It was late the morning of Saturday, August 11, 2007 that the Superintendent of the Moravian Church Barbados Conference received the alert that the cemetery at the historic Bunker's Hill was being destroyed.
The walled cemetery marked the site where Moravian work started in earnest in Barbados. Bishop G. Oliver Maynard records in his book, A History of the Moravian Church Eastern West Indies Province:
"A considerable number of slaves and white people now began to attend the services and soon the premises occupied by the brethren became unsuitable for the work of the mission as there was not enough room for the holding of meetings. The missionaries were therefore glad to receive the offer of a plot of land consisting of about two acres, on which stood the walls of a house which had been destroyed by fire. The terms of sale being reasonable, the brethren bought the property, made the necessary repairs and dedicated it to the service of God at a solemn public meeting on December 24th. The place was called Bunker's Hill and was situated in the parish of St. Thomas about five miles from Bridgetown.
Having thus secured a settled base of operations, the missionaries were enabled to do their work in a more thorough manner and, in January 1768, a class of thirteen persons was formed for special instructions preparatory to baprism. On September 18th, an elderly woman was the first to be baptized and was given the name of Sarah. It was a solemn ceremony, marked by deep emotion." (p. 60)
Bunker's Hill served as the base for Moravian work in Barbados until 1795 when the station was moved to Sharon. In fact, it not only served as a base for the mission in Barbados, for in 1790, John Montgomery, the father of the famed poet and hymn-writer James Montgomery left Bunker's Hill for Tobago to begin missionary work in Tobago.
After the station was relocated to Sharon, the Moravians maintained the cemetery left at Bunker's Hill, for there is buried among others, Sarah, the first slave convert baptized by Moravians in Barbados into the Church, and John Montgomery who fell ill in Tobago, returned to Bunkers Hill, and died on July 27, 1791. It was this sacred spot which was desecrated on Saturday, August 11, 2007 by a family, eager to claim the land as theirs.
The matriarch of the family involved, who until her death in 2007 had not removed her membership from the Sharon Moravian Church, was a tenant of the Moravian Church. Rent was paid to the Moravian Church until the late 90's. After efforts by the church along proper legal channels to stop increasing squatting on the property by her children, the family ceased paying rent and sought to take hostile possession of the land.
It is sad that in this year when the Moravian Church celebrates 550 years of existence and 275 years of missions outside of the continent on which it was founded, that a memorial which served as a reminder of the sacrificial service of faithful men and women who laboured to bring the gospel to the oppressed slave population of the region should be crudely destroyed.
What remains now are the memories of visits to the historic site in celebration of the mission of our church. And these photos, extracted from a documentary made by Moravians from the Czech Republic in 1995.
On Saturday , August 11, 2007 after almost two and a half centuries . . .
View a tour of the cemetery (the audio has been intentionally removed).