Short history of the Virgin Islands


Material Information

Short history of the Virgin Islands
Physical Description:
Work, J. C.
Smith, Ira
Carib Graphic Arts


Spatial Coverage:
United States -- United States Virgin Islands -- Caribbean

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Virgin Islands
Holding Location:
University of Virgin Islands
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
notis - AAB1707
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
        Introduction 1
        Introduction 2
    Chapter One
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
    Chapter Two
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    Chapter Three
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Chapter Four
        Page 11
        Page 12
    Chapter Five
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    Chapter Six
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
    Chapter Seven
        Page 21
        Page 22
    Chapter Eight
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
    Chapter Nine
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
    Chapter Ten
        Page 32
    Chapter Eleven
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
    Chapter Twelve
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
Full Text

0. <^ <^ s


Decorations by IRA SMITH

Carib Graphic Arts
St. Thomas

The Virgin Islands consist of six main is-
lands, five in an East-West line extending east
from Puerto Rico, and one forty miles to the south.
The westerly two of the five, St. Thomas and St.
John, are U. S. property. The other three inline
to the east, Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Anegada are
British. The sixth, by itself to the south, is the
U. S. island of St. Croix. There are .numerous
small islands and cays scattered about the larger

All, save Anegada, are volcanic and
have been thrust up by subterranean pressure.
The formation in general is a metamorphosed
strata, twisted and altered by volcanic action.
Many boulders, some of them of huge size, are
igenous rock, locally called Blue Bit. The max-
imum elevation of allfive of the "High Islands"
is about 1, 500 to 1, 600 feet.

Anegada is a low flat island, not over 30
feet above sea level. It is perhaps representa-
tive of all the Virgins before volcanic action and
folding thrust the "high islands" into their pres-
ent mountainous form.


On Wednesday, November 23rd, 1493,
Columbus on his second voyage, sighted St. Croix
and landed at Salt River where his landing party
was attacked by a smallband of Caribs, The
nextday he sailednorth toward St. Thomas, coas-
ted along its southern shore and went on to Puerto
Rico. The string of islands he could see stretch-
ing to the east as he approached from St. Croix
he named for Sto Ursula and her eleven thousand

Archeological research has shownthatthe
three main islands, St. Croix, St. Thomas, and
St. John were inhabited for some centuries prior
to their discovery by Columbus. Pottery, arrow-
head, stone implements, and weapons have been
found on the flat land back of Sandy Pointand at
Salt River in St. Croix and at Magens Bay on St.
Thomas. Indian carvings occur on the south side
on St. John at Reef Bay. What became of these
pre-Columbian Indians is uncertain. There is no
mention of any Indians in the earliest Danishrec-

Sir Francis Drake landed on Virgin Gor-
da in 1580 en route to his ill fated attack on San
Juan. He sailed westward through the passage
between Tortola and the outlying islands to the
south, still known as Drake's Channell.

In 1653 the Danish King, Frederick III,
granted certain privileges to "our subjects who
have sailed to the Caribbean Islands in the West
Indies" to trade among them. Among these sub-
jects was one Skipper Erik Nielsen Schmidt who
had made several trips to the islands, trading
with a handful of Danes and other Europeans,
mostly- Dutch, who had been living on St. Thcmas
before this date. Schmidt returned from one of
these voyages in 1663 and received authorization
from Frederick III "to seize and occupy the is-
land of St. Thomas" and was actually appointed
as Royal Commandant and Governor of that is-

He was instructed to take a Lutheran min-
ister with him to minister to the Danes already
in St. Thomas and to the few settlers who were
to accompany him. Schmidt found one Kjelt Jen-
sen Slagelse willing and anxious to establish a Lu -
theran parish in this distant island.

They sailed on July 1st, 1665, with some
Danish settlers aboard the ERIK. They arrived
at St. Thomas about January 1st, 1666.


On March 30th, 1666, Governor Schmidt
took possession of the island in the name of the
Danish King, by hoisting the Danish flag and fir
ing a salute. He selected a hill north-east of the:
harbor for the site of his plantation and laid out
foundations for "dwelling houses and a fortified
tower with seven 4-pounders and four 6 poun-
ders". Still standing today it is known as Blue-
beard's Castle.

In the meantime another fort called Kjaer's
Tower until the end of the 17th century and now
known as Blackbeard's, was built on a hill to the

Fort Christian was also built with a forti-
fied tower but as finished in 1680, had "a luxur-
ious gilded leather room" for the Governor and
other rooms for the use of the Lutheran and Dutch
Reformed congregations. The Fort was rebuilt
in its present form in 1870.

Governor Schmidt died on June 12th, 1666,_
about six months after his arrival. Pastor Slag-
else took over and with the aid of four advisor-s
(two Dane s, -one German or Dutchman, and one
Englishman), conducted the affairs of the little

Slagelse returned to Denmark in 1668 and
remained there until the formation of a newly or-
ganized Danish West Indian Company. King Chris-
tian V succeeded to the Danish throne in 1670 and
issued this charter in 1671. Under it, he appoin-
ted George Jensen Iversen as Governor and Slag-
else as the Lutheran minister.


They sailed from Bergen in June 1671 a-
board the FERO with a mixed band of settlers,
soldiers, clerks, and sixty-one convicts, 128 in
allow The FERO finally made Sto Thomas on May
25th, 1672. Pastor Slagelse and eighty others
had died on the voyage and were buried at sea.

