The settlement of Betina was founded towards the end of the 15th century. The first houses were located in the area of today’s town center, next to the local harbour. The settlement has always been oriented towards the sea, and the needs of the inhabitants have shaped the coast. Soon after thefounding of the settlement, the local seafront was protected by building a rock wall to serve as a breakwater. The area of today’s town square and harbour has always been the center of Betina. The locals did not have an official name for the square, but they simply said they were “going to the seaside”.
Major works in the area began to be carried out from the mid-20th century, and the locals initiated many projects on their own. At the end of the Second World War, the roughlystacked stone of the old pier (stari mul) was reinforced by a concrete structure with built-in iron braces used to moor boats. Numerous voluntary projects were organized in the fifties and sixties. Three smaller houses located in the central square were demolished and a larger community building was built in their place. The old pier (stari mul) was extended and the main boat ramping area was filled in and turned into the town square. All the locals participated in the cementing and paving, and it is well known that every family in Betina who owned a boat had to bring ten boatloads of stone.
From the first settlements in the 14th and 15th century, the inhabitants of the island of Murter have been laborers, farmers and cattle breeders. By the second half of the 16th century, this relatively small island had already become overcrowded due to natural population growth. The overuse of agricultural land on the island forced the residents to start cultivating lands on nearby islands, islets and the mainland, so over the centuries they became owners of the lands all across the wider area. Today, the Murter-Betina estates include the Kornati islands, the islands of the Tkon archipelago, part of Modrave to Biograd, part of Makirina, Ivinj, Oštrica, Dubrava and Dazlina, while on the mainland they extend over the Vrana Lake all the way to Stankovci.
Buying land brought along a greater need for boats – almost every family depended on a boat. In addition to visiting estates, the boat was used to go to the cities of Šibenik and Zadar for administrative purposes, but also to sell produce or buy supplies. The laborers of Betina were known for produce from their gardens, which they sold on the nearby islands and the mainland. Unlike the conventional understanding of islanders, people from Murter and Betina were neither fishermen nor sailors, but farmers and cattle breeders, and only incidentally they fished on the way to their lands. In their boats they carried families, livestock, farming tools, vines and olives, food and various supplies, produce, grass, construction material and everything else they needed.
The inhabitants of Betina and Murter were oriented primarily towards the land. Besides vines and olives, on their island they grew various vegetable crops they sold in the wider area of the Adriatic coast. On their estates outside the Murter island they bred sheep and grew olives, vines and figs.
Boats were vital assets to access island estates. Less fortunate people who didn’t have one depended on the good will of others. They made daily trips to the closer estates, but the ones on the Kornati islands were visited for a longer period. In their boats they carried family members, donkeys, goats, sheep, tools, produce and various supplies.
The people from Betina are known for harvesting shellfish. At times their food included more shellfish than fish. The channel between the island of Murter and the mainland used to be rich in mussels which were harvested with tools such as brganja, korotajnik and losnar, either from the boat or with bare hands along the shore at low tide. The best known species of shellfish harvested in the surrounding sea was kunjka (hairy mussel), and then korotani (noah’s ark shell), prsurice, losture (noble pen shell) and other.
In the past, blacksmithing was quite advanced in Betina. Besides cooperating with the shipbuilders, blacksmiths manufactured a broad range of items used in households, agriculture and fisheries. The Betina blacksmiths sold their products from Zadar to Trogir. They were paid in cash, work, wine, oil and numerous other ways. There were five blacksmith’s shops in Betina at the beginning of the 20th century. Three of them were own by the Filipi family and two by the Žurić family. With the introduction of machines to the Betina shipyard, from the mid-20th century, the number of blacksmiths began to decrease and masters of other professions took over the production of forged items. Furthermore, the availability of factory-made items took a big toll on blacksmithing.