South-West Communities

Vessigny

Vessigny is situated directly south of La Brea and can be accessed from La Brea by the Southern Trunk Road. Vessigny's coastline has a generally calm beach that is washed by the waters of the Gulf of Paria. Along the coastline, north of Vessigny Beach, is Point Galba.

The following article, "The story of Vessigny - From sugarcane to oil," was written by Louis B Homer and published in the Trinidad Express on January 9, 2011.

"Political turmoil, war and economic hardship are factors that have caused people to migrate from their homeland to other countries. In the case of Simon Paul Vessiny, after whom the village of Vessigny was named, it was the fire of 1808 in Port of Spain, and a fall-out with his uncle Jean Vessiny that caused him to settle near La Brea. Jean Vessiny was a Frenchman who left his home in Corsica and came to Trinidad, after spending a few years in Martinique. Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean, south of France and north west of Italy. It is approximately twice the size of Trinidad. Vessiny was among those who arrived in Trinidad as a result of the 1783 Cedula of Population, which gave lands free of charge to French settlers to develop agriculture. On arrival Vessiny opened a retail shop near the waterfront in Port of Spain, and as his business progressed he invited his nephew Simon Paul to join him. Hugh Mazely, a descendant of the Vessiny family, said Simon Paul arrived in Trinidad in 1788 at age 13, and worked with his uncle for several years until he was able to purchase an estate in what is called today Vessigny village. He said the Vessinys are related to the Pantins, a well known Catholic family of which Trinidad's first local archbishop, Anthony Pantin, was a member. Simon Paul's interest was primarily in growing sugarcane, then the most important crop in Trinidad. He had selected Vessigny because there were adequate shipping facilities at Brighton, where sugar was shipped in barges to Port of Spain. As the sugar industry grew, 18 estates in and around La Brea sprung up. In addition to lands at Vessigny, located south of La Brea, Paul also acquired a sizable piece of land in 1812 from Monsieur Fortin, in return for a debt owed to him. Fortin was a large estate owner and influential French planter after whom Point Fortin was named. Altogether, the estate of Simon Paul, comprising over 1,300 acres and extending from the Pitch Lake southwards, became the village of Vessigny. A large portion of his estate had extremely poor soil, with outcrops of pitch and oil sand that were not suitable for growing sugarcane. Not daunted by adverse soil conditions, he concentrated his efforts by planting sugarcane, because he had no interest in oil mining. He never realised that the large energy deposits on his estate would one day become one of the country's most valuable natural assets. He died in 1850, 63 years before oil was discovered in Vessigny. During World War II, a small part of his former estate, now belonging by State-owned Petrotrin, was planted with natural rubber trees. From the milk extracted from the trees rubber was produced. This field still exists along the Southern Main Road in Vessigny. Vessigny and Non Pariel estate, Sangre Grande, were two known rubber fields established to meet the shortfall of rubber when supplies from Malaysia were interrupted during the war, and tyres had to be rationed as a wartime measure. The discovery of oil in 1913 by the Antilles Petroleum Co Ltd immediately made Vessigny an oil town. When it was discovered, many sugar estates in the area went under because workers opted for employment in the oilfields. Asphalt mining by Trinidad Petroleum Co. attracted a large number of cargo ships at Brighton port. The economic spillover witnessed the emergence of some 40 Chinese shops, between La Brea and Guapo. Winston Hayden Chang, a descendant of the Hakka community, said most of the Chinese who migrated to Trinidad during that period originated from Kwangtung. 'Many escaped from China after swimming from coastal villages using crude flotation devices like drums or inner tubes of vehicles,' Chang said.

Following the 1970 Black Power demonstrations, the majority of Chinese shopkeepers left Vessigny, and either opened new businesses in Port of Spain or migrated to North America. The oil industry and its related by-products, such as tar sand, then underwent some challenging times. An oilfield fire in 1924 at Brighton refinery wiped away Coon village. The village was reinstated and is now called New Jersey. Exploration and production at Vessigny fell drastically in the 1980s and many of the wells were abandoned. The La Brea Industrial Development Co Ltd took up the slack in 1990 by encouraging a number of downstream operators to occupy lands on the LABIDCO estate. However, there is more to Vessigny than oil and its related products. Vessigny beach, which is a delightful little cove of brown sand and calm waters, attracts visitors in large numbers and over time the beach became one of the main attractions in the village, mainly because it is safe for bathing and easily accessible from the Southern Main Road."

Academic Institutions

SCHOOL LEVEL ADDRESS RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION HISTORY
Vessigny Government Secondary School Secondary Vessigny Village Non-Denominational  

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