Tag: Alton Lowe

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 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!

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.

Key West Celebrates Its Island Roots May 19 and 20

Because it’s an election year, Green Turtle Cay’s Island Roots Heritage Festival is on hiatus for 2017.

But the celebrations will go on in Key West, where they’re holding an event next weekend to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first Island Roots Heritage Festival, held in 1977.

Key West celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Island Roots Heritage Festival on May 19 and 20, 2017.

Alton Lowe and Michelle Roberts of Green Turtle Cay present Key West Mayor Charles McCoy with the New Plymouth flag at the original Island Roots Heritage Festival – May 1977.

The Key West event kicks off on Friday night, May 19th, with a performance by the Barefoot Man and his band at Two Friends Patio Restaurant.

The Barefoot Man (George Nowak) and his band will perform at the Island Roots Heritage Festival in Key West May 19 and 20

On Saturday May 20th, the fun goes from noon until 11:00 pm at the Truman Waterfront Park Field. There will be carnival rides and music, including a performance by children from the Bahama Village Music Program. A variety of vendors will sell food, beverages and island-inspired crafts, and I hear there may even be a Junkanoo rush!

If you’re interested in tracing your own island roots, you won’t want to miss the presentation by Peter Roberts of the Bahamas DNA Project. Peter will have DNA kits available for those who would like to be tested.

Peter Roberts of the Bahamas DNA Project

The sister city relationship between Key West and Green Turtle Cay — first proclaimed in 1977 — will be reaffirmed, and the evening will wrap up with another performance by the Barefoot Man.

Bahamian Member of Parliament George Smith presents the Sister City proclamation to Key West Mayor Charles McCoy – May 1977.

General admission for adults is $5, and includes a wristband so folks can come and go from the event all day. Children will be admitted free, but will still receive a keepsake wristband.

For more details, visit the event’s Facebook page.

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THOSE WHO STAYED Now Available at Marsh Harbour's Sand Dollar Shoppe

For those of you who’ve asked, my new book Those Who Stayed, is now available in Marsh Harbour at the Sand Dollar Shoppe.

And, I’m excited to announce that the folks at the Sand Dollar Shoppe have invited Alton Lowe and me to appear in-store for a book signing event on Saturday, May 13th! (Which happens to be the day before Mother’s Day, so if you’re looking for a gift for Mom, come on by.)

Amanda Diedrick, author of Those Who Stayed, and Alton Lowe, whose paintings are featured in the book will appear at a book signing May 13th at the Sand Dollar Shoppe in Marsh Harbour Bahamas

The Sand Dollar Shoppe is located on Bay Street, just opposite the Abaco Beach Resort, and Alton and I will be in-store from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

For more information, contact the shop at (242) 367-4405 or get in touch with me directly.

Hope to see you May 13th!

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Resurrecting Ma May’s Garden

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Several members of my extended family are enthusiastic and successful gardeners. Me? I’m no expert on growing things but I love flowers, particularly tropical varieties, and I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with photographing them.

Marion Mayfield “May” Curry

Turns out we may all have inherited our interest in gardens and gardening from my great-grandmother. According to my cousin, Alton Lowe, Ma May had a passion for growing things, and her garden was one of the most beautiful on Green Turtle Cay. Any time you passed, Alton says, you’d see her outside, tending her plants.

Along with roses and carnations, Ma May grew fragrant gardenias, several types of jasmine, pomegranates and grapes. She even introduced shrimp flowers to the island.

That she was able to keep such a lush garden surprised me, given how rocky the yard is at Fish Hooks. But apparently the hard ground was no match for my great-grandmother. She simply cut holes in the rock and filled them with soil.

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