If truth be told, Harry Oakes’s money and influence, resided in The Bahamas longer than the man himself. More than 80 years after his opportunistic arrival, Oakes’s historical presence still breathes rarified air there. In 1935, Oakes reportedly paid just $25,000 to set up domiciled residence in Nassau. Soon after, at record setting speed, Oakes became the largest landowner in the Bahamas – and for all we know – may still be. Only a handful of people alive today, know the true nature of the title deeds of some properties, now changing hands, in The Bahamas.
Oakes, with the help of the Bahamas government and his friend Harold G. Christie, bought two-thirds of the island of San Salvador for $10 an acre.
American born, multi-millionaire Sir Harry Oakes, who struck it rich prospecting for gold in Canada, was really only in the Bahamas for less than ten years, before he was clobbered over the head, and bizarrely, had his genitals set on fire, in his bed, in Nassau, on July 7, 1943. Another truth, on the eve of his still unsolved murder, Oakes had grown weary of being a milked cash cow. Whatever he was pointed toward, by H. G. Christie, Sir Harry, bought. By 1943, Oakes had had enough. He was preparing to leave The Bahamas, probably for the more temperate climate of Europe. For this reason, many surmise, he was subjected to the indignity of being butchered in his own bed.
Harry Oakes buys the British Colonial and seven houses across New Providence
Oakes arrived in Nassau around 1935. Between 1935 and July 7, 1943, in this no-income tax jurisdiction, Harry Oakes incorporated several companies, including Caves Co. Ltd. Oakes bought up vast acreages of land – for peanuts – with the help of H. G. Christie and the Bahamas government of the day. It was in fact H. G. Christie who brought Oakes to the Bahamas and directed his money, towards buying thousands of acres, of valuable land, on New Providence and the Family Islands.
By 1937, Oakes was making headline news from Nassau, as H. G. Christie, directed him where to invest his money in one land deal after the other.
1937 – Oakes and his friend H. G. Christie to go into rice farming in Andros
Oakes started a number of businesses, built some things, got involved in the war effort like everyone else was compelled to, had an airfield named after him, was elected to the House of Assembly while on vacation in London, became a member of the Executive and obtained a hereditary title of Baronet in 1939, which was passed down to his eldest son, Sir Sidney Oakes and then to grandson.
1937 – Harry Oakes to build golf course and polo field
1938 – Oakes had bought more property including the botanical gardens site from the Bahamas government.
1941 – Harry Oakes, H. G. Christie and Roland Symonette at inaugural flight of Pan American Airways which landed at the new airfield, in Nassau, the Oakes Field.
Sir Harry Oakes basically, set about self-actualising his existence, at the expense of overshadowing native Bahamian endeavours. Many at the time, accepted this trade off, in return for access to his money. Oakes’s money, and what it could do for development in Nassau, was vastly more important than petty local egos and ambitions.
American-born Harry Oakes’s self actualisation in the islands. This acme of capitalist existence has earned him an immortalised place in Bahamian history. All in all, one may see this as huge achievements for a man who resided, less than ten years, in the country. However, Bahamian history strongly suggests that these pursuits were fairly par for the course matriculations, when the super wealthy enter small island politics and, provincial living in The Bahamas.
1954 – Eleven years after Harry Oakes’s murder the great property sell-off begins
Fortunes may last one generation – the one in which it was made. However, as time moves on, as more generations are added to the inheritance ladder, to trust fund lists, the money, the fortunes, sometimes don’t last.
By 1954, just over ten years after Oakes’s murder, his Palm Beach property holdings were up for sale. It was said to be the biggest property sale and land deal in Palm Beach’s history.
Caves Co. Ltd. incorporated by Harry Oakes begins to QUIET TITLE HUNDREDS OF ACRES OF PROPERTY ‘OUT WEST’ IN NASSAU 1965
Caves Co. Ltd sought to quiet title 174.94 acres in the Western District of New Providence
Caves Co. Ltd sought to quiet title 226.16 acres in the Western District of New Providence
Harry’s daughter, Shirley Oakes-Butler, seemed quite determined to use her inheritance, to follow in Harry Oakes’s footsteps. After her marriage to one Allan Butler, Shirley’s focus turned to creating a business empire to rival that of her father. She started off big and ambitious.
1964 – Shirley Oakes-Butler announces intention to build on Bahamas Country Club property in Cable Beach.
Bahamas Country Club property was reported to have been bought Sir Harry Oakes from the Bahamas Government in 1943 just before his murder
1967 – Shirley Oakes-Butler Reveals Details of Casino License For Education Funding Deal Turned Down By Premier Roland Symonette in 1965
One year after Shirley Oakes-Butler announced her ambitious plan for a 300 room luxury hotel, golf course, country club, yacht basin, and 300 home lot development, she set her sights on obtaining a lucrative casino licence. The only man capable of approving such a deal was Bahamas Premier, Sir Roland Symonette. Oakes-Butler soon realised that casino licenses were locked in to Freeport developer Wallace Groves and his property development syndicate. Shirley Oakes-Butler decides to sweeten her proposal to Sir Roland with a philanthropic twist. Sir Roland wasn’t buying what Shirley Oakes was selling.
Why would Shirley Oakes-Butler make such a revelation, two years after the fact, AFTER Sir Roland’s UBP Party lost control of the Bahamas government by one seat?
What is of interest here, isn’t so much the deal itself. The real question is why? Why on earth would Shirley Oakes-Butler make the revelation in the first place? The answer has to be that the revelation and the timing, August 1967, served some particular purpose known only to Shirley Oakes-Butler. The revelation had to be a leveraging tool of some sort, a shot across the bow, an ultimatum for ears of someone powerful enough to make such a deal happen.
The revelation of this casino deal came, quite opportunistically, in the tenuous months after the historic general elections of January 10, 1967. 1967 saw a move from minority rule government to a majority rule government, in The Bahamas.
Shirley Oakes-Butler Tries To Use Influence Created By Harry Oakes’s Financial Legacy To Gain Casino Licence
If truth be told, Shirley Oakes-Butler probably could have cared less about government provided education, in The Bahamas in 1965. If anyone wanted to give, without strings attached, hundreds of thousands of dollars, to underwrite the education of mostly negro children in the government schools, nothing was stopping them. But Oakes had many strings attached to this supposed deal.
What she and then husband, Allan Butler, and their investors saw was an opportunity to acquire a lucrative, money making casino license. They saw the money being made in Freeport and the political influence it brought to its owners. It was the kind of political influence wielded by her father Sir Harry Oakes, and his millions, some thirty years prior. A casino license in 1965, was quite literally, practically printing its own money, in The Bahamas. Shirley Oakes wanted some of that political and social influence for herself.
1982 – Shirley Oakes Lies In A Coma From Car Accident As Family Fights Over Money To Pay Her Medical Bills
By 1982, almost 40 years had passed since the untimely demise of Sir Harry Oakes. The son, Sir Sidney Oakes, who inherited the hereditary title from his father, died in a road crash in Nassau in 1966. The hereditary title of Baronet passed to his son, Sir Christopher Oakes.
1982 – Shirley Oakes Lies in a Coma
Nancy Oakes (who’s first husband was acquitted of murder of her father Harry), is sister of incapacitated and hospitalised Shirley Oakes and Harry P. Oakes. Nancy Oakes-Huene goes to court to stop sale of paintings, which brother Harry P. Oakes, contends is needed to cover comatose sister, Shirley’s medical bills.
Shirley Oakes lived for another four years, after this court injunction to halt the sale of $3 million dollars worth of paintings to support her medical bills. Shirley Oakes- Butler died in 1986.