Bahamas, New Providence, Eluthera, Nassau

The Bahamas, modern

The Bahamas are an archipelago consisting of two thousand cays and seven hundred islands. It is located in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Florida.

The seafaring Taino people moved into the southern Bahamas around the 7th century from Hispaniola and Cuba. These people came to be known as the Lucayans. There were an estimated 40,000+ Lucayans at the time of Columbus' arrival in 1492.

Christopher Columbus's first landfall in the New World was on San Salvador Island, also known as Watling's Island, in the southern part of Bahamas. Here, Columbus made contact with the Lucayans and exchanged goods with them.

Bahamian Lucayans were later taken to Hispaniola as slaves by the Spanish. Within two decades, Lucayan societies ceased to exist due to forced labour, warfare, disease, emigration and outmarriage. After the Lucayan population was eliminated, the Bahamian islands were virtually unoccupied until English settlers came from Bermuda in 1647. The Eleutherian Adventurers established settlements on the island of Eleuthera.

Eleuthera is an island in the Bahamas, lying 50 miles east of Nassau. It is very long and thin—110 miles long and in places little more than a mile wide. The name "Eleuthera" is derived from the Greek word for "free." 
The original population of Taino, or Arawaks, was mostly deported by the Spanish to work in the mines of Hispaniola, where they died out by 1550. The island is believed to have been unoccupied until the first European settlers—puritan pilgrims- arrived in 1648 from Bermuda. These settlers, known as the 'Eleutherian Adventurers,' gave the island its current name -- "eleutheria" means 'freedom' in Greek, while Eleuthera means 'free.'


New Providence is principal island of The Bahamas, between Andros Island (west) and Eleuthera Island (east). With a length of 21 miles (34 km) and a width of 7 miles, the island is mostly flat, with swamps and several shallow lakes.
While the first European visitors  (after the Spanish depopulation) to the Bahama Islands were Bermudian salt rakers gathering sea salt in Grand Turk and Inagua, the first lasting occupation was on Eleuthera and then New Providence was settled shortly thereafter. The attraction of New Providence was one of the best sheltered natural small vessel harbors in the West Indies.  This harbor is created by a feature known as, the 'Tongue of the Ocean' is the name of a deep oceanic trench in the Bahamas separating the islands of Andros and New Providence. The depth of the water drops from roughly 10 feet along Andros' east offshore barrier reef to over 6,000 ft, and the drop is roughly 100 miles long.

Nassau was formerly Charles Town. 
Charlestown and New Providence itself were considered to be a "pirates proven" as declared by the Governor of Cuba in 1684 and in retaliation it was burnt to the ground by the Spanish in 1684, but later rebuilt and renamed Nassau in 1695 to honor King William III of England (from the House of Orange-Nassau).

After the Spanish raids of 1684, New Providence remained empty with no permanent settlers until 1686. At which point colonists from Jamaica and from Bermuda ventured back and built a fort. They made a council of 12 in 1687. Pirates were a great concern and efforts vain to keep them from watering in the islands. The likes of John Thurber, Thomas Wooley and Christopher Goffe were particularly difficult to keep out especially in that many of the settlers were not above reproach.

In July of 1687 Thomas Bridges was confirmed Governor of New Providence but shortly thereafter he was succeeded by Cadwallader Jones who arrived in the colony in June 1690. It is reported in history that he sold gunpowder to known pirates and failed to prosecute the theft of guns. It is said that he and his agent reigned in terror over the the citizens and imprisoned them without trials, practiced censorship and oppressed traders. He forced the General Assembly to adopt his previous proclamations by having his son point the guns of his ship on the Council Chamber from the harbour during the session. There was then rebellion and imprisonment of Jones followed by the leader of the rebel faction being arrested and tried by a Grand Jury who convicted him. The jury was said to contain six pirates, two drunks and one man accused of unnatural vice.  For just over four years Jones ran Nassau and New Providence before he quite unexpectedly decamped for parts unknown.  (It is rumored that he had double crossed one too many pirates.) He was replaced with Governor Nicholas Trott.

 In 1695 the pirate, Captain Avery, seized a ship called the Charles off Corunna and re-christened it the Fancy and turned it to piracy. He was lucky enough to encounter and capture a ship belonging to the Great Mogul and looted it of its riches and great jewels of the Mogul. He then traveled with the Indian Princess before landing upon Eleuthera and gaining permission from the then Governor Nicholas Trott to water in Nassau. He divided his loot with his crew and this resulted in the embarrassment and dismissal of Trott  Because of  this scandal and the  stronghold of the pirates upon New Providence and the ravaging of the Spanish galleons by their ships, the Spanish army wiped out Nassau in 1695. But within two years privateers revisited to rebuild the capital for similar purposes.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, the French and Spanish navies joined forces in 1703 and wiped out Nassau again because of the continued plundering by the privateers and pirates. Once again the city was reestablished for use by privateers, pirates and wreckers.  But this time there was no legitimate government at all.  From 1706 till just a few months ago, New Providence was run by a collection of pirates and scallywags.  Edward Teach, 'Blackbeard' was Chief Magistrate of the 'Pirate Republic'  which only came to an end when Woodes Rogers arrived with Frigates and marines.

Governor Woodes Rogers

Return to Directory