At the close of the nineteenth century, on the remote Bahamian island settlement of Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera, my maternal grandmother, Amy A. Griffin, was born to Thomas Griffin and Mabel (Hall) Griffin. During this primitive medical era, Thomas and Mabel experienced the loss of four children, leaving Amy as the youngest child with older siblings, William and Gwendolyn.
As early as the 1700’s, two main Griffin families are noted in the Bahamas, evidenced through baptismal and marriage records as well as the 1730 and 1740 censuses. In 1721, a William Griffin was selected by Governor George Phenney (1721-1728) to represent the British colony in the Assembly.
The earliest Griffin ancestor in my family tree is John Griffin, who was born in 1762 and in 1791 was conveyed a Crown Grant of land “160 ac. on Eleuthera bounded Southwesterly by the Sea, Northeasterly by Ann BEAK’s land, Southereasterly by vacant land” (Deed Book F-1, page 192). In 1858, his grandchildren John Griffin, Thomas W. Griffin (my great, great grandfather), Frederick Griffin and James R. Griffin (all siblings) received a grant of 22 acres of land “on the Island of Eleuthera bounded on the west by the sea, on the north and east by vacant land, and on the south by land of William Clark” (Deed Book S-1, page 103) as well as a grant of 28 acres of land (Deed Book S-1, page 97).
These Griffin families propagated the settlement of Governor’s Harbour and as planters, toiled the rocky soil. The will of matriarch Sarah Griffin states…
I devise and bequeath unto my said children all fruit, fruit trees or other proceeds of land.
Likewise, my great grandparents, Thomas and Mabel cultivated a pineapple plantation in Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera. The pineapple industry was vital to the Bahamian economy during the late nineteenth century. In 1845, Eleuthera dominated in the harvesting of pineapples and opened its first canning facility in Governor’s Harbour in 1857. Earlier this year I was able to connect via email with a Griffin descendant in Governor’s Harbour. She shared…
My Great, Great Aunt Henrietta Smith, whose family was related to the Griffins, had a pineapple packing plant in Governor’s Harbour. I was told as a child that they lost their money when the stock market crashed in 1929. After that many of the Griffin clan moved to Florida.
With the decline of the pineapple industry during the 1920’s and perhaps after the 1926 Category 4 hurricane that devastated Eleuthera, Thomas, Mabel and their three children abandoned the plantation and set sail for a new beginning in the city of Nassau. They resided with Mabel’s sister, Minnie (Hall) Moore, widow of John Blackwell Moore, whose home extended on both George Street and King Street in heart of Nassau.
Meanwhile in the settlement of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, the family of Jesse Lowe, descendant of Captain Gideon Lowe, decided to relocate to Nassau. With his wife, Odiah Albury, and their younger children, they landed in the country’s capital and found housing on King Street, where his daughter and her husband, Lettice and Nick Key, resided.
No surprise that these two families would meet on these bustling downtown streets during the roaring twenties. Shortly afterwards, two courtships started to blossom. Amy Griffin would eventually marry Jesse Lowe’s son, Basil in 1927 and Amy’s brother, William would marry Jesse’s daughter, Marie in 1928.
Amy never returned to Governor’s Harbour as her focus shifted to rearing four children in Nassau. She celebrated her 116th birthday in heaven this month. Her memory remains vibrant although it’s been twenty years since she departed this earth. As a young boy, I enjoyed the days she would spend at our home in Nassau. It was always a treat when she would make her famous guava duff – no recipe needed. As dusk settled, she sat on the couch, crocheting masterpieces while sharing ghost stories and reminiscing on the days of riding her horse in Governor’s Harbour. She instilled a love of nature in all who came in contact with her; no doubt stemming from her upbringing on that pineapple plantation.