Some 165 years ago when plantation slavery was abolished in Jamaica and the West Indies, ex-slaves on the island tried to establish ownership of property but were treated harshly. Their masters reduced their wages and raised their rental fees and if they could not pay, they were either forced to give up occupancy or evicted.
Porus is known for its fruit as well as its craft
These ex-slaves then bought unoccupied lands in the community with their savings. Missionaries from the Baptist, Moravian, Presbyterian and Anglican denominations assisted them in developing the Village and in turn, gave free labour to build churches and schools in the communities. This explains the dominance of these denominations in Free Villages.
Vale Lionel (Porus), was the sixth township opened by Missionary James Phillipo in 1840. It was named after the then Governor, Sir Lionel Smith. Vale Lionel started as a sparsely populated community and the seat of a large coffee market. Missionary Phillipo laid out the Village for the ex-slaves, which was renamed “Porus”. The story goes that when things got real bad and the ex-slaves did not want to go back to the plantations and were merely making do, they said, “Poor Us”, referring to themselves. Another version was that the name came about as a result of the type of soil in the area - ‘porous’.
A very rapidly developing community, Porus houses the Trinity United (Presbyterian) church among many other denominations, a police station, a comprehensive health clinic, schools and numerous other businesses. Continuing the climb towards Mandeville, there are roadside stalls at which fruits and some cultural items are available. Further to the east of the town, there is the Melrose attraction where jerked chicken, roasted yams, sweet potatoes, salt fish and drinks are on sale in shops strategically laid out juts off the road.
Lush vegetation is a hallmark of the area, which boasts a festival of some of the most luscious fruits, ackees, bananas pimento and a number of lime trees which provide fresh aroma for the air. Porous is also known for dasheen. Beautiful ornaments and flowers are unique to its enclaves as well.
The salubrious climate provides for comfortable residential occupancy. Estate type houses are fewer, having been replaced by more luxurious ones. A tributary of the Rio Minho River runs by the side of the main road and keeps refreshing the atmosphere with its cool waters. The fresh air from the back bush readily reminds travelers they’re entering a rural parish. The hilly terrain is more to the north, while the flat, wet lands are to the south.
The residents, mostly humble and friendly are hard working, mostly at agriculture and skills. Each generation seems to pass on a reminder of the struggles their ancestors endured on the way to freedom.
Watch this spot for a story on Maidstone…. another Free Village.