During the early 1800s, wrecking was a common occupation for Bahamian residents, and many plied their trade in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys. In 1825, however, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Wrecking Act, which stipulated that goods salvaged from any vessel wrecked in American waters must be brought to a U.S. port.
In the decades that followed, hundreds of Bahamians, including wreckers, boat builders and those in related professions from Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Abaco relocated to Key West. To this largely uninhabited island, they brought everything, up to and including their houses!
When we moved Fish Hooks cottage in 2014, it was kind of a big deal. We had to stop traffic on the one route out of town, and the local folks came by to watch. Our local newspaper, the Abaconian even covered the move.
Moving Day at Fish Hooks, January 2014
In past years, however, moving house was fairly common in the islands. Several older homes on Green Turtle Cay were moved short distances on rollers. A few, we’re told, were even floated to new destinations on the cay before being set in place.
But that’s nothing compared to the sorts of moves some former Green Turtle Cay residents made back in the mid-1800s.
Though I was stuck back in Los Angeles caring for Wrigley, my Green Turtle Cay friends did not disappoint when it came to keeping me updated about goings-on at the 2018 Island Roots Heritage Festival, and of course, taking some terrific photographs.
Weatherwise, the festival got off to a rocky start, with heavy rains on Friday, May 4, which led to the postponement of a number of events, including the opening ceremony.
Green Turtle Cay’s own Ronel Escarment performed as part of the festival’s opening ceremonies. (Photo: Mandy Roberts.)
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.
Annabelle Roberts Cross (left) and Trina Cooper of the Island Roots Heritage Festival with their Cacique Award. (Photo: Ruth Saunders)
The Cacique Awards recognize individuals and organizations who positively impact the Bahamian tourism industry. The award was accepted by current festival committee chairperson, Annabelle Roberts Cross.