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History of Bahamas - History

History of Bahamas - History


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Bahamas

In 1492, Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the Western Hemisphere in The Bahamas. Spanish slave traders later captured native Lucayan Indians to work in gold mines in Hispaniola, and within 25 years, all Lucayans perished. In 1647, a group of English and Bermudan religious refugees, the Eleutheran Adventurers, founded the first permanent European settlement in The Bahamas and gave Eleuthera Island its name. Similar groups of settlers formed governments in The Bahamas until the islands became a British Crown Colony in 1717.

The first Royal Governor, a former pirate named Woodes Rogers, brought law and order to The Bahamas in 1718, when he expelled the buccaneers who had used the islands as hideouts. During the American Civil War, The Bahamas prospered as a center of Confederate blockade-running. After World War I, the islands served as a base for American rumrunners. During World War II, the Allies centered their flight training and anti-submarine operations for the Caribbean in The Bahamas. Since then, The Bahamas has developed into a major tourist and financial services center.

Bahamians achieved self-government through a series of constitutional and political steps, attaining internal self-government in 1964 and full independence within the Commonwealth on July 10, 1973.


History in Bahamas

After Columbus made his first landfall somewhere in The Bahamas, Ponce de León voyaged here in 1513 looking for the legendary Fountain of Youth. This journey, incidentally, led to the European discovery of Florida and the Gulf Stream -- but not the magic fountain. Ponce de León's historian described the waters of the Little Bahama Bank, just north of Grand Bahama, as bajamar (pronounced "ba-ha-mar," Spanish for shallow water). This seems to be a reasonable source of The Bahamas' name.

It was Columbus, landing on October 12, 1492, who met the island residents, Arawak Indians called Lucayans. He renamed an island, called Guanahani by its native inhabitants, San Salvador. Over the years, there has been much dispute as to just which island this was. Long ago, it was decided that the discoverer's first landfall in the New World was a place known as Watling Island -- the modern-day San Salvador. Recent claims, however, place the first landing on Samana Cay, 105km (65 miles) southeast of what's now called San Salvador. In 1986, National Geographic propounded and supported this island as being the place where Columbus made landfall.

The Lucayans Columbus encountered are believed to have come to the islands in about the 8th century A.D. from the Greater Antilles (but originally from South America) they were seeking refuge from the savage Caribs then living in the Lesser Antilles. The Lucayans were peaceful people. They welcomed the Spaniards and taught them a skill soon shared with the entire seagoing world: how to make hammocks from heavy cotton cloth.

The Spanish, who claimed the Bahamian islands for their king and queen, did not repay the Lucayans kindly. Finding neither gold nor silver mines nor fertile soil, the conquistadors cleared the islands of their inhabitants, taking some 40,000 doomed Lucayans to other islands in New Spain to work in mines or dive for pearls. References to the islands first discovered by Columbus are almost nil after that time for about the next 135 years.

The Coming of the English

England formally claimed The Bahamas in 1629. No settlement took place, however, until the 1640s, when religious disputes arose in Bermuda and England. English and Bermudian settlers sailed to an island called Cigatoo, changed the name to Eleuthera (from the Greek word for freedom), and launched a tough battle for survival. Many became discouraged and went back to Bermuda, but a few hardy souls hung on, living on the products of the sea -- fish, ambergris, and shipwreck salvage.

Other people from Bermuda and England followed, and New Providence Island was settled in 1656. They planted cotton, tobacco, and sugarcane, and established Charles Towne, honoring Charles II, at the harbor.

The promising agricultural economy was short-lived. Several governors of that era were corrupt, and soon the islands became a refuge for English, Dutch, and French buccaneers who plundered the ships of Spain, the country that controlled the seas. The Spaniards responded by repeatedly ravaging New Providence for revenge, causing many of the settlers to leave. The remainder apparently found the pirates a good source of income. Privateers, a slightly more respectable type of freebooter (they had their sovereign's permission to prey on enemy ships), also found The Bahamas' many islets, tricky shoals, and secret harbors to be good hiding places on ships sailing between the New and Old worlds.

Late in the 17th century, Charles Towne's name was changed to Nassau to honor King William III, then on the British throne, who also had the title of Prince of Nassau. But the change in nomenclature didn't ease the troubled capital, as some 1,000 pirates still called New Providence home.

Finally, the appeals of merchants and law-abiding islanders for Crown control were heard, and in 1717, the lord proprietors turned over the government of The Bahamas, both civil and military, to King George I, who commissioned Capt. Woodes Rogers as the first royal governor.

