Once Upon a Time

by Emory King

The People of Belize 1798

I didn't think anybody read my column. But, after
writing about Reverend William Stanford last week I got
an e-mail from a fellow who said, "You forgot Mrs.

I hung my head in shame. This is what happens to you
when you are 75 years old and get forgetful. (I can't
remember some days what I had for breakfast.)

How could I forget Mrs. Ritchy? She was a widow who
lived in the Parish of Westmoreland In Jamaica where
Reverend Stanford served for 18 years. We do not know
what their relationship was there, but we can guess.

In 1797 Mrs. Ritchy wrote Colonel James Pitt Lawrie in
Belize to ask him to represent her in trying to get
Reverend Stanford to return the money and the slaves he
had borrowed from her when he left Jamaica in 1794.

She indicated in her letter that Reverend Stanford had
promised to send for her when he got established in

Colonel Lawrie, one-time Superintendent at the Mosquito
Shore, was one of the leaders of a group of men who
wanted to evacuate the Belize Settlement in the face of
an imminent Spanish invasion. Reverend Stanford had made
it public knowledge that he opposed evacuation.

Oddly enough, when the Public Meeting voted on the
question on June 1, 1797 Reverend Stanford voted for
evacuation. Had Colonel Lawrie threatened the Reverend
with exposure as a swindler and worse in order to get him
to change his vote? Who knows? In any case the
Evacuation motion failed in spite of the Colonel's

Just like today there were no secrets in Belize then and
soon the whole town heard about the Reverend and Mrs.

In a desperate attempt to head off disgrace, Reverend
Stanford entered suit against Mrs. Ritchy on a variety of
issues. The jury found for him, but set aside the
enforcement of the judgment for one year to allow Mrs.
Ritchy to file counter-claims.

To further protect himself he "sold" his house and lands
and other chattels to Ann Home, another dear friend in
Belize, with the understanding he would be allowed to
live in the house and operate everything until his death.

What happened then? I don't know. Some eager student of
Belize history should go to the Archives in Belmopan and
look up the records to find out.