The Danish West India Company proposed
to profit from the operation of plantations, La-
bor was essential, and the first cargo of slaves
arrived in 1673. In 1675 the West India Company
absorbed the Danish African Company, who al-
ready had a slave factory in Africa, to become
the Danish West India and Guinea Coo and en-
gaged actively in the slave trade

Frederick William I, Duke of Prussia and
Elector of Brandenburg, wanted a share of the
seemingly lucrative trade He established a fac-
tory in Africa and needed some port in the Indies
from which to deliver slaves to the planters The
Danes were not adverse to sharing Sto Thomas
and increasing the activity of the settlement. A
thirty year contract was entered into between the
Brandenburg Company and the Danish Company,
covering the use of the port

The colony was also increased by the ar-
rival of a group of French Protestants who fled
St. Kitts after the revocation of the Edict of Nan-
tes, They settled on the western hill of the town,
still known as Frenchman's Hill,


Friction developed between the Danes and
the Germans over the terms of the contract, and
as the expenses, rather than profits increased,
the Brandenburgs refused to continue after its
termination. In 1717 most of the members of the
Brandenburg Company left the island.

In 1691 the town along the shore, until
then known as Tappus (Taphus Rum Shop?), was
officially founded and improved by skilled Danish
workmen sent out for the purpose and named
Charlotte Amalie in honor of the wife of the King,
Christian V,

Pere LaBat, a French Jesuit, travelled
through the islands and visited St. Thomas in
1701. He describes the town as "consisting of
one long street ending at the factory of the West
Indian Company. The houses, formerly huts, are
now built of bricks and almost all one storey high.
The interiors are white-washed as in Holland and
the street paverents (side-walks?) are of tile.


St. Thomas has a long but not too welldoc-
umented pirate history. In the hey-day of piracy,
the times of Henry Morgan and other dealers in
pieces=of-eight, fine brocades and Fair Captives,
St. Thomas was too poor and too small to attract
these rovers, except as a haven where they could
repair their vessels and selltheir loot. They con-
centrated their efforts in the neighborhood of San
Domingo, Cuba and the Spanish Mainwhere wealth
was more available. Morgan became Governorof
Jamaica in 1674 and in that capacity chased his
former pirate allies from their usual cruising
ground. They moved eastward and made St. Thom-
as their chief port of call as it was convenient to
their places of concealment among the islands
where they lay in wait to intercept traffic using the
Anegada Passage as an entrance to the Caribbean.


Nicholai Esmit was appointed Governor in
1679. He appears to have been a bit of a rascal
and quite a crony of the pirates who were thenfre-
quenting St. Thomas. He became embroiled with
the British Governor of Antigua over the shelter
he afforded them. A British Man-O-War finally
called at St. Thomas, sent boats in and burned
two pirate vessels, Nicholai was deposed by his
brother Adolph who was in turn surplanted by Gab-
riel Milan in 1684. Both Adolph and Milan were
sent to Copenhagen in 1686 where Milan was hang-

The only attacks on the settlement were
in 1682 when an unidentified vessel raided thefac-
tory of the West Indian Company. Theytook such
money and goods as they could find and left. In
1694 a French privateer performed the same ex-
ploit on the warehouse of the Brandenburg Com-

With the growth of the settlement andbet-
ter Governors, more authority was exercised ov-
er visitors to the port. When Captain Kidd arriv-
ed in 1699, he anchored outside and askedpermis-
sion to enter to make repairs to his vessel. After
a few days deliberation this permission was re-
fused and Captain Kidd left. Another, Tempest
Rogers, called soon after for the same purpose -
Permission was again refused.

Pirate treasure is alleged to have been
found on Water Island. On St. Thomas, some-
where about the area of the Airport, and in a cave
in Treasure Point on Norman Island. None of
these finds can be authenticated.

There were many small and petty acts of
piracy about the Virgin Islands during the 18th
and early 19th Centuries (on land they would have
rated as not much more than highwaymen or pick-
pockets), which interfered to some extent with the
local trade out of St, Thomas and Christiansted.
Many of these robbers were Tortolan. There are
numerous letters of protest sent by merchants
and Crucian authorities to the British Governor
at Antigua, complaining of the seizure of their
boats by vessels from Tortola. As it took from
six months to a year to get official action, not
much was accomplished.

A few privateers with doubtful Letter sof-
Marque troubled St. Thomas about the turn of the
Century. These vessels and small craft from
Tortola were finally dispersed by units of the U.
S. Navy, in the early 1800's,

The last known happening in the extermin-
ation of piracy was the hanging of two pirates in
St. Thomas in 1825, on gallows erected on thehill
in Frenchtown, known as Gallows Hill, and the
present site of the Roman Catholic Chapel.