Rogers seized hundreds of the lawless pirates. Some were sent to England to be tried. Eight were hanged. Others received the king's pardon, promising thereafter to lead law-abiding lives. Rogers was later given authority to set up a representative assembly, the precursor of today's Parliament. Despite such interruptions as the capture of Nassau by the fledgling U.S. Navy in 1776 (over in a few days) and the surrender of the Crown colony to Spain in 1782 (of almost a year's duration), the government of The Bahamas since Rogers's time has been conducted in an orderly fashion. The Spanish matter was settled in early 1783 in the Peace of Versailles, when Spain permanently ceded The Bahamas to Britain, ending some 300 years of disputed ownership.

Loyalists, Blockade-Runners & Bootleggers

After the American Revolution, several thousand Loyalists from the former colonies emigrated to The Bahamas. Some of these, especially southerners, brought their black slaves with them and tried their luck at planting sea-island cotton in the Out Islands, as the islands other than New Providence were called. Growing cotton was not a success, as the plants fell prey to the chenille bug, but by then, the former Deep South planters had learned to fish, grow vegetables, and provide for their families and servants in other ways.

The first white settlers of The Bahamas had also brought slaves with them, but with the United Kingdom Emancipation Act of 1834, the slaves were freed and the government compensated the former owners for their "property loss." It was a fairly peaceful transition, though it was many years before any real equality was seen.

The Civil War in America brought a transient prosperity to The Bahamas through blockade-running. Nassau became a vital base for the Confederacy, with vessels taking manufactured goods into the Carolinas and bringing out cotton. The Union's victory ended blockade-running and plunged Nassau into economic depression.

The next real boom the islanders enjoyed was engendered by U.S. Prohibition. As with the blockade-runners -- but this time with faster boats and more of them -- rumrunners churned the waters between The Bahamas and the southeastern states. From the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919 to repeal of that law in 1933, Nassau, Bimini, and Grand Bahama served as bases for running contraband alcoholic beverages across the Gulf Stream to assuage Americans' thirst. Ceaseless battles were waged between the U.S. Coast Guard and this new generation of freebooters. When the U.S. repealed Prohibition, it dealt another shattering blow to the Bahamian economy.

On August 17, 1940, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor arrived in Nassau, following his appointment as governor of the colony. The duke had abdicated as King Edward VIII to marry the woman he loved, a divorced American named Mrs. Simpson. The people of The Bahamas were shocked that such a once-powerful figure had been assigned the post of governing their impoverished colony, which was viewed as a backwater of the British Empire. The duke set about trying to make The Bahamas self-sufficient and providing more employment.

World War II healed the wounds of the bootlegging days, as The Bahamas served as an Atlantic air and sea station. From this, the country inherited two airports built for U.S. Air Force use during hostilities with the Germans. The islands were of strategic importance when Nazi submarines intruded into Atlantic coastal and Caribbean waters. Today, U.S. missile-tracking stations still exist on some of the outlying islands.

In the post-World War II years, party politics developed in The Bahamas as independence from Britain seemed more possible. In 1967, Lynden Pindling became prime minister after winning a close election.

He stayed in power until 1992 in an administration filled with scandal and graft. He was finally defeated in 1992 by Hubert Ingraham (discussed earlier). Perry Gladstone Christie then defeated Ingraham and was prime minister from 2002 until 2007, when Ingraham was returned to power.

During the election of 1972, the Bahamian people opted for total independence. The Bahamas agreed to be a part of the British Commonwealth, presided over by Queen Elizabeth II. Her future appointed representative would only be a governor-general, holding a ritualized position with mostly symbolic power.

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas came into being in 1973, making it the world's 143rd sovereign state. Its government was to be ministerial with a bicameral legislature and headed by a prime minister and an independent judiciary. The end to centuries of colonial rule was actually signaled in 1964, when The Bahamas was granted internal self-government pending drafting of a constitution, which was adopted in 1969. By choice, the island nation did not completely sever its ties with Great Britain, preferring to remain in the Commonwealth of Nations with the British monarch as its head of state.

As The Bahamas grows into a favorite stamping ground of celebrities, the archipelago has also become the scene of several recent scandals, each of which promoted a seemingly endless series of lawsuits and tabloid headlines.

There was the death of blonde, busty Anna Nicole Smith, who, although living in Nassau at the time, died in a Florida hotel room in February 2007. After a long legal battle, she was buried on New Providence Island next to her 20-year-old son, Daniel, who had died from a lethal combination of methadone and two kinds of antidepressants in a hospital room where his mother had previously given birth to Dannielynn, a daughter.

