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The Bahamas

A Brief History

Documented history records that in the Ninth Century, the first settlers in the Bahamas were the island people, or "Lukku-cairi", who made their way from South America, by way of the Caribbean. Christopher Columbus, named these people Indians, when he discovered San Salvador in the fifteenth century. The people were also known through the centuries as "Lucayans", and "Arawaks."  Religious English settlers landed in Eleuthera in the mid-seventeenth century (1647), and on forming the first British colony, became prosperous farming the land.

Britain claimed the islands in 1670, along with the problem of piracy, which was endemic, with such characters as Blackbeard, Henry Morgan, and Anne Bonney, plying their trade until 1718, when the first governor, Woodes Rogers, drove them out. Only to be replaced by privateering, which was effectively government sponsored piracy, during Britain's war with Spain.

In 1782, during the American Revolution, Spain captured the Bahamas, but only briefly until the Treaty of Versailles, when the Islands, once more became a British colony.

The Bahamas' checkered history continued throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with entrepeneurial runners transporting cotton and military equipment during the American Civil War, and rum-running during the Prohibition years of the Roaring Twenties.

A period of economic hard times followed until the end of the Second World War, when the Bahamas became a popular tourist destination.  The Islands became self governing in 1964, obtaining Commonwealth status in 1969 and independent in 1973.


The Bahamas consists of about 700 islands covering 100,000 sq miles of ocean. They start approximately 75 miles east of Florida, and stretch 750 miles south to the Ragged Islands off the coast of Cuba. The land mass is approximately 7,500 square miles only, with most islands being surrounded by coral reefs.  The Islands tend to become less vegetated the further south they extend, and in many places cactus is the dominant form of plant life. In the northern and western islands, there is more conventional vegetation with many Palm forests, palmetto and cabbage palm, Mangroves are present on many islands.

Political and Economic

The Bahamas has become a favorite for international investment, and of particular attraction is the tax-free economy, where there are also no taxes on corporate earnings, or capital gains. The Government also looks favorably upon projects that will provide revenue to the Islands, and streamlines the process to approve this type of activity, especially in the areas of finance, tourism, insurance, shipping and manufacturing. There are a number of experienced law firms in Nassau. The Bahamian dollar is pegged on a one for one basis with the US dollar.

Source: Bahamas Media Handbook (1999)


The people who were living in the Bahamas when Columbus arrived are known today as Lucayans, which has been translated as 'island men'. The Lucayans share a common ancestry with the Taino societies of Puerto Rico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Jamaica, from whom they separated about AD 600 when they began to colonise the Bahamas. By 1492 they had settled all of the larger Bahamian islands as well as many of the smaller cays. The origins of the Tainos are traced to the banks of the Orinoco River valley in Venezuela.

There may have been as many as 50,000 Lucayans living in the Bahamas at the time of Columbus. But within about two decades they were destroyed by disease, violence and forced labour. The notes in Columbus' log are today the only known eyewitness account we have of these original Bahamians. To put together our knowledge of the Lucayans is still like completing a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing. Although, there are at least 20 Arawak words and their derivatives in the modern English dictionary -- including avocado, barbecue, buccaneer, canoe, Carib, cannibal, cassava, cay, guava, hammock, hurricane, iguana, maize, manatee, potato and tobacco -- the Arawaks had no written language. In 1983, archaeologists discovered Spanish artifacts at Long Bay, San Salvador, just yards from a beach monument to the landfall. These included glass beads, belt buckles, metal spikes and Spanish crockery mixed with Arawak artifacts. The Spanish beads were made between 1490 to 1560.Columbus arrived on San Salvador in 1492 and 1520 depopulated the island. In order to befriend the natives, Columbus distributed trinkets. To him and his men these items were of almost no value. To the Tainos, however, the Spaniard's baubles and beads were rich with magical, supernatural significance, objects validating the belief that the newcomers were otherwordly.

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Sometime between 1646 and 1648, a group left Bermuda for the uninhabited Bahamas. They Sometime between 1646 and 1648, a group left Bermuda for the uninhabited Bahamas. They named the island they landed on Eleutheria, the Greek word for freedom. This Company of Eleutherian Adventurers included Captain William Sayle and 70 others from Bermuda and England.

What follows is the only

contemporary account of their arrival in the Bahamas:

"On the way to Eleuthera, one Captain Butler, a young man who came in the ship from England, made use of his liberty to disturb all the company. He could not endure any ordinances or worship and when they arrived at one of the Eleutheran Islands, and were intended there to settle, he made such a faction, as enforced captain Sayle to remove to another island, and being near the harbour, the ship struck and was cast away. The persons were all saved, save one, but all their provisions and goods were lost, so as they were forced (for diverse months) to lie in the open air, and to feed upon such fruits and wild creatures as the island afforded."

Sayle's claim to the Bahamas lasted for only 20 years. In 1670, after the restoration of the monarchy following the English civil war, the islands were awarded to a group of Royalist supporters known as the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas. These nobles controlled the colony from London until King George 1 introduced direct royal government in 1718 in the person of Governor Woodes Rogers.

The assumption of Crown control was a gradual process, and the surrender of proprietary interest was even more gradual and was not completed until 1787. An Assembly was called in Nassau on September 29, 1729, marking the official beginning of continuous constitutional rule. Today's Bahamian Parliament is the direct descendant of this citizens' assembly.

Woodes Rogers and the Pirates of Nassau
By Stephen B. Aranha

Whereas the short overview given by the Department of Archives on Woodes Rogers reads like a straightforward success story, he did in fact face many setbacks in his attempts to rid The Bahamas of pirates and revive the colony's economy by giving it a civilised, peaceful framework.

