History of Harbour Island Bahamas

Harbour Island history is as colorful as the pastel painted New England-style buildings and vibrant flowers that line its streets. Harbour Island in the Bahamas was originally inhabited by Arawak, one of only two tribes of the Lucayan Indians. Shortly after Christopher Columbus discovered this area in the Bahamas’ Out islands the entire tribe of Lucayans was wiped-out by the Spanish Conquistadors.  By the middle of the 16th century Harbour Island was desolate and it would remain uninhabited for 100 years.

history harbour island

1648: Harbour Island was inhabited by The Eleutheran Adventurers, a group of British Puritans in search of religious freedom. The group was led by former governor of Bermuda, Captain William Sayle, who was granted a charter to settle Eleuthera. Over the next ten years life on the island was extremely difficult for the settlers and by 1657 Captain William Sayle had left the island.

1720:  The population of Harbour Island, Bahamas was just 175 inhabitants.
The first parliament was formed in Nassau in 1729 which consisted of 24 members. Four of the members were representatives from Harbour Island thus residents celebrated the beginning of a democratic representation.

1768:   Harbour Island had a population of about 350 people.
During the next era the islanders made their money by “Wrecking”, an occupation that was drafted by the Eleutheran Adventurers in the island’s original governing documents.  After obtaining a license in Nassau, a vessel was then allowed to salvage a distressed ship’s cargo which was then auctioned off.  Eventually rumors of piracy spread with claims that ‘Wreckers’ were purposely luring ships into reefs, murdering any survivors and keeping most of the cargo for themselves. St. John Anglican Episcopal Church was also founded on Harbour Island during this time.

1782:  The census showed that Harbour Island had a population of 500. 
In 1786, former Governor of Virginia, John Murray (Lord Dunmore) was appointed Governor. In 1791 Dunmore laid-out 190 lots on Harbour Island which were then leased to the island’s inhabitants. Dunmore Town was named after the Governor.

The late 1800’s was very prosperous for the residents of Harbour Island who were making a living farming citrus fruits, pineapples, and tomatoes or working as ship builders. This all ended with the beginning of WWI.

The island saw its first signs of tourism in the 1920’s and in 1941. It really took-off when Bahamas Airways began their first flights to the island.  Over the next ten years farming, the island’s primary source of income, was replaced main farming as the main economic driver for the island.

1973: the Bahamas became the 49th member of the Commonwealth gaining its independence from England and getting its own flag.

2010: The population of Harbour Island Bahamas 1,761 inhabitants. 
Today there are approximately 200 hotel rooms and an exceptional selection of homes for rent in Harbour Island, Bahamas.