Like father…Like son

Green Turtle Cay’s pineapple industry was in decline by 1890.  The local men turned to the sea to harvest one of nature’s unique creatures, sponges.  The population of this seafaring, loyalist community had reached 1500.

In April 1890, island residents – my great grandparents – Thomas Wesley Curry (Pa Wes) and Lilla Carleton Curry (Ma Lilla) anticipated the arrival of another child.  Their firstborn Eudora‘s excitement peaked with the prospect of a playmate.  Two years earlier, their son Herman had died in infancy.  As time for delivery drew nigh, the young parents’ elation heightened, yet mixed with uneasiness.

These events of grief and sorrow were private moments. Early evening porch conversations avoided uncomfortable topics.  Their loss lay buried with the passage of time.  Through Bahamian Civil Registration records, we uncover the past and attempt to understand the pain.  Cousin Amanda Diedrick, another descendant of Pa Wes, used these records to untangle confusion on Herman’s birth.  She shared this amazing discovery in her blog post A Family Mystery Solved.

Ma Lilla gave birth to another son, Thomas Herman Curry, on April 21, 1890.  A common practice in that era named the child after the deceased sibling.  Undoubtedly as the years unfolded, Herman remained a humble reminder to the parents that blessings can emerge from tragedy.

Herman and his dad shared the same first name (Thomas), but interestingly enough, they were called by their middle names – another common practice in that era.   Soon three younger sisters completed the Curry sibling brood of five.

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As the only son, Herman and Pa Wes had a close relationship.  Each day the young apprentice learned and practiced life skills in fishing and farming with his dad.  Even as an aged grandfather, Pa Wes, continued to teach these skills  to his grandson, my Dad John Lowe – skills needed to survive on  a remote island.   This biblical principal of providing for your family Dad valued and taught his offspring.

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Earlier this year cousin Amanda Diedrick received this early photo  of Herman Curry (circa 1925). Her family discovered it while rummaging through old documents.

In December 1919, at the age of 29, Herman Curry married Marion Mayfield Gates, daughter of Jeremiah Gates and Jessie Isabel Lowe Gates.  All lived at Green Turtle Cay.

Incidentally, Jessie Isabel Lowe and my Dad descend from Benjamin Lowe (~1800-1878),  who married loyalist descendant Bianca “Binky” Curry.  This Benjamin’s genealogical puzzle piece has yet to be attached to patriarch Captain Gideon Lowe.  It is suspected that he may be a nephew of Gideon.

Pa Herman and Gan Gan Marriage Registration

May Gates Curry gave birth to five children, four girls and one boy.  Tragically, two of them died – a son at birth and a  daughter Mirabelle at age six.  Like his parents, Herman and May memorialized Mirabelle by conveying that name to a later daughter.

Mae Gates Curry
Earliest known photo of May Gates Curry.  Courtesy of Amanda Diedrick.

 

Great granddaughter Amanda Diedrick shared family memories of Pa Herman:

Pa Herman farmed watermelons on a plot of land he owned on Green Turtle Cay’s Black Sound. He also farmed on Munjack Cay where he grew tomatoes, peas, beans, and potatoes. He fished and sold his catch to workers on the mail boats or at the lumber camp at Norman’s Castle. He had a fishing boat with a well (one of the few on the Cay).  Fish stayed fresh longer.

We found the wooden mast of his boat beneath the house (Fish Hooks) when we moved it. Prior to the 1932 hurricane, when they had a bigger house, he had a little room in the cellar where he would clean fish and sell it.

On Saturday evenings at Green Turtle Cay, Herman and May often walked to the residence of older sister, Dora. While engaged in porch conversation, the sea breeze carried Herman’s deep belly laugh down the street.

Memoirs from Herman and May’s eldest child, Lurey Curry Albury:

Daddy had a smaller boat at first, then he upgraded to a larger one with a fish well in it. One day he came in with his boat loaded down with amberjacks. Another day he came with the biggest loggerhead turtle you ever saw tied up beside his boat. Back then, fish was a ha’penny a pound, about three cents. Amberjacks were four cents. When the mail boat Priscilla arrived, Daddy would get up and clean a dollar’s worth of fish, and that was as much as he could carry in both hands.

He would go fishing seven miles from home. He often dropped Mama at Munjack Cay to work the farm while he would go out to the reef. It was dangerous. If anything happened to him in that little dinghy, Mama would never know. His boat sunk once. After that incident, daughter Virgie (Virginia) would stare out the upstairs window and cry when Daddy left. She could see his boat sail around the Bluff. He’d have just a little piece of sail up.

Herman’s granddaughter noted that her grandparents lived in Nassau several months out of the year. They resided with their daughter, Virginia (just recently she passed away). In Nassau, Herman worked as a night watchman at Purity Bakery.

This operations was managed at the time by Herman’s nephew, a child of his sister, Edie. His granddaughter remembers Pa Herman and Ma May returned to Green Turtle Cay in the summers.  He loved to spend time with his grandchildren on his boat.

A former Green Turtle Cay resident, Iva Lowe Scholtka, recalled:

Mr. Herman was a charmin’ man.  He used his toes to unsuspectingly grab your foot.  You thought a crab bit you.  I visited them often on the Cay.  Ms. May had a lovely disposition…a hard worker.  She tended to the crops in the field with Mr. Herman. They often fished together. 

I often watched her make hats from platting sisal.  She joined the sisal pieces until she had the needed length to craft the hat.  She clipped off the ends and  used a tumbler (drinking glass) on top of her dining table to smooth out the sisal. 

It was a Sunday tradition on the Cay to eat fish and grits.  However, one morning during the week I went to visit.  To my surprise, Mr. Herman and Ms. May were eating fish and grits.  I said, “But it’s not Sunday!”  Ms. May remarked, “It tastes good throughout the week too!”

Whenever anyone in the town asked Mr. Herman the best month to plant a certain crop, Herman would preface his response with a smirk, “Well, I can you tell you…May is the best!”

Later on in life they spent several months each year in Nassau.  They returned to the Cay during the summers.  Residents marked the screech of seagulls as a sign of beginning of summer.  The residents would then say, “Mr. Herman and Ms. May should be here shortly.” 

Herman Curry

Herman and May’s home faced the water’s edge of New Plymouth creek just a few houses from his sister Bessie’s (my grandmother) home.

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Waterfront town of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay prior to 1932.  Homes of siblings Herman and Bessie identified.  Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.

Herman and May’s original home was destroyed in the 1932 hurricane.  Amanda Diedrick described:

Out of this rubble, and with their own hands, Pa Herman and Ma May built a new house for their family. “Mama used to put on Daddy’s overalls and climb up on that steep roof to nail shingles,” my grandmother recalled. Unlike their former home, with its large dormer windows and broad, breezy porch, the new structure was simple and unadorned — just four tiny rooms and an unfinished attic.

Sisters Lurey and Virginia Curry (circa 1940).  Daughters of Herman and Mae Curry.  Photo Courtesy of Amanda Diedrick.
Herman and May’s daughters, Lurey (left) and Virginia (right) circa 1940.  Photo courtesy of Amanda Diedrick.

In 1958, cancer claimed Herman’s mortal body.  Like his father, Pa Wes, Herman was a kind and gentle person.  Aunt May lived another 25+ years.  As a young teenager, I was fortunate to visit her with my Dad.  Aunt May passed away in 1984.  I saved the program from her memorial service that my Dad and I attended.  (front cover below).

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Old Keg’s Fighting Thompsons

Bahamian history is rich with stories of locals who fought and even gave their blood to serve country and King.  Several years ago, I shared in the article The Price of Freedom a glimpse on one of those Bahamians, my cousin Warren Lightbourn.  It included a  treasured photo shown below that depicts a handsome Warren with four other courageous World War II servicemen – Hartis Thompson, Phillip Farrington, Garth Johnson, and George Moseley.  Like cousin Warren, the Garth Johnson and George Mosely gave the ultimate sacrifice in their deaths.

Warren Lightbourne and friends
Front L-R:  Hartis Thompson and Philip Farrington.  Back L-R:  Garth Johnson, George Mosely and Warren Lightbourn.*

I came across an vintage copy of the Bahamas Handbook that pictured this same photo in an article about the Abaconian Thompson brothers, who represented the Bahamas and the British Empire during World War II.  These Thompson names immediately sounded familiar to me. Perhaps I had heard Dad John Lowe’s voice recount a story.  Thus this quest began.

Bahamian genealogists suspect that John Old Keg Thompson was born around 1810 at Harbour Island, Bahamas. He married an Elizabeth Russell in 1830 at St. Matthew’s Church in Nassau, Bahamas.  In his autobiography I Wanted Wings, Leonard Thompson recounts the origin of the nickname Old Keg:

He (Old Keg Thompson) and a friend had gone turtle hunting on the east side of Hope Town.  In no time one was spotted and over the side Thompson went to catch the turtle.  His friend waited and waited in the boat, scanning the sea all around, but all he could see was a barrel drifting a long way off.  In desperation he decided to return to the village for help.