In January 2009, John Travolta's 16-year-old son, Jett, died in Nassau from complications associated with a seizure. In an incredibly convoluted case, which news people had a hard time explaining clearly to the public, ambulance driver Tarino Lightbourne and his attorney politician Pleasant Bridgewater were accused of demanding $25 million from the actor to keep them from revealing private information in the death of his son.

Bridgewater resigned her seat in The Bahamas Senate after she was charged in the case. This attempted extortion went to trial, but a mistrial was declared.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.


History of Eleuthera

Eleuthera started, as most islands do, as a coral reef. It gradually assumed a very unusual shape, long and thin, with much shoreline. It is also unusual in that it is relatively hilly, reaching an elevation of 100 feet, much more than most of the other Bahamian islands, and Florida. This fact gives it a scenic advantage, unshared by the other Family Islands, or Out Islands. Generally, Eleuthera is 3-4 degrees cooler than Florida, with constant sea breezes birds abound, and are characteristicly heard everywhere, once outside the towns.

The History of Man on Eleuthera begins with the Arawaks.

They came to Eleuthera from the coast of the Yucatan in Mexico, and Florida. They knew how to weave cotton cloth, and made spears with fish hooks made from the tortoise shell. They lived primarily on fish, and shellfish. (By the way, it is from the Arawaks, that we get the three words, "iguana", "avocado", and "guava"). The Arawaks, a peaceloving people, were not displaced by the warlike Caribs, who did so in all of the other Lesser Antilles.

In the later 1400's, the Spaniards appeared in the area, led by Christopher Columbus.

The Spaniards basically decimated the population of the Bahamas by either killing the residents, or exporting them for slavery. Very few surivied, and the Bahamas, including Eleuthera became very desolate, save for small pockets of survivors. Thus, the Bahamas were like this for the next 200 years.

The first known map of the area called Eleuthera "Cigateo", from the Arawak name, "Cigatoo". According to the time, the mapmakers changed names of the island, as seen in the following table:

YEAR NAME MAPMAKER
1700 Lucayous Islands Wells
1749 Cigateo Alebaster Lucayous Islands Robert (Fr)
1761 Alabaster d'Anville
1784 Harbour Island Bowles
1796 Eleuthera Olim Ciguateo de la Rockette
1815 Eleuthera Wilkinson
1832 Eleuthera, Ethera Island, Cigateo, Blair

Aname that is very prominent in Eleuthera's history, William Sayle, is attibuted credit for naming the isle "Eleuthera", which is a variation of the Greek word for freedom. He had been Governor of Bermuda, but had fallen into disfavor with the Crown of England. Therefore, he wanted to leave Bermuda to pursue freedom, and he decided upon Eleuthera, since the Bahamas were the nearest group of islands to Bermuda. He returned to London, and petitioned Parliament to settle Eleuthera in 1654 (see page 43 for text of petition), what he envisioned as a "utopia". He promised each settler 300 acres of land, upon completion of the voyage to Eleuthera.

However, the voyage did not end smoothly one of the two ship wrecked on the perilous north part of Eleuthera, destroying much of their supplies. He put most of the settlers ashore at Preacher's Cave, and he went to Virginia for more provisions. When he returned with more supplies, he split the group one group went to the area now known as "The Current", and his group went to Governor's Harbor.


Preacher's Cave today

The soil was very rocky, and not easily cultivated, and the group continued to endure hardship. An interesting sidelight is that Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts heard of their plight, and sent supplies. In gratitude, the settlers bequeathed 7 tons of Brazilletto timber to the then-young Harvard College. In 1958, Harvard University presented to Governor's Harbor a plaque made of Braziletto wood in commemoration of that contribution, which still stands today in the Public Library.

Anyways, the settlers constructed wooden houses in Cupid's Cay, in Governor's Harbor. William Sayle returned to Bermuda, where he eventually regained favor witht the crown, and was renamed Governor of Bermuda. He sent his sons to govern Eleuthera in his stead.

The next phase of history was dominated by pirates and buccaneers. The Bahamas in general, became headquarters for the pirates, especially Nassau. The only real contact Eleuthera had with the pirates was a raid by "Calico" Jack on Harbor Island, where he burned a few fishing vessels.

Next, the English took tighter control of the islands, especially after the American War of Independence. After their defeat, many Englishmen did not want to remain in the United States. Therefore, many emigrated with their slaves to the Bahamas, causing the white population of the Bahamas to double, and the black population to triple. The British subjects were given land, to aid their start in their new country.

Next came the period of the US Civil War. This had an effect on the Bahamas after it was over, and the slaves were soon emancipated by Queen Victoria in 1834.

