In 1502 Columbus landed on this island on his fourth and final voyage of discovery and called it Isla de Los Pinos (Isle of Pines) although it already had a name, Guanaca, used by the natives that inhabited it. He was reportedly met by large dugout canoes carrying 25 Mayan Indians in each and was quickly welcomed ashore. Columbus found excellent water and noted that he had, “never tasted water of better quality.” The name Guanaca appears as early as 1511 on a map drawn by Peter Martyr but it later was corrupted by English pirates, privateers, and settlers and was pronounced Bonacca.
Upon gaining possession of the Bay Islands in 1893, the Honduran government made Guanaja the official name of the island. The Caracol people who call Guanaja home are mainly of European British-Caribbean descent. Caracol is a Spanish term that literally translates as conch, snail or shell and relates the people of the Bay Islands to their unique environment and their seafaring culture.
In 1838, Honduras claimed its independence and was no longer ruled as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Shortly thereafter, the island's very first Honduran owners, Henry Elmore Parchmon (1851 - 1926) and Esther Bush Parchmon (1814 - 1904), purchased Clark's Cay from the government.
They passed it down to their last remaining son, William Otetel Parchmon (1892 - 1976) who had been born on the Cay. Uncle Arthel, as he was called by family and friends, lived on the Cay his entire life. According to tales told to his great-granddaughter, Tanya Flores, he had gone out to Mr. Arnorld's barbershop for a haircut. On his way back, it began to rain and he began to hurry. Ultimately, that exertion would prove fatal causing a heart attack. He was 84 years, 8 months and 9 days old.
Uncle Arthel married Justina Irene Gomez (1900 - unknown), who had immigrated to Guanaja from Europe. According to the family lore, Justina was born in either Portugal or Spain. Her mother had died in childbirth and her father had been killed by a bull, so she and her two brothers were living with their godparents. When still very young, she was kidnapped by a boat captain and his wife, who could not have children of their own. Sadly, she never saw her brothers again, but the captain and his wife turned out to be caring adoptive parents, whose voyages eventually took them to Guanaja.
Uncle Arthel (Otetel) and Justina settled on the Cay where they raised chickens and grew their own provisions, and raised Mimi, Arthur, Harry, William and daughter Jessie "Verla" Parchmon Jeffries (1929 - 2008) who inherited the island. Jessie married Virgil Murphy Jeffries in 1944 and moved from the Cay to Bonacca to raise her family, including her daughter Linda and son Murphy and Eddy.
Tanya Flores, Linda's daughter, and granddaughter of Jessie, told us "My mother had very fond memories of Clark Cay. As a very young child, she and her brother, (my Uncle Murphy Jeffries), would get in a dory and paddle from Bonacca Town to Clark Cay to see Great-Grandma Justina and Great-Grandfather Otetel. Great-Grandfather Otetel also brought provisions grown on Clark's, such as cassava and bananas, to his family on Bonacca. My mother remembers being able to go out into the shallow and pick up conch shells as the tips of the shells would literally stick out of the top of the water. Those treasures of the sea are no longer so easily available. My mother and uncle would wake to the smell of their grandmother's flat jack bread and hot coffee. My uncle used to spear little lobsters. Gram would boil them and they would eat the lobsters with lime and pepper sauce."
Clark's Cay left possession of the family when Jessie and Virgil Jeffries sold the island and moved to Texas around 1963.
Our gratitude to Tanya Flores for sharing this rich family history with us! The island remembers...