Lieutenant Colonel
of the 24th Regiment of Foot, who died of fever only a few days after his
arrival. A substantial memorial to him is in St. Peter's Church, St.
- 1797-1798. Captain Francis
Pender, RN, then still based in Bermuda, order two more Bermuda-built cedar
vessels, which were launched this year and in 1798 as HMS Driver and HMS
Dasher, out of the same Bailey's Bay and North Shore shipyards as the
previous orders. The latter sloop later earned the reputation pf being able
to outsail every other Royal Navy sloop of war. Later, Bermudian shipyards
built about 50 more vessels for service in the Royal Navy in the next three
decades or so. Those were the days, long gone now, when small local north
coast shipyards and Bermuda's economy generally benefited hugely from the
sound of hammer, saw and adze, as they sawed into local cedar that produced
some of the fastest vessels afloat at that time for what was then the
largest navy in the world.
- 1797. In Bermuda, Lodge St. George
No 200 (SC) was given its Charter on 7th August and Atlantic Phoenix No 224
(EC) was given its Charter on 9th August.
- 1797. This
Bermuda map was published in Laurie & Whittle's "West-India
Atlas," reprinted from a plate used by Thomas Jefferys in 1775. It
is 20.5 inches by 15.25 inches.
Bermuda Map 1797
Maria Hill Fort on the high Hill of Ireland Island, commanded by Captain
John V. Seymour, is of a square form, sunk in the rock, some part of the
platform, which is stone, is found to be soft and therefore will require to
be laid with wood; here are nine twelve-pounder cannon, as good as new,
unmounted, and new carriages. This Hill is well situated to annoy an enemy
passing round Ireland and should be capable of defending the passage into
the Great Sound. A report by a British officer that same year to 'The Most
Noble Marquis Cornwallis, Master General of His Majesty's Ordnance' suggests
some disparity in the number and size of its guns. "A considerable
enclosed Battery mounting eight eighteen pounders has been built upon the
summit of a Hill in the Island of Ireland. This Redoubt is in good Repair
& commands well the Entrance into the sound and anchorage called Grassy
Bay, where large Ships may ride out the severe Gales with safety."
September 1. Recording of Last Will and Testament re his Bermuda Property of
Major Andrew Durnford, British Army and Bermuda fortifications engineer.
September 10. Death in St. George's, from Yellow Fever, of Major Andrew
Durnford, Royal Engineers, and former Mayor of St. George's. He was born
in in Ringwood, UK.
- 1799. May 10. Rev.
John Stephenson, the first Methodist minister appointed to Bermuda, arrived
and served with dedication and diligence as he developed a church in the
Methodist tradition until his departure on April 11, 1802. A man of warm
sympathies and graciousness, with a distinctive preaching ability, Rev
Stephenson quickly made friends with all who gathered to hear his gospel
presentations, including slaves and free persons, regardless of colour,
first in the then-capital of St George’s, where he was headquartered, and
then throughout the Island. His refusal to accept Bermuda’s racial
divisions soon brought him into conflict with the powerful of the day, many
of whom were slave owners. As a result he was arrested on June 15, 1800 for
violating a law designed to stop him from preaching to slaves and free
persons, regardless of colour, and ultimately spent six months in prison.
Undeterred, the Methodist minister continued preaching to anyone to whom he
could speak through the bars of his cell on Featherbed Alley.
- 1799. The British government towed the hulk
"Somerset " - formerly a Royal Navy warship - to St. George's.
- 1799. Convict Bay in St.
George's Parish was so named, from
a concept borrowed by the British government of using obsolete warships as
floating prisons, prison hulks, at New York City during the American
- 1799. Turks Island, so long a
dependency of Bermuda and the centre of Bermuda’s salt trade, from where
Bermuda acquired all its salt that was sold to many places overseas, sent by
ship, was formally annexed by the Government of the Bahamas. This
seizure, which was not protested by the British Government in London despite
the angry protests of Bermudians, was to have a traumatic effect on
Bermuda’s entire economy.
Last Updated: May
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