St. Elizabeth is Jamaica’s third largest parish, known as ‘the bread basket’ of the nation, is located in the southwest of the island, in the county of Cornwall. Its capital, Saint Elizabeth originally included most of the south-west part of the island, but in 1703 Westmoreland was taken from it and in 1814 a part of Manchester. The resulting areas were named after the wife of Sir Thomas Modyford, the first English Governor of Jamaica.
St Elizabeth is 779.7 square miles. It accounts for the majority of the area in the County of Cornwall, which is 1,521 square miles.
The parish has four constituencies that is North-East, North-West, South-East and South-West. and fifteen parish council divisions, Balaclava, Santa Cruz, Braes River, Siloah, Ipswich, Lacovia, New Market, Brompton, Black River, Mountainside, Malvern ,Pedro Plains, Southfield, Junction, Myersville.
There are three mountain ranges - the Nassau Mountains to the north-east, the Santa Cruz Mountains which, running south, divide the wide plain to end in a precipitous drop of 1600 feet at Lovers' Leap, and the Lacovia Mountains to the west of the Nassau Mountains. The Black River is the main river supported by many tributary rivers including Y.S., Broad, Grass and Horse Savannah.
Like other parishes its limestone formation have created waterfalls and numerous caves, including Mexico, the longest in the island, Yardley Chase Caves near the foot of Lovers' Leap, Wallingford Caves near Balaclava, famous for the fossil remains of large extinct rodents and Peru Cave near Goshen with its impressive stalactites and stalagmites.
Much of the land in the parish is dry grassland called savannahs, wetlands, forests and scrub woodlands. The land is used mainly for agriculture for growing sugar cane and for pasture. There is still one sugar factory on Appleton Estate which is noted for its fine blends of rum. Fishing, food processing, craft industry, and tourism are important economic activities. Attractions like bamboo Avenue, YS Falls, Front Hill Wild Life Sanctuary, and Pond Side Lake are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Mineral deposits include bauxite, antimony, white limestone, clay, peat and silica sand. Silica sand is used to manufacture glass.
Black River, the parish capital is located at the mouth of the Black River, the longest on the island. Other important towns are Santa Cruz, Malvern, Junction and Balaclava.
St. Elizabeth provides the best testimony of the Jamaican motto – “Out of many, one people”. A distinct feature of this parish is the interesting racial or ethnic heritage of its inhabitants. The Meskito (corrupted to ‘Mosquito’) Indians brought to Jamaica to help capture the Maroons, were allowed to settle in southern St. Elizabeth in return for their assistance given land grants in this parish. The parish of St. Elizabeth can lay claim to Maroon, Dutch, Spanish, Indian, mulatto and white inhabitants from the 17th century onwards, with the result that there are those who feel that more people of mixed ancestry can be found here than in any other part of the island.
In the 19th century Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, Scots Germans Chinese and East Indians migrated to Saint Elizabeth, and this accounts for pockets of distinct racial mixtures in the parish including Mulatto and Creole notably found in the southeast.