Citations: At the end of each entry you will find a letter related to a list identifying the source of the information.
The Maya people have lived in the area of present-day Belize for many hundreds of years. However, there is little evidence of any significant contact between the Maya and the forefathers of the present-day Creoles of Belize. Therefore, they are not included in this history related to the Creoles
Little definite is known about the early history of British settlement in Belize before 1650. Previous to this date we must look at activities over a wider area to understand the influences that led to the early British settlement in Belize. The Spanish were the first European nation to be active in the Western Caribbean and Central America. Numerous facts lead us to believe that the Spanish had little interest in the settlement of the Caribbean coast of Central America. Early British settlements, some of which may have been on the Belize coast, were established and maintained even in the face of Spanish attacks. The British were not the first Europeans to bring African slaves to Central America, the Spanish were bringing slaves before 1575. They also enslaved many of the native peoples of Central America.
The Early 1500's
1520 - 1540 approx. - The Spanish carried out exploration and conquests in Central America. Their focus was the search for gold along the Pacific coast. (H:16 & 432)
In 1524, Cortez led a Spanish force from Mexico City to Honduras. He may have come close to crossing the south-western corner of what is now Belize. (L:115)
The Late 1500's
Late 1500’s - The Spanish, based at Bacalaar north of Belize, established missions throughout the northern half of Belize attempting to subdue Mayan tribes. Mayan resistance and Spanish indifference to the area combined to reduce the Spanish presence in the area of Belize by the early 1600's. (S)
1560 - 1590 approx. - British buccaneers established bases on the Central American Caribbean coast at Pearl Lagoon and Bluefields, Nicaragua. They were active attacking Spanish settlements and shipping. Francis Drake, an infamous British buccaneer, made numerous raids in the area that is now Panama. It is reported that Drake made contact with runaway slaves that lived with the local Indians in the area of his base. A report from 1575 states that the Spanish had 8,600 African slaves working their Central American mines. The settlement of Trujillo, on the north Caribbean coast of Honduras, was attacked by the Spanish three times between 1560 and 1576. (H:17)
The Early 1600's
1630 - The earliest possible report of a British settlement in Belize referred to the "Cockscomb Coast", which may be a reference to a location in Belize. (B)
1631 - Nearly one hundred British Puritans, formed as the Providence Company, settle Providence Island off the coast of Nicaragua. This is the same group that sent the Mayflower to North America. (H:18)
1633 - The Providence Company settled Roatan, Honduras with several hundred colonists from North America. (H:22)
1635 - The Providence Company established a fortification at Cape Gracias a Dios in the area where present-day Honduras and Nicaragua meet on the Caribbean coast. (H:26)
1638 or 1640 - Reported first settlement of Capt. Wallace (or Willis), a British buccaneer, in the Belize River area. (B) There is some doubt as to the validity of the claim because the event is not mentioned before 1827, and then the reference occurs in Jamaica. (F) However, it is known that British privateers were active along the Belize and Miskito coasts from the late 1500's. (H) (S) A 1798 map of Belize City marks Haulover Creek as "R. Wallix". This name appears quite similar to Wallace and precedes the Jamaican report by 29 years. However, a 1705 report mentions "River of Bullys", referring to the Belize River, which suggests that the river was called Belize before Wallix. (F) The change of name may have been to commemorate the founder or it was part of the building of the legend.
