SIR ARTHUR H. GORDON: 1866-1870
Perhaps, apart from Lord Harris, the most successful and hard-working governor of Trinidad was Arthur Hamilton Gordon. What marked Gordon’s administration was that he opened up the crown lands, thereby enabling the dispossessed to get somewhere to call their own. A good example of this was what happened in the Montserrat Hills in 1867. Gordon, through his policies on run-away slaves encouraged many ordinary families of Africans to come out of their hideaway homes in the high woods, and he had, through the Warden of Montserrat, Robert Mitchell, caused a fine town to be laid out for them in order that they should live in dignity and contentment. Governor Gordon’s friend, the famous English writer, Charles Kingsley, who visited Trinidad in 1869 to spend Christmas with him was taken to Montserrat to see the project, and in the book “At Last, A Christmas in the West Indies,” Kingsley says”: A group of enormous palmistes stands on a plateau, flat, and yet lofty and healthy. The soil is exceedingly fertile. There are wells and brooks of pure water all around. The land slopes down for hundreds of feet in wooded gorges full of cedar and other admirable timber, with palmistes towering above them everywhere, `Far away lie the lowlands and every breeze of heaven swoops over the crest of the hill.
In speaking about the pretty little settlement, with streets symmetrically arranged, Kingsley says: The southwest corner is almost entirely inhabited by Africans - Mandingoes, Foulahs, Homas, Yorubas, Ashantees, Congos, and speaking of the Yorubas, who were particularly inclined to run away from humiliation, he adds: They inhabit houses of cedar or other substantial material. Their gardens are, for the most part, well stocked and well kept. They raise crops of yams, cassava, Indian corn, etc. It is from this last crop Indian corn (or simply corn) that the settlement got its name, “Mayo,” which in the Yoruba language, means corn. At the time, its neighbour, Tortuga, named for its abundance of tortugas or land turtles, was sparsely inhabited. Things of charm and physical objects like tall palmiste palms easily win the heart, for they could be seen, but the fair-mindedness and compassion of Gordon in favour of those constantly made victims by the authorities cannot easily be assessed. Gordon’s administration is also remembered for the introduction of the electric telegraph in 1870. Although he spent a relatively short term in Trinidad, arriving in November 1866 and leaving around June 1870, not even completing four years, few of the other colonial governors can match his contribution.