Many of us have seen this photo of Green Turtle Cay’s Little Maggie Bar which was operated by Absalom Bethel in the early- to mid-20th century.
What I didn’t know until recently is that Absalom’s wife, Olive Bethel, was an entrepreneur in her own right. At a time when there were few businesswomen in Abaco, Mrs. Bethel — in addition to backing her husband’s business endeavours — operated a convenience store on the hill near what is now the Amy Roberts Primary School.
Abaco artist Leanne Russell is looking to learn more about Olive Bethel for a future exhibit, and would very much like to connect with any of Olive’s living relatives. Leanne has asked me to help in tracking them down, and of course, I love a good genealogical challenge.
Leanne told me that Olive’s maiden name was Bootle, and of course, we know she married Absalom, so that’s where I started.
Right away, their marriage certificate revealed some interesting information.
It showed that Olive’s maiden name was not in fact Bootle, but Franks. While those who knew her remembered Olive as a Bootle, she was in fact born to James Nathaniel Franks and his wife Eunice (Roberts) Franks on 2 June 1897.
Records show that James Franks and Eunice Roberts were married in 1889, and that Olive was in fact one of six children they had. Sadly, most of her siblings would not survive into adulthood.
On 1 January 1890, James and Eunice had a boy who was stillborn. A year later, on 16 January 1891, Eunice gave birth to a daughter, also stillborn. Late that same year, they had a son who, though he survived childbirth, would die at five days old of “jawfall”.
James and Eunice had another son on 22 October 1892. However, less than two years later, they would lose him to cholera.
In 1896, Eunice gave birth to a girl. I haven’t been able to find a name for this girl, or to learn whether or not she lived to adulthood. And in June 1897, they welcomed Olive.
Sadly, Eunice, who had buried so many of her children, would soon suffer even more heartbreak. In June 1898, James Franks passed away as a result of heart disease. He was just 30 years old.
Like so many young widows at the me, Eunice Franks would re-marry. On 18 March 1902, she wed Green Turtle Cay seaman Melvin Bootle, a 27-year-old widower.
(Presumably Olive, who would have been just about five years old at the time, took on Melvin’s surname, which explains why people knew her as Olive Bootle.)
I haven’t yet determined whether Melvin Bootle and his first wife had children, but we do know that Melvin and Eunice had several children, all of whom would be Olive’s half-siblings.
Their first child was a son, born 14 September 1904. I believe this to be Julius Alexander Bootle.
A second son, Clarence, was born to Melvin and Eunice on 3 October 1906. However, he would die in 1908, before his second birthday.
They were delivered of a third son on 8 August 1909. I believe this son’s name was Sherlin.
Nearly two years later, on 10 May 1911, Eunice gave birth to twin girls, Rebecca and Amelia. Sadly, Rebecca died at just four days old, and Amelia at two months old, both of fever. Another daughter, born 21 September 1912, would also succumb to fever at just 14 days old.
From what I’ve been able to discern from the records, Olive appears to have had at least one Franks sister (born 1896) and two Bootle half-brothers, Julius Alexander (born 1904) and Sherlin (born 1909), who survived to adulthood.
Do you know someone who might have one of these individuals, or Olive herself, in their family tree? If so, please get in touch and I’ll connect you with Leanne. I know she’d be grateful to hear from you.
Also, if anyone has photographs of Olive and Absalom Bethel, or any of Olive’s family members, let me know!