What do the ruins in this village tell us about Grenada’s history?
The name “Marquis” was quite common in 17th century France (also used as a title for nobility), and several colonists of the La Grenade colony carried the name. For instance, “Fort Marquis” in Beausejour (yes, Beausejour) was named after its commander Lieutenant Le Marquis (later convicted for assisting a rebellion with one Major Le Fort). It was also the name given to an indigenous “Captain” on the eastern side of the island who presumably lived in the area of Marquis, St. Andrew today.1 The remains of his village were mostly destroyed when the French town of Grand Marquis was built, but there are still some remnants left. Indeed, unbeknownst to most people, the pre-Columbian site at Grand Marquis is one of only a handful that date before ~AD 500 in Grenada.
The Earliest Human Presence
In 1992 (and again in 1994), archaeologist Anne Cody surveyed along the Little St. Andrew’s River behind the ruins of the old French church in Marquis (Cody Holdren 1998).2 She recovered diagnostic Saladoid-Barrancoid pottery (AD 100-750) as well as later period artifacts; she also noted historical references to Amerindians in the area at the time of French settlement after 1649.
In 2018 and 2019, Hanna confirmed the location of the site and took several surface collections and soil samples. As Cody had noted, the recovered artifacts included a wide breadth of pottery including white-on-red (WOR), zone-incised-crosshatching (ZIC), “scratched” wares, circular and coffee-bean eye adornos, and a small fragment of unworked amethyst (Figure 1). Historic bottles and ceramics were also found, mostly on the southern side of the river. Many of the ceramics had large inclusions, but given the amethyst, WOR, and ZIC, it appears likely that the site began during the late Saladoid-Barrancoid period (~AD 500-750), albeit with a strong Troumassan component later (~AD750-900). Unfortunately, two samples submitted for radiocarbon dating were actually hornblende (not charcoal), leaving the site’s chronology less grounded. So at present, the estimated period of occupation is AD 500-900.
While the limited archaeological work has not borne evidence of occupation after ~AD 900, there is ethnohistoric evidence, as noted above, that Amerindians were present in the area at the time of French settlement. This is also suggested on the earliest known map of Grenada, drawn by François Blondel in 1667, which places two house symbols near the name “Grand Anse du Marquis” (Figure 2). Since no French settlers were in that area at the time, the house symbols represent Amerindian villages (Hofman et al. 2019).
|Figure 2: Clip of Blondel’s 1667 Map of Grenada; the house symbols represent Amerindian villages|
In late 1650, the village of “Captain Marquis” was attacked by then Governor Jean Le Comte. The Amerindians had fled, so the French “only found the carbets that they burnt, and then ruined everything,” (Anonymous [Benigne Bresson] 1975:17). In 1654, Le Comte again attacked a village in “Fond du Marquis” (ostensibly the same village, rebuilt). This time, “eighty savages were massacred…and the carbets and the huts were set on fire; everything that could not be carried was broken and destroyed,” (Anonymous [Benigne Bresson] 1975:41–42). Ironically, after the victory, Le Comte decided to row back to Fort Marquis (again, Beausejour) via the northern route, around Fort d’Esnambuc (atop le Morne aux Sauteurs). He hit a storm, crashed on some rocks, and drowned along with eight others.3
The Marquis Church Ruins
It is possible that a nearby site at Marquis River (also identified by Cody but not well-studied) is the historic-era Amerindian site rather than Grand Marquis (although the Blondel map shows two villages). Either way, within the next 50 years, French settlers had established the town of Grand Marquis atop the earlier Amerindian sites, which then became a major port town in the eponymous Parish of Grand Marquis (now St. Andrew) (Martin 2013). On the 1748 Romain map above (Figure 3), it is clear that the early town was focused along the main road. There were several churches, but the one marked “B” is the one still partially standing (Figure 4). This is clear after we georectify the map onto a modern satellite image (Figure 5). The GPS point taken at the church altar is exactly where the “nouvelle eglise” stood – the new church in 1748, much larger than the others.
