Me no Sen, You no Come! The Land of Look Behind
Accompong Town, home of the Leeward Maroons, is located in the Parish of St. Elizabeth about 40 miles due South of Montego Bay Jamaica. This area is generally referred to as the Cockpit Country. A Cockpit is a name given to describe the Karst limestone outcroppings that dot the landscape resembling an upside-down egg carton worn into a rounded shape by the frequent rainfall since these lands emerged from the ocean floor many tens of thousands of years ago. It was into this virtually unexplored and uninhabitable landscape that the African slaves, set free by the Spanish before the English Invasion, sought refuge.
These West African slaves, when asked where they came, from would say Coromantee when many were Ashanti and from other tribes. Coromantee is the anglicised spelling of the name of an inland port of Koramantine (the Slave Coast) where slaves were assembled prior to being shipped to coastal ports. The language they spoke was Kramanti/Coromantee which closely resembles the Twi tongue.
A leader emerged from their group named Cudjoe (sometimes spelled Kojo) along with his brothers and sister; Quao, Cuffee, Johnny, Accompong and Nanny. Which of them were actually “blood” brothers and sisters and which were not remains unknown as some were probably even from different tribes and areas of Western Africa when they boarded the slave ships for the voyage but they considered themselves “brothers and sisters” in search of freedom. Cudjoe was a short, squat bear of a man with a superior ability to lead his people and was a master guerrilla war tactician. Quao, Cuffee and Johnny went further East and formed a stronghold which is present day Moore Town just south of Port Antonio in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Nanny went to another remote area and founded Nanny Town which was eventually overtaken by the British Forces and the inhabitants were shipped to Nova Scotia and later back to Western Africa. Nanny is buried in Bump Grave in Moore Town.
It is believed that Accompong was Cudjoe’s actual brother and the name is said to derive from the Ashanti Nyamekopon meaning “the lone one, the warrior”. It may be interesting to note the origin of some of the other names. The Gold Coast Coromantees often named their children after the day on which the child was born:
|DAY OF THE WEEK||MALE||FEMALE|
The group that first formed in Clarendon and became known as the Western Maroons (Leeward Maroons) under Cudjoe (Kojo) maintained a low profile as evidenced by after the Maroon War, there being hostilities against the Eastern Maroons (Windward Maroons) only. These Leeward Maroons were well trained warriors from the Ashanti area of West Africa. By 1736 Cudjoe’s Maroons were living in the Ulster Spring/Albert Town area near the Mouth and Hectors Rivers and, probably because of pressure from British troops after their successful destruction of Nanny Town in the Blue Mountains, decided to move on to the Tangle River area of St James where Cudjoe Town and, further south, Accompong Town were founded. Accompong was Cudjoe’s brother and the origin of their names is of interest. The long period of sporadic warfare between the British and the Maroons, culminating in the First Maroon War during the 1730′s, was terminated by Peace Treaty of 1738 which was signed by Guthrie and Saddler with Cudjoe in 1739 . As the treaty shows, it was signed at a camp near Trelawny Town, which was the British name for Cudjoe Town and which corresponds to the present Flagstaff area although Maroon history records the signing of the Peace Treaty as taking place within the Peace Cave’s confines.
The current Accompong Town was established in 1739 from land that was ceded to the Maroons as part of a Peace Treaty with the British. During the Maroon War, the village was in a more secluded and defensible area down the hill called Old Town where many of the graves are found. Traditional ceremonies are held both in Old Town and Accompong Town on 6th January annually to commemorate several historical events; Cudjoe’s Birthday, Maroon Christmas and the signing of the Peace Treaty and establishment of the town. The Maroons were the first group of blacks to fight for and gain their freedom.