The search party was led by Joshua (Old Keg’s son) who, when he heard about the barrel, stopped and turned back.  “That’s no keg, that’s my father out there!” he exclaimed “Don’t you know he can stay underwater as long as a turtle?”

Old Keg’s great-grandson, mariner William Maurice Thompson*, was born before the turn of the twentieth century.  In 1914, he married Lena Muriel from the Abaco Albury family.  William ThompsonCaptain Maurice Thompson and Lena were was blessed with a large family of eight children.  They played along the harbor shores of Hope Town on Elbow Cay.  Its signature candy-striped, kerosene-powered, lighthouse majestically stood in the background.

Capt William Thompson
Captain Maurice Thompson

Hope Town was settled in the 1780’s by British Loyalists, some from the Carolinas, seekers of refuge after the American Revolutionary War.  The Wyannie Malone Historical Museum in Hope Town summarizes the origins of the settlement as follows:

Some of the first settlers that came to Hope Town were Wyannie Malone and three of her children Ephraim, David and Young Wyannie who was married to  Jacob Adams.  Both Ephraim (Malone) and Jacob (Adams) had been Loyalist soldiers in South Carolina. In 1807 both of these men received large land grants on Elbow cay.

The deed below shows that Jacob Adams received 260 acres, for his services to King George the Third. deed

Four of Captain Maurice’s children –  Hartis, Leonard, Chester, and Maurice –  answered the call to fight the enemies of King George during World War II.  Because of their heroism, they were dubbed The Fighting Thompsons By Sir Etienne Dupuch, publisher of the Bahamian newspaper, The Tribune.

Below is a synopsis of these brothers.  I encourage you to click the links and read the books referenced in this post as you reflect on their contributions to the freedom we enjoy today.

Hartis Harvin Thompson (1915 – 1997)*

Hartis

Hartis was the eldest of the eight children.  As a volunteer, he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF).

His natural athleticism won recognition as a physical fitness instructor.  After his service during the war, Hartis joined Nassau’s air traffic control in 1947.  He was appointed the first Bahamian Acting Director of the Civil Aviation in Nassau in 1953 and Director of Civil Aviation in 1956.  His predecessor, Captain Edward Mole, shared the follow thoughts about Hartis…

I sent for the senior air traffic control officer — one Hartis Thompson, a white Bahamian who had served with the RAF during the war. I told him that from the moment he was appointed Deputy Director, I relied on him to help me sort out our problems and keep the airport running smoothly.  Hartis proved to be a tower of strength, reliable and absolutely loyal.

Hartis is credited with planning, overseeing and building Nassau’s International Airport at Windsor Field , as well as airports on the family islands. The Nassau airport has been renamed the Lynden Pindling International Airport.  Hartis Thompson was appointed Permanent Secretary to the Bahama Islands Ministry of Transport in the late 1960s.

Leonard Maurice Thompson (1917 – 2008)*

Leonard joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). His book I Wanted Wings: The Autobiography of Leonard M. Thompson is an excellent and moving account of his heroism.

A 2013 article in The Abaconian  summarizes this hero as follows:

LeonardLeonard Thompson was born in Hope Town, Abaco, on 17 June 1917 and in his memoirs he observed that one day as a young boy everyone was given a holiday to watch the first seaplane land in Hope Town harbour.

It is that day that he attributed to affecting his future life. The plane had been chartered to bring in a doctor to attend the mother of Mr. J.W. Roberts who was very sick at the time. The pilot was Captain A. B. Chalk, an early pioneer of aviation in the Bahamas, and the young Leonard Thompson decided that day he would like to become a pilot like Capt. Chalk. Years later that dream did come true as Mr. Thompson went on to earn his wings.

When war broke out in Britain, Leonard Thompson felt it his duty to offer his services in the war effort. He traveled to Canada where he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and qualified as an aero engine mechanic.

After a while he was posted to Elementary Flying Training School and after months of training, in 1942, he finally earned his wings. He was then posted overseas along with 13 of his classmates of whom, sadly, only three returned at the end of the war. While flying as a bomber pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force, Capt. Thompson was shot down over Germany and detained in a prisoner of war camp for 18 months. Fortunately, he survived the ordeal and was happy to return to Abaco to his new wife and young son whom he had never seen.

After the war, Leonard obtained his commercial pilot’s license and joined Bahamas Airways in 1945.  Later on he started a charter flight company called Skyway Bahamas Ltd.

Richard Chester Thompson (1922 – 2012)*

Chester served in the British Royal Navy.  At age 23, Chester commanded the Landing Craft Tank (LCT) 527.  It was involved in the Battle of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Chester

Chester Thompson graduated from the University of Toronto in 1950 and married that same year.  When he returned to the Bahamas, he served as Out Island Commissioner at Fresh Creek, Andros. Upon the couple’s move to Nassau, Chester started his career in real estate.

At an early age, Chester had a love for reading.  He went on to author The Fledgling, a story about his birthplace in Hope Town, Abaco, and The Long Day Wanes … A Memoir of Love and War.

William Maurice Thompson, Jr. (1923 – 1966)*

Maurice was the fifth son and the youngest of this memorable quartet.  The Abaco Account newspaper article described his service as follows:

He was assigned to the North Atlantic Theatre aboard a destroyer based in England, Scotland and Iceland.  Then came a transfer to the Far East where he was posted successively in India, Burma and Ceylon.

MauriceOne of a bare dozen Royal Navy boys who proudly wore “Bahamas” shoulder patch, Maurice was honourably discharged at the war’s end.

He returned to the Bahamas and served in the Immigration Department in Nassau.  His political involvement included an appointment as Commissioner at the island of Mayaguana in the southern Bahamas.  His passion for his Abaco roots, he never lost.  As President of the Great Abaco Construction Company and head of the real estate company, Marsh Harbour Enterprises, he significantly promoted the growth and development of many Abaco communities including Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour.

Maurice founded Abaco’s first publication in January 1964, titled The Abaco Account.  While on assignment in Nassau to cover Her Majesty’s visit, he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 43.

As noted above, Old Keg Thompson’s wife was the granddaughter of Jacob Adams and Wyannie Malone Adams.  This makes the Fighting Thompson brothers the 4th great-grandsons of Jacob and Wyannie Adams.  I too am a 4th great-grandson of Jacob and Wyannie.

As we enjoy an outdoor barbecue, a beach picnic, or just a lazy day indoors this weekend, let us not forget those who sacrificed much, even their lives, for our freedom.

*Source:  The Bahamas Handbook and Businessman’s Annual, A Dupuch Publication, 2007. 

Donald Robinson Saunders

Generations of Saunders and Curry descendants played along the Green Turtle Cay shores in Abaco, Bahamas.  Included in this company were the Curry sisters,  Edith “Edie” and Bessie.  As noted in prior posts, Edie married Robbie Saunders and Bessie married Howard Lowe.  Like their parents and grandparents, they raised their families on this remote Cay of the British Empire.  This required reliance on God’s provisions from the land and sea for sustenance.

Here we meet Edie’s son, Donald Robinson Saunders. Born in July 1924, Edie and Robbie welcomed a son into their family, the fourth of five children.

Ma Saunders Family
Widow Edie with her five children. Photo courtesy of Mary Saunders McCluskey, Donald’s daughter.

Back (L to R): Donald, Deloris, Cedric.  Front (L to R): Sybil, Edie, Audrey.

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Entry #1 – Birth of Virginia Curry to Herman Curry and Mae Gates Curry / Entry #5 – Birth of Donald Saunders to Robbie Saunders and Edith Curry Saunders

Three weeks prior to Donald’s birth, Edie’s brother Herman and wife Mae Gates Curry welcomed their first child, daughter Virginia Sylvia (just a few weeks ago, Virgie Curry Carey passed away at the age of 91).  The next year (1925), their sister Bessie gave birth to my Dad, John Wesley Lowe.  Many from this generation of Abaconians broke the traditional role of raising their families on that same island.

These first cousins, all less than a year apart, spent their school days climbing the hill to the Green Turtle Cay All-Age School and fishing from the dock with occasional tomfoolery.

A former Green Turtle Cay resident recalls:

Most people at the Cay were poor, really poor.  Robbie (Saunders) fished with the other men on the Cay. They sold the fish by the pound. If an amberjack was caught at a certain time of the year, people wanted to buy some of this rarer treat.

The 1932 hurricane hovered. Persistent, strong winds weakened and smashed structures. Another perspective will add details of those days of horror.

Donald’s sister, Audrey Saunders, told Joy Lowe Jossi in a telephone interview:

My brother Donald was born 1924 in the stone hotel building that dad had owned. After Donald’s birth, mother was not well. The doctor said that she needed to live where she could breathe the fresh air. That’s when daddy built the house at the seaside. It stands today.

I was 10 years old when the 1932 hurricane shook us at Green Turtle Cay for three days and three nights. Donald was eight years.       

Our house, at the water’s edge, held fast. The separate dining room building fell. It blew away into the sea. Sammy Sawyer told us that he watched it float away. 

