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South America, Guyana.
Waterton's Demerara, Page 3 - Mibiri Creek & Mr. Edmonstone
See more pictures of Mibiri Creek in Guyana Gallery Page 6.
Waterton's Demerara - The Plantation Years & More

• 1 - Introduction • 2 - Essequibo Gentlemen & Orinoco Privateers • 3 - Mibiri Creek • 4 - Waterton's Plantations • 5 - Waterton's Plantations, continued • 6 - Slavery on the Plantations & Elsewhere
• See also • Guyana Gallery  • Georgetown Gallery  •  The Orinoco Adventure - A Visit to Angostura

Mibiri Creek


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1. Mibiri Creek - The Location of the House & Wood Cutting Establishment of Mr Charles Edmonstone.

In Demerara, Waterton met his future father-in-law, Charles Edmonstone, and they became firm and lasting friends.

Mr. Edmonstone's home was at Warrows Point* on Mibiri Creek. Charles Waterton always found that his health recovered during his stays at Mibiri creek. Edmonstone became a most valued friend;his nephew, Archibald, also showed Waterton great kindness and hospitality. Archibald knew much about the local wildlife and the forest. Many years later Waterton recalled that he still had Archibald's catalogue in which he described nearly 70 trees found in the Mibiri Creek locality, including their eventual size, qualities, uses and their Indian names.
■ More about Mibiri Creek in the Guyana Gallery, page 6.

(* Warrows Point or Place. Perhaps a reference to the Warows.
"There are five principal nations or tribes of Indians in ci-devant Dutch Guiana, commonly known by the name of Warow, Arowack, Acoway, Carib and Macoushi. They live in small hamlets, which consist of a few huts, never exceeding twelve in number. These huts are always in the forest, near a river or some creek." Wanderings, Third Journey, Chapter 2, Native Indians.)

2. Nearby Places
In nearby Pokerero Creek (off Kamuni River or Creek), there is now a tourist destination, Arrowpoint Nature Resort (Roraima Group), with a similar name to that of Mr. Edmonstone's old establishment at Warrows Point (or Place) in Mibiri Creek.

Also nearby: Santa Mission
The boat journey to the Mission along Kamuni Creek from the River Demerara is 45 minutes to an hour from Timehri; a day trip is easily achievable from Georgetown.
Santa Mission is the only titled indigenous one in Region Three. It was established in the mid-eighteenth century and first settled by Alfred Patterson, a woodsman, who had stumbled on the location during his pursuit of the valuable Wallaba trees used for fuel. In September 2015, the community celebrated 157 years since its establishment. Home to approximately 200 people of mainly Arawak descent, Santa Mission's main economic activities include small scale logging, handicraft and tourism. The village is e route to the nearby Arrowpoint Nature Resort and the former Timberhead.#

# Source: Stabroek News Santa Mission.
By Mariah Lall 20 September 2015.
■ Read the article in full in the Stabroek News. [Accessed 16 Jul 2017]

3. Mibiri Creek by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Staunton St. Clair
Click to enlargeLt. Col. Staunton St. Clair recounts his meeting with Charles Edmonstone during his travels in the West Indies and America in 1806 to 1808 (1) . The photograph is of a stretch of Mibiri Creek in 2012.

The following extract from his book (1) sets the scene:

"The Negro huts, standing on top of a hill, presently appeared in view, and we soon arrived at this wood-cutting settlement. We found the owner standing at the edge of the water, ready to receive the governor, knowing the boat the moment he saw it. He told me, he had ordered his cook to prepare a good dinner, on hearing the distant repoart of our gun. (a short while before, a member of the party had shot a bird a 'tiger-bird' - going by the description on p. 172, a rufescent tiger-heron (tigrisoma lineatum) )

On ascending the hill to his house, several parrots in couples flew over our heads, crossing the savannah to their roosting places, every now and then making a muttering noise, as if in conversation with each other; and, though the house was small and old, ...... we found ourselves perfectly happy in Mr. Edmonstone's pleasant company. ... I presently had a fine view of all the buildings on this woody property, and, seating myself on the stump of an old tree, I drew the sketch from which the annexed engraving has been executed. In the foreground stood a fine cockarito, or wild cabbage, with one or two negroes, and their wives and children to the right a little way below them. The fine feathery grass raised its head, like ostrich-plumes far above the waters of the savannah; while two egrets, beautifully white, were below fishing. The lowest building on the right hand was the boat-house; that above it, the dwelling house, with an enclosed garden, filled with fruit trees; and on the top of the hill were the Negro huts, with some cocoa-nut trees. The whole was backed and encompassed by an evergreen forest, which perhaps cannot be surpassed, even in the west Indies.

The manicol and various species of palm, each beautiful in its kind, adorned the scene. Little birds of the brightest colours, flying from tree to tree, were displaying their splendid plumage to the sun, whilst their pendulous nests were seen hanging from the extremities of the branches; some deep, and open at the top; others, with an aperture in their sides; and others, still more cautiously constructed, with the entrance at the bottom, and having a curious passage nearly to the top, where the eggs were deposited."


