Joan Arthurton

1774 - 1841

Claimant or beneficiary


Joan Arthurton was an enslaved woman of colour, who was manumitted in about 1803 with her mestee son John (later John Fraser Arthurton, q.v.), by Thomas Arthurton Snr, John's father. Thomas arrived in Nevis in the 1760s from Norfolk, England. He later purchased the planatation of Richmond Lodge, Nevis (see entry for John Fraser Arthurton form more details on Thomas Arthurton).

  1. By 1815 Joan Arthurton had become the owner of several enslaved people, three of whom she freed in that year: Mary Washington, the Negro woman Judy and her daughter Joan. In order to satisfy legislation introduced in Nevis the previous year, she had to convince three magistrates that the people she manumitted were able to maintain themselves and ‘not likely to become chargeable to the public’.

  2. Even after the manumissions of 1815, Joan Arthurton still owned seven males and five females in 1817: three African men and one African woman, one American and one Creole woman, and six children aged between six and 15 years. Between them, Joan Arthurton’s women gave birth to five sons: Edward, Charles, Jonathan and two boys called David. One of the Davids died at the age of six days on 6 January 1820; the other was baptised with his brother Jonathan on 3 October 1828. Both were Grace’s sons. Another person who underwent baptism was one of the African men, Edward; the other two, Alexander and Thomas, died between 1828 and 1834. They were both in their forties. Among the females only Phibba died. According to Joan Arthurton’s carefully kept records, Phibba, who was about nine years old, died on 22 April 1819. In the same year, Joan Arthurton sold her Creole woman Fanny to Margaret Jones and manumitted the African woman Friday. Later she freed one of the men, James (then called James Nisbett), and gifted another, William, to her son John Fraser Arthurton. To her grandson Samuel Lyons Arthurton she gave a young boy, Edward. One of her men, William Washington, was seized by His Majesty’s Customs and, once she had submitted her claim for compensation for eight people, the other boy called David died. Her claim had to be amended accordingly.

  3. Joan Arthurton appears to have been in a long-term, common-law relationship with Thomas Arthurton Snr. This was generally recognised because when she gave permission for her under-age granddaughter to marry, it was noted that she was widowed; in a lawsuit, however, she was identified as unmarried. When Thomas Arthurton Snr died in 1824, he bequeathed her one of the plantation workers from Richmond Lodge: Suckey, a mulatto woman in her late thirties. He also left her two properties: a house and land in Charlestown occupied by William Keepe, the Deputy Provost Marshal, and a house or shop occupied by William Arthurton. In addition, she and four other family members were to get an annual sum of S£30 each.

  4. Samuel Sturge, the planter to whom Thomas Arthurton Snr jointly left his plantation in trust, died in 1828, and, according to Arthurton’s will, after Sturge’s death the plantation and land was to be for the use of Joan Arthurton and four other family members. However, John Fraser Arthurton did not carry out these wishes. In 1840 Joan Arthurton claimed that, when Thomas Arthurton died, he was indebted to her for £2,625, and to recover the money she took his heir - their son - to court. Judgment went against John Fraser Arthurton.

  5. Joan Arthurton was buried on 13 February 1841. She was said to have been 67 years old. Although she had lived in Charlestown and St Paul’s church was in her parish, her funeral was held in St Thomas Lowland where Thomas Arthurton Snr had also been buried.


Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Registry, Nevis (ECSCRN), CR 1803-1805 ff.1-2; Christine Eickelmann, The Mountravers Plantation Community, 1734-1834, Part III ‘The Employed Men’, Chapter 2 pp. 1019-20:

  1. John Henry Howard, The Laws of the British Colonies in the West Indies and other Parts of America, 2 vols, Vol I, (London 1827), Act No 54 Geo III, p.511; ECSCRN, CR 1814-1817 ff.270-71 and ff.271-73.

  2. UK National Archives (UKNA), T 71/364 Slave Register Nevis 1817 f.289; ECSCRN, Book of Wills 1819-1830 f.218, and UKNA, T 71/364 and T 71/366 Slave Registers Nevis 1817 f.163 and 1825 f.7 and f.165; NHCS, St Pauls’ Baptisms 1824-1835 (Numbers 382 and 383; 9 January 1824); ECSCRN, CR 1831-1835 f.189; UKNA, T 71/365, T 71/367, T 71/368 and T 71/369 Slave Registers Nevis 1822 f.7, 1828 f.8, 1831 f.6 and 1834 f.3; UKNA, T 71/1038 Slave Compensation Commission: Claims and Certificates. Nevis, Claim No 177.

  3. Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (NHCS), St Paul’s Marriages 1824-1842 No 74; ECSCRN, Queen’s Bench and Common Pleas 1822-1841 f.130; See, for instance ECSCRN, CR 1819-1823 ff.9-11; ECSCRN, Book of Wills 1819-1830 f.218 and CR 1838-1847 f.512

  4. ECSCRN, Queen’s Bench and Common Pleas 1822-1841 f130.

  5. NHCS, St Thomas Burials 1827-1957 No 260.

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

Further Information

Thomas Arthurton Snr (not married)
John Fraser Arthurton

Associated Claims (1)

£118 9s 5d

Relationships (3)

Mother → Son
Grandmother → Grand-daughter
Other relatives