Afraid, we left our house and went to Aunt Lorrie’s house. Both fathers were absent. Mother held Donald close. She paced the room alongside Donald, his hand in hers. Her lower legs and feet swelled from the long days on them. 

My daddy and a group of men were on a fishing trip, caught away in the northern cays—Uncle Norwood, Uncle Cecil…and more. We kept watch with every boat that appeared, hoping that the men might return.

During the hurricane, people moved from one house to another for safety. Hartley Key’s roof fell in—some men passed children from one to another and into a dining room window.  

After the storm, lots of people slept in our house for shelter—Harold Hodgkins and his sister Nellie, and more…

Besides the hurricane terror, concern reigned for Donald’s father and the group of men caught far away at sea. Missing—ten heads of families. Did they perish in the hurricane?  The trauma that gripped hearts imprinted lifelong memories.  Exposed, the stranded men survived the hurricane.  They took shelter under the canvas of the boat that they dragged ashore. How did the 1932 hurricane impact this eight-year-old boy, Donald?

Donald’s schoolteacher Herbert Roberts and his young bride Emma along with Herbert’s parents took refuge in the stone kitchen of the teacher’s residence (now the Albert Lowe Museum property). Next door, the Captain Hartley Roberts’ large house sheltered nearly a hundred people, including my Dad.

Donald told his sister-in-law Joy Lowe Jossi…

Medical and other relief came from Nassau. The Nassau Board of Works sent Mr. Charles Harry Roberts to erect on the same hilltop site a new school building. The building is still in use. Mr. Harry Robert’s son, Junior Roberts, and I, became friends.

Herbert Roberts (1911-2003) served the Green Turtle Cay community as teacher 1931-1943 with assistant Amy Lowe Roberts. These fine leaders influenced Donald and my Dad.

Donald completed his foundational education at the Green Turtle Cay All-Age School at the age of 16, two years longer than the typical legal age 14.  The teacher, R. Herbert Roberts, told his young male students of available jobs at Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera. A wealthy American, Austin Levy, had developed Hatchet Bay Plantations, a dairy and poultry farm.

A local Bahamian newspaper reported:

In 1936 American Austin Levy purchased 2,000 acres of land at Hatchet Bay and started the successful farm that supplied the Bahamas with all of its milk, poultry, eggs and ice cream. Alice Town residents were fully employed.

In 1940, Dwight Roberts, Preston Albury, and Donald Saunders went to work at Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera. After a few months, Donald left Hatchet Bay. A surprise awaited him on arrival in Nassau. He discovered that his parents and family had come on the mail boat to stay (no cell phones back then). His older sister, Audrey, came to work at the Registrar General’s Office. Donald’s parents kept their house at Green Turtle Cay many years. Around this same time, my Dad and Grandma Bessie also relocated to Nassau.

In Nassau, Mr. Arthur Sands of Purity Bakery hired Robbie Saunders, his former classmate at Boys’ Grammar School. Uncle Robbie, and his son, Donald, worked at Purity Bakery. Bicycles transported Uncle Robbie and Donald to and from Purity Bakery, located on South Market Street just beyond the historic Gregory Arch landmark.

Through the years more Saunders family members joined the bakery crew: Donald’s brother Cedric, some nephews, and Charlie Lowe, spouse of Donald’s sister Deloris.

Donald proved himself reliable and eventually became part owner of Purity Bakery.

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Donald R. Saunders.  Photo courtesy of Joy Lowe Jossi.

A family member says:

Donald, a capable, quiet person, was not given to small talk. He’d tackle any task. On-Call 24-hours, the bakery operation depended on him. If a machine faltered at night, Donald was called. He repaired and maintained the machines. This I could not imagine for him—the person I knew wore long-sleeved white shirt and tie with jacket. Could those hands tinker with grease and oil? Yes. Those strong hands showed no sign of all that they did.

He knew that he had cousin connections with Nassau businessmen Harold Saunders, Postmaster Claude Saunders, and Joseph S. Johnson, as well as Roland Saunders with Burdines of Miami. Historical records reveal Saunders families at Harbour Island, Eleuthera, a century before some moved to Abaco.

In Nassau, Donald lived across the street (Sears Road) from his future wife, Natalie Belle Lowe.  From her front porch she would watch the stately, well-dressed young man who worked at Purity Bakery.

N Nat Marg garage roof Sdrs hse
Sisters Natalie (L) and Marg (R). Saunders home porch in the background (circa 1953).  Photo courtesy of Joy Lowe Jossi

Natalie was the second of seven children born to Fanny and Clerihew Lowe of Nassau, formerly of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas.

082 sweet Nat Marg
Sisters Natalie (L) and Marg (R) (circa 1954).  Photo courtesy of Joy Lowe Jossi.

Natalie was the personal secretary to attorney Godfrey Higgs at the law firm of Higgs and Johnson.

 

Natalie refused to date Donald until he committed his life to Christ. On November 24, 1954, he attended a tent crusade where Scottish evangelist Bill Patterson conducted meetings. Donald placed his faith in God that evening. Soon afterwards a courtship with Natalie ensued.

084 Marg Donald Nat ~1954
L to R – Marg Lowe, Donald Saunders, Natalie Lowe (circa 1954).  Photo courtesy of Joy Lowe Jossi

On October 7, 1955, Donald, 31, and Natalie tied the knot at Shirley Heights Gospel Chapel in Nassau.

Donald Saunders and Natalie Lowe Marriage.jpgThree children, two girls and a boy, were born to this union. In June 1965, the family faced adversity with the premature birth of the youngest child. Weighing two pounds, two and a half ounces, the preemie boy Paul had to be airlifted to Miami for care. Dr. Meyers Rassin’s wife, Nurse Rosetta, accompanied the infant.

DNM
Donald Saunders and Natalie Lowe Saunders with daughter Mary (circa 1959).  Photo courtesy of grandson, Christopher McCluskey.

Donald’s strong family commitment stepped up when a need arose. He demonstrated care for each person. To his sister Audrey’s sons, he became a father figure.

Donald did self-effacement for the higher purpose. In the church group at Nassau’s Shirley Heights Gospel Chapel on Mount Royal Avenue, he supervised construction projects for the church. His home in Nassau included an apartment often used by missionaries.

At the age of 43 years, Donald retired from Purity Bakery upon its sale to Continental Baking Company in 1967. He continued to be a prudent businessman with investments.

N Papa & Nat's fam 1993 bw
L to R – Brian McCluskey, Christopher McCluskey, Mary Saunders McCluskey, Natalie Lowe Saunders, Donald Saunders, Judy Saunders, Paul Saunders.  Seated in front – Clerihew Lowe (circa 1993).  Photo courtesy of Joy Lowe Jossi.

In 1972, the family moved to Hollywood, Florida, where they joined the Hollywood Bible Chapel. Donald served as an elder, oversaw building renovations, taught Bible study classes, and preached to local congregations.

DNSa
Donald Saunders and Natalie Lowe Saunders in front of Hollywood Bible Chapel (circa 1978).  Photo courtesy of grandson Christopher McCluskey.

Meticulous in his work, his firm belief followed God’s Word, even when it was not popular to do so. He believed in not elevating any earthly man, but in all things to give God the preeminence.

After they moved to Florida, Donald’s son recalled his dad taking him and his sister to a lake to sail. Donald explained how to ‘tack’ and the way to scull—skills he had learned as a boy at Green Turtle Cay.

Donald was a faithful and devoted husband to wife Natalie for 41 years. She assisted him in sermon preparation. A wonderful father, he taught by word and example.

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Natalie Lowe Saunders and Donald Saunders (circa 1982).  Photo from collection of John and Doreen Lowe.

In 1995, Donald was diagnosed with cancer. Donald’s faith remained strong. In pain, he possessed inner peace from his Heavenly Father. In September 1996, Donald was called into the presence of the Lord he learned to love.  Lanny Evans, a family friend, wrote and presented the following tribute at Donald’s funeral.

“As We Knew Him”
Just a Man…
GOD’s Man
GOD’s Man of Purpose
GOD’s Man of Purposefully Planned Action
GOD’s Man Always Eager to Venture out for HIM
Just a Man…
But a Godly Man
A Man Who Knew the MIND OF GOD
Seeking IT with a Prayerful Passion
And a Zeal to Know HIS WILL and Do HIS WORK
And to See Others Brought Into the KINGDOM
Just a Man…
A Faithful Family Man
A Man Whose Heart and Soul
Glowed with the Warmth of GOD’s LOVE
Glowing for His Family, for You, for Me
Fueling and Firing His Every Activity
Just a Man…
But a Strong, Tall Friend
An Enduring, Faithful Friend
An Always Understanding Friend
A Forgiving Friend
A Friend Long on Godly Counsel and Time
Just a Man…
An “Assembly Man”
Committed to CHRIST’s CHURCH
A Man Who Loved GOD’s People
Burdened for Their Growth and Christian Maturity
Committed to Building – to the GLORY OF GOD
Just a Man…
But a Servant/Leader
A Student of the WORD
A Teacher of That Which He Had Learned
Faithful to Impart True Knowledge
A Wise Counselor, Applying the WORD to Life
Just a Man…
A Tender, Caring, Compassionate Man
A Generous, Giving Man
A Man of Wise Discernment
A Man of Common Sense
A Man Who Redeemed His Time
Just a Man…
But a Tireless Visionary
A “Maker of Things to Happen”
A Successful Man
An Example of a Man
A Trustworthy Man to All and to Whomever
Just a Man…
A Strong Man, Who Conveyed Strength
A Confident Man, Who Inspired Confidence
A Gentleman, Who Taught Meekness
A Righteous Man, Who Encouraged the Just
An Honest Man, Who Seeks Truth
Just a Man…
But a Blessed Man
A Greatly Favored Man
A Very Much Loved Man
Donald
As We Knew Him to Be
DRS
Donald R. Saunders (circa 1955). Photo courtesy of grandson Christopher McCluskey.

