Man-O-War Heritage Museum

Preserving History & Heritage on a tiny Island.


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The long and winding road…

…..That’s certainly what this journey has felt like.  People to please, hoops to jump through and stacks of legal paperwork.  BUT… we can now see a light at the end of the tunnel. Well, the governmental tunnel that is!  As of May 31, we now officially have Central Bank approval to complete the sale of the property!! applause, applause

Renovations have already started and thank goodness we have a project manager!

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***She is the cute one in the middle, Barbara***

That’s us knocking down a portion of the wall in front.  This old wall was so wobbly and unstable, it really needed to come down, plus we were told kids used to stick firecrackers in the cracks of the wall!  I’m surprised its still standing anyways!

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***Even Peter got in on the fun!***

We officially started the renovations with cutting holes in the floor to see what we were working with.  On first glance it didn’t look too bad, but with all renovations, on closer examination…. well lets just say, its going to be a lot of work.

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In early June our Contractor started with the cistern.  There is an existing cistern but it is very small and probably not enough to meet our needs.  So two guys have been digging that. Whew ! What a job.

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It doesn’t seem like much, but this is a couple months of hard work.  And as I said in the beginning, I will try to keep everyone up to date on our exciting progress.

This project is more than preserving the history and heritage of Man-O-War, it is also teaching the next generation about their ancestors, something very few of them know about. But with the help of our Education officer Mrs. Burrelle Meeks, and all of the hard working volunteers, we well keep our history alive and well on Man-O-War Cay.

We hope you will join us and be part of history in the making.  You can make a tax deductible contribution by following the instructions  at the PERC website, or contact me directly at Man-O-War Heritage Museum, P.O. Box AB22955, Man-O-War Cay, Abaco Bahamas

Lots going on with our little Museum!

Stay tuned………

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If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!

I think it’s safe to say that I’m HAPPY!!  Insert theme song  here ! 🙂

The board has worked tirelessly to make this a reality and it’s all starting to come together.  Let me curb my enthusiasm a bit to bring every one up to speed.  There is so much legal red tape that this project has taken 2 1/2 years to get to this point and we couldn’t be happier!

Banner with Barbara Chana and Ann (2)

We have given Peter Sweeting another $30k  installment and he has allow us to take over the building and begin renovations. But first…. the demo!  It’s a little bit of a painful process because there is extensive damage to this 75+ year old house, but with some skillful maneuvering and construction work, I think we will be able to save the integrity of this building

Here is the house with the back pergola off…

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This is where the kitchen and dinning room used to be…

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and the roof is now off…

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and now the entire back section is gone…

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We cleared out everything and stored what we thought we could keep and use in the future.  Most of the Sweeting family were able to go in and take mementos and reminisce of old times.

Linda and Gerry at house

It was very important to us that they had this time with each other.  They have told us several times how much they support our efforts to restore their family home.  It’s a very humbling feeling and we are honored to do it.  And that is another reason we feel that this project is so important.  Preserving history is important for everyone, unfortunately most people wait until it’s too late to do it.  I’m just glad we have begun!

The contractor is going to start removing the floor and when that is done, we will assess the damage under the house. At that point we will figure out the best way to move forward.

The government is still “in the process” of approving our loan so we are in fund raising mode.  I’m very happy to say that we have raised over $70k to this point, but that hasn’t covered the purchase price yet. So we will be having a fund raiser in April and we ALWAYS accept donations!!

If preserving our island history is important to you, then contact me at mowmuseum.com We are an accredited 501 (c)(3) and have earned non-profit status from the U.S. and the Bahamas. You can also check out our web site at mowmuseum.org

I hope to be writing regularly, now that the project has begun, so… stay tuned…..!

But before I go, here is a sneak peak at the beautiful area upstairs.

 

 

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Bon Voyage!!

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The end of this school year was bitter sweet.  While most students and parents are anxiously awaiting the final bell that signals school is out for the summer, some of us were planning a farewell party for the Principal of the Man O War Primary School, Mrs. Kellie Janes.

Kellie has been with the school for over 20 years and has worn many hats during her employment, and I had the privilege of working with her there.  She is a soft spoken educator with the ability of seeing the brighter side of almost any situation.  Her encouragement and dedication to the students and school are evident in the outstanding grades her students produce.  Year after year Man O War Primary School has won awards, contests, prizes and high grades most schools can only dream of.  But with Kellies kind hearted way of teaching, her students were excelling in an environment that most people can only hope for.

Living on an island has it’s challenges, but running a government school is a special challenge all it’s own, yet she did it with grace, compassion and enthusiasm.

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The  community held a Bon Voyage party for her and they showed up by the golf cart full!

The afternoon started out with a few words from her friendsimage

And was followed by a flower ceremony.

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Each person that was taught by Kellie presented her with a flower.  The line was so long it wrapped half way around the volleyball court!

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For one person to have positively touched so many people is exceptional, and as you can imagine, quite emotional.

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Stories were told and songs were sung in her honor, and in the true Man O War way, a feast was had by all.

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It it was a lovely evening, and one that won’t soon be forgotten.  The love this community has for Kellie was evident.

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She will be a tough act to follow.  We wish her good luck on the next chapter of her life.


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Sweeting House

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.

IMG_20150516_0002 Sweeting house

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**

IMG_20150516_0001 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**

IMG_20150516_0001 Venie with Redith & 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**

IMG_20150516_0001 Percy, Earnest Allen, Celia, Walter, Peter, LInda

 

**Linda, Walter, Earnest & Jerry in front of the Sweeting House 1967**

IMG_20150516_0001Walter, Linda, Earnest & Jerry 1967 in front of Sweeting House

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**

IMG_20150516_0001 Sweeting kids 1970 Walter, Robert, Charlie, Redith, Peter, Reginald, Linda, Celia, Percy, Brenda Jerry, Earnest Venie

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**

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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**

IMG_20150516_0001 Sweeting House of left with Venies store

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.

