James Sutherland

???? - 1831


Owner of Dunrobin estate in Manchester, Jamaica, from at least 1809 until his death c. 1831.

James Sutherland (d. 1831) was a Gaelic-speaking Scottish planter probably from Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands, in a long-term relationship with Birthea or Bertha Brice, a "free mustee".

James and Birthea produced five known children: Eleanor Raven Sutherland (b. 1817), Jane Richardson Sutherland (b. 1819), Elizabeth White Sutherland (b. 1821), and Daniel Virtue Sutherland (1824-1884). James had a daughter Catherine Sutherland (b. 1814) from an earlier relationship (no mother's name is given on her baptism record).

James Sutherland was proprietor of the Dunrobin Plantation, Manchester, Jamaica, from round 1799 to 1831. Dunrobin was situated in what are now the north-west suburbs of Mandeville, Manchester. His ownership of the estate was disputed in 1819, when he claimed to own 138 acres "particularly the parcel marked B from his holding under a sale from John Reid". The outcome of this dispute has not been determined.

From 1823 onwards, Birthea was the proprietor of a second holding in Manchester, having 5 to 8 enslaved people, and 16 to 18 taxable head of stock. It is unclear whether James put a portion of his Dunrobin holding into her name because of the dispute, or whether he bought a second property in her name to provide some security for her on his demise. He died around 1831.

After his death, Birthea is listed as holding 61 acres at Dunrobin, though whether this was part of the original estate, or whether she renamed a smaller holding after her husband's larger plantation is not known. Birthea died 28/11/1876 and was buried in the churchyard of St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Mandeville, Manchester, Jamaica, where her tombstone may still be found. Dunrobin was probably sold about this time, as Birthea’s son Daniel Virtue Sutherland is recorded as overseer of Bodenhurst Plantation, Manchester, Jamaica in 1878.

In his will, signed on 4 April 1829 and proved on 4 June 1831, James Sutherland appointed his brother Alexander Sutherland to be executor, along with his friends Adam Hogg and Robert Lyle esquires “to take charge of my estate Dunrobin … and manage the same … for the mutual and equal benefit of my four children Ellen Jane Elizabeth and Daniel to whom I bequeath whatever reversion there may be after paying my lawful debts burthened with a legacy of £500 to Barthia Brice the mother of the said four children ...”. The executors were also to act as guardians to the said four children during their minority.


We are grateful to Michael Rhodes for compiling this entry.

Race, status and children: Familysearch.org Jamaica Church of England Transcripts 1664-1880, Manchester Baptisms, marriages and burials, 1816-1836 Vol. 1.

Proprietor information: James Robertson's map of Jamaica (published 1804, compiled 1796-1799); Jamaica Almanacs (online), Manchester Parish.

Dispute: National Library of Jamaica, Kingston, Map Call Nos. Manchester 25 and Manchester 81, A,B

Name Dunrobin applied to house near Snowdon: communication to Dr Michael Rhodes from Kathleen Aldyth Wilmot, nee Sutherland, who was born in this house in 1922 (living in New York, USA, Aug. 2014).

Daniel Virtue Sutherland at Bodenhurst, Directory of Estates, Pens and Properties in Jamaica, 1878.

Jamaica Record Office, File # 814/2016. Entries at LOS Will 112, Folio 38.

Further Information

[With Birthia Brice] Catherine (1814-), Eleanor Raven (1817-), Jane Richardson (1819-), Elizabeth White (1821-), Daniel Virtue (1824-1884)

Associated Estates (4)

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
1792 [EA] - 1793 [LA] → Book-keeper

The James Sutherland who was overseer and bookkeeper on Dunkleys has been inferred to be the same man as the James Sutherland who later owned Dunrobin, based on the linkages with George William Hamilton: both Sutherland and Hamilton formed long-term relationships with (and in Hamilton's case later married) sisters, Birthea and Martha Bryce.

1799 [EA] - 1828 [LA] → Owner
1831 [EA] - → Previous owner
1799 [EA] - → Joint owner

Relationships (2)

Extra-marital relationships
Testator → Executor
Notes →
Adam Hogg was also appointed one of the guardians to James Sutherland's minor children...