Royalty on Island Shores

The month of March not only brings blossoming spring flowers,  but also British royalty to the shores of the Bahamas, whose clear aquamarine waters and white sandy beaches are simply breathtaking for both the poor and the prosperous.

The island nation’s British legacy started in the early 1700’s when King George I appointed an English sea captain, Woodes Rogers, as first Royal Governor of the Bahamas.  British monarchs reigned until the nation’s independence in July 1973.  The country remains a member of the British Commonwealth.

A few weeks ago Prince Edward and wife, Sophie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex arrived in the Nassau for the GGYA (Governor General’s Youth Award) presentations.  Their Royal visit  included a quick stop to Abaco, including picturesque Hope Town, a loyalist settlement rich in Bahamian history.  Explore its island heritage with a stop to the Wyannie Malone Historical Museum. Wyannie Malone (my 5th great grandmother) is considered to be the first documented resident of Hope Town.  The South Carolina widow and her three children arrived in 1785.

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Hope Town on Elbow Cay, Abaco, in the Bahamas with its candy-striped lighthouse – one of the last manual lighthouses in the world.

Queen Elizabeth II stepped onto Bahamian shores while touring Caribbean Commonwealth nations in 1966, 1975, 1977, and 1985.  Her last visit was in March 1994. On these historic occasions, an air of excitement builds on the island as locals crowd the streets to catch a glimpse of Royalty.

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Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip – Rawson Square, Nassau, Bahamas (1966).

Sailing into Nassau Harbour aboard the 412 foot-long Royal Yacht Britannia, Princess Margaret (the Queen’s sister) and her entourage landed in Nassau in 1955.  On this voyage, the 24 year old Royal emissary toured several of the British Colonies in the West Indies, including Jamaica, Trinidad, Grenada, Dominica and the Bahamas.

The Governor of the Bahamas greeted Princess Margaret at Prince George Dock.  She observed a local regatta from the yacht of Sir Stafford Sands, dubbed the Bahamian  “Father of Tourism.”  Incidentally, his wife, Winifred Maude Moore, is my cousin.

Other trip highlights included a public school address at Clifton Pier and a reception at the Government House with over 1600 guests, dignitaries and notable residents. A quick getaway to a private retreat on Rose Island provided a brief respite for the busy princess.

Perhaps the most notable event was a tour of the recently opened Bahamas General Hospital.  During this ceremony, the hospital’s name was officially changed to The Princess Margaret Hospital, and a tree planted in honor of this occasion.

Below are a few of the pictures contained within Dad’s souvenir booklet from this Royal visit (February 26, 1955 – March 2, 1955). Uncertain as to how he obtained this piece of history.  Was he amidst the crowd of eager bystanders?

The cover is stamped with  the succinct and swift motto from Governor Woodes Rogers…Expulsis Piratis/Restituta Commercia – Piracy Expelled, Commerce Restored.

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Grandma Bessie

On February 26, 1903 in Green Turtle Cay, Pa Wes Curry and Ma Lilla (Carleton) welcomed a baby girl, my paternal grandmother, Bessie Caroline Curry.  Three older sisters – Dora, Edith and Emma -and an older brother Herman completed this Abaconian family.  A month prior to Bessie’s birth, her oldest sibling Eudora ‘Dora’ Isabel (1894-1959) married William Branwell Roberts.

Bahamian Curry roots are speculated to trace back to loyalists of the British Crown.  During the American Revolutionary War, many sought refuge in the colony of the Bahamas.  Curry descendants were known for striking physical features, including jet black hair and a rich complexion.

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Grandma Bessie – seated far right

At the age of ten, Bessie lost her mother to a kidney infection.  Pa Wes welcomed help from the older siblings and a close-knit island community.  In March 1924, Bessie, who had just turned twenty-one, married seaman Howard Lowe.  He was the youngest son of John Aquilla Lowe and Minnie Curry.  Howard worked as first mate aboard the Abaco mail boat Priscilla.  In June 1925, Bessie gave birth to my Dad – John Wesley Lowe.

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Howard Lowe – passport photo circa 1919

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Bessie faced another deep loss three years into her marriage.  Her husband Howard sustained an injury on the mailboat. The infection dealt a fatal blow.  A young widow grieved.  During these uncertain times, Bessie fastened to her faith in God.

Her late husband, Howard, served as the first clerk for the Green Turtle Cay Church of God assembly.  Their cottage stood next to the church building.  Howard’s father, John Aquilla Lowe, first pastored this oldest Church of God assembly outside the United States.

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On the far left is the home of Howard and Bessie Lowe with the GTC Church of God next door.

Dad John penned in his journal…

Mother was a dear Christian lady.  She kept the church building clean.  It was convenient for her since it joined our property.  She also tended to the kerosene lamps.  She made sure they were filled with oil and prepared for the church services.

Soon after Howard’s death, Pa Wes moved into the waterfront cottage to help his widowed daughter raise her son.  He slept in the upstairs bedroom with a dormer window to provide cool evening breezes and a view of the harbour.

Around 1940, Pa Wes’ health started to decline.  He needed advanced medical attention.  Bessie sold the family cottage that her husband Howard built.  With her fifteen-year-old son John and ailing father, she headed to the island capital Nassau.  Here teenager John sought employment to support his mother.

Pa Wes passed away within the year.  During this period, Bessie met a Green Turtle Cay carpenter and widower, Ashbourne Lowe.  His artisan talent and reputation secured jobs in Nassau.  Ashbourne lost his wife Irene, who was a daughter of Jeremiah Gates and Jessie Isabel Lowe.

In February 1942, Bessie and Ashbourne tied the knot at the Epworth House in Nassau.  The newlyweds returned to their Green Turtle Cay roots.  Dad remained in Nassau with step-grandmother, Mildred Pearce Lowe.  He saved his earnings to purchase a parcel of land in the nearby Shirlea subdivision where Grandpa Ashbourne built a modest home.

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Shirlea home built by Grandpa Ashbourne Lowe.  Doreen Lowe (wife of John) standing on the porch.  Grandma Bessie sitting in the rocking chair (c. 1950)

On Green Turtle Cay, Ashbourne built a home for his new bride near the water’s edge.  In 1944, the couple were blessed with their only child, Janet.

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Grandma Bessie holding Janet
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My sister, Paula, in front of Ashbourne and Bessie’s home – currently known as Sunset Cottage (May 2002).

Green Turtle Cay native Estella Curry Lowe recalls…

I remember visiting Bessie’s home when I would play with Janet. We swam off the nearby beach.  I remember Ms. Bessie as a quiet, reserved woman.  She was always cleaning the house or the surrounding areas – a very tidy lady.  She and her husband Mr. Ashbourne were loved by everyone on the Cay.

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Dad, Grandma Bessie and Janet (c. 1944).

My sister, Paula Lowe Higgs Jackson, notes…

Grandma Bessie had a special, godly influence on me.  She lived most of her life on Green Turtle Cay, Abaco.  Grandma did not have all the conveniences that we enjoyed in the city of Nassau.  

After a brief illness at age 64, she went to Heaven in July 1967.  I graduated from high school the prior month and was heartbroken by her sudden death.  She and Grandpa Ashbourne had just moved to Nassau the year prior to her death.  I was excited to build our relationship now that she was nearby – hard to do while living on another island.

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L to R – Janet, Paula, Grandma Bessie and Grandpa Ashbourne (c. 1956).

As a child, I visited her twice on Green Turtle Cay.  My first visit was by sea plane.  The second time was during the summer of 1962.  I will always remember that special trip…

On a Saturday evening in July 1962, my parents, brother and I boarded Captain Sherwin Archer’s boat, Almeta Queen, in Nassau.  We rocked across the shipping lanes of New Providence channel at night, headed to see Grandma Bessie.  As a ten-year-old, I was excited for this summer vacation with a surprise.  Grandma had no idea we were coming!

Other family onboard included cousins Buddy Lowe, Berlin Key and Craig Roberts.  Buddy and Berlin transported two small motor boats on the deck of the Almeta Queen.  These boats were lowered into the water off the Abaco mainland to continue the final league towards New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay.