Various people then attempted to improve the lot of the Eleutheran islands, including a Reverend Turton. He went to Tarpon Bay, and has this to say.

At this time, "wrecking", or the salvaging of shipwrecked boats, became a mainstay of the economy. In fact, various tricks were used to lure the ships to the reefs, in the northern part of the island. In fact, at a large reef off Spanish Wells, a reef called 'Devil's Backbone', there are many wrecks today attesting to the success of the following ruse lanterns were put on donkeys at night, and moved to stategic areas, to fool the captains into thinking they were the lights of lighthouses, and cause the ships to go off course onto the rocks. This was especially popular in Spanish Wells, and Harbor Island. The local population even resisted the constructions of lighthouses, in the time of 1845- 1870, although more than 300 vessels had shipwrecked over the years, since "wrecking" provided a boost to the local economy.

The pineapple farms then came into prominence. The pineapple has been introduced earlier, in the mid 18th century. But it was not until the turn of the century that it really became popular. The red soil of Eleuthera had been ideal for pineapples to grow. A prominent farmer, Jabez Pyfrom was a leading pineapple farmer at that time. Eleuthera's economy thrived and there was much prosperity. At one point, 40 schooners were anchored in Governor's Harbor, awaiting the harvesting of the famous pineapples (description of pineapple harvesting in 1900).

But this prosperity was not to last. The US Government started to subsidize the pineapple industries of Cuba and Hawaii, undercutting the Eleutheran crop, and this industry, as well as the economy of Eleuthera, collapsed. (For more complete story of the Pineapplye Industry in Eleuthera, go HERE)

Quarrying was then started, to try to jumpstart the economy, in the area of Hatchet Bay. George Benson, a retired English officer, was instrumental in this endeavor. He also started construction of the "cut" that is now present in Hatchet Bay, connecting the lake with the ocean.

Another man famous in the history of Eleuthera, Austin Levy, arrived in 1927, and formed the "Hatchet Bay Plantations", a combined dairy and poultry farm. He became so large, he built his own schools and stores. At about this time, Mr Arthur Vining Davis started the Rock Sound Club, as well as establishing a farm, dock, and workshops in the Rock Sound area. In fact, Princess Margaret lunched at the Rock Sound Club in 1955. Eventually, Mr. Davis sold his interests to Juan Trippe, an executive of PanAm Airlines, who converted the club into the exclusive "Cotton Bay Club", which is currently the only Robert Trent Jones designed golf course in the Bahamas.

Afew women notable in this era were Charlotte Blodget and Rosita Forbes. Ms Blodget arrived in Governor's Harbor in 1937, and found much unemployment. She started a sea shell and weaving business, and established trade with Boston. Rosita Forbes, an author and journalist of minor repute, wrote copiously, and put Eleuthera on the map. She built a house, called "Unicorn Cay" on a lagoon called "Half Sound". This house is modelled on the famous "Chateaux on the Loire" in France. She said

. Next, the "Two Knights" of Eleuthera came into importance, Sir George Roberts, and Sir Roland Symonette ("Pop"). Sir Robert was responsible for the development of the important, inter-island mailboat system, that is still important today, in delivering supplies, as well as the mail. Sir Roland is responsible for the roads, and a great deal of buildings in Eleuthera. He later became Premier of the Bahamas.

Other prominent Eleutherans at this time included Asa Pritchard, Sir Harold Christie (real estate), and George Baker (canning).

Around this time, Eleuthera had a bit of a scandal, involving Count Alfred de Monigny, who had built a house at the site of what was to later become 'The French Leave', and then the Club Med. It seems that the father of his bride was murdered in Nassau. He was accused but aquitted, but required to leave the Bahamas.

Due to its location near Florida, Eleuthera became a relay station between Columbia and Florida, like many other Bahamian islands, for the cocaine trade, in the late 70's and early 80's. Though not heavily involved, the island and its economy and people were definitely affected by this drug trade, which has, by and large, largely disappeared due to police activity.

Today, Eleuthera's economy consists mostly of fishing, boating, and tourism. It is used mainly by Canadian, Italian, German, and American tourists as a vacation spot, and, for some, a temporary winter home. It is not nearly as developed as Grand Bahama (Freeport), or New Providence (Nassau).

In Eleuthera, you will find a world of sunshine, and brilliant colors, pink sand beaches, and aquamarine and azure water, where time stands till and life is leisurely and peace is a reality and not an illusion.