Prior to his appointment as Governor of The Bahamas, Rogers earned his claim to fame as a privateer, when his fellow Bristol merchants placed him in command of two ships – the 350-ton Duke and the 260-ton Duchess, both equipped with 36 guns each – and 333 men. Officially fighting against pirates, he was very much involved in the continual skirmishes between the British and the Spaniards at the time. The latter considered Rogers a pirate himself.

Rogers' expedition was very successful, and he brought back great treasures to Britain - gold, guns, and other cargo. He also wrote a book titled A Cruising Voyage around the World. First published in 1712, and still in print today (ISBN 158976238X), this book made Rogers immortal in the world of literature because of his account of the rescue of one Alexander Selkirk, who had spent four and a half years on an uninhabited island, Juan Fernandez, in the Pacific Ocean, 400 miles west of Chile.

Selkirk's fate and Rogers' account of it inspired author Daniel Defoe to write the world-famous novel Robinson Crusoe (first published 1719). It is also said that both Rogers' and Defoe's books inspired Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels (first published 1726).

At the same time, The Bahamas, especially Nassau, was the home of numerous pirates, amongst them such infamous names as William Jennings, "Calico Jack" Rackham, Charles Vane and Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, and also the - arguably - most famous female pirate, Anne Bonney. They all posed a serious threat not only to Spanish and French but also British commerce in the region as well as to all peaceful settlers throughout The Bahamas.

To make matters worse, they offered the Jacobites support in ousting the House of Hanover from the British throne to reinstate the Catholic James III. The government in London had to act, and they sent Rogers to solve the crisis.

In July of 1718, Rogers arrived in The Bahamas with a small fleet of five ships. He was The Bahamas' first Royal Governor. His first term would last until 1721. He was indeed fairly successful in restoring order. It was then that the colony's motto, "Expulsis Piratis, Restituta Commercia," which is Latin for "Pirates expelled, Commerce Restored," was coined. It remained until independence in 1973, when the new motto, "Forward, Upward, Onward Together," was adopted.

However, Rogers was faced with many problems. Britain and Spain were at war, and although Rogers managed to defend New Providence against a small Spanish fleet – which nonetheless had the British outnumbered one to three – the threat remained and hung over the colony like the Sword of Damocles. Also, the British government and Rogers' partners in London did not support him sufficiently. In order to keep the civil services operational in Nassau, to keep his men fed, he eventually spent £11,000 of his own money, buying supplies mainly from North America.

In 1721 Governor Rogers travelled to England to petition to the Lords of the Treasury, but met no support. Some time later, he was imprisoned as a debtor. George Phenney was appointed, and served as Governor until 1729. Phenney proved himself an able administrator, but his wife's ruthless, manipulative business conduct eventually brought about his downfall. Consequently, Phenney was not remembered as one of the colony's great Governors. In 1729 Woodes Rogers returned to The Bahamas to replace him.

After his arrival, Rogers immediately busied himself with the organisation of elections, which were held September 15-20, 1729. This Assembly marked an important milestone in the history of our country, mainly because of its new, "official" status, but there have been similar bodies formed by the colonists ever since they first arrived in 1648. Despite having been created by Rogers, the Assembly would overshadow his governorship. The Speaker, John Colebrook of Nassau, abused his powers to steer a course of opposition against the Governor because of a personal animosity against Rogers, who, Colebrook believed, had spoilt a business opportunity of his, namely to establish a free port in Nassau under the protection of the Austrian Empire.

Rogers believed that some of these problems could be overcome by continuing the transition of The Bahamas from a proprietary to a royal colony. Despite the fact that Woodes Rogers was the first Governor appointed solely by the Crown, we must not assume that this step completed the transformation, for this was a gradual process. Rogers himself had a proprietary interest in The Bahamas, and the Crown had always controlled Customs and has confirmed Governors since 1697. Yet The Bahamas would not become of full royal colony until 1787, when the proprietary interest was finally fully surrendered.

Though the home government supported his initiative, and in fact undertook a very important step towards more royal control right away, Rogers would not live to see this transition, for he died in Nassau on July 15, 1732. Neither the cause of his death nor the location of his mortal remains are known today.

From all we know, Woodes Rogers was not a man whom his contemporaries felt much compassion for, though his conduct and reputation earned him respect and inspired obedience. Historian Michael Craton speculates "that he was inclined to be harsh and humourless ... He was a great believer in the efficacy of hard work, always an unpopular attitude in the Bahamas, and his remedy for discord was discipline. It was the attitude of the quarterdeck, and Woodes Rogers always remained a sea captain at heart."

By The Eleuthera Tourist Office

More than 350 years ago, English adventurers in search of religious freedom founded the Western World's first true seat of democracy and named it Eleuthera, the Greek word for freedom. Its settlers' fleeing persecution in Bermuda and England, called themselves the Eleutheran Adventurers. Time and circumstances would prove that tag more accurate than they ever expected.

Led by Captain William Sayle, the 70-member band of Adventurers first put ashore near Governor's Harbour. Disputes rose among the group, and Sayle and his faction headed off toward the northern part of the island by boat. Their boat foundered on the treacherous reefs and their supplies were lost. Many of them starved, but they made do, even living and worshipping in a cavern that is now known as Preacher's Cave.
Sayle journeyed to the US to find help to support his fledgling colony. The 'hard pressed' colonists in Virginia sent a shipment of supplies. As time progressed, many if not most, of the original Adventurers drifted away, but the commitment cut had had been made. This hilly, verdant isle became the "birthplace of the Bahamas," and eventually the most developed of the Family Islands.

