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Harbour Island History

HomeBahamas Visitor InfoHarbour Island History


Our island has a history as colorful as its pink sands and the quaint homes and buildings of its capital (and only town on the island), Dunmore Town. Read on below to learn more about Harbour Island history.

Harbour Island History: The Beginnings of Briland

Prior to Christopher Columbus’ landing in the Bahamas in 1492, indigenous populations on Harbour Island and the rest of the Bahamas included Lucayans and Arawaks, who were wiped out by the Spanish Conquistadors. By the mid-16th century, Harbour Island’s population was decimated and the island was uninhabited. It would remain empty for about 100 years.

In the mid-17th century, British puritans in search of religious freedom, known as the Eleutheran Adventurers, settled on Eleuthera across the water, then on Harbour Island. These settlers established an independent government and settlement that lasted for nearly 70 years, from when the puritans landed in 1650 to when Harbour Island surrendered its rights to the British Crown in 1717. 12 years later, Harbour Island sent 4 representatives to the first parliament in Nassau, commemorated by the Sugar Mill monument at Government Dock.

Harbour Island – Capital of the Bahamas

Harbour Island history is extensive, being the oldest of the Bahamas settlements, once serving as the capital of all the islands. For years, life was harsh on the island, with locals making their living by assisting ships wrecked on the reefs. Rumor has it that in order to maintain their income, they would lure ships to their doom, then plunder the cargo and leave no survivors, but this rumor has been contested.

Then, the Governor of Virginia fled from the United States during the Revolutionary War, as he was a loyal to England. He settled in the Bahamas on Harbour Island and was given the title of Lord Dunmore, Governor of the Bahamas. He established Dunmore Town, where he owned his summer residence, featuring New England architecture.

Modern Day Harbour Island

Slave populations intermingled with the locals after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1834, and the island’s population rose. Citrus and fruit farming, as well as shipbuilding, sugar refining, and rum making, became the main industries until World War I.

Tourism came to the island in the 1920s, but took off when Bahamas Airways began flying to the island in 1941. From then on, tourism remained the island’s main industry.

Political independence came in 1973, when the Bahamas became part of the British Commonwealth. Since then, technological advancements have come to Harbour Island, but it still retains its original authenticity and secluded island charm.

Plan Your Tropical Getaway with Island Real Estate!

Give us a call or send an email our way today for more information on what’s waiting for you on Harbour Island, from the island’s fascinating history to the variety of sightseeing and recreation you’ll find here during your vacation. Ask about reserving your accommodations in one of our awesome vacation rental properties and start planning the vacation of a lifetime!

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