Interestingly, the church image on the 1748 map is not just a symbol but an actual layout of the church. It matches the size and orientation of the remains today, including a semi-circular back wall (perhaps an apse, although the structure has not been mapped). It is unclear why the new church was built so far from everything else, but the town was expanding by then. Additionally, the lagoon behind the town indicates the area was prone to flooding. Indeed, although it was eventually filled in, the area is very flat and still prone to flooding today (hence the Bumpy Corner nearby perhaps?).
|Figure 5: Romain 1748 map georectified onto a modern satellite map (modern roads and rivers highlighted, as well as nearby archaeological sites)|
Before dawn on March 3, 1795, Julien Fédon and a gang of other French planters descended on the town of La Baye (Grenville), dragged the men from their beds, and hacked them up with cutlasses in the streets. They then torched the town and several British plantations on their way to other conquests, triggering Fédon’s Rebellion.
It is sometimes said that the March 3 attack was actually on Marquis (not La Baye, 3 miles to the north). Some authors have even suggested the name had changed from Marquis to Grenville and then the town moved after it was burned down, but they are mistaken. Primary sources from the time (i.e., eye-witness accounts from 1795) use the name “La Baye,” which confirms it was present-day Grenville (e.g., see Hay 1823). This makes complete sense, too, since Marquis was a major French town (i.e., sympathetic to Fédon). La Baye, on the other hand, had been recently renamed Grenville and was expanding under the British.4 Nonetheless, Fédon did set up the strategic outpost at Post Royal overlooking the Marquis coastline, and he was supposedly injured when this outpost was eventually captured by the British in March 1796, during their final push to crush the “brigands”.
So our church was not burned down at the start of Fédon’s Rebellion. Instead, Father Devas (1974) writes that Grenville simply outgrew Marquis under British rule and so the church was not maintained. By 1800, the main town in the parish had become Grenville, and the church had reportedly fallen into ruin. Devas also notes that stones from the old church were used to line the road in the 1930s (something that could perhaps be confirmed archaeologically one day).
Devas’ scenario also aligns with the graves around the church ruins– some inside the church walls. They are difficult to decipher, but one headstone for Ophilia Matheson says either 1800/1808 or 1900/1908. If 1800/1808, her burial inside the old church confirms Devas’ claim that it was in ruins by 1800. Either way, the cemetery continued to be used well after the church was abandoned.
The archaeological site, the historical Amerindian village, and the ruins of the French town of Grand Marquis illustrate the long history of this small village on Grenada’s Atlantic coast. The village was also known for its traditional handicraft industry where the screw pine (Pandanus utilis) was used to weave hats, bags, table mats, purses and other useful products, especially for the tourism industry. Today, a few fishing boats can be seen along the beach or fishermen pulling net or seine for a catch of the day. This diverse history has potential for public education, bringing pride to the people of the area. We hope it can be preserved for Grenada’s future historians and archaeologists!
-JH and JAM
Hanna’s survey of Grand Marquis was assisted by Marlene and Joel
Harford, Brittany Mistretta, and Isabelle Wadai in 2018, and Amanda Dombach, Andre
Adolphus, and Marlon Garraway in 2019.
1 The title of “captain” is usually interpreted as “chief”, although it is debatable whether any Amerindian groups (even “Taino”) were actually organized as chiefdoms. “Captain Marquis” was probably either a war leader, whose only influence over others came during wartime, or the patriarch of the village (which for a matrilocal society might mean he was the eldest brother in the family). The French also labeled him a “Savage Galibi” — not “Caraïbe” — (Anonymous [Benigne Bresson] 1975), but that is another post for another day! (For now, see Hanna 2019) ↩
2 Note this is just for informational purposes, since we want to protect these sites from further destruction. Please do not visit this site and collect artifacts— it is illegal to plunder artifacts from Amerindian sites in Grenada (and this one appears to be a very light deposit!). Artifacts removed without proper recording can never be linked back to their place of origin (they are “unprovenienced”). ↩
Anonymous [Benigne Bresson]
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