I peered out of the porthole in our tiny cabin that night. Mother was anxious as a cargo shift leaned the ship heavily to one side.  She also noted sharks in the water as we disembarked from the dock.   During the overnight ocean passage, Mom was comforted to know that her cousins had brought their personal boats onboard to enjoy during this summer getaway.  

Early the next morning, the crew lowered these boats into the Abaco channel before the Almeta Queen docked.  Craig and Berlin took charge of one boat while Buddy and our family handled the other.  On an early Sunday morning, we headed to Green Turtle Cay shores.  Cool, morning breezes blew on our faces.  

As we neared the shoreline of the New Plymouth, we spotted Grandma on the shoreline rocks.  Here she emptied her pot of fish bones back into the ocean.  Boiled fish and grits was her traditional Sunday morning breakfast.

Grandma’s wooden house was near the ocean.  I loved to climb the stairs to their upstairs and sift through the treasures.  I slept in Aunt Janet’s downstairs bedroom that faced the street.

I was amazed at the narrow streets in this small settlement.  We walked around carefree on the island.  Few cars and trucks were there.  Life was simple yet beautiful.  A rainwater tank collected our drinking water.  The taste was less than desirable.

Rainwater was also used for baths in the upstairs galvanized tub.  Grandma carefully toted kettles of boiling water from the kitchen.  Downstairs was equipped with a porcelain pitcher and basin to wash your hands.  No indoor toilets existed.  Grandpa was in the middle of his latest home improvement project to convert a downstairs bedroom into a bathroom.  For now, we had two options – a pail or the outhouse.  Watch out for the spiders! 

The kitchen’s sink had a bucket underneath to catch the dirty dishwater.  All major cooking and baking occurred in a detached building.  This layout was typical during this era for safety and cooling reasons.

In the yard, I was intrigued with her chicken coops and egg-laying hens. Curly tail lizards ran around every corner and under the house!  Near the rainwater tank I noticed another galvanized tub with a scrub board – Grandma’s washing machine.  The summer sun and cool breezes dried laundry pinned on clothes lines propped up by wooden poles.

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L to R – Paul (my brother),  Grandma Bessie, Paula – Green Turtle Cay (July 1962).

Grandma served cornflakes with evaporated milk and water for breakfast.  Sugar cubes provided flavor.  The island’s small convenience stores sold primarily staples.  Sugar, flour, butter, and cheese, were weighed on scales and sold by the pound.  I fondly remember a visit to Ms. Eva Saunders in a convenience store on Parliament Street.   I also enjoyed a snow cone from Chester Lowe’s store.

During this summer trip, my younger brother and my cousin Craig Roberts celebrated their birthdays.  Cousin Pearl Lowe made a special a homemade jam layered cake to celebrate.  Some of the men of the island gathered whelks along the shoreline.   One day we went out in Grandpa’s dingy and watched him use his grains to strike a turtle for sustenance. 

Grandma usually wore a hair net. When she went to church, she sported a brim hat.  She did not own a swimsuit.  One day as we searched for shells and swam in the clear turquoise waters, Grandma joined us for a swim in her dress. 

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Grandma Bessie and Grandpa Ashbourne with Janet (c. 1956).

In the years that followed, Grandma and Grandpa would visit Nassau for weeks during the summers or Christmas time.  They would stay with my Dad and Mom.

My sister speaks of one particular visit…

When I was six years old, Dad had purchased his first black and white television in a console cabinet. Grandma loved to watch the Art Linkletter show.  At bedtime, she would read to my brother and me from our big Bible Story book. 

Grandma shipped boxes of fruit from Green Turtle Cay to Dad on the mailboat.  A special surprise of cocoa plum preserves was always a treat.  Grandma sent a handmade headband to my sister as a reward for good school grades.

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Grandma Bessie, Paula, Janet (c. 1958).

Grandma Bessie was a skilled baker.  A Green Turtle Cay cousin loved her tasty raisin pies.  Another remembers her zesty lemon pies and guava jam layer cakes with icing.  Bessie and her sister-in-law Mira Lowe Roberts baked cakes and pies and sold them by the slice.  Everyone loved the aroma of her homemade bread.

Grandma Bessie’s daughter, Janet, noted her mother’s cleaning…

Momma scrubbed the floor down on her knees using dried turbot skins and a bucket of water.  We toted pails of white sand from the beach to give the yard a fresh, clean look.

Grandma’s dresses were handmade – a talented seamstress.  Dad recounted Grandma sewed his boyhood shirts from flour sacks.   She loved to craft quilts from fabric scraps.  Quilting was a favorite pastime of the ladies on Green Turtle Cay.  Grandma crafted shell sea treasures into beautiful necklaces to sell to island visitors.

Around 1965, Grandma and Grandpa moved to Nassau permanently.  Daughter Janet secured a job with Johnson Brothers on Bay Street.  The three Abaconians rented an upstairs dwelling in Nassau’s Sears Addition.

In May 1965, Grandma headed to Miami for surgery.  She battled thyroid issues.  Family friend and minister, Earle Weech joined the family and provided transportation and comfort.  While Grandma was in the hospital, Pastor Weech coordinated excursions to Miami’s Sea Aquarium and Crandon Park Zoo.

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L to R – Paula, Janet, Grandma Bessie, Grandpa Ashbourne, Paul (May 1965).
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L to R – Paul, Mom, Jonathan in (stroller), Paula, Earle Weech, Janet, Grandpa Ashbourne – Crandon Park Zoo (1965).

Two years later, Bessie and Ashbourne travelled to Titusville, Florida to visit with Ruth Pinder Tedder.  Ruth is Bessie’s niece, her sister Emmie’s daughter.  On the return boat trip to Nassau, someone noted that Bessie’s eyes looked yellow.  She was soon admitted to the Rassin Hospital under the reputable care of Dr. Meyer Rassin, former Surgeon General for the Royal Air Force.  After a few weeks of local hospitalization, Dr. Rassin recommended advanced treatment in Miami, Florida.

While on the operating table in Miami, the doctors determined a terminal diagnosis.  Her life expectancy was a short month.  She returned to Nassau where they had relocated to a Centerville home owned by nephew Anthony Roberts.  Grandma Bessie passed away a few days later on July 27, 1967 at the age of 64.

Cousin Iva Lowe Scholtka recalls…

At the Cay, they lived next door to us.  I would help Bessie clean the lamps on the wall at the church.  She always had a smile on her face.  She kept her house clean enough to eat off the floor.

In Nassau, I went to see her in the hospital.  She had cancer of the liver.  Her skin was as yellow as a pumpkin.  I will never forget that.  She took my hand and said “I’m going” and then she requested, “Please be a friend to my Janet.”

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Grandma Bessie and Grandpa Ashbourne (circa 1966).

Grandma passed away two years before I was born.  Despite the trials that she faced throughout her life, her resilience, generosity and love witnessed by those who knew her pointed to her faith in God.   

Everything to Build Anything

As a teenager in the early 1940s, Dad John Lowe left the Abaconian shores of Green Turtle Cay.  His widowed mother Bessie sought medical attention for her ailing father, Pa Wes Curry.  The three travelers headed by mailboat to the Bahamas Colony’s capital city of Nassau.  Upon arrival, Bessie’s sister, Emmie Moree, greeted her new boarders.  Shirley Street resident Aunt Emmie provided meals and lodging to help her out island family transition to their new life.

In Nassau, Dad immediately sought employment to help support his mother.  Green Turtle Cay’s two-room All-Age School gave Dad a seventh grade equivalent education of solid basics.  After a short stint at a gas station Dad spent a few years at City Market grocery store on Bay Street.  Around 1947, Dad was offered a job at Maura Lumber Company on Bay Street.  For nearly two decades Dad exceled and broadened his business skills.  He was widely known for exceptional personalized service to his patrons.

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Maura Lumber Company was situated on Bay Street’s harbor waterfront in the island’s center of commerce.  Founder and owner, William Henry Handford Maura (1880-1959), oversaw the operations. Just east of Victoria Avenue, the store supplied islanders with lumber, hardware, paint, marine supplies and equipment, housewares, and toys.  On the other side of the street The Horse Shoe Restaurant attracted patrons in the hot climate to cold banana splits, ice cream sundaes, milk shakes and snow cones!

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Bay Street storefront - local newspaper photo 
Courtesy of Wendi Bates, granddaughter of W. H. H. Maura.

A local newspaper reported:

In the 1920’s William H. H. Maura, “Willie” as he was known to his friends, was a sponge broker with offices at the Vendue wharf…In the early 1930’s he became the retail agent for the Bahamas Cuban Company…Mr. Maura became the manager and agent of their Nassau operation.  The company had sole lumber rights to all timber grown in the Bahamas…He bought the Bahamas branch of the Cuban company and launched out as WHH Maura & Sons, suppliers of lumber and building materials. 

As a sideline to his lumber business, Mr. Maura sold wholesale provisions – flour, sugar, Canadian canned goods and bales of hay…In 1938 WHH Maura & Sons became the Bahamas Lumber Co.  In 1945 its name was changed yet again to Maura Lumber Co., Ltd. 

