It’s all in the name – the story of Linden

It’s all in the name – the story of Linden

An Article by Sherene Noble

Nestled in the heart of Guyana, amidst lolling white, grey and red sand hills, brown water creeks, blue water lakes and clear water springs; in the lush green of Guyana’s Amazonian vegetation, is the sleepy little bauxite town called Linden.

The story of how the town came into being is by no means a mystery. Three communities, Christianburg, Wismar and McKenzie merged into Macmarburg, then Markenburg;  and eventually became a township on April 29th, 1970. We have been told how George Bain McKenzie, that adventurous American discovered bauxite in the area in 1913 and commenced mining operations, paving the way for the development of McKenzie, after him. We know of how the Germans inhabited the land on the opposite bank of the Demerara River, 65 miles from the capital Georgetown, and named it Wismar, after a town and seaport in the northern regions of their native land. We have also heard stories of how the Dutch occupied the area immediately north of the boundaries of Wismar and combined the names of its then Governor, Christian Fenet, and his wife’s family name, Burg, to give Christianburg its moniker.

But the story that eludes many is that of how the wards, the tiny villages that together form the three larger districts which in turn form the township, got their names. Rainbow City, Victory Valley, Half Mile, One Mile, Silvertown, Wisroc, Canvas City and Amelia’s Ward to name a few, might sound like the work of some whimsical, quixotic mind, but each either tells a poignant story of the town’s history, functions as a directional tool or stands testimony to the will of its people.

Amelia’s Ward, perhaps the largest ward, is reputed to have derived the name Amelia from the daughter of the then owner of the land. Within Amelia’s Ward are Cinderella City, Reliance, Brezina and Hopetown Square (in Reliance). Hopetown Square is so named because each household had one or more members who hailed from Hopetown on the West Coast of Berbice. Brezina was named after the American company that built the houses in that particular section of the area. Reliance, more familiarly called ‘Self Help Scheme’, copied from Reliance on the Essequibo Coast and was a fitting name because its inhabitants ‘relied’ heavily on ‘self help’ to forge their community into being. The name Cinderella City evokes a feeling of romanticism but it actually speaks of the vision of its denizen. Comprised mainly of poor squatters living in shacks, in 1970, Cinderella City had no roads, electricity or potable water, but the people there envisioned it rising to a position of stature, the ‘Cinderella’ of the town. Today, they are well on their way to accomplishing their vision as they continue to work to make their community one of the better ones in Linden. The performance of Master Terron Alleyne  as the top student at this year’s National Grade Six Assessment, testifies to the aspirations of the people of Cinderella City.

About one mile downhill from Amelia’s Ward is Rainbow City. Thirty odd years ago, it comprised several quaint houses, gaily painted in lilacs and pinks, oranges and yellows, blues and greens. Rainbow City was thus more than apt a name for this kaleidoscopic community.

Aback of Rainbow City lay a vast, swampy wasteland, teeming, as can be imagined, with a reptilian population as varied and interesting as in the heart of the Amazon. When the need to have the Demerara River dredged to accommodate bauxite transporting vessels arose, it was suggested that the sand be deposited into the swamp. From this emerged the idea of ‘retrieving’ the land from the swamp and developing it into a housing scheme. Is it any surprise then, that this area, which comprised houses made of painted aluminum sheets was called Retrieve?

Let us now visit a few communities on the western bank of the Demerara River, with names no less imaginative and informative.

Exactly half a mile from the historic Hamilton’s train station is the community of Half Mile and one mile from that station lies – yes, you guessed it – One Mile. Wisroc is situated between Wismar and Rockstone and Green Valley lies in a lush, green valley. Does that mean that the Valley of Tears is a place where the inhabitants are always crying? Not by any means! But its myriad creeks, springs and streams crisscrossing the landscape did make it seem like the valley cried tears. Those living there though felt the name had negative connotations and so changed it to one that is definitely more upbeat – Victory Valley!

Then there are Silvertown and Canvas City. Silvertown, with its unpainted aluminum houses glimmering brightly in the noonday sun is neighbor to Canvas City, where it’s poor but resourceful populace used discarded canvas to construct homes they could proudly call their own.

Each with its own unique story, these communities merged to form one cohesive unit, the town of Linden with its rich history and vibrant culture.

So next time you hear the familiar refrain, “What’s in a name?” you may respond, “Location, direction, history, aspirations!” 

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  • Hubert Williams  On 09/24/2011 at 2:50 pm


  • Richard Lewis  On 09/24/2011 at 4:31 pm

    I was the District Administration Officer in Linden for a number of years but never knew of the origin of the names of the various areas other than Christianburg, Half Mile and One Mile. Thanks for the information.

  • Rick Dalgetty  On 09/24/2011 at 11:07 pm

    Hubert, I guess you want to hear an explanation of why this compendium of settlements, villages, creeks, retrieved swamps and so forth, as they were eventually merged into a township, was given the name Linden. Simple! All over the world places are named after leaders or persons of some notoriety. For example, if you read the story above well, you would notice that MacKenzie was named after the man who discovered bauxite in that area; note well, he didn’t name it after anything indigenous to Guyana. Note too how Christianburg got its name; the combination Christian(German) and Burg(Dutch); again, nothing indigenous. Shouldn’t it be heart warming then, when as a nation, we could chose to name places after our countrymen who have actually given to the country, as opposed to people like MacKenzie, Christian and the Burgs who were in Guyana for purely extractive purposes. We, as a nation, need to remove more of the european influences, historically and present, in how we name people and things.

