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Journal of the Bahamas Historical Society, Volume 2 (October 1980)

NOTES ON THE ORIGIN OF RED BAYS, ANDROS
by David Eugene Wood

(Grateful thanks to Mrs. Alexis Pearce for editorial assistance)

Red Bays, is a small settlement located on the upper north west side of Andros. The origin of Red Bays is one of the more interesting features of Bahamian history for this obscure settlement is the fount of the Bahamian Seminole culture, although only slight vestiges of the culture remain today.

The period 1763-84 when the English possessed Florida was also the period of the development of the Seminole culture as such. It occurred with the intermingling of runaway slaves with the Creek Indians of Florida. In fact, 'Seminole' in Creek dialect signifies 'runaway'.1 Many runaway slaves took refuge with the Creeks who assisted them in opposing slave catchers. It was during 1821 that efforts were made by the Seminoles to gain a haven in the Bahamas. Seminoles on the coast of Florida occasionally encountered Bahamian fishing and wrecking vessels and it was a wrecking vessel, the "Steerwater" which brought the first group of Seminoles to Red Bays, Andros, while another group established a small community at the Berry Islands. Little is known of this latter settlement.2

The group who went to Andros remained apparently undiscovered until 1828 when the Collector of Customs seized and brought them to Nassau on the pretence that they had been illegally imported into the Bahamas for later shipment to Cuba as slaves.3 But because many of them had served in the British Army in the war against the United States and still retained their discharge papers, they were released. Thus their names never appeared in the slave registers, and they were never considered as slaves in the Bahamas.4

Both before and after their seizure, the settlers managed to support themselves by living off the land and the sea. At the time of their discovery in 1828, the reports claimed that ninety-eight (98) Seminoles ate "fish, conchs, and crabs," and also cultivated "Indian corn, plantain, yams, potatoes and pease ..."5 Three years later they had expanded their economic activities. They were depicted as living comfortably having

made considerable money by felling timber, cutting dye woods, gathering sponge and picking up wrecked property as several of them have through their industry and good management purchased themselves small vessels and one of them several slaves.6

...

If you are interested in the full text of the article, you may order this issue of our Journal for B$5.00 plus s&h by contacting the society.

END NOTES

  1. Goggin J. The Seminole Negroes of Andros Island Bahamas. Florida Historical Quarterly Vol. 24 No. 3 pp 201-206.
  2. Bethel to Commissioner of Customs 4 August 1831. Governor's Despatches, Nassau Public Records Office.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid and Register of Slaves 1831. Nassau Public Records Office.
  5. C. O. 23/78 (microfilm). Nassau Public Records Office.
  6. Bethel to Commissioner of Customs. 4 August 1831. Governor's Despatches. Nassau Public Records Office.