John Fraser Arthurton

???? - 1865

Claimant or beneficiary


John Fraser Arthurton was born enslaved, the son of Thomas Arthurton of Nevis and Joan Arthurton, a woman of colour owned by Thomas Arthurton. Mother and son were manumitted by Thomas in 1803, with John Fraser recorded as 'mestee'. While John's birth date has not been confirmed, he was old enough to stand as witness to the manumission of several enslaved people by his mother in 1815.

  1. Thomas Arthurton was born in Norfolk, around 1741. Twenty years later he left Britain for Nevis, where he initially worked on Mountravers plantation as overseer and distiller. While on Nevis he had several children with enslaved women. Thomas manumitted at least five children other than John: Betsey Arthurton and James Arthurton, who grew up on Mountravers plantation, and William Arthurton, Thomas Arthurton junior and Martha Reid. He also manumitted his grandchildren Ann, Robert and John Arthurton after the death of their mother, his daughter, Betsey Arthurton. Their father was John Arthurton, stonemason of Nevis, the illegitimate son of Thomas's brother John. Already in his late 70s, Thomas purchased what appears to have been his first plantation in the late-1810s, a point when sugar prices were falling and indebtedness rising across the Caribbean. He paid £4,000, borrowed from brokers in London, for Richmond Lodge in the parish of St John Figtree. Upon his death in 1824, Thomas left his plantation in trust to his friend Samuel Sturge and ‘natural or reputed son’ John Fraser Arthurton.

  2. Shortly after his father died, John Fraser Arthurton married Jane Maria Lyons (also of Nevis), the on 11 May 1824 . The wedding took place at sea on board the sloop Lady Jane, with Rev William Henry Rawlins of St Kitts conducting the service. Jane Maria was the daughter of Rev. Hon. Samuel Lyons of Nevis (q.v.). Having registered enslaved people in Nevis in 1817 and in 1822, in 1825 Rev. Samuel Lyons ‘and family’ registered five male and four female enslaved people as belonging to John Fraser Arthurton ‘in right with his marriage to my daughter Jane Maria’ (date of transaction May 1824). John Fraser Arthurton subsequently registered those ten enslaved people as ‘taken over from Revd Samuel Lyons in right of my intermarriage with John Fraser Arthurton’.

  3. By this point Arthurton had already purchased two female slaves - almost certainly mother and daughter - from the free coloured couple Charles and Henrietta Abbott. He sold the mother, Fanny, and gave the child, Polly, to his illegitimate daughter, Joan Arthurton. Between 1825 and 1834 Arthurton recorded six additions: the purchase of one man, two gifts from his mother and the births of three girls. He sold the infants – two of them on their own – and nine of the ten people his wife had brought into their marriage. He was left with four for whom he claimed compensation.

  4. Arthurton’s fellow trustee, Samuel Sturge, died in Nevis in 1828, and in the same year two men from Huggins’s Indian Castle plantation burnt down the boiling house at Richmond Lodge. Losing a building which was vital to the sugar-making process left Arthurton unable to process his next crop and thus lacking funds to rebuild the boiling house. His decision to sell 12 of his personal slaves may have been reflected this need to raise funds. When John Fraser Arthurton took over Richmond Lodge, more than 80 enslaved men, women and children lived on that plantation; by 1834 there were only 74. This reduction was largely due to people being withdrawn for personal reasons: John Fraser Arthurton honoured almost all of his father’s bequests and gave several plantation slaves to family members. He also allowed one woman to purchase her own and her children's manumission, and he sold a mother and her children to his brother William. His claim for compensation - as executor and trustee for his father - was further reduced when the Court of Admiralty sentenced one young man, Siah, to be forfeited to the Crown.

  5. By the 1840s Arthurton still owed £2,400 on Richmond Lodge plantation to the London firm Bond, Pearse and Child; however, unable to raise the money, he lost his father’s estate. Although one document described Thomas Arthurton’s land as belonging to Maria Arthurton's sisters Mary and Caroline Lyons, another suggests that Richmond Lodge was then in the hands of the Provost Marshal Stedman Akers Rawlins. John Fraser almost certainly was the ‘JF’ Arthurton who drew up the leases on land that had previously been part of a plantation. In the late 1840s settlers bought small plots in the parish of St Thomas Lowland through the owner’s agent, Hastings Charles Huggins, but the leases they were given neither agreed with the land in their possession nor with the money they paid and, worst of all, Huggins failed to hand over all the money to the owner. Arthurton’s and Huggins’s actions came to light in the 1860s.

  6. John Fraser Arthurton was among the early coloured members of the Nevis Assembly. In the mid-1830s he was able to stand for election because he was a freeholder and fulfilled the property qualification. By then both he and his nephew, George Arthurton, had already acted as jurors in several court cases. After emancipation he held several paid public posts. In 1846 he was Deputy Keeper of the House of Correction (the local jail), then Sergeant at Arms and in 1864 was appointed Sanitary Officer. He occupied that position only until the following year.

  7. John Fraser and Maria Arthurton had at least one son, Samuel Lyons Arthurton, baptised in 1825 in the church of St John Figtree. Samuel Lyons attended the prestigious Codrington College in Barbados, before moving to Canada where he studied theology and was ordained. In 1861 he was working as a clergyman and teacher in the Greater Toronto Area. John Fraser Arthurton had at least four illegitimate children before he married: Joan, Charles and Fanny Brander Arthurton, although their mother(s) is/are unknown. A daughter, Mary, 'by a negro woman', died within two weeks of being baptised in November 1818. The last record of John Fraser Arthurton appears in 1865, suggesting he died in that year or soon after.


Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Registry, Nevis (ECSCRN), CR 1803-1805 ff.1-2; ECSCRN, CR 1814-1817 ff.270-73

  1. Christine Eickelmann, ‘The Mountravers Plantation Community, 1734-1834’ Part III ‘The Employed Men’ Chapter 2 pp. 1019-20: available at; Bristol University Special Collections (BULSC), Pinney Papers (PP), Misc Vols 6 List of Deeds and Papers, 1783; AB 26 Plantation account and f.209 Thomas Arthurton’s account; also DM 1173 Nevis Ledger 1780-1790 f.138 and AB 30 Thomas Arthurton’s account; ECSCRN, CR 1801-1803 ff.506-07, ff.527-28 and CR 1803-1805 ff.2-3; ECSCRN, Nevis Court Records (NCR) 1836-1843 f.352 and f.448, and CR 1817-1819 Vol. 2, ff.66-8; Oliver, VL, Monumental Inscriptions of the West Indies: Tombstones of the British West Indies (Friary Press, Dorchester 1927), p.103; ECSCRN, Book of Wills 1819-1830 f.218 and CR 1838-1847 f.512.

  2. Oliver, Monumental Inscriptions of the West Indies, p. 103; also Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House, Oxford, Box MSS. W. Ind. S. 24 (b); Revd Rawlins was a controversial figure; some years earlier he had been convicted for the manslaughter of a slave (HoCPP 1818 Vol xvii ‘Papers Relating to the Treatment of Slaves in the Colonies’ Chadwyck-Healey mf 19.86 pp. 1-91); UK National Archives (UKNA), T 71/366 Slave Register Nevis 1825 f.115 and f.10

  3. UKNA, T 71/366 Slave Register Nevis 1825 f.7; UKNA, T71/366 Slave Registers Nevis 1825 f.10, 1828 T 71/367 f4, 1831 T 71/368 f.1, 1834 T 71/369 f.6

  4. NHCS, St Thomas Lowland Burials 1827-1957 No 10; UKNA, CO 186/13 Minutes Nevis Council; Assembly; Council in Assembly (26 December 1828 and 26 June 1829); UKNA, T 71/364-9 Slave Registers Nevis 1817 ff.163-64, 1822 f.204, 1825 f.165 and f.5, 1828 f.155, 1831 f.191 and 1834 f.61; UKNA, T71/1038 Slave Compensation Commission: Claims and Certificates. Nevis, No 14. There were several inconsistencies in Arthurton's returns. Christine Eickelmann writes 'There were inconsistencies in every Richmond Lodge return: Edward (No 25), who was recorded as ‘dead’ in 1822, had not been listed in 1817 and from 1822, therefore, the names did not always match the numbering. Cuffee was also recorded as ‘dead’ twice and Elsey was said to have been sold to William Pemberton. This was a mistake unless William Pemberton advanced William Arthurton the money for this purchase; Elsey was registered by William Arthurton as purchased by him. In 1834 the total number was wrong, too; it should have read 74.'

  5. ECSCRN, NCR 1836-1843 f.352 and f.448; ECSCRN, CR 1847-1858 f.118 and f.125; ECSCRN, CR 1838-1847 f.541; Dorset History Centre, Dorchester, D87/2 Pollard MSS: Complaint to George Pollard, London, 23 February 1863 and letter from Nevis to AH Limmington, London, 26 March 1863

  6. UKNA, CO 187/10 and CO 187/15 Blue Books Nevis 1836 and 1841; ECSCRN, NCR 1836-1843 f32, f170, f234 and f327 and Queen’s Bench and Common Pleas 1831-1844; UKNA, CO 187/20 and CO 187/33-9 Blue Books Nevis 1846 and 1859-65

  7. Vincent Bakpetu Thompson, The Making of the African Diaspora in the Americas, 1441-1900 (Harlow, 1987), p. 236; J.H Bennett Jnr, Bondsmen and Bishops: Slavery and Apprenticeship on the Codrington Plantation of Barbados, 1710-1838 (Berkeley CA, 1958), pp.1, 5-10; Samuel Lyons Arthurton, 'A sermon preached in St Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday, the 7th May 1846 at the 145th Meeting of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts’: ; 1861 Canadian Census,; NHCS, St John Figtree Births, Baptisms, Marriages, Burials 1729-1825

We are extremely grateful to Christine Eickelmann for sharing with us her detailed archival research and on which this entry is based.

Further Information

Jane Maria nee Lyons
Samuel Lyons
Plantation owner

Associated Claims (2)

£1,345 1s 10d
£76 11s 9d

Associated Estates (1)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1825 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Owner

Relationships (14)

Brother-in-law → Sister-in-law
Brother-in-law → Sister-in-law
Brother-in-law → Sister-in-law
Other relatives
Other relatives
Uncle → Nephew
Son → Mother
Father → Natural Daughter
Other relatives
Other relatives
Other relatives
Other relatives
Father-in-law → Son-in-law
Son-in-law → Father-in-law