Spoiler Alert! I describe on this page the basic plot of Anne Jennings Brown's book, "Roatan Odyssey." 

 

Above:  Port Royal harbor on Roatan, including several places described in the book, "Roatan Odyssey."  Use the tools in the upper-left corner to zoom in/out or change the basemap.

 

The Port Royal Saga

After my parents left Roatan in 1968, Anne and Howard Jennings continued developing their land while Anne battled through an increasingly-unsettled marriage.  A few months after my parents left, the Jennings sold their house to an American and shortly afterwards they built two more Tudor-style houses nearby, one of which they moved into.  This house, on a site occupied by the British Fort Frederick in the 1700s, would be the main locale for Anne's book "Roatan Odyssey" (the site is now known as Jennings Point).  The two other houses – including the one my parents had visited in 1968 – were never occupied much for various reasons, and within a few years they were gone, demolished by hurricanes.  But at one time, from 1969 until about 1971, there were three, white Tudor houses here, sitting on the bluff above the shores of Port Royal harbor.

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Above:  Anne's drawing of Oak Ridge lagoon around 1900.  This one is similar to the dozens of her drawings of Roatan that she included in her book, "Roatan Odyssey."

While all this construction work was going on, Anne's relationship with Howard, as she describes in "Roatan Odyssey," continued to unravel.  A year after my parents visited Roatan, in 1969, Anne's increasingly-violent husband got angry with her one day and tried to kill her, so she ran out of the house and hid in the hills for many hours cowering behind some trees while Howard, clutching a loaded pistol, frantically searched for her (but thankfully to no avail).  Things calmed down a bit but then, in 1970, Howard was deported from Honduras for murdering a man in Peru five years earlier after finding some Inca gold, shortly before he met his future-wife, Anne.  Howard, now permanently barred from Honduras, went back to America while Anne, who had enough of him by then, sold their motorboat, bought a plane ticket, and returned to England, hoping to never see him again.  With no money or prospects and too embarrassed to ask for help, however, she led an impoverished life there.  Howard tracked Anne down in London six months later and, with the promise of riches (as well as the title to their Fort Frederick house in Roatan), convinced her to join him on a slap-dash expedition to Ecuador to search for the Inca’s fabled “Lost City of Gold."  She looked at her meager bank account and, despite knowing his violent temper, agreed to go with him.  In her book, she admitted it was mistake.  In fact, she admitted to a lot of mistakes she made with him, mostly in the hopes of patching up their rocky marriage.

Howard and Anne traveled to Ecuador in the spring of 1971 and began searching for the lost riches, and up in the jungle hills they made a small discovery of gold (which was documented in several magazine articles afterwards).  But following a similar pattern throughout his life, Howard quickly grew covetous of the find and tried to murder Anne, not wanting to share the wealth with her.  She fought him off, breaking his trigger finger in the process and grabbing his gun, then she left Ecuador and fled back to England, where she worked for a few years, deeply shaken by her experience and living in constant fear of her husband.  The title of the Fort Frederick house was still in her name though, so in 1974, and needing money, Anne decided to return to Roatan where Howard was persona non grata.  She planned to fix up her house and sell it, which she thought would take only a short time, then return to England.  Her house had fallen into disrepair, however, being unoccupied for three years, and it needed a great deal of work, so she stayed in Roatan until 1976.  During those two years in Port Royal, Anne supplemented her meager and dwindling funds by using her artistic skills, drawing several historic maps of the island that were printed and sold to tourists, and which I believe are still in print.  Of course, when I read this I instantly felt a kinship with Anne, being a geographer – no, the Extreme Geographer! – who has many framed historic maps covering the walls of my house, including two 1775 British maps of Roatan.   

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Above:  Port Royal harbor in the early 1970s.  My parent's property is shown in red.  By this time, Anne and Howard had moved out of their first house, the Roatan Lodge, and into the "Fort Frederick" house at Jennings Point.

She initially planned to sell her house in Roatan and return to England as quickly as possible.  However, she gradually grew to love Port Royal harbor while living a reflective life there and taking refuge from her volatile husband.  It was similar, I thought, to how pirates had taken refuge in Port Royal 300 years earlier, albeit from the British Navy. 

Anne wanted to live quietly in Port Royal while rebuilding her house (and her life), but the events of those two years proved to be harrowing:  she almost drowned in a small boat during a gale, fought off a rapist while living alone in her remote house, was unjustly arrested and almost thrown in prison, dealt with the murders of several friends, was poisoned, and almost died of malaria (just your typical stuff!  It reminded me of some of my Dad's adventures).  Anne wasn’t alone however, because she claimed that the spirit of a long-lost Dutch pirate who had once sailed the waters of Port Royal, named Jansen Moller, occasionally visited her, giving her sage advice and looking after her, just as locals for centuries had claimed to occasionally see pirate spirits in Port Royal harbor.  She knew such spirit stories would raise eyebrows and cause readers to doubt her sanity and credibility, but in her well-written and engaging book, she claimed the visits – as well as the other incredible travails that she overcame – really did happen.

