Recently, I came across a Huffington Post article about the world’s bluest beaches. This piece is essentially a ready-made bucket list for me, since I love beaches of all kinds, in all seasons and in all sorts of weather. It’s entirely possible that I’m biased, of course, but I think the Bahamian out islands have some of the most spectacular, unspoiled beaches in the world. So does National Geographic, which named Abaco’s Treasure Cay beach (pictured above) one of the 10 most beautiful on the planet.
Below are a few more of my favourite Bahamian beaches. What about you? Where’s your favourite beach?
As Bahamian performer Ronnie Butler sings, “Everybody wan’ go to heaven, but nobody wan’ dead.” But if you have to go, I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to be laid to rest than the cemetery in Green Turtle Cay.
Pa Herman’s grave and part of his previous tombstone, likely damaged by a hurricane.
The two-acre graveyard, located at the foot of the hill east of town, dates back to the late 1700s, though it’s been destroyed several times since by hurricanes. At low tide, you can still spot fragments of old tombstones on the beach below.
Overlooking the Sea of Abaco, Green Turtle Cay’s historic cemetery is a peaceful space where tropical flowers grow among the graves and dance in the breeze, and from which you can watch pelicans dive for their dinner and fishermen try their luck on the bonefishing flats.
I often wonder whether it’s coincidence that the Tiny Turtles Preschool is located right next door. There’s something sweet and life-affirming about paying respects to those who’ve left us while listening to a new generation of little voices laughing and singing.
Though most of their grave markers have been lost to time and weather, a number of our family members are buried here, including Pa Herman, Mirabelle, my grandmother’s sister who died at six years old, and their youngest sibling, a boy who was stillborn. One of my grandmother’s children, a girl born premature, is also here.
If your ancestors are buried in the Green Turtle Cay cemetery, the Find A Grave website includes a list of the interments for which there are existing markers.
Since its July launch, Little House by the Ferry has had more than 16,000 page views by 6,000+ unique visitors in 48 countries around the world. A warm thank you to everyone who’s visited, commented on or followed LHBTF over the past three months. I’m having a great deal of fun writing about Green Turtle Cay’s past and present and getting to know other GTC lovers. It’s also been wonderful to connect with distant relatives I didn’t know before now.
I look forward to sharing more about Fish Hooks and Green Turtle Cay in the months ahead. In the meantime, if you’ve got historic GTC stories or photos you’d like to share, please get in touch.
Before they had access to local doctors, neighbourhood pharmacies or affordable transportation, many Bahamians relied on “bush medicine”, the practice of using indigenous plants and herbs to treat ailments and cure illness. My grandmother’s favourite bush remedies were aloe (for burns) and cerasee (for pretty much everything else.)
Though largely replaced in recent years by modern pharmaceuticals, bush medicine is experiencing a revival as people seek more natural and holistic remedies. To preserve and promote traditional practices, Richard (“Blue”) Jones has created a bush medicine garden at the Captain Roland Roberts Environmental Center in Green Turtle Cay. He’s promised to sit down with me next trip and teach me about bush medicine, and of course, I’ll share what I learn here.
In the meantime, I came across a simple, delicious-sounding recipe for hibiscus bush tea on the blog Everywhere with Eryn: “Cut up lemon grass and mint and pull flower petals from hibiscus and put in a tea bag. Put in boiling water and let steep until the color of the tea is a deep pink.” Add a squeeze of lime (and maybe a little honey to cut the cranberry-like tartness) and you’ve got a terrific treatment for colds and flu.
Eryn reports that this bush tea worked better than any over-the-counter medication for her cold/allergy symptoms. Makes sense, since according to bush medicine practitioners, mint is an effective treatment for congestion and digestive issues, lemongrass helps with fever and cough, and lime and hibiscus are both great sources of Vitamin C. Hibiscus is also said to be rich in antioxidants, and studies have shown that hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure in adults with mild hypertension. (It should go without saying that I’m not a doctor, and nothing you read here should be construed as medical advice.)
Turns out that many cultures around the world — from Africa and the Middle East to Central and Latin America and the Caribbean — make some version of hibiscus tea (also known as roselle, sorrel, flor de jamaica or karkade). Here are just a few of the many recipes I’ve found.
