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Rum Cay History

Indians, Pirates, Spanish sailors, Loyalists, Americans...and Canadians...this island is rich in history! Rum Cay was originally called Santa Maria de la Concepcion until a ship laden with rum wrecked close by and kegs of rum washed up on shore. It then became known as Rum Cay!

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum.....

Rum Cay Bahamas Aerial Shot

Lucayan-Arawak Indians meet Christopher Columbus

Rum Cay is rich in history dating back to the Lucayan-Arawak Indians before Christopher Columbus started his vicious invastion of the new world. In 1492 Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World. The following was taken from Wikipedia and states:

It is now believed that the first tribe encountered by Christopher Columbus, when he arrived on the island he called Santa María de la Concepción (known as Mamana by the Lucayan Indians and now called Rum Cay off the Bahamas), were Lucayan-Arawak Indians. Columbus noted in his log:

"Saturday, 13 October 1492: ...They brought us balls of cotton thread and parrots and other little things which it would be tedious to list, and exchanged everything for whatever we offered them. I kept my eyes open and tried to find out if there was any gold, and I saw that some of them had a little piece hanging from a hole in their nose. I gathered from their signs that if one goes south, or around the south side of the island, there is a king with great jars full of it, enormous amounts. I tried to persuade them to go there, but I saw that the idea was not to their liking... Sunday, 14 October 1492: ...These people have little knowledge of fighting, as Your Majesties will see from the seven I have had captured to take away with us so as to teach them our language and return them, unless Your Majesties' orders are that they all be taken to Spain or held captive on the island itself, for with fifty men one could keep the whole population in subjection and make them do whatever one wanted." [2]

Rum Cay Hartford Cave

Petroglyphs from the Lucayan-Arawak Indians


Rum Cay Lucayan Arawak Indians

Entrance to the Hartford Cave on Rum Cay

Rum Cay Pirates

Pirates roamed these parts for many years with evidence of a sword even being found off of Sumner Point Marina. The spirit of the energy of that sword passed through those hands and continues to roam throughout Rum Cay to this day! Whisperings of Black Gold off Sumner Point still float around the island. The pirates were finally driven out of the Bahamas after Captain Woodes Rogers was appointed Royal Governor in 1718. 

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Rum Cay Pirates

A plaque that still remains on Cottonfield Point

HMS Conqueror Rum Cay

The HMS Conqueror sunk right off Sumner Point Marina.

HMS Conqueror

(thanks again to for the following:)

The wreck of the 101-gun man of war HMS Conqueror, built in Devon in 1855 and which served in the Crimean War, lies in 30 feet of water off Rum Cay where it sank in 1861, is preserved as the Underwater Museum of the Bahamas. It is the property of The Bahamas Government and none of the contents of the ship may be removed.

She was lost on Sumner Point Reef, Rum Cay, on December 13, 1861. All 1,400 aboard survived.

"She was 20 nm out in estimating her position and, after making her landfall, cut rounding the southeast point of Rum Cay too fine and went hard on the reef. Her captain, fearing that his crew (most of whom could not swim in those days) would drink themselves insensible when it became obvious the ship was lost, ordered all ale, wine, and spirit casks to be broken and their contents ditched. He then sent the two largest ship’s company unloaded everything they could salvage, and set about making a camp on the island. The captain remained on board with one midshipman and ten seamen until the ship broke up. Then all of them, less the boat parties, were marooned on Rum Cay. They were rescued soon after the news of the disaster was known."

"HMS Conqueror is still there. You can dive her, in some 30 feet of water." (The Bahamas Cruising Guide)

The Loyalists

Rum Cay was settled by the Loyalists in the 18th century where it was known for the harvesting of salt and pineapples.  Throughout Rum Cay you will find rock walls (pictured to the right), otherwise known as plantation boundaries dating back to the beginning of the 19th century.  Slave settlements can be seen throughout the island with such settlements as Gin Hill in the West, Port Boyd on the north coast, Carmichael on the west end, Times Cove, Black Rock, Monroe and Nicholas Village.  They say that the population of Rum Cay grew to over 5,000 people who worked in the salt pans, shipping cargos to Nova Scotia and England, and farmed pineapple and sisal. 

Rum Cay Rock Walls
Rum Cay Plantation walls

Some of these walls have recently been knocked down with the coming of possible developments and virgin roads.  Some walls remain completely intact, however, evidence of a painstakingly grueling life.  The last remaining settlement is Port Nelson where the last of the Rum Cayans live amounting to only 80 people. 

In 1926 a devastating hurricane took out the once thriving salt industry.  One of the cement walls for the entrance of the Salt Pond can be found inside the salt pond showing just how powerful this hurricane really was. 

Since 1926 in Rum Cay

Since 1926 much of the population moved on to Nassau in search of work. Only a small few remain. In the early '90's Mr. David Melville landed on Rum Cay...they called him Jesus with his long white hair and beard to match. He found a home here and started the Rum Cay Diving Club which was quite successful for a few years. After a couple of unfortunate incidences (call it the Rum Cay Curse?) the dive club was closed down without any replacement for quite a while. Mr. Melville went on, however, to send a select few to get a higher education to become pilots and entrepreneurs.

Soon thereafter the Little Family started the construction of Sumner Point Marina. By 2005 the place was jumping with a packed marina, guest cottages filled nightly and two restaurants! Perhaps it was the Rum Cay Curse that again hit the island but the place fell into a feud of the Hatfields and McCoys of which it stands to this day.

Delores Wilson Rum Cay

For a better picture into the real history of this beautiful island it's best to grab a beer at Kaye's Bar and have a conversation with the Matriarch...Ms. Delores Wilson She's got story...after story...after story....

Rumors of impending developments have been circling this island for years only to leave big holes where a marina should have been, deserted roads to nowhere, building supplies left vacant for an unbuilt airport building and torn out mangroves never to be seen again.

What will it take for the curse of Rum Cay to be lifted...for new and positive energy to take hold for a thriving community and a tourist industry that walks lightly on the most beautiful island in the West Indies? Only Rum Cay history will tell all.....yo ho ho and a big bottle of Rum!! ARGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Hurricane Irene

On August 24, 2011 Rum Cay takes a direct hit from Hurricane Irene which was a Category 4 sustaining winds of 140 mph. Luckily there were no civilian casualties! Many houses and local businesses had a lot damages to roofs and rafters. Trees fell over onto roofs and some roofs took out other roofs! The bridge in Port Nelson by the park was taken out by the high water surging out of the salt pond. This separated the town from the marina side of the island. The Rum Cay Airport strip received no damage except to the fencing surrounding the strip which keeps out the wild cows. Phone lines were down for numerous days. And the electricity was down for a minimal amount of time considering the amount of damage to the homes.

Rum Cay Hurricane imagery

Rum Cay Hurricane Damage

Main Bridge by the Sir Milo Butler Park

Rum Cay Hurricane Irene Damage

Kaye's Bar & Restaurant

Check out our Rum Cay Hurricane Report here!

Hurricane Sandy hits Rum Cay

October 25, 2012

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