Green Turtle Cay lost a much-loved stalwart of the community with the recent passing of Iva Lowe Scholtka.
Born on June 13, 1935, Iva was the second of four children and the only daughter of Albert Lowe and Annie Curry Lowe. She was a happy, outgoing child who loved to read and write, and was rarely spotted without a book in her hands.
Iva Lowe (third from left) with her classmates at the Amy Roberts All Ages School. Teacher Amy Roberts is second from left, headmaster Jack Ford is at the back right, and Iva’s brother Alton is in overalls in the front row.
“Iva was very smart and popular,” says her younger brother, Alton Lowe. “She was a real doer and an organizer, always gathering friends together for beach outings and parties. She and Alice Gates Albury would organize dances.” And, with the help of local commissioner, Mr. Gerassimus, Iva and Alice arranged Saturday night movies for the community.
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!
During my last visit to Green Turtle Cay, I had a long chat with Bahamian artist Alton Lowe about the Albert Lowe Museum — specifically, the structure in which it’s housed. Turns out that the museum building’s history is as fascinating as the artifacts displayed inside.
Albert Lowe Museum, Green Turtle Cay
Built in 1825 by the Roberts family (who owned a department store on the property where Sid’s Grocery is now located), this two-story Loyalist home features traditional gingerbread-trimmed porches, dormer windows and one of the only cellars on the cay.
Upstairs Bedroom in the Albert Lowe Museum Photo by Tom Walters
As was common at the time, the house has a separate kitchen building (which remains fully functional), as well as a four-hole latrine. The latter was an indication of the family’s wealth, since it offered correctly sized holes for men, women and children.
Separate Kitchen and Latrine Building – Albert Lowe Museum
During the 19th century, when wrecking was a mainstay of the local economy, goods salvaged from shipwrecks were stored in and sold from the house’s cellar (which now serves as the museum’s Wrecker’s Gallery.)
Later in the 19th century, future British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain lived here as a young man prior to purchasing his own home on the cay.
E. Willis Bethel Photo: Albert Lowe Museum
And in the early 20th century, when merchant ships sailed from New Plymouth to New York packed with pineapples and returned laden with dry goods and other supplies, the stars and stripes flew over the house’s porch as it served as residence and office for U.S. Consul, E. Willis Bethel.
When the 1932 hurricane demolished New Plymouth’s library, this house – one of just a handful of structures in the settlement to survive the storm – served as a library until a new one could be built.
Sadly, by the mid-1970s, the Roberts house had fallen into disrepair. It was being rented out as office space when Alton purchased the home and set about its restoration.
He scoured the Bahamas for architectural elements – like porch spindles from a historic home in Nassau – that were true to the house’s vintage, as well as historically accurate reproduction pieces – such as gingerbread trim, hand-made by his brother, Leonard Lowe.
A year later, before Bahamian, American and British dignitaries and hundreds of onlookers, Alton opened the Albert Lowe Museum — the first museum in the Bahamas.
Alton Lowe looks on as the Hon. Clement Maynard, Bahamas Minister of Tourism, cuts the ribbon to open the Albert Lowe Museum.
Named in honour of Alton’s father, a well-known model ship maker, the museum’s mission was to preserve Bahamian and Abaconian history and serve as an educational tool for young Bahamians.
Opening Day, Albert Lowe Museum Photo: Albert Lowe Museum
Today, the museum showcases three centuries’ worth of paintings, sculptures, writings, models, photographs and other artifacts documenting the lives of the Lucayan Indians who first inhabited these islands, and the Loyalists and their slaves who settled here after fleeing post-revolutionary America.
It’s a diverse and fascinating collection, housed in a building that’s played a key role in New Plymouth history for nearly 200 years.
Model ship by Albert Lowe on display at the museum Photo by Tom Walters
Here are a few more photos from the albums of my grandmother, Lurey (Curry) Albury and my uncle, Cuthbert Albury. I suspect most of these were taken in Abaco, but aside from that, I know very little about them. I’ve included whatever information I have in the captions below each photograph. If you can help identify any of these people or scenes, please post a comment below, or email me.
If I had to guess, I’d say this was Cherokee Sound during the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the early 1940s. Anyone know for sure?
This group looks like the staff of a hotel, perhaps. I’m fairly certain that the man seated in the front row third from left is my uncle, Cuthbert Albury, of Marsh Harbour, Abaco.
I know this is the wedding of Dorothy Albury, daughter of Bissell and Jean Albury, but I don’t know who any of the guests are. Anyone know?
My cousin, Evan Lowe, and I wonder if this could be my great-great-grandfather, Thomas Wesley (“Pa Wes”) Curry, of Green Turtle Cay….?
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.
My Great-Grandmother “Ma May” Marion Mayfield (Gates) Curry 1902-1984
Last Tuesday evening, I watched a terrific TV show on TLC called Who Do You Think You Are. It’s not a new program, but somehow, I’ve missed it before now.
Each one-hour episode features a celebrity who’s interested in learning more about his or her family history. Featured celebrities travel around the U.S. (and in some cases, internationally) meeting with historians, visiting libraries, local archives, museums and cemeteries, and retracing the lives of their ancestors through birth, death and marriage records, newspaper archives, court documents, military service records, etc.
Though I found much to like about this show, two concepts in particular resonated with me, probably because I’ve found them to be true in my own genealogical research.
First, address one question at a time. Rather than taking a shotgun approach, the celebrities on this program seek to answer one specific query or research one particular ancestor. Christina Applegate wanted to learn more about her paternal grandmother, while Kelly Clarkson focused on her great-great-great-grandfather.
Not long before she passed away, my grandmother, Lurey Albury, gave me this photograph. I recognized her in the picture, of course, and her sister, Virginia, but as time went on, I grew more curious about the group and the other ladies in it.
Once again, my generous and trusty sources came through. Shirley Roberts, Floyd Lowe, Joy Lowe Jossi and Joy’s sister-in-law, Betty Lowe, helped identify all the faces (including my grandmother’s youngest sister, Belle, whom I’d never have recognized.) Betty – who’s actually in the photo – provided details about the group.
A few years back, while visiting the Albert Lowe Museum in Green Turtle Cay, I shot pictures of some of the many photographs that line the museum walls. No special reason. I just love old photos from the cay.
Later, while editing the photos I’d taken, I came across the picture below. One face in particular — the girl in the back row, second from left — caught my eye. She looked a lot like childhood photos of my mother and I wondered if she might be a relative. One of my mom’s aunts, perhaps, or maybe even my grandmother. I asked around and emailed the image to various family members. Nobody could identify her.