GREAT news!! We FINALLY got the Non-Profit status from the Bahamian Government! I know….. you are wondering why I’m SO excited…. well it’s because we can now finalize the sale of the property! There has been a transfer of funds and my lawyer assures me it will not be longer than 3 months from this date that we have the deed in hand! As I said in our presentations, it was necessary to have this status so we could buy the property in the name of the Museum. That way it always belongs to the community and not an individual. The status also affords us other benefits in regards to the Bahamian Government, but I won’t go into detail here. Needless to say we are VERY excited to finally start this project.
I have been asked a few times why we choose this property? Why is it special? And I have several answers to those questions. We choose this property because of its location. You can’t really get a better spot on the Island for what we want to do. Several individuals have helped beautify Church Corner and the surrounding properties, so we wanted to keep the beautification going. The land is flat and the garden is established and relatively low maintenance. The building its self has a history all its own, as does the family that lived and loved there. As a person who is interested in history I feel preservation is important. Whether it’s buildings, artifacts or personal stories, we need to understand where we came from to live our life authentically.
So without further adue…… here is the Sweeting house story.
The house that has belonged to the Sweeting family for the last 69 years had humble beginnings. The original owner is still unknown, but we do know that it was purchased by Willard and Laura Sweeting and was cut into manageable pieces and floated from Hope Town to Man-O-War Cay. This was not uncommon at the time. The house was erected on the site just before the concrete road becomes dirt on the Queens Highway. Or to be more exact, where the Channel house property is, and it stayed there until 1946. The concrete slab is still on that property
**Percy & Venie @ Charlies Wedding**
June 30th, 1943 Robert Percival and Venie Elizabeth Sweeting were married and within 2 years had Redith in 1944 and Robert in 1945.
**Venie with Redith and Robert 1945**
At the time they were living in Nassau, but both were missing home. So in 1946 they purchased the home from Willard and Laura and moved back to Man-O-War. The house was dismantled again and reconstructed on the site where it sits today by Mr. Emerson and Mr. Leonard Thompson . At that time the laborers were paid 4 shillings for a days work. Within the next 23 years they would have 10 more children. Earnest Austin 1947, Charlie 1949, Celia 1952, Walter 1953, Peter 1955, Linda 1956, Earnest Allen 1958, Jeremiah 1963, Brenda 1966 and Reginald 1969.
**Percy, Earnest Allen, Celia, Walter, Peter, Linda 1958**
**Linda, Walter, Earnest & Jerry in front of the Sweeting House 1967**
They were affectionately known as the Sweeting dozen. With the exception of Ernest Austin, born in 1947, all children are still alive today. Little Earnest Austin was only 3 years old when Strep/Flu like symptoms took his life. He was tended to by Nurse Mack, but was too young and weak to survive.
**Sweeting family in front of the Sweeting house 1970**
Not all children lived in the house at the same time though. There was enough of an age gap that at most 10 children lived there along with Percy, Venie and Venies mother Laura Elizabeth for a total of 13 people. The adults lived downstairs and all the children upstairs. Redith remembers the upstairs was separated by a curtain so the boys could have one side and the girls on the other. In the early days there were no store bought mattresses, so they collected long grass to stuff inside cloth sewn together to fashion a bed. Everyone shared a bed with someone else. In fact most people on the island shared most everything they had. If someone had a very successful garden, the fruits of the land would be shared with family and friends. That is how out island people were able to sustain their families. It was a much simpler life, but was also a hard life. Children had chores before and after school, and often times they would go fishing in the morning to help put food on the table, or sell the fish so necessities could be purchased. One of the after school jobs for the boys was collecting rocks in the bush and selling them to the builders for mixing with the cement.
Percy and Venie were resourceful people. To make a living for his children Percy would often go on fishing trips.
**Thomas and Percy Sweeting Fishing**
He and Venie owned a boat named Green Cross which he purchased from Dr. Cottman. This boat had a live well in it where Percy would keep the fresh caught seafood. Venie was also a good boater and she would scull while Percy hooked conch They would go as far north as Grand Cay selling dry goods and fresh seafood, while Grand Mama would care for the kids at home. Some of the children were lucky enough to go with them when school was out for the holidays.
Percy was caretaker for several properties. One in particular now belongs to the Whetzel family, formerly owned by Reginald Smithwick, whom Reginald Sweeting is named after. Mr. Bell’s property, which now belongs to Ann & James Pleydell-Bouverie, Foots Cay and Matt Lowes Cay. Also for the property now known as Jacks Hill owned by Mr. & Mrs. Landuis formerly owned by Walter Chur, whom Walter Sweeting is named after. Venie had an entrepreneurial spirit and opened a Dry goods and Grocery store. Linda Sweeting-Weatherford says she can remember her mother having the store most of her childhood.
**First building on left is Venie’s store, the Sweeting house is next**
But Venie also was the Secretary/Bookkeeper for the Church of God. Although her church duties didn’t stop there. She was a Sunday School Teacher and would also cook for the visiting ministers at their church. Their generosity was evident, when before their passing, they gifted the property that their beloved church now sits on.
The Sweeting house was always filled with family and an abundance of love. Most holidays were spent there, where family gathered, sharing a meal and stories of their daily life. As the children grew and married, it was always a special time for the Sweeting family. They welcomed each new in-law with love and affection and celebrated the birth of babies together. Venie was always cooking something in her kitchen and would give up her portion in order to feed someone else in need.
**Venie & Percy 50th Anniversary**
Venie lived in this house until her final day August 10, 2005 when she succumbed to diabetic complications. Percy soon followed his beloved August 21, 2007.
This family’s story is not unlike so many out island residents, that they band together making a life off the island. Close knit families and communities are a way of life here and it is our goal to honor the Sweeting family and this historic home by restoring it and welcoming visitors to our island. Restoration of a building is easy, it’s the telling of a family history that is the fabric of our lives.
Please join us in this journey and be a part of history in the making by contributing to the Museum.
Your donations are greatly appreciated.