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Portland – History

Portland was named for the Duke of Portland who was a Governor of Jamaica between 1722 and 1726.  Portland is a combination of the parish of St. George and a part of St. Thomas.  At one time Port Antonio was renamed Titchfield, but since the old name continued to be used the new one was abandoned.

In 1723, in an attempt to populate the parish, the Governor offered a grant of 30 acres of land to every white protestant wishing to settle in Portland and to every free mulatto, Indian or Negro a grant of 20 acres.

When people did not respond to the offer the Governor increased his incentive to include provisions of beef and flour and an offer to free them from taxes and arrest for three years.

These attempts failed as the immigrants from the British Isle were unable to withstand the rigors of cultivating high up on the mountainsides.  Also the maroons who lurked in the Blue and John Crow Mountains were adamant that Europeans would not settle Portland.

Most of the white settlers were useless against the maroons.  The only force seemingly able to withstand them was the “blackshot” Negro slaves, freed men and mulattos.  The maroons got all their firepower through raiding plantations or purchasing from the enemy.

The 1730s saw a series of battles between the maroons and the British.  When it seemed that the maroons were about to destroy Portland, the British captured Nanny Town, the maroon settlement whose leader was the woman who was later to become Jamaica’s first National Heroine: Nanny.

The Titchfield Hotel, built by the United Fruit Company in the mid 1800s, was the hotel of Port Antonio.  During the early days of Portland tourisms, the rail service was the convenient way of travelling from Port Antonio to Kingston and even on to Montego Bay.

With the arrival of tourism and the export of bananas, Port Antonio and Buff Bay thrived.  However, misfortune struck in the form of hurricanes and Panama disease, which virtually destroyed the banana plantations.  Despite the decline in banana exports, and the subsequent decline in Port Antonio’s economy, the capital town has bounced back and today is the hideaway of some exclusive tourist accommodations.