Just over one mile wide, Eleuthera is more than 100 miles of magnificent pink-white beaches, sheltered coves, dramatic cliffs and incredible blue-green water. Here you can swim, snorkel and enjoy some of the finest diving anywhere, with exceptional dive facilities. Explore the steamship wreck off North Eleuthera and the unusual train wreck, the site of a barge, which sunk years ago, filled with train cars bound for Cuba.

Stop at Preacher's Cave where shipwrecked Eleutheran Adventurers once took refuge and held this island's first religious services. Taste the sweet and uniquely delicious Bahamian pineapples grown in Gregory Town. This settlement is also where Atlantic waves roll against the shore, providing some of the best surfing in the Atlantic Ocean. Between North Eleuthera and Gregory Town, you'll find the Glass Window Bridge. This is one of the few places where you can compare the Atlantic with its rich blue waters on one side of the road, to the calm green waters of the Caribbean on the other side, separated by a strip of rock Just wide enough to drive a car through safely.

Harbour Island
As you approach Harbour Island (or Briland, as residents know it), you'll see a quaint little village whose houses reach down to the shore. Only three miles long and a half-mile wide, the first settlement on this island was founded before the United States was a nation. Its resourceful residents made their way in the world as skilled shipbuilders and farmers. While the island itself has little at-able soil, Harbour Islanders were given land to firm oil the "mainland" (Eleuthera) 'in 1783. Much of that original grant is still being tilled by Brilanders today.

By the 1800s, Dunmore Town became a noted shipyard and sugar refinement center. That skill gave the Islanders all-important secondary industry rural. With the advent of Prohibition, Harbour Island became very popular indeed. Today the island's solid popularity is founded on its tropical island greenery stretching out to meet the warm, pink-hued sand beaches this island is famous for. Its intimate resorts,- and the warm Briland hospitality, housed in the quaint New England architecture of the island's Loyalist history, add to Nature's palette. Rows of century-old trees border narrow flower-lined streets. It is a sight not to be missed. You can choose from a number of Harbour-Island hotels offering tennis, fishing and diving.

Spanish Wells
A short water-taxi ride from North Eleuthera, is St. George's Cay and Spanish Wells, the quiet comer of the Bahamas. While the Eleutheran Adventurers were the first settlers of the Cay, it was the Spanish who first put on the map. The Spanish conquistadors designated it the final landing point before attempting the big crossing back to their homeland, loaded down whit the riches of the New World. It was here that they sunk a well to provide their ships with a final load of potable water for their arduous last leg of their journey. Like their Brilander brethren the residents of Spanish Wells are noted seamen and farmers. They also break ground to produce crops on the "'mainland."

Common Flowers of the Bahamas

Most of the archipelago of The Bahama Islands owe their color of flora to people rather than nature. When you see a lovely tree like the Pink Poui or Silk Cotton raising its blooms to the heavens or one like the Frangipani wafting fragrances over you on evening breezes, chances are about 1,000 to 1 that man planted and nursed it to bloom.

Tecoma Stans, stenolobium stans
Curve to Fort Charlotte
There are some plants however, which are dispersed by wind, water or animal (yellow elder, periwinkle, coconut, pawpaw, sot of the bush medicines) Sunshine seems to be captured in the bright golden bells of the National flower of The Bahamas - The Yellow Elder. These bushes and small trees grow up to 30 feet. The children of The Bahamas, Florida and Caribbean, call it "Plopper" because just before the blooms flare open, bag-like buds pop noisily if squeezed. Northern South America, Yellow Elders are completely naturalized in all Bahama Islands. These Beauties spring up almost like weeds forming wild thickets often on neglected land under adverse conditions.
Hibiscus rora-sinenesis
Almost every color imaginable of Hibiscus blooms in the Bahama Islands gardens all year around. Their showy flowers-particularly hybrids come in single and double types, which can be cut and left out of the water without wilting. All blooms last at least one day (and usually only one day) whether on the bush or cut and left out of water. The most popular colors are red and pink.
Adastra Gardens' gate
This plant is called Chenille. It has velvety tails of dark reddish-purple; fur or chenille like blooms may hang down as much as 18 inches from the green heart shaped leaves. Tassels are made up of flowers without petals, which are unbelievable until seen on these small bushes. Two common names for this plant are "Red Hot Cat-Tails" and "Monkey Tails".
Xaviers School yard
One of the more magnificent flowering trees found in The Bahamas is the Pink Poui. It blooms when only three feet tall on up to when it is sixty feet tall. When the blossoms fall, they lay a carpet of color on the ground.
Quite a number in the Golden Gates Food Store yard
The Red Bottle Bush tree has weeping willow type branches and are adorned with bristly cylindrical spikes two to four inches long of red flowers that look exactly like bristles used to clean baby bottles-except they are scarlet.
MORNING GLORY -BUSH The Morning Glory has large showy trumpet-shaped flowers that are rather flimsy in the wind. It is found everywhere and is commonly called Potato Bush or Potato Tree. Few people know its botanical name.
CREPE MYRTLE The Crepe Myrtle has light pink clusters four to nine inches long, which adorn bushes and trees of this plant family. It is believed that this plant came here originally from India or China.
THE OLEANDER The Oleander has clusters of pink, rose, red white tones between blooms at the end of tall shrubs-usually seven to ten feet. Although a member of the periwinkle family, all parts of the Oleander are poisonous if eaten. Smoke from burning Oleander bushes is also harmful.
ROYAL POINCIANA Poinciana Drive Government House The Royal Poinciana ignites the skies with flames of red in the summer months. Its scarlet long and clawed-petal blossoms measure three (3) to four (4) inches across and are touched with yellow and white. The seeds of the pod are used in the creation of native jewelry, while the unopened pods make a very effective musical instrument.
FRANGIPANI Fragrance plus beauty caused this small "FRANGIPANI" tree to be a favorite. The most popular places for planting this tree are near churches and cemeteries, hence it is commonly referred to by the name, "Temple Tree".
BOUGAINVILLAEA An incredibly colorful vine is the BOUGAINVILLAEA. It is probably the most wisely planted ornamental plant in the tropics. The vivid magentas, purples, red and salmons you see are not real flowers, but rather, comes from three (3) bracts, which surround tinny flowers. The texture of these bracts also gives them the name of "PAPER FLOWERS"
ORCHID TREE The corsage of the orchids seem to grow on trees when these come into profuse bloom and in fact, they are commonly referred to as "poor man's orchid".
Originally from Mexico
The Poinsettia is recognized universally as a symbol of Christmas. The flaming beauties bloom over a six (6) month period in protected areas.
PASSION FLOWER Passiflvra cucruba This is a climbing plant found over shrubs in a bush. The name is derived from the Lord's crucifixion; the three stigmas are said to represent the three nails and the corona, a crown of thorns. There are over three hundred species of the Passion Flower found in the Caribbean. Many are high climbers on vegetation.
Sailors button
This plant has many uses. In the treatment of Leukemia, because it is effective in killing the white blood cells. It is used for treatment of diabetes; this seems to come from Polynesia. When tried for diabetes in Jamaica for this purpose, however, it was found ineffective and its destruction of the white blood cells discovered.
IXORA FLAME OF THE WOODS This is an evergreen shrub, which can grow to tree size. It has 1 pin-wheel flowers with four to five lobes spreading out from long tubes. This tree is a relative of the coffee family and has the same glossy ring of leaves around the stem below the head. Leaves contrast with flowers and the berry-like fruit, makes it a very decorative plant. The berries from the tree are very tasty.

