An oasis of calm at the Mission House

 Coming across the Mission House for the first time, what resonates is its beauty and peaceful atmosphere.
The Mission House was, until its partial destruction by Hurricane Ivan, one of the oldest buildings in Cayman. The present house owned by the National Trust is a replica, using materials from the old house.
The house is important not just as a place where you can view how people lived in Cayman in the 1900s, but also because of its social significance as a centre of early religion and education.
Now the National Trust hopes to draw on this unique historical backdrop with its secluded grounds and make it available for special functions.
Erika Walton, development and marketing officer for the National Trust, says, “We hope to provide an out-of-the-ordinary event location for intimate gatherings and special events of all sorts.”  
She adds, “Any historical backdrop seems to add whimsy or a romantic feel, depending on the event taking place. “
Romance was probably the furthest thing from the minds of the early missionaries for whom the house was built around 1820. It was apparently built by slaves, a fact that is not documented but has been passed on by word of mouth.
The Anglicans were the first to arrive.
Judging by a timeline in one of the rooms of the house, life was not easy for these early missionaries and there was a fast turnover in Anglican and Wesleyans ministers.
Then it was the turn of the Presbyterians. When James Elmslie arrived in 1854 he was not welcomed with great enthusiasm among the locals.  As a “blackcoat”, his particular brand of stern Scottish Presbyterianism, full of fire and brimstone did not go down well at first.  
He persevered, however, and built the first Presbyterian Church on the island.
The Mission House itself has had connections with three local families – the Redpaths, Lyons and Watlers.
There is no doubt it makes a beautiful backdrop with its clapboard, and what would have been daub, exterior. It is built in the traditional way with original ironwood stilts and walkways linking the outhouses.
Walton says that, in providing people with a unique location in an oasis tucked away from the rest of Cayman, they hope to raise awareness of the house’s significance in Cayman’s history.
Certainly, walking through the house is like going on a trip through the past. A lot of the artefacts, such as the treadle sewing machines, flat irons, and china, were donated by the Watler family and are original items that would have been used in the 1900s.
Things like the caboose, a kind of old-time barbecue that was a square wooden box with wet sand and a grill where fish and meat could be cooked, reminds how people had to be inventive and use what the environment could provide.
The Watler family were the last to occupy the house and largely it was run by Mrs. Watler while her husband was away at sea.
Upstairs her bedroom is beautiful in its simplicity – the tray-shaped ceiling is unique to this master bedroom as usually rooms looked straight onto the ceiling.
A wood-lined room next door with a hammock was for the man of the house to relax and smoke.
It seems rather idyllic but life was probably harder than it seems with water having to be carried, the mosquitoes and the heat.
Nowadays, the rooms are cooled with air conditioning which is never turned off to maintain the house and artefacts.
Walton says that when functions have been held at the grounds, they have been a great success and she hopes that in the future people will respond to its special old-time Cayman atmosphere and keep coming back.

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