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Estate Whim

History of Estate Whim Museum

Excerpts from "Preserving the Legacy," continued

1998: Priscilla G. Watkins on behalf of St. Croix Landmarks Society

Ownership of Estate Whim Plantation

There is still much to discover about the personal lives of the people who lived and worked at Whim Plantation from 1743 until the government purchase in 1932. Research has been undertaken and various papers and at least one book have been written, primarily about the owners. Historians George Tyson and Svend Holsoe are among the few actively seeking information specifically about Whim. The stories of the workers and their relationships are still in research at this time. For the latest information about these people and their times contact the St. Croix Landmarks Society for current publications in this field. The record of owners as we know it now, follows:

1743: the first recorded owner was William Payne, probably Irish. The census shows he had seven slaves on the property, whose names were not recorded. Payne set up a small village of six houses and probably harvested the trees for sale off island.

1747: sold to John Francis who kept slaves and planted cotton and lived there until 1750. He was probably an Irish immigrant with limited funds.

1750: the estate was taken over by Daniel Markoe who never lived at Whim. Historians speculate that Markoe may have been a financier or merchant who received the plantation as a payment for debt rather than as a purchase.

1754: sold to John James Barry, Irish. He and his wife stayed in their home in Christiansted, the estate was converted from cotton to sugar cane cultivation, but Barry died before completing payment for the estate, and it reverted back to Markoe.

1756: the fifth owner was Edmund McDonnough, Irish. He bought 14 slaves along with the plantation. Little is known about this McDonnough, but he survived through two years of drought and an earthquake as well and more than tripled the number of workers to 49. It is possible the first owner's house was built during his time. The estate Great House has always been located in the exact same site although the village has been moved several times. It was during Edmund's time that the 1759 rebellion plot was discovered on nearby estate Jealousy owned by Soren Bagge. None of McDonnough's slaves were implicated but most of the accused plotters came from plantations close to #4. McDonnough died in 1762, and the estate was sold to Edmund Bladeville who quickly resold it to John Delany, another Irishman.

1762: John Delany married Elizabeth Bagge (Danish) of Estate Jealousy, and began buying many adult male slaves. He installed a full mill works with boiling, curing and still houses. Much was still to be done when Elizabeth gave birth to their son, John William, in 1764. Nine months later, her husband suddenly died, in 1765. Within a year Elizabeth married Patrick McDonnough, brother of a previous owner, Edmund McDonnough.

1766: owned by Elizabeth and her infant son, managed by Patrick, who owned Mount Pleasant, a few miles to the east of Whim. McDonnough improved the Great House first then moved his new wife and her little son back to #4. In time they would add five daughters to their household; all but one survived childhood. The central portion of Whim's Great House today was probably Patrick's original house: 30 feet east to west, and 22 feet deep. An office runs the length of the building, about 8 feet deep. The walls are 30 inches thick, and the ceilings over 16 feet high. Beneath the building were the cellars for the estate's sharp work tools and weekly provisions as well as fire arms for the master. A spring used to bear fresh water to the surface in the cellar, located in the northwestern section and may have been the reason the first village was sited here when Whim was originally settled in 1743. The estate flourished.

1784: Patrick died in 1784. His stepson, John William Delany, came into his inheritance and sent his mother and 4 stepsisters away. Whether he was simply incompetent or just reckless, John 20 years old; let the estate go to pieces. A major devastating hurricane on the 25th of July, 1785, destroyed the Great House. In 1792, saddled with a wife and two children, beset by debts and a failing plantation, John sold the estate to one of his creditors for cash and the title to Estate Envy. A few months later it was sold to Christopher McEvoy, a dashing young man who had just inherited a massive fortune and a great number of estates in Europe and on St. Croix.

1793: Crucian-born 33 year old Christopher (Scots-French) was an experienced planter and soon made Whim a success again. Despite his inheritance, it was a very tragic time in his life. The previous year his wife Anna had died, soon followed by the death of both of his little children, Edward and Catherine. A few months later he received word that his father had died in London, leaving him as head of the family. Christopher settled his father's Will and turned the operations of the shipping line and the European ventures to his next oldest brother, then returned to St. Croix and sold off his father's properties. He bought #4 and personally undertook a major restoration of the property. McEvoy built the showcase Great House we see today, on the ruins of the hurricane-ravaged house. The design is similar to French chateaux in the champagne area near the Swiss border, home of his mother's ancestors. While Christopher was being educated and trained in Europe as a young man, it is likely he went to see his those estates near Montbeliard, France and, on his father's side, in Fife, Scotland. He made many other major improvements at Whim. The slave houses were moved to the west of the Great House and made of stone. All of the roofs were shingled. He doubled the capacity of the sugar factory, doubled the number of slaves, and added a new still and a manager's house. Following the French fashion of frequent bathing, he had a bathhouse built about 20 feet from the bedroom on the west end.

McEvoy was not able to enjoy his retreat for long. His brother Michael died in 1803, the same year the estate was named "Whim," and Christopher was forced to travel more and more as he resumed responsibility for the family businesses and homes in London and Copenhagen. In 1809, he agreed to trade his property for one closer to his brother's estate at Baron Spot.

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