OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
A History of the Virgin Islands for the
Junior High School Grades
A. THURSTON CHILD
Former Superintendent of Education in
Supervisor of Art, St. Thomas
Published Jointly by
THE DEPARTMENTS OF EDUCATION
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and St. Croix, Virgin Islands
A. Thurston Child
All rights reserved
Including the right to reproduce this book
or parts thereof in any form.
Lthoprined In U.S.A.
EDWARDS BROTHERS. INC.
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN
BEFORE THE BOOK BEGINS
History is the record of what man-in-the-past
has done. This record includes many different kinds of
things, for man-in-the-past has done many different
kinds of work.
Sometimes man-in-the-past made laws. Sometimes
he fought battles. Sometimes he traveled from place to
place. And sometimes he bought and sold spices, spar-
kling jewels and lengths of shining satin.
But if history were only a record or list of
laws, battles or travels it would be very dry and very
uninteresting. Fortunately for boys and girls history
is also the story of the how, the why and the what hap-
pened in the past. History tells us why kings made
laws, how battles were fought and won and what hap-
pened when the merchants came home from their travels
with bales of silk and pouches of pearls in their packs.
History is a very interesting subject. But it
is also a very useful subject. It helps us understand
the world of today and it also helps us build the world
Do you know why the people of St. Croix mas-
querade on Christmas Second Day, Easter Monday, Whit
Monday and other holidays? Do you know why Bluebeard's
Castle in Charlotte Amalie and Fort Christiansvaern at
Christiansted were built? Do you know why many of the
gates in Charlotte Amalie have Beware of the Dog signs
If you can answer these questions now, you al-
ready know something about how the laws, customs and
conditions of the Virgin Islands-of-today grew out of
the Virgin Islands-of-the-past. And if y61 do not
know the answers you will not only find them by study-
ing Virgin Islands history but you will also come to
see how the Virgin Islands-of-the-past helped to make
OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
the Virgin Islands-of-today.
Do you really love your Virgin Islands? Do
you know enough about them to make strangers love them
too? Are you willing to do everything you can to make
the islands a finer and a better place to live in?
Perhaps you cannot answer these questions hon-
estly now. But after you have studied and lived with
the Virgin Islands-of-the-past you can say and say
I love the Virgin Islands.
I can make the past and the present of the is-
lands so real and so interesting to strangers
that they will come to love the islands as I
I will work to make the islands a better place
to live in for these islands are my islands;
their past is my past; and their future is
the future which I shall help them build.
How the book was written
A written record or history is never the work
of one person writing all by himself. A history is
written only after the writer has read a great many
books, newspapers, diaries and letters and talked to a
great many persons who know more about the happenings
than the writer does.
Some of the persons who helped to write Our
Virgin Islands were His Excellency,Governor Lawrence W.
Cramer; Mr. Harry E. Taylor, Administrator for St.
Croix; Mr. C. Frederick Dixon, Superintendent of Edu-
cation for St. Thomas; Judge C. G. Thiele; Miss Enid
Baa, Librarian of the St. Thomas Public Library; Mr.
Morris de Castro, Commissioner of Finance; Mr. Harold
Larson of the United States Archieves and Mr. Jorge
Rodriguez of the Charlotte Amalie High School.
Governor Cramer read all of the manuscript of
Our Virgin Islands and made many helpful suggestions
and corrections. Mr. Taylor read the unit on the
Caribs and suggested a number of important changes.
Mr. Dixon gave invaluable help. He constantly en-
couraged the writer to go on with the book and allowed
him to test out the steps of Our Virgin Islands in the
BEFORE THE BOOK BEGINS v
history classes of the Charlotte Amalie High School.
Judge Thiele permitted the writer to use the files of
old newspapers in the archives at Christiansfort. Miss
Baa generously gave permission for the writer to use
all the books and papers on Virgin Islands history in
the collection belonging to the St. Thomas Public Li-
brary. Mr. de Castro read the step describing the be-
ginnings of civil government in the islands and made a
number of important corrections. Mr. Larson prepared
outlines and translations of Kay Larsen's Dansk
Vestindien and Hans West's Bidrag til Beskrivelse....
over St. Thomas, etc. He also read the entire manu-
script and made many helpful suggestions. Mr. Rodriguez
taught several of the steps of Our Virgin Islands in
his history class and suggested a number of important
A list of the books, pamphlets, diaries and
newspapers which were most helpful in writing Our Vir-
gin Islands is printed at the end of the book.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE ISLANDS AND THE EARLY DAYS
Unit I Why Columbus Came to the Virgin Islands 1
Unit II The First Virgin Islanders .............. 11
Unit III The Old World Struggles for the New ..... 24
THE ISLANDS AND THE COMPANY
Unit IV A New Nation Enters the Caribbean World 38
Unit V A Colony Tries Hard to Grow ............. 50
Unit VI How St. Thomas People Lived Two Hun-
dred Years Ago ........................ 60
Unit VII Great Changes Come to the Islands ....... 69
THE ISLANDS AND THE KING
Unit VIII St. Croix Turns Sugar into Silver and
Gold .................................. 79
Unit IX Brigs, Sloops and Schooners Bring Pros-
perity to St. Thomas ................. 89
Unit X Steam Comes and Slavery Goes .......... 104
Unit Sad Days Come to the Islands ............ 116
THE ISLANDS AND THE UNITED STATES
Unit XII Uncle Sam Buys the Virgin Islands ....... 129
THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix belong to the
United States. Anegada, Virgin Gorda, Tortola
and most of the smaller islands belong to Great
Britain. St. Thomas is 40 miles east of Puerto
Rico and St. Croix is 40 miles south of St. Thomas
if e -1
WHY COLUMBUS CAME TO THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
Step 1. The Old World Looks to the East.
a. The Old World stays at home.
b. The Old World travels to the East.
c. The Old World trades with the East.
Today almost everyone travels. Each year ships
from all parts of the world sail into the harbor of
Charlotte Amalie. In 1935 seventeen tourist ships with
9,212 people on board visited the Virgin Islands.
A thousand years ago hardly anyone traveled.
Only merchants and the messengers of important people
went from place to place. Almost everyone else was
,perfectly content to live in his own little castle or
on his own little farm.
It hardly ever occurred to a mediaeval knight
or a mediaeval peasant that there were other villages
2 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
in other countries that might be visited. As a matter
of fact, people who did travel were regarded as sus-
picious characters. Since they did not stay at home
they must be robbers or murderers.
As the years passed all this changed. In 1095
Pope Urban held a great meeting at the town of Clermont
in France. Crowds of curious people attended the meet-
ing. The Pope told them that cruel men called Turks
had captured Jerusalem, the Holy City. He said it was
the duty of every true Christian to leave his home and
go on an expedition to rescue the city where Jesus had
lived and died.
The Crusaders captured the Holy City from the
Turks three times; but each time the Turks got it back
again. At last the Christians became discouraged and
decided to go back home. They decided that the Cru-
sades were a failure.
But the Crusades were not a failure. Instead
they were a great success. They taught mediaeval men
to travel. They taught them to eat spices with their
food. They taught them to wear clothes made of cotton
and silk. And they taught them to have carpets on
their floors and comfortable furniture in their rooms.
Once the people of western Europe had learned
to like all these strange new things, they began to say
to the merchants who passed their doors, "Have you any
pepper? Are there any beautiful oriental rugs in your
pack? My wife would like to see some rolls of cotton
cloth or some lengths of satin."
At first most of the merchants shook their
heads. Spices, cotton cloth and rugs came from the
East. The East was a far country. Only a few traders
knew how to reach it. And when these traders returned,
their goods brought very, very high prices.
During the Crusades two great trading cities
grew up on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. These
two cities, Venice and Genoa, were unusually lucky.
They were closer to the East than most of the other
cities of Europe and their merchants were unusually
brave and clever.
Silks, satins, jewels and spices were brought
to Venice and Genoa from the East. Merchants with
well-filled money bags came to them from the West.
WHY COLUMBUS CAME TO THE VIRGIN ISLANDS 3
Soon Venice and Genoa were the two richest cities in
all Europe. Soon every other city in Europe began to
envy Venice and Genoa their location, their wealth and
their beautiful buildings.
Two Venetian merchants named Maffeo and Nicolo
Polo decided to visit the East and see for themselves
the countries where the silks, satins, jewels and
spices came from. Twice Nicolo and Maffeo Polo visited
the East. Each time they traveled as far as the far
country of China. On their first visit they went alone
but on their second visit they took with them Nicolo's
seventeen-year old son, Marco.
Marco Polo became the favorite of the ruler of
China, the great Khan. The Khan sent Marco on many im-
portant missions to many parts of his kingdom. In
this way Marco learned all sorts of interesting things
about the East.
After many years of exciting experiences in
China the three Polos asked the great Khan to let them
go back to their homes in Venice. The Khan was sorry
to lose Marco. However, he agreed to let the Polos go
if they would see that his daughter, the lovely Prin-
cess Cocachin, arrived safely in Persia where she was
to marry the Shah or Emperor.
Marco said that he and his father and his uncle
would be glad to take Cocachin to Persia. It would
give them an opportunity to learn still more about the
East. It would also give them a chance to see India,
Persia, and many other interesting countries.
Twenty-six years from the day they left
Venice, Marco Polo and his uncle and his father re-
turned to their homes. All Venice hastened to do them
honor. Maffeo was given an important government job
while crowds of young men came each day to listen to
Marco's stories about the East.
Some years later Marco decided to put these
stories in a book. A great many people read Marco's
book. Some of the readers decided that they must eat
for themselves the strange and wonderful things Marco
described. Others decided that they must see for them-
selves the strange and wonderful places that Marco had
The Crusades had taught some of the people of
4 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
the Old World how to travel and how to like new things
to eat. Marco Polo's book taught still more people to
like these things. It also made many more people want
1. Do people travel as much today as they did a thou-
sand years ago?
2. How were travelers regarded during the Middle Ages?
3. What happened as a result of the meeting at Cler-
mont in 1095?
4. Do you think the Crusades were a failure? Why or
5. What effect did the Crusades have on travel and
6. Why do you suppose Marco Polo could write so in-
terestingly about China?
7. Why is Marco's book so important?
8. What was the chief reason for the success of
Venice and Genoa?
9. Draw a time line from 900 to 1456. Divide the line
into centuries. Underline the period of the Cru-
sades in blue. Underline the period following
Marco's book in yellow. Draw dots above each peri-
od. Draw most of the dots at the time when there
were the most travelers.
10. Copy any good map showing the principal trade
routes connecting Venice and Genoa with northern
Europe and the East.
Step 2. The Old World Seeks New Ways to Reach the East.
a. The Turks close Constantinople to the
b. Prince Henry believes that men who sail
south will reach the East.
c. Christopher Columbus believes that men who
sail west will reach the East.
The wonderful good fortune of the Venetian and
Genoese merchants did not last long. In 1453 the city
of Constantinople was captured by the Turks. The Turks
belonged to the Mohammedan church. They hated all
WHY COLUMBUS CAME TO THE VIRGIN ISLANDS 5
Christians and refused to let Christian merchants do
business in Constantinople.
This was a terrible blow to the merchants of
Venice and Genoa. Most of them bought their jewels,
spices, satins and silks at Constantinople. Now,
since they could not buy at Constantinople, they had
nothing to sell at home and their profitable trade
gradually came to an end.
Meanwhile the merchants of England, France,
Spain and Portugal had been growing more and more
jealous of the merchants of Venice and Genoa. At first
they had been willing enough to buy their spices and
jewels in Italy. Later, however, when they saw how
rich this trade was making the merchants of Venice and
Genoa they began to say to each other, "Why should we
buy our Eastern goods from Venice and pay her such high
prices? Why can't we trade with the East ourselves?"
The only difficulty was that no one was quite
sure just how to reach the East
A Portuguese prince named Prince Henry the
Navigator said, "The way to reach the East is to sail
south around the coast of Africa." Each year therefore
he sent out a ship whose captain was told to sail south
and find out "how far Africa extends and what the land
The ships the prince sent out sailed farther
and farther down the African coast. But not one of
them ever reached the Cape of Good Hope. Finally, many
years after Prince Henry died, a captain by the name of
Bartholomew Diaz did reach the Cape. And some years
later another captain, Vasco da Gama, sailed past the
Cape and across .the Indian Ocean to Calicut in India,
the heart of the East.
Vasco da Gama's voyage proved to Europe that
Prince Henry was right--Western merchants could reach
the East by sailing south.
Long before Prince Henry's time, in the days
of the Greeks, there were men who believed that the
earth was round. A Greek teacher named Aristotle even
taught his pupils that a Great Sea stretched from the
Straits of Gibraltar to India.
During the Middle Ages men studied the books
Aristotle had written. They noticed what he had said
6 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
about the "Great Sea," and they wondered whether he
could be right. Later, an Italian astronomer named
Toscanelli read Aristotle's books and drew a map on
which Europe and India were separated by a "Great Sea."
During the 1400's a young Italian sailor, the
son of a Genoese wool comber, heard that Aristotle had
once said the world was round. Probably he saw the map
that Toscanelli had drawn. Later he talked with one of
Prince Henry's navigators.
Finally the young sailor said to himself, "If
the earth is round as so many men have believed it is,
and if the Atlantic Ocean stretches from India to
Europe, why then the best way to reach the East is to
And so this young Italian sailor asked the
Portuguese King to give him a ship and some sailors.
He would prove for Portugal that Aristotle was right.
But the Portuguese King was far too busy sending ships
down the coast of Africa to pay much attention to
You all know the rest of the story: How
Columbus, bitterly disappointed, crossed the mountains
which separate Portugal from Spain. How it took him
seven long years to wheedle three tiny ships and a crew
of criminals from the Spanish King and Queen. And how,
after a voyage of terrible hardships, he discovered San
Salvador on October 12, 1492.
You also remember that weeks later when Colum-
bus returned to Spain he was given a triumphal recep-
tion by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. At this
reception Columbus presented the King and the Queen
with six Indians, several live parrots, a number of
stuffed birds, some strange new plants, and a few
Indian trinkets. But unfortunately Columbus had no
silks, no jewels and no spices to offer his king and
Columbus' first voyage across the "Great Sea"
had not proved that Aristotle was right. He was sure,
however, that he could do this on a second voyage.
WHY COLUMBUS CAME TO THE VIRGIN ISLANDS 7
1. Why were the merchants of Venice and Genoa not able
to trade at Constantinople after 1453?
2. What effect did the fall of Constantinople have on
the trade of Genoa and Venice?
3. What two new ways were suggested by which men might
reach the East?
4. How did each of the following men help to find a
new way to the East: Prince Henry, Bartholomew
Diaz, Vasco da Gama?
5. What men mentioned in this step came to believe as
Aristotle had believed that the world was round?
6. What three things helped Columbus to decide that
the world was round?
7. Why didn't the Portuguese King help Columbus?
8. Outline Columbus' experiences from the time he ar-
rived at the Spanish Court to the time he returned
from his first trip across the Atlantic.
9. Was Columbus' first trip across the Atlantic a com-
plete success? Why or why not?
10. Draw a cartoon entitled, "What Columbus brought
back from the New World."
Step 3. Columbus Seeks the East Again and Finds the
a. Columbus sails from Spain a second time.
b. Columbus anchors off Salt River in Saint
c. He sees and names the Virgin Islands.
Columbus' second voyage to the New World was
very different from his first hard trip across the At-
lantic Ocean. This time he had seventeen stout ships
instead of three tiny boats. His crew was made up of
the best sailors Spain had to offer. Young men from
the finest and richest Spanish families considered it
an honor to be asked to accompany him. There were no
bad storms at sea and no mutinies on board the ships.
Almost exactly one year after the day he
sighted San Salvador Columbus again saw the New World
appear before his eyes. Only this time it was the
West Indian island of Dominica.
OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
During the next few weeks Columbus' fleet
sailed slowly up the chain of West Indian islands. As
they passed each one Columbus gave it a name. Usually
he chose religious names such as saints' names or the
names of sacred places. Finally on the 14 of November
he reached St. Croix. This is what he probably wrote
in his journal about our islands.
"On the fourteenth of November a hard wind be-
gan to blow and as we were very close to a large island
we decided to drop anchor. Almost immediately I sent
out a small boat to the island with several men. The
men had orders to fill our fresh water casks and to get
what information they could about the island and its
"The men landed at a village in which there
were only women and children. They captured a few of
the women and boys, most of whom seemed to be captives
from other islands.
"Soon our men had an excellent example of
Indian courage. Just as they were leaving the village
they saw a canoe from a distant part of the island come
around a point of land and appear in full view of the
"The Indians in the canoe were so surprised to
see our ships that they did not notice the boat from
the village with our men in it. Before they realized
it they were cut off from the land. Grabbing their
paddles they tried desperately hard to escape. When
they saw that this was impossible, they picked up
their bows and arrows and began to shoot with amazing
skill and speed.
"Our men covered themselves with their shields
but in spite of this two men were severely wounded.
Two of the Indians in the canoe were women. These
Indian women fought as fiercely as the men. One of
them shot an arrow with such force that it passed
through the shield of one of our men.