 

**Venie holding Brenda (left) and her beloved Church of God                                                                                                       IMG_20150516_0001 Church of God Congregation Venie holding Brenda

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**

IMG_20150516_0001 Venie & Percy 50th Anniversary Party

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.

Tax deductible contributions of $250 or more can be made through PERC   or you can visit You Caring and use your credit card.

Your donations are greatly appreciated.


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New Year of New Beginnings

Each new year brings the promise of a do over. You know, you wish you had done something differently and want to do it over. Maybe you would do it differently or just do it again because it was well worth the effort. I know I wish I could do some things over, or maybe more to the point, I really just wish I had an easy button. Now wouldn’t that be wonderful! But I’m reminded of an old saying. Anything that’s worth doing, is worth doing well. So I’m sitting here having meetings, planning the future and making sure all my T’s are crossed and all my I’s are dotted, and impatiently waiting…… and waiting. Sometimes telling the little voice in my head to shut up and sometimes just rolling with it and day dreaming of a time that the Museum will be a successful entity and contributor to the island. Now that’s something to look forward too! And I am still very optimistic that this dream will become reality soon.

In case you started this journey with me a little late, let me bring you up to speed. We have been at this since April 24th, 2014. On that glorious day I had in my hot little hands a signed agreement to purchase the Sweeting House. Barbara was there with me and we were so happy and hopeful that I think we both cried a little. What big wonderful dreams we have! And they will happen, just maybe not on our timeline. Not only do we want this for the community, we want it to belong to the community. Something that everyone can be proud of. And in order for that to happen, there are a few steps that I over looked. Yes I take full blame, but in my defense, I just didn’t know.

First and foremost, we need to set up the Man O War Heritage Museum as a Charitable Non-Profit foundation. The legality of it and the benefits are significant enough to warrant this step. Had I known it would take so long to achieve, I would have done this years ago. But hindsight is 20/20 as you know, so let’s deal with it and move along, right! We have been through 2 lawyers, 1 CPA, Government summer holidays, Christmas holidays and most recently VAT. But I’m confident it’s all down hill from here. To paraphrase our Prime Minister in his New Years address, it can only get better from here. And because I’m a hopeless optimist, I believe just that!

I have been told that the paperwork is exactly where it needs to be and is waiting on a signature. Actually it’s been sitting there for over a month now and if we don’t get some kind of word soon, I’m calling in favors. It’s nice to have friends in high places. But in all fairness, I will always exhaust all options before I resort to that. And in the spirit of full disclosure, the gentleman that compiled our paperwork suggested it might be time for a “push”….. If you know what I mean.

The other obvious hurdle is funds. It’s a big project and we have had fundraisers and several donations but we are still quite a bit away from our $200,000.00 goal. And I am so very proud to say that the community has hugely supported each and every fundraiser. We have had so much positive feedback from our little island, it truly is heart warming. And because of that, I know we are doing the right thing by growing the Museum.

I think there has been some hesitance with donations because we have been in limbo for so long. So I want to assure you that we are still moving forward, just not at the speed we had hoped for in the beginning. We have had the initial purchase price funds loaned to us, but my thought is I would rather not go into this project with a huge debt. I’m not the person in the group with the money background, but even I know the more you can put down in the beginning, the better off you are all around. So having said that I want everyone to know that we are set up in The States with the 501.(c)(3) status. Which means that all donations over $250.00 can be claimed on your taxes. It may sound a wee bit tacky to insert that information here, but I have had enough people ask me about this, that I thought it was worth mentioning.

As far as our timeline goes, we are forming committees, making phone calls and moving forward with everything we can while we wait on our Bahamian Government to get back into the swing of a new year. Something that takes us all a little while to adjust to. So say a little prayer, do a little dance or just think positive thoughts toward a speedy resolution to the purchase of the new and improved Man O War Heritage Museum!

Stay tuned, the best is yet to come!!

if you would like to make a donation click here


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Christmas Golf Cart Parade

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the ways, Oh what fun it is to ride in a ……. Golf cart Christmas parade!  And oh boy did we have fun!!  We had a Jimmy Buffet/trailer park Santa
image  Billy Albury …aka Jimmy Buffet for the night.

imageOur Jimmy Buffett Cart with dancing Santa

Christmas packages

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Flying Reindeer

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Elves

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(These 3 carts were the winners in the multi cart category, they are the staff & students of the Mary E. Albury High School)

Gingerbread house

image Ashley & Lucas won the single cart category with their Gingerbread House

Pirates

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And SO MUCH MORE!!!

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It was an event I won’t soon forget. And even better, I dont think the community will soon forget either.

We had the young and young at heart display so much creativity it surprised us all!  13 entries in all paraded up and down the Sea Road, Queen’s Highway and several roads in between.  It was important to try to drive by the homes of the elderly or shut-ins and still be able to turn around a 15 cart caravan. No easy task by the way! But we did it!!  We had people cheering us on as we passed, people taking photos, carts tossing out candy to the crowd and a lively gathering at Church Corner when it was all over.  And the bonus was, that all of the proceeds go toward the Man O War Heritage Museum building fund!

It’s very encouraging to know we not only have the support of Second Homeowners, Business people and private individuals,  but also the community on the Island.  They have always shown such wonderful support and it warms my heart to know that we have their commitment to making the growth of the Museum a reality.

And as the old saying goes….. We wish you were here!

If you would like to make a donation to the building fund, you can go here…

http://www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/the-museum-is-moving-/224874

All funds received from the web site go directly towards the Museum building fund.  Thank you for your support!