The town of Black River, established close to the banks of the river after which it was named, was designed by the Leyton brothers, three wealthy landowners who were notable business men of the era.
It was established sometime around 1671 and was designated the captal of the parish of St. Elizabeth in 1773, when it replaced Lacovia.
Situated at the mouth of the Black River, where it flows into the sea, the town played an important role in the slave trade, sugar and logwood industry throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
It was a thriving town, second only to Kingston, where local farmers transported their sugar, logwood that was used to make dyes, and pimento to for trade or export.
West African slaves were auctioned at Farquharson Wharf. Today, there are only a few surviving wharves that were used to auction slaves.
As a major sea port, it became a major commercial center on the south coast of Jamaica. It's wealth contributed to it being the first town in Jamaica to be lit by electricty in 1893. It was also the first town to have cars in 1903 and telephone 10 years after it was invented.
Black River Historic district was designated a Protected National Heritage on April 8, 1999. These properties include the Magdala House, the Invercauld Guest House, St. Elizabeth Parish Library, the Black River Court House, the Public Works Office, the Parish Council Office, the Health Centre, the St. Theresa Catholic Church, the Black River Post Office the St. Elizabeth Parish Church, the Bank of Nova Scotia, the Revenue Office, the Black River Safari, and all the buildings and warehouses situated along the coastal side of High Street and those situated between the eastern banks of the Black River and Crane Road.
Waterloo House, believed to have been originally owned by the Shakespeare family who were thought to be related to the famous playwright, William Shakespeare, was the first residence in Jamaica to have electricity. John Leyden, a Scotsman, who subsequently owned it, brought the first car and the first electricity generator to Black River and Jamaica.