In 1899, the American media had been carrying a story on the life of George Washington, which mentioned that he contracted deadly small pox in the Bahamas sometime around 1751. Incredibly, the story just grew and grew. Like the minnow that became a whale by the time the fisherman got to shore, the story of George Washington’s time in the Bahamas, took on its own folklore life, becoming a tourist feature. Some sixty years later, an American reporter found himself in a tour taxi in Nassau. By chance, the story of good old George, falling ill and of his brother actually dying, in the Bahamas, was told.
This was indeed extraordinary because historians have noted that George Washington only left the continental United States but once, in his whole, entire life.
(The Weekly Clarion-Ledger, Jackson Mississippi, Thursday March 3, 1899)
1959 – Bahamian Albert Brown’s Takes An American Tourist For A Ride In His Taxi Which Almost Rewrites History
In 1959, Albert Brown, a sixty-year-old, taxi driver, who lived on Market Street, in the Over -The- Hill area of Nassau, was taking a tourist on a tour of Nassau. Mr. Albert Brown, if indeed 60 years old in 1959, would put his date of birth at around 1899, one year before the dawn of the 20th century, but even more curiously, in the very same year the story of George Washington in the Bahamas, first ran in the news media.
Little did Mr. Albert Brown realise, but his inquisitive tour passenger, was also a journalist writing for the American press. Mr. Brown probably didn’t realise that his story would send American historians running to their text books.
As they were taking their slow tour ride going toward the Eastern Road, Mr. Albert Brown told the tourist in his taxi, a most incredible story.
During the sixty years since the incredible story of George Washington being in the Bahamas, appeared in the American press in 1899, it somehow crossed borders, finding a solid place in the minds and sensibilities of people in the islands. Bahamians soon believed the tale. Over sixty years, not only did they believe it, they even knew for sure that it all happened somewhere on the Eastern Road. To Bahamians, George Washington, not only contracted life-threatening small pox while in Nassau, his little brother died there as well.
This story was told to every tourist who sat in taxis and horse and carriage tour through the more picturesque parts of Nassau. The question is though, was this true.
Does the Bahamas have an incredible connection to the first President of the United States of America?
(Fort Lauderdale News, Sunday 09 August 1959)
GEORGE WASHINGTON’S FAMILY TREE
Augustine Washington (1694-1743)
Mary Ball Washington (1708-1789)
Samuel Washington (1734-1781)
John Augustine Washington (1736-1787)
Charles Washington (1738-1799)
Betty Washington Lewis (1733 – 1797)
Mildred Washington (1737-1740)
Butler Washington (1716-1716)
Lawrence Washington (1718-1752)
Augustine Washington Jr. (1720-1762)
Jane Washington (1722-1734)
Martha Washington (1731-1802)
Barbados, Bahamas, Bermuda
Lawrence Washington, Elder Half-Brother of George Washington Did Not Die In The Bahamas
One thing to bear in mind— the Bahamas, Bermuda and Barbados, all former British colonies, were sometimes, inadvertently mixed up, by inattentive 19th century journalists. How this was possible in relation to the much publicised life of George Washington, the first president of the United States, is almost too fantastic to consider.
Lawrence Washington was the elder half-brother of George Washington. George’s father, Augustine Washington, had been married twice. George and his five siblings were born to the second wife. George would have four step-siblings. Lawrence was the first born of his father from his first wife.
George Washington greatly admired his elder brother Lawrence from a young age, after losing his father at age eleven. Just a few years later when George was about 15, Lawrence was then Major Lawrence in the British Navy, was pushing George to join the Navy as well. George did not. Instead he became a land surveyor.
Around the same time, Lawrence Washington’s fell into ill health. Lawrence first went to England seeking medical advice. As was usual for most respiratory ailments, sufferers were told to take a trip to the hot colonies whose warm climates were conducive to aiding recovery.
Lawrence went to Barbados with his brother George. Barbados not the Bahamas. It was in Barbados, not the Bahamas, that George Washington, future president of the new Americas contracted smallpox. George recovered from small pox and returned to Virginia in 1752.
Lawrence Washington continued on to Bermuda suffering from the last stages of deadly tuberculosis. By June of 1752, Lawrence had returned to Virginia and died shortly thereafter in July from tuberculosis.
A SIXTY YEAR HISTORICAL ERROR
So, George Washington was never in the Bahamas. His brother Lawrence, and George, had travelled to Barbados, not the Bahamas. Somehow an error in the American newspapers in 1899, came over to the Bahamas, becoming part of popular history for more than sixty years.
But none of it was true.
George’s brother did not die at age six in Nassau. Nor did old George Washington, the first president of the United States contract smallpox, in the Bahamas, either.