About Sandpiper and Exuma

Established in 1980 by a local Exumian.
Located across from Peace & Plenty, adjacent to Driftwood Café in down town George Town.

Visit Sandpiper for a unique Bahamian experience! Our gallery features 3 generations of Minns Family Art.

Our selection of authentic Bahamian items reflect our heritage, passion and love for island life.
We carry Bahamian made products, one of a kind pottery, hand thrown, painted and fired by artist Jessica Minns, Island inspired resort wear, tees and accessories, Bahamian Books, Guides, maps and Charts.

From Sandpiper, Diane Minns:

I dedicate this web-site to my parents Basil and Jane Minns. This site features some of my mother’s writings on the history of Exuma along with my father’s wonderful collection of personal photographs. Through these articles and images, my parents have worked together to document Exuma’s rich cultural heritage and to preserve it for future generations. The recent photographs were taken by my daughter Jessica, my sister Rainie our dad Basil, family friend Kallem Phillips and myself (Diane).

Historically, very little is known of Exuma before the late 18th century. Most likely, the gentle Lucayan natives frequented Exuma through the mid-16th century, perhaps settling here as they did throughout the southern Bahamian Isles. Columbus, who visited northern Long Island, from which he most likely sighted Exuma in the distance named it “Yumey”, and so it was ascribed on a map of the New World in 1500.

Exuma Cays are chain of islands stretching more than one hundred miles, from Beacon Cay in the north to Hog Cay and Sandy Cay in the south. For nine miles the north central shore of Great Exuma is protected from the breaking waves of the Atlantic Ocean by a line of small islands running nearly parallel to the coast. Stocking Island, at about four miles long, is the largest. The distance across the harbor from George Town to Stocking Island is one nautical mile. Termed an open road stead by some sailors, Elizabeth Harbor is especially vulnerable to winds from the southeast and northwest. Nevertheless, it is without doubt the finest natural harbor of any size in the Bahamas; as such, it played an important role in the lives of the 18th century Loyalist settlers of both Great and Little Exuma.

Following the American War of Independence, colonists who had remained loyal to Great Britain fled the United States. Many settled in Canada, but southern plantation owners opted for the warmer climates of the Bahamas or West Indies, where they were offered sizable land grants by the crown. A few emigrated to Exuma, accompanied by their families and slaves, with dreams of establishing a lifestyle similar to the one that they had enjoyed in the America.

Because of the harbor, a town grew. Originally called the Port of Exuma,it became the commercial centre and chief port for the islands of Great and Little Exuma. In the late eighteenth century, the Port of Exuma saw vessels from London arrive with goods for the islanders and depart with cargoes of cotton. In 1793, at the height of the Loyalist era, the town was officially established by an act of Parliament and named Georgetown; today it is written as two words, George Town, the “capital” of the Exumas.

THE SALT MARKER (Williams Town)

Overlooking Exuma Sound and the “Great Salina” of Williams Town, the thirty foot tall marker situated on this low waterfront cliff, guided ships in to pick up salt harvested from Little Exuma’s three salt ponds. The walls dividing the Salina into pans can still be seen. Designed as a Tuscan Column, the marker was most likely constructed in the Loyalist Era of the late 18th or early 19th century.

In the 17th Century salt was a very valuable commodity used to preserve fish and meat. A long war with France cut off access by England and much of Europe to the salt on the continent. In 1670 a John Darrell, who hunted for whales in Bahamian waters, reported sighting the salt pond on Little Exuma.

Great Exuma in the late 1600’s was a chief centre of salt production. Ponds here were worked on a seasonal basis by men from New Providence. As many as 60 sailing ships worked the salt trade at one time. Land around most of the major salt ponds on Exuma was not granted by one person but worked as a joint venture. When the flow of sea water to the pond was closed off by Sluice gates, the water evaporated in the pond. The remaining salt was gathered into piles by rakers . It was dried, bleached out in the sun, and carried in baskets to the waterfront to be loaded onto the waiting boats off the island. Because of the threat of attacks by both pirates and the Spanish, armed vessels frequently accompanied the fleet.

The 1697 Treaty of Ryswick reopened access to sources of salt in Europe and consequently slowed down the Exuma salt trade.

In the years from 1695 to 1721 New Providence was overrun alternately by the Spanish and by pirates. It was at this time that Great and Little Exuma probably had their first permanent settlers; people from New Providence fled to Cat Island, Long Island, and Exuma, with only a few families on each.

With American Independence in 1783, British Loyalists departed the United States. The destination of a few southern Loyalist families and their slaves was Exuma. Between 1783 and 1786 the estimated population of Exuma climbed from 32 to 704, most of the higher population comprising slaves. There were 16 land grants to Loyalists in Exuma between 1784-89, the largest of which was to Denys Rolle, the father of Lord John Rolle.


Cotton, grown by the Lucayans at the time of Columbus, had been cultivated on the island of Exuma by early settlers at least 20 years prior to the arrival of the first Southern Loyalists; it was thought to be an ideal crop for the islands. However, in 1788 the chenille bug destroyed much of the crop, as in the southern United States the soil, which here was shallow, was greatly overworked by the crop.