"Our men now ran their boat into the Indian
canoe and upset it. Some of the Indians swam to near-
by rocks where they continued to shoot with their bows
and arrows. Others, to our great surprise, shot off
arrows while they were swimming. They did this as
skillfully and easily as though they had both feet set
WHY COLUMBUS CAME TO THE VIRGIN ISLANDS 9
firmly on the ground.
"It was with the greatest difficulty that our
men succeeded in capturing these Indians. In the end,
however, our men were successful.
"One of the captives died soon after he had
been brought on board our ship. He had been trans-
fixed with a lance. Another of the captives seemed to
be a queen for all the rest of the Indians paid her
great deference. She was accompanied by her son, a
tall, well-built young man who had been wounded in the
"The hair of these Indians was long and coarse.
Their eyes were encircled with paint which gave them a
hideous expression. Bands of white cotton were bound
firmly above and below the muscular parts of their arms
and legs. This caused their arms and legs to swell to
an unusually large size.
"In spite of the fact that they were captives
and completely in our power, these Indians kept up a
frowning face and an air of defiance. From them, how-
ever, we learned that the name of the island was Ayay.
I decided to rename it and selected the more suitable
and Christian name of Santa Cruz.
"After this we weighed anchor and sailed north-
wards. Soon we came in sight of a great cluster of
islands, some of them very fruitful and full of trees,
others dry and rocky with high mountains of stone. Some
of the mountains looked purple while others looked most
"The islands lay close together and were sepa-
rated by narrow channels in which the sea beat furious-
ly. It therefore seemed too dangerous to approach them
with the bigger ships so I sent out the small caravels
"Some time later the caravels rejoined the big
ships and one of the captains reported to me that he
had counted forty-six islands. I decided to call the
largest of these islands St. Ursula and the rest the
Eleven Thousand Virgins."
The island which Columbus named Santa Cruz we
call St. Croix and the part of the island where his
men landed was what is now known as Salt River. Many
people believe that Columbus' St. Ursula was St. Thomas.
10 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
Still others believe it was Tortola. As a matter of
fact it doesn't really make much difference for the St.
Ursula part of the name was soon forgotten and the
group of islands came to be known to all seamen as the
Columbus' second voyage brought him no nearer
the East than his first voyage had done. However, it
did enable him to see more of the new world he had dis-
covered and especially our part of it.
Virgin Islands boys and girls should be grate-
ful to Columbus. He was the first European to see and
describe these islands. His account of them brought
other Europeans to the West Indies and later to the
Virgin Islands themselves. And of course it was Colum-
bus who gave the islands the name by which they are
known the world over today.
1. Contrast Columbus' second voyage with his first
2. What was the date of Columbus' discovery of St.
3. Describe the battle between Columbus' men and the
Caribs. Draw pictures, if you can, to illustrate
4. Describe Columbus' first meeting with the Caribs on
board his ship.
5. Why didn't Columbus sail closer to the Virgin Is-
6. Which island do you think was Columbus' St. Ursula?
(A map with contour lines such as a U.S. Coast and
Geodetic Survey map will help you answer this ques-
7. Look up the story of St. Ursula in any good en-
cyclopedia. Re-write it in your history notebook.
8. How does it happen that we call our islands the
Virgin Islands instead of St. Ursula and the
9. What two things did Columbus do for the Virgin Is-
10. Look up the meaning of each of the following words:
transfix, deference, caravel, lateen and reconnoiter.
Write the meanings in your history notebook. See
if you can also find out what Santa Cruz means in
eti~a~~-~- ~r4li~ -
THE FIRST VIRGIN ISLANDERS
Step 1. The Caribs.
a. Many families of Indians leave their homes
in South America.
b. Some of these Indians settle in the Greater
Antilles; some of them settle in the Lesser
c. The Indians who settle in the Lesser An-
tilles are called Caribs.
d. The Caribs are the first Virgin Islanders
we know anything about.
No one seems to know just where the first Vir-
gi, Islanders came from. Wise men called ethnologists
believe that the first Virgin Islanders once lived in
12 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
South America, probably near the mouth of the Orinoco
Long, long ago, these wise men say, relatives
of the first Virgin Islanders decided to leave their
South American homes. They hauled their big war canoes
up onto the shore of the Orinoco River and filled them
with all their belongings: the images of their tribal
gods, their weapons, the hammocks in which they slept,
the baskets and earthenware jars which the women needed
and the handsome ornaments they wore on special feast
days. Then they began their journey.
The journey turned out to be a long one. First
the Indians paddled bravely out onto the broad Atlantic
until they came to one of the Lesser Antilles. No
doubt they explored this island carefully. After this
they visited each one of the curving chain of islands
that stretched upwards towards North America. Finally
the Indians reached the Greater Antilles--Puerto Rico,
Hispaniola and Cuba. Here they decided to end their
journey and to build their homes.
Long years passed. Other families of Indians
living on the banks of the Orinoco decided to leave
their homes and travel northward too. Some of them
traveled as far north as the Greater Antilles. Others
were content to settle in the smaller islands of the
The Indians who settled in the large fertile
islands of the Greater Antilles became peaceful farmers
and called themselves Arawaks. The Indians who set-
tled in the Lesser Antilles came to be known as Caribs.
Because the Caribs lived on small islands which
had little good ground for planting they became wild
and fierce. They took to killing the peaceful Arawaks
and to stealing whatever they wanted from the Arawak's
gardens and storehouses.
The Carib Indians were probably the first Vir-
gin Islanders. These Caribs were a sturdy race of
people. They had high, sloping foreheads. Their eyes
were slanting and black. And they had long, shiny
black hair of which they were very proud.
The skins of the Caribs were a yellowish brown.
But it would have been hard to see this for every day
the Caribs rubbed themselves with castor oil and the
THE FIRST VIRGIN ISLANDERS 13
dust of a plant called annatto. This turned them into
a brilliant shade of red. The Caribs loved the red
color; but they also liked the annatto and castor oil
because the smell was so strong that it kept the mos-
quitoes and sand flies away.
The Carib men were very fierce. They often
made long scars on their faces. They painted the scars
black. Sometimes they painted white circles around
The Carib men wore very little clothing; but
they were very fond of ornaments. On special feast
days they wore gay head-dresses made of feathers. Some-
times they wore strings of shells and animals' teeth
around their necks.
The Carib women were smaller than the men and
very plump. They too had black hair and black eyes
and painted themselves with annatto and oil. They wore
little aprons called camissas which were made of cotton
cloth and decorated with beads. They sewed tight bands
of deer skin above their ankles and below their knees.
These bands made their legs become unusually plump--
and as the Carib women thought--unusually beautiful.
The Carib women were not pretty but they were
very good wives. They worked hard from sunrise to sun-
set. They obeyed their husbands without asking any
questions, and like the two women Columbus' men at-
tacked, they knew how to fight if they were attacked by
Carib women had to work hard because their hus-
bands were very lazy. Except for making weapons and
building huts and canoes, Carib men did very little
real work. Most of their days were spent in loafing,
drinking, sleeping or swimming. Probably because they
were so lazy, each Carib husband had several Carib
However, Carib men were not always lazy. They
could work hard when they wanted to. They were tire-
less hunters and skillful fishermen. And oftentimes
they went on long voyages to Puerto Rico where they at-
tacked and killed their sworn enemies, the peaceful
14 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
1. Trace a map of northern South America and the West
Indies. Locate on this map the Greater Antilles
and the Lesser Antilles. Locate the Caribbean Sea
and the Atlantic Ocean. Locate the Orinoco River.
Draw on this map with a blue pencil the route of
the Indians who became peaceful farmers. Draw with
a red pencil the route of the Indians who became
2. Name three islands in which the Arawaks settled.
Name three islands in which the Caribs settled.
3. Why do you suppose the Spaniards found it easier to
settle in the Greater Antilles than in the Lesser
4. Describe a Carib man. Draw his picture too if you
5. Describe a Carib woman. Draw her picture too.
6. What was a camissa? Draw a picture of one.
7. What kind of ornaments did Carib men wear?
8. What kinds of work did Carib men do?
9. Would you like to have been a Carib woman? Why or
10. Do modern Virgin Islanders have the same number of
wives as the first Virgin Islanders did?
Step 2. A Carib Village.
a. The Caribs lived in carbets and adjoupas.
b. The men loafed while the women worked.
c. Carib boys and girls received a Carib edu-
The first Virgin Islanders lived in villages.
If Columbus had taken time to explore the Virgin Is-
lands he would have found many Carib villages or camps.
St. Croix had the most. There were Carib villages at
Salt River, Fair Plain, Richmond, St. Georges Hill,
Spratt Hall, Whim, Good Hope, Green Cay and at least a
dozen other places. In St. Thomas there were Carib
villages only at Magens Bay and Water Island and per-
haps at one or two other places.
A Carib village was very different from a mod-
ern town. Carib villages had no paved streets, no
THE FIRST VIRGIN ISLANDERS 15
numbered houses of wood or stone, and no electric lights
or school houses. A Carib village was simply a clearing
in the bush in which one or two Carib families lived.
In the center of the clearing stood a building
which looked much like a large tent except that it was
thatched with palm leaves. Around this big building
was a circle of smaller buildings which looked like
little pup tents. These too were thatched with palm
The big building was the carbet or men's house.
It was usually very large, sixty feet long and twenty
feet wide. Women and children were never allowed in-
side the carbet. It was for the young boys and grown
men only. There they slept, ate their meals and held
One end of the carbet was closed in with palm
branches. The other was left wide open. Cotton ham-
mocks hung from the rafters. Carved wooden stools,
baskets, bows, arrows and clubs lay scattered about on
the dirt floor. At one end of the building there was a
sort of rude altar made of banana leaves and grasses.
On the altar sat several little images, made of clay.
A fire burned slowly in the center of the room and the
smoke leaked out where it could.
The little buildings were called adjoupas and
were for the women and children. Each adjoupa was di-
vided into two parts by a screen of palm leaves. On
one side of the screen was the bedroom where the women
and children slept. On the other side was the kitchen
where the women cooked and kept all their cooking uten-
sils--their cassava graters and presses, their
calabashes, baskets, clay pots and the cunning flat-
bottomed baskets with four sticks at the corners which
served as tables when they were turned upside down.
Back of the village in the bush were clearings
where the Carib women planted crops of cassava, yam,
maize and plantain. And in front of the village--if
it was close to the sea--was the beach where the family
canoes were pulled up safely out of reach of the waves.
The first Virgin Islanders were early risers.
As soon as the sun appeared over the edge of the clear-
ing the Carib men climbed out of their hammocks and
hurried down to the beach for a swim. After their
16 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
bath was over they came back to the village where the
women were waiting to rub them with annatto and castor
As soon as the annatto and oil were nicely
rubbed in, the women brought the men their breakfast of
crab and fish and cassava. Sometimes the men washed
this down with calabashes of a strong drink called ouy-
cou. Ouycou was made by mixing fermented cassava juice
After breakfast was over some of the Carib men
squatted silently around the fire. Others whittled
lazily at arrow heads while still others went out to
hunt or fish.
Of course the women always had plenty of work
to do. They had to wait on the men. They had to
scratch the gardens with sharp pointed sticks. Cotton
had to be spun and woven into cloth. Hammocks had to
be made out of cotton thread and rubbed with annatto,
and jars had to be fashioned out of clay. Cassava had
to be grated and pressed and made into bread. And, of
course, there were always the children to look after.
Carib fathers and mothers were very proud of
their children. As soon as a Carib baby was born, its
mother placed a piece of wood against its forehead and
another at the back of its head. Then she bound the
two pieces of wood together with a piece of deer hide.
This was done because every Carib mother wanted her
baby's forehead to be flat and sloping.
If the baby was a boy it was sprinkled with
its father's blood. And if it was the first baby boy
in the family, the father spent several days fasting.
This fasting was very dangerous. Sometimes Carib
fathers went so long without food that they became ill
Of course, Carib children didn't have to go to
school. Nevertheless there were many things they had
to learn. The boys were taught to shoot with a bow
and arrow and to fish. They had to sit quietly for
hours in the carbet while their elders taught them the
laws and legends of their family. And sometimes they
-were taken to Puerto Rico where they learned how to
Little girls were trained by their mothers.
THE FIRST VIRGIN ISLANDERS
First they were set to taking care of their baby
brothers and sisters. Then as they grew older they
learned how to cook, spin, and work in the garden.
Finally, each little girl was given a camissa and a
pair of deer skin anklets.
As soon as a Carib girl put on her camissa and
anklets, she was no longer free to run about and play.
She was a young lady and was expected to stay with her
mother quietly in the adjoupa until some young Carib
warrior asked her to be his wife. Then she would leave
her mother's adjoupa and go to one of her own.
1. Which had the larger Carib population, St. Thomas
or St. Croix?
2. Trace a map of St. Thomas and St. Croix and mark
with an X one Carib village in St. Thomas and five
in St. Croix.
3. Describe in your own words the men's house.
4. What was a Carib kitchen like?
5. What did the Caribs usually eat? What did the men
6. Make a list of things a Carib woman had to do.
7. Would you have liked to be a Carib father when his
first child was born? Why or why not?
8. Contrast your own education and the education of a
9. How did a Carib girl's training fit her to become
a good wife?
10. Draw a diagram of a Carib village.
Step 3. Carib Ways.
a. The Caribs were hospitable.
b. The Caribs liked to surprise their enemies.
c. The Caribs believed in many gods.
d. Carib graves were dug in the corners of
The Caribs were very hospitable. They were al-
ways glad to have visitors--unless of course the visi-
tors turned out to be Arawaks. And they loved to give
18 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
As soon as a visitor arrived in a Carib village,
he was led to the carbet where the head of the family
stood waiting to welcome him. As soon as the guest
entered the carbet, a hammock was slung for him. Food
and ouycou were given to him and if he were an old man
or an especially important person he was rubbed with
annatto and oil.
Carib parties were given to celebrate some im-
portant event. Whenever a Carib baby was born, when-
ever a little child was about to have his first hair-
cut, or whenever a young boy became a warrior, the
proud father always gave a party. The Caribs also gave
parties to celebrate the launching of a new canoe, the
planting of a new garden or the building of a new house.
At these parties some of the guests rubbed
their bodies with a tarry-like gum and sprinkled them-
selves with feathers. Then while one of the young men
played a flute, and the rest of the guests sang a noisy
chorus, the dancers pranced about the carbet throwing
themselves into all sorts of strange and horrible posi-
Of course, at these parties there were always
plenty of good things to eat and plenty of ouycou to
drink. And of course before the evening was over most
of the guests were drunk. However it was not con-
sidered proper for the host to drink too much. He was
supposed to stand at the door of the carbet with his
club in his hand to keep good order among his guests.
Sometimes Carib parties were really invitations
to go on an expedition to Puerto Rico. At these par-
ties there was no dancing. The guests sat in a great
circle around the fire. Food and ouycou were given to
When the guests had eaten and drunk all they
could hold, the host stood up and made a speech. He
explained where the expedition was to go and the day
when it would leave. As soon as the host had finished
speaking, the guests all nodded their heads and agreed
that his plans were very good.
On the day when the expedition was to leave,
the largest canoe in the village was made ready. The
warriors armed themselves with clubs, long bows and ar-
rows whose tips had been dipped in the poisonous Juice
THE FIRST VIRGIN ISLANDERS
of the manchineal tree. Two women were chosen to go
with the men so that their food might be properly
cooked and their bodies rubbed each day with annatto
and oil. When all was ready, the expedition set off
for Puerto Rico.
The Caribs never fought in the open. They al-
ways tried to surprise their enemy. Sometimes they hid
behind a dense clump of bushes and waited there until
a small group of Arawaks came along. As soon as the
Arawaks had passed, the Caribs would jump out of their
hiding place and attack the Arawaks from the rear.
Sometimes the Caribs waited until the middle of
the night. Then they would rush toward an Arawak vil-
lage with horrible yells, shooting arrows whose tips
were covered with flaming balls of cotton. The flam-
ing arrows set fire to the roofs of the Arawak huts.
The frightened Arawaks would rush out into the dark-
ness. Then they were easily killed by the Caribs.
The Caribs were cannibals. After each battle
they killed most of their captives and cut them up into
small pieces. Then they cooked the pieces and ate
them. If however, an Arawak had been unusually brave,
the Caribs saved one of his arms or one of his legs and
kept it as a mark of great respect.
The Caribs were very religious. They wor-
shipped many gods. They believed that there were good
spirits and bad spirits. They believed that it was a
good thing to make offerings of meat and vegetables to
both these spirits.
Every village had wooden or stone images of its
own special gods. And every village had its own spe-
cial men who acted as priests. The gods were called
Zemi and the priests were called Boil. The Boii took
care of the Zemi and on important occasions told the
people what the Zemi wanted.
The Boii were also the doctors but they didn't
know very much about healing. When a man was taken
sick, the Boii waited until it was quite dark before
they would come to visit him. Then they entered the
carbet, looked at the sick man, rubbed the part of him
that hurt and blew on it or sucked it.
If a Carib man died, his body was rubbed with
oil and annatto. A grave was dug in one corner of the
20 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
carbet for no Carib was buried without a roof over his
grave. The body was placed in the grave. Jars of food,
ouycou and the dead mants bows and arrows and club were
laid beside him. Finally a piece of matting was placed
over the grave.
