The mahogany trade with Honduras

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This picture, captioned 'Jersey, Honduras' was sent to Jerripedia shortly before Nicolas Jouault's article on the mahogany trade appeared in his blog. We have no further information about the picture, but perhaps the European gentleman in the photograph was a Jerseyman

Based on an entry in his blog by Nicolas Jouault

At first sight a connection between Jersey, Canadian cod and the countries of Central America is not obvious, but it was all part of the pattern of international trade in the 18th and 19th century.

Cod shipments

Jersey vessels would leave the eastern seaboard of Canada laden with salted cod and head for Hispanic Catholic countries, where this commodity was much in demand. Portugual and Spain were the obvious destinations on the opposite side of the Atlantic, but the Spanish colonies in Central and South America were other potential customers.

And having sold part or all of their cargoes there, the ships did not want to return home empty, so they bought mahogany and other woods which would command a good price back in Jersey and elsewhere in Europe.

Many is the Jersey household even to this day which has a mahogany wardrobe, chest of drawers or other furniture item, probably without realising how the wood from which it is made originally made its way to the island.

Slaves felling mahogany trees in Honduras

Honduras

One source for mahogany was Honduras, which employed slaves to fell the trees and load the on to foreign vessels. Mahogany and logwood were shipped from Honduras to London, Jersey, and occasionally to other ports in Europe.

Jersey mahogany and logwood imports for 1833, 87 and 71 tons, and for 1834, 71 and 27 tons.

John Jean in his Tales of Jersey Tall Ships mentions early connections with the Tyral of 200 tons, with Captain Michel Dupré being at Honduras in 1766. Captain Jean Collas in 1768 made at least one voyage to Honduras with the Boston built Triton of 155 tons owned by a John Brunet.

Ten years later in 1778 the Venus owned by Richard de Carteret, master Jean Collas, was taken by an American privateer when returning to Jersey from Honduras.

Poingdestre

In 1786 James Poingdestre wrote from Honduras to John Fiott regarding the shipping of wood to Great Britain and the purchasing of a boat. Captain Poingdestre in command of the Harriot of 150 tons arrived back in Jersey from the Colony in 1789 with another fine cargo of mahogany destined for London. September 1792 and March 1793 saw the same vessel at London from the Colony. In June the same year the Harriot was taken by the French, only to be retaken and sent into Liverpool. In July she left London for Belize, and returned in the beginning of October.

It was reported in the Honduras Gazette of 18 August 1826 that London merchants John and James Poingdestre had attended a meeting to call for a memorial to the Earl of Bathurst (Secretary for War and the Colonies) who had been involved in putting forward proposals on the treatment of slaves.

Thomas Pickstock had shipped mahogany to the Poingdestres in 1817. They later dissolved the partnership by mutual consent. In 1834 John Poingdestre, a merchant living in Guilford Street shot himself in Tivoli Gardens, and died within half an hour, there was no apparent reason for him taking his life, according to the Spectator.

De Ste Croix

Captain Elias de Ste Croix went to Honduras with the Betsy in 1786. Aaron de Ste Croix lived at the Limes, Green Street. He was a shipbuilder and owner, ropemaker and Jurat. He married Jeanne d’Auvergne and they had three sons: Philip (1798- ), Francis (1799- ), and John (1801- ).

In 1832 P F and J de Ste Croix owned the following vessels: D’Auvergne 440 tons, Ste Croix 413 tons, Ceres 250 tons (1827, loaded Honduras with mahogany), Calista 203 tons (1827, loaded in Honduras for Jersey, Pallot; and 1852 Honduras to Jersey with mahogany and rosewood), Crusader 127 tons.

The 1834 slave registers (available on Ancestry.com) have Robert Miller, a mulatto aged 40, a mahogany cutter owned by Philip Francis and John de Ste Croix.

In the 1851 census Philip de Ste Croix (53), a shipowner, was living in London, and Jean de Ste Croix (50), a shipowner, was living at Homestill, Green Street, St Helier.

The London Gazette of 19 November 1861 mentions Jersey merchants Philip and Francis de Ste Croix trading as P and F de Ste Croix and Co, merchants and mahogany cutters and a claim to be entitled to lands in Honduras situated on the River Sarstoon.

Valpy

Francois Valpy, in charge of the Ceres, returned to Jersey from Honduras in 1809. In 1810 Philip Valpy was in charge of the Nelson, and having left Honduras, was attacked by a French privateer and Valpy and one of the crew were killed. The vessel eventually made its way back to Jersey.

In 1828 Francois Valpy was a Lieutenant of the Honduras Militia, First Company – Blacks. He signed a petition against the former Superintendent Colonel George Arthur to the Secretary of State Earl Bathurst, in Honduras on 24 July 1822. The 1829 Honduras almanac mentions Francis Valpy and Co, with a company flag of yellow and blue halves.

Le Geyt

George Le Geyt is mentioned in the following: March 1827, the death of his daughter Martha. 1829, named on legislative list of Honduras. Parliamentary papers on a report on the Portuguese schooner Carlota, also known as the Mosquito, a slaver, Miguel Paulo master, in December, 1836. The Slave Register has Le Geyt owning several slaves in Honduras. The 1851 Jersey census has his wife Elizabeth living in Great Union Road with son Philip (6) born Jersey, and daughter Ann (11) born Honduras, Elizabeth is recorded as captain’s wife. The property is now known as Belize house. Philip, the son, later owned a property in Beach Road called Belize, alongside Honduras.

Frederick Alexandre

Frederick Alexandre, born Jersey in 1809, died New York in 1899, chose a career at sea and took command of his first vessel at the age of 21. When about 28, the young captain settled in New York City, establishing a small commission house in South Street, paying at first an annual rent of $25. In 1842 he established a line of sailing vessels between New York and Honduras, and subsequently between New York, Vera Cruz and South America. In this enterprise he succeeded so well that in 1867 he sold the sailing vessels, substituted steamers, and for 19 years carried mails, freights and passengers between New York, Havana and Mexico.

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