If you don’t have access to pesticide-free hibiscus plants, you can buy the dried flowers at health food stores or online (I found a number of suppliers on Amazon.com.) And if you try any of these recipes, let me know what you think.
As a result of your comments and emails, we can now put names to some of the faces in the photos I posted on September 19 and September 24. A huge thank you to Philip Sawyer, Jack Albury, Jack Lowe, Beth Lowe Sawyer, Priscilla Weatherford, Paula Weech Unhjem, Geanette Hall Albury, Emily Lowe Bethel, Robert Malone, Gloria Chiodo, Tuppy Weatherford, Gail Lowe and my mom, Carolyn Albury Diedrick, for the information they shared.
Thanks also to Eileen Hodgkins and Shirley Roberts, who provided names for all but one of the girls in the photo below. Apparently this was a sewing class in Green Turtle Cay in the late 1930s. (I wonder if it was taught by Miss Jones, who also taught the knitting class…?) If you’d like an unnumbered version of this image, drop me a note.
Back Row: 1 – Sybil Saunders Hodgkins (mother of ferry captain Curtis Hodgkins), 2 – Delores Saunders Lowe (sister of 1), 3 – unknown, 4 – Libby Saunders Lowe (wife of Sidney Lowe), 5 – Merlee Lowe Key (wife of Gerald Key), 6 – Audrey Saunders Semon (sister of 1 and 2), 7 – Merriel Roberts Cash (wife of Leo Cash), 8 – Annis Lowe, 9 – Mamie Preston, 10 – Lillian Russell, 11 – Hilda Saunders Hodgkins, (wife of Ritchie Hodgkins,)
Front Row: 12 – Betty Lowe (wife of Emory Lowe), 13 – Agnes Lowe Roberts, (wife of Doyle Roberts), 14 Olga Roberts, 15 Thalia Saunders Lowe (sister of 11, wife of Chester Lowe.)
Photo #1 – Unknown Girls (Possibly in Cherokee Sound during 1942 visit of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor)
A giant thank you to everyone who sent comments and emails about the collection of photos I posted earlier this week. I’ve received some promising leads and hope to be able to identify many of the faces pictured. Once identities are confirmed, I’ll post an update.
In the meantime, here’s a second batch of photos of unknown people. All I know about these images is that they were likely taken in the Bahamas (Abaco or Nassau) between the 1930s and the 1950s. For ease of reference, all images are numbered (see captions.)
For me, the best part of genealogical research is finding old photographs. It’s fine to read about ancestors — where they were born, when they were married, when they died — but seeing their eyes, their expressions, even their attire, makes them real in a way words never could.
Photo #2 Older girl is Virginia Curry – need to identify the two younger children.
Over time, I’ve amassed a collection of old Bahamian photographs, primarily from my late grandmother, Lurey (Curry) Albury in Nassau and my late uncle, Cuthbert Albury, of Marsh Harbour, Abaco. Though my grandmother was able to identify many faces, I’ve still got dozens of images of people I don’t recognize.
For the next while, I’m going to post small groupings of these photos in hopes that someone can help put names to faces. If the folks in the pictures are ancestors of mine, it would be great to know. If they’re not, I’d love to be able to track down their descendants so I can forward the photos to them.
Do you recognize any of these people or places?
If so, please comment at the bottom of this post or, if you prefer, email me privately. If not, I’d appreciate if you’d forward a link to this page to anyone who might be able to help. (To view full-size images and/or complete captions, just double-click on any photo.)
Finally, I’m always on the hunt for old Abaco photos, particularly of Green Turtle Cay. If you have any you’d like to share, let me know. I’d love to see them.
NOTE: I’m not sure, but I believe most of these photos were taken between the late 1930s and the early 1950s.
Photo #4 – Photo taken in Green Turtle Cay.
Photo #6 – Possibly taken in Abaco
Photo #7 – taken in Green Turtle Cay. May be a sewing group or class.
Much as Tom and I enjoy the time we spend on Green Turtle Cay, we suspect our dog, Wrigley, loves it even more.
Though he’s not exactly what you’d call a champion swimmer, Wrigley loves to splash around at the water’s edge, and he’ll gladly swim out to Tom or me for a bit of hot dog before paddling back to the sand. As you can see in the above video, though, his favourite Abaco activity is tearing up and down the beach, grinning ear-to-ear, spraying sand, digging holes and chasing sandpipers and seagulls.
