History of the Cayman Islands
There is no record of pre-European settlement of the Cayman Islands. The three small specks in the Caribbean remained unknown until the morning of May 10, 1503, when a sailor on Christopher Columbus’s fourth and final voyage to the new world spotted two low lying islands whose surrounding waters were teeming with sea turtles. He called them “Las Tortugas.” The discoveries later renamed the Cayman Islands were a stopping point for the seafaring powers of Europe but were not settled until the 1700s.
Though settlement of Grand Cayman was underway by the 1730s, emigration to the Sister Islands did not begin until a full century later. Prior to settlement, the islands were known to, and used by turtle hunters and fishermen from Grand Cayman and Jamaica. Lured by available land and abundant fishing, early Sister Islanders came largely from a small handful of families, making the eighty-odd mile trip from Grand Cayman in open canoes.
England took formal control of the Cayman Islands as a result of the Treaty of Madrid in 1670. The Islands were governed as part of the colony of Jamaica until 1962 when they became a separate Crown Colony and Jamaica became an independent commonwealth. The Cayman Islands remain a Crown Colony to this day with the Governor appointed by the British Parliament.