Our Characters

The 1890s accumulated a number of titles, among them the Belle Epoch, the Gay Nineties, and the Gilded Age. The Central American nation of Guatemala entered the decade in the control of General Lisandro Barillas and exited in the despotic clutches of dictator Estrada Cabrera.  Despite these bleak historical bookends the middle years between 1893 and 1897 were mainly bright and hopeful and matched the happy labels laid out in the opening of this paragraph.  Those interim years marked the election and presidency of General Jose Maria Reina Barrios and were characterized by high prices on the nation’s main export, coffee, and an influx of foreigners bringing wealth and ‘know-how.’ Bolstering the dreams of Guatemaltecos were the promise of a railroad project seeking to connect the Atlantic and Pacific.  Staged to draw the eyes of the world, the capital city was the site of the Exposicion Centro-Americana in 1897. It is to that period that we turn here by way of tracing the lives of seven ex patriot Estadounidenses (U.S. Citizens) who journeyed to Guatemala in search of opportunity and better lives.

General Pierce M.B. Young of Georgia, Minister Plenipotentiary to Guatemala and Honduras

Billy A. Clarke of Louisiana, African American Boxer and Entrepreneur

Reverend Edward Haymaker of Missouri, Presbyterian missionary and ethnographer

Francis Forrester-Brown of Tennessee, Mahogany Harvester

Juan W. Knight of Alabama, “The Negro King of Guatemala”

Henry Martyn Jones of Kansas, Adventurer and Contractor

Algeria Benton de Barrios of Louisiana, First Lady


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