Fortunately for Wrigley, at 14 lbs, he’s small enough to fly with us in-cabin. Fortunately for us, he’s a terrific traveler — far more pleasant and patient during the trip than either Tom or me. In fact, ticket agents, flight attendants and fellow passengers often ask if we’re sure there’s really a dog in his carrier.
Our dog, Wrigley, and I have a morning routine while we’re in Green Turtle Cay. Job one, of course, is to satisfy his physical needs. Then, we head down to the dock, so he can check on the boat and evict the seagulls from “his” dock — tasks he takes quite seriously.
Wrigley on Seagull Patrol
One morning, as Wrigley faced off against a pair of stubborn gulls, I stood on the dock, enjoying the cool air. At the sound of strange, wet breathing, I glanced to my left. Twenty feet or so from the dock were two dolphins.
Government Record of Deaths in Abaco September 1932
When the wind died down and the rain subsided, the residents of Green Turtle Cay were relieved that the worst was behind them.
But as they emerged from their battered, flooded shelters, they discovered what misery lay ahead.
Six of their own – George Lewis (85), Thomas Roberts (62), Alice Lowe (58), Insley Sawyer (5) and brothers, DeWees and Bert Lowe, (15 and 2, respectively) – had been fatally wounded. Countless others were injured.
Water from Settlement Creek had surged across the lowest part of town and out into the sea of Abaco, destroying the cemetery and unearthing corpses. (Even today, fragments of grave stones remain on the beach that borders the graveyard.)
There had been talk on Green Turtle Cay about a hurricane, but the only forecasting tools at the time were barometers. And though they were falling, indicating the approach of inclement weather, there was no way to predict where or when the storm would hit, or how serious it might be.
Thick, black storm clouds gathered in the eastern sky on Sunday evening. On Monday, September 5, New Plymouth residents woke to pelting rain and howling winds that intensified throughout the morning.
By afternoon, according to Bahamian meteorologist Wayne Neely in The Great Bahamian Hurricanes of 1899 and 1932, the first known and documented Category 5 hurricane ever to hit the Bahamas was battering Green Turtle Cay.
Sustained winds reached 160 mph, with gusts as high as 200 mph, and a storm surge of 20 feet.
For three days, the storm stalled over the cay, hurling boats and large chunks of debris around like toys. Houses flooded and were smashed. Some fell off their footings. Most collapsed all together.
Forced to abandon their disintegrating homes and peppered with sand, stones and stinging rain, families clung to each other to avoid blowing away as they crawled in search of shelter.
In the few structures that remained intact, the townspeople huddled together, singing hymns to comfort the children and to ward off panic as the settlement was demolished around them. There was no food, no light and but for the few who managed to reach the home of settlement doctor, Walter Kendrick, no aid for the wounded.
Below are two first-hand accounts of the ’32 hurricane – one from my grandmother, Lurey (Curry) Albury and the other from her first-cousin, John Lowe.
It’s unclear whether New Plymouth’s Loyalist settlers had remarkable foresight or just good fortune. Either way, the tiny settlement was well-situated to capitalize on a series of economic opportunities and by the early 1900s, New Plymouth was a vibrant, prosperous town of 1,500 residents. On September 3, 1932, however, these residents had no inkling of the terror and misfortune lurking beyond the horizon.
In the mid-1800s, Green Turtle Cay’s proximity to major shipping lanes east of the Abaco barrier reef made it the wrecking capital of Abaco. At one point, says Steve Dodge in Abaco: The History of an Out Island and its Cays, more than twenty wrecking schooners and forty fishing vessels were based in New Plymouth.
When the U.S. Civil War stifled the trade that necessitated shipping, locals turned to cultivating and exporting pineapples which, by the late 1800s, were the mainstay of New Plymouth’s economy.
Unfortunately, the cay’s soil was soon exhausted, fruit often spoiled due to weather-related shipping delays, and U.S. pineapple imports diminished with that country’s acquisition of Hawaii. But the economic gap created by Green Turtle Cay’s waning pineapple industry was soon filled.