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W. H. H. Maura standing in front of the original Bay Street storefront
Courtesy of Wendi Bates, granddaughter of W. H. H. Maura.

The following year, John, the youngest of the three Maura sons, returned from active service in World War II and with his older brother, Montague, started the rapid expansion of the family enterprise.  In 1954 the two brothers built and operated the first modern self-service hardware store that adjoined the lumber and building supplies operation.  Within a few years marine products, boats and accessories, housewares and toys were all sold at Maura’s.

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W. H. H. Maura with sons Monty (left) and John (right)
Courtesy of Wendi Bates, granddaughter of W. H. H. Maura.

The Maura estate Fleetwood was located on Bay Street east of Okra Hill.  On Nassau’s harbor, it included a long dock with a dockhouse as well as a large aviary in the back yard.

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 Fleetwood Estate
Courtesy of Wendi Bates, granddaughter of W. H. H. Maura.

W. H. H. Maura had great stature of character, a fine gentlemen. An active member at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk, his community service visited lepers isolated at the Lazaretto in the pine barrens of the undeveloped Carmichael area.  He is listed as owner of several vessels, including Lady Hennessy, MascotArticCoral, and Teaser.  His niece told,

In the early days of the Savoy Theatre downtown, he would dress to the hilt (white suit with hat), and pace the sidewalk outside the theatre to greet the movie-goers. This was a social time for him.

His brother, Bruce Maura (1885-1945), was one of the Gallant Thirty who served the British Empire during World War I.  Shell-shocked, Bruce was fortunate to return home.

The original immigrant Maura is said to be Don Juan Maura from Catalonia, Spain born in the 1780’s. He was Spain’s first consul in Nassau.

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Special thanks to Ann Morley Carmel for providing this 1848 ship's manifest.  
Note Don Juan (John) Maura's name five up from the bottom.

After Don Juan married Mary Amelia Catherine Patou in 1836 at St. Matthew’s Church in Nassau, the couple had 11 children.  She fell victim to the 1852 cholera epidemic in Nassau.  Her obituary reads:

We deeply regret…to record among the few cases that remained yesterday, the death of Mrs. Maura, the amiable partner of the Spanish Consul for this port…This amiable lady was a most devoted wife and mother, and beloved by all who knew her. The flags of the shipping in the harbour were lowered to half-mast to-day, as were also the Spanish, American and French flags at the Consulates” 

Don Juan Maura’s great-grandson, William Henry Handford Maura continued the family’s legacy as a prominent family in the Bahamas.  In 1908, he married Amelia Kathleen Butler.  They raised three sons and two daughters in Nassau.

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Top Row (L to R) Monty Maura (son), Amelia Kathleen Butler Maura (mother), 
W. H. H. Maura (father), Alice Maura (daughter)  
Bottom Row (L to R) Bertram Maura (son), Helen Maura (daughter),
Sadie Poole Maura (wife of Bertram), John Maura (son)
Courtesy of Wendi Bates, granddaughter of W. H. H. Maura.

A. Talbot Bethell in his book The Early Settlers of the Bahamas and Colonists of North America describes W. H. H. Maura as follows:

…a large importer of Canadian Manufactured Goods and carries on an extensive Lumber Business.  President of the Nassau Sponge Exchange CO., Ltd., and is himself a Sponge Broker.

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A Nassau resident stated,

I remember that he (W. H. H. Maura) always wore a white suit. He would come in the store, and look around to see that everyone was doing something. His second son, Monty Maura, ran the lumberyard and the third son, John Maura, ran the hardware section.

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W.H.H. Maura (left) with the Duke of Windsor and Captain Holland.

The eldest son, Dr. Bertram Maura, DD, PhD, studied at a university in Canada. He returned to Nassau to teach. One of his Queen’s College students had fond memories of him as her English Literature teacher in the World War II years. Under his tutelage, many excelled. She recalls the impact of his godly influence in one of his many thought-provoking quotes.

 It doesn’t matter what or who you came from…it’s where you choose to go in life.

This thriving operation of Maura Lumber Company not only provided essential supplies to the community, but also jobs for the locals.  Here, Dad formed friendships with coworkers that included Jack Roberts, Donald Cates, Allan Curry, Noel A. Roberts, Eddie Maura, Sammy Malone, B.C. Malone, Fred Cadman and Peter Lowe, to name a few.

My sister, Paula, recalls:

When I was a little girl, Dad bought me a hula hoop from Maura Lumber Co. on Bay Street. I  loved to carry it to school at Queen’s College, which in those days was at Trinity Methodist Church on Frederick Street.  Dad would drop me off to school on his way to work.

Dad was placed in charge of the paint department under the leadership of the son, John Maura, World War II pilot.  My oldest brother, Paul, tells:

This was the era before today’s technology. Customers would come in with a color they wanted to match. With a careful blue eye, Dad would look at it and produce the exact color the customer desired. He would add tint of one color, shake the can, then add other tints until a perfect match was achieved. He was a human paint machine.

Since Dad excelled in the paint department, the company sent him to tour a few paint manufacturing facilities, owned by American brothers.  One plant was located in Tennessee, the other in New York.

His first tour led Dad to Cleveland, Tennessee, in May 1955.  Dad, Mom (pregnant at the time) and my sister Paula left Nassau on a ship headed for the port of Miami.  Mother made plans to stay her uncle Henry Griffin in Miami while dad traveled on business.

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Dad and my sister Paula in Miami after his return from Tennessee.

Dad met up with Lamar Ingram, an American sales representative, and together they boarded a train bound for Cleveland, Tennessee. Dad recalled his island boy excitement as he gazed on the scenic mountains for the first time.  He spoke of the graciousness of their hosts and the comforts of an estate nestled in the countryside.  Dad returned by plane to Miami with a souvenir puppy broach in hand for his daughter.

A few years later, Dad and Donald Cates boarded a plane for New York.  In addition to touring the paint plant, they also had the opportunity to sightsee around the Big Apple city.

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John Lowe (left) and Donald Cates (right) - New York skyline in the background.

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John Lowe (left) and Donald Cates (right) - sightseeing cruise in New York.

Upon his return, eager young kids awaited souvenirs…a doll adorned in a teal green dress, high heels and earrings for my sister…two crinoline slips, a 50 yard for my sister and 100 yard for mom.  Not sure what my brother received!

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My sister posing with my brother and her New York "American" doll in hand.

In 1962 Maura Lumber Company opened a branch on Shirley Street, almost across from St. Matthew’s Church.  Soon afterwards, John Maura offered Dad a position to manage this new location.  Here he worked with Eugene Albury, Elwood Pritchard, Lois Higgs Roberts and Jack Lowe, to name a few.  An accident involving hot wax, perhaps while sealing marine accessories, left third degree burns marks on dad’s hand and forearm.

Even though Maura Lumber Company is no longer in existence, to this day former patrons remember their Toyland during the Christmas Season.  Extended business hours accommodated the holiday shoppers.  Dad would race home for supper and return to the store until closing.  Even Santa Claus made appearances to greet the youngsters.  You always knew Christmas was just around the corner when Toyland opened!   

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My sister on Santa's lap.  
Nassau resident, Noel Pinder, would often appear as Toyland's Mr. Claus.

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 1960 advertisement in the Nassau Guardian.  
Special thanks to Salvatore Re for sharing this photo. 
He is the boy riding the bronco rocker.

My oldest brother, Paul, shares:

I remember how dad converted the store to the Toyland for the Christmas season. They decorated the windows with displays that had movable characters. People would drive by the store in the evenings so their kids could enjoy the displays.

I remember Dad selling train sets and Scalextric racing car/track sets. Toy cars were controlled by a trigger handle wired to the track that generated electricity to wire brushes on the bottom of the car.  He had set up on plywood an elaborate figure 8 track that was about waist height for a child. He encouraged the kids to race their own cars on the track for brief periods of time…a good marketing strategy.  He also sold Vespa scooters and British motorcycles in the store.  

In the warehouse he had large wooden crates full of all types of marbles.  These sold by the pound.  When I would go to the store, I would immediately head for the marbles. I dug through to find ones with unique designs.

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 Opening of the Shirley Street branch in 1962.  
Photo taken by Stanley Toogood.  Published in Nassau's The Tribune
Courtesy of Wendi Bates, granddaughter of W. H. H. Maura.

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 Cousin Peter Lowe (top) - Lumber Department Manager.  
Cousin Jack Lowe (bottom left) - Lumber Sales Manager.
Published in The Tribune
Courtesy of Wendi Bates, granddaughter of W. H. H. Maura.

My dad’s cousin and Nassau businessman, Anthony ‘Tony’ Roberts, approached dad to manage his new acquisition of a furniture store in Centreville around 1966. The opportunity to help his Green Turtle Cay cousin appealed—both were grandsons of Pa Wes. It was a bittersweet decision for dad. To leave a successful career, satisfied customers and coworker friends had a tinge of sadness. After dad’s retirement in 1988, he would reminisce often on the many experiences at Maura Lumber Company.

