In a genuine island setting at the centre  of  Grand Cayman

but off the beaten track and away from the tourist crowds

 

 

ISLAND HISTORY

 

Quincentennial Celebrations
Milestones Rare views

 

Milestones In Our History

1503 Columbus sights the Sister Islands and names them 'Las Tortugas'. Over the next 100 years the name 'Caymanas' or Cayman becomes common

1526 The first map to show the Cayman Islands with any accuracy is made by Juan Vespucci. Like previous mapmakers, he wrongly shows the three islands as a triangular group, but he is the first cartographer to show them correctly in relation to Jamaica and Cuba, and the first to give them a form of their present name: Caymanos. Vespucci is a nephew of Amerigo Vespucci, the man after whom America was named

1586 Sir Francis Drake's fleet of 23 ships stops for two days at Grand Cayman. The island is not inhabited by humans, but crocodiles, alligators, iguanas and numerous turtles are sighted

1630 The Dutch warship Dolphijn, separated from its fleet, crashes into Grand Cayman's northern reefs. Though the ship is wrecked, the crew save themselves and salvage their cannon 'as well as some provisions. The captain and crew of more than 120 men and boys spend 16 weeks on the island, building a small vessel from the planks of the Dolphijn. The new boat, named Cayman, gets them as far as Cuba, where they are taken onto the ships of another Dutch fleet

1655 England captures Jamaica from the Spanish

1669 Little Cayman is attacked by Spanish forces under the command of Manuel Rivero Pardal. Several Jamaican turtling vessels are sunk and others seized. The presence of turtlers' huts (which the Spanish burn) in April, before turtling season was underway, suggests that there may have been more than a seasonal settlement there

Bodden Town, Cayman's first capital
Originally called "South Side", the name Bodden Town appears to have first been used in 1773 when a visiting British navy surveyor, noting the predominance of families with the name "Bodden", remarked: "At this time there are 21 families at the South Side, which we have called Bodden Town."

1670 Under the Treaty of Madrid, Spain recognises England's sovereignty over Jamaica and Cayman, and various other Caribbean islands

 

1700s Permanent settlement has probably begun by this time with a few families, notably Boddens, living on Grand Cayman

 

1734-42 Five land grants in Grand Cayman are made by the Governor of Jamaica. Mahogany and logwood are being exported to Jamaica. Population perhaps 100-150

 

1735 Grand Cayman's first land grant is enrolled at Spanish Town, Jamaica, for 3000 acres, to Daniel Campbell, John Middleton, and Maty Campbell. The location of their house is most likely where the runway of Owen Roberts International Airport now lies

 

1773 First survey 'map' of Cayman is made by the Royal Navy. Population is 400, approximately half free, half slaves

A 1773 map by George Gauld, courtesy of the Cayman Islands National Archives

 

1780 William Eden builds the "Great House" as a residence and community refuge, calling it Pedro St. James

 

1780s Cotton, turtle, sarsaparilla and wood being exported to Jamaica

 

1790 Fort George is constructed, probably to ward off attacks by French or Spanish

 

1794 'Wreck of the Ten Sails' occurs off East End. Miraculously, only eight people drown

 

1798 First record of a Magistrate in Cayman being appointed by Governor of Jamaica. Bodden Town served as the seat of government for many years. William Bodden, resided here, and served as Chief Magistrate or "Custos" from 1798 until his death in 1823. Unofficially, he was thought of as a "Governor"

Bodden Town, Cayman's first capital

Although no one recalls there ever being a "house" on this site, reference is made to a "Guard House" in Bodden Town in "The Local laws of Grand Cayman", a document produced during the 1830s. It's located about a quarter-mile west of Turtle Nest Inn (at the approach to the town). It seems to have been the site of one of the former capital's three lines of defense against invading pirates and Spanish "marauders". The local "militia" are believed to have manned the position, and the Guard House was their accommodations

1802 The first census to be carried out lists 933 residents, more than half of whom are slaves. Thirty tons of cotton are exported from Grand Cayman. Cotton surpasses mahogany as the Cayman Islands' principal export, but the cotton boom will be short-lived

 

1820s Local laws being passed by a self-appointed group of "principal inhabitants"

 

1830s First missionaries from the Anglican and Wesleyan churches visit, a church is built in George Town and first schools established

 

1831 Decisions to form an elected Assembly taken at Pedro St. James on December 5th. Elections follow and a new Assembly passes first legislation on December 31st. Population is 2000

1835 Governor Sligo of Jamaica lands in Cayman to declare all slaves free in accordance with the Emancipation Act of 1833. By this period the slave population of the islands outnumbers whites five to one

 

1830s-40s First schools established by the Mico Charity and Wesleyans

 

1830s-50s Fearing that the Emancipation Act will result in a loss of political power and agricultural production, hundreds of Caymanians emigrate to the Bay Islands of Honduras and Belize

 

1850 The first Brac-built schooner, a 26-footer, is completed. The largest vessels built in the islands at this time are about 45 tons. Most turtling schooners remain at between 40 and 50 tons. By the early 1900s, though, the schooners built for the lumber trade reach 100 tons. The largest Caymanian schooner to be built is a 250-ton vessel

Bodden Town, Cayman's first capital

Slave Wall, just a short walk west of Turtle Nest Inn, was probably built before the 1835 abolition of slavery in the Cayman Islands. It is said that a slave of Spanish origin named "Drummond" supervised a seven-foot section which led to the wall often being called "Drummond's Wall".

