FROM PIRATE HIDEAWAY TO PRIZED GETAWAY
Over the centuries, Grand Bahama Island has existed under the rule of Spain, the United States and ultimately England. The earliest inhabitants of Grand Bahama Island were Siboney Indians, a people who subsisted on conch and fishing. The few remains uncovered—mostly artifacts of shells and jewelry–suggest that the Siboney were here 7,000 years ago. They vanished and were replaced by another Caribbean group, the Lucayans. When Christopher Columbus “stumbled upon” the islands, giving them the name Baja Mar, or “Shallow Sea,” there were 4,000 Lucayans living on Grand Bahama Island. History describes the Lucayan as a peaceful, advanced civilization with well-organized cities and a gracious hospitality who migrated to the Bahamas from the West Indies.
The development of Grand Bahama Island from an isolated hideaway for buccaneers into a sought-after tourist destination was driven primarily by the vision of American businessman, Wallace Groves. During the early 1950s, Groves, in partnership with British financier Sir Charles Hayward, negotiated with the Government of the Bahamas for 50,000 acres of land to create a “port area,” giving birth to the City of Freeport. For a glimpse into Bahamian life before vacation packages and tropical beaches began luring tourists here, visit the 40-acre Lucayan National Park, just 25 miles from Freeport. Here you can view ancient skulls, bones and other artifacts found in the caves within the park. There is also a significant, recently discovered archeological site near Deadman’s Reef on the western end of the island containing hearths, pottery shards, and shell beads.
Our most priceless treasures are the friendly faces, happiness and hospitality that come from the heart of our local residents. Bahamians are among the friendliest, most easy-going people you’ll find anywhere. They welcome life with a smile, love to celebrate and take great pride in the colorful history of the islands. About 50,000 people live on Grand Bahama Islands, though most were born on other islands throughout the Bahamas. The population is comprised predominately of the descendants of West Africans brought to the Bahamas to work as slaves on the island’s cotton plantations and decedents of the early English settlers who established those early plantations in the Bahamas. Britain abolished slavery in 1834, a turning point for the economy of the island. The plantation lifestyle gave way to individual endeavors for sponging, agriculture and fishing, igniting the entrepreneurial spirit that is evident in the Bahamas today.