Greytown - Encyclopedia

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GREYTOWN (SAN JUAN DEL NORTE), the principal seaport on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, in the extreme south-eastern corner of the republic, and at the mouth of the northern channel of the San Juan river delta. Pop. (1905) about 2500. The town occupies the seaward side of a narrow peninsula, formed by the windings of the river. Most of its houses are raised on piles 2 or 3 ft. above the ground. The neighbourhood is unhealthy and unsuited for agriculture, so that almost all food-stuffs must be imported, and the cost of living is high. Greytown has suffered severely from the accumulation of sand in its once fine harbour. Between 1832 and 1848 Point Arenas, the seaward end of the peninsula, was enlarged by a sandbank more than m. long; between 1850 and 1875 the depth of water over the bar decreased from about 25 ft. to 5 ft., and the entrance channel, which had been nearly Zm. wide, was almost closed. Subsequent attempts to improve the harbour by dredging and building, jetties have only had partial success; but Greytown remains the headquarters of Nicaraguan commerce with Europe and eastern America. The village called America, i m. N., was built as the eastern terminus of a proposed interoceanic canal.

The harbour of San Juan, discovered by Columbus, was brought into further notice by Captain Diego Machuca, who in 1529 sailed down the river from Lake Nicaragua. The date of the first Spanish settlement on the spot is not known, but in the 17th century there were fortifications at the mouth of the river. In 1796 San Juan was made a port of entry by royal charter,, and new defences were erected in 1821. In virtue of the protectorate claimed by Great Britain over the Mosquito Coast (q.v.), the Mosquito Indians, aided by a British force, seized the town in 1848 and occupied it until 1860, when Great Britain. ceded its protectorate to Nicaragua by the treaty of Managua. This treaty secured religious liberty and trial by jury for all civil and criminal charges in Greytown; its seventh article declared the port free, but was never enforced.

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