On August 1, 1834, the Emancipation Act abolishing slavery came into force in the Bahamas. An apprenticeship system was in effect from 1834 to 1838, when the former slaves had a relationship to their former masters similar to that of indentured servants. Lord John Rolle, who never visited the island, deeded his lands to his 376 slaves and to their descendants. Thus, the inhabitants of Rolleville, Rolle Town, Mount Thompson and Ramsey, many of whom bear the surname Rolle, have throughout the years had more than sufficient land on which to build and farm. Rolle Town & The McKey Family Tombs. Until his death in 1797, the acres at Rolle Town were apart of Squire Denys Rolle’s extensive land holdings on Great Exuma. All of the Exuma properties were inherited by his son, Lord Rolle. Neither father nor son ever visited Exuma, depending instead on overseers to manage the estate.

Alexander Mckay, an Exuma Landowner himself, may have been acting as the Rolle Town overseer. The British government had awarded Loyalist Captain Alexander McKay acreage on Great Exuma in restitution for his property losses in North Carolina. The site of the Hermitage Settlement on the Moss Town road was a part of the “Hermitage Plantation”. Possibly, the McKays had money problems because most of “The Hermitage” was put up for sale in March 1792. Subsequently, Alexander and his wife may have moved to Rolle Town to live. Sadly, Ann McKay, age 26, and their infant son died in November 1792 followed by Alexander in 1794.

You can see in Rolle Town, a walled-in private burial ground with Ann McKay’s elaborate tomb, the small one for their infant, and the final resting place for Alexander McKay. Exuma’s Pompey -Steventon Before Emancipation, three quarters of Lord Rolle’s slaves lived in Steventon. Salt was harvested from a nearby pond. In 1830 with only three days notice seventy-seven slaves were told that they were to be resettled in Cat Island. Led by a 32-year old slave named Pompey, the 77 men and women fled into the bush rather than be moved before they could harvest their crops. When provisions ran out forty-four of them returned and seized Lord Rolle’s salt boat.

With Pompey at the helm, they headed for Nassau, hoping to appeal to the Governor. All were apprehended and sentenced to the workhouse where they were routinely flogged. The Governor was appalled by such treatment of women, some with nursing babies. He discovered that the transfer was illegal and ordered the entire group returned to Exuma. Pompey, their leader received 39 lashes. He may well be considered a national hero for his role in the mini-rebellion against slavery. Pompey is remembered and honored in the name of the Pompey Museum in Nassau.

Although the main government offices for the island were located in George Town, a post office, commissioner’s office, and jail were built in Steventon in the early 20th century. Today, only a few walls and foundations of abandoned buildings can be seen.

In the hundred years following Emancipation, the families who remained on Exuma probably supported themselves by farming, raising sheep, goats, and a few cattle, harvesting salt, growing sisal, some fishing and sponging. The island changed little. No doubt, during the Civil War a few may have joined the blockade-runners and during Prohibition the rum-runners, but that necessitated their leaving the island. Some migrated to Andros where conditions for sponging fared better on the “Mud” (until the sponge blight of 1938 destroyed all beds), some to New Providence and others to Florida.

In 1940 the British Government leased to the United States on a 99-year basis a site approximately a mile outside of George Town, Exuma. This property was to be used as a U.S. Navy Seaplane Base for the purpose of surveillance of boat activity in the Crooked Island Passage and elsewhere. The employment of Exumians in the construction of the base and in its maintenance afterwards contributed greatly to the economy of the island.

After World War II Exuma returned to its solitude and peace until a small “boom” developed in the islands. Interest in owning part of “an island in the sun” brought Americans, Canadians and others to the then “Out Islands” of the Bahamas. In the mid-50’s houses were under construction in the Exumas for foreigners and property was eagerly sought. The “Out Island Regatta” was born in April 1954, and in January doors, the first of a number of small hotels and guest houses to follow.

My first visit to Exuma was in 1955 on the occasion of the second “Out Island Regatta” Arriving in Elizabeth Harbour, we came ashore into George Town, the principal settlement, of the Exumas. It went way back in time into an age of no electricity, no running water and no telephones, not to forget that there were no hotels and no airport.

Walking from the dock to the Queen’s Highway we saw the Government compound on the right, a cluster of small buildings the largest housing the commissioner’s office, courtroom and the post office. In the same yard was the jail, the constable’s quarters, the telecommunications station and the operator’s quarters. This was the centre of government on Exuma, and the flag pole flew the union Jack. It was after all a British Colony.

Across the road set on a small hill was a one-room all-age school, headed by British Schoolmaster, Leslie Rees, who would later become the first manager of Club Peace and Plenty.