Sto John was practically uninhabited sa
for a few Danes who had made temporary settle-
ments there until 1717 when the Governor of Sto
Thomas avth a small force of soldiers and plan-
ters with their slaves lrnded at Coral Bayo He
built a fort on a small rise of land and cleared for
gardens and sugar plantations, The fort was com-
pleted in 1723 and named Frederiksvaerno

Plantations grew rapidly In ten years
(1728) there were 87 plantations with a total of 123
whites and 677 slaves0 Just prior to the slave revdt
of 1733 the number of plantations had increased
to 109 with 200 whites and over 1. 000 slaves
This 5 to 1 ratio of slaves to whites caused con-
siderable anxiety particularly as many of the slaves
were newly brought from savage and warlike tribes
in Afr icao

A very dry summer reduced the food supply
of the slave sto almost a point of starvation This,
coupled with recently passed harsh regulations for
their control, caused such discontent among them


that on November 23rd, 1733, a dozen or so en-
tered the fort with can knives concealed in their
loads of firewood. Once within they slaughtered
all the garrison,save one, who hid under a bed. As
soon as the fort was taken, the slaves throughout
the island raided and destroyed plantation houses,
killing all the whites they could find. Those whites
who managed to escape the slaughter gathered at
the Durloo Plantation in the north-west part of the
island (Caneel Bay?). They were finally rescued
by reinforcements from St. Thomas.

The slaves roamed the island for five
months. While the fortwas recaptured, the slaves
remained master of most of the island until a force
of 200 French from Martinique landed and assisted
in a vigorous search, driving small bands from
their hiding places. The last remnants of these
scattered slaves were at last rounded up inthe high
land of Mary's Pointwhere theythrew themselves
over to death, rather than be captured.

St. John was virtually depopulated until
years later when settlers drifted back and raised
the island to an important sugar producer.



Sto Croix was sparsely occupied by the
Spanish from San Domingo and Puerto Rico on
more or less a raiding-for-slaves basis until 1625
when Dutch and English settlers, joined by French
refugees from Sto Kitts, occupied the islandevict-
ing the few Spaniards there In 1650 a Spanish
garrison from Puerto Rico retook possessionoThe
French Crown claimed title to the island by virtue
of possession from 1625 to 1650 and in 1651 sold
the island to the Knights of Malta. The Lto Gen-
eral of the French Islands sent a force of 160 men
from Sto Kitts to evict the Spaniards. The Knights
of Malta tried unsuccessfully to colonize and sold
out to a French West India Company in 1669. In
1674 Louis XIV paid various Company debts and
took St. Croix as his remuneration. The French
colonization again proved a failure and in 1695,by
order of the King, 147 whites and 623 negro slaves
were removed against their will to San Domingo.
Cattle and sheep and a few freemen were left be-
hind but the buildings were destroyed,


In 1733, Denmark, in the name of the Dan-
ish West India Company, purchased Sto Croixfrom
Louis XIV and the next year settlements were made
at Bassin, now Christiansted. They were joined
by others from St. Thomas and St. John who settled
throughout the island and established Frederiksted
or West End.

In 1736 many "rich and influential English
persons from Sto Eustatious, Virgin Gorda, and
Tortola" purchased estates and established the
Church of England (Anglican) which became the
largest denomination on the island,



The first Moravian mission of two men ar-
rived in St. Thomas in 1732. Fourteen more came
in 1734 and a year later six more Brethren and e-
leven Sisters arrived, All Moravian missionaries
had trades- carpenters, masons, blacksmiths,
shoemakers, etc, and these trades they taught to
the slaves, Their missionary work was hampered
by the planters who felt that with education, the
slaves might rebel against them. Nothing, how-
ever, came of this opposition and missions were
established at New Herrnhut in 1737. The planta-
tion now known as Nisky was purchased in 1755.
Bethany Mission in St. John above Cruz Bay was
established in 1754.

While there had been Lutheran pastors and
congregations in St. Thomasfrom the first settle-
ment, it was not until 1757 that the Lutheran Church
in Denmark undertook missionary work among the
Negroes in the Virgin Islands. The first band of
Lutheran missionaries arrived in St. Croix that
year and from there were assigned to St. Thomas
and St. John.


The chief difficulty in educating and Chris-
tianizing the slaves was a linguistic one, as both
Moravians and Lutherans preached in Danish,
while the slaves understood only "Creole*, a sim-
plified language based on Dutch (most of the plan-
tation owners in the Virgin Islands were Dutch) and
various African words that the negroes had brought
with them. Translations of Danish into Creole
were made in the late 1760's and by 1770 hymnals
and catechisms in Creole were in use.

The slaves who escaped from St. Thomas
to Puerto Rico were immediately baptized by the
Spanish priests, who then refused to return them
"as there was no church of their new faith in St.

About this time a group of Catholics who
had mirgrated from Montserrat to St. Croix and
purchased estates there complained that they had
no priest to minister to them.

In 1754 the Lutheran government of St.
Thomas solved the escaped slave and Catholic
planters problems by granting permission to all
Roman Catholics, save Jesuits, of all three islands
to "freely exercise their religion", build churches,
call priests and others, but forbade proselytizing,
missionaries or missions. To effectuate and speed
the return of escaped slaves, the Government of
St. Thomas called a priest and supplied him with
a room in which to hold services.

The Dutch are said to have built a fort in
Tortola in 1648. The island changed hands as us-
ual, being taken from the Dutch by the English and


recaptured again but was finally takenby Col. Stap-
leton from Antigua in 1672. He demolished the
fort and removed about 80 settlers (Irish, Welsh
and English) to St. Kitts as being '"more fertile
island and better suited for Settlement". Some
settler s must have been left on Tortola as popula-
tion and plantations slowlyincreased more or less
in pace with the other Caribbean islands.

