European Colonialism

    The area known as Montego Bay was first called "El Golfo de Buen Tempo," or "Gulf of Good Weather," by Christopher Columbus, who was the first European visitor to the island in 1494. About fifteen years later, the Spanish began to settle the island, and named it "Bahia de Manteca," "manteca" refering to lard, which was exported in large quantities from the area. The British occupied Jamaica in 1655 and established the parish of St. James, which is the parish where Montego Bay exists today.


    Montego Bay remained a small town until the 1720s when Captain Jonathan Barnett, who owned a sugar plantation there, subdivided his property to create two towns, Barnett Town and Charles Town. The towns and waterfront area developed rapidly, and commerce boomed. In 1779 Fort Montego, which is located outside of the city, was renovated and expanded.

Christmas Rebellion

    In 1831 a major slave revolt, known as the Christmas Rebellion, took place in Montego Bay, headed by a man named Samuel Sharpe. Sharpe was hanged as a result of his actions. In 1975 he was declared a national hero of Jamaica, and the square in Charles Town, originally known as Charles Square, was renamed Sharpe Square.

Official Citydom

    Montego Bay was officially proclaimed a city in 1980, by an act of the Jamaican Parliament.