West Indies & British Guiana [Guyana]

Administrative / Biographical History

The first Missionary Society mission to the West Indies was to Tobago. The mission was established in 1808 by Richard Elliott but was abandoned by 1814 on the grounds of the cost. A mission was also established in Trinidad in 1809 by Thomas Adam but this too was abandoned, partly as a result of expense and partly due to the hostility of the Governor.The Trinidad mission closed in 1825.

In 1808, John Wray established the mission at Demerara, British Guiana [Guyana], and carried out extensive mission work with the slaves on the sugar plantations. Wray then set up a second mission in British Guiana at Berbice in 1813. He was replaced by John Smith in 1817 who was sentenced to hang in 1824 on the charge of inciting the slaves to rebel. Smith died in gaol before sentence could be carried out, and became a missionary martyr. In 1834 the slaves were freed by the Act of Emancipation and the LMS continued to carry out much educational work. Between 1834 and 1842 twenty missionaries were sent out to British Guiana. By 1860, the Berbice mission alone had nine mission stations.

LMS missionaries were sent out to Jamaica from 1834, although the LMS has wished to send missionaries to the Caribbean island as early as 1798. This extension of missionary activity in the area was as a direct result of the emancipation of the slaves. Six missionaries were sent out initially, and by 1860 there were sixteen mission stations.

The West Indies was a successful mission field for the LMS. A Deputation of 1867 reported that the Churches were advanced in the West Indies and British Guiana, and suggested the withdrawal of the LMS from the field. From this point missionaries were withdrawn, and whereas there were twenty one missionaries in 1868 (nine in Jamaica, twelve in British Guiana), by 1895 there was only one missionary left as a general adviser. The LMS continued to provide the services of A. W. Wilson, and in London there was a Joint Committee with the Colonial Missionary Society and the Congregational Union of England and Wales, which was a consultative body. It was dissolved in 1918, and the Colonial (later Commonwealth) Missionary Society took sole responsibility for helping the Churches in British Guiana and Jamaica. With the merger of the Commonwealth Missionary Society and the LMS in 1966, the CMS became in effect the Caribbean and Pacific Committee of the Congregational Council for World Mission, giving its support to the Congregational Union of Jamaica and the Guyana Congregational Union.

The LMS appears to have administrated the West Indies and British Guiana missions as one field, not separating them into their geographic locations of the Caribbean and South America.


Material is arranged into the following classes: Incoming correspondence: West Indies Tobago (1807-1813); Incoming correspondence: West Indies Trinidad (1809-1829); Incoming correspondence: West Indies Jamaica (1830-1894); Incoming correspondence: British Guiana Demerera (1807-1894); Incoming correspondence: British Guiana Berbice (1813-1879); Incoming correspondence: West Indies & British Guiana (1888-1923); Journals (1807-1825); Reports (1866-1901); Odds; Photographs; Maps.

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