Adam Straughn (Straw) Waterman (1803 – 1887)

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.

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Responses to “Adam Straughn (Straw) Waterman (1803 – 1887)”

  1. Margaret

    Adam Straw Waterman was my 3rd great grandfather, I used to visit Clytie Waterman and Clara Durant in Workman St. George when I was growing up.

  2. Leighton Finbar Waterman

    Thanks for sharing this. Adding a few more bits of information to the stories I have heard from my family. Appreciate any further information which you may have.

    1. Marcia Iris Nurse

      Hi Leighton, My name is Marcia Iris Nurse. I am deeply involved in family research. I reside in Barbados. My email is

  3. Marcia Iris D. Nurse

    The name Straughn must be removed from the above text. There is no documented information to support him being named Straughn within his name. ‘Straw’ has many connotations, it must be noted that from the age of the Eygptian builders the substance straw was used in the formation of bricks. It is likely that Adam gained a reputation from his skill as a mason using straw as a filter for excess water during the brick formation. Adam Straw became a master craftsman in stone masonry. This gentleman Adam Straw is recorded on the Returns of Slaves as the property of William Grazett Esqr of Fisherpond Plantation, St. Thomas, Barbados in 1834. Grazett was represented, during the enumeration of the enslaved for monetary compensation, by his Estate Attorney Forster Clarke Esqr.

    Adam was enslaved up to 1834 (Emancipation Enacted 01 August 1834: full freedom only for children under the age of six years old) under the name Adam Straw, black, Barbadian, aged 30 years old. He marries on 02 November 1835 under the name Adam Straw Waterman (St Thomas is written under his name) and under his wife Nancy Hannah’s name is written (St. John). They married at St John’s chapel. No surname is attached to his wife as a maiden name. This was customary for for the period. Nancy Hannah is clearly attached to the parish of St John and not St. George. His marriage took place during the apprenticeship period and prior to full liberation in 1838.

    The baptism of the couple’s first child Hannah Margaret is recorded as 12 November 1836 within Society Chapel, St John – the parents are recorded as Father’s Christian name: Adam, Mother’s Christian name: Hannah Nancy, Surname: Straw, Occupation: Mason, Abode: Applewhaites. This inclusion of his abode as Applewhaites suggests that he had settled after 1834 in that area rather than on lands of Fisherpond; although it could be an ‘error’ of the presiding church minister. Most interesting is his use of Straw as his surname rather than the name used by the priest at his marriage one year earlier.

    The other children recorded as born at the end of the apprenticeship period are:
    – 24 March 1842: Adam Straw son of Adam Straw and Ann* Waterman.
    – 11 July 1844: Lucretia daughter of Adam Straw and Nancy Hannah Waterman, Father’s occupation: Mason.
    – 20 August 1846: Amelia Frances daughter of Adam Straw and Nancy Hannah, Father’s occupation: Mason.

    All of the before mentioned baptisms are recorded at St. John’s Church. However, on 27 October 1850: Joshua Waterman is baptised by Adam Straw and Nancy Waterman at St. Philip Church.

    It is noticeable that in 1842 the baptism record of Adam Straw’s first son (Adam Straw) his mother is named Ann* and not Nancy Hannah plus the parents’ names are written with Waterman squeezed partially sideways after the name Ann. Maybe Hannah Nancy was affectionately known as Ann or the priest shortened her name to fit the columns!

    The Waterman surname entered the Barbadian landscape as early as 1600s and Springfield plantation in St. Joseph was owned between 1674 and 1736 by the (white) Waterman family, reaching 500 acres in 1699.

    It remains unclear why Adam Straw was recorded with the surname Waterman in 1835 by the priest of St. John’s Church.

    1. Astrid Smith Breedy

      I cannot thank you enough for sharing the story about Adam Straw Waterman. He was my 4th great grandfather on my father’s side. I would love to learn more about him.

      1. Lucy Fields

        Hi Astrid. I too have been tryingvto unravel this story. Adam straw is my grandmother’s grand father. I think his daughter lucretia is the link as that was also my great granny’s name. Auntie Grace had told me we were related I just did not know how

        1. Leighton Waterman

          Hi Lucy,
          Adam Straw was my 4th great grand father on my father’s side. I would love to learn more also

          1. Lucy

            Hi Leighton, I’m have been working on our family tree for a few years. This information has provided a few missing pieces but I know there is more. I probably won’t find the rest until I’m back in Barbados on holiday to go do research on birth and marriage certificates. Do you have any idea which of the. Children your link goes back to? My link clearly goes back to Lucretia who also had a daughter with the same name. That daughter married and her and her husband had 8 children. One of those 8 was my granny.

        2. Marcia Iris Nurse

          Hi Lucy, My name is Marcia Iris Nurse.
          I am deeply involved in family research. My contact is
          I competed the above research. It is disappointing that the website does not update their previous information.

      2. Marcia Iris Nurse

        Hello Astrid, My name is Marcia Iris D. Nurse I reside in Barbados and I am deeply involved with family research. You may email me at

        1. Astrid Smith Breedy

          Thanks Marcia

    2. Leighton Finbar Waterman

      Hi Lucy,
      I am not sure. I always assumed it was from one of his sons. Astrid’s grandmother Lillian and my grandfather, Leighton were siblings. I know their father was Lawrence Waterman but that’s as far back as I know by names

  4. What a wonderful piece of history! This is why we must preserve our old buildings, not for the owners or the systems that existed at the time but out of respect for the craftsmen.

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