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The Daily News
February 27, 1998
Davis: Build an agricultural museum at
the old experiment station on St. Croix
At this yeas St. Croix agricul-
tore fair, thousands of people
turned out to taste food, purchase
plants, browse by educational dis-
But for me, the highlight of the
agriculture fair was the homestead
program exhibit focusing on St.
Croix of the 1930s to the 1950s. A
small homestead house was
mourned with old photos of people
and places on St. Croi tad inter-
preim Msomuianc ptoto.
For some time now, I've said
that lhe people of St. Croix should
establish an agricultural museum at
Estate Anna's Hope, where the
first agricultral eperiment station
was oundedi 1910.
Mr. JI. Bovell, dthe sperinten.
dect of Agriculture in Barbados,
bad visited St. Croix to give expert
Following Bovell's visit, Dr.
Longfield Smilth, a lecturrin t-
tal and agricultural cinces of h
Barbados Department of Arical-
turn ws pointed te first dkec-
tor of Estate Anna's Hope agricul.
tural experiment station. The
experiment station sat on 400
Today the arena is overmrun with
brush and dotted with sugar mills,
slavery-cra structures and other
historical buildings constructed at
the same time as the agriculture
For this reason, I believe that as
a people, we should establish am
'ericulture museum at Estate
Anna's Hope. And when I saw the
homestead exhibit at the agricul-
ture fair, I said to myself, "It
would be wonderful to have a
homestead exhibit within the agri-
culture mmeu on St. Croix."
When I attended college in
TIlon, Ga, in the late 1970s, I vis-
ited an agriculture museum not too
far from the college. This museum
brought in millions to the state
St. Cmoix has a rich agricultural
history. Why not an agriculture
msen moSt. Croix?
What I really want to talk
about, though is the history behind
the homestead program on St.
George F. Tyson, a local hiso-
rna and head of the St. Croix
Landmarks Society, the V.I.
Departmet of Agriculture, Ameni.
corps Volunteers and other indi-
viduals were responsible for
putting on the cellaen exhibit of
the homestead program on St.
Since I have strong feelings
about the protection of the Virgin
Islands environment, agriculture
and our cultural heritage, I will try
my best to write three or four arti-
cles on the history of the home-
stead program on St. Croix espe-
dcially for residents of St. Thomas,
St John or even St. Croix who
didn't get a chance to attend the
Before I begin, I would like to
give credit to Tyson for the infor-
mation I am about to share with
By the end of the vil War, our
nation hadcquid the entire terri
tory that now constitutes the 48
states. The Homestead Act of 1862
had been passed to accelerate set-
tlement on the new frontier of
America. The homestead program
came to St. Croix in the 1930s.
The economy of SLt Croix in the
1930s was dominated by the sugar
industry. About 90 percent of the
land on St. Croix belonged to 25
In ithe coountryside of St. Croix,
65 percent of the cane fields
belonged to two large coporation
- the La Orange Sugar Factory
and the West Indi Sugar Oo.
Some 5,000 black! and a few
Hispanics lived in deplorable plan1
taion villages that had existed on
the island since slavery days. They
worked for wages ranging from 40
to 55 cents a day.
Some of these workers were
part-time because the economy,
like today, was not great. in those
days blacks and Hispankc had vir.
tally no chance of becoming
landowners on St Croix.
Thus, local people found them-
selves working the soil in an eoo.
nomicly unjust system. Some 600
villagers known as "squatters"
leased over 1,000 acres to grow
cane and provisions for them-
Though they likely sold some
of their produce to the markets,
rents were very high and tenure on
the land was insecure for squatters.
Nonetheless, they were some-
what economically independent,
and their standard of living was
better than those who worked in
the cane fields.
In the wake of natural disaster,
falling sugar prices, loss of the m
market due to prohibition and
diminishing crop yields, the sugar
industry on St. Croix suffered a
series of failures during the 1920s.
Many local people were either
underemployed or unemployed.
With this economic disaster,
lk cane was produced. Yet, aon-
black landowners refused to sell
unused land tornall holders.
The West India Sugar Co. went
bankrupt, and the central factory at
Bethlehem closed its doors and
discontinued cane cultivation. This
left another 1,000 people out of
work. It was these events that gave
rise to the homestead program on
Next week's column will be
about what the U.S. Congress did
to address unemployment on St.
Olssee Daw, who hs a master
of science degree in range man-
agement and forestry ecology, a
St. Croir ecologist, activist and