A Compelling History
The history of Crooked Island, originally known as “Samoete” by the indigenous Lucayans, is full of the paradoxes that make for a compelling history. The first post office in the Bahamas was stationed in Pitt’s Town, a settlement that was home to the largest cotton plantation in the Bahamas. Established by James Moss and his nephew Henry, the plantation operated upon the labor of over 1000 enslaved Africans. Because of its mail station, Pitt’s Town became a popular destination amongst American and Jamaican sailors who often stopped in at the local bar for drinks before heading back out on the high seas headed for Europe.
The postmaster himself was a colorful character known for his “square cut coatee and red cape and cuffs”, and whose wife it seems spent more time in Nassau socializing than in Crooked Island where entertainment and good times consisted of turtle fishing and carousing with the sailors.
Crooked Island is the northernmost in a gathering of what Columbus dubbed “The Fragrant Islands”. The sweet aroma from its flowering plants, including the Night Jasmine and bittersweet Cascarilla, has seduced sailors for centuries. A main source of income on the island comes from barking Cascarilla and selling it by the pound to the Italian manufacturers of Campari liquor. At the Southern dock, where you can see Acklins along the horizon, you may run into brokers weighing truck loads of bark for export.
The northwestern arm of Crooked Island extends out to Long Cay, an important historical port of call for steamships travelling through the Americas. Formerly known as Fortune Island, there are tales of pirates gold that tease the imaginations of adventurers. The island was once the stomping ground of native cargo slingers working for shipping lines. Builders of the Panama Canal recruited workers from Long Cay. One of its post-humously famous residents was the great grand father of Pan-Africanist scholar and civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois. Long Cay now serves as home for a few endowed homeowners living in the lap of luxury.
Crooked Island was one of the main producers of cotton before the chenille bug destroyed most of the cotton plants across the Bahamas, leaving plantation owners with little to turn to besides fishing and subsistence farming. Crooked Island returned to a state of quiet and slow development, which perhaps accounts for the calm one feels strolling down its streets, exploring its limestone caves and swimming in the turquoise shallows of its beaches and coves.
Today, Crooked Island is a place for quiet contemplation and rejuvenation, where the sparkling green sea and gentle curve of the land meet, invoking an organic harmony that seeps into your cells and changes your vibration. Today the land is teeming with bird calls and a profusion of indigenous plants, many of which are still used in local bush medicine.
Snapper and grouper and yellow tail swim in and out of deep creeks, shallow coves and reef heads, easily accessible to the snorkeler or scuba diver; bone fish dart in and out of shallow flats, playing hide and seek with the determined angler.
And overlooking the Crooked Island Passage are the steady grey stone walls of an old British fort, once used to protect the island from the wiles of pirates and buccaneers, now, a silent reminder of the history that this island has seen; walk through these stone walls, or those of the remains of plantations or Catholic churches, and hear the whisper of the stories they still tell.