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Early History of Abaco and Harbour Island
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Page 1 of 1Total of 1 messages
Posted by:May 2nd 2007, 05:05:30 pm
Fig Tree News TeamThe early history of Abaco and Hope Town, Harbour Island

By Gail Saunders
betty@nasguard.com

The first Loyalist settlement in the Bahamas we believe was Carleton, near to the present day Treasure Cay. From Carleton, other towns such as Marsh's Harbour and Coco Plum Creek were established. Additional shiploads of Loyalists arrived and settled on the outskirts establishing a new town, Maxwell Town, after the then Governor of The Bahamas. Additional settlements were established and it is estimated that between 1500 and 2000 Loyalists settled in Abaco, but because they were disappointed with conditions, many left Abaco before 1790.

Those who remained were joined by migrants from Harbour Island, which had been settled by the Eleutheran Adventurers over a century earlier. Late local historian and dentist, Dr. Paul Albury, opined that it was the pretty girls of Abaco who first attracted the men of Harbour Island. The latter was by this time overcrowded and its fishing grounds limited. Abaco, on the other hand, offered a larger and more resourceful area for both fishing and agriculture.

Hope Town was established in about 1785 by Loyalists and 'Conchs' (i.e. the old inhabitants). Loyalists who settled at Elbow Cay, Hope town first called Great Harbour, circa 1785 included a widow from Charleston, South Carolina, Wyannie Malone, who came with four grown children. Two sons, Ephraim and David, married daughters of old inhabitants living at Harbour Island. One daughter, Wyannie married a Loyalist from South Carolina, Jacob Adams, but their children all married 'Conchs.' The other daughter was said to have run away with a sea captain and nothing is known of what became of her.

The inhabitants of Harbour Island and Eleuthera had a long association with the Abacos. They had cut timber, fished for turtle, ambergris and wrecks in the Abacos for over 125 years and according to Ann Lawlor 'considered the island their home away

from home. '

In fact Hope Town was populated by inhabitants of Harbour Island. Loyalists from Abaco were very different to the so called aristocratic planter-merchant class in Nassau and they 'found more affinities with the old inhabitants of Harbour Island and Eleuthera than with Nassauvians or the planters of the southern islands' (Craton and Saunders Islanders in the Stream, Vol. 1, 182). The offspring of the first generation of Loyalists continued to marry into Harbour Island families and eventually only a few of the original Loyalist names survived, namely Cornish, Adams, Weatherford, Cook, Harris, Malone and Archer. Among some of the surnames of the old inhabitants or 'Conchs' at Harbour Island were Russell, Tedder, Bethel, Albury, Sands, Sawyer, Roberts and Pinder.

Hope Towners endured difficulties and a hard life in the 19th century. One of the leading industries was boat-building, a painstaking and exacting occupation.

Constructing a boat was 'long' difficult and arduous work.' Hope Town was traditionally the most prominent boat building centre in the Bahamas. Winer Malone, as far as I can determine, today is the only boat-builder on Hope Town. Man-O-War has replaced Hope Town as the centre of the industry.

Presently, Hope Town is thriving from yachting, tourism, real estate and second home ownership. Hope Towners are indeed a resourceful people!

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