A witness said they saw four negro children. They had been struck dead. Their bodies buried under the ruins, which was once their home. Fast and brutal, a cyclone of tremendous swirling wind, struck Bain’s Town first, without warning. Buildings and clapboard homes, such as they were, in the negro quarter, in 1850, were levelled to the ground, in mere moments.
It had only been some sixteen years since slavery had been abolished in the Bahamas. The apprenticeship period followed for a few years after. So, it isn’t difficult to reason that the negroes who felt the brunt of the storm first, had just castoff clapboard for walls, coconut tree limbs for a roof and the dirt ground for a floor.
After Bain’s Town, then Grant’s Town and Nassau City were to feel nature’s impulsive wrath on 30th March 1850.
Governor John Gregory, which Gregory’s Arch, a stone arch that separated the negro areas from Nassau, narrowly escaped injury, possibly even death.
Gregory’s Arch, Nassau
Governor John Gregory was meant to be at home, in Government House, just at the moment the storm hit. He was fortunate. It tore away that very portion of the house, Gregory would have sat in, to take lunch.
Reports of New Providence’s devastation were reported as far away as Liverpool and Ireland. They were reported across the United States. Headlines read: Tornado raze island of New Providence to the ground.
(Liverpool Mercury, Great Britain, Tuesday, 23 April 1850)
April 18, 1850 – COMPENSATION ACT – BAHAMAS GOVERNMENT TO APPROPRIATE FUNDS TO COMPENSATE
For certain, it wasn’t a hurricane that devastated the island of New Providence between 29th and 30th March 1850. March is outside the traditional hurricane period of June to November. Given the velocity of the winds, short duration of impact and pointed destruction in various areas, there was little doubt that a tremendous tornado had suddenly hit New Providence that day.
In response to the significant damage and unprecedented reconstruction money needed for New Providence to recover, Governor John Gregory and the House of Assembly enacted the COMPENSATION ACT 1850
In the first decade post slavery, few people in New Providence had the money needed to rebuild what had been lost to the tornado. Governor John Gregory and the House of Assembly, who comprised the merchant class, had little choice but to act. All their property and fortunes were probably destroyed or damaged as well.
For granting compensation to persons whose property was destroyed or injured by the storm which occurred in the Island of New Providence on the 31st March/1850 or who received personal injury surety.
April 18, 1850￼￼
Undoubtedly, the Bahamas Compensation Act 1850, was not enacted because of the tornado damage in the negro quarter. Major businesses, buildings, vessels and crop yields were gone. Every ship and boat in Nassau’s harbour was destroyed. Fields of vegetables and fruits lay in shreds – an annual harvest and profits all gone.
With so much damage to Nassau’s business community and infrastructure, jeopardising the future revenue of the colony for years to come, the Bahamas government, of 1850, had to step in. They not only provided compensation for property damage, they also paid out for personal injury claims.