INTERESTING MISCELLANEOUS FACTS ABOUT ELEUTHERA

  • there was a cholera epidemic in Harbor Island in 1761-1769
  • there is an old cholera graveyard in Governor's Harbor
  • public kissing was illegal after the nine o'clock bell was rung by the sheriff in Harbor Island in 1880
  • Spanish Wells is known for having the best fishermen and spongers on the island
  • the library in Governor's Harbor also serves as a court house
  • most of people in Spanish Wells are descended from pirates or early settlers
  • there is a severe riptide between the small island of Currant and the mainland, used frequently by divers

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Today, Nassau Paradise Island is a vacation destination where people from all over the world flock to relax, unwind, and enjoy fun in the sun. If you were to turn back the clock a few hundred years, however, you’d discover a Bahamas that was much livelier than today’s laid-back Caribbean paradise! For centuries, The Bahamas was host to many colorful characters and turbulent times. Its crystal-clear, shallow waters and close proximity to major shipping routes made it a convenient spot for pirates, rum-runners, and other seafaring criminals to conduct their business. Let’s take a look at some of the thrilling true-life tales that helped shape The Bahamas’ history.

1492: DISCOVERY OF THE BAHAMAS

History books tell us the islands of The Bahamas were discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, when he landed on the island of San Salvador and described his surroundings as “baja mar” (shallow sea). Because of The Bahamas’ prime location close to Florida and busy shipping channels, it didn’t take long for the islands to become a desirable place for other explorers, traders, and settlers—and not all of them liked to obey the law!

LATE 1600s: THE AGE OF PIRACY

From the late 1600s to the early 1700s, pirates were plentiful in Nassau. Our location near busy shipping routes meant there were always plenty of passing ships loaded with valuable cargo to steal. Pirates would lure heavily-laden merchant ships close to shore by shining bright lights into the dark sky, mimicking lighthouses. Captains, expecting to find safe harbors, would guide their ships into shallow reefs, where they’d wreck and be plundered. With hundreds of small islands in the area, there was no shortage of secret places for pirates to hide their newly acquired treasures.

Some of the world’s most infamous pirates used Nassau Paradise Island as home base during this time. Perhaps the most well-known was Blackbeard, one of the most violent and terrifying pirates of all. During his short career of about five years, it’s believed he captured 40 ships. Female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who sailed under the notorious Calico Jack, disguised themselves as men – and were said to be every bit as frightening as their male counterparts. Read more about Nassau’s most fearsome pirates!

Want to learn more about the pirates of The Bahamas? Plan a visit to the Pirates of Nassau museum, where you can immerse yourself in a pirate’s life at the turn of the 17 th century!

1695 & 1703: NASSAU IS DESTROYED…TWICE!

Because of all the pirate activity in and around Nassau, the city was widely regarded in seafaring circles as a dangerous place. During the Age of Piracy in The Bahamas, so many Spanish ships were wrecked that Spanish troops retaliated and destroyed the city in 1695. Nassau was quickly rebuilt, with the addition of the Old Fort of Nassau in 1697 to help protect the city. This fort was demolished in 1897, but three “newer” forts remain today – Fort Montagu (1725), Fort Charlotte (1789), and Fort Fincastle (1793). Learn more about the forts of Nassau.

Less than 10 years after Nassau was first destroyed, in 1703, the French and Spanish navies once again wrecked the city in an expedition known as the Raid on Nassau.

Finally, in 1718, the Age of Piracy came to an end when King George appointed Woodes Rogers, an English sea captain and privateer, as Royal Governor of The Bahamas. His job was to restore order in The Bahamas, which was “without any face or form of Government”. Rogers offered pirates a King’s Pardon – if they surrendered, they would receive amnesty. Three hundred pirates accepted his proposal. The rest fled from Nassau Paradise Island, and order was restored.

1861-1865: CIVIL WAR

While it created many hardships for the U.S., the American Civil War meant a strong economy in The Bahamas thanks to blockade runners. In the 1800s, the British textile industry depended on cotton from the southern U.S. to make fabric. However, because of navy blockades, ships from Great Britain couldn’t access ports in the southern states to pick up their cotton shipments.

Instead, they’d sail to Nassau, where blockade runners would meet them with their precious cargo. The British ships would trade goods for cotton, which the blockade runners would then return to Charleston to sell at a massive profit. It took 48 hours to sail the 560 miles between Nassau and Charleston, so blockade runners were able to make a lot of money in a relatively short amount of time.

The end of the Civil War meant the end of a prosperous time in The Bahamas until prohibition began.

1919: PROHIBITION IN THE BAHAMAS

In 1919, the 14 th Amendment was passed in the United States, and alcohol was prohibited. Once again, Bahamians seized an opportunity to make a fortune!

