Category: History

Are You a Descendant of the First Families of Abaco?

Historian Betty Bruce and Artist Alton Lowe, founder of the Island Roots Heritage Festival

Forty years ago this week, the inaugural Island Roots Heritage Festival took place in Key West and then in Green Turtle Cay .

During the planning for the first Island Roots Festival, Key West historian Betty Bruce – whose ancestors were among those Abaco families who settled Key West – began gathering the names of other Floridians whose roots stretched across the Gulf Stream to the Bahama islands.

She posted a sign-up sheet in the Monroe County Public Library in Key West and put the word out.

Within just a few months, she had gathered several hundred names on a scroll, which now resides in the archives of the Albert Lowe Museum.

Reading through the scroll, you recognize many common Bahamian surnames, such as Pinder, Knowles, Kemp, Symonette and Moss, from the various Bahamian islands including Eleuthera, Spanish Wells, Harbour Island, Long Island, Nassau and Grand Bahama.

The Model Ships of Albert Lowe

Of the many remarkable treasures housed in the Albert Lowe Museum, some of my favourites are the model ships. Most were built by Albert Lowe, for whom the museum is named.

The model ships of Green Turtle Cay's Albert Lowe

Oil painting of Albert Lowe, by his son, Alton Lowe.

Just inside the museum’s front door is this model of the four-masted schooner, Marie J. Thompson, the largest sailing ship ever built in the Bahamas.

The Beginning of Our Fish Hooks Journey (aka the Most Stressful Day of my Life)

Last week, when I published the latest Fish Hooks restoration update, I included a “before” photo of the house, as well as a more recent image.

Fish Hooks “Before” – January 2006

Several people pointed out that the yard looks so much larger in the current photograph, and asked whether we moved the house.

Fish Hooks – July 2017

I realized that a lot of Little House by the Ferry readers who’ve joined us more recently may not know about the day in January 2014 when we first began our Fish Hooks journey.

Calling All Abaco Genealogists: My Ongoing Search for Romelda

Some of you regular readers probably know that one of the greatest obstacles I’ve encountered on my genealogical journey is trying to learn more about my great-great-great-grandmother, Romelda. Or it could be Remilda. Or Ramelda. You begin to see the problem…

My great-grandfather, Herman Thomas Curry (1890-1958)

Here’s what I know for sure. My great-grandfather Herman Curry’s parents were Thomas Wesley (“Pa Wes”) Curry and Lilla Carleton. Lilla’s mother, according to various sources, including my own grandmother, was named Romelda (or “Melda” for short.)

And we know that Lilla’s maiden name was Carleton, because it’s shown as such on the birth records of each of her five children: my great-aunts Emmie, Dora, Bessie, Edie, and of course, my great-grandfather Herman.

From there, however, things get murky. According to several Abaco genealogists, Lilla’s mother’s name was Romelda Jane Lowe, and she was the daughter of John Lowe and Mary Ann Albury.

Green Turtle Cay in Days Gone By

So I’m finally getting around to unpacking the last of the boxes from our move from Washington, D.C. back to Los Angeles last December. In one of them, I found the photographs below, taken in Green Turtle Cay during the summer of 1984.

The first image is of the top of the public (cannon) dock in town. The white house with pink trim is Carolyn Cash’s house, prior to the addition of its covered front porch.

Public Dock in New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas.

Fish Hooks Restoration Update: Summer 2017

In hindsight, adding a porch to Fish Hooks might have been a mistake. Not that there’s anything wrong with the porch. It’s just that now, all Tom and I want to do is sit and enjoy it!

Our favourite room at Fish Hooks – the front porch!

That, combined with the fact that Tom hasn’t had a ton of free time over the past year, means we haven’t gotten as much done on the house recently as we would have liked. So earlier this year, when he was able to get a whole month off, we were determined to get back on track.

Amy Roberts Primary Fall Festival is Tomorrow Night

If you’re on Green Turtle Cay tomorrow (Saturday) evening, be sure to drop by the basketball court, where our Amy Roberts Primary School is holding a Fall Festival and Guy Fawkes Night. There’ll be lots of great food, delicious treats, a hay ride, games and, of course, a bonfire.

Rooted in our British heritage, Guy Fawkes Night commemorates the November 5, 1605 capture of Guy Fawkes, architect of a plot to blow up Britain’s House of Lords and assassinate King James I.

The Brutal Truth About Columbus: What They Didn't Teach Us in School

In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

How many of us learned this cheery verse in primary school? In easy-to-memorize rhyming couplets, it relates the tale of Christopher Columbus, a brave and benevolent explorer.

But, as I learned while researching my book, Those Who Stayed, the truth about Columbus is infinitely darker than this perky, whitewashed version. Here, excerpted from the book, is the part of Columbus’ story that you probably weren’t taught in school.

The heartbreaking truth about Christopher Columbus - what they didn't teach you in school...

