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|Abandoned Maroon Village|
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Old Nanny Town was a village in the Blue Mountains of Portland Parish, north-eastern Jamaica, used as a stronghold of Jamaican Maroons (escaped slaves). They were led in the early 18th century by an Ashanti escaped slave known as Granny Nanny, or Queen Nanny. The town held out against repeated British colonial attacks before being destroyed in 1734.
Nanny was born in what is now Ghana, West Africa, as a member of the Ashanti nation, part of the Akan people. She was enslaved, along with her five brothers, and brought to eastern Jamaica. She and her five brothers, Cudjoe, Accompong, Johnny, Cuffy and Quao, quickly decided to flee the oppressive conditions of the sugar cane plantations to join the autonomous African communities of Maroons who had developed in the mountains. This community originated from people formerly enslaved by the Spanish, who had refused to submit to British control. This community developed as many more slaves escaped the plantations and joined the Maroons. Angered by continued raiding of plantations and armed confrontations, the colonial government mounted the First Maroon War of the 1730s in an effort to run out and capture the refugee slaves.
Nanny and her brothers split up in order to continue the resistance to the plantation slave economy across Jamaica. Cudjoe went to Clarendon, where he was soon joined by about a hundred Maroons from Cottawood; while Accompong went to St. Elizabeth, where a Maroon community was later named for him. Nanny and Quao made their way to Portland Parish and the Blue Mountains.
By 1720, Nanny and Quao had organized and were leading this settlement of Maroons; it was known as Nanny Town. According to a deed from the colonial government, Nanny was granted more than 500 acres (2.4 km²) of land where the Maroons could live and raise animals and grow crops. Due to the town being led by Nanny and Quao, it was organized similarly to a typical Ashanti tribe in Africa.
In addition to what they raised and produced, the Maroons sent traders to the cities to exchange food for weapons and cloth. The Maroons were also known for raiding plantations for weapons and food, burning the plantation, and leading liberated slaves to join them at Nanny Town.
Nanny Town was an excellent location for a stronghold, as it overlooked Stony River via a 900-foot ridge, making a surprise attack by the British virtually impossible. The Maroon organized look-outs for such an attack, as well as designated warriors, who could be summoned by the sound of a horn called an abeng.
Granny Nanny was very adept at organizing plans to free slaves. She has been credited with freeing more than 800 slaves over the span of 50 years. She also helped these slaves remain free and healthy due to her vast knowledge of herbs and her role as a spiritual leader. However, freeing slaves upset the British. Between 1728 and 1734, they attacked Nanny Town time and time again, but not once was it harmed. This was accomplished due to the Maroons being much more skilled in fighting in an area of high rainfall as well as disguising themselves as bushes and trees. The Maroons also utilized decoys to trick the British into a surprise attack. This was done by having non-camouflaged Maroons run out into view of the British and then run in the direction of the fellow Maroons who were disguised, thus crushing the British time and time again.
- Pariser, Harry S. Jamaica: A Visitor's Guide, 1995, pp. 235-36.