Notes compiled by Dr. Gail Saunders, Director of National Archives for the Women's Action Group Harbour Island, Bahamas - March 1986

Harbour Island was one of the earliest settlements in The Bahamas. It was probably settled by some of the "Eleutheran Adventurers" who settled in North Eleuthera in 1648. Harbour Island was named for "the goodness of the harbour". Life for the early settlers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was extremely harsh. The settlers lived barely above subsistence level, farming and fishing for a living.

By 1768, Harbour Island had a population of about 350, while Eleuthera contained about 400 persons. Many inhabitants lived by wrecking which was a means of survival for some Harbour Islanders. It was necessary for all wrecking vessels to take out licenses at Nassau. Licensese were granted by the Governor and gave privilege of affording assistance to vessels in distress of the Bahama Banks. The owners of the wrecking vessels received one third of the amount awarded for the salvage, and the other two-third were divided amongst the captains and crews. Wreckers, legend has it, often facilitated in making sure a vessel was spots and lured unsuspecting ships onto the reefs. Contrary, to belief, though, the Wreckers would often overlook the wrecked goods to save the lives of victims of the stricken ships.


Colonel Andrew Deveaux on his way to attack the Spaniards, who had occupied New Providence for a year (between 1782 and 1783), picked up a number of Harbour Islanders who assisted him in recapturing the capital. For their efforts, the Government granted the loyal Harbour Islanders about 600 acres of land on the mainland of Eleuthera, adjacent to Harbour Island. The descendants still enjoyed all the privileges of commonage, and the rights and responsibilities of joint ownership have been defined legally by an Act of the Legislature.

It seems that Dunmore Town, the chief settlement on Harbour Island, was not established until the Earl of Dunmore, Governor of The Bahamas between 1786-1797, laid it out and built a summer residence there. The Commissioner's residence built in the early 1920's now stands on the site of the Dunmore propert. Lord Dunmore took a lively interest in Harbour Island which during the nineteenth century, became second to New Providence, in population and prosperity.

Ships were at a premium in every era of Bahamian history. Transportation between the islands was imperative for trading purposes. The local sponging, pineapple, citrus and lumbering industries required efficient transportation.

A well-known Harbour Island ship was the Beatrice, which was launched at Harbour Island in 1908. It was built by Sonny Jenks Robers. A 360-ton three-masted schooner, it was built for the lumber trade and was sailed by another son of the main shipbuilder, Captain Lafayette Roberts. Harbour Islanders can boast of the largest ship ever to be built in the Bahamas. The Marie J. Thompson, a four-masted schooner, built by Sonny Jenks, was 696 tons in size and was launched in 1922.

During the early years of the twentieth century, conditions were generally depressed. Harbour Island, like Eleuthera and many other Out Islands, was losing its people to Nassau and Florida where they could earn higher wages. Brilanders who remained were involved primarily in farming. The pineapple and citrus industries were still alive but only on a small scale. Syrup was still being produced for local consumption. In 1912, for instance, the two sugar mills produced about 4,000 gallons of syrup in only a few weeks. Boat building was still a viable industry providing a number of jobs for carpenters and others. Large vessels also employed men as laborers on voyages to foreign ports like Miami. Shipping in fact brought money into circulation.

