Aviva Directory » Local & Global » North America » Caribbean Islands » Islands » Bahamas

The official name of the country of the Bahamas is the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. It is situated in the Lucayan Archipelago which is in the Atlantic Ocean, and it is 180,000 square miles of ocean. The capital is Nassau, which is located on the island of New Providence.

The nation, which consists of more than 700 islands, islets and cays and is situated north of Cuba and northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The islands were originally inhabited by the Lucayan, who were a branch of Taino people who spoke Arawaken. The Bahamas is where Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World.

The Spanish captured and enslaved many of the Lucayans, and sent them to Hispaniola to work in the mines. The slaves grew sick from both diseases their immune system could not fight off, including smallpox, which the disease which killed the most people, and from the harsh conditions in which they were kept. Although England had claimed the Bahamas in 1629, they had never settled it.

In 1648, a group of about 70 English Puritans and religious independents who referred to themselves as the "Company of Adventurers for the Plantation of the Islands of Eleuthera." The word "eleuthera" is Greek for "freedom." Today, they are known by the shorter version: the Eleutherian Adventurers. Adventurers, led by William Sayle, arrived on the island of Eleuthera.

Sayers and his Puritan followers had been thrown out of Bermuda for refusing to swear allegiance to the Crown. They spent some time trying to find a place where they could practice their religion in peace. They set off for the Bahamas with the authorization of England. Sayers had written their charter, called Articles and Orders of 1647. The Articles established freedom of religion and freedom of opinion, the idea that there would be humane treatment of the indigenous people on the island. Each settler would get 300 acres of land, and laid out the government as being aa governor, twelve councilors, and a senate made up of 100 settlers. This document, the first to set up a democracy in the New World, was not fulfilled.

Sayers and his Adventurers changed all that. He left in one boat, named The William, while his assistant, a man named Captain Butler, though at some point, they went their separate ways. The William encountered a storm near Spanish Wells.

The ship hit a reef known as the Devil's Backbone located off of Eleuthera near St. Catherine's Point ran aground. They managed to get to shore and or a while, and they lived in a cave, which is now named "Preacher's Cave," but while the cave provided shelter, they had lost their food and other provisions.

Sayle gathered up eight men, and they got into a tiny boat to reach Virginia where they would get food and supplies. The Virginia colonists gave Sayers a ship, food, and supplies to help the fledgling colony out. In 1649, another group of Puritan colonists who had been expelled from Bermuda arrived on the island. The pilgrims in New England raised money to buy the needed provisions for the Adventurers. The colonists were so appreciative of this that they sent ten tons of braziletto wood to New England with instructions to sell the wood and donate the money to Harvard University.

Farming was impossible due to horrible soil, and the colonists were reduced to finding food and provisions in shipwrecks. They moved on to try their luck elsewhere and in 1666, they settled the island of New Providence. By 1670, there were more than 900 settlers.

The colony faced so many problems as people left for an easier life, that the colony finally dissolved. Many of the adventurers, including Sayles, returned to Bermuda or moved to the American colonies. But it was very hard for the few who remained, and they barely scraped by, surviving on fish they caught and the few crops they could grow.

Newer settlements were established at Spanish Wells and Harbour Island. Sayers became the Governor of the Bahamas in 1643 and a second time in 1658. He went on to be the first governor of South Carolina in 1670. The Bahamas became a British crown colony in 1718. At the end of the American Revolutionary War, more than 60,00 loyalists left the United States and resettled in various countries. More than 1,500 resettled in the Bahamas, most in the Abaco Islands.

They built their own town, which is now called Hope Town there. Other settlers gravitated to Green Turtle Cay, Sandy Point, and Man-o-War Cay. A group of loyalist settlers from the Carolinas arrived in 1783 and established the Cherokee Sound settlement. Today, Cherokee Sound is known for building boats.

 

 

Recommended Resources


Search for Bahamas on Google, Bing, or Yahoo!