Accompong, Jamaica, early 20th century
|Parish||St. Elizabeth Parish|
Accompong (from the Akan name Acheampong) is a historical Maroon village located in the hills of St. Elizabeth Parish on the island of Jamaica. It is located in Cockpit Country, where Jamaican Maroons and indigenous Taíno established a fortified stronghold in the hilly terrain in the 17th century. They defended it and maintained independence from the Spanish and then later against British forces, after the colony changed hands.
The people named their community Accompong after an early African Maroon leader. After years of raiding and warfare, they established their autonomy with certain rights for limited self-government by a peace treaty with the British in 1739. Since independence in 1962, the government of Jamaica has continued to recognize the indigenous rights of the Jamaican Maroons in this area.
In the 18th century, Maroon leader Cudjoe is said to have united his people under the Kindah Tree in their struggle for autonomy. This was the site for signing the 1739 treaty with the British. This legendary, ancient mango tree is still standing (2009). The tree symbolizes the common kinship of the community on its common land.
Accompong was likely settled in the 1730s, during the First Maroon War, when rebel slaves and their descendants fought a guerrilla war to establish independence against the British. Hostilities were finally ended by a treaty between the two groups in 1739, signed under British governor Edward Trelawny. It granted Cudjoe’s Maroons 1500 acres of land between their strongholds of Cudjoe's Town (Trelawny Town) and Accompong in the Cockpits. While the treaty granted this land to Trelawny Town, it did not recognize Accompong Town. In 1756, following a land dispute between Maroons from Accompong Town and neighbouring planters, the Assembly specifically granted Accompong Town an additional 1,000 acres of land.
The treaty also granted the Maroons a certain amount of political autonomy and economic freedoms, in return for their providing military support in case of invasion or rebellion. They also had to agree to return runaway slaves, for which they were paid a bounty of two dollars each. This last clause in the treaty caused tension between the Maroons and the enslaved black population. From time to time refugees from the plantations continued to find their way to maroon settlements and were generally allowed to stay.
After the treaty, Cudjoe ruled Trelawny Town, while his brother-in-arms, Accompong, ruled Accompong Town. In 1751, planter Thomas Thistlewood recorded meeting Accompong, whom he called ‘Capt. Compoon’. The planter described the Maroon leader as "about my size, in a Ruffled Shirt, Blue Broad Cloth Coat, Scarlet Cuffs to his Sleeves, gold buttons...and Black Hatt, White linen Breeches puff’d at the knee, no stockings or shoes on".
In the decades that followed, after Cudjoe and Accompong died, control of the towns passed to white superintendents, who were appointed by the governor to supervise the Maroon towns. The treaty of 1739 named Accompong as Cudjoe's successor. When Cudjoe died in 1764, Accompong tried to take control of Trelawny Town. The governor, Roger Hope Elletson, asserted authority over the Leeward Maroons. Elletson instructed Superintendent John James to take the Trelawny Town badge of authority away from Accompong, and to give it to a Trelawny Town Maroon officer named Lewis. James instructed Accompong that he had authority only over Accompong Town. Accompong seems to have died in the decade that followed. In 1773 it was reported that the white superintendent had appointed Maroon captains Crankey and Muncko as the officers reporting to him in Accompong Town.
Accompong Town's population grew from 85 in 1740 to 119 in 1770, to 159 in 1788.
When the Second Maroon War broke out in 1795, the Maroons of Trelawny Town took up arms against the British colonial authorities, but the Accompong Maroons under the nominal leadership of Captain John Foster swore allegiance to the British. The Maroons of Accompong Town fought on behalf of the British colonial authorities against Trelawny Town. Accompong Town suffered losses in the Second Maroon War. When Maroon Captain Chambers was sent to Trelawny Town to secure their surrender, Captain James Palmer of Trelawny Town shot him and cut off the Accompong captain's head. Militia colonel William Fitch, newly arrived in Jamaica, ignored the advice of his experienced Maroon trackers. He led his forces into a Trelawny Town ambush; their warriors killed Fitch, many members of the white militia, and a number of Accompong warriors.
Accompong Town backed the winning side. After the Maroons of Trelawny Town were deported to Nova Scotia, the colonial authorities granted Accompong the sole rights to hunt runaway slaves. But the Accompong Maroons were unsuccessful in attempts to disperse or capture the runaway community of Cuffee. Soon the colonial authorities reinstated slave hunting rights to the Windward Maroons.
When Cuffee's group faded from the colonial records, other refugee slaves established a Maroon community in Cockpit Country in 1812. The community of Me-no-Sen-You-no-Come also resisted attempts by the Accompong Maroons and the colonial militias to disperse them in the 1820s.
In 1808, the population of Accompong Town was 238, but it almost doubled to 436 in 1841.
The Accompong Maroons played a significant role in helping the colonial militia of Sir Willoughby Cotton to put down the Christmas Rebellion of 1831-2, also known as the Baptist War, led by Samuel Sharpe.
In 1739 the Maroon community was granted certain rights and autonomy by treaty with the British colonial authorities in 1739. In two settlements, they set up a traditional form of village government drawn from their Akan and Asante cultures, based on men popularly recognized as leaders. The executive is now called "Colonel-in-Chief", who leads the Maroon Council. These men share executive responsibilities for the community.
1720s–1770s Captain Accompong
c. 1773 Captain Crankey
c. 1773 Captain Muncko
1790s–1808 Captain John Foster
1807–? Major Samuel Smith
1740–c. 1752 George Currie
c. 1760 John Kelly
c. 1764 John Delaroache
c. 1767 William Delaroache and John Slater
c. 1768 Jeremiah Gardiner
1773–c. 1797 Alexander Forbes
c. 1797–1803/4 Alexander Forbes junior
1803/4–1805/6 Obadiah Clements
1805/6–1806/7 Charles De Bosse
1806/7–1808 Charles Pight
1808–1813/4 Edan Mitchell
1813/14–1817 Hadley D'Oyley Mitchell
1817 George Rose (d. 1 July 1817)
1817–1819/20 Joseph Fowkes
1819/20–1826 Philip Smith
c. 1820s John Hylton
1841 Thomas Hylton
Late 20th century to present
Since Jamaica gained independence in 1962, it has recognised the political and cultural rights of Maroons. In the early 21st century, the government has acknowledged these rights in terms of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), including the "right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions." It also acknowledges the "right for self-government in matters relating to local affairs," as well as "ways and means for financing autonomous functions".
In 2009 Ferron Williams was elected as Colonel-in-Chief of Accompong. Williams was elected to a second six-year term in 2015. He appointed Timothy E. McPherson Jr. from Nanny Town to consolidate relations across the Maroon communities as part of a collective effort to protect the environment and promote climate change awareness.
The inhabitants of Accompong share practices and traditions drawn from their Akan and Asante ancestors of 200–300 years ago, and combined with Taino. These practices have evolved as the Maroons adapted to local conditions.
Accompong Town converted to Christianity during the Second Maroon War, before eventually embracing Presbyterianism. However, by the 1850s, the traditions of Revival and Pentecostalism grew out of the merging of West African religions with Christianity.
Descendants of the Maroons and friends celebrate annually on January 6 both the birthday of Cudjoe, leader in 1739, and the treaty that granted their autonomy. In 2007, attendees at the festival protested increased bauxite mining, in an effort to protect the environment of their region.
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- "GCPP & Accompong Believe Renewable Energy Is The Future For Africa And The Caribbean", News Ghana, 29 July 2016.
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