At the foot of the hill across from the big fig tree was the little public library, still in operation today. Proceeding past a few small buildings scattered here and there, we came to a narrow canal which opened from Victoria Pond to the sea. Today it has been widened to accommodate the motor boat traffic. On the other side of the pond was a small general store which was stocked with imports from Nassau which arrived on the weekely mailboat except when the weather delayed sailing. Rice, grits, flour and sugar were weighed out from big sacks and dispensed to the customer in paper bags. Purchases of salt pork and beef were wrapped in butcher’s paper. Big round cheeses came in wooden boxes. Slices of bologna sausages were cut off with a knife. Cloth and some hardware items were available. Payments were made in pounds, shillings and pence, the currency of the day.

After passing Eddie’s Edgewater Club of World War II vintage, we climbed “Curry” Hill with the church of England Rectory on the left and the commissioner’s residence on the right.

We passed the Government nurse’s cottage and clinic, a little one room stone building with no running water and no electricity.

St Andrew’s Church sat atop Kitt’s Hill overlooking both Victoria Pond and the sea.

On the left was the former Minns House, a two story building, which was to become the nucleus of the twenty-room Club Peace and Plenty. Still in the planning stages in 1955, it was officially opened in January 1958, the first tourist accommodations in the Exumas.

How did George Town people live in 1955?. They had kerosene lamps and some were fortunate enough to own a kerosene refrigerator. Rainwater was collected in cisterns or caught in a barrel or tub. Brackish water could be pumped (by hand) or drawn by buckets from wells. Mail came on mailboats. To travel to Nassau or other islands you went by mailboat, in your own boat or chartered a boat or sea plane.


April 23, 24, 25, 1981 – Exuma’s biggest annual event, the FAMILY ISLAND REGATTA, brings together sailors from throughout the Bahamas to compete in three days of racing in Bahamian-built sailboats.

Originally named the Out Island Regatta, the first races took place in April 1954 in Elizabeth Harbour at George Town, Exuma. The purpose of the races was to preserve the fast-disappearing sailing work-boat, promote improvements to the vessels, and provide some fun for both spectators and participants. The date chosen was to follow the closing of the crawfish season.

The idea of J. Linton Rigg and fellow yachtsmen, the series was originally sponsored by the Out Island Squadron, followed in 1968 by the Bahamas Government, which wished to ensure its continuation. Today this national event is co-managed by a National Committee and the Exuma Regatta Committee. It is financed by local fund-raising efforts, contributions from throughout the Bahamas and from abroad, and by the Bahamas Government, which is a major contributor and supporter.

Participating sailboats, for the most part no longer work-boats, but Bahamian-built descendents of the old vessels, sleeker and swifter, but still unique, present a Harbour, giving island sailors the opportunity to test their skills as well as their boats.


Each year on Boxing day and New Year’s, Bahamians depart from the Anglo-European traditions to celebrate in a more African way. Junkanoo finds its origin in the cultural traditions of West Africa-countries such as Ghana, the Condo and Senegal. From that region came the thousands of slaves on the high sea to North America and the Caribbean. In the early 1800’s after Great Britain outlawed the transportation of slaves on the high seas many Africans found aboard slave vessels were liberated by the British Navy. Some of them were put ashore in the Bahamas. With the West Africans came their traditions, one which evolved our present day Junkanoo. According to one theory, the name may come from “John Canoe”, an African Chief who ended up as a slave in the West Indies.


The Distinctive Junkanoo rhythm, marked by cowbells, drums, whistles and horns resounds through the pre-dawn air. KALIL-KALIK-KALIK. Dancers and musicians precede each colourful display depicting an event, people, fish, animals or whatever a groups theme may be.

August 3, 1981 – ROLLEVILLE REGATTA – Emancipation Day (August Monday). Traditionally, on the first Monday in August, local sailing boats from Great & Little Exuma and Barraterre compete for prizes in races held at Rolleville. A beautiful view from the Hilltop Tavern site, while below there is dancing in the street and food and drink for sale. After the races, festivities continue into the night.

Although the Tropic of Cancer passes through Great Exuma, average temperatures range from the mid-70’s to mid-80’s, with the prevailing winds from northeast to southeast. Thus, the island climate has few of the extremes of either the tropical or cooler zones.

Tourism and allied services especially in the George Town area, provide a great number of jobs for Exumians: taxi-drivers, fishing guides, car and boat rental operators, and hotel workers.

Staple foods grown are corn, pigeon peas, yams, sweet potatoes, and cassava. Onions, tomatoes and cabbages are raised throughout the island for local use and export. Seasonal fruits available are grapefruit, oranges, mango and watermelon. Banana, coconuts, and plantains are year-round crops.

As there is no fish market or processing plant on either Great or Little Exuma, fishing is not carried on commercially. However, local fishermen do bring in quantities of crawfish (spiney lobster), conch and scalefish for sale to individuals, restaurants and hotels.

Straw work as throughout the Bahamian islands is popular on Exuma. Baskets, mats and handbags are fabricated on the island for sale locally. Plait is shipped from Exuma to New Providence for use by straw vendors in making up their wares for sale in the Nassua Market.