After the book's conclusion, as I learned on the Internet, Anne returned to England in 1976 and remarried, and she remained married to her third husband for the rest of her life.  In her 50s, Anne began volunteering at an art institute in Tibet while helping local artists there for several months each year, and she died in 2014 at the age of 82, very much loved.  From what I understand, Anne was a caring, resourceful, gracious and spirited person who liked – and was liked by – almost everyone she knew, very different from her abrasive former husband, Howard.  Oh yes, about Howard:  He lived his own adventures after Anne fled from him in Ecuador in 1971 and died in a jet crash in Yugoslavia in 1976 while heading to Turkey to hunt for treasure, the largest plane crash in history up until that time with the loss of 176 lives (he was the lone American on board).

Incidentally, Anne told a dark story in her book about her husband that could have easily happened to my parents.  In 1969, a year after my parents bought their land from him, Howard got into a boundary dispute at Port Royal with a neighbor who owned 22 acres of land, but rather than settle it, Howard decided to take revenge.  After a little palm-greasing with government officials, he was able to temporarily acquire title to the 22 acres of land, which he then sold to friends of Anne’s from England, an older couple who wanted to move to Port Royal and had staked most of their life’s savings into the property.  After they moved to Port Royal, however, they learned that their title was invalid, but it was too late because they had already paid Howard their money (this is why you use Title companies).  Howard was suddenly a rich man while they had lost their life’s savings, so they returned to England where the husband was so depressed that he took his own life, and then his wife did the same shortly afterwards.  That was the kind of person my Mom and Dad had unknowingly dealt with in Howard Jennings, and he could've easily tried to cheat them, as well.  But thankfully, all of my parents' memories of Honduras were pleasant ones.  Perhaps Anne's pirate spirits were looking out for them, too? 

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Above:  The 2007 book by Anne Jennings Brown.

In Howard Jennings’ 1974 book “The Treasure Hunter,” which he wrote two years before he died, he tells a very different version of events than Anne describes in her book, “Roatan Odyssey” and, of course, one much more flattering to himself.  In fact, it’s almost a “he said, she said” situation.  Do I believe Anne’s incredible story?  There are certainly holes and questions:  she never mentioned my parents in her book, despite my Mom befriending her and my Dad being the first person to buy their subdivided land in Port Royal at a time when the Jennings desperately needed money (something I figured Anne would've written about); Anne kept going back to Howard despite his abusive nature; she was a well-reared socialite and yet, apparently, had no money or friends to help; Anne's escape in Ecuador from Howard, who pulled a gun on her, seems implausible; and of course, those provocative stories about her protective pirate spirit, Moller.  Nevertheless, and considering my parents’ warm relationship with Anne Jennings and my Dad’s poor opinion of the sketchy Howard, yes, I do believe her.  Very much so.

After learning this wild story in 2019 about Howard and Anne Jennings, from reading Anne’s book and from my Internet research, I was utterly fascinated, just as I had been fascinated in 1968 when my Mom and Dad returned from their trip to Roatan with their exciting tales of colorful pirates and buried treasure.  Looking through my parents’ many pictures from that pleasant visit, it frightened me to think of how their lives had once intertwined with Howard.  What if my parents had found pirate gold in Honduras during one of their digs with Howard?  Would he have swindled them – or worse, as he did with the fellow in Peru or with Anne in Ecuador?  It was disquieting to learn about the Jennings' story, before and after my parents visited them in Honduras in 1968 and I'm still shaken by it, although that unsettled feeling is tempered by my admiration of Anne and her courageous story of resilience, endurance, and survival.  I read through some online comments about Anne's book while researching this story, a few of which criticized her in a dismissive way for staying with her abusive husband, Howard.  A similar thought, as I mentioned above, ran through my mind as I read "Roatan Odyssey."  But then I considered the era:  this was during the 1960s when women were much more financially-dependent on their husbands or boyfriends and it wasn't as easy then for women to leave an abusive relationship and get a decent-paying job to support themselves. 

Of course, I never met Anne Jennings but after learning her story, reading her sometimes-dark-and-yet-uplifting book, seeing how, in my Dad’s pictures, she had obviously been kind and helpful to my parents in Roatan, and learning how she had befriended my mother (not to mention the historic maps that she drew), I somehow felt close to her and was saddened to learn of her passing. 

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Above:  Anne and Howard's first house in Roatan, called "Roatan Lodge," during my parents' visit in 1968.  A year later they sold it and built a larger Tudor house a hundred yards to the south, called Fort Frederick.  Today nothing is left of either house except ruins. (Clickable version is below)

My Dad’s 1968 photo of Anne in the motorboat with my mother had intrigued me for years and indeed, in 2019, had triggered my decision to research my parent's visit to Honduras in the 1960s, not realizing what an incredible tale it would reveal.  But now that I knew this woman's story, I understood the sadness in her eyes, having to deal with an abusive and violent husband but unwilling or unable to say anything.  It struck me how a single photo (plus a little Internet sleuthing) can open your eyes to a totally different world and can so deeply affect how you view a chapter of your past.  Their story also made me realize how little, sometimes, we really know about those who are near us.  I'm sure my parents, during their visit, had no idea of the turmoil that Anne Jennings was enduring or of the sinister character of her husband, Howard.  If they had, I know they would've helped her.

