At the beginning of the 20th century, Grand Bahama presented a significant problem, in terms of economic, and social development. For the early Bahamian Parliament and the British legislative overseers, in the form of Governors, and Colonial Secretaries of the 1900s, the problems of Grand Bahama centred around money. They didn’t want to spend anything developing Grand Bahama.
Grand Bahama’s land mass was huge. Its harbours too shallow. The people too native. The only advantage Grand Bahama had was its proximity to Florida. In the prohibition years, Grand Bahama proved invaluable, as a base for storing liquor bound for the U.S. Other than proximity advantages to the US coast, Grand Bahamas became a veritable albatross around the neck of the 1920s Bahama government.
This was why they leased, almost the entire island, under a 99-year stronghold agreement to a member of the British Parliament and his syndicate of investors.
This move, British and Bahama legislators hoped, would take Grand Bahama off their hands: putting the responsibility for development and administration decidedly in someone else’s.
Capt. the Rt. Hon. Frederick E. Guest, M. P., for Bristol
In the early 1920s, two British Members of Parliament, Major Philip Colfox, M. P., for West Dorset and Capt. the Rt. Hon. Frederick E. Guest, M. P., for Bristol, were investing heavily in business development in the Bahamas. They obtained lucrative leases, to substantial acreages of crown land, which were entirely expected to earn them fortunes.
Philip Colfox, M. P., headed an investment group of ex-servicemen, who were developing Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera.
Frederick Guest, M. P., and an investment group along with Ben G. Brinkman, an American banker, had obtained a 99 year grant, to the island’s Grand Bahama. The 1925 grant by the Bahamas legislature gave Guest and Brinkman, a 99 years lease on 300,000 acres of land. The lease which included a clause for renewal, was set to expire in 2025.
(Miami Daily News and Metropolis, Friday, February 10, 1928)
Capt. the Rt. Hon. Frederick E. Guest, M. P., for Bristol (negotiated 99-year crown land lease for island of Grand Bahama in 1925)
Major Philip Colfox, M. P., for West Dorset (negotiated crown land lease for area surrounding Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera)
99-Year Lease With Renewal Option For Another 99-Years And Property Rights To Crown Land Secured By Mere Settlement
Successive British legislative overseers, sent to administer England’s West Indian colonies, in the 100 years after the end of slavery, especially in the Bahamas, did nothing more than to cripple future generations of native inhabitants in those islands.
Legislative overseers crippled future generations of Bahamians, by leasing and selling vast sways of lands, leaving the majority negro population, with inferior, infertile and inadequate land space in which to thrive.
With the help of a minority government, and the clever use of the legal avenue of quieting of titles, foreigners settled on crown land, giving them indisputable legal title to generational land of native Bahamians.
As many in the islands could not even read or write, there was nothing they could do but move.
TRACTS FOR HOMES ON BAHAMA ISLAND
Syndicate Headed by Ben G. Brinkman Obtains 99-Year Grant on 300,000 Acres.
A syndicate headed by Ben G. Brinkman, banker and owner of Forest Park Highlands, has obtained a 99-year grant from the British Government to 300,000 acres of grounds lands on the Grand Bahama Island, 60 miles off the coast of Florida and an extensive real estate development there is planned. The grant is renewable for 99 additional years and property rights maybe made secure by settlement.
The principal purpose of the transaction is real estate development, but the parties have not been unmindful that thirsty Americans might like to purchase winter homes on a British possession only two and one-half hours ride from the American coast, where the arm of the prohibition unit does not reach.
Brinkman at Nassau
Captain Frederick Guest member of the English Parliament is President of the company and Brinkmann is its secretary and treasurer. Edward W Foristel, St. Louis attorney, and George Jonas former Mayor of Palm Beach, Florida are other members of the syndicate.
Brinkman has been in London twice recently negotiating for the grant and is now at Nassau, Bahama Islands to finish the details. The grant provides for a nominal yearly rental and the construction of the harbour at West End, on the island, which it is said will cost several million dollars. The company is known as the Grand Bahama Development Company and is an Anglo-American enterprise.
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sunday, 20 December 1925)
1928 – BUILD NEW RESORT ON BAHAMA ISLAND
(The Cannonsburg Daily Notes, Saturday, January 14, 1928)
1929 – Wall Street Crash Crashes Grand Bahama Island Investment
In 1978, an 81-year old former pilot Ray Applegate, who flew aerial survey flights of Grand Bahama for Frederick E. Guest, in the 1920s, tells what happened to the Grand Bahama Development Company.
Applegate, in a newspaper interview for the Palm Beach Post in 1978, said that the Wall Street Crash of 1929, killed the hopes for the Grand Bahama syndicate of Frederick Guest and Ben Brinkman.
Applegate also said that he was deeded 25 acres of land in Grand Bahama (which were crown land leased under the 99-year agreement). However, he said in the interview that the land deeded to him had subsequently been taken over by racketeers.
(The Palm Beach Post, Monday, 27 March 1978)
1935 – Ben G. Brinkman Files For Bankruptcy with Shares in Grand Bahama Development Company Listed As Asset
(St. Louis Post, Saturday, March 9, 1935)
Frederick Guest Died In 1937. By 1961 The Estate In Palm Beach Was Being Auctioned By Heirs
They say wealth rarely survives three generations. By 1961, after Mrs. Frederick Guest died, the estate, down to even the bed sheets, was being auctioned off by the heirs.
(The Palm Beach Post, Wednesday March 17, 1961)
1954 – Grand Bahama Development Company Reborn
The historical question of what happened to the Grand Bahama Development Company, and the 99-Year Lease of Crown Land granted to it, can be answered by looking at the provisions granted in the now infamous document: The Hawksbill Creek Agreement.
By 1954, the Grand Bahama Development Company was dodging questions about an impending casino license for the new long term lease developers of Grand Bahama.
Mr. Louis (Lou) Chesler was now the first president of the Grand Bahama Development Company.
(The Palm Beach Post, Thursday, August 12, 1954)
1963 – THE NEW RIVIERA, FREEPORT IS BORN
The dream that British politician, Frederick Guest M.P., didn’t live to see, was his vision for the 300,000 acres of crown land granted to him in 1925. If it hadn’t been for the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Freeport undoubtedly would have a different name.
(The Miami News, Sunday, 15 December 1963)
1967 Grand Bahama Development Company Mired in Commission of Enquiry Probe
(The Ottawa Journal, Tuesday, 27 June, 1967)
1955 – Wallace Groves had The Grand Bahama Port Authority and the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and 50,000 Acres of Grand Bahama sold for $2.80 per acre.
“The founding of Freeport City in 1955 was a major accomplishment for Wallace Groves and the Grand Bahama Port Authority. The Hawksbill Creek Agreement was signed on August 4, 1955 by Wallace Groves and the United Bahamian Party (better known as the Bay Street Boys).”
Wallace Groves and Louis Chesler – Rent The Bahamas
Groves disappointed with the lack of success in the early Grand Bahama Port Authority investment, tells 1967 Bahamas Commission of Inquiry into Gambling that it was Louis Chesler who came to him with the idea for a casino in Freeport.