Moore Town is located in the John Crow Mountain range of Portland. History has it that Maroon slaves divided themselves into 2 groups after forming a truce with the British in 1739. One group followed a Maroon named Quao to Crawford Town while others followed our national heroine, Nanny, to New Nanny Town which is now called Moore Town.
Moore Town: Maroon Village in Jamaica
As you enter the village you are greeted by banners proudly displaying its name. The area has a church, primary and junior high schools, and a cultural community centre inclusive of library and artefacts.
Observant residents of this small town can quickly identify visitors, and are very accommodating. So much so that on my first quest to Nanny Falls I requested directions from an elderly lady before she led me to a young man’s house. This person, affectionately known as ‘Chris’, unexpectedly spent his day hiking with me to the falls while sharing history and general knowledge of just about every item we passed along the way! He accompanied us the entire time; we greatly appreciated his hospitality and recommend him to anyone looking to visit!
I was previously unaware that visitors should be accompanied by a Maroon guide, according to their customs. Legend has it that there have been cases of repeat visitors being steered off known paths by Maroon ancestors, due to ill intents.
After being brought to Jamaica in the Transatlantic slave trade, many slaves fled from plantations and formed their own communities in the rugged hills of the island. Maroons are descendants of West Africans, and became the first group of black slaves to have their freedom recognized.
According to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) a Maroon named Cudjoe signed a peace treaty with the British to gain that freedom. Cudjoe’s town (Trelawny Town) and Accompong in St. Elizabeth were first to become independent, and allowed Maroons many benefits including tax-free lands throughout the island, which still apply to their descendents. Each settlement had a white Superintendent who maintained relations between the Maroons and the British in those days. Now, the towns are governed by a Maroon Colonel.
Nanny of the Maroons
“Granny Nanny” was an 18th-century leader of the Maroons who was conferred the Order of the National Hero in 1982. She was particularly skilled in organising the guerilla warfare carried out by Eastern Maroons to keep away from British troops who attempted to overpower them. Her resting place is known as “bump grave”, marked by a small tree on a hump behind a monument.
Maroons Way of Life
A person is a Maroon by ancestry, but one may also become a Maroon through marriage. Generations later, their descendants still inhabit this and other settlements such as Charles Town, Scotts Hall, and Accompong. They have their own customs, language, and traditions which are typically passed down from elders in the community.
Image from Bay View Eco Resort website
A step inside Moore Town’s cultural centre can transport you to days past, with images depicting unrecognizable former versions of the town when compared to today. Various tools, books, and videos depicting Maroon culture are also on display here. For special occasions and arranged events, traditional songs and dances are performed inclusive of drumming and rum sprinkling as to welcome ancestor spirits. I first witnessed a performance at the inaugural Coffee Fest by the Charles Town Maroons.
Jamaican Maroon Food
Maroons indulge in a freshwater snail known as busso which is a delicacy and popular soup choice. If you look closely these small snails can be observed traversing along the boulders that populate the nearby Nanny Falls. They also thrive on a lot of food provided from the land, such as fruits and vegetables. Moore Town is laden with many fruit and spice trees (1 of 55 reasons to love being Jamaican).
A great guide like Chris will enlighten you about the surroundings. Before visiting this village for example, I never knew of the mammee fruit (which like some Jamaican mangoes only grows in some parishes) nor could I identify a cinnamon tree. Other provisions I’ve gotten here include freshly-picked guava, avocado (aka pear), and nutmeg.
A satisfying spread of natural foods can be prepared for you if arranged in advance. On 1 visit, my meal included the national fruit ackee, saltfish (cod) rundown, roasted breadfruit, boiled green bananas, and thatch (the heart of a certain tree), washed down with june plum and pineapple juices.
Avocado and Guavas
This is one of my favourite waterfalls in Jamaica, and I really can’t put into words why that is except that there’s a higher level of calmness felt (by me) as the powerful cascade pours into the pool below. Like Kwame Falls and Tacky Falls in St. Mary, Nanny Falls is named after a notable slave, in this case our national heroine Nanny of the Maroons. She reputedly carried wounded soldiers to this river to heal during war times. It is said that if their wounds weren’t healed after bathing here, they were dubbed not fit to return to battle. Its reputed healing waters may explain my exceptional tranquility whenever visiting here.
A steep stairway with the help of added railings will lead you to the natural wonder. The force of the waterfall flowing from a towering cliff creates a refreshing misty breeze. Though strong gusts are present, you can walk along the rock perimeter to get underneath the cascade or behind its water curtain if desired. Smooth sizeable rocks that line the river bed act as great seating and lying areas, so much so that I’ve actually fallen asleep on them with my body submerged! View more from the mystical falls here.
The Maroons have such rich history, and when you get to meet one who is obviously proud of their culture it really can teach you so much. With numerous youths migrating from the village to seek more opportunities, my hope is that they use their collective community and resources to preserve knowledge and traditions for generations to come.
What aspect of Moore Town fascinates you the most???
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