Wilson City: A Modern Marvel

Every day this week, as a lead up to my Marsh Harbour book signing on Saturday, May 13th, I’ll be sharing historic Abaco photographs and brief excerpts from my new book, Those Who Stayed.

In 1906, an American group calling itself the Bahamas Timber Company obtained a 100-year contract to log pinelands in Abaco. On a site south of Marsh Harbour, they built a state-of-the-art sawmill and an adjacent town, Wilson City, to house employees.

Wilson City (Abaco, Bahamas): A Modern Marvel

Wilson City, Abaco, Bahamas.  Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.

Wilson City was a modern marvel, complete with street lights, electricity and an ice plant. It boasted Abaco’s first tennis court and a large store stocked with fabric and other supplies from the United States. Mill employees, who came from all over Abaco, enjoyed low-cost housing as well as a medical plan.

By 1912, 540 people – more than 12% of Abaco’s population at the time – were employed at Wilson City, primarily in logging or building the railroad that transported felled timber to the mill.  According to historian Steve Dodge, more than £21,000 was paid out annually to Abaconian employees.

At its peak, the mill turned out between 15 and 18 million feet of lumber annually for local use or export to Nassau, Cuba and the U.S.

Sadly, Wilson City’s prosperity would be short-lived. Within a decade, with much of the pinelands logged bare, only 375 people were employed at the mill, and just nine million board feet were produced annually. By the end of 1916, the mill was permanently closed.





  3 comments for “Wilson City: A Modern Marvel

  1. Martha (Wallace) Judge
    May 9, 2017 at 3:57 am

    This is very interesting, Amanda. Thanks so much for sharing!

    My husband and I, along with a group of friends, will be in Marsh Harbour on June 8-16, so we’ll miss your MH signing and won’t be able to make it to Nassau for that one on the 10th of June.😩

    Is there any chance that you might make it to Key West for the Island Roots Heritage Festival on May 19-21? I sure would like to meet you and tell you (in person) how much I enjoy your daily posts of Little House by the Ferry!

    We plan to visit Green Turtle Cay (my Grandfather Lowe’s birthplace) a couple of times during the trip, so, if all else fails, I hope to purchase your book there.

    Again, thank you for sharing your beautiful photos!

    • May 11, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      Hi, Martha. Thanks for your kind note. Unfortunately, I won’t make it to the IRHF event in Key West, as I have a family event that weekend. I will be in Green Turtle Cay for most of June, so hopefully our paths will cross then!

  2. joylowejossi
    August 13, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Amanda, 13 Aug 2018 I view your Wilson City, Abaco photo and commentary, and wish to thank you. Thanks. My paternal grandpapa Hilton Russell managed that Wilson City store pictured. This my dad Clarie Lowe 1903-1993 recounted along with his memories of visits from Marsh Harbour to Wilson City. ‘Twas a short-lived Abaco city on a hill. Built with USA capital and USA logging experts, the company also provided a doctor to tend and hopefully mend patients of logging accidents. Some workers lost limbs, a few died, like one of the sons of my great-grandparents, the store manager Hilton Russell and wife Emma Roberts. Their youngest son Thomas Harold Russell 1898-1915 died at age 16, killed by a wood knot that flew while he worked in the sawmill.

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