  • Deen  On 09/25/2011 at 4:55 pm

    Interesting and informative!
    What other towns whose origin you have spotlighted?

  • Richard Lewis  On 09/26/2011 at 3:28 pm

    Rick, erasing our past will only lead to a blurred future. In order to know where we are going we need to know where we came from. Guyana, for one reason or the other (shame or racism) has, and continues to, eradicate links to our true past.

  • Addy  On 09/26/2011 at 3:43 pm

    Why nobody has explicitly said that the name Linden was from Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, the late former president of Guyana? Or is there some problem with the author of this article and Mr. Burnham?

  • june dawber  On 09/27/2011 at 2:26 am

    You are so true. It seems that no one wants to give some credit to L.F.S. Burnham irrespective of their party affiliation. Yet, when I return to Guyana I see artifacts from some part of ” another continent being forced upon young children’s mind as the sudden history”. Some CREDITS: The highway from Linden to GT, Cuffy’s statue and the longest floating bridge to name a few. His home “Castellani House” has nothing about him, zero credits – that is how much some people want the wrong history to be told.

  • Rick Dalgetty  On 09/27/2011 at 3:17 am

    @Richard: That is not our past; that’s slavery followed by its new form, colonialism: Colonialism, as viewed today, is a glorified history of european expedition and adventure that occasioned the social, cultural and economic demise of those civilizations that came face-to-face with its ugly head. Further still, unimaginable proportions of those invaded populations suffered their physical demise, often in the name of the King or Queen.

    Significant change has happened in Zimbabwe since it got it’s independence: The country’s name was changed from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. Imagine the plunderer Cecil Rhodes, under licence from the british crown, had the gall to not only steal the land from Africans; but killed them when they resisted. Is it little wonder that Mr. Mugabe initiated a name change immediately upon independence.

    In short Richard, a nation, its people must know or be schooled in what aspects or influences of their past are worth holding on to.

    @Addy: The story above is problematic in its conclusion; and it may well be that the author is more concerned with aggrandizing the euro-colonialistic aspects of Guyanese history. After providing the readership with all the nuances that gave rise to the euro-centric naming of the many areas in today’s Linden, the author, with a stupefying lack of literary logic, deadpans in the passive, that “these communities merged to form…the town of Linden”.

    What actually occurred was that in April, 1970, the government of Mr. Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, implemented the merging of the several communities in the McKenzie, Wismar and Christianburg areas, into the township of Linden. Just like the dutch families, Christian and Burg, exercised colonial fiat in naming Christianburg; the Germans naming Wismar after a town in Germany; and, McKenzie taking the name of bauxite discoverer, Brian McKenzie; so too, whether ordered by himself or his political collective, the first executive president of Guyana, inured the right and is sheltered by national fiat, to have any place in the nation named for him and any other Guyanese who contributes or contributed to the noble effort of nation building.

  • Gerri  On 09/27/2011 at 2:55 pm

    Thank you Mr. Dalgethy for this informative breakdown of the town of “LINDEN”.
    I am a former residence of this wonderful town. I was born in “Hopetown Village / West Coast Berbice” ; At a young age I came to this Bauxite town of “McKenzie” by the R.H. Carr, before this Town was renamed “LINDEN” by the then President of Guyana, Mr. Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham.
    Whether this being a town of the 1900 or 2000, I am overjoyed to have been a part of this wonderful Oasis of life that we do not have today.
    I am enjoying the comments and the historical aspects of 1900, as a Berbician (as we are considered to be) I am proud of the fact that I can read an learn the various happenings of the period that I am unaware of.
    I would not in anyway, disrespect facts that are being paced before me, by others who have been there before I was born; but I am enjoying the various aspects of life before and during my time spent in this wonderful Oasis that we now call “LINDEN”. To me it will always be “McKenzie”. That’s the name that was given at the time I was and still am part of this wonderful Oasis. Thank you for all you have given, in the form of historic evaluation of this Oasis.

  • june dawber  On 09/27/2011 at 7:21 pm

    Hi, just like ‘Timehri International Airport’.

  • Sherene Noble  On 10/26/2012 at 10:51 pm

    @Addy. No problem between between the author and LFS Burnham. Simply that that was not the focus of the article.

  • scott121266  On 07/20/2015 at 8:38 pm

    The story of Green Valley , this Community came in to been in the year 1965, it got its name due to the fact that a Postman by the name of Mr Green once lived in the area so when the mails would come the then staff would say its for Green Valley , meaning for they people from Mr Green area, so that how my community got its name . Its truly Green in nature and I want to believe its one of the most cleanest community in the Town of Linden

  • Ron. Persaud  On 07/21/2015 at 9:06 am

    An aside; in her book ‘Run Softly, Demerara’, the author, Zara Freeth, devoted some attention to the names of places – mainly along the coast. I recall her wondering whether there was a connection between ‘Bachelor’s Adventure’ and ‘Maiden’s Despair’. I, too, wonder…. still!

  • Abigail Isaacs  On 05/30/2016 at 2:25 pm

    I was always taught that George Bain Mckenzie was Scottish. What source indicates that he is American?

  • Jeffrey Trotman  On 10/19/2016 at 8:59 pm

    Fantastic story. I love the arresting opening.

  • Steve Thomas  On 03/01/2019 at 1:14 pm

    Hey good day,I’m asking if any of you guys knows about Alfred Thomas the civil engineer who build Washing Pawn road in Guyana’s Linden. Any response please contact me on my email/

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