Click to enlargeThe House on Mibiri Creek
St. Clair sketched this scene while visiting Edmonstone's settlement. In left foreground, two male slaves are cutting wood, next to them are "their wives and children." In the very lower right hand corner is the boat-house, above it the main dwelling house, "and on the top of the hill were the Negro huts, with some cocoa-nut trees"


4. Waterton and the Edmonstones
Waterton's wife, Anne, was the daughter of Charles Edmonstone and Helen Reid. Helen was the daughter of a Scot, William Reid, and Princess Minda, the daughter of an Arowak chief.

Waterton and Anne married in 1829, first in Brugge (Bruges), Belgium, and then in Sandal Magna, Yorkshire. A dark and exotic creature, Anne Waterton died shortly after giving birth to a son, Edmund - the couple's only child. Charles was overcome with grief and could not bear to talk about his young wife throughout the remainder of his long life.

Anne's two sisters, Helen and Eliza, described by Charles Darwin as "mulatresses", remained with Charles Waterton as his housekeepers and joint foster mothers to his son. These ladies, whom he loved and regarded as his own sisters, stayed with Waterton until his death and, had he had his way, they would have kept Walton Hall, but his son Edmund thought differently.

5. John Edmonstone - Darwin's Negro 'Bird-Stuffer' trained by Charles Waterton
When Charles Edmonstone returned to Scotland, he was accompanied by John Edmonstone, a freed black slave who made his living in Edinburgh teaching university students the art of taxidermy. He lived at 37 Lothian Street in Edinburgh, just a few doors down from where Charles Darwin and his brother, Erasmus, lived. John learned his trade from Charles Waterton, who had met him at the Edmonstone's house in Guyana - then Demerara. Darwin employed John at the rate of 1 guinea (i.e. £1/1/- or £1.05) an hour when he heard that he was a protégé of Waterton.
See also The Third Wandering, Chapter 1, John Edmonstone
and Waterton's other taxidermist student James (Chapter 1) and the encounter with the cayman - Caught at Last (Chapter 4).

About the taxidermy lessons:

a. "I am going to learn to stuff birds, from a blackamoor, I believe an old servant of Dr. Duncan: it has the recommendation of cheapness, if nothing else, as he only charges one guinea, for an hour every day for two months." Charles Darwin, in a letter to Susan Darwin, 29th January 1826. (2)

b. "By the way, a negro lived in Edinburgh, who had travelled with Waterton, and gained his livelihood by stuffing birds, which he did excellently: he gave me lessons for payment, and I used often to sit with him, for he was a very pleasant and intelligent man." (Darwin does not mention John Edmonstone by name.) (3)

Happy days in the classroom. (Click to enlarge.)Painting of John Edmonstone with Charles Darwin

John Edmonstone and Charles Darwin preparing birds 'In the Workshop of Taxidermist' by Viktor Yevstafiev, (1916 - 1990s), painted in 1948. (© State Darwin Museum, Moscow, http://www.darwinmuseum.ru/.) The likeness of Darwin is a reasonable representation of the man, judging by contemporry illustrations, but the source of Edmonstone's image is not known. There appear to be no known contemporary images of Edmonstone.

The painting is widely available on the web, e.g. see Edinburgh Live. Article by Hilary Mitchell. (Article PDF version.)

John Edmonstone Commemorative Plaque in Edinburgh
There was a memorial plaque dedicated to John Edmonstone:
a. Memorial For Darwin Slave Mentor (BBC News Article)
b. Sky History John Edmonstone, the man who taught Darwin. (PDF version)
c. Linda Hall Library However, the plaque has since vanished: "It is a sad commentary on our collective memory that there is not one tangible reminder of John Edmonstone's life in existence anywhere. Darwin's boarding house at 11 Lothian street has a plaque to commemorate his year there; the building now at 37 Lothian Street has nothing. Several Edinburgh websites lament the fact that a plaque to John Edmonstone was put in place some years back and has now disappeared, and no one knows of its whereabouts." (PDF version)

Waterton on John Edmonstone and James
It is on the Third Wandering in 1820 that Charles Waterton recalls his time with John and imparts his knowledge to another in Guyana - a mulatto named James.
"It was upon this hill (at Mibiri Creek) in former days that I first tried to teach John, the black slave of my friend Mr. Edmonstone, the proper way to do birds. But John had poor abilities, and it required much time and patience to drive anything into him. Some years after this his master took him to Scotland, where, becoming free, John left him, and got employed in the Glasgow, and then the Edinburgh, Museum.

"Mr. Robert Edmonstone, nephew to the above gentleman, had a fine mulatto capable of learning anything. He requested me to teach him the art. I did so. He was docile and active, and was with me all the time in the forest. I left him there to keep up this new art of preserving birds and to communicate it to others." Wanderings in South America, The Third Journey 1820, Chapter 1.