It was not until the early 1920's that Harbour Islanders began to be modernized. In 1923, for example, a radiotelegraph was installed. A year later, a water supply was installed at Dunmore Town. Tourism began on a small scale in the 1920s. Baron Bliss sponsored the development of "Bliss Channel" which facilitated excursions from Nassau into the Harbour Island harboUr. In 1924, there were 151 visitors to Dunmore Town.

The Second World War brought important changes to Harbour Island. Most significant was air transportation. In 1941, Bahamas Airways provided a weekly service for passengers during the winter. Greater numbers of visitors, mainly Americans, came to Harbour Island, and several bought property. In 1946, Dunmore Town boasted one jeep and two trucks. By 1953, Harbour Island had 12 motor cars. It still had at that time two carriages and two drays. The mail service had improved generally in the Out Islands. Most including Harbour Island by the later 1940's had motorized mail boats, which called weekly. An improved Mail Boat Service provided more reliable supplies of food, and farming became less necessary for survival. In post-war years, Bahamas Airways put on two weekly flights for summer and three weekly in winter. By 1949, the small but growing tourist industry had become the mainstay of the settlement. By that year, nineteen visitor's homes with accommodation for a dozen guests each, were in existence.

During the late 1940's and early '50's, Dunmore Town was further modernized. In 1949, electric lights were installed at the school, making it possible for social events and the occasional showing of a movie there. During the next year money was voted to assist in lighting the streets and in 1952 a sanitary inspector was appointed for Harbour Island, and a clinic maintained. In 1953 fire-fighting equipment was imported from England and the water supply system was again expanded and updated. While agricultural production declined, tourism and foreign investment grew and brought economic prosperity to Harbour Island. Today, Harbour Island is a favorite Out Island destination in the Bahamas.


St. John Anglican Church
Established in 1768, it is one of the oldest foundations in the Bahamas. The Bell Tower was erected in 1860. In 1888, the Sanctuary was added to the eastern end of the church as a memorial to Rev. J.H. Kingdom. At this time, St. John's was the largest of the Out Island churches. In 1893, it was overhauled and altered. A new vestry was added in the south-east corner.

The Methodist Church - 1840
The work of the Methodist Church on Harbour Island began in 1812. In 1815, the wealthiest person on the island joined the society and built a chapel called "Bethseda". The first Bahamian candidate for the Methodist Ministry was a convert from Harbour Island named Samuel Steward Johnson. In 1843 a new chapel was built to accommodate the growing congregation, and the Methodist Church had grown to 409 members, being the largest in the Bahamas District.

Blessed Sacarment Church
In 1922 the Sisters of Charity arrived on Harbour Island. Father Chrysostom had gone ahead to Harbour Island and purchased four pieces of property for a church, rectory, convent and school. Local prejudice made it difficult to buy a home for the sisters. When they arrived the convent was not ready. The sisters did not move into St. Vincent's Convent on Dunmore Street until the eve of the feast of St. Vincent de Paul. St. Vincent's Academy opened February 2nd 1922, as a combined school-chapel building with sixteen white pupils. St. Benedict's School served the black population.

The Commissioner's Residence
Built in the early 1920's on the site of Royal Governor Lord Dunmore's House, which the Earl had used as a summer residence, the house is presently used to host the visiting central administrator from Nassau.. In October 1791, the Governor laid out Dunmore Town, which remains the island's the chief township, by splitting up part of his own land into one hundred and ninety lots and allocating them to each of the leading settlers at an annual quit rent of 2/6 d. per lot.

Fortifications / Barracks Hill
Once the site of military barracks built by Lord Dunmore, the remnants of these barrracks were used to build W.C.B. Johnson's pineapple factory at Nassau. Only a few old guns remain. There were no regular forts on Harbour Island except for a battery at the harbour's mouth, placed in a strategic position at the entrance to the Harbour near what is now known as South Bar. Another battery of two guns is preserved at Ben Hardy's Point near the Battery on Bay Street. Island registrar L. Oldmixon reported that Harbour Island had a small fort in place in 1741.

Loyalist Cottage and Older Houses
Harbour Island is one of the oldest settlements in The Bahamas, and has preserved more of its old colonial-style architecture than any other island in the Bahamas. The wooden buildings seen now date back to the 1800's and 1860's.  The framework of one building on Bay Street in particular, "The Loyalist Cottage" dates back to 1790. Many of these old colonial houses were built during the prosperous fruit growing era in the latter part of the 19th century.  Many of the surviving houses have preserved the old colonial architecture with balconies, picket fences, lattice work and garrets. Many foreign-going ships picking up fruit and depositing it in foreign parts visited Harbour Island. It was out of this prosperity in the latter part of the 19th century that Dunmore Town was expanded.

Sir George Roberts Memorial Library (on Dunmore and Colebrooke Streets)
The cornerstone of this Library was laid on 9 April 1969. The Library is located with an old cemetery once known as "Up Yonder" and was built is in memory of Sir George Roberts who was born at Harbour Island, 19 July 1906, and died at Nassau 24 June 1964. He was a member of the House of Assembly (1935-1955), served as a member of the Executive Council (194601954) and leader of the Government the House (1948-1954). He served as President of the Legislative Council from 1954 and was made the first President of the Senate 7 January 1960.  The northern wing of the library was reopened as a community computer center in 2000, and the entire library underwent complete renovation in 2003.

Hill Steps
These steep steps were cut out by prisoners and an underground tunnel links the original Picaroon Cove - now The Landing Hotel & Restaurant -- near the steps to the nearby Rock House.

Fort Point Cottage
This cottage is on the site of the spot that commemorates the victory of the "old head" of Harbour Island over the Spaniards.

