Hope Town was settled in 1785 by British loyalists who fled after the American Revolutionary War. Situated on one of Abaco’s barrier reef islands, Hope Town is easily recognized by its candy-striped lighthouse that towers over the settlement of New England style clapboard cottages and narrow bicycle lanes.
Here during the 1860’s, William Michael Carey (son of William Carey and Mariah Russell) was born. He courted and married Emiline Adina Russell (daughter of William Henry Russell and Jane Anne Malone – great granddaughter of Hope Town’s loyalist matriarch Wyannie Malone).
William Michael and Emiline Adina married during the early 1880’s and had at least six offspring: William Michael, Jr. (1885), Laura Alice (1887), Samuel Edwin (1890), James Percy (1892), Anthony Burrell (1897) and Rowena Gwendoline (1904).
Anthony Burrell Carey fell in love with Rosa Maude Bethel from Cherokee Sound, Abaco. They married in Hope Town’s Wesleyan Church in 1921 by Gilbert Moon.
Anthony and Rosa Maude reared eight children: Rosa Pauline (1922), Percy (1923), Betty Adina (1925), Gwenyth Charity (1927), Thelma Rosalie (1929), Mildred Cecilia (1932), William Winer (1935), and Doris Catherine (1939).
The family cottage sat on the hill’s high ground opposite the school house. From their upstairs bedroom window at night, the Carey children watched with fascination the lighthouse beam’s rotation. Like many Hope Town residents, Anthony made his livelihood on the sea. Along with Samuel Edwin, the brothers transported goods from Cuba to Miami.
Anthony’s daughter, Betty Adina, reminisced her fond fishing memories with her dad. They hauled schools of jacks out of the Abaco Sea. Betty sculled the boat to allow her dad to strike a turtle, a local delicacy. She learned a host of maritime skills from her dad.
Betty recalled a local sailboat race held during the island’s celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday in May. Earlier that month, an Englishman arrived at Hope Town to do lighthouse maintenance. He offered Betty the use of his small sailboat for the race. Betty won the race and was awarded an English £1 (one pound), the grand prize.
Betty Adina Carey and my Dad John Wesley Lowe were both Abaconians born in 1925. Although they grew up on separate barrier islands, each had vivid memories of the 1932 hurricane that decimated the islands.
Betty told that her father and Uncle Edwin happened to be away on a Miami cargo haul when the tempest approached. Her mother Maude and her six children hunkered down in their clapboard cottage. Neighbor Trelawny “Lawn” Malone (1884-1958), a seacaptain, peeked out at the Carey house. As winds strengthened, Captain Lawn witnessed the Carey roof shake. Maude and the children were in imminent danger. Lawn braved the wind’s fury and dodged flying debris as he headed to the Carey home. He held ten-year-old Pauline tightly in his arms as he returned home. He started back to rescue younger sister Betty and returned with Betty safe in his arms. The storm intensified. To his dismay, Captain Lawn was unable to return to the Carey home for the other Carey children. As a father of five himself, he felt helpless.
Maude remained with her nine-year-old son Percy and his three youngest sisters – ages five, three and five months. She decided to seek shelter under the school house across the road. As Percy prepared to evacuate, the winds hurled him towards the school house door. Maude retrieved him and sheltered him underneath the school floor.
Maude braved the raging elements as she crawled one by one with each child to the school’s safety. During Maude’s final trip, the wind’s violence sucked five month old Mildred from Maude’s arm. Baby Millie disappeared into the storm. Instinctively, Maude risked her life to search for her baby. Miraculously she located Millie buried in sand. As she held her tightly, the pair crawled back under the schoolhouse.
When the winds subsided, Lawn and Louise quickly came to Maude’s rescue. Baby Millie needed prompt attention. Her mouth, nose and ears were filled with beach sand. The wind force of the sand punctured Millie’s eardrum.
When Anthony returned home from his sea travels, he saw the community devastation. His house gone! His daughter Betty recalled…
Dad came up over the hill and saw the condition we were in. We were sitting on the steps of Ms. Louise home. He threw himself on the ground and cried, “My God, what am I going to do with my family?”
Their entire home was destroyed. Betty stated…
We found nothing. We were homeless, food-less, and clothes-less. Momma couldn’t even find a pot! I wore a pair of unions for the longest time. We slept on the floor of my cousin’s Sidney’s home.
