Four decades after Haziel Albury published My Island Home, which provided a glimpse into life on early-20th-century Man-O-War Cay, Jeremy Sweeting brings the story of Man-O-War into the 21st century with his recently published book, Man-O-War: From Shipwreck to Boat Building Capital.

In the book, Sweeting recounts the tale of Man-O-War Cay founders Benjamin Albury, a descendant of the Eleutheran Adventurers (also known as Old Inhabitants) who landed in the Bahamas during the 1600s, and Eleanor Archer, daughter of a British Loyalist who sought refuge in the Bahamas after the American Revolutionary War.

Eleanor’s father, Benjamin Archer, owned sixty acres of land on the Abaco Mainland, along the Marsh Harbour waterfront. He also owned sixty acres on the then uninhabited Man-O-War Cay, four miles away, which he used for farming.

One day in 1820, while at their Man-O-War farm, the Archer family, including 13-year-old Eleanor, heard voices coming from the far side of some bushes. Upon investigating, they discovered the stranded crew of a vessel that had wrecked on the reef off Man-O-War’s eastern coast.

Among the crew was 16-year-old Benjamin Albury, a descendant of the Old Inhabitants on Harbour Island.

Albury family lore says it was love at first sight for young Benjamin and Eleanor, and when his crewmates returned to Harbour Island, Benjamin stayed behind.

He married Eleanor the following year. When they decided to settle on Man-O-War, Eleanor’s father gifted the young couple the sixty acres he owned there.

Unlike many Bahamian settlements which have grown up (for better or worse) organically, Man-O-War was meticulously planned out by Eleanor. She allocated land for roads, a cemetery, a church and a school. Her vision, combined with her husband’s seafaring knowledge and history, would create a vibrant community and successful boat-building center.  

Man-O-War Cay has long been the boat-building center of the Abacos. More than 300 vessels were built here over a 50-year period. This photograph, taken around 1950, shows a sponging schooner typical of those once built at Man-O-War Cay. (Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.)

Much of Man-O-War: From Shipwreck to Boat Building Capital centers around the thirteen children of “Pappy Ben” and “Mammy Nellie,” (as Benjamin and Eleanor were later known) and their descendants, many of whom were seafarers, sailmakers and boat builders.

The William H. Albury, a 70-foot schooner built in Man-O-War by master boatbuilder and descendant of Benjamin and Eleanor Albury, William H. Albury. (Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.)

Sweeting also details the religious and political history of Man-O-War, as well as the broader political history of Abaco. And he tells the tale of his Sweeting ancestors, also Eleutheran Adventurers, and the heartbreak and loss they endured during their early years in the Bahamas.

He supplements his extensive research with interesting personal anecdotes about his life on Man-O-War Cay, and from interviews with senior residents of the island.

Man-O-War: From Shipwreck to Boat Building Capital is available at the Man-O-War Heritage Museum and Joe’s Studio, and can be delivered to Marsh Harbour upon request. In the U.S. the book is available via Amazon, or at Florida Classics Bookstore in the Stuart/Hobe Sound area..

Coincidentally, I’ve just learned that Jeremy Sweeting is currently in Florida, so if you’re in the States and you’d like a book personally inscribed, he’d be happy to sign and send one to you. You can order directly by messaging him via his Facebook page, or by emailing jeremy.htcouncil@gmail.com or chelsea.sweeting19@gmail.com.

Jeremy Sweeting, shown here with wife, Chelsea and daughters Natalie and Kenna, was born and raised on Man-O-War Cay.

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