In the early days of prohibition, Bahamian rum-runners would smuggle Caribbean rum into Florida, a short trip that turned a decent profit. It didn’t take long for the rum-runners to discover there was more money to be made with different types of alcohol, such as Canadian and Scotch whisky, champagne from France, and gin from Great Britain. A single delivery could be worth $200,000. The Bahamas enjoyed prosperity until prohibition ended in 1934.

These days, we still send some of our rum away, but there’s plenty here for you to enjoy! Why not book a tour of John Watling’s Distillery and sample some of the Caribbean’s best rums?

EARLY 1900s: THE BAHAMAS WELCOMES ITS FIRST VISITORS

In 1898, the Hotel and Steam Ship Act was passed, becoming the first step toward hotel construction and steamship service in The Bahamas and the birth of the tourism industry. The same characteristics that once made Nassau Paradise Island so lucrative to pirates—crystal clear, shallow waters, miles of sandy coastline, being close to the U.S. and other Caribbean locations—quickly made The Bahamas a popular destination among visitors around the world.

Prohibition brought many American tourists to The Bahamas, but it wasn’t until 1961, when Cuba was closed to visitors from the U.S., that tourism really took off. The Bahamian government made tourism a priority, dredging Nassau Harbour so that six cruise ships could fit at a time, and building the bridge that connects Nassau to Paradise Island.

1973: BAHAMIAN INDEPENDENCE

The Bahamas became a free country on July 10, 1973, and today we continue to celebrate Bahamian Independence Day every July 10. The Bahamas remains a part of the Commonwealth of Nations, with Queen Elizabeth II serving as the country’s figurehead.

2017: THE BAHAMAS TODAY

Today, tourism accounts for at least half of the Bahamian economy, with up to six million people visiting The Bahamas each year! It’s not hard to see why The Bahamas is such a popular destination – it’s easy to get here, our beaches are the best in the world, and there’s plenty to do and explore. Our colorful past is just the beginning – we think the present-day Nassau Paradise Island is pretty spectacular, too! Why not plan your Nassau Paradise Island vacation today and see for yourself?


The History of Eleuthera in the Bahamas

First inhabited by Lucayan Indians, Spanish explorers came upon the island in the late 1400s and by the early 1500s had enslaved them to perish in the silver and gold mines of Hispaniola (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

In 1648 colonization of The Bahamas began on the north shore of Eleuthera where the “Eleutheran Adventurers” came from Bermuda with religious freedom as the driving force. They named the island “Eleutheria” after the Greek word for Freedom. The colonists survived on fish, turtle, conch and trade goods they collected from the sea including dye woods, ambergris from whales and items salvaged from wrecks along the coast. They soon spread out to start today’s settlements in Spanish Wells and Harbour Island.

The late 1700s saw an influx of British Loyalists who were fleeing the new United States of America after losing the Revolutionary War where they had remained loyal to King George. The Loyalists started plantations with the slaves they brought but failed to recreate the wealth they had in America and most eventually left, leaving their slaves behind. Eventually pineapples became the top crop of Eleuthera and by the mid-1800s exports to England and the United States soared. More than 200 sloops and schooners would sail every morning from Harbour Island to north Eleuthera where plantations of pineapples fed the international market. In 1872, 1.5 million pineapples were shipped from Harbour Island alone.

In the 1950s an auxiliary U.S. Air Force base and missile tracking station opened on Eleuthera, part of several such bases in the Bahamas. The 1960s and ‘70s were grand days with Hatchet Bay Farm producing milk and eggs while second homes were being built on Harbour Island, Windermere and in other areas. The Cotton Bay Club had a golf course, as did Cape Eleuthera, with movie stars and celebrities flown in to entertain. The French Leave Club (later renamed Club Med) and a large Italian resort attracted French and Italian tourists along with the English and a growing American crowd. Juan Trippe, president of Pan Am Airlines, expanded Rock Sound’s airport to accommodate jets from New York and Miami. Planes from England, France and Italy could also come directly into Eleuthera. Princess Diana and Prince Charles vacationed on Windermere with other royalty and celebrities, playboys and jet setters. Eleuthera was the place to be.

Unfortunately, things began to decline, and by the early 1970s many of clubs closed. By late ‘70s drug smuggling had become a problem because of the Bahamas close proximity to the U.S. Today smuggling in the Bahamas has largely subsided and Eleuthera is a safe place to be.

There are any small resorts and guest houses in Eleuthera to choose from, endless miles of white and pink beaches to walk upon, and plenty of kind natives to help you enjoy the endless activities on the island and around the sea.