However, the grave was not filled in for a long
time. No Carib ever believed that a friend or relative
had died until he had seen the body with his own eyes.
At last, after every relative had called to pay
his respects to the dead Carib, the grave was filled in
and the survivors made a circle of conch shells around
it to mark the place where their relative had been
1. How was a Carib guest made to feel at home?
2. Draw a cartoon showing the six occasions when
Caribs gave parties.
3. Contrast a Carib party with the last party you
4. Describe a Carib war party.
5. What kind of weapons did a Carib warrior use in
6. Why did women go along with the Carib men on fight-
7. Describe the Carib gods.
8. Imagine you are a Carib Boi. Tell some of the
things you would have to do.
9. Do you think the Caribs were brave fighters? Why
or why not?
10. Write an article for a newspaper describing the
death and burial of a Carib chief.
Step 4. The Last of the Caribs.
a. The Caribs leave the Virgin Islands and
b. The Caribs try to keep European colonists
from building homes in the southern islands.
c. The Caribs are given Dominica and St.
d. The Caribs are taken to Ruatan.
e. Today there are Carib reservations in
Dominica and St. Vincent.
THE FIRST VIRGIN ISLANDERS 21
The Carib village which Columbus' men found at
Salt River has disappeared. And so have all the other
Carib villages in the Virgin Islands. Once in a while
workmen digging in the fields turn up pieces of reddish
brown pottery and sometimes visitors to St. John notice
strange carvings cut into the rocks at Reef Bay. These
are all that is left to remind us that the Caribs once
lived in the Virgin Islands.
No one knows exactly when or why the Caribs
left St. Thomas and St. Croix. Perhaps the coming of
the Spaniards to Puerto Rico had something to do with
it. Perhaps the Caribs realized that the white men
with "sticks that spoke" were stronger enemies than
the fat, easy-going Arawaks. Or perhaps the Caribs
were afraid that the Spaniards might take their islands
and make slaves of them as they had done with the
Whatever the reason was, the Caribs left the
Virgin Islands sometime during the 1500's and traveled
.southward. Perhaps for a hundred years the Caribs were
masters of the southern islands. Then England and
France began to send colonists to the West Indies.
The Caribs tried to keep France and England
from building colonies in the Lesser Antilles. They
fought the French and English colonists so fiercely
that finally England and France were glad to make peace
with them by giving them the two islands of St. Vincent
In 1675 a ship loaded with Negro slaves was
wrecked on a tiny island off the coast of St. Vincent.
The St. Vincent Caribs received the shipwrecked Negroes
kindly. They gave the Negroes food and shelter and pf-
fered them a part of their island to live on.
Some of the shipwrecked Negroes married Caribs.
Gradually a new nation called Black Caribs grew up.
Soon the Black Caribs tried to steal the real Caribs'
land. There were many terrible battles. Finally the
Black Caribs conquered the real Caribs and forced them
to live on a special part of the island.
The French and Indian War which was fought so
fiercely in North America was also fought in the West
Indies. At the end of this war the French agreed to
give up almost all their possessions in North America.
22 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
They also promised to give the island of St. Vincent
Later, during the American Revolution, the
French recaptured St. Vincent. But at the end of the
war they had to give the island back to England. This
gave the Caribs a good excuse to revolt.
The English put down the revolt and punished
the Caribs severely. English soldiers gathered all the
Caribs they could lay their hands on and carried them
off to the island of Ruatan near the coast of Honduras.
A few Caribs stayed on in St. Vincent and
Dominica, but they had to promise to live quietly on
the reservations set aside for them on the east coast
of each island.
Today visitors to Dominica and St. Vincent are
taken to see these Carib reservations. Most of the
Caribs living in them are not real Caribs. They are
Black Caribs and very.different from the fierce Indians
who were once the terror of the West Indies.
Today the West Indian Caribs live quietly on
little plots of land in huts made of palm logs thatched
with palm leaves. They have their own little gardens
in which they raise crops of cassava, maize and yams.
Sometimes these modern Caribs hunt and fish.
Sometimes they make pretty closely woven baskets which
they sell to the tourists. And sometimes, perhaps,
they remember the legends handed down from father to
son of the days when their fathers' fathers ruled all
the islands of the Lesser Antilles.
1. When did the Caribs leave the Virgin Islands?
2. Why did the Caribs leave the Virgin Islands?
3. Tell the story of the Black Caribs.
4. Why were the Caribs taken to Ruatan?
5. Where do Caribs live in the Lesser Antilles today?
6. Contrast the way the Caribs live today with the
way they lived five hundred years ago.
7. Draw a map of the Lesser Antilles, the Northern
coast of South America and the coast of Central
America. Trace on it the route of the Caribs from
the time they left the Virgin Islands to the time
THE FIRST VIRGIN ISLANDERS 23
they reached. Ruatan. Mark with an X the places
where there are Carib reservations today.
8. If you were going to hunt for Carib remains in the
Virgin Islands what are some of the places where
you might find them? What might you find?
9. If you were a Carib grandfather today, what might
you tell your grandchildren?
10. Make an outline of the travels of the Caribs. Be-
gin it with their departure from Venezuela. End
it with their arrival in Ruatan.
THE OLD WORLD STRUGGLES FOR THE NEW
Step 1. Spain Makes the New World Hers.
a. Spain and Portugal divide the world between
b. Spain conquers and colonizes the New World.
c. The New World ships treasure to the Old
The Spaniards and Portuguese were never very
good friends. From the time they first sent ships out
onto the Atlantic each nation was suspicious and
jealous of the other. Each wished her merchants to be
richer than those of her neighbor. Each wished to be
more powerful. And each watched the ships of her
rival anxiously to see where they went and with whom
THE OLD WORLD STRUGGLES FOR THE NEW
Thirteen years before Columbus left for his
first voyage to the New World both nations pretended to
put an end to this bad feeling by signing a treaty.
Portugal promised to let Spain have the Canary Islands
if Spain would agree to keep away from the coast of
Africa and the Indies.
On the way home from the New World Columbus
suddenly remembered this treaty. Could Portugal possi-
bly lay claim to San Salvador as part of the Indies
mentioned in the treaty? Would the Portuguese king
forbid him to return to the islands which he had suf-
fered so many hardships to discover? All the way back
across the Atlantic Columbus worried.
It turned out to be just as Columbus feared.
When the Portuguese king heard of Columbus' return, he
sent Ferdinand and Isabella a letter saying that San
Salvador must be a part of the Indies. He also said
that Columbus had made a bad mistake which must never
be repeated. No more Spanish ships were to be sent
westward into the Great Sea.
Ferdinand and Isabella protested that Columbus'
island could not possibly be the Indies mentioned in
the treaty. The Portuguese king in another letter in-
sisted that it was. And for a time it looked as though
both countries might go to war.
Fortunately, neither country was able to fight.
Portugal was a tiny kingdom and couldn't afford an ex-
pensive war while Spain was tired out from her battles
with the Moors. Both sides, therefore, agreed to let
the Pope settle the quarrel.
In the same year that Columbus discovered the
Virgin Islands, the Pope drew a line on a map one hun-
dred leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands. East of
this line all new lands were to belong to Portugal.
West of the line all new lands were to belong to Spain.
The first struggle for the New World was ended
and Spain had won the prize.
Spain made up her mind to keep the New World
too. Gradually the Caribbean Sea became a Spanish Sea.
As each year passed new islands were discovered and
colonized. First Hispaniola--which we now call Haiti
and the Dominican Republic--then Puerto Rico and final-
ly Cuba and Jamaica. Soon all the greater Antilles
j.KITTje S ANTi U
1rONtWET ERT i
THE OLD WORLD STRUGGLES FOR THE NEW 27
were inhabited by Spaniards.
But the islands were a great disappointment.
Above everything else, the Spaniards wanted gold. And
they very soon discovered that there wasn't a grain of
gold dust in all of the islands. So expeditions were
sent out from Hispaniola and Cuba to the mainland.
In 1519 a hot-headed young Spaniard named
Hernando Cortez arrived in Mexico and sent a message to
the Mexican ruler saying, "If you have any gold, send
it to me, for I and my companions have a disease of the
heart which is cured by gold."
Montezuma sent Cortez a helmet full of gold dust
and two great pieces of gold and silver as big as wagon
wheels. But this was not enough. In order to get more
treasure, Cortez captured the city of Mexico, and took
Montezuma prisoner. Then he stripped the city of all
its wealth and over-ran the country round about it.
Other gold-hungry Spaniards pushed their way
into other parts of the inland. Some searched the up-
lands of Central America. Others traveled down the
narrow peninsular of Panama into South America.
One November afternoon in 1532 the King of Peru
was captured by a gold-greedy Spanish general named
Pizarro. This gold-greedy general said to the king,
"If you wish to leave your prison cell alive, your peo-
ple must fill it full of gold."
The Peruvian Indians hastened to fill their
king's cell with gold. But Pizarro was not satisfied.
He killed the king, took all the treasure out of the
royal treasure house and seized the royal silver mine
Thanks to these greedy generals and her wealthy
new-world colonies, Spain grew enormously rich. Each
year the Spanish colonies in North America sent mule
teams and ships laden with treasure to Panama. From
there a fleet of stately galleons carried the treasure
across the Atlantic Ocean to Spain.
This annual treasure fleet became famous all
over Europe. Soon brave captains began to whisper to
each other, "If we could only capture one ship in that
treasure fleet, how rich we should bet"
28 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
1. Were the Indies which Spain promised not to visit,
the Indies which Columbus visited?
2. Why was Columbus worried on his way back from the
3. How was the quarrel between Portugal and Spain
4. Trace a map of the West Indies, North and South
America and color all the lands the Spanish
5. Why did the Spaniards leave the islands to go to
6. Name two conquerors who won fame and fortune for
Spain on the mainland.
7. What was the annual treasure fleet?
8. Draw a map of Europe and the New World. On it lo-
cate the following: the Canary Islands, Cape Verde
Islands, Papal Line of Demarcation, the route of
the treasure fleet.
9. Why was the Caribbean Sea called the Spanish Sea?
10. Draw a moving picture called, "Spain Makes the New
Step 2. Francis Drake Sails into the Spanish Sea.
a. Francis Drake decides to stop selling slaves.
b. He captures Spanish treasure instead.
c. He gives his name to the channel between St.
John and Tortola.
d. After him other nations enter the Spanish
The first Englishmen to sail into the Spanish
Sea came to sell slaves. Of course, they weren't sup-
posed to do this. But the English merchants sold their
slaves so cheaply that Spanish estate owners were glad
to forget the law and do business with the smugglers.
On one of these expeditions an English slave
ship was attacked by a Spanish ship. After a terrible
battle the English ship succeeded in escaping--but only
after many of her crew had been killed. One of the
survivors was a blue-eyed young sailor whose name was
THE OLD WORLD STRUGGLES FOR THE NEW 29
As he looked at the dead bodies of his compan-
ions who had been killed by the Spanish, young Drake's
blue eyes blazed with anger. "If these Spanish dogs
kill men who come here as honest traders," he stormed,
"they shall see what other ways Englishmen can use."
Three years later this same young sailor per-
suaded a group of rich English merchants to lend him a
large sum of money. With this money Drake fitted up
two small ships and set sail for the Isthmus of Panama.
There wasn't a slave on board either of the ships.
Francis Drake was out for bigger booty--the annual
Drake knew he could never capture the Spanish
galleons with his two tiny ships. He decided there-
fore to try a bold and dangerous plan.
Somewhere along the coast of Panama he found a
secret harbor where he hid his two ships. From this
harbor friendly Indians guided him to a path that
joined the Atlantic to the Pacific and across which
mule teams bearing loads of treasure must surely pass.
On either side of the path grew great clumps
of tall green grass. Drake told his men to crawl into
the grass and wait there.
Several days later a Spanish mule team came
jingling down the path. Suddenly there was a wild shout.
Out of the grass sprang Drake's men waving swords and
firing muskets. The mules were so frightened that they
fell down in their tracks. The drivers took to their
heels. The whole train was at the mercy of Francis
Drake and his men.
But there wasn't a piece of silver or gold in
the entire train. The Spaniards, fearing that someone
might capture their treasure, had sent a false expedi-
tion on ahead of the real one.
Drake, however, wasn't fooled. He waited near
the path for a whole month until another mule team
came jingling down the path. This time Drake and his
men were more successful than they had ever hoped to be.
They captured so much treasure that they had to bury
some of it and leave it there until they could come
back for it.
With bags of precious gold and silver on their
backs and their pockets stuffed with jewels, Drake and
30 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
his men staggered back to their secret harbor and
hastily set sail for home.
Drake's success made him the talk of all Eng-
land. Rich merchants begged him to take their money
and organize expeditions to the New World. Drake took
their money and organized expeditions to the New World
The first time he passed through the straits
of Magellan and sailed into the Pacific. The second
time he captured the rich cities of Santo Domingo and
Carthagena. And from each of these trips he and his
sailors returned to England rich men.
The third trip, however, was a sad failure.
Just before he left England, Drake heard that a Span-
ish treasure ship had been forced into the harbor of
San Juan at Puerto Rico for repairs. He decided to
surprise the ship and seize her treasure.
But Drake's luck had turned. The Spaniards
heard that he was on his way back to the Caribbean and
hastened to protect the ship with an extra guard of
Drake was determined to try to capture the
ship anyway and in order to catch the Spaniards by sur-
prise he made up his mind to beat his way through the
treacherous passage lying between St. John and Tortola.
Drake got his boats safely through the passage
which was later given his name. But the Spaniards at
,Puerto Rico were ready for him. In fact Drake was him-
self surprised. The Spaniards defended their treasure
ship so bravely that Drake's ship was badly damaged,
and he had to sail away from Puerto Rico in a hurry.
Even there his misfortunes did not end. The
whole voyage was filled with mishaps. The Englishmen
either failed to capture the cities they attacked or
else they found very little treasure. Finally, Drake
sick at heart, became ill with malaria. He died in
the latter part of January 1596 and his body was
buried in the Caribbean.
The Spaniards had won in the struggle with
Drake. But for a short time only. Drake had proved
that ships of other nations could not only sail the
Spanish Sea but that they could get away with it. He
also proved that English crews could capture Spanish
THE OLD WORLD STRUGGLES FOR THE NEW
cities and steal Spanish treasure.
After Drake's time the Caribbean Sea stopped
being a Spanish Sea. Other ships manned by English,
Dutch or French sailors poured across the Atlantic
eager to enter the Caribbean and imitate the deeds of
brave Sir Francis Drake.
1. How many times did Drake sail into the Spanish Sea?
2. Why did the first Englishmen sail into the Carib-
3. Give two reasons why Drake planned to steal part of
the cargo of the annual treasure fleet.
4. How did he carry out his plan?
5. Why were English merchants so anxious to have Drake
take their money?
6. How did Drake use the money the English merchants
7. How did Drake happen to sail through the channel
that was later named for him?
8. Describe Drake's last voyage into the Caribbean.
9. Why was Drake's last voyage so important for other
10. Draw a map of the world. On it trace Drake's voy-
age into the Pacific and the route of his last voy-
age as far as San Juan. Locate Santo Domingo City
and Carthagena. Draw a line showing the path
Step 3. Strangers Build Homes in the New World.
a. After 1588 Spain grows weaker.
b. In 1624 Thomas Warner comes to St. Kitts.
c. From 1625-1640 hundreds of Frenchmen, Eng-
lishmen and Dutchmen come to build homes in
the West Indies.
Columbus discovered the New World for Spain
in 1492. During the next hundred years the New World
was a Spanish world. Ships from other nations might
sail into the Spanish Sea and bold sea robbers like
Francis Drake might capture New World cities. But
neither Drake nor any other captain had men enough to
OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
keep the cities they captured. And no other country in
Europe dreamed of building a colony of her own in.the
New World. Spain was far too rich and far too strong.
After 1588 things were different. In 1588
Francis Drake and England gave Spain a bad beating.
Most of the ships of the great Armada were either cap-
tured by the English or were dashed to pieces on the
rocks of the English coast. And only a very few of
the Spanish soldiers who left their homes so proudly
were able to return to them.
Thanks to this terrible defeat Spain became
weaker and poorer. She had to leave her colonies more
to themselves and she was not nearly so quick to chase
foreigners out of the Spanish Sea.
About this time too Sir Walter Raleigh brought
back from Virginia a handful of strange smelling
leaves. These leaves, he said, had been plucked from
a plant which the Indians called tobacco. Soon many
Englishmen were smoking Raleigh's strange smelling
An Englishman named Thomas Warner seeing how
popular tobacco had become said to himself, "If I
could only find some land in the New World where I
could raise tobacco, I'm sure I could make a fortune."
First, Warner and some friends went to the
Amazon valley in South America. But the Portuguese and
the Dutch didn't like having Englishmen in their valley
and made it so unpleasant for them that they made up
their minds to try their luck in the islands to the
In 1624 Thomas Warner and his friends came to
St. Kitts. There they selected some land, cleared it
and planted it to tobacco. The following year a French
ship which had been badly beaten by a Spanish galleon
took refuge in the harbor of St. Kitts. The French
captain asked if he and his men might also settle on
the island. Mr. Warner said, "Yes, indeed. There is
land enough for us all."