1638 - As early as 1638, it is known that settlers along the Miskito Coast had trading and marital relations with the Miskito Indians, known in Belize as waika. The Miskito were the dominant tribal group in the Caribbean coastal area of Nicaragua. They hated the Spanish and frequently joined the bucaneers in raids on Spanish settlements. (H:31,36-39)
1641 - Spanish forces destroy the Providence Island colony and rout settlers from Roatan. However, it is believed that settlers had already spread out along the coast from Belize to Nicaragua. (H:28-32)
1650 approx. - An ex-buccaneer turned logwood cutter, Bartholomew Sharpe, came in contact with a Spanish priest, Padre Jose Delgado, in the Mullins River area of Belize. Padre Delgado was making his way from Guatemala to Mexico. (M:17) Whenever the first British settlers arrived in Belize, the first shipments of logwood started coming out of Belize around 1650. (B)
1642 to1685 - British buccaneers make numerous raids on Spanish settlements throughout Central America. In 1665, one group of British bucaneers who had been cutting logwood in the Bay of Campeche, sailed down the coast possibly stopping in Belize on the way to attach Granada, Nicaragua. (H:32)
Buccaneering was outlawed in 1670 and the English seamen began to cut logwood at settlements at Laguna de Terminos (near present-day Villahermosa, Mexico in the Bay of Campeche), Cape Catoche (near present-day Cancun, Mexico), the Miskito Coast of present-day Nicaragua, and the Bay of Honduras - particularly along the rivers of present-day Belize. The heartwood of the logwood tree was used to produce black, green, purple, blue, violet, gray, and red dyes needed for the European textile industry. After about 1670, the settlers along the Bay of Honduras came to be called Baymen, and the settlers along the Miskito Coast came to be called Shoremen.(M)
During the logwood settlement era, extracting and exporting logwood was quite simple. A Bayman would claim a large area of forest. This was usually with a river or creek frontage so that they could easily transport the wood. The area would be called a "location" or "logwood works." During the dry season, the cutters would build huts with thatched roofs at their ‘location’. This is where they stayed while they cut down the logwood trees. After the trees were cut down and cut into smaller logs. These "chips", as the small logs were called, were then piled into heaps and prepared for shipping down the creek or river. The shipping of logwood down the creek or river was done by digging pathways by which the logwood moved down the creek or river with the rains. (M)
Logwood trees were small and easy to handle, so the Baymen only needed a small force of a few slaves. As early as 1630, slavery had already been established in the region and slaves were being used to work in the Caribbean and the Americas. Slaves were traded and sold as labor, mainly for sugar plantations. The Baymen imported slaves to cut logwood. However, mahogany cutting demanded the use of more slave employment and as logging shifted from logwood to mahogany many more slaves were brought to Belize. (M)
During this time period there was a general shift of buccaneers from pirating to logwood cutting in the northern Belize area. (B)
1655 - The British captured Jamaica from the Spanish; this led to greater numbers of settlers for the British settlements from Panama to Belize. (H:34)
1670 - In the Treaty of Madrid, England and Spain agreed to cease supporting buccaneering. Some British buccaneers continued there raids for many more years. (W:84) (H:35)
1671 to 1684 - These years saw the heights of the logwood trade. Over two hundred ships came to Campeche and to the Bay of Honduras, particularly the mouth of the Haulover Creek, taking away almost 600 tons of logwood annually. (M)
1699 - A British settlement, Black River, was founded in the area of present-day Cape Camarion, on the northern coast of Honduras. This settlement became a place of refuge from Spanish attacks in latter years, as well as an administrative center for the coast. (H: 54-55)
From the early 1700's there are numerous reports referring to logging in the northern Belize area. Logging was focused in the areas of southern Corozal Bay, and along the Hondo, New, and Belize Rivers. A 1705 report (F) mentions "River of Bullys", referring to the Belize River; before this time it is uncertain as to how the area was called. During the early 1700’s there were a number of trading posts established along the Central American coast, the settlers living and working at these locations were called Standers. They traded European goods with the native populations. One of these "stands" may have given rise to the name of Stann Creek. (H:42)
By 1724, the Baymen were acquiring African slave labor from West Africa, via Jamaica and Bermuda. In that same year, a Spanish missionary reported that the population of the settlement consisted of, "about 300 English, besides Mosquito Indians and Negro slaves, these latter having been introduced but a short time before from Jamaica and Bermuda..." By 1745, slaves made up 71% of the population.
1730 - The Spanish attacked the British logwood cutters in Belize. The settlers fled to the Black River settlement in present-day Honduras.
1739 - Due to increasing tension between England and Spain, and an increase in British commerce along the Central American coast, the governor of Jamaica appointed a Superintendent of the Shore to be located at Black River. The Bay Islands were occupied and fortifications were built in Belize, Bluefields, and several other locations along the coast. (H:54) By 1757, Black River had grown to the largest British settlement on the Central American coast with a population of 750, the majority of which were slaves. (H:49)
1754 - The Spanish attack the Belize settlement again. The settlers fled to Black River, but return to Belize the next year. (H) (B)
1763 - In the Treaty of Paris, Britain agreed to have to fortifications on the Central American coast dismantled. However, the Shoremen, as the settlers to the south of Black River had come to be known, and the Baymen refused to acknowledge the treaty. (H:54-55) (B)
1770's - Logwood decreased in importance, and value, and was replaced by mahogany. Logging has expanded as far south as the Sibun River and Malantee Lagoon, and to the headwaters of the Belize River. There had been a settlement at Haulover Creek (present-day Belize City), but it was abandoned in early 1779 for St. George's Caye. (F)
1779 - A Spanish force captured St. George's Caye. Many settlers were taken away, about 300 fled to Roatan and Bonacca. (B) (S)
1783 - In the Treaty of Versailles, Spain affirmed the right of the British to log in Belize, north of the Belize River, but forced Britain to agree to give up the settlements along the Miskito Coast of present-day Nicaragua. This was resisted by the Shoremen. (H:57)
1784 - A British superintendent was located at "Haulover", which may refer to the same location as Belize City's Ft. George area (F), or where the present-day Haulover Bridge is located at the mouth of the Belize River where a fort was located.