The Quakers were established in the Bar-
badoes in 1655, and the sect gradually spread
through the other British Islands. They arrived in
Tortola in 1727. There are records of Quaker
Meetings from 1741 to 1762. As they prospered
through their sugar plantations, they sent their
children back to England to be educated, and the
next generation became "absentee landlords'" who
only returned for short visits. This second gener-
ation produced two outstanding figures, Dr. Lett-
som and William Thornton, Dr. Lettsom rose to
distinction inBritish medical circles while Thorn-
ton went to Philadelphia and was finally responsi-
ble for the design of the Capital in Washington,

He was a Captain of Militia in the force that
opposed the British when they burned the building
in 1:81-2.

There were close relations between the
Quakers of Tortola and those in Philadelphia and
communication was frequent. This connection
grew with the decline of the Quakers in theSouth-
ern Caribbean. "Scarce 100 Quakers were left
in Barbadoes in 1744". Dr. Lettsom declared
in 1804 that he was the last surviving West Indi-
an Quaker in the world.


The increase in sugar production and cotton
in the latter part of the 18th Century with conse-
quentprosperity in the islands afforded an obvious
opportunity for the establishment of mercantile
houses. While there was a synagogue in 1796, the
Jews only began migrating to St. Thomas in num-
bers after 1800, from Brazil, Curacoa, St. Eusta-
tius and other Caribbean islands. "In 1801 there
were only 9 families of that persuasion. In 1803
the number had increased to 22. There were rare-
ly any marriages among them until 1824, when
there were 63 families". Practically all were
merchants and the bulk of the larger mercantile
houses were in their hands.

This colony of Shepardic Jews produced
many men of prominence. Camille Pissarro, Judah
Benjamin of the Confederacy, Monsanto Maduro,
Salla, De or DaCastro, are a few of the names
connected with St. Thomas.

As business declined in the 80's and 90's of
the 19th Century, the merchants saw the writing on
the wall and gradually left St. Thomas for Curacoa
and Panama and the United States where business
offered a growing field for their talents. In many
cases their chief clerks took over the declining busi:-
ness and in a few cases carried on under the old

Many natives of St. Thomas carrythese old
Jewish names either through illegitimate lines ofde -
scent or merely took them for lack of any surname
of their own. The same is true of all the Virgin
Islands. Tortola abounds with Quaker names, Lett-
som, Penn, etc.




A general era of prosperity began about the
middle of the 19th Century for all the Virgin Is-
lands. Sugar became supreme- Sto Thomas pros-
pered also as the chief trading port of the Carib-
beano Save for two occupations by the British,
first for ten months in 1801 and again from 1807
to 1814, Sto Thomas was a neutral port open to
the trade of all nations

The British occupations did little to upset
the local life Danish civil officials remained at
their posts and the Danish soldiers, while disarmed
ed, were free on parole.

Cowell's Battery the present Signal Sta-
tion Q and another at the other end of Hassell Is-
land, known as Stillwell's commanding the Greg-
ory Channels, were built. This latter battery is
still in a fair state of preservation. The walls
with the gun embrasures and the firing platform
are largely intact. The old road to it went across
the Haulover and wound up the hill.


The only lasting effect of the occupation, due
to the presence of several thousand Britishtroops
and the arrival of many British merchants and
planters, was the establishment of English as the
general language of the islands and 'left-hand'
traffic laws,

The neutrality of St. Thomas was interrup-
ted by these two periods of British occupancy and
caused a considerable reduction in the commerce
of the port. With the return of Danish sovereignty
St. Thomas again became one of the major ports
of the world.

Life in St. Thomas during the first half of
the 19th Century was one of gradually growing com-
fort and luxury. The Danish governors set afash-
ion of living and entertainment which became in-
creasinglyformal. While the agricultural import-
ance of St. Thomas declined, ("in 1827 there were
65 estates on St. Thomas, only 27 raise sugar,
the rest cattle and provisions. Scarce any are in-
habited as the buildings are in ruins"), various
Danish commerical treaties made rom 1826 to
1838 and other fortunate events wrought prosperi-
ty to the town. Merchants and professional men
made fortunes. Foreign Men-of-War were fre-
quently in port. The stylish, fashionable Danish
Officials and Officers contributed to the resulting
elegance at social functions. Silver plate, gilded
mirrors and crystal were common appointments
at the homes of prominent merchants in St. Thom-
as and planters in St. Croix.

The Governors were supposed to live one
half of the year in St. Thomas and the other half


in St. Croix, but as St. Thomas became more corn-
mercial they tended to spend more time in St. Croix,
where the planters maintained large estates and
life was easier and more pleasant. One, Governor
Von Scholten, built himself a beautiful mansion,
Bulow's Minde, with circular ballroom, on a hill
about two miles west of Christiansted, where he en-
tertained elaborately.

The chief event of this century was the free
ing of the slaves in 1848. In 1835 roughly one third
of the negro population of the three islands were
free and their numbers were constantly increasing.
Most of these free negroes were in the towns, par-
ticularly St. Thomas, where many had risen to po-
sitions of responsibility and affluence.

Spurred on by the English Act of Emanci-
pation in 1833, the Danes passed many ordinances
defining and bettering the conditions of the slave
population. These finally culminated in the Ordin-
ance of 1847, which guaranteed complete freedom
for all slaves after a twelve year educational per-
iod in which to prepare themselves for the neces-
sity for self-support which freedom would bring.

