Between 1655 – when the island was captured from Spain by the British – and the 1940s. Wigton and its environs were a part of parish of St. Elizabeth.
Economic activities centered around the plantation system, the growing of coffee, the rearing of cattle and the reaping of pimiento. Wigton was the main plantation and was born in Scotland and died at his plantation on May 1, 1756. His grave is one of seven graves that can be visited and identified in a grove close to the windmills.
The activities on the plantation were labour intensive, so a whole community of slaves was formed around the plantation. Slave labour was used to grow, harvest and manufacture the ground coffee. Pimiento grew naturally, but slave labour was used to harvest the berries and get it ready for market. In these early days, Jamaica exported pimiento, better known as all-spice, to Britain.
Today, the barbeques lay quiet – testimony to a by-gone era when they were busy with activities to dry coffee beans and pimiento berries. They were also used as the catchments for rainwater which filled huge tanks, several of which can be seen on the Wigton property.
Even by today’s improved standard of transportation, Wigton is still considered ‘far from the capital town of St. Elizabeth which is Black River’. In the earlier times, it took days to walk to Black River to do legal and municipal business. So a Court House was established in Wigton during the time slavery to meet those needs.
Wigton is now situated in the parish of Manchester, but this parish did not exist until 1814 and officially declared a parish in 1819. Manchester was carved out of three parishes.
The Court House in Wigton played a vital role in the life of the community and its environs. However, when bauxite was discovered in Jamaica in the early 1940’s, Wigton lost its luster and prominence. The large land barons sold their estates to the bauxite companies when they came prospecting for bauxite. Many of the farmers were leaseholders or tenant farmers to these land owners. They were driven from the land by the new land owner and so an old way of life came to an end. Mass migration to the towns and England during the 1940’s and the 1950’s caused the population in and around Wigton to dwindle.
The economic centre of South Manchester then shifted to Cross Keys and the court House was removed from Wigton to Cross Keys in around 1942. Unfortunately, today there is no trace of the Wigton court house. The land has been acquired privately and a dwelling house now occupies the property.
Although the Great House has been destroyed, the existing building known as Mount Forest Campsite is very much in existence and is used by the Church on a regular basis. According to the local ‘historians’, Mt. Forest was owned by a Mr. Boothe, an Englishman who is said to be a descendant of Bramwell Boothe, the founder of the Salvation Army.
The locating of a wind farm at Wigton has created tremendous local interest as this is being seen as a possible forerunner to greater economic activity, through the introduction of attractions aligned to the Windfarm.