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History of Spanish Wells

In the midst of the beautiful turquoise waters that surround the 700+ islands of the Bahamas , there lies a unique island that plays a very important role in Bahamian history. This island is called Spanish Wells and is located off the northern tip of Eleuthera. Most of the people living on Spanish Wells are decendants of the Eleutherian Adventurers, who came to the Bahamas seeking religious freedom in 1648.

The name Spanish Wells comes from the history of the Spanish sea captains. These captains sank two-foot wells in the sand to replenish their water supply before crossing the Atlantic . However, the real history of Spanish Wells dates back to the mid-1600's. This was a time of religious intolerance and political persecution in England that caused many Europeans to flee and colonize lands in America and Bermuda . A group of about 70 men, women and children who had settled in Bermuda, decided to leave Bermuda because of more religious disturbances. This group was called the "Company of the Eleutherian Adventurers", or also known as the Eleutherian Adventurers. The Eleutherian Adventurers set sail on the William in search of earthly paradise. This voyage was led by William Sayles, former governor of Bermuda.

Due to the lack of knowledge of the numerous reefs that inhabit the Bahamian waters, the ship wrecked on the treacherous reef known as the Devil's Backbone. The wreck was close to the northern tip of an island they named Eleutheria - the Greek word for freedom (today it is known as Eleuthera). Having lost nearly all their provisions, the survivors took shelter in a nearby cave known as "Preacher's Cave". This cave was where the Eleutherian Adventurers first built their community. The 50 x 120-foot lime stone cave was used for religious services and government meetings. The settlers lived in the cave for awhile, but eventually moved to small huts outside the cave. For decades, the cave was used as a Town Hall serving as a communal area, cemetery and church.

The settlers of Preacher's Cave struggled. They survived by fishing and collecting fruit from the island. They soon discovered that because the soil is a thin layer on top of a coral foundation, farming was not an option for survival. They had no money or supplies and had little food to survive on. A small boat, called a shallop, survived the wreck and it was on this that William Sayles decided to seek help from the American colonies. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Colony assisted the struggling settlers by sending them provisions and £80.

Due to a conflict in Preacher's Cave, some of the settlers spilt up. Some of them remained on Eleuthera and others moved to a small island off the coast of Eleuthera permanently. This island is Spanish Wells and is located approximately ½ mile off the tip of northern Eleuthera on the west side. To thank the Puritans for their help, the people of Spanish Wells sent the Puritans Brazeletto wood - a source of valuable dye. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Colony sold this Brazeletto wood to make a profit of £124. The profit was used to purchase the last corner of a piece of property that is today known as Harvard Yard at Harvard University . Thus, the Eleutherian Adventurers helped open the doors to the New World's first university by donating the largest single sum received by Harvard University in its first thirty years of history.

The American War for Independence (1776 - 83) caused another influx of immigrants to Eleuthera who wanted to remain loyal to Britain (the Loyalists). Most of them persecuted from the Colonies after the war. With their diverse economic and religious backgrounds, they planned on establishing a plantation colony in the Bahamas . To make this work, they brought their slaves from America with them.

The people of Spanish Wells always stand by their belief that all people deserve freedom. Therefore, they discouraged the use of slaves. They made it clear that the people who used slaves should leave, while the people who performed their own labor or paid wages to others could remain. They disassociated themselves from the neighboring islands who dealt with slavery. Despite the misconception of prejudices on Spanish Wells, the disapproval of slavery is why today the island has a predominantly white population.

Today in Spanish Wells

Today, most of the people inhabiting Spanish Wells can still trace their roots back to the Eleutherian Adventurers. Some of the original homes built over two hundred years ago are still standing. The majority of the homes are painted in bright pastel colors and resemble cottages. The English spoken by the natives is still a version of the dialect their ancestors used over three hundred years ago. The main religions are Methodist, Bretheren and Fundamentalist.

The main source of income for the people on Spanish Wells is from the fishing industry. From August until March, the men of Spanish Wells take several trips and stay out for approximately three to four weeks a trip collecting the spiny crawfish, or lobster. The crawfish is exported to Europe and the United States . Many of the young men of Spanish Wells often leave school to pursue a career on the smack fishing boats because it is so profitable for them.

Agriculture is another important industry for Spanish Wells. Crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, various forms of citrus, and the world's finest pineapples are grown on farms in Eleuthera. Other occupations are shopkeepers, mechanics, electricians and construction.

Spanish Wells is a cross between the past and the present coming together. While they still strongly hold onto the beliefs of their ancestors, they are also very modernized. While quilting and homemade bread is being baked in one house, the house next door will be watching their satellite television and surfing the internet.

Preacher's Cave has recently been excavated by Archaeologists sponsored by the Spanish Wells Museum . Pieces of pottery, clay pipes and lead baling seals have been found buried in the cave. Animal bones and seeds have been recovered by what was once believed to be cooking pits. A rock formation said to be used as a pulpit still stands in the middle of the cave. Human bones have also been found in the cave. These bones have been carbon-dated and confirmed to be of the Eleutherian Adventurer era - once again connecting the past with the present.


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