So the Frenchmen stayed and were given land of
their own. Soon they too were clearing land and plant-
ing it to tobacco.
St. Kitts was the first English and French
settlement in the West Indies. During the next fifteen
THE OLD WORLD STRUGGLES FOR THE NEW 33
years colonists began to settle the other islands.
Englishmen took possession of Antigua, Barbados, Mon-
serrat and Nevis while Martinique, Maria Galante and
Guadeloupe were settled by the French. Later the Eng-
lish snatched Jamaica and Trinidad from Spain.
The Dutch too began to build colonies. In 1634
they chased the Spaniards out of Curacoa. Later they
took possession of St. Eustatius and St. Martin.
The first colonists who came to the West
Indies didn't have an easy time of it. The Caribs at-
tacked them. The Spaniards tried to drive them out of
their new homes. Sand flies, malaria and yellow fever
weakened them. Sometimes hurricanes swept across the
islands laying waste the colonists' crops and destroy-
ing their houses.
Worse than all these trials, however, were the
struggles between the different European nations for
the possession of the islands. At St. Lucia the French
and English fought a bloody battle to decide who should
have the island. And at St. Croix where Frenchmen,
Dutchmen and Englishmen were living, a terrible feud
The governor of the English part of St. Croix
was killed in the house of the governor of the Dutch
part of St. Croix. Right away the two groups picked up
their guns and in the fight that followed the Dutch
governor was badly wounded. A few days later he died.
The Dutch immediately elected another governor.
The English pretending they wanted to settle the quarrel
peacefully invited the new Dutch governor to visit them
in their part of the island. The Dutch governor ac-
cepted the invitation and was thrown into prison by the
English. Later he was publicly shot. The feud came to
an end only after the Dutch and the French colonists
promised to leave the islands.
In spite of all these hardships-the attacks
from the Caribs, the hurricanes, the fevers and the
feuds--the conquest of the islands marched steadily on.
Nothing could stop men who were determined to win homes,
fame and fortune in the New World.
OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
1. Why were there no English or French colonies in the
New World before 1588?
2. Why is 1588 an important date in European and Ameri-
3. What did Sir Walter Raleigh do that made men want
to come to the New World?
4. Tell the story of Thomas Warner's search for a
place to plant tobacco.
5. Make a list of islands that were settled by the
English and a list of islands that were settled by
6. What islands did Holland seize?
7. Imagine you were a colonist in one of the islands.
Write a letter to your wife telling her of the
hardships you have experienced.
8. Tell the story of the feud in St. Croix.
9. Trace a map of the West Indies in 1660. Color the
English islands red, the French islands blue, the
Dutch islands green and the Spanish islands yellow.
10. Draw a picture of an old man with a great cloak on
his back. Show three boys trying to pull it off.
Label the old man "Spain," the cloak "Spain in the
New World" and the little boys "England, France and
Holland." What title will you give'this history
Step 4. The Old World Sends Money to the New World.
a. New World expeditions cost money.
b. Expeditions become business investments.
c. Business men organize companies to fit out
d. Government protected companies make the
Most of this unit has been about explorers who
searched for treasures of gold and silver, plunderers
who robbed ships on the high seas or hard-working men
who came to build homes in the New World. All this we
call the romance of history.
Now we are going to study something quite dif-
ferent--the business side of history.
THE OLD WORLD STRUGGLES FOR THE NEW 35
An expedition to the New World cost a great
deal of money. There had to be food for several months,
"water for many weeks, powder and shot for the whole
voyage, trinkets for trade as well as many other things.
In addition to these expenses, the owner of the ship
expected something and so did the sailors. And if the
expedition intended to build a colony in the New World,
there were still other things that had to be bought--
furniture for the new homes, tools and seeds for the
new farms and food and clothing for the farmers and
Did it ever occur to you that back of all these
ships, guns, rounds of ammunition and casks of supplies
there had to be a money bag? And did you ever stop to
wonder who owned the money bag?
If you think hard enough you will remember that
Queen Isabella supplied most of the money for Columbus'
first voyage and that rich English merchants loaned
Francis Drake the money for his first trip. Queen Isa-
bella and the English merchants got these sums of money
together for just one reason--they hoped to make more
They hoped that Columbus and Drake would be so
successful that they could bring home rich cargoes.
The merchants expected Columbus and Drake to sell the
cargoes and pay back the money they had borrowed to-
gether with a handsome rate of interest to reward them
for the risk they had taken.
At first only very wealthy men could afford to
put their money into expeditions. It took kings and
queens and merchant princes to get together money
enough for an expedition to the New World. Later, how-
ever, when men saw what rich returns these voyages
paid, some of the less wealthy merchants and business
men felt badly because they couldn't send out expedi-
tions and share in the profits.
Finally one of these merchants said to an-
other, "Why couldn't several of us who are rich or-
ganize a company? We could each put up a large sum of
money and then when the ship returns we could divide
the profits between us." Other merchants suggested,
"Yes, and if we can't get enough money of our own, we
might ask many men who are not rich to contribute small
36 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
sums of money."
These suggestions were so good that several com-
panies were organized. Each man who shared the cost of
an expedition was called a shareholder of the company
while those who put in the largest sums of money were
called overseers or directors.
Because the overseers had to put up the most
money they usually decided how the company's money was
to be spent and where the expedition was to go. Later
when the profits of each voyage were divided, all the
stockholders received sums of money called dividends.
In some countries the king would sell the right
to trade in his part of the New World to one company.
This cut down competition and increased the company's
profits. It also gave the king a chance to make some
money. Such a company, one that had the sole right to
buy and sell in a certain part of the New World, was
called a government protected company.
Holland was the first country to organize a
special government protected company for trading in the
New World--The Dutch West India Company. France came
next with her Company of St. Christopher. Later France
decided to change the name of her company and called it
the Isles of the Americas Company.
Finally, when Denmark decided it was high time
for her to join the race for colonies in the New World
she made up her mind that the first thing to do was to
organize a government protected company. This company
was the Danish West India Company.
1. What is the difference between romantic history and
2. Why was an expedition to the New World such an ex-
3. Make a list of several famous expeditions and tell
who put up the money for each.
4. What is an investment? Why was an expedition to
the New World like an investment?
5. How could merchants who did not have much money
share in the cost and the profits of an expedition
to the New World?
THE OLD WORLD STRUGGLES FOR THE NEW 37
6. Draw a picture of a large kettle. Label it the
New World Company. Draw four men walking towards
it with big bags full of money. Label them Over-
seers. Draw 10 men with small bags of money.
Label them Stockholders. Make up a title for your
7. What is the difference between an ordinary trading
company and a government protected trading company?
8. Draw two columns. In one make a list of countries.
In the other make a list of the New World companies
MAP OF CHARLOTTE AMALIE IN 1680
A NEW NATION ENTERS THE CARIBBEAN WORLD
Step 1. Denmark Prepares to Build a Colony at Last.
a. Denmark is the last European nation to
build a New World colony.
b. Christian IV asks Dutch merchants to show
Denmark how to get rich.
c. Frederick III allows Eric Schmidt to raise
tobacco in St. Thomas.
d. In 1671 Denmark organizes the Danish West
As the years passed, the race for island pos-
sessions in the West Indies grew more and more excit-
ing. By 1640 four European nations--Spain, England,
A NEW NATION ENTERS THE CARIBBEAN WORLD
France and Holland--had established colonies in the is-
lands. Thirty-one years later a new country entered
the race. This country was Denmark.
There were many reasons why Denmark was the
last European nation to send ships to the New World.
If you look at a map of Europe you can easily see one
of these reasons. Denmark is located at the entrance
to the Baltic Sea. Quite naturally she would want to
control this sea. For many years, therefore, Danish
ships and Danish money were used to help Denmark win
and keep the title of "Mistress of the Baltic."
There were other reasons why Denmark was the
last European nation to appear in the West Indies.
Denmark was a small country. She was also a poor
country and her people were always quarreling. The
nobles quarrelled with each other or with the peasants.
And sometimes there were religious wars which caused
still more trouble.
In the same year that Francis Drake helped Eng-
land defeat the Spanish Armada, Frederick II, King of
Denmark, lay dying in his castle at Antvorskov. When
he knew that he could not possibly live much longer,
he called his eleven year old son, Christian, to him.
With his own hands King Frederick placed the heavy
golden crown on the little boy's head. Then the father
made Christian promise to be a good king and rule his
Christian IV faithfully kept the promise he had
made to his dying father. As soon as he grew up he de-
cided to make Denmark a great commercial nation. He
sent out expeditions to unknown parts of the northwest--
to Greenland and Hudson's Bay. He organized a company
to trade with the East Indies. By the time King
Christian died, his country had made a fair start on
the road to commercial success.
After King Christian's death, bad luck fell
upon Denmark. Within a very few years she lost almost
all the advantages her boy king had worked so hard to
gain. A terrible quarrel broke out amongst some of
the Danish nobles. Denmark got mixed up in the re-
ligious wars that swept over Europe at the beginning of
the 1600's. Sweden beat Denmark in a war and took from
her several of her most valuable country districts.
40 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
And worst misfortune of all, Denmark lost the proud
title of "Mistress of the Baltic."
The Danish King, Frederick III, felt badly
about all this. He decided that his country must have
a change of government. His nobles were too powerful
and could make too much trouble. The peasants and the
townspeople also wanted to see the government changed,
They helped the King to punish the proud nobles-and
take away their power. After that King Frederick was
stronger and Denmark was more efficiently governed.
King Frederick allowed several private com-
panies to send out small expeditions to the West
Indies. Most of these expeditions stopped at Africa
where they took on cargoes of slaves. The slaves were
then carried across the Atlantic to the West Indian
sugar and tobacco plantations. There they were sold or
exchanged for cargoes of tobacco, ginger, dye-woods or
One of these expeditions was in charge of a man
named Eric Schmidt. Eric Schmidt, like Thomas Warner,
wanted to find an island where he could plant tobacco.
The island he finally chose was St. Thomas.
At first Herr Schmidt was successful. Twice
he sent ships loaded with valuable cargoes back to
Copenhagen. Unfortunately for St. Thomas, though, Herr
Schmidt died. His .colonists became discontented. Some
of them returned to Copenhagen while others decided
they would like to see what life in the North American
colony of New Amsterdam was like.
Even though Eric Schmidt's colony failed, it
was important. It was the first Danish colony in the
West Indies. It showed the Danish people that there
was an uninhabited island in the Caribbean that had a
good harbor. It also showed the Danes that valuable
cargoes could be obtained in the New World.
Schmidt's colonists gave up in discouragement.
Others, however, might not. The Danish government de-
cided to take a chance. In March 1671, therefore, the
Danish West India Company was organized and plans were
made to send a colony to St. Thomas.
A NEW NATION ENTERS THE CARIBBEiA WORLD 41
1. What was the first ambition of the Danish nation?
2. What were some of the difficulties at home that
prevented Denmark from entering the race for New
3. In what year did Christian IV become King?
4. How did he help Denmark to become a great commer-
5. After Christian's death what misfortunes befell
6. What change of government took place during the
reign of Frederick III?
7. How did this change of government help Denmark?
8. What was the first colony of Danes to come to St.
Thomas? Was it a success or a failure?
9. When was the Danish West India Company organized?
10. Why was Schmidt's colony important?
Step 2. A Governor is Chosen.
a. Christian V gives the Danish West India Com-
pany a charter.
b. The charter tells the Company what it may do
and what it must do.
c. The Company chooses George Iversen as the
first governor of St. Thomas.
d. George Iversen prepares to come to St.
Above the doorway to the old red Christians-
fort in St. Thomas are four big iron numbers--l-6-7-1.
For Virgin Islands boys and girls these numbers mark an
In the spring of 1671 the Danish West India
Company was organized. Several weeks later Christian V,
son of Frederick III,gave the Company a royal charter.
And all during the summer of that year preparations
were under way to send out a colony to St. Thomas.
A charter is an agreement or contract. It
lists two things: privileges and duties. In the
charter which Christian V gave to the Danish West
India Company the king wrote down certain privileges
which the Company might have. He also wrote down
42 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
certain duties which the Company was expected to per-
The charter of 1671 said that the Danish West
India Company could establish a colony at St. Thomas
and on any other nearby uninhabited island. It could
build forts and organize a small military force to pro-
tect the colonies. It could appoint judges to punish
lazy and disobedient colonists. And it could divide
all the profits it made amongst the stockholders ac-
cording to the amount of money each contributed.
In return for all these privileges the Company
had to promise to perform certain duties. It must
promise to keep good law and order in the colony and
it must agree to convert to Christianity any Indians
which the officers of the Company might find in the is-
The first thing the Company had to do, though,
was find a governor for St. Thomas. This was no easy
job. The Company wanted a man who had some money to
invest and a man who had had experience in the West
Indies. Above everything else the Company wanted a man
who was wise, brave and strong.
After several weeks of searching the Company
chose a young man named George Iversen. They thought
he was just the man they wanted.
The first governor of St. Thomas was very young
for such a responsible position. He was only thirty-
three years old. But these thirty-three years had been
packed with exciting and valuable experiences.
As a small boy George Iversen had gone to
school at Elsinore, the little Danish town where he had
been born. When he was twelve years old, he decided
that he had had enough schooling. His father, who was
a baker, thought so too and turned his son over to the
captain of a ship that was sailing to the West Indies.
It is too bad we don't know all the interest-
ing things that happened to George Iversen the first
time he came out to the West Indies. We do know,
though, that for a while he worked as a clerk for an
English merchant at St. Kitts. We know, too, that
after several years in the New World he came back to
Denmark with a Dutch merchant and organized a private
company to trade in the West Indies.
A NEW NATION ENTERS THE CARIBBEAN WORLD 43
For a while Iversen's company was quite suc-
cessful. Then Holland and England went to war. In
those days news traveled very slowly. Iversen didn't
hear about the war until his boat, which he was taking
home loaded with a valuable cargo, was captured by the
Iversen himself was able to get back to Den-
mark. There he begged the Danish King to ask England
either to give him back his boat or else grant him a
large sum of money to repay him for his loss.
The Danish government forwarded this petition
to England but the English King thought Denmark had
been too friendly with his enemy, Holland, and refused
to pay any attention to it.
This unfortunate experience ended Iversen's
days in the West Indies for a while. During the next
few years he stayed quietly in Denmark. Sometimes he
went to call on the King to tell him what life in the
West Indies was like. He also got married.
As soon as he was elected governor of St.
Thomas, Iversen set to work. He fitted out two ships--
the Gilded Crown and the Pharaoh--and sent the Gilded
Crown to St. Thomas to see whether it was still un-
inhabited. Three months later he too set sail from
1. Name two events that happened in 1671.
2. What was the name of the king who granted a charter
to the Danish West India Company?
3. What is a charter?
4. Name three privileges mentioned in the charter.
5. Name two duties mentioned in the charter.
6. Why did the Company believe George Iversen was
just the man they wanted?
7. Write a short biography of George Iversen telling
something about his boyhood and his youth.
8. What were Iversen's preparations for his trip to
9. What were the names of his two ships?
10. Draw a picture of three kings sitting on three
thrones. Label one Christian IV. Label another
44 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
Frederick III and label the last Christian V.
Write a speech for each one telling how he helped
Denmark to become a country with a New World
colony. Be sure to place a good title at the top
of the picture.
Step 3. A Governor Tries Hard to Build a Colony.
a. Governor Iversen reaches St. Thomas in May
b. The governor makes plans to build a colony.
c. Bad colonists make his job a hard one.
d. Sickness and death try hard to defeat him.
What a trip Governor Iversen had! His fellow
passengers were mostly jail birds taken from the Copen-
hagen prisons. A few days out of Copenhagen his ship
sprang a leak and Iversen had to put back to Bergen
for repairs. In Bergen several of the convicts escaped
and the young governor had to get some more from the
Bergen jails. Finally, when the Pharaoh reached the
warm waters of the Caribbean, many of the convict-
passengers became ill. And before the Pharaoh reached
St. Thomas, eighty-six of them had either died or
Three months from the day they left Bergen the
Pharaoh sailed into the harbor of St. Thomas. No one
seemed to be living on the island. Only a great store-
house whose roof had been burned off showed the Danes
that settlers had once lived there.
Governor Iversen was pleased with the appear-
ance of the island. It seemed quite large enough for
a colony. So he and his convict-colonists landed and
raised the Danish flag.
Did you ever wonder how St. Thomas must have
looked to Governor Iversen on that May morning in 1672
when the Pharaoh dropped anchor in the harbor?
Close your eyes and perhaps you can see the
island just as Governor Iversen saw it. The island
lies low and hilly at the head of the harbor. It is
greyish green in the early morning light. Here and
there the tangle of trees and bushes is broken by
cleared spaces. These clearings were made by earlier
*:lonists. The clearings and the paths connecting them
A NEW NATION ENTERS THE CARIBBEAN WORLD 45
are beginning to go back to bush. Not far from the
water's edge stands the only building in sight--a roof-
less storehouse black with the stains of a recent fire.
