The 17th century was characterized by struggle for the newly formed colony. Our economy was based on the curing of tobacco, which ultimately failed because our humidity meant that it would never dry and cure. In addition, the transatlantic slave trade also characterized this dark time, and the island was shaped for years to come. But there’s plenty more to know about the beginnings of Bermuda…
- In 1617 a mathematician called Richard Norwood surveyed the island into 25-acre shares. The principal holders of these areas of land, who were made up of British officials such as the governor, had tribes named after them. It wasn’t until 1622 that the descendants of many of the well-known names in Bermuda today came to the island as tenant farmers and began owning property.
- In 1620 the first elected parliament meeting took place at the newly constructed St. Peter’s Church.
- The first enslaved persons came to Bermuda in 1624.
- In 1624 the most important sites on island, commemorated in a map drawn by a prominent ship captain, were St. George’s Town, the State House, and the Castle Island fortifications. Quite different than the most important locations today!
- In 1654, Jane Hopkins was tried and condemned in the State House for “wickedly consult[ing] with the devil.” She was hanged as a witch several days later.
- In 1660 Samuel Trott had settled in what would later become Tom Moore’s Tavern. He owned some 300 acres of Bermuda land.
- In 1675 a number of Pequot Indians were shipped to Bermuda as enslaved peoples. Amongst them was Indian John who attempted to kill his enslaver by setting fire to his family’s home, but was unsuccessful and was hanged on Gibbet’s Island.
- In 1682 an enslaved man named Tom and four companions made a plan to kill their enslavers and escape by Spanish Point. However, two of his companions panicked and told the authorities, and Tom was sentenced to death. However, his enslaver petitioned the governor not to kill Tom, but to export him instead.
- In 1696 Sarah Spencer became the last person to be tried as a witch in the new world, having come to Bermuda as a refugee and royalist sympathizer.
Facts courtesy of The Bermudian, Bermuda 400 Years Special Commemorative Issue