|Island Notes - Historical Footnotes|
|Friday, 29 June 2012 10:45|
Florida is a near neighbour of the Bahamas and throughout history has interacted with the Bahamas. Only late in the nineteenth century did Miami exceed Nassau in population. The following is some historical background on the Florida connection taken from ‘Bahama Saga’.
Florida was a British possession from 1763 to1784. It then became became Spanish from 1784 until 1821 when it was purchased by the United States (in fact if Spain had not agreed to the purchase it almost certainly would probably have been annexed by force anyway - like Texas).
In the British colonial period in Florida, Britain used Seminoles as border guards. British Governor Tonyn reported ‘they were well affected and I can confide in the headmen’ (one Seminole was even recruited in the Royal Navy). The fledgling United States, and in particular the states of Georgia and Tennessee, was angered at the runaway slaves who were escaping to Florida and intermarrying with the Seminoles (hence becoming known as Black Seminoles). They made several border incursions to retrieve runaway slaves.
The historical novel about the
Bahamas from which this article
In 1819 twenty eight Seminoles arrived in Nassau and claimed they had been robbed and driven from their homes by the Americans. They had been told that in the direction of the rising sun was a ‘land of freedom’ and they used dugout canoes to land first at Joulters Cays and then at Red Bay, Andros. They were furnished with rations and lodging by the Bahamian government referred to in official papers as ‘...to relieve their immediate distress.’ Fort Apalachicola in northern Florida was built by the British in the War of 1812 and garrisoned by runaway black slaves. The Seminoles had long enjoyed trade with the Bahamas with whom Robert C Ambrister a soldier and adventurer liaised. . Ambrister was born of English parents in Nassau, served with the Duke of Wellington in Europe and later returned to the Bahamas. Ambrister was executed on General Jackson’s orders in 1818 for intervening in the affairs of the Seminoles even though he was captured in Florida when the territory was under Spanish control.
Some Bahamians of Seminole ancestry still bear the surname ‘Bowleg’. There are, for instance, 20 entries with the surname in the current Bahamas Telephone Directory. In New Providence, 12, in Andros and in Grand Bahama 3 each.
© Peter Barratt
His books are available in Grand Bahama at the Oasis shops, Bahamian Tings and the Garden of the Groves shops. In Nassau his books are available at Media Publications and most bookshops on the island.
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