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Donald Reginald Lowe

It is often repeated that all Lowes in the Bahamas descend from patriarch Captain Gideon Lowe born in 1755 on Harbour Island, Eleuthera.  After an 1806 hurricane that devastated Harbour Island, Captain Gideon with wife Nancy and their 10 children departed on their vessel Carpenter’s Revenge to start life over on Green Turtle Cay, Abaco.

Generations later, Captain Gideon’s great-great-grandson, Austin O’Brien Lowe (1873-1938) was born in Marsh Harbour, a settlement on the mainland of Abaco.  In 1902, Austin married Cherokee Sound native Amana Delzie Russell.  Austin labored as a farmer, fisherman and sponger.  The Marsh Harbour couple were blessed with two children, Fanny Merton (1903-1973) and Reginald Cutherbert (1906-1977).

Austin O'Brien

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          Reginald Lowe and Lola Albury Lowe

When son Reginald turned 25, he married his hometown sweetheart Lola Melba Albury.  Their union produced eight children, five girls (Pearl, Esther, Evelyn, Patricia and Delcie ) and three boys (Donald, Allan and Emil).  Firstborn Pearl died as an infant.  Like so many Abaconians, Pa Reggie farmed and fished to provide for his family.

Earlier this December, Reggie and Lola’s eldest son, Donald Reginald Lowe (1934-2015), finished his course on this earth. The following excerpts are from Donald’s eulogy and obituary…

Donald Reginald Lowe known to many as Mr. Lowe, Donnie, Uncle and papa was born to Reginald “Reggie” and Lola Lowe in the quiet settlement of Marsh Harbour on May 31, 1934.  As a young boy, Donald loved to hunt and fish.  He started work at age 14 to help support his family.

He attended the Marsh Harbour Public School where he completed his primary education under Mr. Berge Neilly. At break time he would play marbles and spin tops with the other boys, including Lewis Key, Garnet Archer, Percy Archer, Gordon Hudson, Carroll Albury and Benny Roberts.

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Donald’s dad, Reggie, moved the family to Israels during the summers so he could farm. They lived off what was grown and went to Green Turtle Cay and Hope Town to sell their produce.  Food was provided for them from the land and sea. Times were tough, but their needs were always supplied. Donald would go duck shooting with his brothers, Allan and Emil, his Uncle Chester Bethel, and brother-in-law Rowan Higgs.  Bill Swain, Donald’s friend, would often join them at Wills Cay.   Donald’s dad would make syrup while the boys were off on their adventures.

As a young teenager, Donald attended Bible Truth Hall where he accepted the Lord as his personal Saviour under the ministry of Bob Constable.  At the age of 14 Donald left school to work with his Uncle Lucien Stratton on the Almeta Queen exporting crawfish to Miami. Lucien became a second father to Donald.

img085aIt was in Miami that they met with Mr. J.B. Crockett and persuaded him to come to Marsh Harbour in search of farmland. These operations provided employment for many locals.  Mr. Crockett bought the Nelvana Queen, a 112 ft boat that was chartered by an oil company to go down to Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela to find oil. Captain Lambert Sands of Man-O-War Cay along with Donald as his engineer and Carroll Albury as second engineer and a  crew were off on a five month trip…an experience of a lifetime. When Donald returned home, he was able to finish his house he had already started to build.

Working with Sea Breezes Co. in the mid 50’s, Donald assisted with construction of the Marsh Harbour Airport as well as many other road and infrastructure projects in the North of Abaco, Coopers Town, Fox Town, Green Turtle Cay and Treasure Cay.  He worked alongside with Edwin Lowe, Phil Lowe and Trevis Curry.

On July 23, 1957, after a seven year courtship, Donald married the love of his life, Carolyn Ann Lowe at Central Gospel Chapel in Nassau, Bahamas.  Their union was blessed with a son, Brian (1961-1984) and a daughter Emily.

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In 1961 Lucien and Stuart Stratton, founders of Sea Breezes Co., went to Long Island to construct the airport and roads on Deadman’s Cay.  Donald along with Edwin Lowe, Phil Lowe, Dave Collins, Zephie Duncombe and Joshua Tinker had no time to waste to get this work done.

The next project took them south where Diamond Crystal was starting salt operations.  Billy Thompson joined the crew and they constructed salt pans as well as an airport there.  Bruce Darville provided dynamite blasting for the jobs.

After finishing the job there they went to North to Stella Maris and constructed the airport and roads there. These various projects on Long Island enabled them to hire many of the locals thus boosting the local economy.  While working on Long Island, they were also building a subdivision called Bahama Sound, Exuma.

By the end of 1965, the company finished their work on Long Island and was contracted out to Morton Salt Co. in Inagua, constructing salt pans as well as a new airport. Edwin Lowe and Donald stayed together during this time. The people of Inagua and Mayaguana were noted as hard workers and many friendships were made.

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During his commutes to Long Island or Inagua, Donald would often stop in Nassau to visit with his Uncle Roscoe and Aunt Roselyn or his Uncle Jack and Aunt Thelma.

Donald campaigned for the FNM for a few years along with Cecil Wallace Whitfield, Jack Albury, Frankie Russell, Freddy Gottlieb, Edwin Sands and Robert Sweeting.

In the mid 1970’s, Donald bought a 31 ft. Betram boat, Tuffie, whom he treasured.  With his fishing buddy, Jim Lowe, they spent many days out at sea.  Harold Russell would often join him as well as many others.

In 1981, Donald opened B & D Marine store in Abaco. Sylvon Bethel was manager and nephew, Kevin Sawyer worked along with Gerard (Nelson) Lindor, later Carolyn joined them. Donald mentored Kevin, teaching him how to splice rope and giving advice.

In the early 80’s Donald was asked by Bill Farquharson to take on his last airport and infrastructure job, the  Abaco High Way and Treasure Cay Airport.

In 2007,  Donald had a heart replacement valve surgery.  Shortly afterwards B&D Marine store was closed, and Donald fully retired. He continued to enjoy fishing and hunting.

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Donald loved visiting Great Guana Cay and visit with his daughter, Emily and family. He became very close to  Victor Bethel and his family.  You would often find the two of them enjoying a cup of coffee while talking politics with much laughter. Donald developed a closeness with the Guana Cay people.

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Donald with sisters, Evelyn, Delcie, Esther and Patricia.

In 2012, Donald broke his hip.  His nephew, Faron Sawyer, flew him to Florida. Donald recovered well and adjusted quickly  with his walker. He enjoyed regular visits from his sisters, other family members and friends.

On December 5, 2015, Donald was called home by his Lord and Saviour.

Our families connected in the United States through mutual Floridian friends Bob and Joanie Weber, who regularly visited the Abacos.  Donald and Carolyn with daughter Emily and husband Sylvon enjoyed visits with the Webers, who lived in Palm Beach County, Florida.  The Webers, who knew our common Bahamian roots, facilitated an easy introduction and a quick cousin discovery.

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Special thanks to Donald’s daughter Emily, who graciously shared her Dad’s memoirs.

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When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,

And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;

When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,

And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

(Hymn excerpt sung at the service for Donald Lowe)

The Explorer’s Dora

I turn the dial back to the year 1884 and to life for some on the isolated island of Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas.  At that time Queen Victoria reigned over the United Kingdom of Great Britain – this included our Bahamas colony.  Grover Cleveland won the presidential election in the United States, and the cornerstone was laid for the arrival of Statue of Liberty.  The US Consular Reports, accounting for exports (in dollars) to the United States provides a glimpse of exports from Green Turtle Cay in their 1884 report.  Sniff  the aroma of those pineapples!Capture 1

My great grandfather, Wesley Curry (Pa Wes) celebrated his 19th birthday in February that year. Later in November, he and great grandmother, Lilla Carleton Curry, welcomed a baby girl, Eudora “Dora” Isabel Curry.  Before long Dora played on the shores of New Plymouth while her dad undoubtedly contributed to those exports with his farming and fishing skills.

In 1887, their second child, a son, was born.  However, this son’s unfortunate death in just a few months brought heartache to this young couple.  The death register noted the cause of death as “Teething.”  Pa Wes and Ma Lilla persevered through this adversity and were blessed with four more children.  The last child, my grandmother, born in 1903.

A month before my grandmother was born, her older sister, Dora, married a Green Turtle Cay seaman, William Bramwell Roberts.  He had outstanding blue eyes.  Pa Wes, unable to write, gave his consent on the marriage register by his “X” mark.

Eudora Curry MarriageDora and William’s union produced seven children. Tragedy claimed the lives of three of them.  Roy died from a ruptured appendix when he was seven.  His brother, Hubert, fell as a toddler and died from a head concussion.  The youngest child, Effie, died about six weeks after birth.

Eudora Curry and William Roberts
William Roberts and Dora Curry Roberts. Photo courtesy of Joan Hatfield, granddaughter.

The four surviving children, Vernie, Tessie, Bertha and Anthony grew up on the shores of Green Turtle Cay with their first cousin, my Dad, John.  Years later, Anthony pursued Dad to be the General Manager of a furniture store in Nassau. The business grew over a period of 20 years before Dad retired and moved to Florida.

