Historical Trading Post near Pine Cay Provides a Glimpse of Islands’ Past
By Susan Clark McBride
You’ve enjoyed several days on Pine Cay, unwinding to the rhythms of the surf and the warmth of the powdery sand seeping through your toes on strolls to Sand Dollar Point. In addition to filling out the daily crossword, swimming in the sea, and dining al fresco, perhaps you’ve taken the snorkel boat to the reef and enjoyed the underwater magnificence of “Flowers Garden” or the “Fish Bowl.” You may even have had so much energy that deep sea fishing filled one of your days, catching tuna or wahoo that Chef Shane masterfully morphed into a delicious dinner. What now? Read another book? Play some tennis? Ride a bike?
Perhaps this is the day to just go nuts and sign up for an outing to explore the Turks and Caicos Islands. If so, Ft. George is a terrific choice. The rich history of Ft. George is significant and, while this may be hard to believe, this tiny island adjacent to Pine Cay is a lovely spot to get even further “away.”
So, if stepping back into history and exploring an uninhabited island with your loved one appeals, take the complimentary transport from the dock to Ft. George. In minutes, you’ll land on its shore with the promise of return transportation arriving in a few hours. And then, in addition to languishing over a yummy picnic lunch under your beach umbrella, if you remembered your sunscreen, camera and snorkel, it’s time to explore!
History of Ft. George, Turks and Caicos
Historians believe Christopher Columbus’ first stop in the New World was in the Turks and Caicos Islands in October of 1492, as Pine Cay allowed him to restock his ship’s fresh water supply en route to Cuba.
What isn’t as well known is the fact that Thomas Brown, an American Loyalist who arrived in America at age 24 and became an able fighter for the King (rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the King’s Rangers Regiment), settled on the Caicos Islands. Legend has it Brown encouraged the British to recognize Ft. George (originally known as Fort St. George) as a vital trading port in the Caribbean. He also requested it be fortified. Brown and his followers built the fort and outfitted the battery with 16 cannons in the early 1790s. Located at the north end of the island, the fort and gun battery defended settlements in North and Middle Caicos against attack by pirates, privateers, the French, and Haitian rebels.
Exploring Ft. George
Over the decades, archeological digs on Ft. George have unearthed countless artifacts: musket ramrod pipe fragments, uniform buttons, wrought nails, cast iron slabs that formed the base of Dutch ovens, flint from a musket’s firing mechanism, ceramics, bottles and more. Seven cannons remain today, with several visible in the shallow waters close to shore, ready to be viewed through your dive mask. As you explore Ft. George Cay, you may also discover faint remains of the old military fort. Keep in mind that the island is a protected historical site and national park; it’s illegal to take or damage any artifacts.
Pine Cay plays an important role in the history of maritime exploration. The Meridian Club takes pride in the stewardship of the island’s and its neighbors’ history and ecosystem. After packing up the remains of your picnic and skimming a couple minutes across the channel before jumping into your golf cart and heading back to the Club . . . when you sip cocktails that evening, you too can share tales of relaxing in a significant place, unique in history and scope. You’ve collected yet another Pine Cay experience and taking home yet another memory.