“Men from Heaven,” an oil painting by Bahamian artist, Alton Lowe

June 29 Book Signing Benefits the Albert Lowe Museum

The Albert Lowe Museum has invited me to appear at a book signing event at the museum on Thursday, June 29. This will be my last signing before I head back to Los Angeles for the summer, and part proceeds from every copy of Those Who Stayed sold that day will benefit the museum.

If you’re on Green Turtle Cay next Thursday, I hope you’ll drop by and say hello!

An Amazing Weekend in Nassau

Finally, a few minutes to write about last weekend! As some of you know, last Saturday was my book signing at Logos Bookstore in Nassau. Huge thanks to Logos’ owner Ricardo Munroe and his staff for being so welcoming.

From one author to another… me with Bahamian meteorologist and author, Wayne Neely. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Neely.)

Logos has long been my favourite Bahamian bookstore. For years, every trip to Nassau has included at least one visit to Logos to check out what’s new in their Bahamian history section (and, I’ll admit, to imagine what it would be like to have my own books displayed there.) Thanks to Ricardo for helping me make that dream a reality.

And thank you to everyone who came out for the signing, which was a terrific success.

It was wonderful to see so many old friends – including a few I hadn’t seen in decades – and to meet some new ones. I also discovered a few new relatives!

Two of my favourite Bahamian authors – Rosemary Hanna and Wayne Neely – also stopped by to say hello.

In addition to being a meteorologist, Wayne is the author of a series of books about the most devastating hurricanes to hit the Bahamas.

His books, which draw on first-hand accounts as well as his professional expertise, include The Great Bahamas Hurricane of 1866The Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes of the Caribbean and the Americas, and  The Great Bahamian Hurricanes of 1899 and 1932. They make for fascinating reading, and the latter was instrumental to me in conducting research for my own book.

Returning to the Sea for Survival

Alton Lowe, whose oil paintings are featured in Those Who Stayed, won’t be able to join me in Nassau for this Saturday’s book signing at Logos Bookstore. This week, as a tribute to Alton, I’m featuring some of his gorgeous paintings and corresponding excerpts from the book. Hope to see you at Logos on Saturday!

As the 20th century dawned, Green Turtle Cay’s glory days were a distant memory. The U.S., having annexed Hawaii and the Philippines, no longer needed the Bahamian pineapples that once buoyed the local economy.

A once-promising sisal industry had failed to thrive, as locally grown product could not compete with Mexican sisal, which was both less expensive and of superior quality. Blight had wiped out most of the Bahamian sponge supply — once known as some of the best in the world.

“Civic,” an oil painting by Alton Lowe. The Civic was a fishing sloop owned by Alton’s father, Albert Lowe.

But though the sea had failed Bahamian spongers, it provided other vital economic opportunities.

The Founding of Key West

Alton Lowe, whose oil paintings are featured in Those Who Stayed, won’t be able to join me in Nassau for this Saturday’s book signing at Logos Bookstore. This week, as a tribute to Alton, I’m featuring some of his gorgeous paintings and corresponding excerpts from the book. Hope to see you at Logos on Saturday!

“John Bartlum” (1814-1871) – oil painting by Alton Lowe

The waters around the Florida Keys were a popular site for many Abaco wreckers. In 1825, however, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Wrecking Act, which stipulated that salvage from any vessel wrecked in American waters must be brought to a U.S. port.

In the years that followed, a number of Abaconians relocated to Key West, then a mostly uninhabited island at the southern end of the chain of Florida Keys.

By 1860, two-thirds of the island’s 3,000 residents were of Bahamian descent, known locally as “Conchs.”

Many Green Turtle Cay natives would be among Key West’s founding families and community leaders, including John Bartlum  and William Curry.

Loyal to the Crown

Alton Lowe, whose oil paintings are featured in Those Who Stayed, won’t be able to join me in Nassau for this Saturday’s book signing at Logos Bookstore. This week, as a tribute to Alton, I’m featuring some of his gorgeous paintings and corresponding excerpts from the book. Hope to see you at Logos on Saturday!

LOYAL TO THE CROWN - The Loyalists who came to the Bahamas in hopes of establishing a new British empire.

“A New Beginning,” oil painting by Alton Lowe, from the private collection of Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Sands.

At the beginning of the 1780s, the American Revolutionary War had been raging for more than five years. Residents of the American colonies who wished to gain independence from England, known as Patriots, battled those Loyalists who maintained allegiance to the British Crown.

While the former sought autonomy, the latter believed their freedom was more effectively protected by British law than the untested Declaration of Independence.  Absent protection from the Crown, they worried the American colonies would promptly be annexed by the Spanish or French.

About 500,000 residents – 20% of the American population at the time – were Loyalists. In 1783, believing the Patriots stood no chance against England’s considerable might, they were stunned when Britain elected to grant independence to the United States. It would not be the last time the Crown would betray their loyalty.

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