1786 - In the Convention of London, Spain granted permission to England for the right to log as far south as the Sibun River in exchange for the evacuation of British settlers from the Bay Islands (Roatan) and the Miskito Coast. (H:57) (B) (S)
1787 - As a result of the previous years negotiations in Europe, the British move approx. 540 settlers and 1680 slaves from the Miskito coast to Belize. (B) (S) (H)
1790 - A town called Convention Town was laid out on the south side of Haulover Creek. By 1800, this town was referred to as 'Belize'. (B)
1798, September 10 - The battle of St. George’s Caye. On this day the settlers decided to stay and fight against a Spanish fleet that had arrived to capture the settlement. The settlers won and it was the last time the Spanish attacked the settlement. Creoles look on this day as the point from which stems the legitimacy of Belize as a political entity, and therefore the Belize Creole as an identity.
Settlement to Colony -
At the beginning of the 1800’s there were many small camps scattered along the creeks, rivers and lagoons of Belize. The British colonial administration passed laws to assert their ownership of the land, and timber extraction continued. Unlike plantation slavery in the Caribbean, the Belize version allowed slaves closer proximity to their masters but did not allow them to farm, except for occasional "provision grounds." Slaves carried machetes and shotguns for jungle survival. The Baymen masters divided their slaves into different areas of skills. For example, some of the different areas of skills included the highly skilled huntsmen who could distinguish the mahogany trees from a great distance, the axe-men who cut the trees, other slaves who cut the limbs from the trees which had been felled, and the cattlemen who fed and worked the cattle which moved the huge mahogany trunks. (M)
The cutting of mahogany took place during the dry months between January and September. The slaves worked in small gangs of ten to fifty men. After the logs were cut, they were hauled by cattle to a river, and then floated down the river in the rainy season. At the river mouth, the logs were squared for shipment to Europe. Female slaves were also part of the mahogany trade. It is believed that the women and the youth prepared the food and looked after the provisions of the laborers. (M)
White women were not normally found in the settlement, hence, only slave women were available. The Baymen began to take slave women as mistresses and as their common-law wives. Many of these women were later freed, therefore, whatever children they bore became free people of color. This mixture of European and African slaves created the Creole population. (M)
The development of a mixed, or Creole, community created social problems for the British settlers. The colonial administration separated the African-born slaves from the Creole slaves, the blacks from the browns, the freed blacks and colored and the skilled from the unskilled. Remnants of this division are still at work in our society today. Many Creole families can trace their origins to old Baymen families. Some of these families became well established and represented part of the lighter-skinned population. The colonial masters gave the better jobs to people with lighter skin color; and, people with certain names related to the old Baymen families were put in a different class. This type of prejudice was adopted by Creoles themselves, to some degree, and it later extended to the education and government sectors. (M)
The Eary 1800's
1790's onward - There is evidence of problems within the slavery system, with numerous reports of escaped slaves. Reports in 1816 and 1820 describe 'maroon' settlements on the Sibun River, possibly in the area of Gracie Rock. (S) (B)
Research Idea: Maroons were runaway slaves. Not much is known about maroons in Belize but much is written about maroons in Jamaica. Where did runaway slaves go in Belize? How did they live?
1803 - Arrival of the first Garifuna in Belize.
1833 - England granted emancipation to all slaves in their colonies. (W:280)
1839 - A report describes how villages along the Belize River are shifting from being temporary logging camps to permanent villages. (B)
1847-1853 - Mexico’s Indian Caste War caused migration of many Mayas and Mestizos from the Yucatan into northern and western districts of Belize
The Late 1800's
1850- The first sugar plantation in Belize was begun near the Sittee River. (L:117)
1857 - The first exportation of rum and sugar from Belize. (L:117)
1861 - The total population of Belize grew to 25,635. This seeming jump in population was mostly due to the immigration of refugees from Mexico's Caste War's. (B)
1862 - British Honduras was officially declared a British colony.
