Historical Sketch

Point of Trade

The parish of St. James was a much larger parish when Montego Bay served as its capital town as far back as 1686. The city also served as the seaport of a British colony, while it took in and awaited cargoes of sugar and rum for export. And, although the eastern end of the parish had as many as 88 sugar estates and the western end had only 45, it played a pivotal role of carrying the license for clearance and entry.

Lighting up the town

The town of Montego Bay from as far back as the 1870’s had its Carbide Acetylene gas generator mounted at the back of the courthouse from where all its important clerical offices, the courthouse, and its portico facing the town squarer were lit. The town folk had their own backyard generator, so long as they could afford this luxury. Kerosene lanterns followed as lighting for the market and houses of the general citizenry.

Town Square

The square housed the courthouse and a circular fountain which still stands today. It is interesting to note that this courthouse was built more so for civic receptions rather than court proceedings. It had regular town hall dances of the nineteenth century era with concerts and other entertainment. Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire in 1974. The fountain had grilled based fencing with two arched gateways of wrought iron and fluted gate posts. In the centre above the gate lit lamps with large glass globes. In the well-maintained garden were ornamental concrete benches for use by travelers lay-by-halt, but it was not until about 1906 that tourists made use of them.


Montego Bay has had its fair share of riots and the one of 1927 recorded that a notorious troublemaker was arrested by police after he pushed indiscipline too far. This act infuriated the cronies of the prisoner and attack was launched against the police. In an effort to rescue their accomplice, the mob attacked the Barnett Street police station. The number of casualties rose due to the upheaval, and the officer in charge ordered independent firing which quickly cleared the street in an atmosphere of shocked silence. The riot ended, and Montego Bay became the most peaceful town in the island. Later, Montego Bay experiences rapid growth and a calmer atmosphere as agriculture and tourism blossomed.


As the town developed, the tourism “mecca” of Jamaica was born, and is dubbed “the friendly city” . Montego Bay today is an urban resort city that boasts rapid development of the north coast and is one of the most renowned vacation spots in the world.