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Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada

Jamaica’s Trelawny Maroons

Exiled Freedom Fighters

Jamaican Maroon captain Leonard Parkinson Jamaican Maroon captain Leonard Parkinson
courtesy of Nova Scotia Archives, Halifax, N.S.

Almost 600 Trelawny Maroons including men women and children, landed in Halifax in July 1796. Fearing that their militancy and independent spirit would inspire those still in bondage to be free and revolt, the Jamaican government exiled the Trelawny Maroons to Nova Scotia. Although they stayed only four years the Maroons left an enduring legacy.

The Trelawny men worked on the defences of the third Citadel, for which it is believed a part of the fortifications was named ‘Maroon Bastion’ in their honour. They helped erect Government House, were part of a militia unit, cleared woods for roads, and were employed as general labourers. Among other tasks, the women and children gathered fruits and berries, and grew vegetables for sale at the Halifax market. At first the Maroons lived in tents and barracks on the Citadel’s grounds, and in barns on Governor Wentworth’s property. They were subsequently moved to lands at Preston.

Disenchantment soon set in, particularly over Governor Wentworth’s attempt to impose ‘civility’ on the Trelawnys. But it was the harsh winters and unpalatable food which made Nova Scotia unbearable for the Maroons, and they asked to be sent to a warmer climate.

In August 1800, 500 Maroons sailed for Sierra Leone, West Africa. Yet, a few Maroons remained, and some family names in Nova Scotia, such as Downey, Colley and Johnston, are connected to Maroon heritage.1

The term ‘Maroon’ is a corruption of the Spanish word cimarron meaning wild and untamed.

Learn more:

The Maroons - Black Cultural Centre of Nova Scotia

1 Dr. Henry Bishop, Chief Curator, Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, May 2002. Sourced from The Maroons in Nova Scotia, by John N. Grant.