Intro to Solomon’s Biography


The effort put forth to tell our family’s story is a result of our desire to pay our respects to our loved ones, learn, and continue to develop as a cohesive family unit. The focal point of our story centers on Solomon Augustus and Theodora Elizabeth Hibbert, also known as Nana and Pappy.  Much of our chronicled story arrives through vivid, and in some cases, vague family memories. Therefore please keep in mind that some terms and verbiage in our descriptions may be simple expressions that we used to best describe what we know. As we record our story from a diverse source of memories, whether blurred or clear, we continue to use care in our research to verify or clarify what it is that we know and broaden our knowledge from what we have.

The era when Solomon was born marks a dramatically changing landscape in Jamaican History. The year was 1873, just two generations removed from the British Emancipation act of 1834 marking the end of slavery and a few years removed from The Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, a major turning point in Jamaica’s history. As with anyone researching their ancestry, our family is attempting to venture beyond just what we have retained in our memory banks. Fortunately, the Hibbert name as it intertwines with Jamaica’s history contains a wealth of documented information. This places our family, and for that matter, other Jamaican Hibbert families in a particularly opportune position with respect to our resource base. The time frame of our current focus is 1807 – 1873. These dates marked the abolishment of the slave trade between Jamaica and Africa by the British Parliament and the unconfirmed birth year of Solomon A. Hibbert.

Historic Background

Under the command of Penn and Venables the English captured Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655.  In 1662 there were about 400 Negro slaves on the island.  As the cultivation of sugar cane was introduced, the number of slaves grew to 9,504 by 1673. The landowners acquired more slaves to do the work on the estates, and by 1734, the year of Thomas Hibbert’s arrival from England, there were over 86,000 slaves working on Jamaican plantations. By 1775 there were 192,787. In 1807 the African slave trade was abolished by Parliament. Theoretically this meant that no more slaves could be brought from Africa to the colonies in the British West Indies. In 1816 an act was passed for a more particular return of slaves with more information to keep a stricter check on any movement of the slaves. Returns were made until 1834.

During the height of slavery, a prominent British Hibbert family had plantation interests in 60 Jamaican estates and because of this massive operation; it is a foregone conclusion that the Hibbert name has spread widely across the island. Our initial searches will be narrowed and focused on slave returns for the estates in close proximity our family’s origination.

Based on historic accounts, presumably it would have been two generation preceding the birth of Solomon that our ancestors resided on a slave plantation, quite likely owned by the Thomas Hibbert’s family. If this stands true, it is also then presumed that our ties to this Merchant family could be by decent from the ‘second families’ of the Jamaican Hibberts or by working on one of the Hibbert plantations. We have yet to document this information however this is simply theory based on logical assumptions. A third but unlikely scenario would be that we are related by direct decent from the original Hibberts of England and Jamaica.

Slaves only had one name, Bob, Jimmy etc. If there were 2 or 3 Jimmy’s on the estate then a qualifier would be used, Old Jimmy, Mulatto Jimmy, or Beckford’s Jimmy. In this case the term Beckford would denote the previous owner; therefore you get Hibbert’s Jimmy, ergo Jimmy Hibbert. Towards the end of slavery 1834-1838, the apprenticeship years, the slaves needed a surname and as they usually stayed on the estates they had worked, they usually took the name of the proprietor of that estate.

 On two of the Hibbert estates, Georgia & Dundee in Hanover Parish, the Rev. Thomas Cooper was sent out by Robert Hibbert in 1817 to minister to the slaves and convert them to Christianity, those that accepted God and were baptized and took the name Hibbert. The head driver at Georgia had himself Baptized as Robert Hibbert. Robert Hibbert founded the Hibbert Trust which is still operating today.

 While our approach is to search for an intersecting point with respect to the British Merchants and our family, it is important to cross-reference the relevance of the historic property on Duke Street that was built by Thomas Hibbert.

 The currently named Heritage House (home to the National Heritage Trust), and formerly known, “Hibbert House” or “Headquarters House” in Kingston, is where several illustrious commanders resided. Some included Willoughby Cotton, who ordered the militia to crush the Slave Christmas Rebellion, led by Sam Sharpe in 1831; William Gomm who founded the Military Hill Station at New Castle, St. Andrew in 1841; Luke O’Connor, Commander in Chief of the Military Forces which put down the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865; and it was also from Hibbert House, that Governor John Eyre organized his attack on St. Thomas to crush the Morant Bay Rebellion. It also was here that George William Gordon confronted those who accused him of fomenting the Morant Bay Rebellion. Two days later he was arrested, taken by warship to Morant Bay, tried by a kangaroo court and hanged alongside Paul Bogle.

 It is easy to get caught up in emotions evoked when hearing stories of oppression and questioning the moral fiber of those controlling Jamaica at this time. However, emotions must be set aside so it does not obstruct the progress of our search.

During the years leading up to Solomon’s birth, Jamaica’s economy experienced a significant decline in GDP directly attributable to the loss of slave labor. Between 1845 and 1917, when contracting of indentured labor ceased, more than 37,000 East Indians migrated to Jamaica as indentured laborers. In general, the relationship between blacks and East Indians was relatively amicable. Together, they constituted the majority of the island’s lower classes.

Blacks did not meet the property qualifications to vie for political office. But through their ownership of small land holdings, many gained the franchise and constituted the majority of the electorate. Anyone seeking political office had to join forces with influential black peasant farmers to gain black votes. No evidence shows that our family constituted a group of influential blacks.

Solomon’s Biography

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