John Brown Russwurm was born in Port Antonio on October 1, 1799; his father was an American, of German descent, who was doing business as a merchant in that town, and probably owned property in the parish. His Jamaican mother, however, appears in different guises, according to the inclinations of the writer.To one, she
was 'an African prisoner-of-war who was raped by a white man', to another she was a 'Negro Jamaican servant girl named Brown', one of those 'local girls who drifted around seeking affairs with transient foreigners'. Another writer saw her as 'a slave-woman who worked on his father's Jamaican plantation' and yet another as Russwurm senior's ' Black mistress or housekeeper'. Since we clearly know nothing of John Russwurm's mother we can take our pick of the various scenarios. There is also disagreement as to whether the younger Russwurm was born a slave, or was born free. John Brown Russwurm lived in Jamaica until around 1807, presumably receiving some elementary education, and then was sent to school in Quebec, Canada. Opinion seems divided as to whether his father also went to Canada, or stayed in Jamaica; be that as it may, by 1812 they were both located in Portland, Maine, with Russwurm senior's new wife, Susan Blanchard.