How Eleuthera Came to Be
The Arawaks or Tainos were the first settlers on Eleuthera Bahamas. The Spaniards, upon discovering the Bahamas, took them to Hispaniola to work as miners. Unfortunately, their population died out in 1550 so the island remained uninhabited until 1648 when the Puritan Pilgrims or the first European settlers from Bermuda landed on the island. These Puritan Pilgrims who called themselves the Eleutherian Adventurers were led by Captain William Sayle who, along with everyone else in the group, was seeking freedom from religious persecution. It is said to be Captain Sayle who renamed the island from Segatoo, its original aboriginal name, to Eleutheria which is a Greek word meaning freedom. The name later on became Eleuthera which means free.
While traveling by boat towards the northern part of the island, Captain Sayle and his group wrecked their ship and lost most of their supplies on the reefs of Devil’s Backbone. The group took refuge in a large cave, which is now known as Preacher’s Cave and one of the well-known Bahamas tourist attractions, where they made do with what they had. Captain Sayle, on the other hand, repaired the ship and went to Massachusetts to ask for supplies from fellow Puritans. Though he was successful, life in Eleuthera Bahamas was hard for many of them inducing many to leave. A small group did remain and they were responsible for creating the first ever constitution in Bahamas history. Their constitution called for the establishment of a republic, making Eleuthera Bahamas the first true seat of democracy in the Western World as well as the birthplace of the Bahamas.
The Development of Eleuthera Bahamas
Shipwrecking was the main livelihood on Eleuthera back in the 1800s because farming had proved to be largely unsuccessful. Dangerous reefs surrounded the island which often led to ships wrecking their bottoms and losing loads of supplies. Salvaging these ships became really lucrative to the point where locals deliberately lured ships towards the reefs causing them to sink. Farming did become successful during the 19th century because pineapples could be grown at a large scale on the island. Exporting the pineapples to the US and England became a booming business not only on Eleuthera Bahamas but on Cat Island and Long Island as well. Unfortunately, by the early 20th century, the industry declined because the US government started to subsidize pineapple production in both Cuba and Hawaii.
From the 1950s to 1980s, Eleuthera Bahamas was part of the reason why Bahamas Tourism was booming during this time. Many famous industrialists and personalities frequently visited the island, making it the playground of the wealthy. Among them were the Prince and Princess of Wales, Robert de Niro, and Juan Trippe who created the exclusive Cotton Bay Club. Though tourism boomed, a new foreign-ownership policy and changes in the US tax law led to the shutting down of some agricultural businesses and resorts on the island during the early 1980s.
Today, Eleuthera Bahamas is one of the most developed of the out islands though not as developed as New Providence. Its economy is dependent on fishing, boating, and Bahamas Tourism. Many Europeans and Americans use the island as their vacation spot each year.
Recent Developments on Eleuthera
Last 2010, a 25-acre sanctuary, called the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve opened to preserve the rich diversity of plant species on the island. This park holds over 171 indigenous plant species. Through the joint efforts of the Bahamas National Trust and the Leon Levy Foundation, their first National Park attracts hundreds of tourists and locals each year.
Eleuthera Bahamas’ history is certainly a rich one and adds to the unique and delightful adventure many tourists experience while vacationing on the island.