Joshiah Webbe(s) and New River(s) Estates?

As you may have seen in the last few posts, I am exploring my slave owning ancestors. It’s not quite the ‘Blood Legacy: ‘reckoning with a family’s story of slavery’ by Alex Renton that has been recommended to me, but that’s one I will check out (not least because its reckoning theme is part of what I am trying to do with this series of posts).

Most of my ancestors involved with the slave trade owned plantations on the Island of Nevis in the West Indies, and through marriage not only were they connected to most of the other plantation owners there but also across the Leeward Islands. What’s been difficult is to find out more about the family history of some these ancestors before they appear on these islands because what is publicly available is patchy.

From what I have been told that patchiness is the result of various fires, invasions and earthquakes that over the centuries have destroyed a lot of the original documents. For example, during the French invasion of Nevis in 1706 records were “burned in the street” hence the earliest record that the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) are working on being from 1705.

I have been recommended some sources by academics and those with more scholarly interest in the history of slavery connected to these islands that I will share in a subsequent post. Another reason for this post is because it highlights the problems I have been having with finding out more about these ancestors, and huge amount of speculation that goes one based on trying to join the dots between all the snippets I find. And how that can feel like stitching together a patchwork quilt, raher than a picture on a jigsaw becoming clearer as more pieces get connected up.

But the trying to do so, and the discussion of this with others about this, has helped clarify why I am trying to do so in the first place. And that’s a prompt for another more reflective post to follow shortly.

The particular mystery of this post is about two people called Josiah Webbe who could be related, although this hasn’t been established yet. The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery database shows both as having an estate called New River on Nevis, but where the estates seem to be different based on the details about their ownership:

Going through all the relevant individuals here’s the best I could do is try and work out if I could join the dots between the two Josiahs.

Josiah Webbe is my ancestor. My distant cousin Charlie Ferero is also descended from him and he thinks Josiah was born about 1690 (I think this is based on the age of Josiah’s 2 daughters Frances and Mary), and he also has some theories of where Josiah may have hailed from.

Mary‘s record on Charlie’s site also includes a memorial inscription referring to her as the daughter of the late Joseph Webbe, and stating she died in 1752 In the 29th year of her Age. That means Joseph must have died before 1752 (see significance of this below).

Mary married Walter Nisbet, and their son (also called Walter: 1745 – 1797) 1st married his cousin Anne Bloomberg (née Maynard, daughter of Frances above). Anne has a record on the LBS database as does her father William Maynard of Nevis, which explains that he came to own the New River Estate through his wife Frances (daughter of Josiah Webbe above).

The LBS records for Walter Nisbet (1745 – 1797) mentions that he was son of Walter Nisbet who married Mary in 1743 and that she was the “daughter of Josiah Webbe of New River.”

The LBS records do not, however, have any detail on the origins of this New River Estate or when and how this Josiah Webbe became owner of it or when it was passed on to his daughter Frances (or why his other daughter Mary wasn’t a beneficiary or who else might have been and so on).

Now we come to the other Josiah Webbe and what is seemingly a different New River Estate. And the interest being that this introduces another Webbe family that maybe related and from then where they all may have hailed from, how and why they got there, etc.

Unlike the other Josiah Webbe, this one has a record on the LBS databse (Josiah Webbe of Stoney Hill: 1720 – 1767). Firstly, it shows he died in 1767 and that is after the Josiah Webbe discussed above, who according to his daughter’s memorial description died before 1752. That would seemingly suggest the two Josephs are not the same peron.

The LBS record for Josiah Webbe of Stoney Hill also includes the following:

He left his property on Nevis including enslaved people, owned both sole by himself and jointly with his brother George Webbe to his nephew George Webbe the younger, son of his deceased brother Joseph Webbe.

So we now have 3 brothers, George, Josiah and Joseph Webbe. George and Josiah co-own an estate (Stoney Hill), but when Josiah dies he leaves his share to his nephew (son of his brother Joseph).

The LBS record of George Webbe of Westbury upon Trym describes him as an absentee slave-owner of Nevis who with his brother Josiah Webbe inherited property and enslaved people on Nevis from their father (also named George Webbe) as tenants-in-common. It goes onto say the following:

Articles of Agreement dated 05/09/1781 between George Webbe senior of Stratford Wiltshire and George Webbe junior of Stoney Hill in Nevis recorded the division of estates on Nevis between the two men [who were uncle and nephew], after George Webbe junior had inherited under the will of his uncle Josiah Webbe (who with his brother George Webbe senior of Stratford had inherited as tenants in common under the will of their father, also George Webbe).