As Governor Iversen sees all this he begins to
make plans. Everything must be changed. He must set
surveyors to work. The island must be divided up into
estates. The paths must be enlarged into roads. The
cleared spaces must be grubbed out and planted. Above
everything else he must set the men to building a good
In order to accomplish all these things Gover-
nor Iversen needed the loyal support of unselfish,
hard-working colonists. Unfortunately he didn't get
The colonists whom the Danish West India Com-
pany sent out to St. Thomas turned out to be a bad lot.
Most of them, you remember, had been taken from the
prisons of Copenhagen and Bergen. They either couldn't
work or wouldn't work. The Governor was so disgusted
that he called them "lazy louts."
Soon after the arrival of the Pharaoh, colo-
nists from the other islands began to drift into St.
Thomas. Some of them were thrifty, hardworking Dutch-
men who had probably lived on the island before. The
rest however, were men of many nationalities. These
men were little better than the Danish jail-birds and
did nothing but make trouble for the good governor.
Even the ministers gave Governor Iversen
trouble. The first minister died on the way out to St.
Thomas. The second died as he was moving into his
house. The third minister quarreled again and again
with the governor. He called the governor a tyrant
and refused to preach in Danish. He got drunk so often
that he became a public scandal. Finally he had to
leave the island.
Sickness and death tried hard to defeat Gover-
nor Iversen. Seventy-five of the colonists who ar-
rived on the Pharaoh died soon after they landed.
Fifty-three out of the sixty-seven on the next ship
died. And of the fifty-eight passengers who sailed
into the harbor on the Merman in the spring of 1675,
only twenty-four lived to work on their estates.
It got to be so that people were afraid to
46 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
come out to St. Thomas. They preferred to remain in
prison in Denmark.
1. Imagine you are Governor Iversen. Write a letter
to the Danish West India Company giving them a full
report of your voyage to St. Thomas.
2. How could Governor Iversen tell that St. Thomas had
recently been inhabited?
3. Why is May 1672 an important date in Virgin Islands
4. What do you imagine Governor Iversen saw when he
reached St. Thomas?
5. Make a list of the things Governor Iversen planned
6. Which of these things do you think was the most im-
7. Which colonists were the best? Why?
8. Which were the worst?
9. What were some of the difficulties Governor Iversen
had to meet?
10. Why did Danish people prefer to remain in jail
rather than come to St. Thomas?
Step 4. Governor Iversen Succeeds at Last.
a. Governor Iversen's colonists begin to plant
b. Governor Iversen protects his colonists from
c. Governor Iversen decides to resign as gover-
d. George Iversen turns over a well-established
colony to Nicholas Esmit.
Governor Iversen refused to be discouraged. He
sent men over to the nearby island of Tortola to get
sugar-cane shoots to plant on the estates. He started
work on a fort and he ordered all the men to come to
the fort every Saturday to drill.
The men hated these weekly drills--but they
were afraid of the fiery governor. And they didn't
like to pay the heavy fines of tobacco he levied on
A NEW NATION ENTERS THE CARIBBEAN WORLD 47
them each time they were disobedient.
It was a good thing for the colonists, though,
that they had a strong governor. Some of the other
European colonies in the West Indies didn't like hav-
ing a new neighbor.
The English governor of the Leeward Islands
sent a letter to Governor Iversen saying that the Danes
had no right to the Virgin Islands. And the Governor
of Puerto Rico insisted over and over again that St.
Thomas belonged to Spain. None of these protests,
though, came to anything.
At first the French in St. Croix were friendly.
The ships of the Danish West India Company brought out
more food, clothing and tools than the colonists at St.
Thomas could use. The first St. Thomian planters
couldn't raise enough sugar and tobacco to fill the
holds of the Company ships when they went back to Copen-
hagen. So Governor Iversen decided to exchange the
extra supplies of Company food, clothing and tools for
Crucian sugar and tobacco.
Soon a brisk trade began to spring up between
the two islands. This lasted until September 1675 when
Denmark joined the Dutch in a war against France.
The first thing the French did was to seize the
Danish West India Company's yacht while it was anchored
off Frederiksted. Later, in 1678, they made prepara-
tions to attack St. Thomas.
When the French arrived in St. Thomas, they
couldn't see anyone anywhere, Governor Iversen had
ordered all his colonists to move into the fort. Never-
theless the leader of the French landed and ordered
Governor Iversen to surrender or come out and fight.
But the governor refused to come out and fight and he
refused to surrender.
And so because the French didn't have guns big
enough to knock down the walls of Christiansfort and
because they didn't have food enough to lay siege to
the fort, they decided to go back to St. Croix. But
before they left, they captured several slaves and a
number of free Negroes which they took back with them
to St. Croix.
The French never came back to attack St. Thomas
again. But Governor Iversen was never quite sure. He
48 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
knew that if the French did come back with big guns and
many men he would have a hard time defending his island.
Therefore he urged his colonists to help him finish the
fort as soon as possible. He even ordered them to
leave their country estates and live in town.
The constant fear of attack by the French wor-
ried the governor. Some of the discontented colonists
began to make trouble. Mrs. Iversen died. The gover-
nor's health grew weaker and weaker.
All these things sharpened the governor's tem-
per and made him more severe. Early in 1678 he asked
the Company to accept his resignation. The Company
begged him to stay on but he refused. Finally the di-
rectors accepted his resignation and in the spring of
1680 sent out a new governor, Nicholas Esmit.
The new governor arrived on the 4th of July.
Governor Iversen received him with great pomp and cere-
mony. He proudly pointed out to him all the things
that had been accomplished while he had been governor:
the two forts, the wide road running through the island,
the forty-six estates which had been cleared and plant-
ed by the colonists and the two large estates which
were owned by the Company.
The old governor turned over his responsibili-
ties to the new governor with a sigh of relief. Very
probably he said to himself, "I have given this little
colony a good start. Now I can go back to Denmark."
1. Where did the colonists get their first sugar-cane
2. What steps did the governor take to protect the is-
land from enemies?
3. How were fines paid in the days of Governor Iver-
4. What neighbors resented the arrival of the Danes
in St. Thomas?
5. Why were the French in St. Croix friendly at first?
6. Describe Governor Iversen's defense of the-island.
7. Do you think the Governor's plan a good one or not?
A NEW NATION ENTERS THE CARIBBEAN WORLD 49
8. Why did Governor Iversen ask to be relieved of his
9. Who was sent over to relieve him?
10. Make a list of the things Governor Iversen ac-
,- -= -
~- -z-~- A#~
A COLONY TRIES HARD TO GROW
Step 1. Bad Governors Make Bad Colonists.
a. The Esmit brothers make friends with
b. Gabriel Milan refuses to obey the Company.
c. The Company rents out the island twice.
d. Neither the Brandenburgers nor Thormohlen
are able to make money in St. Thomas.
For a time the governors who came after George
Iversen were a bold bad lot.
Nicholas Esmit couldn't make the colonists be-
have and couldn't keep himself out of trouble. Pirate
ships sailed right into the harbor and the governor al-
lowed them to buy fresh water and food. He also allowed
A COLONY TRIES HARD TO GROW 51
them to sell stolen goods in St. Thomas. Sometimes he
even bought some of their stolen goods himself. And
everyone knows how wrong it is to buy or sell goods
that have been stolen.
From doing business with thieves, it was very
easy for Nicholas Esmit to turn thief himself. When a
peaceful English trading ship, the Prosperous, dropped
anchor in the harbor, Esmit arrested the captain and
the first mate, hanged them both and then took posses-
sion of the ship and its cargo.
The next governor, Adolph Esmit, brother of
Nicholas, was no better. He chased his brother out of
the island and seized the office of governor. Then he
sold the Prosperous and its cargo and put the money
into his own pocket. He allowed run-away slaves,
debtors and all sorts of bad people to stay in St.
Thomas. He also let pirate ships anchor in the harbor,
and like his brother Nicholas, he bought and sold
After a while things got so bad in St. Thomas
that the Danish King decided something must be done.
On May 7, 1684 he issued an order saying that Adolph
Esmit was no longer to be governor of St. Thomas. The
order also said that the office of governor was to go
to a Jew named Gabriel Milan. The King was so sure
that Milan would be a good governor that he paid Milan
part of his salary before he left Denmark. He also
sent Milan out to St. Thomas on a royal warship.
But Gabriel Milan turned out to be a bad gover-
nor. He was greedy; he was cruel; and he was dis-
obedient. Instead of obeying the Company's orders and
shipping Adolph Esmit and his wife back to Copenhagen
for trial, Governor Milan clapped them both into one
of the cells of the fort. In this way he hoped to
make the Esmits tell him where they had hidden all
their gold and silver. Governor Milan also loved to
invent horrible punishments for little crimes.
The planters hated Governor Milan. They hated
him so that some of them tried to kill him. The Com-
pany hearing about all this sent a commissioner out to
St. Thomas. The commissioner seized both Milan and
the Esmits, carried them out to his ship and brought
them back to Copenhagen. There Milan and the Esmits
52 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
were tried. Milan was found guilty and sentenced to
lose property, honor and life. But the Esmits, strange
to say, were declared "not guilty."
The Company even agreed to give Adolph Esmit
another chance to be governor of St. Thomas. But the
colonists wouldn't hear of any such thing. Rather than
have Adolph Esmit as governor again they all threatened
to leave the island. So Esmit was set aside and a
quiet, hard-working man named Christopher Heins was
All this time the King and the directors and
stockholders of the Company had begun to think the
Company was a complete financial failure. Not one cent
of dividends had been paid to the stockholders. As a
matter of fact the stockholders and directors had had
to pay money into the Company's treasury to keep the
To make up these losses the directors decided
to rent part of the island to a group of German mer-
chants called the Brandenburg Company. The Branden-
burgers hoped to make a lot of money in St. Thomas by
selling slaves and trading with the pirates. The Dan-
ish West India Company thought it would make a lot of
money taxing the Brandenburgers. However, neither the
Brandenburgers nor the Company succeeded in making
The Brandenburgers refused to pay taxes to the
Company and the Company refused to let the Branden-
burgers trade with the pirates. Things got to such a
state that the representative of the Company and his
council marched over to the Brandenburgers' warehouse,
broke open the door and took away a lot of their sugar
and cotton. The Brandenburgers complained to the di-
rectors of the Company and when the Company paid no
attention to their complaints they decided to leave the
Meanwhile the Company, hoping to be rid of its
troublesome colony,rented the entire island to a clever
Danish merchant named George Thormohlen. But this
merchant was no cleverer and no luckier than the
Brandenburgers. He couldn't get along with the Com-
pany in Denmark and he couldn't make any money in St.
Thomas. Finally he refused to pay his rent, and the
A COLONY TRIES HARD TO GROW 53
Company had to take the island back again.
Nobody seemed to be able to make money in St.
Thomas. The directors became discouraged. They win'.ed
they could find another Governor Iversen.
1. How many governors of St. Thomas were bold and bad?
2. Make a list of the misdeeds of the two Esmits.
3. Was Gabriel Milan as good a governor as the King
4. Where is Brandenburg? If you do not know, look it
up on a map of Europe.
5. How do you know that the colonists did not like
either Gabriel Milan or Adolph Esmit?
6. Draw a picture of two men quarreling. One is a
Brandenburger. The other is the Danish West India
Company's factor. Underneath the picture write a
little story or a dialogue telling why the two men
7. Was Thormohlen able to make money in St. Thomas?
8. Draw a picture of Gabriel Milan sailing away from
9. Draw a moving picture of the governors we have
studied in this step. In a little square under
each picture write a sentence telling the most im-
portant thing you know about the man when he was
10. Imagine yourself a stockholder in the Company.
Write a letter to a friend telling him how you
feel about the Company's colony in St. Thomas.
Step 2. A Good Governor Comes to the Island.
a. John Lorentz is given the title of Vice
Commandant of St. Thomas.
b. The colonists learn to respect and obey
c. During his time as governor the colony
prospers and the Company pays its debts.
d. John Lorentz dies on June 10, 1702.
Just as the directors were feeling their blu-
est someone suggested that right in Copenhagen there
54 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
was a young man who perhaps might be as good a governor
as George Iversen had been. This young man had already
served as acting-governor of St. Thomas. Perhaps he
would be willing to go back to the island as governor.
The directors sent for the young man and had a
long talk with him. He turned out to be such a like-
able, capable chap that they elected him governor right
away. They gave him the fine sounding title of "vice
commandant in our land St. Thomas." They also gave him
full power to do "whatever he finds needful for the
Company's best interest." In other words young Lorentz
was not only to be vice commandant of St. Thomas but he
was also to be the real boss of the island.
The young man who had been given such unusual
powers by the Company was a native of Flensborg.
Flensborg is a town which is now in Germany. In John
Lorentz' time it was a part of Denmark.
John Lorentz had first come to St. Thomas with
Governor Milan as clerk in the Company's office. Dur-
ing Milan's administration Lorentz had done everything
Milan told him to do. Then when Milan was brought back
to Copenhagen, Lorentz went along too.
At Milan's trial Lorentz was asked a great many
questions about Governor Milan. Lorentz' answers to
these questions helped to influence the court to hand
down a verdict of "guilty."
After the trial was over Lorentz returned to
his old job in St. Thomas. Later he was promoted to
the position of Company bookkeeper. And still later,
when Christopher Heins died, six representatives of the
planters elected Lorentz acting governor.
Some months after he became acting governor,
Lorentz persuaded the widow of the former governor to
become his wife. This pleased everyone. Everyone
liked Mrs. Heins. Everyone liked John Lorentz. And
everyone liked the prospect of a wedding feast that
would last for two days.
As soon as De Lavigne, Thormohlen's representa-
tive in St. Thomas, arrived, Mr. and Mrs. Lorentz re-
turned to Copenhagen. There Lorentz waited patiently
until something should turn up. This something proved
to be Thormohlen's refusal to pay rent to the Company
and the Company's taking over the island again.
A COLONY TRIES HARD TO GROW 55
Governor Lorentz took over the government of
St. Thomas on the 23 of November 1694. From the begin-
ning, the colonists realized that at last they had a
governor who must be respected and obeyed. Soon after
Lorentz' arrival, several Dutch planters asked for his
permission to go back to the island of Saba. Governor
Lorentz knew that what they really wanted was to get
out of paying their taxes. So he refused to let them
go. Only a very few of these Dutchmen succeeded in
Early in the summer of 1696, during the war be-
tween Spain and France, the Spaniards decided to at-
tack St. Thomas. As soon as Governor Lorentz heard of
this he began to make plans to protect his colonists.
He sent as many of the slaves out of the island as he
could. He shipped his wife and household goods to
Curacoa and told the planters to do the same thing. He
also wrote the Directors asking them to remind the
Spanish King that Denmark was a neutral country and
that it would not be fair to attack her colony.
Fortunately for everyone, the Spanish navy was
beaten by the French and never reached St. Thomas.
Nevertheless the coolness and courage of the young
governor in this emergency greatly increased the colo-
nists' respect for him.
Pirates too learned to respect Governor
Lorentz. Captain Kidd asked for permission to sell
his stolen goods in the harbor of St. Thomas. Governor
Lorentz said "Non so emphatically that Kidd had to sail
out of the harbor with his ship as heavily laden as it
had been when he sailed in. Other pirates also tried
to do business in St. Thomas. But they were either
thrown into prison or else had their goods taken away
On June 10, 1702 Governor Lorentz died. He had
been in office for only eight years. Yet during this
time many wonderful changes had taken place in the is-
land. More estates had been taken up. More sugar
mills had been built. The governors of the nearby
colonies had come to respect the Danish colony and the
rights of its planters. The pirates had learned that
the harbor of St. Thomas was no place for them.
Best of all, though, was the money change.
56 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
Governor Lorentz had found St. Thomas poor and strug-
gling and the Danish West India Company in debt. At
his death the colony was beginning to be really pros-
perous and the Company, for the first time in its life,
had money in the treasury.
1. What title and powers did the Company give John
2. What experiences in his early life fitted Lorentz
to be governor?
3. Did marrying Mrs. Heins make Lorentz' work as
governor easier? Why or why not?
4. Why didn't Lorentz let the Dutch planters go back
5. How did Lorentz plan to protect his colonists dur-
ing the war between Spain and France?
6. Look up Captain Kidd in any book about pirates.
Write a story about him in your notebook. Copy a
picture of him too.
7. Did Lorentz treat pirates the way the Esmits did?
8. Make a list of the changes that took place in the
island during Lorentz' term as governor.
9. Contrast the condition of the Company before and
after Lorentz was made governor.
10. Draw a picture of Lorentz answering questions at
Milan's trial. Write down some of the questions
he might have been asked and the answers he might
Step 3. Africa Comes to St. Thomas.
a. Governor Lorentz plans to open a slave
market in St. Thomas.
b. Slaves are bought in Africa and sold in
c. Thanks to this slave trade the Company and
St. Thomas become rich.
Governor Lorentz changed St. Thomas' poverty
into prosperity by opening a slave market. He knew
that European workmen could never work well in St.
Thomas. Men who had been born in cold countries could
A COLONY TRIES HARD TO GROW 57
not stand the heat of the sub-tropical sun. So he wrote
the directors of the Danish West India Company telling
them that "all trade is as nothing compared with the
slave trade." The directors agreed with him and sent a
slave ship out to Africa.
