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Basil Jones History

After the Maya

   Colonial Period
   Who was Basil Jones?
   Blake Dynasty
   In the 20th Century


Forest flowers.  

Basil Jones in the Spanish Colonial Period

From early in the sixteenth century Spain maintained territorial claim to the New World including the Western Caribbean and Ambergris Caye. But the Dutch and English began exploring the area as early as 1569 . From that point on Spanish sovereignty was frequently challenged and by the beginning of the seventeenth century, pirates were attacking the ships and towns of the Spanish Empire in the New World. These pirates were made up of many different nationalities and colors, black and white, English, French, and Dutch. The Pirates probably used Ambergris Caye as one of their remote retreats and safe harbors. Here they could care for their boats, rest their crews, hide their treasures and obtain food and water for their next raid. The discovery of small treasure-troves on the island and of gold coins washed up on the beach together with old bottles suggest that it was visited often and its abundant resources utilized. But through the years Spanish influence lessened and so did the number of Spanish merchant ships, the pirates adapted and turned to more commercial means of making money. They became wood cutters, logging the rich tropical and subtropical rain forests, for the precious hardwood, and became known as The Baymen.

One of the Baymen was named Basil Jones, he was said to be a local magistrate and most likely a Welshman. Around 1790 Basil owned a lease on the plateau at the north end of Ambergris Caye where he had a plantation. On the plantation they grew food and coconuts with a work crew that probably consisted of slaves. By then the Baymen were claiming territorial rights to the area too and there had been many confrontations and disputes with the Spanish. Basil Jones may have played an important part in the battle that followed, known as the Battle of St. George's Caye.

In 1798 it was apparent that the Spanish were planning to invade, Basil Jones assisted the Baymen acting as a lookout, from his plantation on Ambergris Caye. When the inevitable arrival of the Spanish Fleet, did occur, some where around September 10, 1798, Basil spotted the approaching Fleet and went by boat to St. Georges Caye to warn the Baymen Commander.

The Spaniards had spent two years preparing an Invasion Fleet of thirty-two ships and twenty-five hundred men, arrived at St. George's Caye, where the Baymen, though badly out numbered, were waiting for them. In the battle, on September 10, 1798, the Spanish were decisively defeated, ending Spain's dominance and territorial claims forever. The battle was there after known as The Battle of St. George's Caye. Basil Jones is said to have contributed to the victory by reporting the arrival of the Invasion Fleet. From there old Basil fades into history.

reference 1,3,4

Basil Jones Area Blake Dynasty Period

On September 13, 1869, Ambergris Caye was auctioned off to settle the estate of former owners. James Hume Blake bought Ambergris Caye for $625 in gold, and that began the Blake Dynasty that lasted for some ninety years.

On 10th February 1887 Registry records show that the Blakes gave a twenty-one year lease of the Robles and the Basil Jones Savannah, at an annual rent of twenty dollars to George James Parham. Parham was an expatriate Englishman, a merchant and chicle contractor, who later married Juanita Blake, one of Blakes two daughters.

The unexpected advent of the Blake Dynasty radically changed the lives of the islanders. Overnight they found themselves without any legal rights to remain on the land they had lived on and farmed for several decades. From small but independent fishermen and farmers they became wage laborers working for the ruling families in a succession of new industries - logwood, chicle, coconut - their lives transformed into a grinding monotony, guided only by their employers' need to accumulate more wealth. During this time there were transient Maya settlements at Basil Jones and it was said, desperate bachelors such as Natividad Guerrero could get a bride from them in exchange for a box of groceries from Belize City.

The erosion of this Blake Dynasty began in 1943, with the Colonial Government initiating the fore runner of the present day village council. But it took years more to break the Blakes' economic stronghold.

reference 3

Basil Jones in the 20th Century

In the 1950's Gulf Oil drilled an exploratory oil well at Basil Jones. They eventually drilled through 2,500 feet of solid bedrock. But there was no Black Gold to be found at Basil Jones. To facilitate construction of the drilling rig and the drilling that followed, Gulf built Ambergris Caye's first airstrip, from which they flew equipment in and out of the site.

By 24th of June 1996 an American company, Breeze, Inc., a Nevada State Corporation, owned the former Basil Jones Plantation. As late as June 10th, 1997, the Government of Belize was working out the details for reacquiring the property for "public purpose." from Breeze, Inc. Breeze was bankrupt and in receivership. Also agreements by the Government of Belize dated the 24th of June 1996 appear to give Dolphin International the right to develop the Basil Jones airstrip.

Dolphin International issued a press release on June 10th, 1997, stating that so far, a 20' X 50' pier has been built and 3 acres of land have been cleared. June 19, 1997 Nova Companies Belize Ltd presented their plans for the Shrimp Hatchery at Basil Jones. The North Ambergris Caye Development Corporation, (NACDC) and Dolphin International (apparently part of NACDC) held joint meetings, with the San Pedro Town Board and the Ambergris Caye Planning Committee, where they outlined plans to develop the area with a $65 million resort casino and airport, just south of Nova Shrimp at Punta Azul. But since then the project with Dolphin has died and a new $50 million project is in the works. Perhaps it to will go away quietly too.

On October 1, 2000, Hurricane Keith made a bee line for Ambergris Caye and the Basil Jones Area. Keith was classified a category four hurricane with wind gusts up to 155MPH and sustained winds of 125MPH. The killer hurricane parked on Ambergris Caye for some twelve hours and the eye wall (where the highest winds are) went right through the Basil Jones area. On Ambergris Caye there were only a few non-life threatening injuries, but the lee side of the island sustained heavy damage, mostly to wooden structures, even putting a boat in the middle of the runway in San Pedro. A fly over of Basil Jones made a couple of weeks after Keith confirmed only minor damage to the undeveloped land. A visit by some of the Basil Jones Neighbors in January 2001 found just a few palm trees missing some leaves. All over the beach were parts of a dock from up north and a little further towards Robles Point they found a beached and wrecked sailboat.

reference 2
To the Top

  1. From the writings of Emory King
  2. San Pedro Sun
  3. Ambergris Caye History by Glenn Godfrey
  4. The Early History of Belize by Silvia Pinzon BA, MLS and Ray Auxillou

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