Posted by: Christine | January 17, 2012

Catching Turtles in Surinam

One of the sources I used in my search for Madders was British History Online  . An interesting character I came across was John Madder who was mentioned in State Papers in 1673. He was mentioned in a report from Barbados concerning conditions in Surinam and included two statements. The first was by Captain Peter Wroth who stated:

About 12th May (he) made the coast of Guiana in the Little Kitt, 20 tons, 6 guns, 30 men, and having notice from Indians that there were English and Dutch inhabitants of Surinam turtling at the Three Creeks, he went and surprised seven of them, who said they expected him, having had intelligence by way of Martinique from a Jew named Luis Dias who owns Quomoka plantation in Surinam, and had blocked up Mud Creek which they knew he was acquainted with; that there were in the river the St. Patrick, 2 other Dutch men-of-war of 30 and 24 guns, a victualler and a fireship, which next spring tide intended to go to Virginia to do what mischief they could; that they landed in Surinam 100 men, two months victuals and pay for the garrison of the fort, and ammunition; that the inhabitants were divided among themselves, as well the Dutch as Dutch and English, and that on any report of English ships on the coast, the principal English inhabitants were kept prisoners in the fort; that there were 300 Dutch inhabitants able to bear arms, and many of the English were dead but those that remained had much increased their stock of negroes and cattle, the Dutch affording them very cheap; that there were 7,000 to 12,000 negroes; and that English and Dutch were very sickly and died very fast.

 The second statement was by one of these informants, John Madder, who said that he:

Has lived 15 years in Surinam, and catching turtle 30 leagues to windward of Surinam, was with five more taken prisoner by Capt. Peter Wroth in May last. When he left Surinam there might be 200 English and 300 Dutch, and 5,000 or 6,000 negroes. The Dutch had very plentifully supplied the colony with negroes, the usual price being for a good negro 2,400 lb. sugar. These 12 months past they have been often alarmed, and then always command the chief of the English into the fort. There is great hatred between the Caribbee Indians and the Dutch.
(Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, Volume 7: 1669-1674 (1889) Pages 510-522)

So who was this John Madder and how had he got to Surinam? Well he says that he has been there 15 years. Using the same site I searched for Surinam and 1658, which brought up the following order:

Being a renewal of a former Order of 26 Nov. 1657 [see ante, p. 461], concerning the embarkation of Fras. Lord Willoughby, of Parham, and his company, to his settlement at Surinam.
(Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, Volume 1: 1574-1660 (1860), pp. 467-468.)

 Francis, Lord Willoughby of Parham (1613-1666) had opposed the levying of ship-money by King Charles I and fought on the Parliamentary side in the Civil War. By 1648 he had changed his mind and fled to the Netherlands and declared for the King. He was appointed vice-admiral to the Prince of Wales in the fleet that defected to the Royalists during the naval revolt of 1648. After the failure of the plan to invade England, he resigned his commission and after his English estates were confiscated by Parliament, retired to the West Indies. In 1650 Charles II appointed him Governor of Barbados. After a Commonwealth blockade he was forced to come to terms and in exchange for surrendering Barbados, his estates were returned and he returned to England in 1652. He was imprisoned twice for Royalist conspiracies and it was apparently during this period that he was “encouraged” to found a settlement in Surinam. Was John Madder one of his company?

Looking through my Madder database for a suitable candidate, I came across a John, son of Henry & Elizabeth Mather baptised in Rumburgh in 1646 who disappears from the records. He would only be aged 12 in 1658 but, as a younger son, perhaps he went to seek his fortune, possibly with some relative. My reason for selecting this John is the fact that he had a  brother Henry, who died in 1698 in Great Glemham in Suffolk – which is only three miles from Parham. 

Rather a tenuous link, I’m afraid, and the Suffolk connection may just be coincidence. I also don’t  know what happened to John after he was picked up while catching turtles off the coast of Surinam.

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