Governor Von Scholten, who had been very
largely re sponsible for all the se ordinances disap-
proved this long wait with the complications partial
freedom would entail. The slaves had equal feelings
of objection to this 12 year period of delay. The
plantationworkers in St. Croix secretly planned an
uprising which took place on July 3rd, 1848, in
Frederiksted. Von Scholten went to Frederiksted
the next day and issued a decree freeing all the
slaves in the Virgin Islands. He had come from


Christiansted without any military force or escort,
and interpreting this as a sign of weakness, the
plantation workers started burning and plundering
the estates. The plantation owners fled to Christian-

After six days the riot was finally quelled, but
Von Scholten was forced to yield the government to
a hastily formed Commission, He left the island
on July 13th, for Denmark, a broken man.
\ i ^ A 'r /^
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A general decline in the prosperity of the
Virgin Islands set in during the second half of the
19th Century. Improving and more modern trans-
portation made the free neutral port of Sto Thomas
less important and the town ceased to be the em-
porium of the Caribbean,

Sto Croix suffered from the inability to get
adequate labor from the newly freed negroes and
the production of sugar and cotton declined, Also
the world price of these commodities fell as other
areas came into production and the use of beet sug-
ar increased.

The Danish government tried to bolster this
declining economy by encouraging private enter=
prise The National Bank of the Danish West Iri
dies was chartered in 1904o This Bank operated
on a profitable basis until 1934 when its assets were
taken over by the present Virgin Islands National
Bank, organized under the National Banking Act of
the United States, in 1935,

The Daniq Government also organized and
built the West Indian Sugar Factory in 1904 to help


the St. Croix planters. This factory, known as
Bethlehem, always operated at a loss. From 1904
to 1917 it sustained a loss of $180, 000. 00, approx-
imately equal to half of its capitalization.

Two attempts to negotiate the sale of the
islands to the United States were made before the
final one of 1916 by which they were transferred.
Ineachcase plebiscites inthe islands were strong-
ly in favor of transfer.

Secretary of State Seward (who later arrang-
ed the purchase of Alaska) initiated a treaty for the
sale of St. Thomas and Sto John for $7, 500, 00.00
in 1867. The Danish Government ratified the treaty
in 1868, but the U. S. Senate refused to act favor-

Secretary of State John Hay negotiated a
treaty for the transfer of all three islands for
$5, 000, 000, 00 in 1902. This treaty was accepted
by the Senate, but a tie vote in the Upper House of
the Danish Parliament prevented ratification by

In 1916 Secretary Lansing, spurred on by
the possibility of transfer of the islands to Ger-
many, then in the midst of war with England and
France, and the consequent danger of a possible
enemy outpost to the Panama Canal, arranged for
the purchase of the islands for $25, 000, 000. 00
This treaty was approved by the Senate and rati-
fied by Denmark. Actual transfer took place on
March 31st, 1917, eight days before the entrance
of the United States into World War I.



Perhaps historically of less importance,
but still interesting happenings during the
19th Century were:

1804 Three disastrous fire swept St. Thomas.
Each destroyed many buildings and caused
1807 heavyfinancialloss. After the secondfire,
stone was generally used in buildings in an
1825 attempt to make them relatively fireproof

1817 Yellow fever broke out in St. Thomas. The
victims were chiefly among the crews ofthe
ships in port. Upwards of 200 people died
before the epidemic abated.

1819 A de structive hurricane and smallpox struck
the Island.

1820 Ice was first brought to St. Thomas.Two
ice houses were built. "A person cannow
have at least one cool drink every day".

1832 The present Government House property
was bought from Peter von Scholtern.


1836 The Colonial Bank (British) was e stablish-
ed at the northwest corner of the Main Stre-
et and Tortola Wharf Streeto This bank
ceased business in 1916o

1838 Apothecary Hall was established by AoHo
Riise, under a grant giving him the ex-
clusive right to sell drugs "provided that
he maintain two stocks of supplies~ each
in a different location, so that if one should
be destroyed the other would be available o

1853 Cholera came to Sto Thomaso There were
many victims among the country estate

1865 St, Thomas was lighted by gaSo The gas
plant was on a section of the We stern Cem7
etery sold to the Company by the Lutheran
Church. The old chimney is still standing
near the present cement block plant0 The
Gas Company stopped operations in 1916,

1867 A tidal wave drew the water from Sto Thomor
Novo 18 as Harbor0 The crews of anchored ves-
sels came ashore afoot through the mud
to be safe from the inevitable rush of the
returning sea. The harbor is reported to
have been dry for 15 minutes.
The Uo S. So Monongahela was at anchor off
Frederiksted,- St. Croix, The returning
waters tore her from her moorings and
carriedher up into the center of the town
almost to the present market place. She
was finally floated when a basin was dug
around her with a canal to the sea.


1874 The West India and Panama Cable Company
laid a cable to St. Thomas.

1875 This cable was extended to St. Croix. As
late as 1930 there was a system whereby
an operator in St. Thomas could ring an
alarm bell in St. Croix, or vice versa,
loud enough to be heard by the police,who
would call an operator, should it be neces-
sary to work the cable when the office was
closed at night.

1876 The Government established a Central Su-
gar Factory inSt. Croix. "The factorydid
excellent work but was not financial suc-
A Sugar Central was built byprivate capi-
tal at Estate La Grange, near Frederik-
sted this mill is still working.