Totally oblivious to all this drama with the Jennings, my Mom, Dad, Don Jr. and Dave had a wonderful time in Roatan during that spring trip in 1968.  Dad went back to Roatan a few times in the 1970s to do some diving, and I think my Mom joined him once or twice, but no one else in the family ever returned.  I never visited their property, or even Honduras (although I did travel to neighboring Belize several times in the 2000's to do volunteer work, which I described on my travel website, DelsJourney.com).  The Jennings’ once-magnificent Tudor home in Port Royal that my parents visited in 1968 fell into disrepair after the Jennings sold it, then several hurricanes rolled through the area and today nothing is left of it except a concrete foundation.  Anne was never able to sell her house at Fort Frederick and had it demolished in 1979 after she returned to England and so there is nothing left of it, either.  And the rugged waterfront property which my parents bought in 1968 was never developed.  In fact, virtually every element of this story has quietly faded back into the jungle, and almost everyone involved with it is now gone.  Nevertheless, my parent’s Roatan property had been a fascinating backdrop for yet another interesting Leu family adventure.

 

"Past, present and future were all there in the room with me, and it seemed the empty house was ready to return to the harbour once more.  It would disappear as I would disappear, a moment in the endless procession of time."

- Anne Jennings Brown concluding "Roatan Odyssey" 

 

My Parents' 1968 Photos of Port Royal, Roatan

 

Further Information & Links

  • You can buy Anne Jennings Brown's book, "Roatan Odyssey" through various booksellers.  The printed version is expensive but you can buy a Kindle version ($9.00) from Amazon here.
  • A tribute page to Anne, from friends in Tibet, is posted here.  This is the page with Anne's photo from 2011 that I discovered during my Internet research and allowed me to match her with the pictures of Roatan taken by my Dad over 40 years earlier, in 1968.  It's a touching tribute.
  • Anne wrote an interesting article in 2011 for a Roatan website describing the history of white settlement in Roatan and Port Royal.
  • This site, by Penelope Leigh, has several recent photos of the ruins of Anne's house at Fort Frederick in Port Royal harbor.  How quickly the house has disappeared.
  • Here's an article about Anne by a scuba diver who stumbled across Anne's book and sent her a note a few years before she died.

 

Timeline of Events

I put this timeline together after reading "Roatan Odyssey" and doing some Internet research:

 

1966

  •  Fall - Winter:  Anne Jennings meets an American, Howard Jennings, in England.  They decide to marry.

1967

  • February:  Anne and Howard move to Roatan.  They begin building their first house (later to be called the Roatan Lodge).
  • March:  My Dad visits Roatan for the first time and meets Howard and Anne.

1968

  • Spring:  My parents visit Port Royal with the Michigan State group and buy Howard's first subdivision plot of land, 10 acres.  Howard and Anne finish the Roatan Lodge.  
  • Summer:  Thayne Muller, an American, visits Roatan and buys land just south of Roatan Lodge.  Anne Jennings starts designing his house.
  • Fall:  Bob Smith, an American, visits Port Royal and agrees to buy Roatan Lodge.  A week later, Thayne arrives and the Jennings begin building his house.
  • Fall:  In Oak Ridge, the boat-builder Mel is killed by his young wife, Margarita.  Merlee, who loved him, dies of heartbreak a month later and is buried next to Mel in the Oak Ridge cemetery.  The Happy Landing bar closes for many years.

1969

  • January:  Howard Jennings finalizes the sale of the Roatan Lodge to Bob Smith, then Howard and Anne start building Thayne's house.  After Thayne's house is partly-built, the Jennings move out of the Roatan Lodge and into Thayne's house.
  • Spring:  The Jennings begin building the third and final house, Fort Frederick.
  • Summer:  The Jennings finish Thayne's house and move into the shell of Fort Frederick.
  • August:  Anne's friends, Honor and Peter, visit and decide to buy the Redoubt area.  They are later swindled by Howard.
  • September:  Hurricane Francelia hits Roatan.  Thayne's house is mostly destroyed but he begins rebuilding.  There is major damage to Roatan Lodge and over the next few years, it falls into disuse and disrepair.

1970

  • Spring:  Howard is deported from Honduras and returns to the U.S.

1971

  • January:  Anne sells the motorboat, closes up the Fort Frederick house and returns to England, where she gets a temporary job.
  • May:  Anne and Howard's ill-fated expedition to search for Inca gold in Ecuador.
  • June:  Anne returns to England and works as an interior decorator for three years.
  • Summer:  Thayne dies in a plane crash in the U.S.

1974

  • November:  Anne returns to Roatan to repair and sell her house at Fort Frederick.  The Roatan Lodge and Thayne's house, by this time, have been demolished.

1976

  • September:  Howard Jennings dies in a plane crash in Yugoslavia.
  • November:  Anne leaves Port Royal for the last time and moves back to England.

1979

  • Anne has the house at Fort Frederick demolished.

1980s

  • Anne begins visiting Tibet and doing volunteer work there.

2014

  • Anne Jennings Brown dies at age 82.

 


 

 
 
 
 

 

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