Adam Straughn (Straw) Waterman was born a slave in 1803 in either St. John or St George. Probably on one of the estates owned by the Drax Family. He got his freedom before emancipation.
Adam married Nancy Hannah at St. John’s Parish Church on 2nd November 1835. Some sources say she was an outside daughter of the Drax Family. Her name suggests she had probably been enslaved.
He was apprenticed to a mason and became very skilled and was sought after for his expertise in working with coral stone.
Straw, as he was known, worked hard, saved his money and brought several plots of land in Greens, Ellerton, Workmans and Drax Hall areas and was a successful cane grower
St. Johns Church was destroyed by the hurricane in 1831 and he worked on the rebuilding in 1836. There is also a plaque on Kendall Factory recording the work he did on the building in 1859. In 1859 Barbados produced 41,708 tons of sugar.
He grew tired of having to rely on others to process his cane so he decided to build a Factory. He started this on a plot of land, at Redland Cottage, next to Drax Hall plantation yard. Unfortunately he died before it was completed.
The factory was never completed but parts of the walls are still standing. This is a testament to the quality of the work he did.
A.S. Waterman is buried at St. George’s Church in a family plot along with his wife, children and two of his grandchildren. The grave is close to the church, a testament to how highly he was regarded.
Redland Cottage was used as a playing field in the 1960’s and was referred to as Waterman Straw Playing field. At some point this was also leased and worked by Drax Hall Plantation.
Waterman Land is a triangular shaped plot in Mount Hill, on the left, going downhill, after the road that will take you to Brighton. This was leased and cultivated by Brighton Plantation until the early 1990’s. The lease was terminated when the rent was increased. The land is now in bush.
Redland Cottage will soon be developed. I hope that some of his original buildings are kept and a suitable memorial erected to A.S.Waterman, a true Barbados Hero. Maybe the National Trust could list the area.
Time Line for A.S. Waterman
- 1803 Born in St. John or St. George
- 1834 Emancipation (He had already gained his freedom)
- 1835 Married to Nancy Hanna at St. Johns Church
- 1836 Worked on rebuilding St. Johns Church
- 1858 Brought Redland Cottage
- 1858 Advised on repairs to St. Georges Rectory
- 1859 Worked on Building Kendall Factory
- 1859 Was on the list of Petty Jurors
- 1865 to 1887 Member of St. George Vestry
- 1870 Overseer of the Poor
- 1887 Died on the 20th August
The following was supplied to me by Patricia Stafford:
Adam ‘Straw’ Waterman was born into slavery but manumitted prior to emancipation, and according to his obituary in the Barbados Globe on 22 August 1887, “soon became an experienced and successful mason. Henry Fraser, in The Historic Churches of Barbados tells us that the technique of ‘sawed’ or sawn stone that features on St. Lucy Church is generally accredited to him. He was also responsible for rebuilding St. John’s Church, described by Fraser as “one of his outstanding works.
By 1858 Adam ‘Straw’ Waterman had become affluent enough to be the owner of Redland Cottage, a small estate of five acres in St. George. Oral tradition suggests that he may have acquired this through marriage to an outside daughter of the Drax family. Research so far has uncovered no document to show how he acquired Redland Cottage. He married Nancy Hannah of the parish of St. John in November 1835, while himself a member of the parish of St. Thomas, so this story seems unlikely, though certainly not impossible.
The obituary in the Globe reported that Waterman, “took a lively interest in the welfare, not alone of the parish in which he served, [. . .] but of the whole island…he will be missed by the poor and destitute, whom he was ever ready to assist [. . .].”
The Agricultural Reporter, after reporting that Waterman was “of the African race,” appreciated the fact that he was “a water drinker”. This may well have been the reason that he lived to the age of eighty-four and was said to have enjoyed excellent health up to a short time before he died!
Adam ‘Straughn’ (sic) Waterman was on the list of petty jurors by 1859 and was an active member of the St. George Vestry between January 1865 and April 1887, missing only two meetings during the period. He died on 20 August in that year and was buried in the St. George Churchyard.
Waterman’s first contact with the Vestry seems to have been in a professional capacity, when he was brought in, in March 1858, to examine masonry work at the rectory; on becoming an elected member he became a regular member of the parish building committee.
He did not restrict his interests to buildings: at his second vestry meeting he seconded the motion of W. B. Griffith that the overseers of the poor should be requested to report to the Vestry the cost of converting the old school room into a refuge for the poor. The proposer of the motion wanted this refuge as a meal dispensary and also requested an estimate of the probable costs of maintaining twelve destitute people daily for the year. Whether this proposal was ever put into effect is not recorded, but by 1870, Waterman himself was serving as an overseer of the poor.
Although concerned for the welfare of his fellows, Waterman, as well was a prominent member of the Barbados Defence Association.
You can click on the thumbnail image to see a larger image with captions.