Murder in the Eden Brown Estate – Another Paradise Lost
There is something very alluring and ideal about places named Eden. The Garden of Eden – one of the first known references to Eden – is depicted in the Bible as a place free from sin. It was allegedly a comforting place, a paradise for the first man and woman known as Adam and Eve. Along with the unlimited peace and pleasure of this place, came a paradox however; one in which its inhabitants could enjoy this lifestyle forever, as long as they never ate fruit from a particular tree. Eating the fruit of this tree would remove them from this utopian life and bring about a new phenomenon called death. As the story goes, Eve disobeyed God’s command and partook of the fruit and also gave some to her husband; thus, began the descent of man and Adam and Eve’s eventual banishment from paradise.
Adam and Eve (1640s). (Public Domain)
Eden Browne Estate - The Other Eden
Many millennia away from the original Eden lies another utopian place, tucked away in the tiny, beautiful island country of Nevis known as the Eden Brown Estate. Although it lies in ruin now, it was once a place of idealism and beauty for its owner. The estate was established in 1740 by James Browne, Sr. who developed the parish as a sugar mill enterprise. His son, who bore his same name, began to make upgrades to the mill but his constant sickness from the tropical weather drove him to more moderate weather in North America, leaving the estate to his sister Elizabeth White in 1797. She eventually sold the property to a businessman of Scottish-Irish decent by the name of Edward Huggins who furthered James Browne Jr.’s dream of growing this 200-acre mill into a successful sugar enterprise.
Buildings at the entrance to Eden Browne Estate. (David Small and Christine Eickelmann)
Edward turned this place from a simple mill into a fully operational sugar plantation. When the time came for Edward to marry off his daughter, Julia, he made the estate even grander in order to impress the equally wealthy Maynard family. In preparation for the wedding, the Great House was filled with beautiful handcrafted furniture from Africa, silver and dishware from China, and edible delicacies imported from all over the world. Edward wanted only the best because the marriage of these two families would represent enormous power and prestige in Nevis.
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Ruins of the Eden Browne Estate. (Nevis Naturally)
Murder in Paradise
Edward Huggins may have perceived the Great House as his piece of heaven on earth, but not everyone else romanticized the estate. As a matter of fact, Edward Huggins was brought to trial in 1817 by England over his cruelty to slaves which shines light on the fact that this place was not as utopian as it appeared. This was a landmark case in the history of Nevis as it spawned the movement of enslaved people to be free and eventually led to the 1833 Act of Emancipation.
Slaves cutting the sugar cane. (1823) By William Clark. (Public Domain)
Just like in the Garden of Eden, Eden Browne Estate became mired in sin and was eventually abandoned. Instead of it being neglected due to the sin of disobedience, it was deserted after a horrible murder that took place on its grounds. It is presumed that the feud that occurred on Julia’s wedding day and ended both Walter Maynard and John Huggins’ lives began as a fight over the Huggins’ harsh treatment of his slaves. The Maynards were known to be much more lenient and genteel to their slaves. However, some believe that a slave mistress was the reason for their fight.
Whatever the source of their feud, legend has it that Walter Maynard flung his drink into John Huggins’ face after a heated argument and the two went to the courtyard to finish the duel. It is believed that their intention was to blow off steam by shooting their guns in the air but allegedly both drew their pistols and shot one another. After the death of both men, the mansion was left to ruin and subjected to the ravages of time. It is said that Julia lost her mind after the incident and lived out the rest of her years in solitude.
Ruins of the Eden Browne Estate. (Explore Nevis)
The Haunting of the Eden Browne Estate
The Eden Browne legend is similar to that of the Montagues and Capulets in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – one that ruined the Huggins and Maynard children and strained the relations of successive generations. This Eden Browne legend continues to entertain the tourists that visit Nevis annually. The life of Edward Huggins and the duel on the plantation has always been a source of mystery and intrigue not only because of its historical significance but also because many believe the site is haunted. Alexis Arthurton, Visitor Center Coordinator for the Nevis Tourism Authority, provides more insight into the haunting and the estate in general.
M.C. What types of experiences do visitors have when visiting the estate?
A.A. Upon visiting the ruins, some claim to hear Julia’s wails of sorrow echoing through the walls. On nights of a full moon, she has been sighted on the steps of the house wearing a tattered wedding gown. Persons who have camped overnight at the property claim to hear the scream of a woman, there are a few who have actually seen her spirit.
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Image of ghost, produced by double exposure. (1899) (The Commons)
M.C. Are there guided tours of the haunted estate?
A.A. Yes, there are guided tours but they will have to be pre-booked.
M.C. Are there any plans to renovate the estate in the near future to bring it back to its original splendor?
A.A. At this point in time the government has not finalized any plans to renovate the estate, but I know it will be on the books for the future.
Top Image: Ruins of the Haunted Eden Brown Estate Plantation Great House c. 1740 in 1993. Source: Most Traveled People
By M. L. Childs
A special thanks to the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society and Nevis Tourism Authority for providing much of the content for this article. Also, thank you Beulah and Alexis for your input.
Uncommon Caribbean (2013) “Uncommon Attraction: Haunted Plantation Ruins of the Caribbean.” https://www.uncommoncaribbean.com/2011/10/25/uncommon-attraction-haunted-plantation-ruins-of-the-caribbean/
Small, D. and Eickelmann, C. (2004/2012) “A Nevis ‘Legend’ Revisited: the Huggins -Maynard Duel of 1822.” http://seis.bris.ac.uk/~emceee/hugginsmaynardduel.doc%5b1%5d.pdf
Explore Nevis (n.d.) “Eden Brown Estate.” http://www.explorenevis.com/eden-brown-estate/