Uncle Mait (Maude’s brother) lived in Florida. When he heard of the devastation, he packed two large boxes for us – one with food and the other with clothing. Uncle Mait shipped them on the Betty K with Captain Howard Sweeting.
The family vessel that the Carey brothers sailed was severely damaged during the hurricane. The depression years loomed as Anthony now sought any means to provide for his family. After several years of hardship and struggle, Anthony and his family relocated to Nassau. He learned carpentry skills and worked with contractors Mr. Morton Turtle and Chester Bethel. Anthony later returned to his seafaring passion and worked as a cook with Captain Wade on the Arawak. He was noted for his sumptuous stews.
In Nassau, Betty and her siblings attended the Seventh Day Adventist School on the top of Hawkins Hill. She loved her teacher, Ms. Lawrence, a true mother-type.
After finishing school, Betty landed employment at JP Sands grocery store on Bay Street. She fell in love and was soon engaged to Sergeant Lloyd Henderson Fraser, son of Scottish missionary James Fraser and local Vera Gladys Malone. Lloyd served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. On August 11, 1944, a few weeks before their wedding date, twenty year old Lloyd perished over London.
During this tragic time, Betty lived with her sister Pauline and husband Charles Eastborn Roberts in Shirley Heights on New Providence island, Bahamas. Pauline and Charles rented this home from Ralph and Miriam Higgs, who lived nearby.
During an afternoon of chores, Betty struggled to tote a large bucket filled with rainwater back to her home. Walter Leroy Higgs noticed the damsel in distress and offered his assistance. Their relationship grew and in September 1945, Walter and Betty tied the knot in the parsonage of Trinity Methodist Church. They were blessed with two boys, Leroy Anthony and Lloyd Walter.
In 1970, son Leroy Anthony Higgs married my sister Paula Mae Lowe. This union connected the Lowe family to the Higgs/Carey family. For decades, these Bahamian families shared many special memories both in Nassau and in Florida.
In September 2018 at the age of 93, Betty Adina Carey Higgs was carried by God’s angels to be reunited with her husband Walter.
Memories of Nana – by granddaughter Chantal Higgs Chung
I enjoyed hearing Nana tell stories about her childhood in Hope Town, Abaco. Her experience and survival through the 1932 hurricane was nothing short of miraculous. Even though radio warnings were received on that island, no one expected the hurricane to be such a formidable storm. Nana recalled that the barometric pressure dropped extremely low. She described the “clouds lay in the roads like banks of snow.” Nana and her siblings hunkered down in their wooden home with only their mom. During that time, her dad was out at sea on a schooner. They transported bananas and sugar between Cuba and Miami.
Nana loved her family. One of my favorite childhood memories was the summer of 1985 when I was 12. We lived in Nassau, Bahamas while Nana lived in Miami, Florida. After Nana persuaded my mom, I visited Nana’s Florida home for a couple summer weeks. Nana introduced me to numerous Carey cousins who lived in Miami. We created great memories as we shopped in Miami stores for souvenirs. We enjoyed the outdoors and often fed neighborhood ducks. On several occasions, we visited with her Czechoslovakian neighbor where we delighted in homemade pastries.
My favorite dish of Nana’s is chicken ’n spaghetti. We eagerly anticipated this tasty meal on our visits. She taught her granddaughters the secret family recipe. We continue to cook this simple but delicious meal in her memory.
Nana loved to crochet. She taught me the basics. She blessed others with her crochet handiwork that included potholders, blankets, and hats.
Nana’s love for God was evident in her prayer life and church involvement. We worshiped in church together during that summer. She willingly helped and gave to others despite her frugal means. I miss her encouraging reminder that she daily prayed for me.
Memories of Nana – by granddaughter Sophia Higgs Farmer
Nana was a humble, loving, caring, and giving person. She loved her family and demonstrated that love by time spent with us. She taught me to crochet and always helped me in the kitchen. She delighted in playtime with her great grandchildren. She made each of us feel special and loved.
Papa Walter bragged “Nana’s a good cooker.” Nana taught us how to cook our family favorite dish, chicken ‘n spaghetti.
Her life exhibited a sincere love for her Creator and Savior. She offered counsel and guidance on all aspects of life. I remember her advice on church attire. “How would you dress to meet the Queen of England? Well then, how much more you should dress in your best to meet with the Lord?”
A funny, quirky phrase that Nana said, “He never cracked his kisser to me.” She explained the meaning. It describes someone who ignored you. Nana had a great sense of humor!