Features — 26 June 2019 — by Karen H. Judd, Ph. D. (1992)
Ernest Augustus Henry Schofield

Goshen and Pembroke Hall, meanwhile, were purchased by John Carmichael, manager of Carmichael, Vidal, & Co., who took over a $41,639 debt from the French company in 1868. Though by 1871 he was one of the four largest landowners in the north, with some 25,000 acres (Bolland 1977b:187), Carmichael too overextended himself in order to modernize his sugar operations, borrowing some $15,000 from a British expatriate, Thomas Schofield.

He purchased a quantity of Chinese laborers in 1865 – who largely deserted to the Santa Cruz Maya (Fowler 1879:51) – as well as a sugar mill and a steam engine. For a time he tried to pay his creditors by selling parts of his two estates – Santa Rita was sold to Captain A. H. Hall, a Jamaican East Indian, Santo Tomas to James Steven, and Santa Carolina to W. R. Purvis – and transferring the estate rents to Schofield, but it was not enough. Within a few years he returned to Liverpool, where he died in 1873. Though he had a child in Belize in 1865, he left his property to his British widow, Sarah Ann, his sole heir and executrix. After lengthy litigation, she conveyed title in 1878 to the London firm of Skelton and Schofield, who paid the French concern $10,000 for their interests. Thomas Schofield’s son, Ernest Augustus, was then in Corozal as the company’s agent (Cal 1994b:43).

Ernest Augustus Henry Schofield, born in Blackpool in 1851, like James Hume Blake, married a Yucateca, Petrona Novelo, and returned the estates to the Spanish family networks. At his death in 1834 his son William, who married Catalina Maria Rosado, inherited Goshen and Pembroke Hall; his son Octavio, one of the first graduates of St. John’s College, inherited the family’s five coconut plantations. The rest received money — $15,000 each: one daughter married into the Perez family, another married a Riverol, both in Corozal, while a third married into the Sharp family, white creole planters from Jamaica (Will Bk3, pg. 751). Although Ramirez and Lizarraga eventually bought their estates outright, William held on to the bulk of the land of Goshen and Pembroke Hall until 1956, when he sold 35,000 acres to the government – embracing the towns of Corozal, Xaibe, Patchacan, Calcutta, and Ranchito (Jones 1969: 162).

Schofield also experimented with henequen, having studied its cultivation in the Yucatan, and imported a steam-powered fiber scraping machine. To encourage its cultivation he offered land “rent free in perpetuity” to anyone who would grow the plant. He also leased out large tracts for sugar cultivation to mestizo contractors, including such large employers of labor as Juan Ramirez (at San Pedro Patchacan), Cornelio Lizarraga (at San Maximo), and Nicholas Aguilar (at Aventura). Although these tenants all purchased modern steam-driven equipment for their sugar mills, because of an antiquated land tenure law Schofield retained all rights to their improvements.

One other Yucateca immigrant incorporated a white planter into an enduring mestizo network: Petronila Espejo. She married a John Wallace Price, a Louisiana confederate, who bought the San Roman sugar estate in the 1860s. The couple had four daughters: one married Teodoro Santiago Castillo, a prosperous planter and chicle merchant from Guinea Grass; a second wed John Ross, a white expatriate, and a third married first Father Kevlin, who built the Sisters of Mercy convent in Corozal, and later Theodore Hudson, Cayo District Commissioner.

The next generation expanded the kin network and contacts: the Kevlins’ daughter married the son of George and Juanita Parham in San Pedro. Teodoro Santiago Castillo’s sister Basilia married Antonio Alamilla, son of Jose Alamilla and Elena Avilez from Yucatan; their son Maclovio, born in 1895, was one of the largest chicle contractors in Corozal until a 1955 hurricane. The Castillos’ son Santiago, who married Ercanacia Vega, now owns a large commercial empire in Belize City, rivaled only by the current owner of the Belize Estate Co. lands, Barry Bowen.

Petronila Price carried on the merchant manufacturing firm of “Estate of J. W. Price” for several years after her husband’s death in 1878; listed in the 1919 Guide to British Honduras (Sologaistoa 1919:170), the firm owned the San Roman sugar estate as late as 1935. “Mrs. Price” was a pillar of Orange Walk society till the end of the century.

These Yucateca immigrants – Antonia Andrade, Petrona Novelo, Petronila Espejo – succeeded not only in improving their own fortunes – they put new life in a languishing elite. Individuals such as Blake and Carmichael and Schofield were among the few who held on to their lands after most of the European landowners had been bought out by the large merchant firms. By marrying Yucatecan women they gained a stake in the future: valuable experience with commercial sugar production as well as access to a new source of labor, the Yucatan Mayas.

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