I am always amazed and blessed on each blog’s journey to search for the puzzle pieces of folks who meant so much to my Dad, John Wesley Lowe. Like him, I use that loving term, “our heritage.”
First-hand interviews are typically not an option since most of these kinfolk have departed. I search the internet and through email and of course, FaceBook connect with cousins around the world. Each connection provides unique pieces to this biographical puzzle of a loved one. Without the box cover image of the final product, the search to locate pieces can span months, if not years. The arrival of each new piece brings a renewed excitement for the finished product. Corners and edge pieces are the coolest! While my tendency is to locate every piece of this 5000+ puzzle, I realize the need to display the framework so I can solicit more pieces and encourage others to preserve their family’s roots. Here’s one of the many puzzle frames I lay out on the table…
On October 27, 1894 a second daughter, Mary Edith Curry, arrived into the family of Pa Wes and Ma Lilla. Dad affectionately called her Aunt Edie. Ma Lilla died in her 40s, perhaps around 1913. I speculate that Edie, the middle of 5 children, would have been around 19 and no doubt a huge help to Pa Wes with raising younger sisters, Emmie and Grandma Bessie.
On the day after Christmas (known as Boxing Day in the British Colony of the Bahamas) in 1914, Aunt Edie tied the knot with Gilbert Robinson “Robbie” Saunders in St. Peter’s Church on Green Turtle Cay. Born April 22, 1892, he was fourth of the six children given to James “Jimmy” Benjamin Saunders and Lydia “Lyddie” Jane Sweeting.
Uncle Robbie descends from one of the core lines in the Bahamas— the SAUNDERS surname traces back to 1700. Robbie’s great grandfather, Uriah Saunders, born in Harbour Island, moved to Green Turtle Cay, perhaps after the 1805 hurricane that devastated Harbour Island. Uriah was a successful farmer and a shipwright. The remains of a Carrara marble stone plaque about him sits at Green Turtle Cay, Abaco’s museum. It reads…
to the memory of
Uriah Saunders, Esq.,
who departed this life
on the 22nd August, 1849
in the 57th year of his age.
He has left a widow and five children to mourn his loss.
His end was sudden and unexpected,
but for the solemn event he was blessedly prepared.
He was converted to God through the instrumentality
of the late Wesleyan Missionaries
when about 23 years of age, and from that
period held fast the hope of the Gospel.
He was a zealous advocate for and the unchanging friend of TEMPERENCE.
For industry, honesty and moral worth,
he was held in universal esteem and
finished his course on earth
in the full triumph of faith.
Oh death where is thy sting,
Oh grave where is thy victory.
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.
When Uncle Robbie was about 10 years of age, his mother died. In 1903, his older sister, Genie (Eugenia Maud), married Zachary Taylor of Nassau. He owned a drapery manufacturing store on George Street. Genie, an easy-going woman, bore 8 children for Zach. And when her mother died, she took Robbie to live with her family and attend Boys Grammar School in Nassau. Fellow classmates included Etienne Dupuch, later SIR, knighted 1965 (editor of The Tribune) 1899-1991, Alfred Francis Adderley (attorney), Thaddeus Augustus Toote (attorney), and Arthur Hall Sands 1893-1957 (Purity Bakery owner).
Like his sister Genie, Robbie was a quiet gentleman. He returned to Green Turtle Cay around the age of 20. During the Norman’s Castle Lumber Mill years, Uncle Robbie worked as a policeman. Aunt Edie proudly proclaimed in her unique pronunciation, “He had a badge and carried a pistol.” During the Sept 1932 hurricane, he was “down the shore” (northwest shore of Abaco) with a group of men. Exposed, they took shelter under the boat that they dragged ashore.
Aunt Edie and Uncle Robbie were blessed with five children, Sybil, Deloris, Audrey, Donald and Cedric. Dad and first cousin, Donald, were only a year apart in age. As young boys on the Cay, they spent countless hours together attending the All-Age School under the tutelage of Mrs. Amy Roberts and Herbert Roberts. Of course the boys engaged in a little afterschool tomfoolery on the shores of this north Abaco island settlement.