1878 Further labor riots occurred in St.Croix.
"These riots might not have occurred had
the Native Militia of St. Croix not have been
disbanded. The Danish garrison in Christ-
iansted consisted of only 60 men, not enough
to control the whole island. The rioting
lasted for several days. It ended the Labor
Act of 1848. and brought new regulations be -
tween the planters and workers.
Many of the planters left St. Croix, leav-
ing the Overseers (many of them were Irish
farmers)in charge. These overseersfin-
ally bought many of the estates fromthe
absent landlords.



Before the advent of the steamship, ocean
traffic was carried in smaller vessels and entire
cargoes were usually bought by one or two mer-
chants, who stored the goods until sold in smaller
lots for distribution to other islands by small in-
terisland boats. These merchants collected the
sugar, cotton and rum and held these island pro-
ducts until a favorable opportunity for shipment
to Europe or America. The leading merchants
had warehouses, many of which still stand, front-
ing on the main street and reaching to the water
front where they had their own docks. They are of
masonry, fitted with iron doors and brick roofs as
a protection against the repetition of the disastrous
fires of 1804 and 1807.

With the use of steam came the necessity
of refilling bunkers and St. Thomas became the
chief coaling port of the Caribbean. The various
steamship companies built wharfs where their ships
couldtie up and discharge their cargoes into com-
pany warehouses, to be later lightered across to
the merchants in town.



These wharfs were all put on Hassell Island
across fromthe town as deep water came close to
the shore and only short docks were needed.

The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company put
a coaling clack next to the marine railway at the
western end of the island. The original dock con-
sisted of only two short stub piers, put out in the
1860's. Some tenor twelve years later these piers
were joined by a dock paralleling the shore. The
decking was carried on round iron piles, screwed
into the bottom. These piles are still standing.
They also built a catchment and cisterns to sup-
ply fresh water. This was the dock at which the
coal was carried aboard ship by women with bas-
kets on their heads. The last ship was coaled there
in 1916.

The property had been abandoned for twen-
ty-five years when the ruin: of the old blacksmith
shop was repaired and made into a residence in
1942 by Lt. Comdr. J. C. Work.

Next to the Royal Mail Dock was the dock
known as the Danish Wharf. Vice Admiral R. C.
Giffen has a dwelling on the property,

The Hamburg-American Line built a dock
and warehouse in what was known as Careening
Cove still farther east.

The Royal Mail made St. Thomas its Car-
ibbean headquarters, with a machine shop where
the Paiewonsky Distillery now stands and a boiler
shop in the French Village. Many of the older me-
chanics and machinists got their training in these


Royal Mail shops.

The Royal Mailwas largely responsible for
the floating drydock which lifted its first ship, the
WYE, in 1867. This dock was 250 feet in length,
48 feet wide and had 20 feet of water over the keel
blJocks. A gross weight of 3,000 tons could be rais -
ed. One section was broken off in a hurricane in
the 90's and forms the base of the Hacht Haven
Dock. The other undamaged sections capsized and
were lost when attempting to dock the S/S CATH-
ERINE in 19 25

The Creque Marine Railway at the extreme
western end of the island was built by European
(German?) capital It had been abandoned and the
slip was filled with soil from the hills when it was
bought by the grandfather of the present generation
of Creques,

The French Line built a dock on the siteof
the present West Indian Company dock. This loca-
tion is still spoken of by old timers as 'French
Wharf "

The present West Indian Company, Ltd.,
was organized in 1912 under the control of the East
Asiatic Company. The Danish Royal Family and
the Danish Agricultural Bank are also largestock
holders. The first warehouses and coaling cranes
were destroyed in the 1916 hurricane, but were re-
placed as soon as possible. The old Royal Mail
coaling station was abandoned in 1916 when the West
Indian Company began operating. The other docks
on Hassell Island went out of use at the same time,
and ocean shipping was concentrated at the new pier.


The Hamburg-American Line began its
West Indian Service in 1871. In addition to the
Careening Cover property for their dock and ware-
house, they bought considerable property intownr
The building on King Street notfar from Hotel 1829
was the residence of the GermanConsu4; the pres-
ent District Court Building was built as offices of
the Line. Several warehouses became their prop-
erty. All these properties were taken overby the
Alien Property Custodian on our entry into the
First World War and title passed to the NavyDe-

Water, Island, reportedly owned by a mem-
ber of the Hohenzallern family, was transferredto
the West Indian Co. to prevent seizure. The Army
acquired Water Island in 1942 at a nominal figure.
The ruin on the point at the northwest corner of the
island had been in old days the residence of the
family of Mr. Cyril Daniels.

The West Indian and Panama Telegraph
Company, "The British Cable Co. ", had aware-
house and cable supply depot on the west side of
Krum Bay where the Municipal Power Plant is sit-
uated. KrumBay was used as a breaking-upyard
for old vessels.

Mr. Louis Monsanto had a home onthe.east
side of Krum Bay on lease-hold property owned by
the Nisky Mission. He had a large collection of
figureheads, etc,, taken from the ships broken up
in the Bay.

Lindberg Bay was named for Charles Lind-
berg who landed there on one of his early explora-

tory flights for the then new Pan American Air-
ways. Pan American made St. Thomas one of
their fueling and passenger stops enroute to Trin-
idad in their early Flying Boats, in 1938 or '39.