Temperance Square
A memorial to Thomas Johnson MD and JP born 1837, died 1893 is erected here, as a testament to one of the first Harbour Islanders to qualify as a doctor and to return home to serve his people.

Titus Hole
A cave with an open moth that looked onto the harbour, traditionally noted to have been the first jail of Harbour Island.


Courtesy of Prince Mather

Many books have been published on the various aspects of Bahaman history, but not one on Harbour Island at any length. Professor Michael Craeton, lecturer in History at Government high School in the early 1960's wrote four editions of "A History of the Bahamas". He is a lecturer at a University in Canada today. Dr. Paul Albury wrote "The Story of the Bahamas". He was an early President of the Bahamas Historical Society. This Society was founded in Nassau in 1959. Dr. Gail Saunders, archivist in the Ministry of Education and Culture wrote several books, including "Bahamian Loyalists and their Slaves." Dr. Dean Peggs, history master at G.H.S. in the late 1950's wrote, "A Short History of the Bahamas.

These authors all make particular references to Dunmore Town but this is not sufficient for an island-settlement with such a rich and relevant history. With these facts or thoughts in mind, I have begun to present something useful, informative and legible for people to peruse. My first pamphlet "Harbour Island 1647 - 1973" is on sale locally. Early next year a detailed edition shall be available to the public. The last publication will bring its readers up to date 1988. I pursued a Senior Course in History at the Bahamas Teachers' Training College, 1964-1966. Recently I joined the Bahamas Historical Society.

The Pilgrim Fathers sailed from Plymouth to Massachusetts - Cape Cod - 1620. They were in search of a sanctuary - RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. Three clergymen, including a Reverend Nathaniel White in 1644 in Bermuda left the Church of England to establish an Independent congregation. Rev. White and Bermudans had difficulty with the Mother Country. These people planned leaving Bermuda and settling in the Bahamas.

In 1644 a vessel was dispatched but never returned. A second was sent out in 1645 and it returned that year reporting no place suitable available. About this time, Capt. William Sayle, an ex-governor of Bermuda - businessman, administrator and navigator - came to the rescue.

In 1646, he purchased the William of about 100 tons and a small vessel suitable for exploring in shallow water. Four men purchased the ships for this enterprise. Another minister Rev. Willliam Golding, joined William Sayle to England. Three years later, "The Company of Adventures for the Plantation of the Island of Eleuthera" were drawn up as articles and orders of a constitution.

The word Eleuthera replaced Bahamas, this word comes from the Greek work meaning "freedom". Ridicule of any person or persecution of any one for his or her religious beliefs was prohibited. Freedom of religion for all and an equal distribution of justice to all were guaranteed. Eleuthera would be a REPUBLIC - with a Governor, a Council of 112, and a Senate of 100.  In October 1647, Sayle arrived in Bermuda accompanied by English who wanted to settle a new colony. Probably in 1648 was when William set sail for the Bahamas.

1650 Earliest settlement of Harbour Island
1656 Slaves and Bermudan exiled in Eleuthera
1657 Captain William Sayle left the Colony
1667 Captain William Sayle at the island he named Sail's Isle today called New Providence
1670 Charles II granted Bahamian Colony to six Lord's Proprietors of the Carolinas References in "The Story of the Bahamas" by Dr. Albury, page 49 and "A History of the Bahamas" by Professor Michael Craeton, page 62.
1670 Hugh Wentworth served as Proprietary Governor
1695 Charleston laid out and renamed Nassau
1717 End of Proprietary Government -surrender of rights to the Throne or Crown reference - "The Story of the Bahamas" page 49
1718 Woodes Rogers appointed first Royal Governor of the colony of the Bahamas Reference - "Story of the Bahamas" page 93 George Thenney succeeded Rogers

1720 Population of New Providence, 750, Eleuthera, 240, and Harbour Island, 175
1729 Woodes Rogers second appointment as Governor Set up first Assembly - September
1729 24 members, four of whom were Harbour Islanders viz. John Thompson Sr. John Thompson Jr., John Roberts, Seaborn Pinder

Harbour Island District of North Eleuthera District sends one member to the Assembly some two hundred and fifty-none years later.
1768 St. John Anglican Episcopal founded in Harbour Island.
1782 The census taken showed: New Providence 2,750

Harbour Island 500 Eleuthera 450
1783 Co. Andrew Deveaux assisted by brave men of Harbour Island Commonage for their role in defeating the Spaniards. Reference in "The Story of the Bahamas" by Dr. Paul Albury, page 104 and "A History of the Bahamas" by Michael Craeton, page 146.
1786 Governor Dunmore appointed later Gov. of Harrisburg, Virginia, USA. He was John Murray, Earl later Lord Dunmore.
1791 Gov. Dunmore laid out Dunmore town into 190 lots which were let for 2/6 per lot per year 1792 The Primrose built at Dunmore Town. Reference: "The Story of the Bahamas" page 242 1855-1864 Twenty-six sloops and schooners built and launched at Harbour Island with an average tonnage of 47. These sloops carried citrus, pineapples, lumber to

foreign ports of call
1908 The Beattrice was launched with a tonnage of 360 . Reference: "Story of the Bahamas" page 243
1922 Marie J. Thompson launched in Harbour Island - largest ship ever built in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. Marie J. Thompson tonnage

was 695 tons.
1940 Tourism first came to Harbour Island and Eleuthera. There are approximately 200 Hotel rooms available in Harbour Island today at the following resorts and guest houses:

Pink Sands Hotel
Coral Sands Hotel
Ocean View Club
Dunmore Beach Club
Runaway Hill Club, Ltd.
Rock House

The Landing
Tingum Village International (Ma Ruby's)
Baretta's Seashell Inn

Royal Palm Hotel
Romora Bay Club
Valentine's Yacht Club

10th JULY, 1973 The Bahamas became the forty-ninth member of the Commonwealth with its own flag, national anthem, national symbols, and first Governor General - Sir Milo Broughton Butler, age 66 in 1973.

Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Sir, L.O. Pindling, K.C.M.C; P.C.. Responsibility for Internal and External or Foreign Affairs. This was a step further than Hon. Sir Roland Symonette took the old colony in January 1964. Full Internal Self-government. Governor -British, Premier, Ministerial gov't. with a Senate for the first time.

These two drastic steps in the country's constitution affected the little island of Harbour Island greatly. Effects are still being felt to this day. As a matter of fact, there should be an outline of the transition after a certain age in schools.

1979 marked the 250th anniversary of Parliamentary Democracy. Fifth century Greece promoted the Democratic system under PERICLES Government of the people, for the people and by the people. In conclusion, in a democratic government, power goes from the people it does not come down to the people.


Interview with Captain Harold Saunders

You were a sailor on the big ships. What happened when somebody got sick on those ships?

Well, we just used skilled remedies. We carried a slop chest with different medicines. If it's local illness, like stomach pains, or any kind of cuts or bruises we get, we have plaster things to fix it up like that with local medicines 'til we get into port.

You know the business of using roots and leaves on this island as medicine. Did you carry these on the ships?

We carried Kill or Cure Bush. We carried it in case we got cut. We'll bathe that and then we'll sprinkle it on -it's just the perfect cure.

What is it?

Kill or Cure Bush. In Nassau they calls it Rooster Comb 'cause it grows like a rooster comb is peaked -that's how it grows-with a white rose. And I believe if it's experimented on, why it'll kill any disease I can cure, or sore, in 48 hours-with that-if I have it to treat myself.


Yes, we have the herb for the fever. We have the herb for measles, coughs, and tuberculosis. The Kill or Cure, you can drink it. It's external and it's internal. You can use it for bathing if you skin rash, same as if you go and get too much sunburn, you see. You can use that and just let it penetrate in itself, the perfect cure. Then you put Cool Water Boughs with that and Shappa Needle, the three together and you bathe right over that and it's give you the perfect cure.

Is the bush on this island?

Plenty of it here. I've got it right in my garden. I've got tow trees. I wouldn't be without it. My wife she always takes care of that. I cultivates it in other words. I keep it in the yard so in case if anybody is sick I just come out the door and go there and get it. "Cause besides, you see, there's plenty wild in the bush. But sometimes in the night you can't get up and find it so cleverly and may be raining, and all I have to do is step right our and break what I want and put it on and boil it.

What other medicines did they use in the old days?

Mostly we carried that and Epsom salts and castor oil. But we carried Kill or Cure in case anybody was cut. And no matter how long you 'ave it, if you break it, why you can keep it for months, and months and months and you boil it and it'll be the same thing. Just the same as Salad Tea out, why you put it in your cup and there goes your tea. My mother never bought tea when I was a boy. 'Cause we knew nothing about Maxwell House coffee or nothing like that. My mother used lime leaf and avocado pear leaves and we used the malaba leaves. They make wonderful tea, better tea than I ever drank, and better for soothing your blood, y'know. And we used the spiced tea, all that we used. Every morning. I knew a lady here, Carrie's mother, who used to make pills out of the aloes. Now you go to any drugstore you'll buy a bottle of aloes bitters, and we have it growing right here in the soil. It's the same thing, only it's converted into liquid. Mama cut a slice every other night. If she give it to us Monday, she'll skip Tuesday, she'll give it to us Wednesday morning-she'll seep it in the can that night. And when she give it to us-me and my brother-she'll give us half a tumbler full.

So one morning I was disgusted with taking it -it was bitter and I had a little milk can and I punched a 'ole in mine and my brother betrayed me. You see, I punched a 'ole for it to escape out and mama thought I was drinking it. But my brother, he squealed on me and told mama and said "Arold ain't drunk his own". Said "he let it run out the 'ole." She gave me a good beating about it. It was very good for us, you know. And we had good stomach regulations. We never had no trouble, no stomach trouble, nothin' like that. Seldom anybody was sick in those days - just used those herb medicines. They dropped the aloes, when you cut it, in the burnt stove ashes and they rolled them up in a little ball and call it a pill. Everybody used wood then, you know, wood stoves. They didn't know anything about no gas range and blue flames. And they'd collect the ashes together and cut the aloes and let that drainage drop on that and when they roll it up like that they'd put it aside and make tablets out of it or pills in other words - and every other morning they'd give it to the children.

Was there a doctor on the island then?

Yes. Doctor Johnson. He was the first native doctor born on this island and he graduated in Montreal and he practiced here. And his son that succeeded him, he was named Doctor Albert too after his daddy. After that we been having foreign doctors but they were two native born. That's why the monument is erected in Temperance Square because the community loved Doctor Johnson so.

He also used locally grown medicines?