Turns out one of the most memorable performers at the 2013 Island Roots Heritage Festival wasn’t even in the program. On the first day of the festival, Mother Nature made several unannounced – and unwelcome – appearances.
As an opening act, she whipped up a thundering downpour, trapping people indoors and delaying the festival opening by an hour or more.
Then, apparently not satisfied with the havoc she’d wreaked earlier, she resurfaced around dinner time. The eastern sky grew dark and heavy, and the winds picked up. A waterspout began swirling off the east shore of the cay.
Photo by Timothy Roberts
Festival goers took cover in nearby buildings as the funnel barreled toward shore and made landfall as a tornado at the north end of Gillam Bay.
Video by Timothy Roberts
Residents along the bay scrambled for shelter under stairwells and in shower stalls as their homes were pummeled. Though several houses and at least one vehicle sustained serious damage, no major injuries were reported and fortunately, the tornado dissipated before it reached the settlement.
For me, the festival does more than remind me of my grandmother’s stories. It brings them to life.
One way Ma May earned money for the family was by making and selling straw hats. My grandmother and her sisters collected the palm tops, dried and prepared them, and braided the raw strands. Ma May then stitched that “plait” into hats.
Though I’m lucky to have one of the straw hats she made, I never got to see her make them, so I love watching the craftspeople at the festival.
And while it’s now an entertaining festival contest, conch-cleaning was a daily chore for my grandmother. Hard to believe these days, when conchs are so precious, but back in the 1920s, Pa Herman kept them to feed his hogs. Each morning, my grandmother and her sisters would have to break a dozen or more conchs before school.
For a few days each May, tranquil New Plymouth pulses with activity as the Island Roots Heritage Festival takes over the settlement. Originally created to encourage islanders to renew ties with kin in Key West and beyond, today’s festival offers an authentic and entertaining island experience for locals and tourists alike.
Royal Bahamian Defence Force Band Marches Through Town
For visitors, Island Roots is a crash course in local culture. Bahamian artisans display native wood carvings, straw and shell work, fine jewelry and vivid paintings of tropical scenes. Traditional lime-in-spoon races, scavenger hunts, Maypole plaiting, conch-cleaning and conch horn-blowing contests and tug-of-war competitions delight kids of all ages.
Retired museum manager, Mrs. Ivy Roberts, says that while excavating the property’s latrine area, workers uncovered a number of intriguing artifacts. Their discoveries included several tobacco pipes, broken glassware and pottery, children’s toys, an inkwell, a pocket watch – and dozens of liquor bottles.
Turns out that during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the men of Green Turtle Cay, afraid their wives would discover their illicit imbibing, hid the evidence in the one place nobody was likely to look.
These interesting finds were almost enough to inspire us to excavate the site where Fish Hooks’ outhouse once stood. Almost.
As children, my grandmother and her sisters contributed to their household by collecting shells at Gillam Bay on Green Turtle Cay.
“When it was low tide,” my grandmother said, “we used to go out over the sandbanks to get Panamas. They were a pretty kind of shell, with a creature inside. You’d have to boil them to get the creature out, and then you’d sell them for so much a quart.”
It was twilight, a day or two before this year’s Island Roots Heritage Festival was set to begin. Town was quiet and still as I walked our dog, Wrigley, along the Settlement Creek waterfront. But faintly, on the breeze, I heard drums. And cowbells.
I tracked the sound west, past the ferry dock and Curry’s Food Store. The music grew louder as I passed Settlement Point and the freight dock. As I rounded the corner by Sundowners, I came upon this.
In case you don’t recognize the music, these are Junkanoo musicians, practicing for their performance at that weekend’s festival. I’ll post more about the Island Roots Heritage Festival (and Junkanoo) soon. Meanwhile, enjoy this sneak preview.
It was a month ago today that I took a deep breath and clicked the button that made Little House By The Ferry visible to the public. Since then, the blog has had more than 2,000 site visitors and 5,100+ page views, and I’ve received some very kind comments and lovely notes. As you can probably tell, Green Turtle Cay and Fish Hooks hold special places in my heart, and I love being able to share them with others.
A warm thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to visit, comment on or follow the blog. Your readership and feedback are much appreciated. I look forward to sharing more of our Green Turtle Cay adventures with you in the days ahead.