More than half the Negroes bought by the cap-
tain of this ship never reached St. Thomas. But those
who did live through the terrible voyage across the At-
lantic sold for exactly three times the price the cap-
tain had paid for them.
The directors were delighted. At last they had
struck a gold mine. They decided to send more ships to
bring more slaves from Africa.
This is how Negroes were bought and sold during
the boom days of slavery in the island of St. Thomas.
The Company built a fort on the African coast
and put a factor or agent in charge of it. The factor
bargained with some of the native chiefs to sell him a
certain number of men and women. Sometimes these men
and women were prisoners of war. Sometimes they were
members of the chief's own tribe.
As soon as the Company's ship arrived at the
fort, the ship's doctor examined the slaves the factor
had bought. Only healthy slaves were accepted. The
Negroes which the doctor accepted were branded on the
right shoulder with the Company's seal. Then they were
carried out to the ship and stowed away.
The voyage to St. Thomas was a terrible one--
even under the kindest of captains. Sometimes as many
as seven or eight hundred slaves were crowded into the
hold of one ship.
The slaves were usually chained together in
pairs. Sometimes they were packed in so tightly that
they couldn't even stand up.
Each day the slaves were fed some pork, beans
and barley. But as each Negro was allowed only half a
pound of beans each week the meals served on board the
ship couldn't have been very nourishing.
Once in a while the slaves were given some
tobacco or a little brandy. And sometimes if the
weather was good and they had behaved very well they
were brought up on deck a few at a time and allowed to
take a little exercise.
58 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
As soon as the word got around St. Thomas that
a slave ship was sighted, the planters hurried down to
the wharf in order to be on hand when the sale should
start. Some of the planters were so anxious to get the
best slaves that they rented bumboats and boarded the
ship before it had time to set its cargo on the wharf.
After the slaves had been landed on the wharf
the sale, or auction, began. Each slave was supposed
to go to the man who offered the highest price for him.
Sometimes, however, the planters fought over the best
slaves pulling them this way and that. Since the
Negroes couldn't understand a word of English, Danish
or Dutch they had no idea of what was going to happen
to them. Many Negroes who had lived through the hor-
rors of the long trip across the Atlantic died of
fright during the auction.
When the entire ship's cargo had been sold, the
Captain sent in a report of his sales to the Company.
Here is a part of the report of one of the captains,
Date Number of slaves Price Total
July 10 2 1/2 boys at 50 rix- 100 rix-
2 2/3 90 180 "
24 men 100 2400 "
3 women 100 300 "
Since each slave was supposed to be worth one
hundred rixdollars boys who were valued at one-half the
price or two-thirds the price of a grown man were put
down as 1/2 or 2/3 boys.
At the end of his report Captain Dinieson add-
ed up the number of Negroes he had sold and the price
he had received for each lot. He found that he had
sold a total of 187 Negroes and had received a total
of 14,443 rixdollars. Since the slaves had cost the
Company 11,959 rixdollars the Company had made a tidy
little profit of 2,484 rixdollars.
Sometimes, of course, private ships brought
slaves into St. Thomas. But it really made very little
difference. The Company always managed to make money.
A COLONY TRIES HARD TO GROW 59
If the slave ship was owned by a private merchant, the
Company either bought the slaves from him and resold
them or charged him a tax of so many Negroes for the
privilege of landing his cargo on the Company wharf.
Since planters in the nearby islands as well
as those in St. Thomas needed slaves, the slave market
at St. Thomas did a rushing business. And if every
slave ship that discharged its cargo on the Company's
wharf paid such a profit as Captain Dinieson's it was
no wonder that the Company not only paid its debts but
actually began to pay dividends.
1. Give two reasons why Governor Lorentz decided that
slaves would fetch good prices in St. Thomas.
2. What is a factor?
3. Describe the way Negroes were obtained by the fac-
4. If a Company slave escaped, how could he be identi-
5. Why was the trip across the Atlantic terrible for
6. Why did Negroes sometimes die during the auction?
7. Imagine yourself the captain of a slave ship.
Write a report of your voyage. Tell how you got
your slaves, how you treated them on board ship
and how much you sold them for.
8. Was the slave trade a profitable business? Why or
9. How did the Company make money when a private mer-
chant brought a slave ship into the harbor?
10. If a rixdollar was worth fifty cents what would
Captain Dinieson's cargo of slaves have been worth
in our money? What would the Company's profit
have been in our money?
HOW ST. THOMAS PEOPLE LIVED TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO
Step 1. The Village of Charlotte Amalie.
a. The population of the village increases.
b. Three forts are built.
c. The Company does business in a Factory.
d. The governor, the minister and the factor
are the chief men of the village.
e. Skilled workmen set up their shops in the
f. Prosperity comes and stays fifteen years.
In spite of all the bad luck, the poor gover-
nors, the unfriendly neighbors and the tropical storms,
the little colony of St. Thomas grew.
On the colony's first birthday there were
HOW ST. THOMAS PEOPLE LIVED TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO 61
barely two hundred people living in the island. Seven
years later Governor Iversen proudly reported to the
directors that three hundred and forty men and women
were living and working in St. Thomas. By 1725 the
population had jumped to four thousand, four hundred
Even in those days the island was divided into
two parts: the village and the country. The village
was called Charlotte Amalie after the Danish Queen who
was ruling when Governor Iversen took possession of the
Here is a picture of the village of Charlotte
Amalie just as it looked in those early times more than
two hundred years ago.
In some ways Charlotte Amalie looked very much
then as it does today. There was the same fine harbor
with its curving shore, its sharp rocks and its sandy
beaches. There were the same hills at the harbor's
head. And there were three buildings that are still
standing today: Frederiksfort, which we call Blue-
beard's Castle, Skytsborg, which we know as Black-
beard's Tower and Christiansfort.
When Eric Schmidt took possession of St. Thomas
in 1666, he started to build a fort on the top of the
hill northeast of the harbor. But Eric Schmidt died,
his colonists left the island and his tower never got
beyond the foundations.
Six years later Governor Iversen ordered his
men to finish Schmidt's tower and by the time Iversen
left St. Thomas the hill was cleared of brush and trees
and Frederiksfort was practically finished.
One of Iversen's colonists was a man named Carl
Baggart. This fellow was a trouble maker. He built a
tower on the hill overlooking Christiansfort. This
made the governor very angry for, said the governor,
"Everyone who comes to see Carl Baggart can completely
overlook Christiansfort." Later on, however, the Com-
pany took over Baggart's tower and turned it into a
Both Fredericksfort and Skytsborg had rooms for
ammunition and several small rooms for men. Each tower
was hard to enter. Several feet above the ground there
was a large opening. A ladder led up to this doorway.
62 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
After all the men had crawled inside, the ladder was
pulled up and the door was closed and fastened with a
Skytsborg, as Baggart's tower came to be called,
was used only in time of danger. Whenever an alarm was
sounded eight men and an officer hurried to take their
places in the tower. At Frederiksfort, however, there
was always a guard of six soldiers and an officer on
duty. When the island was threatened with an attack by
pirates or Spaniards or Frenchmen, the number of men in
Frederiksfort was increased to thirty.
With Frederiksfort and Christiansfort to guard
the village and Skytsborg to serve as a lookout Gover-
nor Iversen felt that his little colony was well pro-
tected. Once he even boasted that he would not be
afraid to defend the island from an attack by one thou-
Most of the village of Charlotte Amalie was
close to the water's edge. It consisted of one main
street which followed the curve of the shore and sev-
eral little side streets that branched out from it. At
one end of the main street stood Christiansfort. At
the other end was the factory of the Danish West India
Christiansfort looked very different in those
days. It was smaller and the sea came up quite close
to it. Inside, at one end of the courtyard, was a
tower. Around the outside was a great bed of tall
cactus plants. This bed was six feet wide and seven
feet high. Anyone who tried to sneak in or out of the
fort except by the two regular gateways would have had
a hard time getting through that sharp hedge.
The factory, which was at the other end of the
main street, was the business headquarters of the Dan-
ish West India Company. It was a large building with
offices for the factor, bookkeeper, secretary and
clerk. There were also great storerooms where the
planters brought their tobacco and sugar and received
in exchange salt meat, cheese, butter, tools and cloth-
ing. In another part of the factory were the cells
where the slaves which the Company sold were kept.
Money in those days was very scarce. Every-
thing was priced in tobacco or sugar. A planter who
HOW ST. THOMAS PEOPLE LIVED TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO 63
bought a pound of cheese would pay the Company's clerk
four pounds of sugar. If the planter needed a new pair
of shoes he had to give the clerk sixty pounds of sugar.
Later when foreign ships came in to trade, they
brought in strange looking gold and silver coins. Some
of these coins occasionally found their way into the
pockets of the planters.
All along the main street in between the fort
and the factory were scattered the houses of the vil-
lagers--low, neat little cottages made of brick. In-
side these cottages were surprisingly cool with tile
floors and roofs and clean white-washed walls.
The people who lived in the houses were of many
nationalities. Most of them were Dutch. There were
also a number of Danes and Englishmen and a handful of
Germans and Spaniards. Back of the factory were two
small streets. On both sides of these streets were
houses in which many families of French refugees lived.
The most important people in the village were
the governor, the factor, and the Lutheran minister.
Each of these men represented the authority of the
Danish West India Company. The governor was the Com-
pany's political representative. He was expected to
keep law and order and to see that the colony was re-
spected by the governors of the nearby islands.
The factor was the Company's chief business
representative. He attended to all the buying and
selling that went on in the factory and on the wharf.
The minister was responsible for the souls of
all the colonists. At first he lived in the fort with
the governor and had to have a pass to go in and come
out. Later he was given a house of his own in the vil-
lage. Every Sunday he required each colonist to come
to one of the services which he held in the fort.
The rest of the villagers earned their living
in a number of ways. In 1688 when the first count was
taken there were two tailors, one seamstress, one shoe-
maker, two carpenters, a blacksmith, a cotton-ginner,
a schoolmaster and an innkeeper.
As more people came to the island, the number
of workers in each occupation grew and more occupations
were added. By 1710 there were several shopkeepers in
the village and a doctor who also acted as a barber.
64 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
The years when Governor Iversen was in charge
of the island were hard years for the Company and the
colony. A great many of the colonists who came out
from Denmark became sick and died. The sugar and to-
bacco which were raised in St. Thomas were so worth-
less that the Company had a hard time selling them.
The sugar was black and syrupy and the tobacco smelled
As time passed the colonists from Europe got
used to the hot tropical weather. They learned how to
cure their tobacco properly and discovered ways of im-
proving the color and quality of their sugar. By 1700,
therefore, a period of real prosperity began for the
little colony. This prosperity lasted for fifteen
years. During this time many boatloads of slaves were
landed at the Company's wharf and many, many hogsheads
of tobacco and sugar passed through the doors of the
Meanwhile Charlotte Amalie had changed from
three unfinished forts and a cluster of mean-looking
little wooden houses to a busy harbor town.
At last the dream of the Danish West India Com-
pany was actually coming to pass!
1. What was the population of St. Thomas in 1673?
In 1680? In 1725?
2. Write a short story about Frederiksfort.
3. What was Skytsborg? Who built it and why?
4. Describe the means Governor Iversen took to pro-
tect the town of Charlotte Amalie from attack.
5. Who were the chief citizens of Charlotte Amalie in
6. What were the chief nationalities of the people who
lived in St. Thomas in the early 1700's?
7. Draw a picture of Charlotte Amalie as it must have
looked in 1707.
8. What were the chief occupations of the villagers in
9. During the first years of Charlotte Amalie how were
goods mostly bought and sold?
10. When was the first boom period in St. Thomas?
HOW ST. THOMAS PEOPLE LIVED TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO 65
Step 2. Life on a St. Thomas Estate.
a. The country is the most important part of
b. It costs nothing to take up an estate in St.
c. The chief products grown on St. Thomas are
cotton, sugar and tobacco.
d. The slaves work long hours and bring great
wealth to the island.
The directors of the Danish West India Company
were proud of the little village of Charlotte Amalie.
The three forts, the growth of the population, and the
annual reports telling how much business had been done
at the factory and at the Company wharf--all these
things interested the directors very much. At the
same time the directors told each other that the es-
tates were the real source of their wealth.
This is how the directors thought it all out.
"Estates grow cotton, sugar cane and tobacco. These
the Company sells to buyers in Denmark or in England.
Estates need slaves which the Company can sell to the
planters. Therefore if there were no estates there
would be no buying or selling and the Company would
make no money." So the directors said to each new
governor of St. Thomas, "Be sure you survey and settle
At first it was very easy for a man to take up
an estate in St. Thomas. All he had to do was to ap-
ply to the governor. The governor would probably ask
the man how much land he wanted. Then a deed would be
drawn up telling the man just where his estate was.
The governor would sign the deed and from that time
the estate belonged to the planter.
All a planter had to do each year to keep his
estate was to pay a quit rent. This quit rent was a
turkey or a chicken so no one objected to paying it,
especially as once each year all the quit rents were
baked or boiled and turned into a grand feast for the
At first the planters raised tobacco, sugar
cane, cotton and provisions for the slaves such as
maize and sweet potatoes. Later on each slave was
66 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
given a bit of land and told to raise his own food.
The planters' land was then planted to sugar cane or
Of all the estates the biggest and busiest
were the sugar estates. This was especially true dur-
ing the spring harvesting season. Out in the fields
gangs of Negroes cut the cane with sharp knives called
kapmessers. As the cane was cut it was loaded onto
mules by other men. Little boys led the mules across
the fields to the windmill.
In the mill things happened fast and furiously.
Two men called "rollers" fed the cane stalks in be-
tween two wooden cylinders. Others caught the crushed
cane stalks and carried them out of the mill. Near the
rollers there was always an ax. It was only used if
some poor slave's arm got caught between the two wooden
cylinders. When this happened, one of the other work-
men would hurriedly chop it off, since the master's
motto was, "Three quarters of a slave is better than no
slave at all."
As the cane passed through the rollers, the
juice was crushed out and collected in large iron pots.
Then it was dumped into a whole series of kettles and
boiled first in one and then another. As fast as the
foam came to the top it was skimmed off.
After the boiling was over, the sugar was al-
lowed to crystalize. It was then taken to the curing
house where it was cooled and emptied into a mould.
Any molasses that was left in the kettles was used to
When the sugar was cured and ready to sell, it
was carted to the factory in Charlotte Amalie. There
it was sold or exchanged for the things the planter
needed. Sometimes the planter did not carry his sugar
to the factory. Instead he secretly sold it to a for-
eign merchant who offered him more money than the fac-
tor. Of course the Company didn't like this at all.
All the work on all the estates was done by the
slaves. The slaves who took care of the estate house
were called house slaves. These slaves didn't have to
work very hard. The slaves who worked in the fields
were called field slaves and their work was very hard.
It was so hard that few masters had the heart to put a
HOW ST. THOMAS PEOPLE LIVED TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO 67
house servant back to field work once he had got used
to house work.
At four o'clock in the morning the bomba or
driver blew his conch shell. This was the signal for
all the field slaves to get up and hurry down to the
fields. Work began as soon as it got light enough.
At eight o'clock everyone was given an hour off
for breakfast. Breakfast was usually corn bread and
salt meat. Sometimes this was sweetened with a bit of
cane juice--especially if there wasn't enough corn
bread or meat to fill the slave's hungry stomach.
All morning long the work went on until noon
when everyone had an hour and a half off to eat and
catch a nap. Usually the day ended at sundown. During
the harvest season, though, the men had to work until
nine o'clock or ten o'clock. They had to feed the cat-
tle, water the horses and bullocks, carry wood to the
cook house or carry water to the dry cisterns.
Saturday afternoons and Sundays belonged to the
slaves. Sometimes they worked in their little garden
patches. Occasionally they organized a special feast
or drum dance.
Sometimes the slaves became discouraged and
tried to escape. In order to stop this, the planters
took turns acting as policemen. Slaves going from one
estate to another were stopped and asked such ques-
tions as, "Where are you going?" "Who sent you?"
"What are you going to do there?"
If a slave did escape, a regular man hunt was
organized. Groups of men beat the bushes day and night
trying to discover the hiding place of the escaped
Negro. If the slave was lucky, he would find a boat
and get away to Puerto Rico where he was safe from cap-
ture. But if he was unlucky, he was caught, brought
back to his estate and cruelly punished.
Thanks to the industry of the slaves, great
quantities of tobacco and cotton were raised and har-
vested, and many fields were planted to cane which was
later turned into sugar.
In 1714 almost 660,000 pounds of sugar were
carried into the Company's factory and almost 45,000
pounds of cotton. All this meant rixdollars for the
Danish West India Company. Each year the Company's
OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
profits grew until in 1714 the stockholders received
$15,489 clear profits. No wonder the years from 1700
to 1715 were called the first boom days of St. Thomas.
1. Which part of the island of St. Thomas did the di-
rectors think was more valuable?
2. Copy in your notebook the deed on page 52 of Knox's
Historical Account of St. Thomas, V.I.
3. Tell how a man would take up an estate in St.
Thomas in the early days.
