Belize Logging and Slavery

During the logwood settlement era, extracting and exporting logwood was quite simple. A Bayman would claim a large area of forest. This was usually with a river or creek frontage so that they could easily transport the wood. The area would be called a “location” or “logwood works.” During the dry season, the cutters would build huts with thatched roofs at their ‘location’. This is where they stayed while they cut down the logwood trees. After the trees were cut down and cut into smaller logs. These “chips”, as the small logs were called, were then piled into heaps and prepared for shipping down the creek or river. The shipping of logwood down the creek or river was done by digging pathways by which the logwood moved down the creek or river with the rains. (M)

Logwood trees were small and easy to handle, so the Baymen only needed a small force of a few slaves. As early as 1630, slavery had already been established in the region and slaves were being used to work in the Caribbean and the Americas. Slaves were traded and sold as labor, mainly for sugar plantations. The Baymen imported slaves to cut logwood. However, mahogany cutting demanded the use of more slave employment and as logging shifted from logwood to mahogany many more slaves were brought to Belize. (M)