To learn more about history of Eleuthera and other islands in the Bahamas, check out A History of The Bahamas Through Maps. The book and custom map of Eleuthera can be purchased online at this website. Questions? Please call us at 239-963-3497.


Index

Geography

The Bahamas are an archipelago of about 700 islands and 2,400 uninhabited islets and cays lying 50 mi off the east coast of Florida. They extend for about 760 mi (1,223 km). Only about 30 of the islands are inhabited the most important is New Providence (80 sq mi 207 sq km), on which the capital, Nassau, is situated. Other islands include Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera, Andros, Cat Island, and San Salvador (or Watling's Island).

Government
History

The Arawak Indians were the first inhabitants of the Bahamas. Columbus's first encounter with the New World was on Oct. 12, 1492, when he landed on the Bahamian island of San Salvador. The British first built settlements on the islands in the 17th century. In the early 18th century, the Bahamas were a favorite pirate haunt.

The Bahamas were a Crown colony from 1717 until they were granted internal self-government in 1964. The islands moved toward greater autonomy in 1968 after the overwhelming victory in general elections of the Progressive Liberal Party, led by Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling, over the predominantly white United Bahamians Party. With its new mandate from the black population (85% of Bahamians), Pindling's government negotiated a new constitution with Britain under which the colony became the Commonwealth of the Bahama Islands in 1969. On July 10, 1973, the Bahamas became an independent nation.

An Emerging Economy

Once heavily reliant on agriculture and fishing, the Bahamas has diversified its economy into tourism, financial services, and international shipping. While the nation enjoys a per capita income that is among the top 30 in the world, there is a big gap between the urban middle class and poor farmers. In addition, the nation is vulnerable to hurricanes, which regularly inflict serious damage.

Hubert Ingraham became prime minister in May 2007 after his Free National Movement, an opposition party, won parliamentary elections. As of 2012, the Bahamas remains one of the wealthiest countries (GDP per capita) in the Americas, after Bermuda, the U.S., the Cayman Islands, Canada, and the Virgin Islands.

New Prime Minister Elected

On May 7, 2012, parliamentary elections were held. The Progressive Liberal Party took 29 of the 38 seats. Progressive Liberal Party member Perry Christie was sworn in as prime minister and finance minister. Christie served one prior term as prime minister from 2002 to 2007.


A Short History of Bahamas

At least 500 years prior to the Europeans’ arrival to Bahamas, the islands where inhabited by a people called Lucayans who were descendants of the Arawak Indians. Originally, they lived in the north part of South America in the Caribbean Islands and in Florida. During centuries, the Lucayans lived a simple live in villages of Bahamas.

The 12th of October of 1492 Christopher Columbus arrived at a small island called Guanahani by the Lucayans, which he named San Salvador. The Bahamas were under the Spanish dominion until they were colonized by Great Britain in 1612.

In 1671 a census was taken for the first time in Bahamas. There were 1097 inhabitants of which 443 were slaves that have been brought from Africa to work on the British plantations of cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane.

Most British settlers left the island, which became open to the pirates’ attacks. Many pirates settled in the island and remained for years.

In 1718 Captain Woodes Rogers was named governor of Bahamas. He initiated the difficult task of expelling more than one thousand pirates who lived in New Providence.

In the beginning of 1800 the number of slaves had risen to over 12,000.

With time the social system of Bahamas began to change, eliminating slave trading in 1807 and slave emancipation in 1834. Education was introduced.

In 1963 the British Government granted Bahamas its own government. A constitution was presented in 1964 general elections to elect a Prime Minister.


A Brief Bahamas History

The Bahamas are full of rich and interesting history, some which even has to do with buried and lost treasure. The Bahamas also has a dark history to its past since it played such a large part in the Atlantic Slave Trade. Some experts even argue that the Bahamas was the first landing to the &ldquoNew World&rdquo for Christopher Columbus in 1492, in which it is recorded that he landed on modern day San Salvador, a southern Bahamas island. Those are just a few drops in the bucket of cool facts about the history of the Bahamas. Here are few highlights on the history of the Bahamas.

Native Bahamians, Before Settlement
A branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taíno people, the Lucayans were the first inhabitants known to the Bahamas. Migrated over generations from South America up throughout different Caribbean Islands, this indigenous group arrived to Bahamas to settle around 11th century AD. History recalls the Lucayan people as being kind, and attractive looking. In a Christopher Columbus journal entry after meeting these tribes wrote that they had become great friends and that they opened their hearts to them. These tribes would be later wiped out from either smallpox exposure from Europeans or taken to Hispaniola to be sold into slavery.

