Loggins Camps and Creole People

At the beginning of the 1800’s there were many small camps scattered along the creeks, rivers and lagoons of Belize. The British colonial administration passed laws to assert their ownership of the land, and timber extraction continued. Unlike plantation slavery in the Caribbean, the Belize version allowed slaves closer proximity to their masters but did not allow them to farm, except for occasional “provision grounds.” Slaves carried machetes and shotguns for jungle survival. The Baymen masters divided their slaves into different areas of skills. For example, some of the different areas of skills included the highly skilled huntsmen who could distinguish the mahogany trees from a great distance, the axe-men who cut the trees, other slaves who cut the limbs from the trees which had been felled, and the cattlemen who fed and worked the cattle which moved the huge mahogany trunks. (M)

The cutting of mahogany took place during the dry months between January and September. The slaves worked in small gangs of ten to fifty men. After the logs were cut, they were hauled by cattle to a river, and then floated down the river in the rainy season. At the river mouth, the logs were squared for shipment to Europe. Female slaves were also part of the mahogany trade. It is believed that the women and the youth prepared the food and looked after the provisions of the laborers. (M)

White women were not normally found in the settlement, hence, only slave women were available. The Baymen began to take slave women as mistresses and as their common-law wives. Many of these women were later freed, therefore, whatever children they bore became free people of color. This mixture of European and African slaves created the Creole population. (M)

The development of a mixed, or Creole, community created social problems for the British settlers. The colonial administration separated the African-born slaves from the Creole slaves, the blacks from the browns, the freed blacks and colored and the skilled from the unskilled. Remnants of this division are still at work in our society today. Many Creole families can trace their origins to old Baymen families. Some of these families became well established and represented part of the lighter-skinned population. The colonial masters gave the better jobs to people with lighter skin color; and, people with certain names related to the old Baymen families were put in a different class. This type of prejudice was adopted by Creoles themselves, to some degree, and it later extended to the education and government sectors. (M)