The 'fine mulatto' is named as James.
"We mustered strong: there were three Indians from the creek, there was my own Indian Yan, Daddy Quashi, the negro from Mrs. Peterson's, James, Mr. R. Edmonstone's man, whom I was instructing to preserve birds, and lastly myself."
See The Third Journey 1820 Wanderings in South America, Chapters 1, and Chapters 4.

■ ■ CHARLES DARWIN More about the man, and the people who may have influenced him.

■ Read more about John Edmonstone in Darwin's Negro Bird-Stuffer, R. B. Freeman, Royal Society of London. (PDF).
Published 1 August 1978. Notes and Records, the Royal Society Journal of the History of Science.

Amazon Conservation TeamMy thanks to Mark Plotkin of the Amazon Conservation Team, for drawing my attention to Freeman's interesting article about John Edmonstone. The team is presently active in Suriname, Colombia & Brazil - Protecting the Amazon in partnership with indigenous people. Check the website for the current situation.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Staunton St. Clair recounts his meeting with Charles Edmonstone during his travels in the West Indies and America in 1806 to 1808 [2]. The then Lieutenant St. Clair set sail on 25th November 1805 from Greenock on the armed merchantman Brilliant (Vol 1. p 58), and after a voyage of 39 days arrived at Stabroek on 3rd January 1806 (Vol. 1, p. 88). He left on 9th June 1808 on board the Fanny of London to commence his next adventure.

Read Chapter 8 from "A Residence in the West Indies", Vol. 2.
(In the year 1808.) CHAPTER VIII. Intention of Colonel Nicholson to visit Mr. Edmonstone - Voyage up the Demerara River — Negro Rowers — Fredestein Plantation — Reception by the Owner — Introduction to the Family — Dinner Party — Naked Female Attendants — The Young Widow and her Squirrel — A Happy Household — Visit to the Plantation — Cultivation of Coffee — Preparation of the Berries — Praise of Coffee — Departure from Fredestein — Practice of having Naked Female Domestics accounted for — Arrival at Plantation Georgia. (Visit the Internet Archive, archive.org to read this book - and much more.)

Read Chapters 9 and 10 from "A Residence in the West Indies", Vol. 2.
CHAPTER IX. Comana Creek — Mibiri Creek — Shooting and skinning a Serpent — The Tiger-Bird — Old Glen— Mr. Edmonstone's Wood-cutting Settlement — History of Old Glen — His Early Prosperity overthrown by a Book of Swedenborg's - Neglect of his Property — His utter ruin— Enters the Army — Tried by a Court-Martial, for being asleep upon duty — Sentence and Punishment — Retires to Mr. Edmonstone's Estate — His singular Habits and Way of Life.

CHAPTER X. Natural Scenery— The Vulture- Old Glen — Mr. Edmonstone's Settlement — Beautiful Birds — The Savannah — Process of its Formation — Visit to Old Glen — Advantage of wearing Flannel in Hot Climates— A Deer— Old Glen's Hut—Con- versation with the Owner — His Account of the Indians — His Familiarity with Snakes and Wild Beasts — The Ant Bear — The Sloth — Mr. Brotherston's Plantation on the Camona - Creek — Singular Tree — The Quacy-quacy, or Coatimondi — Observations of Sir Humphrey Davy on the Monuments of Nature. (Visit the Internet Archive, archive.org to read this book - and much more.)

• Engraving from Chapter 10, View on the Demerara from the Sand Hills.


James Glen
was a follower of the Swedish scientist and mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg [1688-1772].

In April 1808 Thomas Staunton St Clair met and talked with 'Old Glen', then in his eighties according to St Clair (although others give his date of birth as about 1750), at Charles Edmonstone's wood-cutting establishment at Mibiri Creek. He made a sketch of Glen, which was included in his book A Residence in the West Indies (1834) - see A Soldier's Recollections above. Glen's final words to him were, 'Read Swedenborg - and be happy.'

■ See Slaves and Highlanders on Spanglefish.
[Site accessed 15 Jul 2017.]
Read a PDF version of Slaves and Highlanders. [Created 15 Jul 2017.]

James Rodway, in his History of Guiana has a section on James Glen, who was offered a home at Warrow's Place, the wood-cutting establishment of Charles Edmonstone on the Mibiri Creek. (4)
Read an extract (PDF).

Books about Walton, Charles Waterton, Guyana, and more!
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1 Thomas Staunton St. Clair, A Soldier's Recollection of the West Indies and America: With a Narrative of the Expedition to the Island of Walcheren, A Residence in the West Indies and America (London, 1834), in 2 volumes.
2. The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Volume 1, 1826 - 1836, edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith, Cambridge University Press, 1985. ISBN 0 521 25587 2.
3. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, From The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin. By Charles Darwin. Edited by his Son Francis Darwin. Published in 1887.
4. James Rodway, A History of British Guiana Vol 2 1782 - 1833. Chapter XVIII, The Three Rivers in 1796.

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