He recommended it yes. You take now - we have the milk week here. If a mother, young mother -that have a young baby or just have a birth, everybody in those days used t nurse the baby from the breast. But today they just get a nipple and Carnation cream, and some of its old and don't know how long it's been canned up, they give it to the child and there it is. But everybody in those days nursed a baby from the breasts. And if they didn't have sufficient milk, they had this mild week that's here now, that he recommended the same doctor. You make a poultice out of those leaves. They used the kerosene lamps and they get the tallow candle and rub over those leaves and they bind them around the breast and overnight , many times, a mother's awake, the milk draining down y'know ,and they get sufficient milk for the baby. They right out here now. There's one in the Methodist churchyard. But very seldom they nurse now. I saw one, it looked strange to me. I saw my granddaughter. I saw her nursing a little baby she just had, about a month old. And it looked so strange to me. I told he it's the first time I've seen a baby nursed in I don't know the year.

Any other medicines Harold?

They had a garden Aralia here. They used it for garden decorations and for tuberculosis. Then we had the crab bush for stomach pains. Say you was anywhere over in the jungle walking' round and if you have pain in the stomach, common pain, you just pick off those leaves, if you know the herb and you could just chew those herbs and swallow the juice.

Tell me about the Aralia bush.

The Aralia Bush is boiled and you drink that with a little bread soda-put a little bread soda in the cup when you boil it and that's what you drink for tuberculosis. It kill the cough and it cure the tuberculosis. It kill the cough almost instantly. You see it's the bread soda that's put in there. 'Cause you might say, it's something like Eno Fruit Salts. When you turn in the water, why you see it foam up, foam up , and when you put the bread soda in, that foams something similar. Now you drink that while it dissolves-you drink it- and if you having a cough well then in a day or two that cough will just check up.

Any other bushes?

Yes. They use the cool water bough - that's good. Blue Fower leaves, that's what they use for constipation. You see, these people now they go to a doctor and get castor oil, but in days past they get the Blue Flower leaf. It grows at the Pink Sands and there's some up this road. I'll bring you a leaf and let you see how it is. It has a blue flower. It has a stalk that comes up on the top and little flowers that are stuck all around that tube that comes up-all around- and then they have a round kind of shaped leaf, kind of diamond shaped. That's what they use for constipation.

They boil it up?

Yes, they boil it up, of course, and drink it as a tea. You can add sugar - the sugar we had then used to be brown sugar. You just dash it - you don't want it too sweet -just add a little brown sugar to it, you see, that'll cause it to work much quicker. In a couple of hours why then you got a regulation.

To be continued --

What To See

Harbour Island

Old Dunmore Town: The original capital of the Bahamas with its quaint clapboard houses built in the 17th century, are a photographer's delight. Colorful blossoms of tropical hibiscus, bougainvillea's, and oleander spill over into the narrow streets from well-kept gardens, small boats pulled upon the beach, and a big fig tree-landmark of the shipbuilding days-under which the local gentry gather to discourse.

Pink Sand Beach: Yes, it is really pink. It's broad, generous, self-protected and soft to the touch of your toes, and is on the Eastern Shore, only minutes away from any point of town.

Loyalist Cottage: This historic building dates from 1797. Standing in Bay Street on the island waterfront, it is an eye-catching reminder of the island's past.

The Little Boarding House: This building on the corner of Bay and Murray Streets, was the first hotel on the island.

Wesley Methodist Church: Located on Dunmore and Chapel streets, this church was built in 1843 and has a fine interior.

Commissioner's Residence: At the corner of Goal Lane and Colebrook Street, was built on the former property of Lord Dunmore who was Governor of the Bahamas from 1786 to 1797 and the last Royal Governor of Virginia. Renown for the various buildings constructed under his governship, he built a summerhouse at Harbour Island in 1790 and also a fortification known as Barracks Hill. Dunmore House was demolished in 1912 and a new house, the Commissioner's Residence, was built for L800; being completed in 1913.

Dr. Johnson's Memorial: This was erected in memory of Dr. Albert Johnson M.D.J.P. (1837 -1895) a native of Harbour Island. He was the first qualified Bahamian doctor. It stands on the corner of Dunmore and King Streets.

St. John's Anglican Church: Originally built in 1768, this church is one of the oldest foundations in the Bahamas. St. John's was severely damaged in hurricane Betsy in 1965, and is now beautifully restored.

Sixty-Six Steps: There are sixteen steps on Bay Street cut out on of solid rock in the 17th century by a convict. The steps are most likely named after the year in which the work was done.

Sir George Roberts Memorial and Library: Located on Dunmore Street, it was erected in memory of Sir George Roberts. (1906-1964) A native of Harbour Island who was for many years a Member of Parliament, and the first President of the Bahamian Senate. (Jan. 1964 -June 1964)

Old Guns: These six ancient cannons are to be found at the island's southern tip (South Bar) They were used during the 17th century to defend the island from the pirates who infested the Bahamas and the West Indies at the same time.

Roundheads: Located on the very south end of Bay Street. In the 17th century it was one of the shore batteries, which protected the island. Cannons, chains and a large water cistern lined with square bricks imported from England remain today at Roundheads as a reminder of earlier fortifications.

Higgs Sugar Mill: This building standing in Bay Street was one of three sugar mills on the island which produced sugar and syrup to be shipped to the United States.

Glass Windows: On the mainland of Eleuthera, five miles south of Harbour Island, a strip of land where the island is nearly dived. The rocks rise to a height of seventy feet, yet there is a bridge used regularly by natives. Many times a ship in the Atlantic has been tossed about, and the crew looking across the narrow, will see a ship resting quietly on the other side: hence the name, "Glass Windows".

World's Largest Coconut: Located on Barracks Street at the VIC-HUM CLUB. Music, dancing under thestars, basketball, ping-pong. Conch Town Restaurant. 333-2161.