Loyalists and the Bahamas
With the exception of those pirates and religious dissidents that had been attracted to its labyrinth of hiding places, the Bahamas
had lain uninhabited for some 270 years after the indigenous Lucayans (Arawaks) had either died from diseases the
Spanish had brought or from being enslaved by them and worked to death in their silver and gold mines on Hispaniola.
So when Britain was given little other choice but to exchange Florida for the Bahamas at the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, she was able to offer approx eight thousand displaced American Loyalists (who also had few other options) vacant land grants throughout the islands.
Those from New York mainly chose to settle in the Abaco Islands/Harbour Island area, whereas those from Florida (many originating from the Carolinas & Georgia) settled in most of the other islands.
Later another sixteen hundred followed them there after they had tasted anarchy in the new USA.
However these days there is only about a half dozen or so towns where this is still obvious. The most notable are Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island with Bahamas's highest proportion of whites (50%), New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay, Man-o-war Cay and Hope town on Elbow Cay all just east of Great Abaco Island. Dunmore Town on Harbour Island and Spanish Wells are both just off the north of Eleuthera Island and George Town is on Great Exuma Island.
These towns were all founded under difficult circumstances by Americans who had suffered grievously for resisting the insurgents forced break with the Motherland and then had to endure the island's primitive conditions while tented in vast refugee camps at Carleton as the process of deciding who got what took place.
The clapboard sided homes they built still stand resembling the saltbox cottages of New England, with their pastel coloured sides and surrounding white picket fences, where life remains charmingly old fashioned, gentle, detached from the outside world and somewhat frozen in time.
One of the first to be established was on Harbour Island, when the Governor of Virginia having fled America was asked to lay out a settlement for Loyalist refugees there, which became Dunmore Town the first capital of the Bahamas. However the town went into decline with the depression caused by the First World War and lost it's status to Nassau.
Nearly all the white 'plantation' Loyalists that arrived were accompanied by freed Blacks who had fought with the British and Creole workers who had chosen loyalty rather than stay in America to risk being taken over by rebel slave owners.
But the cotton plantations they recreated were soon to fail due to the poor soil, it's erosion and insect infestations. So not being commercially viable, most estate owners moved elsewhere, some leaving their land to be divided up between those workers that had followed them, as subsistence farming was going to be their only foreseeable future.
But many plantations were just abandoned, so in 1896 the British Government passed a commonage act which bequeathed the land to those families that had worked on them, but to become the rightful owner, workers took the surname of the plantation owner, meaning the larger the estate the larger the number of descendants with the same surname, an example of this is;- its jokingly alleged that nearly everyone on Exuma is a Rolle after North Carolina Loyalist Lord John Rolle who had owned hundreds of acres there.
Urban Loyalists settled in New Providence and transformed the Bahamas, but their ethics and enterprise placed them at odds with Nassau's old established order, mainly descended from pirates and wreckers who claim to have formed the first democracy i.e. 'one man one vote' but without secrecy this probably only achieved the biggest thug getting elected.
Evidence of this difference is still apparent in Nassau (with nearly 70% of the Bahamas population) as despite all that the Loyalists did there, turning a shambolic backwater into a major efficient port, building it's picturesque architecture (including the Houses of Parliament), founded it's institutions and built a good economy, it's down played with many preferring to believe the US slant on events. These people seem to imagine that only self interest and not the rejection of bigotry being foisted on them by a minority, could explain why someone should want to remain loyal.
This despite Britain having abolished slavery decades before the USA and having the Royal Navy active in intercepting ships transporting slaves to the new world and setting them free on New Providence Island, they prefer to dwell on the abomination of slavery, instead of the honourable heritage of loyalty.
I'm sure the Abacos parrots would like such sceptics to consider, that if America's revolution had extended to the Bahamas, descendants of the original settlers wouldn't still own most of their land (e.g. Hawaii) or enjoy some of the cleanest waters in the world, they instead would probably have some of the most polluted,
not exactly the perfect setting for a James Bond movie.