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Golden Grove:- Village of Cane-Crushing Mills (By Traveller)
As early as 1878, Mr. James William James, one of the original proprietors who had spent his early years as an apprentice in carpentry at pln. Enmore where he used his spare time and powers of observation in picking up whatever knowledge he could while he worked side by side of the blacksmiths, coppersmiths, and masons of the estate, bought the machinery necessary from the Demerara Foundry through Mr. Robert Allen – Son-in-law of the Beckwiths of Haslington fame - and constructed a small factory for the manufacture of molasses, and muscovado.
He set up a windmill, which supplied the power to drive the engine that crushed the canes. He employed no mechanic and he did all the work necessary as well as managed the whole concern himself. All that was done on his own plot of land situated just north of the railway line and the platform, where the windmill from 1878 to 1907 provided a conspicuous landmark of the village. He grew canes himself, and encouraged many of the small farmers of the village to do the same, he, purchasing their produce by the ton. The molasses and the sugar manufactured were disposed of by wholesale and retail on the spot as well as by his personally hawking them by means of a donkey cart throughout
"My attention has been drawn to two errors which Mr. J. A. Trotman has pointed out appeared in my last contribution with respect to "Golden Grove", and it is with pleasure I hasten to make the corrections.
(a) In Sunday's issue. 19th. Inst., I have observed that "Traveller" re Golden Grove mentioned, "the number of the original proprietors was 250." This is incorrect. They were 50 who paid $5,000 and divided the estate then named Williamsburg into 50 shares.
(b) The defunct Church building sold to the Golden Grove M. R. Society was never resold. It was bought in 1908 and is still the Society's property. Thanks to Mr. Trotman for corrections.
The villages between Buxton and Mahaica in all of which he was known by nearly every rustic comprising the rural population. This semi-minor industry which he established by his energy and industriousness did not provide him wealth or with a competence to tempt him to live luxuriously, but it supplied after the payment of his labours, sufficient means to give him and his family comfort and independence. The wings of the mill were taken down about twelve years ago, and though the factory has been out of commission for a much longer period, say, since about 1907,- the machinery is said to be intact, and as late as 1934, Mr. J. T. M. James, one of the sons of “Molasses James”, as he was familiarly referred to, set it all up again, ground canes and made sugar for home consumption.
EVELYN’S STEAM MILL
But Golden grove was fortunate in having another citizen similarly industrially bent. He was Mr. Isaac Evelyn, a master carpenter-contractor who bought over from a Mr. Wilson machinery which was obtained from the Demerara Foundry also, and set up for doing work similar to that which was done by Mr. James. This was a steam-driven mill. Mr. Evelyn did not run the factory himself, but employed a mechanic to operate the mill, and a manager to manage the whole affair. He, too, encouraged the small farmers to grow canes to supply his mill, which also manufactured molasses and muscovado. Both he and his enterprise did not enjoy the popularity equal to that enjoyed by his contemporary; and after the undertaking, remained in operation for some years, it eventually was closed down about 1906.
Golden Grove then, with these accomplishments to her credit, can justifiably claim to be the pioneer of the small cane-farming industry.
Not only industrially, but economically, too, the village holds a distinguished position among the villages of the Coast. In spite of the bitter set-back the cultivated areas have had to undergo from floods resulting from bad, as well as improper and insufficient drainage which saw some impro
vement when at the instance of Mr. James, and at some personal expense to himself, the west side-line was dug as a draining trench and a koker put up there to deal with the waters from Nabaclis, Golden Grove, and Haslington, and latterly (since the erection of the pump at Nabaclis) the farmers have been most persistently enterprising in their cultivation of plantains, ground provisions, especially cassava, and fruit; and evidence of that has always been forthcoming from their farms, and articles manufactured from products there from in the forra of several exhibits of quality that inhabitants of the village have presented at successive Agricultural shows. The village has also a thriving, though-not-too-large, coconut-oil-making industry.
UNIQUE METHOD OF TAXATION
Here is a village with a method of taxation al its own, and quite unique as far as the incorporated villages of the Coast, if not of the Colony are concerned. The recognized method of assessing rates and taxes in villages and towns is to tax both house and land, a method necessitating the services of appraisers. But the Golden Grovians, for reasons they consider eminently sound, tax the land only. Many of the Councillors in the other villages are not in agreement with their contention with regard to the superiority of their method over the one in general use, and the pros and cons still form the subject of debate among rustics who indulge in village politics.
THE RAILWAY PLATFORM
The erection of the railway platform at Golden Grove came about in this way:- as a result of great inconvenience experienced by many villagers in transporting themselves and their farm produce to Georgetown, a petition was drawn up, signed by the influential residents and others of the district, and sent to the then Manager of the Demerara Railway Company, Mr. Fred Mason, praying that the Company erect a platform by the middle-walk dam of the village, and thus give the inhabitants some traveling facilities which were very much needed. Mr. Mason did not send the petitioners a reply, but he filed their petition.
Mr. J. Dorma, who succeeded Mr. Mason as manager came across the petition on the file, and took the opportunity on one occasion when inspecting the rails to seek out Mr. James, whose name was at the head of the petitioners. They both conferred over the matter, examined the spot recommended, and came to decision favourable to the petitioners, on the condition that the Railway Company supplied the materials, and the villagers the labour to erect it. Subsequently the question of the sale of tickets for traveling in the train arose, and after the manager was satisfied with the bona fides of Mr. James who had offered himself to do the selling, he appointed him the agent with a commission on the sales as enumeration. The platform was built, and the agency started. That was in 1892. Since then the agency has grown tremendously, and what was once but a platform is today a substantial building doing nearly all the work of the recognized stations. It remains still an agency, and everybody is looking forward with great expectancy to see it elevated to the rank and position of a railway station.
Politically, Golden Grove people are in no way behind the inhabitants of the other villages. Its Sandys, and Sealeys, Simons and Kendalls, Sarrabos and Collins; its Herods, Sanchos, Bristols, Glasgows, Davids, McLeans, Hughes, and Trotmans have all left their impress on the political pages of the village: Nor can there be omitted when the history of the village is, being written, the name “Christopher” – the name of that remarkable old man who sported a ‘silk top-hat’ which did not loose any of its gloss, in spite of age and constant use, and who for an unbroken period up to fifteen years ago, traveled up and down the Mahaica morning train presenting the morning passengers with a musty and much tattered document soliciting donations or rather alms. Indeed old Christopher was a remarkable character of a pleasant and inoffensive disposition, his importunity not withstanding.
“Covering the Country Districts” - the Sunday Chronicle – May 26, 1946: page 7.