Historical Harbour Island Bahamas

About Harbour Island

History of Harbour Island
Once the capital.

Harbour Island, known as “Briland” by its inhabitants, is approximately 3.5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide. Once the capital of the Bahamas and the second largest city to Nassau in the 1900s, the current population is estimated between 1500 to 2000. The island is located approximately 200 miles from Miami, 60 miles from Nassau and 2 miles East of Eleuthera.

Weekly arrival of mail boat to Harbour Island in the 50s.
Mail Boat at Harbour Island Government Dock

Eleuthera Island
History begins here.

Eleuthera was originally occupied by Lucayan Indians who were enslaved by the Spanish in the 1500s and shipped to South America to work in the gold and silver mines. In 1648, Captain William Sayles set sail from Bermuda with a group of English puritans looking to escape religious oppression. They named beautiful island they found “Eleuthera” which is the Greek word for “freedom.” There they met with food and supply shortages which led them to dividing into smaller groups along the shores. In order to survive, Captain Sayles set sail for the Colonies in search of additional supplies which he found in Massachusetts Bay. Sayles returned to Eleuthera to save the fledgling outpost. In time, the “Eleutheran Adventurers” went to Harbour Island in order to protect themselves from Spanish invaders.

Aerial view of Harbour Island Bahamas back in the 50s?
Old Aerial View of Dunmore Town, Harbour Island

History of Dunmore Town
Named after Lord Dunmore.

Dunmore Town, named after Lord Dunmore, Governor 1786-1797, is the main and only town on Harbour Island and one of the oldest settlements in the Bahamas. A small quaint village featuring New England architecture, Dunmore was known for its ship building and sugar refinement in the late 1800s. Making rum making was particularly popular during Prohibition. One of the many historical features of the island include the “Hill Steps” which were cut from stone by the inhabitants. Another is a cave overlooking the bay called “Titus Hole” which was purported to serve as a jail.

Old photo of Hill Steps on Harbour Island.
Dunmore Town Hill Steps