Pirates and Privateers
It&rsquos no secret that pirates ran the majority of Caribbean, and stole a lot of goods, and gold from ships passing through. The pirates from the 1600&rsquos that trolled the waters of the Caribbean are still household names today, such as Henry Jennings and &lsquoBlackbeard&rsquo Edward Teach. Blackbeard used to intimidate his victims by wearing flaming fuses in his mangled, unkempt and dirty beard. Blackbeard and Jennings made the Bahamas a pirate&rsquos playground, fully equipped with brothels and taverns. Once the Bahamas&rsquo first Royal Governor stepped in for under the English Crown, Bahamas got a new adage, &ldquoPirates Expelled &ndash Commerce Restored&rdquo.

Post-emancipation Era
After the Bahamas became an official territory under the Britain flag, the Bahamas had made slavery out-lawed, and notified other nations that if anyone were to bring their slaves onto their land, the slaves would be freed. Tensions grew between the U.S. and Britain after U.S. merchant ships that were a part of the slave trade were put into Nassau or had conveniently wrecked into their reefs. In the 1820s, many American slaves escaped from Cape Florida, and came to the Bahamas and settled mostly on Andros Island.

20th Century
The civilians of Nassau illegally supplied liquor to Americans during the Prohibition Era, while New Yorkers flocked to Nassau for the new casino. Nassau started its tourism era, and started making money off of these &ldquosinful&rdquo activities.

In 1940, the Duke of Windsor, Edward VIII, was made to be the Governor of the Bahamas. He and his wife the Duchess visited the outer islands of Bahamas on a yacht. The Duke has been praised for his efforts to end poverty and low wages, but was said to act as if her were better than the Bahamians, and condescending toward them. He resigned in 1945.

The Bahamas became a popular tourist spot, especially for Hollywood to come film at. Famous films like James Bond, Thunderball, and The Beatles&rsquo film Help! were partly filmed here in the 60&rsquos.

Of course there is so much more to the Bahamas&rsquo history, and this article only touches on certain topics. Try visiting the wondrous islands to learn more!


There are 2 census records available for the last name Bahamas. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Bahamas census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 4 immigration records available for the last name Bahamas. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 2 military records available for the last name Bahamas. For the veterans among your Bahamas ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

There are 2 census records available for the last name Bahamas. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Bahamas census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 4 immigration records available for the last name Bahamas. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 2 military records available for the last name Bahamas. For the veterans among your Bahamas ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.


Our History

The Central Bank of The Bahamas was established on 1st June 1974, to carry out the independent monetary policy and financial sector supervisory functions entrusted upon The Bahamas after political independence from Great Britain in 1973.

Prior to the establishment of the Bank, there was the Currency Board set up in 1919 which was restricted mainly to issuing currency. The Currency Board era spanned the early evolution of The Bahamas' emergence as an international banking centre during the 1960s, and the corresponding challenges posed by the inadequacies of legislation to properly regulate and supervise these activities. Although some relief was provided by the Banks and Trust Companies Regulation Act (1965), which enjoined stringent licensing and operating requirements on banks, it was felt that a more substantive institutional authority was required to oversee the rapidly expanding banking sector.

This need for an alternative institutional arrangement with statutory powers became even more apparent amid the turbulent developments in global financial markets, marked by the 1967 devaluation of the Pound Sterling, to which the local currency was linked. Based on the emerging strong trade linkages with the United States, the Government de-linked the Bahamian dollar (formerly the pound) from its peg with the Pound Sterling, and established the currency on par with the United States' dollar. This action, however, resulted in massive exchange rate losses for banks which, in the absence of alternative domestic investment opportunities, held most of their assets in sterling balances.

These events led to the demise of the Currency Board, which gave way to the establishment of the Bahamas Monetary Authority (BMA) in 1968. The Authority assumed the aggregate foreign exchange risks of the country by redeeming domestic banks' surplus foreign currency balances for Bahamian dollars, instituted a voluntary system of reserve requirements for clearing banks, and began auctioning Government Treasury bills as an alternative domestic investment for financial institutions.

Despite having an expanded role, including supervisory authority, a serious shortcoming of the BMA was the absence of the legal authority to employ active monetary policy measures. This fundamental weakness came into sharp focus during the late 1960s, when the Authority was unable to exercise control over domestic credit expansion in order to correct the worsening balance of payments position. A decade later in the 1970s, the deficiency was further heightened, when the global economy battled the worldwide recession, brought on by the OPEC oil crisis. These and other developments led to the eventual establishment of a Bahamian central bank.


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