Claremont Valley was the first area settled and cultivated by the British in the late 1600’s. The largest fresh water pond on the island was situated directly south of this valley. This would have made the area a central focal point for earlier Amerindian occupation as well, and later for the first Colonial settlements. This pond was a very important source of water during dry periods for the garrisons at Nelson’s Dockyard, who would have carried the water several miles by ox cart over the mountain range to the east of our valley.
The first crop grown by the British in Claremont Valley was Tobacco. Demand in Europe was high for this new found narcotic. However, continuous cropping would eventually see the crop succumb to disease. Subsequently, the valley was planted in sugar cane, and in more recent times, arrowroot.
An American citizen, Mr. Thomas F. Mason, started Claremont pineapple farm in the late 1960’s. He teamed up with Mr. George Weaver, an extension officer attached to the Antigua Ministry of Agriculture to develop a farm of Antigua Black Pineapple.
They started by planting small plots at the government farm that was situated west of the valley, beside Fig Tree Drive. They bought pineapple suckers (propogules) from local farmers, as well as propagating from stem cuttings. Enoch Anthony of Old Road Village managed the farm through the 1970’s, gradually increasing the acreage under pineapple to the present size.
Over the years many people have contributed to the development of a viable local agricultural industry that Antigua can be proud of.
Flint, Seashells, and Indian Graves
A common stone encountered in Claremont Valley is Flint. This would not be too peculiar except that the flint did not originate here. The closest flint deposit is found on Long Island, a small island off the north coast of Antigua.
The question arises “how did it all get here?”. It is believed that 1,000 or more years ago, South American Indians brought the flint with them to make cutting tools. A great deal of flint can be found, indicating a lengthy occupation by Amerindians.
More convincing evidence for an extended Amerindian settlement in Claremont Valley comes from large deposits of tiny seashells. These shells had to be transported from the seaside, but for what purpose would the Indians have done this? Some have argued that it merely represents the leftovers from mealtime; however, the tiny shells mixed with coral could not have provided any food.
Evidence for an alternative argument to the seashell puzzle came in 1995 with the discovery of a gravesite of an Indian woman. While preparing land for the planting of grafted mango trees, a piece of human jawbone was found. A visiting archaeology team from McGill University excavated the site uncovering the complete, though fragmented, skeleton of an Indian woman.
We wonder now if the shell deposits could represent a tradition in these seafaring people to cover their graves with seashells as markers. Perhaps we will never know, but it’s fun to ponder.