Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Greytown

GREYTOWN, or more correctly San Juan del Norte, a small town of Nicaragua, worthy of note as the only port of the republic on the coast of the Atlantic and as the eastern terminus proposed for the Nicaraguan iriter-oceanic canal. According to the survey of Commanders Hatfield and Lull, U.S.N., in 1872-3, the church is situated in 10 55 14* N. lat. and 83 42 18" W. long. The town lies along the seaward side of a narrow peninsula formed by che windings of the San Juan river, and most of its build ings are insignificant erections raised 2 or 3 feet on piles. Though it is still a port of call for mail steamers, and monopolizes the export and import trade of Nicaragua, Greytown is in a decadent condition. Its fine harbour has become almost useless. Between 1832 and 1848 the Arenas Point, which formed one of its boundaries, ad vanced westward nearly a nautical mile, and now the whole seaward frontage of the bay is a moving sand-bank. In 1853 the channel of entrance was still about one-third of a mile in width and had 23 to 25 feet of water in the bar, so that even vessels of war were able to take shelter within the harbour; but by 1801 the channel was only 100 yards wide and 12 feet deep, and in 1875 the passage was sometimes practically closed, with at the most only 5 feet of water. The inhabitants of the town, however, have increased from 955 in 1863 to about 1200 in 1875. As the vicinity of their town is unfitted for agriculture, they are almost entirely dependent for provisions on supplies from the interior or abroad, and sometimes the commonest articles of consumption are exceedingly scarce. In terms of the treaty of 1860 trial by jury is maintained in all civil and criminal cases, and there is perfect freedom of religious worship, both private and public. The seventh article, however, by which Greytown was to re main a free port has become a dead letter. A duty of 5 per cent, was allowed by the merchants on all imports consumed in the place in order to provide means for con structing a lighthouse ; and in 1863 the central Govern ment of the republic imposed another 5 per cent., so that all goods really pay 10 per cent, ad valorem. The imports in 1875 and 1876 respectively were 25,350 and 105,000, and the exports 60,500 and 145,000.

The harbour of San Juan, first discovered by Columbus, was

brought into further notice by Captain Diego Machuca, who in 1529 sailed down the river from the Lake of 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. The patriots of Nicaragua seized the place at the revolution, but they were expelled in January 1848 by the British, who, claiming the district in name of the " king of the Mosquito Indians," continued in possession till the treaty of 1860.

In 1854 the town was bombarded by the United States forces for an alleged insult.