Edie and Robbie’s two oldest children, Sybil and Deloris, were the talk of the town with their double wedding on May 6, 1939. In the new wooden Methodist Church—the original large, quarried stone edifice fell in the 1932 hurricane—the young, single English minister, William Charles Dyer performed the marriage ceremony. No doubt Grandma Bessie and Dad were in attendance at her nieces’ unique double wedding (the following year the minister would marry Diana Higgs from Spanish Wells).
Around 1940, the Saunders family moved to Nassau. Their youngest daughter, Audrey, had heard of a job at the Registrar General’s office. Her older brother, Donald, had worked at Hatchet Bay Plantations on Eleuthera just a few months. He decided to move to Nassau. On arrival in Nassau, he discovered that his parents and family had come on the mail boat to stay (no cell phones back then). Around this same time, Dad and Grandma Bessie also relocated to Nassau.
In Nassau, Mr. Arthur Sands of Purity Bakery hired his classmate, Uncle Robbie, and Robbie’s son, Donald, to work at Purity Bakery. Uncle Robbie rode his bicycle to and from Purity Bakery located on South Market Street. Soon his son-in-law, Charlie Lowe, spouse of Deloris, joined the bakery crew.
Memories from a granddaughter of Edie…
Ma loved to cook. She would have our family and Uncle Cedric’s family over each Sunday for lunch as long as she was able. She enjoyed making johnnycakes and guava duffs. I’ve never had another guava duff as good as hers.
She believed in staying out of the sun. If any of us kids got sunburned, she put us in the tub with water and vinegar. What a smell! Ma also had a folksy cure for all ills. I remember drinking many cups of mint tea made from mint grown in her yard.
Although seldom leaving her home in the later years, she kept busy. She swept her large porch and front steps each day. When she could no longer take care of herself, she moved in with her daughter, Deloris. Ma never liked doctors or hospitals, and my recollection is she died in Aunt Deloris’ home.
A cousin recalls…
Edie had a feisty side. Her loud fuss with neighborhood children confiscated any ball that crossed her wall. She’d hold the ball high. Refused to return it.
The children played in a circle that faced her front door. One day Dr. Hugh Quackenbush came out from a patient visit. He greeted the boys with, “My turn!” He took the bat. One threw the ball. He whacked it hard. Through Edie’s screen door went the ball, into the house!
“Go, get it,” ordered the doctor. Not one boy would venture into the gate and house. So there went Dr. Quackenbush—into the house! He retrieved the ball. He threw the ball back. The boys stood in awe.
Edie served her family with all her heart. When grandchildren came, she sewed pretty dresses for Margaret at Green Turtle Cay. Edie would call the neighbor girl, Val Taylor, to come and help her. She said that Val was the size of Margaret, so she had Val put the dress on for fitting. Later, when her grandsons lived next door, she showered love on them.
A great granddaughter of Edie also adds…
She baked yeast rolls and johnnycake for her whole family every Saturday. She had a huge kidney mango tree in her yard and loved to give mangoes to all the grandchildren and great grandchildren.
In his senior years, Uncle Robbie would attend Shirley Heights Chapel on Mount Royal Avenue. He sat towards the back in his quiet demeanor. A family diary noted, 29 Dec 1960. Mr. Robbie Saunders professed to be saved this pm. Like his esteemed forebear Uriah, in conversion Uncle Robbie prepared for his eternal future in Heaven.
Uncle Robbie died in June 1970, a year after I was born. However, Aunt Edie lived to the ripe old age of 91. As a young boy, I tagged along with my Mom and Dad to visit her. She was tender and loving with a smile every time she saw us. The scarf she draped and wore around her head intrigued me. Why did she wear it? I learned that it covered a large tumor on her jaw. Her disdain of doctors prevented any sort of treatment. Ironically, her grandmother, Romelda Lowe Carleton, had two jaw tumors. I pause to recall a personal surgery to remove a growing tumor from the same region on my jaw. Might there be a genetic trace?
Aunt Edie departed this world in November 1985. She lived the longest of the five children of Pa Wes and Ma Lilla. I always appreciated seeing Aunt Edie, perhaps it gave me a tangible, visible sense of her sister, Grandma Bessie, who I never met.
Will you come to the table and fit more pieces into the puzzle picture of Edie Curry and Robbie Saunders? Stay tuned.