Lopinot, the most elevated village in Trinidad (contour-wise) was founded by Charles Josephe Count de Lopinot, who could have been called “a man on the run.” He had left France some time around 1750 to go to the North American French colony of Arcadie, today the combined Canadian territories of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. He left Arcadie around 1755 when the British ejected the French from those regions, and like most of the French from Arcadie he went to the other French colony of Louisiana, where he served as an officer of the French army. But Lousiana, like Arcadie, was not to remain a French colony for long, and Count Charles Josephe de Lopinot decided to move again when Louisiana showed signs of going over to the United States.
(This may have been in the 1870s. Louisiana did not actually go over to the United States until 1803, when it was bought by United States authorities. It became part of the Union in 1812).
When Count de Lopinot left Louisiana he went to France’s flourishing sugar colony of Santo Domingo, and there he established a huge sugar plantation and his fortunes soared. This was several years before the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, but the revolution brought all sorts of convulsions and turmoil to Santo Domingo, including chaos and anarchy. For the watchwords of that revolution — Liberty, Brotherhood, and Equality — caused the slaves to unleash relentless fury against the white planters and create a reign of terror. Most of the planters fled, and Count de Lopinot was one of these. He was concealed in a barrel by one of his slaves and sent as part of a consignment of sugar to Jamaica.
From Jamaica he wrote to the British authorities saying he lost everything fighting alongside the British soldiers and would like some sort of compensation and resettlement. They told him to proceed to their newly conquered island of Trinidad, where the Governor, Thomas Picton, was being instructed to offer help to him. Count de Lopinot arrived in Trinidad on April 29, 1800. He was accompanied by his wife and two children, and it was reported that he had a hundred slaves. On his arrival he learned that Picton had received no word from the Secretary of State for the Colonies. However, being here already he decided to stay.
Having been previously successful in sugar he bought part of a Tacarigua sugar estate on credit, but things did not go too well and he suffered great losses. However, his long military experience must have come to the knowledge of the authorities for in 1805 new Governor Thomas Hislop appointed him Brigadier General of the Trinidad militia.
He had got no compensation from the British for his “services” in Santo Domingo and so now as Brigadier General he applied again. His perseverance paid off. He was asked to select a parcel of land.
He and his slaves struck out into the forested mountains north of the Arouca savannah where he lived. Following the course of a river that is now known as the Lopinot River, Count de Lopinot and his slaves made steady progress through the woods, pushing more than five miles north until at length they came to an attractive valley with a plain almost completely ringed by mountains. The air was cool and the valley seemed ideal for an estate. He obtained the grant of this valley, which contained 478 acres, and being totally fed-up with sugar he decided to grow cocoa. He called the estate La Reconnaissance (The Look-out).
The count and his slaves made the valley flourish and in a short time the name of “Lopinot” became of great importance. A great deal of cocoa was exported down the Lopinot River, and from there to Port-of-Spain. Count de Lopinot became active, politically, and in Ralph Woodford’s regime he was brought into the Council of Government. He remained a member of the Council of Government until his death in 1819. He was buried among the cocoa trees of La Reconnaissance not far from his house.
The village the count left behind was made up of the 100 slaves he brought with him. The cocoa plantations which occupied the valley were mostly gone by the time the 20th Century opened, but Lopinot is still a place of thriving cocoa estates.
More than 200 years have gone by since the “count on the run” came to Trinidad. His life was hectic up to then and he made sure the British compensated him for what he had gone through. And in the end he compensated Trinidad by giving it a beautiful and historic mountain village.
- Various papers, including family letters, on the life of Count de Lopinot
Copyright NALIS, 2008