4. What is a quitrent? If you do not know, look the
word up in a dictionary.
5. What was done with the St. Thomas quitrents?
6. What three kinds of plantations were there in St.
7. Describe the work done on a sugar estate at harvest
8. How many different kinds of slaves were there on an
9. What did the slaves do with their free time?
10. How did the planters try to prevent Negroes from
GREAT CHANGES COME TO THE ISLANDS
Step 1. The Company Adds Islands.
a. Governor Iversen's colonists pasture sheep
on Water Island and Buck Island.
b. Governor Bredal takes possession of St.
John on March 25, 1717.
c. The Company buys St. Croix from the French
When King Christian V gave the Danish West
India Company their charter, he promised them they
could not only have St. Thomas but also any "other is-
land thereabouts" which might be "uninhabitable and
suitable for plantations."
As soon as Governor Iversen reached St. Thomas,
70 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
therefore, he looked about to see what other islands
were both nearby and uninhabited. Of course there was
no question about such nearby uninhabited islands as
Water Island and Buck Island. The Governor was so sure
that they belonged to St. Thomas that he told his colo-
nists they might pasture their sheep and goats on them.
Later the Company tried to add Crab Island--
or Vieques as it came to be called. But the Spaniards
in Puerto Rico insisted that Crab Island belonged to
them and refused to let any Danish colonists live on
Then there was St. John. The Company wanted it
too. However, each time the governor sent colonists
to St. John the English came over from Tortola and
drove them away.
Finally in 1717 things got so bad in St. Thomas
that Governor Bredal decided that something must be
done. The boom period had come to an end and hard
times had arrived. The soil of St. Thomas had grown
so thin and poor that the colonists' crops of sugar,
cotton and tobacco were getting smaller and smaller.
Everyone was complaining and saying, "The soil
of St. John is rich. In St. John there is plenty of
room for estates. If only we had St. John, prosperity
might come back!"
Early in the spring of 1717, therefore, Gover-
nor Bredal fitted out a sloop with ammunition and pro-
visions and on the 25th of March landed at Coral Bay in
St. John. After he had formally taken possession of
the island he and twenty planters and five soldiers sat
down to a feast to celebrate adding St. John to St.
Thomas. Later the governor picked out a suitable place
for a fort, had the ground cleared and a road cut
through the bush.
Of course the English complained. But Governor
Bredal paid no attention to them. He ordered his men
to go right ahead and build the fort and when it was
finished he sent over nine cannon to mount on its
walls. Meanwhile several estates were laid out and
colonists from St. Thomas and the other islands
flocked to St. John. By 1721 thirty-eight planters had
taken up estates in the new island.
Adding St. John helped. But it did not bring
GREAT CHANGES COME TO THE ISLANDS 71
back real prosperity to St. Thomas. So in 1733 the
directors of the Danish West India Company decided to
buy St. Croix.
The first settlers of St. Croix were mostly
Dutchmen, Frenchmen and Englishmen. Some of them had
come to St. Croix from the island of St. Kitts. You
remember, don't you, the terrible quarrel that broke
out between these first Crucians and you also remember
that the quarrel did not end until the French and
Dutch had left the island.
For a while, after the French and Dutch had
gone, St. Croix was an English island. Then the
Spaniards seized it. Finally the French came back and
drove the Spaniards out. And from that time on the is-
land belonged to France.
In 1726 Governor Frederick Moth of St. Thomas
wrote the directors of the Danish West India Company
that St. Croix was uninhabited. He also said that it
would be a good thing for the colonists and the Company
if the directors could buy it.
It took the directors seven long years to make
up their minds to add St. Croix to St. Thomas and St.
John. And it took almost a year for the news to reach
Governor Moth in St. Thomas that he had been appointed
governor of the new island.
Finally on the first of September 1734 Governor
Moth and a little band of colonists landed in St. Croix.
Four days later they set up six cannon in a cleared
space near what is now the town of Christiansted. The
Danish flag was raised, and while the cannon fired a
noisy salute, the King's commission appointing Frede-
rick Moth, Governor of St. Croix, was read. St. Croix
was now a part of the Danish West Indies.
1. On what authority did the Company decide to add
Water Island, Buck Island and St. John?
2. What were Water Island and Buck Island used for?
3. Was the Company successful in adding Crab Island?
4. Why were the colonists especially anxious to annex
St. John after 1715?
72 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
5. How did Governor Bredal and the first colonists to
St. John celebrate the annexation of St. John?
6. Did many planters take up estates in St. John?
7. Why did the Company decide to buy St. Croix?
8. What nations had already owned St. Croix?
9. When did the first colonists arrive in St. Croix?
10. Trace a map of the Virgin Islands. Mark with an X
the part of each island where the Company built a
Step 2. Slaves Strike their First Blow for Freedom.
a. 1733 brings two hurricanes, a drought, and
a plague of insects.
b. Governor Gardelin passes some severe laws.
c. The slaves in St. John revolt.
d. After six months of fighting the revolt is
After the purchase of St. Croix the directors
and stockholders of the Danish West India Company
thought that prosperity was just around the corner.
But it wasn't. Something happened late in November
1733 that postponed prosperity for many months.
The spring and early summer of 1733 were hot
and dry. Only the hardiest plants managed to keep
alive and green. In July a hurricane struck the is-
land. The crops that had managed to live through the
drought were ruined by the hurricane. Still later in
the summer swarms of insects settled on the fields eat-
ing everything that had had a chance to grow. And as
if all this were not misfortune enough another hurri-
cane struck the island in early November.
The storms, the drought and the insects com-
pletely destroyed the crops of sweet potatoes and
maize which the Negroes had raised in their little
garden plots. During the summer there were many days
when there was no food, and the slaves had to go
hungry. When the masters refused to buy food for them,
the slaves grumbled, and threatened to do something
In order to stop this grumbling, Governor
Gardelin passed a series of harsh laws. Any slave who
heard of a plot against the white people and did not
GREAT CHANGES COME TO THE ISLANDS 73
report it was to be branded on the forehead and given
one hundred lashes with the whip. Any slave who was
guilty of planning a revolt against his master would
have his leg cut off. And any Negro who struck a white
man might have his hand cut off.
These laws made the slaves of St. John desper-
ate. They decided to fight for their freedom or die.
Early in the morning of November 23 twelve
Negroes came up the path leading to the fort at Coral
Bay. Each man carried a heavy bundle on his head. When
the sentinel called out, "Who's there?" the answer came
back, "Negroes with wood." So the sentinel opened the
gate and let them in.
Once inside the fort, the Negroes dropped their
loads of wood, pulled out great sugar cane knives, and
killed everyone in the fort except one soldier. This
soldier escaped by hiding under a bed. Next the
Negroes fired three shots from one of the cannon. This
was the signal for the rest of the slaves on the island
to rise against their masters.
All during that day bands of desperate Negroes
marched from estate to estate burning and killing. A
few of the planters and their families managed to get
to Peter Deurloo's estate at Caneel Bay where they set
up a sort of temporary fort.
Late that same afternoon, the soldier who had
hid under the bed at the fort in St. John brought the
news of the insurrection to St. Thomas. At first
everyone turned white with fear. Everyone thought that
perhaps the slaves of St. Thomas were also plotting to
rise and kill their masters.
No one seemed to know just what to do. Finally
former Governor Moth suggested that Governor Gardelin
send a boatload of soldiers, food and ammunition to
the men who were besieged at Peter Deurloo's estate.
Later more soldiers and ammunition and more planters
were sent to St. John. The soldiers and planters suc-
ceeded in capturing the fort at Coral Bay but they were
not able to put down the revolt.
During the next six months not one of the paths
of St. John was safe for white men. Desperate Negroes
hid in the dense foliage on either side waiting to kill
any white man who should happen to pass that way.
74 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
Twice the English sent soldiers to help the
Danish planters put down the insurrection. But each
time they failed and had to leave the island. Finally
the governor of Martinique sent up a company of French
soldiers. These French soldiers hunted down the slaves
so thoroughly and so mercilessly that by May almost
every Negro on the island of St. John had been captured
and had either been executed or sent down to slavery in
There is a legend that some of the St. John
Negroes were never captured. Gathering at Mary's Point
these Negroes joined hands, leaped over the edge of the
precipice and were dashed to death on the rocks below.
People from St. John say that if you visit Mary's Point
today you can still see bloodstains on the rocks at the
foot of the precipice.
By May 27 the revolt was over. The French of-
ficer and his company of soldiers returned to
Martinique and the St. John planters returned to their
homes. The first battle for Negro freedom in the Vir-
gin Islands had come to an end--a failure.
Nevertheless this battle had not been fought in
vain. The memory of it lingered on in the hearts of
all Virgin Islands Negroes. It gave them the courage
and endurance to wait until their time for liberation
should actually come.
1. How did the weather help to cause the revolt of
2. What were some of the laws passed by Governor
3. Describe how the Negroes got control of the island
of St. John.
4. What happened to the white people of the island?
5. How did the news of the revolt get to St. Thomas?
6. How did St. Thomas help the planters of St. John?
7. What other nations came to the aid of the St. John
8. Which nation succeeded in putting down the revolt?
9. How long did the revolt last?
10. How successful was the revolt?
GREAT CHANGES COME TO THE ISLANDS 75
Step 3. The Company Comes to an End.
a. Governor Moth prepares St. Croix for plant-
b. The planters arrive.
c. The planters of all three islands hate the
d. After 1747 the planters hate the Company
more than ever.
e. In 1754 the planters get rid of the Company.
When the Danish West India Company bought St.
Croix, the directors hoped that many colonists would
come to live in the island. They hoped these colonists
would raise great quantities of sugar cane and cotton
so that the Company would grow rich again.
The directors never dreamed that the colonists
might grow rich too--rich enough and strong enough to
push the Company out of the island. But that is just
As soon as Governor Moth arrived in St. Croix
he began to get the island ready for settlers. A plot
of land near the harbor of Christiansted was cleared,
and on it the governor began to build a fort. Next he
sent to one of the English islands for a surveyor.
Within a year the surveyor had the island all
divided up into estates. The governor planned to sell
the best estates as sugar estates. The others were to
be sold to men who wanted to plant cotton. The direc-
tors told Governor Moth to charge $500 for each of the
sugar estates and $250 for each of the cotton estates.
In the meantime planters began to arrive. Of
course, a great many planters from St. Thomas left
their old estates and followed Governor Moth to St.
Croix. Several Dutchmen from St. Eustatius also came
to try their luck in the Danish island.
Most of the planters of St. Croix, though, were
English. They came from the nearby islands of Tortola
and Virgin Gorda. In a very short time there were five
English planters to each Danish estate owner.
At first the planters of St. Croix were an in-
dependent, quarrelsome lot. They refused to pay high
prices for their estates and complained that when they
shipped sugar to England or New England the Company
76 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
taxed them so much that there was no money left for
Finally the directors told Governor Moth he
could cut the prices of the estates in half. But they
also told him to build a fort at Frederiksted and col-
lect all the taxes.
The first English planters were especially
quarrelsome. As soon as war broke out between England
and Spain the English planters wanted to leave their
estates to fight against the Spaniards. The Danish
planters were afraid to let the Englishmen leave the
island. They thought that the Spaniards might sudden-
ly arrive in St. Croix and either burn their estate
houses or carry off all their slaves. So the governor
wouldn't let the English planters go.
This made the English angry. They threatened
to kill the Danes. But the governor wasn't easily
frightened and refused to let the English planters
As time passed even the governor grew quarrel-
some. St. Croix was supposed to be a part of St.
Thomas. But once when Governor Suhm of St. Thomas was
visiting St. Croix, Governor Hansen of St. Croix re-
fused to obey Governor Suhm's order. There was a terri-
ble quarrel. Finally Governor Hansen wrote a long let-
ter to the directors. The directors who were sick of
so much quarreling in the islands decided that after
this St. Croix should be independent of St. Thomas.
In spite of the Company's high taxes, the
planters of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas had al-
ways sold a great deal of their sugar and molasses to
New England ship captains. The New England captains
gave the planters in exchange corn meal, barrel staves,
horses and shingles.
In 1747 the directors decided to put a stop to
all this. After 1747 they said only Company ships
could trade with the planters of the Danish West Indie
Islands. This made the planters furious. If New Eng-
land captains could not trade in the islands where
then could they buy their puncheons of corn meal or
their bundles of shingles?
After 1747 prices in all three islands began
to rise. Soon the planters began to complain that
GREAT CHANGES COME TO THE ISLANDS
everything was costing twice as much as it had before.
In Governor Lorentz' time, they said, a planter could
buy a slave for $50. Now he was lucky if he could buy
one for $100. In Governor Lorentz' time horses sold
for $15. Now they brought anywhere from $40 to $50.
And as for eggs, chickens and salt meat, they were so
dear that ordinary people could hardly ever afford to
The planters of St. Thomas and St. Croix wrote
long letters complaining to the Company. But these
letters did no good. Finally in 1754 the estate owners
of St. Croix decided to try a bold plan. They sent a
planter named John William Schopen to Copenhagen. Herr
Schopen begged the King to take the island of St. Croix
away from the Company and govern it himself.
The King thought the matter over very carefully.
Then he offered to pay the stockholders and directors
$625,000 if they would dissolve the Company and let him
have all three islands: St. Thomas, St. John and St.
Croix. After some talk the directors and stockholders
accepted the Kingts offer.
Thus, the great Danish West India Company-came
to an end. It had done many things of which it could
be very proud. It had started the colony at St. Thomas
and kept it alive during its first hard years. It had
added the island of St. John and bought the island of
But it had also done many things of which it
could not be proud. Too often it had thought only of
the islands as a place where dollars and cents could be
made and not as a place where human beings lived and
worked and suffered. And far too often it had thought
only of getting and not at all of giving.
1. How did Governor Moth get St. Croix ready for set-
2. What prices did the directors ask for their sugar
and cotton estates and what prices did they get?
3. What were the chief complaints the planters had
against the Company?
4. Why didn't the Danish planters like the English
78 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
5. What happened in 1747?
6. Prove that prices rose after 1747.
7. Tell how the Company came to an end.
8. Make a list of the good things the Company had
9. Draw a cartoon showing a man having his head cut
off. Label the man "The Danish West India Com-
pany." Label the executioner "The King of Den-
mark." Label three men standing nearby with smiles
on their faces, "St. John, St. Thomas and St.
Croix." Make up a title for the cartoon.
10. Draw a movie strip entitled, "How the Planters of
St. Croix Got Rid of the Hated Company."
ST. CROIX TURNS SUGAR INTO SILVER AND GOLD
Step 1. Alexander Hamilton's Island.
a. Christiansted becomes the most important
town in the Danish West Indies.
b. Ship captains from New England and Europe
do business with Nicholas Cruger.
c. Nicholas Cruger gives young Alexander Hamil-
ton a job.
d. Alexander Hamilton describes a hurricane and
earns a college education.
On the eleventh of January 1757, two and one-
half years after the planters of St. Croix pushed the
Company out of the islands, a little boy was born in
the British island of Nevis. When he was still very
small, the little boy's father and mother James Hamilton
80 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
and Rachel Lavien moved to St. Croix. The little boy's
name was Alexander.
Alexander Hamilton's St. Croix was a far finer
place than Governor Moth's St. Croix. Christiansted
had become the most important little town in the Danish
West Indies. Baron von Prock, the Governor General of
the Danish West Indies, lived in Christiansted and that,
of course, made Christiansted the chief town of the
Then too the planters of St. Croix were very
rich. England and France were in the midst of a fierce
struggle for possessions and power. They not only
fought each other's armies in America, Europe and India,
but they also captured each other's ships on the Atlan-
tic and Indian Oceans.
Denmark, however, refused to fight on either
side. This meant that Danish West Indies sugar ships
could sail back and forth across the Atlantic without
fear of being captured by either France or England.
And how the people of Europe craved sugar It
seemed as though they couldn't get enough of it. The
year Alexander was nine years old, sixty-three wind-
mills in different parts of St. Croix were grinding
cane day and night during the harvest season so that
sugar ships might have full cargoes to take to Europe.
No wonder England wasn't sure whether she
should punish France by taking her great North American
colony of Canada or her tiny but very rich sugar island
No wonder the St. Croix planters could own two
or three sugar estates in the country and a handsome
house in town. And no wonder that merchants could build
great arcaded stores all along King Street in Chris-
When Alexander Hamilton was twelve years old,
he was apprenticed to one of the richest merchants in
Christiansted-Nicholas Cruger. Alexander had to go to
work. His father had lost his job as manager of a cat-
tle estate. Alexander's mother had no money and had to
go to live with her sister, Mrs. Lytton. Of course,
she took Alexander along too, but when he was eleven
years old Rachel Lavien died and although Mrs. Mitchel,
another aunt, would have been glad to have Alexander
ST. CROIX TURNS SUGAR INTO SILVER AND GOLD
live with her, the boy decided to go to work.
In those days Nicholas Cruger's store was a busy
place. Ship captains from Europe and New England con-
sidered it an honor to do business with Mr. Cruger, and
the planters of St. Croix depended on him for their sup-
plies of salt and meal and lumber.