Dora’s husband, William, descended from a long line of seaman – his father and grandfather were sea captains.  The Category 3 Hurricane of August 1871  that struck Abaco killed William’s grandfather and two of his uncles, William and Thomas, plus 20 other mariners.  This disaster was noted in The Wesleyan Missionary Notices for the Year 1871 (Fourth Series, Volume III, London, Printed By William Nichols, p. 198).  On September 18, 1871, Reverend Henry Bleby reported the following:

The damage on the 16th was confined chiefly to Abaco.  Mr. Jordan thinks that the hurricane was as severe as that of 1866.  The Mission premises at Green Turtle Cay have not suffered much; but the loss throughout the island and amongst the spongers has been very sad.  Twenty-three men from the Cay have lost their lives, leaving fourteen families destitute.  One poor women lost her husband and two sons.

1871 Death Register

While the specifics of this calamity have been lost over time, the death register provides a visual of a community’s sorrow.  Many young men, perhaps more than one ship’s crew, lost their lives in that hurricane.  William’s grandfather (and namesake), the first and oldest on the death register list, may have been the captain of a vessel that floundered in the storm.  The Florida Keys Sea Heritage Journal, Volume 15, Number 4 states that “he (William Sr.) and his sons William Jr. and Thomas went out fishing one day and never came back.”  Dora’s father-in-law, Ned Roberts, continued his family’s exploration legacy as captain of a cargo ship.  Ironically, Captain Ned was also lost at sea in 1900.

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William and Dora’s home on Green Turtle Cay. Photo courtesy of Lisa McCoy, great granddaughter.

William worked on the Abaco mail boat S/V Albertine Adoue operated by the Roberts family.  While William explored the seas, Dora managed a small store in their front yard.  She sold candy, gum, basic textiles and dry goods and tobacco.  When a kerosene refrigerator was added, cold sodas made a treat on a hot summer’s day.

Dora and William lived on Green Turtle Cay until moving to Nassau during the 1950’s.

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William and Dora’s home on Green Turtle Cay (building to the left with the A frame roof). Photo courtesy of Joan Hatfield.

A former Green Turtle Cay resident shared the following memories with me:

Dora and William had a small “convenience store” in front of their home.  During summer nights they, along with a few others, would sit outside the shop on benches and serve customers until they retired for the night. During the afternoons, school children flocked to their little store as they carried quite an assortment of candies.  Mr. William was a poet.  He would stop the school children to repeat poetry he memorized.  He walked with a cane.

A granddaughter shared these memories:

Grandpa’s father, Ned Roberts, was a ship captain, while Grandpa William worked on boats as a crew member. He’d tell me stories about the places where he had been.  He was the best grandpa!  He had a good voice. He and I would sit at the table and sing hymns by lantern light.

In 1957, their daughter Bertha, her husband and children moved into her parent’s Nassau residence.  They provided care for their ailing parents along with Tessie and Anthony.  When my parents would visit their home in Nassau, Uncle William would use the hook of his walking cane to latch on to my older brother’s leg.

Another granddaughter shared these memories:

Grandpa was the sweetest and kindest man I know. He was a quiet man.  Never spoke a harsh word.  Grandma was the opposite. She had a quick temper.  He was a tall man who loved to sit on the porch smoking his pipe.  The grandkids would fuss and get mad with each other for we all wanted to help him light his pipe. I loved to smell his tobacco when he would puff away.

Grandma died in 1959 after she suffered from a stroke.  One night, after her death, the housekeeper put Grandpa to bed. We could hear him talking in his bedroom. As the housekeeper headed to check on Grandpa, a gust of wind shut the door. She opened the door and asked him who he was talking to.  He said that he talked to Dora and that she asked him if he was ready to go home. Grandpa died shortly after.

The ocean explorer still talked with his helper Dora as he sailed on to his heavenly home.

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Three of William and Dora’s children. From L to R – Tessie Roberts Key, Anthony Roberts, Bertha Roberts Hatfield. Photo courtesy of Joan Hatfield.

Dora Curry Roberts and William Roberts. Photo courtesy of Lisa McCoy, great, great granddaughter.
Dora Curry Roberts and William Roberts. Photo courtesy of Lisa McCoy.

……In Loving Memory of…… James W. Hatfield, Sr.

In his “A Psalm of Life,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reflects…

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time; 
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

On September 28, 1951 in West Palm Beach, Florida, James  and Albertha “Bertha” Hatfield announced the arrival of their second child, James “Jay” William Hatfield.  Bertha’s mother, Dora Curry Roberts, and my Grandma Bessie were two of the five Curry siblings born to Pa Wes and Grandma Lilla.  Consequently, Jay and I are second cousins.

My Mom on the left holding my sister. Jetty Lowe on the right holding her cousin, Jay Hatfield.
On the left, my Mom holding my sister. On the right, Jettie Lowe holding her cousin, Jay Hatfield.

In his early years, Jay lived in Miami before moving to Nassau in 1957 with his parents and two siblings, Joan and Larry.  His grandparents needed care, and Jay’s mom, Bertha desired to help her siblings, Tessie and Anthony, care for their ailing parents.  In Nassau, Jay attended the St. Thomas Moore school until the family moved back to Florida in 1965.

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Jay on the left with younger brother, Larry, on the right.

My parents often visited Jay’s parents and grandparents in their home off Centerville.  During these visits, Jay and his siblings would shoot marbles on the floor with my older brother and sister.  The families also enjoyed beach time together.  Jay’s sister recalls…

Every holiday all of the family would go to an area on South Beach in Nassau for a day of picnicking and swimming. I remember your family was there a few times. We would bury the watermelons or throw them in the water to cool them down. We feasted on all the normal Bahamian food.  My uncle had a small covered area to keep the food and a changing room as well.

Jay and Larry were your typical mischievous brothers and kept their Uncle Wilbert “on his toes.”  He would reprimand them for climbing the trees in the neighborhood, especially the large tamarind tree down the street.  When the boys deserved a spanking, they would double their long pants to lessen the impact.

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Hatfield siblings: Larry, Joan and Jay (Left to Right)

Jay started his own business at the age of seventeen working with tropical fish. He did not have a farm at the time and would purchase from other farmers to ship to his customers. He eventually started his own farm, Jay’s Tropical Fish Farm, and shipped fish daily from the Tampa Airport. He later moved his operations and shipping closer to town and eventually had several employees joining him to run the operation.

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Larry and Jay in Nicaragua.

Jay traveled to Central and South America, including Brazil and down the Amazon River to see the different fish there. His farm was the first to import South American fish to the United States. He shipped beautiful fish all over the world, including Japan and Canada.  One particular fish, called the Black Ghost, had a fin underneath that ran from head to tail. Jay’s farm was the first to have this beautiful black and white fish.  

An excerpt from his eulogy…

On Saturday, August 8, 2015, James “Jay” William Hatfield, Sr., passed away at 63. A resident and active member of the Ruskin community for many years, Jay spent his later years traveling to Central America, where he made a home in Nicaragua.

Born in West Palm Beach, Jay spent his early life in the Bahamas developing a passion for the tropical lifestyle and fishing. His hard-working demeanor drove him James-Hatfield-1439292165to the farms of Central Florida as a teenager and eventually led him to establish a successful fish farming business in Ruskin, Florida. By the age of 40, he had traveled the Caribbean and Central America, making many friends and becoming a regular visitor. An imaginative entrepreneur, he had an ongoing list of many ingenious and some downright hilarious ideas paired with the contact list and work ethic to achieve. His unique style, sense of humor, gentle heart and humble demeanor were unforgettable. His kind soul and vivacious spirit will continue to inspire his family for generations to come.

Mary Edith “Edie” Curry Saunders

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.

Birth Register of Mary Edith Curry courtesy of FamilySearch.org
Birth Register of Mary Edith Curry courtesy of FamilySearch.org

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.

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Marriage Register of Mary Edith Curry and Gilbert Robinson Saunders courtesy of FamilySearch.org

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…

Sacred

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.

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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.

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Uncle Robbie and Aunt Edie circa 1950. Photo courtesy of Mary Saunders McCluskey, granddaughter.

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.

Ma Edie with her five children. Back row: Donald, Deloris, Cedric Front row: Sybil, Edie, Audrey. Photo courtesy of Mary Saunders McCluskey, granddaughter.
Ma Edie with her five children. Back row: Donald, Deloris, Cedric Front row: Sybil, Edie, Audrey. Photo courtesy of Mary Saunders McCluskey, granddaughter.

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).

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Green Turtle Cay, 1939, double wedding of Sybil Saunders & Harold Hodgkins and Deloris Saunders & Charles Lowe. L-R Donald Saunders, Jennie Sweeting, Harold Hodgkins, Sybil Saunders, Charlie Lowe, Deloris Saunders, Archie Lowe, Audrey Saunders, Ritchie Hodgkins, Virginia ‘Virgie’ Curry. Front row left: Madge Lowe, Cedric Saunders. Front row far right: Laverne Hodgkins, Myrtle Lowe.  Photo courtesy of a cousin.

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.