The Navy acquired the Submarine Base
property in 1940 and '41 from the Nisky Mission,
The base was started in a small way on some
WoPoAo funds, but with our entrance into World
War II, the plans were greatly enlarged and the
Base and Bourne Field were built as rapidly as
possible under the direction of Lto Comdro Rob-
ert (Bob) Johnson, now Commodore, who went on
to build many of the airfields on the Pacific Is-
lands in the Japanese phase of the waro

The Airport was originally known as Bour-
ne Field and was operated by the Marine Corps.
It had only a short grass runway and when the
wind was southerly, planes started their take-off
from the area now used as the golf course.

Bourne Field was greatly enlarged at the
beginning of the War. The Caribbean Hotel was
built as the Naval Hospital, the adjacent building
was the Marine Corps Administration Building,
Officers' Quarters and additional Marine Barracks
were built to the north of the field. The present
airport building was the main hangar, with a Sea
Plane hangar across the runway, now used forpri-
vate plane.

The entire Naval Establishment, Submar-
ine Base and Bourne Field were turned over to the
Interior Department about 1953, who designated
the Virgin Islands Company as caretakers. The


Virgin Islands Company turned the properties ov-
er to the St. Thomas Development Authority, a
branch of the Municipality, to operate.



French fishermen began to migrate from
Sto Bartholomew, or Sto Barts, about 1860 and
settled at the Western end of the harbor or Caren-
age, They were descendents of early settlers of
Sto Barts who came originally from Normandy v
According to Mr, Paul Vibert who vi sited.Sto Thom-
as in 1893, their tongue "is NormanFrench of the
18th Century, well preserved and rather like the
French of Canada'o

Some few years later other emigresfrom
Sto Barts settled on the North Side of Sto ThNiromD o
The first to come to this area were two brother -,
Vitally and Anthony LaPlace, who purchased four
acres at Hull Bay in 1884, Other followed the-m
and squatted or had garden plots on the lo-,e.r part:.
of large estates bordering on Miagor-_ Bayo These
estates were still undivided and with no or only
yearly arrangements with the owner s. thesquat-
ers could not afford any build"igs or

In 1915 Mro Arthur Fairchild bought the
Louisenhoj Estate and built the present house on
the ruins of the old plantation house He soon re-
alized the plight of the French farmers and bought
three more estates, Lerkenlund, Misgen and Can-
aan, subdividing and selling the parts occupied by
the squatters to theme Part of Sto Peters andBar-
rett Estates were sold by their owners and'passed
into French hands. They now own the bulk of the
propertyfrom Hull Bay to Misgen, with a few scat-
tered pieces as far east as Mandahl,



The transfer of sovereignty of the islands
from Denmark to the United States took place on
March 31st, 1917. The actual Administration of
the Islands was assigned to the Navy Department
and Admiral James H. Oliver became Governor.
The Naval Administration lasted until 1931. In
general, the Navy Government was hard headed
and practical administration without "Do Good-
ers" and visionary ideas. It made considerable
progress in the Health, Sanitation and Education
of the Islands, improved roads and attempted to
remedy the chronic and stillmajor problem of
water supply. It is looked back upon with nostal-
gia by most of the natives old enough to remem-
ber it.

The Municipal Councils, carried on from
the Danish rule, could offer advice and control the
expenditure of only those funds collected by the
Municipalities, but had no voice in those donated
by the American Congress for the support of the
Naval Administration or projects recommended
by them.

A vociferous minority of the inhabitants
complained so loudly against this restriction of the
power of the people that the Navy Departmentwil-
lingly concurred in the transfer of authority to the
Department of the Interior, and a civilian govern-
ment with Paul M, Pearson as Governor,took over
in 1931. "No significant advances were made in


solving the basic problems of the VirginIslands"
and Governor Pearson was succeeded in 1934 by
Lawrence W. Cramer who had been his Lt. Gov-
ernor, resident in St. Croix.

Cramer was a thorough believer in the New
Deal Pump priming. The Virgin Islands Company
which had been established in 1934, with Boyd J.
Brown as president, to operate Homestead proj-
ects, branched out with P. W. A. allotments which
ultimately ran well over $3,000,000.00. To revive
the sugar industry in St. Croix the Bethlehem Fac-
tory was repaired, old plantation ruins were re-
built into modern homes and the Central Factory
near Christiansted began distilling and marketing
Government House Rum.

Cramer also succeeded in getting the 1st
Organic Act for the VirginIslands passed byCong-
gress in 1935. This Act may be likened to a Con-
stitution for the Virgin Islands, The most import-
ant innovation was universal sufferage.

Every effort has been made by succeeding
Governors to improve the condition and prosperi-
ty of the Islands. Considerable progress is evident
in the accommodation for visitors. Bluebeard's
Castle Hotel was built during the Pearson admin-
istration and was the first modern hotel in the Is-
lands. Others have recently been built, both in
St. Thomas and St. Croix. Modern hospitals, high
schools and Low Cost Housing units have been
built with generous grants by Congress.

A gradually increasing number of retired
residents of the Mainland have builthomresthrough-


out St. Thomas and St. Croix and the Islands seem
well on their way to become the popular place to
which their climate and charm entitle them.



Fort Christian was rebuilt in 1870. The
original tower was not rebuilt until about 1881,
when "the fort has been much improved of late.
The old unsightly red tower which has existed sin-
ce time immemorial being pulled down to make
room for a handsome looking building with an illum-
inated clock face on each of the four sides. The
clock was made by M. Chris. Louv of Copenhagen".

