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Making the Mark

New Market is old and forlorn

Paul H. Williams, Hospitality Jamaica Writer

In the middle of a geographical basin, New Market sits on a hillock, surrounded by other hillocks and basins that become ponds after heavy rains. Below, subterranean rivers and streams flow through a network of caves, caverns, and tunnels. There is water everywhere.

And sometimes, the water rises, flooding the historic town. The most recent deluge was in 2010, but the one people will always remember occurred on June 12, 1979. After several months of unusual heavy rainfall in western Jamaica, Tropical Depression One blew along.

It was the second tropical cyclone of the 1979 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The depression developed from a tropical wave to the south of Grand Cayman on June 11. The Bahamas, Cuba, the East Coast of the United States, and western Jamaica were affected.

A few towns, including New Market, were severely flooded. That was where the devastation was unspeakable. The town was covered in over 80 feet of water, resulting in widespread damage or complete loss of crops, livestock, businesses, public utilities, and homes.

For more than six months, New Market was an underwater marvel, languishing in the murky depths of the water that was going nowhere. Some residents themselves had no intention of moving. They literally waited by the water, ad nauseam, for the recession. And when it finally came, New Market had suddenly become old.


The community of Lewisville was created near New Market by the Urban Development Corporation to offer the administrative and social services that New Market provided. It has a police station, post office, market, community centre, a health centre, and the Lewisville High School. There is also a type two health clinic that also serves satellite communities.

Major businesses have also stayed away, and the 2010 flooding has not helped. Confidence in that watery place has waned, but memories of the 1979 devastation and the long inundation period are still bright and have settled forever in some people's heads.

They have not forgotten the boat rides over their town and the eternal wait for the water to recede. The anecdotes are many, but the books that they should have been written in are few.

The story of New Market goes back to the days of slavery when it was a bustling meeting point, a marketplace, for the surrounding estates at Kepp, Paynestown, Hopeton, New Savannah, etc. It is nestled atop a system that can spring water to a devastating level, making it old, unattractive, and forlorn.

Yet, the green, rolling landscape around it, dotted with quaint little houses, should be a feast for your eyes. 

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