Thatch baskets, beach rocks, white sand, a bit of ingenuity and hard labor were the ingredients that made Bodden Town Road years ago.
Founded in the 1700s, Bodden Town was named after William Bodden, a government leader and former chief magistrate. Mr. Bodden resided in the town during his tenure from 1798-1823.
According to the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, there was no road between Bodden Town, the former capital, and East End until 1935.
What’s so special about Bodden Town Road? A group of men from the district built the first road while driving off swarms of mosquitoes.
”Practically every able-bodied man that could work in the district at the time worked on the Bodden Town road, especially coming into Christmastime,” said 79-year-old resident Neville McCoy.
“That’s the only place we could get a job,” he added.
Before that, he said it was just a dirt track of red mold.
Mr. McCoy recalls working alongside friends and neighbors, including Freddie Watler, Cedric Levy, James Wood, Cardinal Carter, Alfred Solomon, Samuel Foster, Luis and Lorenzo Berry, Royal Frederick and other men in the community on a later phase to upgrade the road.
He said it was the early ‘40s to late ‘50s when William McCoy was the foreman in charge of upgrading the road using a “packing method.” The only equipment the men had to work with was a few rakes, a few hand tools, some shovels and thatch baskets to carry the rocks.
The men used shovels to fill two public works trucks driven by Halsey Watler and Elias Habib with white sand. The rocks were smashed and placed in the holes, then hammered into place and covered with white sand.
“It was just wide enough for one car. If two vehicles met on the road, the other one had to find somewhere to back into until the other one passed,” Mr. McCoy said.
He also said there were three vehicles in the district of Bodden Town at the time, owned by Logan Bodden, Harding Watler and Clifton Hunter.
Government paid each man 9 pence a day.
“That could get a lot those days – flour, sugar, salt, beef, fish, and still at the end of the week, there was a couple shilling left to play around with,” Mr. McCoy said. “It was challenging work those days; we had to do everything by hand.”
Business development along Bodden Town Road was sparse. Logan Bodden’s Shop was near the Gun Square cannons, Biddle Shop was close to Mostyn’s Esso gas station and Anton Bodden’s Shop was just before the corner of Manse Road. An old Chapel Church was also in the vicinity.
“All along Bodden Town coastal road were boat sheds,” Mr. McCoy said. “From Ashford Minzett house in Manse Road to Pease Bay was nothing but dories lining the beach … every man in the district had a little boat.”
As government finances grew, so did roadwork. Government enlisted a company from the Bahamas to widen the road with heavy equipment and pressed it with marl. Then in the ‘70s, as the island started to progress and more vehicles started traveling the Bodden Town route, the road was paved with asphalt.
The original Bodden Town Road has been re-routed in some places, said Freddie Watler. Pieces of the original road ran around the back of the Bodden Town Cemetery, continued passed William Wood’s house by Pease Bay, and made its way back to the existing road on “Goat Hill” or “Big Bluff, an area known today as Moon Bay.
Other Bodden Town roads
Monument Road is located across from the Bodden Town’s Coe Wood Public Beach. Before that it was known by locals as “Sundial Road.”
A sundial is a device that tells the time of day, when there is sunlight, by using the position of the sun in the sky.
In later years, a concrete slab was erected at the entrance by residents to commemorate Queen Victoria, and a small cemetery behind the monument bears witness to the presence of the Wood clan, a prominent local family in the district.
Mijall Road, down Monument Road, was home to the Lawrence Wood chicken farm years ago. When it was time for slaughtering, the women and some children of Cumber Avenue would bag the freshly plucked birds to be taken to the George Town market. Mr. Lawrence supplied the whole island with fresh local chicken meat.
He named Mijall Road after his wife and children – Mary, Iris, Jan, Ann, Lucy and Lawrence.
There is also an old stone wall down Monument Road that is believed to have been constructed by slaves.
Mijall Road was purchased by James Lawrence, who constructed the road as an access to property on which he was building his home.
His wife Mary Lawrence said: “In the absence of present day heavy equipment, the rock ridge over which it runs had to be broken down by man power, using the old Caymanian “fire and water” method, and then pounded into a flat surface with a sledgehammer before being covered with sand.”
Gun Square is believed to be one of two historic defense points for the town – the other being the Guard House.
Two 18th century cannons pointing out to sea guard the opening of Gun Square.
Gun Square was named by residents in the area after they discovered a cannon in the sand. According to the National Trust, one of the cannons lay buried in the sand for many years, until around 1910 when four Bodden Town men – Henry Bodden, Procklington McCoy, Conwell Solomon and Thomas Tatum – dug it out and placed it in its original position at the eastern end of the square. The other cannon was found by men in the district.
There was a big uproar by residents when government wanted to change the name from Gun Square to Cannon Way.
A man living alongside Bodden Town Road by the name of Royal Frederick blew off one finger when checking to see if the cannon still worked. He placed a dynamite cap in the cannon hole, struck it was a nail and hammer and, voila, it fired and blew off his finger.
The men in the community called him “Thumpy” after that.
The road between the two cannons leads to the Bodden Town Mission House. Originally a single-story, wattle and daub building, the homestead was restored by the National Trust after Hurricane Ivan.
Harry McCoy Sr. Park is also located on Gun Square Road in Bodden Town. The site was founded in 2008 by Bodden Town residents Florence Wood, Betty Wood, Agnes McCoy and Ellen Eden. The park was named in memory of Harry McCoy Sr. Mr. McCoy, along with other men in the community, enlisted in the navy in Trinidad and fought in WWII.
The Nurse Josie Senior Centre, a traditional Caymanian cottage fitted out with furniture and fixings from times of old, is also located on Gun Square Road. Inside the house, visitors can view relics more than 100 years old and colorful artwork painted on the walls.
Spice Drive in Bodden Town was once known as Coto Ground and then Shamrock before it became Spice Drive.
Neville McCoy, one of the first settlers on Spice Drive, said he has not the faintest clue why it was called Spice Drive. All he remembers before the place became populated with homes was the huge amount of shamrock that grew in the area.
Today, Spice Drive is a sprawling community with residents keeping the area well maintained with lots of fruit and produce trees.
Louis Moncrieffe, a retired civil servant and former chief accountant, lived on this road. He was involved with the commencement of the Credit Union, along with six colleagues.
Safe, tranquil and full of culture, there are many exciting things to explore along Bodden Town Road, both old and new today.
With beautiful residential homes and historic properties, its atmosphere still maintains the appealing vibe of an authentic local town.