Thursday, November 11, 2010

Looking for George Phenney

Standing in Fort Fincastle on the Island of Nassau
I recently wrote about Penelope Golland Maule Lovick Phenney Johnston who was my seventh great grandmother. Her third husband was George Phenney who was the second Colonial Governor of the Bahama Islands and lived on the island of Nassau before he married Penelope. I recently found myself alone in Nassau with a day to kill so I decided to try and find some evidence of Phenney on the island. He was there from 1721 - 1727. I started with tours of two forts, Fort Fincastle and Fort Charlotte.

According to the sign on the wall Fort Fincastle was completed in 1793. It was built by Lord Dunmore who named it after his second title. No luck there since it was built a few years after Phenney died.

Cannon at Fort Charlotte
Next stop was Ft. Charlotte.  Built a little earlier, this one was completed in 1789, also by Lord Dunmore and was named after the wife of King George. Dunmore was the last royal governor of the Colony of Virginia. There was an underground well and some interesting places to store weapons and food but no sign of Phenney so I moved on.

Nassau Public Library & Museum

Next stop was the library. I had to ask around quite a bit but it was only a few blocks away from the main strip. The librarian was very helpful but the only mention of George Phenney was in a book that I had actually checked out of the Memphis Public Library so that was no good. It was an interesting library in that it was very small but overflowing with books in several hallways that led out from the small, circular main room. "Absolutely No Photography" signs were everywhere so I obeyed the rule. I only had one more chance to find Phenney before I headed back to the ship. Like everyone who lived in that area at the time, Phenney had to deal with Pirates. So I checked out the Pirates Museum.

On the deck of a fake pirate ship at The Pirate Museum in Nassau.

The Pirate Museum was your typical tourist attraction that included a guy dressed as a pirate and screaming "arrrrg" in front of the building. I have a feeling the people who own the museum are very grateful to Johnny Depp.  Inside the museum were some little scenes of pirate life back in the day and pirate trivia questions on the wall. Finally, toward the end of the tour, right before the pirate giftshop, on a wall hung what I had been looking for...my George Phenney sighting.


Next to a manaquen representing Woodes Rogers was this panel that said:

The Last Years of Woodes Rogers
Having sent Captain Woods Rogers to the Bahamas to drive out the pirates, the British government proptly abandoned him...He was forced by ill health to return to London and was replaced as Governor by George Phenney who proved totally ineffective.

Ouch. That doesn't seem very fair. One thing I do know is that his wife at the time is credited with introducing basket weaving to the natives. Although she did enslave many of the people of the Bahamas, forcing them to work for free and creating a monopoly on trade. She was also accused of bullying competitors and threatening other businesses on the island at the time. But, come on, basket weaving is obviously still effecting the economy on the island since there were ladies selling woven things everywhere.

I tried to change history a little by letting a few basket selling ladies know that my seventh great grandmother's third husband's first wife was the one responsible for their career but they just wanted my money and I was getting hungry so I headed back to the cruise ship happy in the knowledge that at least I had located George Phenney.

You can read more about George and Penelope on my Web site.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this nice article. I try to search some information about George Phenney too.

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