1871 - British Honduras becomes a Crown Colony of Britain.
1860's & 1870's - German coffee growers expanded holdings in southern Belize. The first Chinese were brought to Belize as laborers.
1867 - US Southerners settle in southern Belize. They established 12 sugar plantations, which had failed by 1910.
1879 - A group of Italians moved to the Manatee area.
1880’s - East Indians were brought from Calcutta, India to assist with sugar harvesting both in southern and northern Belize. New crops, such as cocoa, bananas, and coffee brought varied degrees of economic success. (L:118)
1894 - When the mahogany workers returned to Belize City they discovered a currency devaluation. The workers led by John Alexander Tom, a Creole, rioted. This is an early example of the Creoles uniting to gain a better lifestyle for themselves.
Belize in the 20th Century
Late 1800's & early 1900's - Expansion of banana and chickle industries. (S)
1919 - Black Belizean soldiers, who had suffered discrimination during World War I in Europe, returned home to protest unequal, racist treatment at home. Samuel Haynes was an important leader in the 1919 riot. He became a member of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) of which Marcus Garvey was the leader. Samuel Haynes wrote our national anthem, Land of the Gods. (M)
1931 - Great hurricane killed over 2000 people in Belize and destroys much of the infrastructure.
1930's - First inland roads. Villages along the Old Northern Highway were established to move people out of Belize City during the Great Depression. (B)
1934 - A strike for higher wages at a local sawmill turned into a riot. Antonio Soberanis took a role as a leader in the labor movement that developed out of these events. This movement was influential in making many people begin questioning the need for a colonial government.
1930’s - Citrus as an export crop began. (L:119)
1949 - The devaluation of the Belize dollar led to the formation of the People’s United Party (PUP). PUP’s objective was political and economic independence for Belize.
1954 - All Belizean adults gain the right to vote.
1960’s - The development of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD). This association tried to unite Creoles and to raise racial consciousness issues. The constitution of UBAD was patterned after its UNIA predecessor.
1964 - Administration of internal affairs was turned over to Belizeans in a system of self-government.
1973 - The name of the colony changed from British Honduras to Belize.
1981, September 21 - Belize gains independence from England.
1995 - Foundation of The National Kriol Council. Its mission is to organize the Belize Creole, lobby for a National Kriol Day, and to promote racial harmony among all the ethnic groups.
1996 - A new arm of UBAD was established, the UBAD Educational Foundation, which has worked for the education of black youth.
In 1724, a Spanish missionary reported that the population of the Belize settlement consisted of, "about 300 English, besides Mosquito Indians and Negro slaves, these latter having been introduced but a short time before from Jamaica and Bermuda..." By 1745, slaves made up 71% of the population. (S)
In the 1770’s, Belize had a population of about 500 white settlers and 3000 slaves. (B) (S)
The 1790 population is cited as 3385 people. Distribution was reported as: 239 along the Sibun River; 989 living along Salt Creek, Northern River, Rowley's Bight, and the New River; 1687 along the Belize River; and 470 in Convention Town. (B) This may not account for the approx. 2220 people recently arrived from the Miskito Coast.
1803 - A report states that population of Belize had grown to about 4000, mostly slaves.
1806 - It was estimated that 2,527 slaves were in the settlement. Of the total slave population, 1,270 were men. One thousand of the slaves were employed in the mahogany and logwood industries. (M)
1823 - A rough census of the semi-permanent population listed 5,178 persons, including 216 ‘whites’ and 2,468 ‘slaves’. (L:115)
1845 - Total population of Belize was given as 9,809. (B)
1848 - Population of Belize cited in a census as 25,000. This seeming jump in population was mostly due to the immigration of refugees from Mexico's Caste War's.(L:116)
1850 - Belize City population was estimated at 5,000. (B)
1861 - The total population of Belize grew to 25,635. (B)
1931 - The total population of Belize grew to about 50,000.
1946 - The total population of Belize grew to a little less than 60,000.
1970 - The total population of Belize grew to just under 120,000.
1980 - The total population of Belize grew to more than 145,000.
1991 - The total population of Belize grew to about 200,000.