Bluebeard's Castle was laid out as afort-
ification and plantation by Gov. Iversen about
1666, but was not finished until a later date. It
remained government property until about 1900
when it was purchased by the Luchetti family. It
was bought back by the government in 1932 &Blue-
beard's Castle Hotel was built. The hotel itself
was completely remodelled in 1955.

Blackbeard's Castle or Tower is probably
the oldest structure on the Island. Built by the
first settlers under Gov. Iversen about 1670, it
was known as Kjer's Tower until the end of the
17th Centuryo

The Grand Hotel, Hotel 1829 and the brick
house just to the west of it on King Street were
built between 1820 and 1830 by three brothersAn-
duze, who also owned considerable property in
town and plantations in St. Croix.

The Grand Hotel was built as a three storey


building with all the bedrooms in the upper floor,
with dormer windows. The present Emancipa-
tion Park was the Hotel Garden and reached to the
waterfront. The street beside the hotel was cut
through later when the Garden was given to the town.
The third floor was removed and two buildings at the
east end of the property were joined to the main
building in 1900o

The "Old Barracks" below the Fort was
built in 1829. "A two storey building, 200 feet
long and 48 feet wide, at a cost to the Crown of
$29, 000, 00",

The building now occupied by the West In-
dian Bank and Trust Company was built in 1820,
One of the partners in the building was named Rav-
en, who owned the site of Berne's ice plant and the
building on the street, opposite the Catholic Church,

Government House stands onproperty pur=
chased from Governor Von Scholten in 1832. The
Corner Stone of the present building was laid the
same year0 Extensive repairs were made to the
interior during the Cramer administration

Quarters B, at the foot of the ninety-nine
steps, so named by the Naval Administration, was
built as the German Consulate, There is an inter-
esting double stairway. There is a legendthat there
is a gun platform under the landing of the stairway0

The building at the east end of King Street,
with large entrance steps was the French Masonic
Lodge. It was used as a hospital during the Naval
Administration, and is now owned by Mr. Emile



The District Court building, with the Co-
operative on the first floor, was built by the Ham-
burg American Line for their offices.

Denmark Hill was built by Governor Berg
in 1832. It was purchased in 1916 bythe West In-
dian Company as a residence for their General

Villa Santa Anna on Denmark Hill is so
called from its occupancy by General Santa Anna
during his banishment from Mexico. The house
may have been built by Delanois, one of the early
settlers as this hill was formerly known as Delan-
ois Hill, but more probably was rebuilt on the ruins
of his original home,

The Nisky Mission House was built in 1829,
on property purchased in 1755. The Mission now
owns only a smallpart of their original holdings.
The major part was sold to the Navy in 1941. The
Moravian Pastors are buried in a cemetery west
of the Mission. Four rows of marble slabs cover
the graves. The Pastors are in one of thekcenter
rows with their wives in the other, across the aisle.
The two outer rows are their children, boys on the
Pastors' side and the girls on that of their mothers.

The Steeple Building in Christiansted at the
foot of Company Street is supposed to stand on the
ruins of a Roman Catholic Church built bytheFre-
nch, prior to 1695 when they left the Island._ The
present building was built as a Lutheran Church.It
was consecrated in 1753 and abandoned in 1834. A


view of Christiansted from Protestant Cay, dated
1830, shows the building in its present form. It
has served as a bakery, provision store -nilitary
depot and a school.

The Christiansted Post Office is on the site
of the old Danish Barracks the wall connected
with it formed the Barracks Yard.

Government House in Christiansted, St.
Croi*, was built in 1774. It was gutted byfire
in 1936. As the exterior was relativelyunharmed
it was possible to rebuilt without destroying the
original charm of the building.

The "Fort" at Cruz Bay, St.John,was not
built until well after the slave uprising of 1733. In
all probability it was built around 1800 when St.
John became important as a sugar producer. It
has always been the residence of the Chief Offi-
cial in St. John.

Caneel Bay (Caneel Boom means cinna-
montree) inSt. John has the ruins of anold sugar
factory not far from the water. The whole pointin-
cluding Durloo Cays was purchased bythe West In-
dian Company in 1935, from aDanish owner for
about $7, 000. 00. They built five cottages for
rental to tourists, but as the parentEast Asiatic
Company had no wish to be involved intouristde-
velopment program it was sold. The property is
presently being developed by the Rockefeller in-
te re sts.



The Danish West Indies. Waldemiar Westegard
The hacmillan Coa, N.oY 1917

Virgin Islands Story Jens Larsen
Muhlenburg Press, Philadelphia, 1950

Virgin Islands, From Naval Basn to New Deal
Luther Harris Evans, Ann Arbor, liich,,1945

Historical Account of St, Thomas, D.e o I,
John P. Knox9 Scribner, N- Y., 1852

Tortola o Charles F, Jenkins
Friends Bookshop, Lcrdon, 1923

Yearly Almarmr cks published in St. Thomas

These references as well as many old maps
and prints can be consulted at the St. Thomas
Publio Library


The most correct map of the Virgin Islands, is the U, S. Coast
and Geodetio Survey Chart #905.

The Uo So C. & G. Survey also publishes individual topographical
maps of St, Thomas (#3240, St.John (3241) and St. Croix (#3242)

All these maps are for sale at the Harbor Office,

Sketch Roadraps of St. Thomas for use in driving about St. Thomas
may be purchased at The Tourist Bureau and most stationary stores
and garages about town,