Thistlewood, Thomas, 1721-1786

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Thomas Thistlewood (1721-1786), was born in Lincolnshire, England. The second son of a farmer, he was educated in Ackworth, Yorkshire, where he received training in mathematics and in "practical science." After a two- year voyage on one of the East India Company's ships as its supercargo, Thistlewood returned to England and decided to seek employment in Jamaica, emigrating in 1750.

He began his Caribbean life as an overseer of sugar plantations, principally of John Cope's Egypt plantation in Westmoreland parish, where he supervised numerous slaves in sugar production. During these years, Thistlewood gradually acquired slaves of his own, whom he rented out to other planters. In 1767 he completed the purchase of his own plantation, Breadnut Island, a "pen" where his thirty or so slaves raised provisions and livestock.

Thistlewood also pursued a variety of scientific and intellectual interests. He acquired several hundred books, often on scientific and technical subjects; collected and described medicinal plants and other botanical specimens; and kept a detailed weather record for thirty-four years. The gardens at Breadnut Island were considered among the finest in western Jamaica before they were ruined in the hurricane of October 1780.

Thistlewood never married, but had one son, Mulatto John (d. 1780), by his slave Phibbah, who was originally a slave of his employer. Thistlewood eventually purchased her from Cope and lived with her at Breadnut Island; he called her his "wife" in the will that freed her. He never returned to England, and died at Breadnut Island, Jamaica in November 1786.

From the guide to the Thomas Thistlewood papers, 1748-1792, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Thistlewood family. Papers, 1748-1792. American Philosophical Society Library
creatorOf Thomas Thistlewood papers, 1748-1792 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Thistlewood family. Papers, 1748-1792 microform. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
referencedIn Thistlewood family papers, 1748-1792, 1748-1792 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Thistlewood family. Papers, 1748-1792 microform. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Beckford, Richard, of Jamaica. person
associatedWith Cope, John, of Jamaica. person
associatedWith Edwards, John Palley. person
associatedWith Long, Edward, 1734-1813 person
associatedWith Thistlewood family. family
associatedWith Thistlewood family. family
associatedWith Thistlewood family. family
associatedWith Thistlewood family. family
associatedWith Thistlewood, John d. 1768 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Jamaica
Great Britain
West Indies, British.
Subject
Hurricanes--Jamaica
Plantation owners--Jamaica
Medicinal plants--Jamaica
Slaves--Social conditions
Plantation overseers.--Jamaica
Botany--Jamaica
Learning and scholarship--Jamaica
Slaves--Jamaica--Social conditions
Slave trade--Jamaica
Book collectors--Jamaica
Meteorology--Observations
Plantation life--Jamaica
Slavery--Jamaica
Books and reading--Jamaica
Master and servant--Jamaica
Navigation--Early works to 1800
Enlightenment--Jamaica
Slaveholders--Jamaica
Natural history--Jamaica
Sugar plantations--Jamaica
Sugar trade--Jamaica
Sugar trade--Early works to 1800
Slavery--Jamaica--Early works to 1800
Sugar plantations--Early works to 1800
Plantation life--Early works to 1800
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1721-03-16

Death 1786-11-30

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