So far, we know the Bahamas had three. Could there have been more? There probably was. At some point in Bahamian history, just after the 1900s, there was a rather ill-considered effort to erase the past, the slave past, that is. It was ill-considered in the sense that while we can’t say it was wholly orchestrated, it was awkwardly done, by those at the time, who wanted move on from an uncomfortable history.

Long before the era of slave emancipation, Freetown was a name given to areas or settlements where, as the name suggests, freed peoples of African origin, were allowed to settle.

The first city of Freetown, in Sierra Leone, was founded on March 11, 1792, by a white British abolitionist Lieutenant John Clarkson, ex-American slaves and a group of free people called the Nova Scotian Settlers.

The city of Freetown in Sierra Leone became an important place for free-born and freed Africans from slave colonies. It was not just a physical haven for those escaping being victims of the Trade, but it was also psychosocial haven as well.

This was why the very name Freetown became hugely symbolic to the post emancipation era in British Caribbean colonies, and in the antebellum era of the southern slave American states.

For the Bahamas, it was this very important symbolism and homage to the past which was destroyed when Freetowns were erased as a settlement name on various islands. Freetowns inspired a mobilisation of purpose for freed slaves. It was an area to call their own. It was a sanctuary space in a bid to reclaim their identity and dignity.

We know of two, and now we discover a third.

1. FREETOWN, Eastern District, New Providence

Several references are made to the Free Town area in the Eastern District of Nassau. Most of them, from the newspapers, make reference to petitions of public works improvements. In 1904, the inhabitants of Free Town were asking the government for the digging of three or four wells and improvement to the road that connected Shirley Streets and Kemp Road.

This particular petition went to committee in 1904. Months later it still had not been decided upon.

(The Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands Advocate and Intelligencer, Saturday, March 19, 1904)

2. There was once a FREETOWN, ELEUTHERA 

Green Castle, Eleuthera was once a part of the area known as the Buddy Rattray Estate. William ‘Buddy’ Rattray was born on 10 February 1777 in Forfar, Angus, Scotland and died on 13 July 1853 in Rock Sound, Eleuthera.  It says (according to the ancestral family tree) William arrived in the Bahamas as a clerk for a Nassau mercantile house in 1795. His last will and testament dated 1844 at New Portsmouth (renamed Rock Sound) Eleuthera. In it contained the instructions for Mount Rattray Estate on Eleuthera, probated 27 December 1853 (Bahamas records book N4, page 163).

In 1834, slavery was abolished in the British Caribbean colonies, including the Bahamas. A portion of the land became known as FREETOWN. It was known as FREETOWN because, it was one of the areas where liberated slaves were allowed to work the land.

Some decades later, a portion of the land known as the Buddy Rattray Estate was purchased by a Mr. Zaccheus Arthur Smith. Zaccheus Arthur Smith (born estimated between 1848 and 1908). The portion owned by Zaccheus Smith became known as GREEN CASTLE Eleuthera.

This settlement, Green Castle, the largest in the south, is  situated between Rock Sound and Wemyss Bight. It derived its name from the home of Zaccheus Smith which was conspicuously situated atop Bay Road. The building was very large, green in color, and was entered via steps starting at the roadway below. It was called “the castle,” because of its colonial architecture.

3. FREETOWN, San Salvador

In 1893, several marriages took place in San Salvador. The residence listed at the time of the marriages was the FreeTown Settlement of San Salvador.

Daniel Johnson 25 and Cecilia Mackey 26, both Labourers, were married on May 24th, 1892 in the Baptist Chapel in the FreeTown Settlement in Sal Salvador by Hercules Rolle, Baptist Minister.

Meshech A. Bowe 26 and Mary Elisabeth Mitchel 22, both Labourers, were married on January 5th 1893, at the Baptist Chapel in the FreeTown Settlement in Salvador by Hercules Rolle, Baptist Minister.