And this introduces another George Webbe, the father of George, Josiah and Joseph, and grandather of George (son of Joseph):

The record for George Webbe of Westbury upon Trym also includes the following:.

After Josiah Webbe’s death, the two men’s nephew – then known as George Webbe junior (q.v. under George Webbe senior of Nevis), to whom Josiah Webbe had left his half of the estates – forced a division of the property, with Stoney Hill being split into two (and the named enslaved people being divided 79 to George Webbe of Westbury upon Trym and 88 to George Webbe junior) in 1779), and with George Webbe of Westbury upon Trym taking New River and George Webbe junior taking Deodand in 1781

That agreement was made in 1789 and the EAP mentioned above have made a scan of it publicly available (see here). It’s the first time I can see a `New River Estate being mentioned in connection with this Webbe family. But sadly, none of this helps me work out if and how this Webbe family is related to my ancestor Joseph Webbe above or not.

Charlie speculates that George Webbe of Westbury-upon-Trym was a nephew of Josiah Webbe our ancestor. I think that’s based on the idea of our ancestor Josiah Webbe being the brother of the George Webbe whose sons included George, Josiah and Joseph, i.e.the Webbe family of Stoney Hill. If so, perhaps that’s how there are 2 New River Esates in different hands, i.e. because the original one my have been divided into 2 earlier.

And so today, I tried looking for maps of the New River Estate to see if that could be shown .Interestingly, I found one of the New River estate on the Liverpool Museums site, but sadly it’s not really big enough to view:

However, the site does mention the first explicit reference to New River appearing in 1724 when William Earle, planter, conveyed the plantation to Thomas Butler, a merchant formerly of Nevis but now of Great Britain. And then goes on to explain who owned the land at the time and how some of the ownership was transferred subsequently. And that by 1763 three plantations of Josiah Webbe, possibly part of the former Butler lands, made up an estate also known as New River.

But they don’t confirm that this New River Estate was made up of from part of the former Butler lands nor how this Joseph Webbe came into possession of the 3 plantations.

The site then goes on to say that by 1765 the estate was said to be late of Josiah Webbe of New River esq. decd. and now of Walter Nisbett and William Maynard esqs. (Common Records 1764-7, fol.167).

But as we have shown above, the Joseph Webbe mentioned in connection with the 3 plantations making up an estate known as New River doesn’t appear to be the same one as the late of Josiah Webbe of New River esq. who was already decd in 1765 they mention (i.e. because he apparently died before 1752).

The site also makes some speculations about land ownership and the Maynard family, but it’s the following is that caught my attention:

In 1765 one of these three estates was possibly that adjoining New River, later known as the Coconut Walk plantation. In 1765 this was the plantation of John Lytton Coram esq, in the parishes of St George and St James, circa 250 acres, bounded to the east with the sea, to the west with the common path leading to Indian Castle and with lands of George Webbe and Josiah Webbe of Stoney Hill esqs, to the north with lands late of Josiah Webbe of New River esq, deceased and now of Walter Nisbett and William Maynard esqs, to the south with the common highway and lands of George and Josiah Webbe of Stoney Hill (Common Records 1764-7, fol.167). This can be identified as the plantation later known as Coconut Walk, delineated, and shown as circa 250 acres, on a map copied from an older original in 1860 (Suffolk Record Office HA178/1/56).

It would be good to see that map, because from what I think it is saying that there is a path or highway that seperates the lands ‘late of Josiah Webbe of New River esq, deceased’ (and now of Walter Nisbett and William Maynard esqs) to the south with the common highway and lands of George and Josiah Webbe of Stoney Hill.

Based on what I have shown earlier, sadly, I am not sure that this tells us much more than a plantation that had been owned by someone called Josiah Webbe was in close proximity to other plantations that were consolidated by another Josiah Webbe that were also known as the New River Estate (that may have later became known as Stoney Hill, which were then subsequently sub-divided by his brother and nephew with one plantation being called New River).

Then again the Liverpool Museum may be having the same trouble of untangling the two Josiahs and what seem like different estates called New River. Sadly, I am note sure the recommended reading I have been given by academics and those looking at this more scholarly above will help unravel this mystery. But I did see a Jonathan Spencer Jones being thanked for his assistance with compiling the entries for some of those mentioned above, Maybe he can help with this mystery. Here’s hoping.

One thought on “Joshiah Webbe(s) and New River(s) Estates?

  1. Jonathan Spence Jones has send me the Memorial Stone from St James Church (in Nevis I think) for Mary Webbe daughter of Josiah Webbe mentioned above:

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