THE GREAT CONFEDERATE MIGRATION TO BRITISH HONDURAS AND THE SEARCH FOR THE 'BELIZE HOTEL' OF THE MID 1800'S
According to the 1861 census, 25,635 citizens were residing in the colony of British Honduras at that time. Approximately 8000 people were living in the old capital, Belize City.
In 1866, approximately 7,000 new immigrants arrived from the Southern United States. As a consequence, this influx of new residents caused a shortage of dwellings for these new immigrants to live. At that time, old Belize City had only two hotels, one appropriately called ‘The Hotel’, owned by John Mckenzie, located at the corner of Orange Street and Water Lane according to the book ‘Confederate Settlement in British Honduras’ (I am not sure if this location is accurate because Orange Street and Water Lane does not intersect) and the very new ‘Belize Hotel’, owned by Joseph Brackman, located at the corner of Orange Street and Duck Lane.
Unlike the address of ‘The Hotel’, the address for the ‘Belize Hotel’ seems accurate because those two streets actually intersect. Because of the inaccuracy of ‘The Hotel’s’ address, it was difficult to see if this building could still exist. Assuming that the Water Lane address was accurate, the only other intersecting lane to Water Lane would have been Duck Lane. At the Water and Duck Lane intersection, I haven’t located any building that would be remotely old enough to be the remnants of ‘The Hotel’. One of the key characteristics of a building that would have been built as a hotel around that time would have been bricks. There are no buildings at this intersection made of bricks. Had it been constructed of wood, it would not have survived to tell its tales. History tells us though, that later on a Mr. W. S. Weir did build a hotel at the corner of Water and Duck lanes called ‘Southern Hotel’, and coincidentally, there is still a very large building owned by the Weirs at this corners, but this building seems to be constructed of concrete and seem to have been constructed at a much later period.
When it came to the ‘Belize Hotel’ where the streets that were given as its location actually intersect, it was easier to investigate to see if any building at any of the corners of this intersection could possibly be the ‘Belize Hotel’. Obviously, there would be up to four possible locations at this intersection. Anyone corner could be the location of the ‘Belize Hotel’. My investigation revealed that there is a very well maintained brick building at the North Western corner of Orange Street and Duck Lane (attached Photo). History tells us that any building constructed of bricks in downtown Belize City is likely to be very old and one of our Country’s historic assets. Brick buildings in downtown go as far back as 1812 (St. John’s Cathedral). How old could the building at the corner of Orange and Duck Lane be? Assuming that the current brick building was the ‘Belize Hotel’, the hotel would have already been in existence by the time the great Confederate Migration to British Honduras occurred (1866). Therefore, I would estimate that this building would have been built around the 1840’s to 1850’s and could be a 180 years old.
The need for rooms were in such a great demand that people were placing advertisement in the newspapers seeking boarding at private homes or anywhere they could find a room. Because of the demand, the sleepy little port was transformed into a boom town. Taverns and shops sprang up at every corner, all ready to attend to the needs of the new arrivals.
The demand was so great the three more hotels sprang up. The most expensive of the three, Southern Hotel and Restaurant was owned by Mr W. S. Weir. He charged a whopping $10.00 (B.H.) per week, board included, or $1.50 (B.H.) per day (as advertised on Sept 6th, 1867). The Southern Hotel’s biggest competition was The American Hotel, owned by Mrs A. Foote, a recent immigrant herself from St. Mary’s Parish, Louisiana. The American’s rates were a little better, they were at $9.00 per week and meals went for $.50 (as advertised on October 8th, 1867), a full $.25 less than at the Southern. It was interesting to see that a little competition was alive and well way back then. The third hotel was the Brewer’s Hotel also located on Orange Street. Brewer’s was owned by an “ex-Confed” from Wilcox County, Alabama. The prices of the Brewer’s Hotel is unknown since he did not advertise his rates in the newspaper; however, his hospitality was well known in the states as his customers frequently wrote about his hospitality in their letters sent home.
The current building at the North Western corner of Orange and Duck lane is one of four perfectly preserved brick buildings in downtown. The others are St. John's Cathedral, PKF building and the Channel Five building. Some other buildings that have portions made of bricks are: Pacheco Residence, DFC building by Welworth, Building at the rear of Price and Company, Mike's, Government House, Government House Carriage House, Sikaffey's, Welworth's Store and Eusey House.
Source: Confederate Settlement in British Honduras pages 48 and 49.
Communuties the ex Confederates settled was at Sittee River, Burrell Boom and and in Toledo Forest Home and Eldridge. I believe the Toledo settlement would have happened after 1866 mass migration. A lot of American Immigrants settled in Punta Gorda and area, and many of them returned to the U.S.
They moved to the Orange Walk district. Just as they move in they move out. The close relation that British Honduras (Blacks) and the white share was against what their beliefs were. Remember this was after the battle of St. George’s Caye.
The building at the corner of Orange St and Duck Lane (picture) is presently used for hair products store and storeroom.
The name "Toledo" came from a company called Young Toledo &Company that had huge land holdings in the Seven Hills area of the Toledo district. I believe Young Toledo &Company was British. According to the book Confederate Settlements in British Honduras they were helping out the early confederate settlers with lumber for their buildings. Because of this kind gesture the settlement was renamed the Toledo Settlement in honor of Mr. Philip Toledo of the company. It was called Hatch Colony before. Named after Christopher Hatch of Louisiana who selected the site.
The confederates were looking for a place to continue the practice of slavery as they did in the South. They took off because they didn't like the way slavery business was conducted in Belize.