1863 Act of the Imperial Parliament in London makes Cayman a dependency of Jamaica

 

1888 Edmund Parsons appointed as the first paid "custos" or Chief Executive Officer of Government

 

1898 Frederick Sanguinetti, an official of the Jamaican Government, is appointed as the first Commissioner of the Cayman Islands. Cayman will be governed by commissioners until 1962

 

1911 Population of the Cayman Islands is 5,564

 

1920 Education Act provides for schools in all districts

 

1932 The '32 Storm devastates the Sister Islands, and, to a lesser extent, Grand Cayman. More than 100 lives are lost; no family is left unaffected

1937 The first cruise ship visits the Cayman Islands. The SS Atlantis calls on February 22nd. It weighs 16,000 tons and carries 450 wealthy, mostly elderly passengers, more then three-quarters of whom come ashore for the day. The first tourist booklet is published

 

1939-45 During World War II a "Home Guard" is formed to provide protection and surveillance of enemy shipping

 

1942 On May 29th the Alister, a steamship on the Jamaican line owned by James Webster, formerly of Bodden Town, is torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine just south of East End Lighthouse

 

1942-1945 A U.S Naval Base and a U.S. coast Guard Base operate in Grand Cayman

Bodden Town, Cayman's first capital

Gun Square, just a short walk east of Turtle Nest Inn, is believed to be one of Bodden Town's two defence points, the other being the Guard House at the western approach of the town. It was an important battery as it overlooked one of the principal channels of the day. Two 18th century cannons are still located on the site.

1950s A number of hotels open as tourism begins to increase

 

1953 An airfield is opened in Grand Cayman, eventually replacing the seaplane service which has operated since the 1940s. . The George Town hospital is opened. Barclays Bank, the first commercial bank, opens

 

1954 Costa Rican national airline, LACSA, provides the first scheduled air service to Cayman Brae. The 1,200-foot strip airstrip on the Brae is built entirely by volunteers for a total cost of 1 ,600

 

1958 The official Cayman Islands coat of arms is adopted. The winning design, selected by a committee of the Legislature, was submitted by a non-Caymanian, James Ford

 

1959 Cayman receives its first written constitution, which grants the vote to women. Cayman ceases to be a dependency of Jamaica

Bodden Town, Cayman's first capital

Queen Victoria Monument, a short stroll west from Turtle Nest Inn, was erected to the memory of Queen Victoria sometime between 1907 and 1912. In the 1920s and 1930s, it was the regular meeting site for the men of the district who gathered there to discuss politics. The tradition has continued to modern times.

1962 Following Jamaica's independence from Great Britain, Cayman chooses to remain a Crown Colony, governed by an Administrator who reports directly to Westminster

 

1966 The Mosquito Research and Control Unit is created. By the early 1970s it has reduced the mosquito plague significantly, enabling tourism to flourish. (Mosquito-control campaigns in the late 1940s and 1950s had already succeeded in wiping out the species that carried malaria and yellow fever). Landmark legislation to encourage banking Industry is introduced

 

1966 On May 10th, Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC) commences operations as the sole provider of electricity to Grand Cayman, inheriting 650 customers, an installed capacity of 1.36 megawatts with a peak load of 900 kilowatts, and 52 employees

 

1970 Population of the Cayman Islands is 10,249 with only 403 visitors during the year

Bodden Town, Cayman's first capital

In March 1999, Turtle Nest Inn opens in Bodden Town, and is Grand Cayman's first intimate and independent beachfront hotel. And, exactly 500 years after the first recorded sighting of the Cayman Islands, in 2003, Turtle Nest Inn wins Cayman's only "Editors' Choice Award" from Travel Holiday magazine !!!

1972 New Constitution introduced under which Cayman is governed by a Legislative Assembly, Executive Council and a Governor

 

1987 The National Trust for the Cayman Islands is established. Cayman National Cultural Foundation is founded the same year

 

1998 The restored Pedro St James National Historic Site is opened to the public

 

2003 In January, CUC (Grand Cayman's electricity provider) has about 20,000 customers, an installed capacity of 115 megawatts with a peak load of 76 megawatts, and 215 employees

 

2003 Present population is approximately 40,000 with about 303,000 stay-over visitors (in 2002), and about 1,575,000 cruise ship visitors

 

(Thanks to the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, CUC, and the magazines "Horizons" and "Key to Cayman")

 

 

 

Additional Information

 

 

 

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