At first Alexander was just a clerk. He prob-
ably had to keep the store swept out, run errands and
make himself generally useful. Then as Mr. Cruger saw
that Alexander could write a fair hand, had a good head
for figures and could be trusted, Alexander was given
more important things to do. Finally, Mr. Cruger put
Alexander in charge of his store at Frederiksted.
In 1770 Mr. Cruger went to America on business.
Much to everyone's surprise he left thirteen year old
Alexander in charge of all his business affairs in St.
But Alexander was ambitious and even this promo-
tion didn't satisfy him. He wanted to go to America.
He wanted to go to college and become great and famous.
One of his St. Croix chums, Ned Stevens, had already
gone to New York and was a student at King's College.
In one of his letters to Ned, Alexander exclaimed, "I
contemn the groveling condition of a clerk--and would
gladly risk my life to exalt my station."
Alexander's chance came in 1772. In August of
that year a terrible hurricane swept across St. Croix
ripping the roofs off people's houses, uprooting the
tall cocoanut palm trees and killing many people.
It was Alexander's first hurricane and it made
a great impression on him. He sat down and wrote a de-
scription of it for a St. Kitts newspaper. Alexander's
aunts read the description and were so impressed by it
that they decided that Alexander must have his chance
to go to college.
When Nicholas Cruger heard that Alexander was
going to America, he was frantic. He offered to raise
Alexander's wages. He even offered to make him a part-
ner in his business. But Alexander's mind was made up.
He was going to America.
And so in October 1772 Alexander Hamilton said
good-bye to Christiansted and his two aunts and set
sail for Boston in America.
OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
1. Write out an imaginary birth certificate for Alex-
ander Hamilton. Be sure to mention date, place of
birth and parents' names.
2. How did it happen that Christiansted had become the
busiest and most important town in the Danish West
3. Why was it that the Danish West Indies could sell
more sugar than either the French or English islands?
4. Do you think Alexander was lucky or unlucky as a
small boy? Why?
5. What sort of an apprentice did Alexander Hamilton
6. Why wasn't Alexander satisfied in 1770?
7. Re-write his letter to Ned Stevens in your own
words. Look up any words you aren't sure of in the
8. How did Alexander earn his college education?
9. If Alexander had stayed on in St. Croix would he
have become rich?
10. What did Alexander Hamilton do to become famous in
Step 2. Estate Villages and Villagers.
a. The house slaves have a fairly easy time of
b. The hard work of the estate is done by the
c. Four or five hundred free Negroes live in
d. In 1803 the slave trade is abolished.
In Alexander Hamilton's time every estate in
St. Croix had its slave village just as every estate had
its cane pieces, its works and its "big house." The
village wasn't really a village, though. It was just a
cluster of small houses with shingled roofs. Most of
the houses had only two rooms and some of them--except
for a palm mat and a few boxes--had no furniture at all.
Two groups of Negroes lived on the estates:
the house slaves and the field slaves. The house
slaves had much the easier time of it. Their work was
ST. CROIX TURNS SUGAR INTO SILVER AND GOLD 83
indoors and it was not so hard for there were a great
many house slaves. There were cooks and maids
in the kitchen, butlers in the pantry and maids and men
servants to look after the bedrooms and the family
clothing. Whenever a visitor arrived he almost always
brought his servant along with him. Sometimes there
were so many servants in the house that they got in
each other's way.
The really hard work of the estate was done by
the field slaves. From sunrise to sunset they planted
the cane shoots,tended them, cut the ripe cane or load-
ed it onto bullock carts. And some of them, of course,
helped in the works where the cane was ground and the
juice was boiled down into molasses and sugar.
The slaves didn't have to work all day long.
At eight o'clock they had an hour off for breakfast.
At noon they had two hours off for dinner. And usually
their day's work was over by six o'clock.
During the harvesting season, though, the mills
had to grind cane day and night. Then the slaves were
divided into shifts, each shift taking its turn in the
works. Sometimes there was so much to do that the
slaves had to work on Sunday. They didn't mind this,
though, for then they were given real cash money.
Twice each week the slaves were called together
by the overseer. As each slave's name was read off, he
stepped up and was given his allowance of corn meal,
salt beef or salt herring. Slaves who had especially
hard work to do, such as the estate blacksmiths or car-
penters, got extra large allowances.
Usually each slave had his own little garden
where he raised tanias,yams, cassava or plantains. If
he raised more than he could eat, the slave was allowed
to sell his extra vegetables. He could also cut grass
or wood and carry them into Christiansted to sell.
Sick slaves were kindly treated. A doctor came
out from Christiansted regularly and some of the large
estates had their own nurses and hospitals where the
sick were taken care of. If a slave was very sick he
was given special allowances of saloup or Madeira wine.
Sunday was usually a free day. Some of the
slaves went to church. Some of them worked in their
little gardens. Most of them, though,asked for
84 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
permission to go to town. This was a special treat.
Sunday was market day and slaves from all over St. Croix
came to Christiansted. Some of them had extra vegeta-
bles or bundles of grass or wood to sell. All of them,
however, had news of their own estate to exchange for
news from other parts of the island.
Not all of the St. Croix Negroes were slaves.
Some of them--possibly four or five hundred of them--
were free men. They lived in Christiansted and earned
their living by doing odd jobs. Finding these jobs was
not at all easy for most of the planters preferred to
buy slaves to do any work they had. It was cheaper and
easier. However, the freed Negroes managed to pick up
a living somehow. Some of them were tailors, some were
shoemakers, and some of them were fishermen.
Twice the St. Croix slaves tried to get their
freedom: In 1740 and 1759. Both times, though, they
failed. The first time a free Negro named Mingo Tama-
rind tracked down the leaders of the revolt, and turned
them over to the planters for punishment. The second
time the planters heard about the revolt before it ac-
tually broke out. And again the leaders were hunted out
and cruelly punished.
Fortunately for the Negroes the days of slavery
were almost over. In England men and women were joining
a Society for the Suppression of the Slave Trade. And
in America a religious sect called the Quakers were tell-
ing everyone that slavery itself was wrong and should be
By 1792 so many people were demanding that the
slave trade should come to an end that the Danish king
issued a royal edict forbidding all Danes from taking
part in it. And in 1803 the slave trade itself was for-
Strangely enough the man who persuaded the King
of Denmark to issue the edict of 1792 was a wealthy St.
Croix planter named Ernest Schimmelmann who owned Es-
tate La Princesse.
Of course, abolishing the slave trade didn't
mean the end of slavery. But it was the beginning of
ST. CROIX TURNS SUGAR INTO SILVER AND GOLD 85
1. How many different classes of Negroes were there in
2. Describe the part of the estate where the Negroes
5. Contrast the work of the field slaves and the work
of the house slaves.
4. Why would there have been no money in the planters'
chests if there had been no slaves in his fields?
5. How did the slaves get their food?
6. What were some of the kind things the planters did
for their slaves?
7. What were some of the ways a slave could earn cash
8. Why did the freed Negroes have a hard time of it?
9. What were some of the things that were done to
bring the slave trade to an end?
10. Why did the slaves like Sunday best of all the days
in the week?
Step 5. The Golden Days of St. Croix.
a. St. Croix planters plant more sugar and make
b. The planters spend part of their money for
c. The planters find many ways of having a good
d. The Golden Days come to an end.
The planters of St. Croix were clever. And be-
cause they were clever, they were wealthy. They seemed
to know just where sugar was most wanted--and where it
would bring the most money.
While England and France were fighting the
Seven Years War, the planters of St. Croix were getting
high prices for their sugar in Europe. And when France
and England decided to stop fighting, the planters sold
their sugar to rich Boston merchants.
Later when New England started quarreling with
Old England, the planters shipped their sugar to Europe
once again. And later still when the Revolutionary War
was over and a man named George Washington was elected
86 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
president of the United States, St. Croix sugar went
back to Boston. Only by this time the planters had so
much sugar they could sell to both Europe and New Eng-
There was a very good reason why St. Croix had
so much sugar to sell. The planters were planting more
sugar cane. In 1796 a visitor from Denmark counted 115
windmills and 144 treadmills in the island. And all of
them, he said, were working. This same visitor also
said that half the island had been turned into waving
green cane pieces.
During the Golden Days of St. Croix a sugar es-
tate was like a rich gold mine. Rum and molasses paid
all the planters' expenses. The sugar he sold was pure
profit. Most of the planters took this profit and
spent it for luxuries and comforts such as the island
had never seen before.
All along the Center Line and in the western
part of the island great stone estate houses began to
appear. Some of them were plain but very well built.
Others were more elaborate with flights of stone steps
leading up to arcaded front galleries.
All the houses, though, had high-ceilinged par-
lors, dining rooms and bedrooms. By day, tilted jalou-
sies kept the rooms dark and cool. But at night the
light from dozens of wax candles glittered in the cut
glass chandeliers or shone in the satiny surface of the
mahogany chairs and tables.
Each planter who could afford it--and many of
them could--built a handsome town house in Christiansted.
Here the planter and his family lived during the winter
months when the "social season" was on.
It made no difference whether a planter was liv-
ing in his town house or on his estate. He was always
glad to have visitors. Visitors brought the latest
news from Europe or America. And visitors provided a
good excuse for picnics and parties.
Some of the parties were dances. Some of the
parties were picnics called maroons. More often though
the parties were elaborate and costly dinners. At these
dinners the tables were set with solid silver plates.
Silver bowls and platters were piled high with delicious
meats and vegetables and passed from guest to guest
ST. CROIX TURNS SUGAR INTC SILVER AND GOLD 87
while sparkling wine glasses were filled again and again
with costly Hock or Madeira.
But the planters didn't depend entirely on vis-
itors or picnics or parties for their amusement. At
Christiansted was the Bass End Theater. Here for twelve
shillings a seat at six-thirty in the afternoon the
planters could see the Leeward Islands Company of come-
dians present Shakespear's Hamlet or the side-splitting
comedy entitled Flora or Hob in the Well.
And if the planters wanted excitement--well,
there were always cards, horse races and cock fights.
The planters were especially fond of cock fighting. A
cock fighting association was formed and the members
sent to England for their cocks. Sometimes the planters
paid as much as fifty dollars for one cock.
In between times, of course, there was always
the Club. The Club was a long rambling building on King
Street in Christiansted. Here planters from all over
the island met after a hard morning in town. Here they
discussed the latest price of sugar, played billiards or
lounged about in comfortable easy chairs with a glass of
rum punch in one hand and a copy of Christiansted's news-
paper, the Royal Danish American Gazette, in the other.
But the Golden Days which had brought all this
luxury and easy living to St. Croix could not last for-
ever. Other and larger countries were beginning to
plant more sugar cane. Machines were being invented to
produce the sugar less expensively. Most important of
all, though, the slave trade had been abolished and
there was talk that slavery itself would soon go.
During the Golden Days, St. Croix produced in
one year 46,000,000 pounds of sugar. By 1840 the island
was exporting less than half as much. And by 1850 the
Golden Days were over and a part of Virgin Islands his-
1. Make a time line from 1756 to 1800. Mark on it the
war times. In each one of these war times write
the place where the planters sold their sugar. Why
did the planters change their markets so often?
2. How do we know that 1796 was an especially good
88 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
year for the planters?
3. Why was a sugar estate like a gold mine?
4. What was the first luxury the planters bought with
their extra money?
5. Describe a planter's estate house.
6. Why did the St. Croix planters like to have visi-
7. Imagine yourself a visitor in St. Croix during the
Golden Days. Write a letter home telling about your
visit. Be sure to tell all the things that were
done to entertain and amuse you.
8. What did the planters do at the Club?
9. Do you think the planters of St. Croix were more
cultured during the Golden Days than they had been
in the early 1700's?
10. When did the Golden Days begin and when did they
end? Draw a time line of St. Croix history. Mark
on it any important dates you remember.
BRIGS, SLOOPS AND SCHOONERS BRING
PROSPERITY TO ST. THOMAS
Step 1. Privateers Bring Prosperity.
a. In 1764 the King of Denmark issues an edict.
b. War in Europe brings privateers to the West
c. The edict, The war and the privateers help
St. Thomas business.
At first the end of the Company brought nothing
but misfortune to St. Thomas. Trade grew less and less.
Fewer and fewer ships visited the harbor. Almost no
slaves were sold. Many St. Thomians made up their
minds to follow their governor-general to St. Croix.
Others planned to move to one of the English or French
To stop this the Danish King issued an edict.
OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
The edict said that any ship from any part of America
or from any West Indian island might visit St. Thomas
without paying a harbor fee. If, however, a ship
brought something to sell, that something would have to
be weighed on the King's scales and the owner of that
something would have to pay a small weighing fee. Of
course, ships from any part of Europe except Denmark
still had to pay the old high harbor fees.
The edict of 1764 helped the harbor. And so
did the war between France and England that began in
1778. Because Denmark refused to take sides in this
quarrel, St. Thomas was a neutral port and ships from
both the French and the English islands could visit her
A great many of these ships were English and
French privateers. A privateer, you know, is a merchant
ship which has permission during time of war to attack
enemy merchant ships. During the war between England
and France, French privateers were allowed by the French
government to attack English merchant ships. And Eng-
lish privateers were given permission by their govern-
ment to attack French merchant ships.
These privateers made life in the West Indies
very exciting. One Sunday in October 1780 four priva-
teers chased two American ships right into Frederiksted
harbor. The Frederiksted fort fired twenty-nine shots
at the privateers and forced them to surrender. Then
the commanding officer of the fort told the captains of
the privateers that they couldn't leave Frederiksted un-
til they had paid for each one of the twenty-nine shots.
The privateer captains hurriedly paid for the shots and
A St. Thomas merchant named Nissen took a small
sloop on a trading trip down the islands. He hadn't
gone far before a Tortolian privateer attacked him.
Nissen surrendered and had to follow the British boat
back to Road Town. There the court said the privateer
had made a bad mistake in attacking a neutral. The
court also said that Nissen was free to take his sloop
and go on his way. In the mean time, however, Nissen
had had to stay two weeks in Road Town. He had had to
pay the cost of his trial. And someone from Road Town
had broken into his chest and stolen all his extra
BRIGS, SLOOPS AND SCHOONERS 91
Finally things got so bad that the Danish gov-
ernment had to send out war ships to protect its neu-
tral ships from privateers.
But the privateers brought prosperity to St.
Thomas. As soon as they captured a ship, they brought
it into the harbor where the court declared it a lawful
prize. After this, if the ship's captain couldn't pay
the privateer captain a fair price, the ship and its
cargo were sold at auction. Shrewd St. Thomas merchants
bought some of the ships and most of the cargoes. Later
the merchants sold the ships and the cargoes at a good
profit. Sometimes the privateers traded at St. Thomas.
Sometimes they brought in sugar or coffee which they
exchanged for provisions.
In spite of the danger from privateers, business
in St. Thomas was brisk. Ships from all parts of Amer-
ica anchored in the harbor. Ships from the other
islands brought in sugar, coffee and cotton. Ships from
North America brought in shingles and provisions to ex-
change for rum and sugar. Boats from the English col-
onies brought fine goods manufactured in England. And
ships captains from the Spanish colonies on the main-
land came to St. Thomas to buy the English goods or fine
linens manufactured in Germany and brought over in Dan-
In those days there was so much trade that
stores opened at six in the morning and stayed open un-
til six in the evening. And sometimes business was so
good that a ship would come in, sell out her cargo and
sail away all within twenty-four hours.
Everyone made money. Doctors got rich in no
time. A ship staying in the harbor for four or five
weeks often ran up a bill of $1,000 or $1,500. Glaziers
charged $1 for each tiny pane of glass they put in a
window. The taverns did a rushing business. They not
only sold all kinds of liquor but they had card tables
and billiard tables which were kept busy all day long.
Merchants, doctors, tradesmen and tavern keep-
ers, everyone was grateful to the war in Europe that was
bringing the privateers and prosperity to the island.
No one ever stopped to think that the war might also
bring hard times.
92 OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS
1. What happened to St. Thomas after the end of the
2. How did the edict of 1764 help St. Thomas? Did it
make St. Thomas a free port?
3. What is each of the following: privateer, merchant
ship, "lawful prize," neutral port?
4. Draw a moving picture to illustrate the story about
the privateers and the American merchant ships.
5. Write Mr. Nissen's protest to the court at Road
6. Draw a picture of St. Thomas' harbor as it looked
with a great many ships in it. Label each ship with
the name of the country it comes from. Have each
captain tell why he has come to St. Thomas.
7. What is the difference between the price of a small
pane of glass today and a small pane of glass in
8. Prove that people in St. Thomas made money during
9. Contrast the reasons why ships visited St. Thomas
in 1793 and in 1937.
10. Write an imaginary letter from the captain of a
merchant ship to a ship's owner. The ship has been
captured by a privateer. Make the letter a complete
report of everything that happened.
Step 2. Two Enemies Attack St. Thomas.
a. The English seize the Virgin Islands but keep
them only ten months.
b. Two fires burn down the buildings on the
c. The English seize the islands again and keep
them for eight years.
d. Thirteen years of bad luck at last come to
Suddenly the war between England and France
came to St. Thomas. On March 6, 1801 six English
frigates anchored near the mouth of the harbor. No
ship of any nationality was allowed to enter or leave