Up until the mid-nineteenth century, Grand Bahama Island had largely been left alone by the outside world. There were plenty of sails on the horizon as ships came and went through the Caribbean, but more often than not they passed by. Records from 1836 show that the population of West End numbered only about 370, many of whom abandoned the island for the greater opportunities of Nassau. In 1861, however, the flow of people reversed direction, and population of the town virtually doubled overnight. The reason was the American Civil War.

At the outbreak of the war, The Confederate States of America, a mere 55 miles away, immediately fell under a strict Union blockade and embargo. Getting goods such as sugar, cotton, and weapons in and out of the Confederacy was essential to the war effort, and smugglers operating out of West End were able to command hefty prices from the South. As soon as the war ended, however, so did the boom, but the short burst of prosperity set an important precedent: From then on, the history of Grand Bahama Island was intimately tied to that of the United States.

The next smuggling boom came from a much different (and much more sought-after) banned good in the U.S.: alcohol. If the residents of West End had known that the 14th Amendment would bring unheard-of prosperity to their village, they probably would have lobbied for it themselves. Prohibition brought warehouses, distilleries, bars, supply stores, and inns to West End. The town's smugglers had the system down to a science. They'd sail off at night, with ropes dragging huge cylinders of liquor behind them. If the American coast guard pursued, they would simply cut the ropes, wait for the patrol to leave, then recover them. Just as it was during the Civil War, however, as soon the U.S. solved its problem, the economy dove and people started fishing again. It was only with the rise of tourism that the fickleness of the economy would change for good.

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