Group Title: Olasee Davis articles
Title: Homestead chapter closes Program netted over 2,500 people
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Title: Homestead chapter closes Program netted over 2,500 people
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Davis, Olasee
Publication Date: March 27, 1998
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Bibliographic ID: CA01300919
Volume ID: VID00205
Source Institution: University of the Virgin Islands
Holding Location: University of the Virgin Islands
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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The Daily News, Friday, March 27, 1998

Homestead chapter closes

Program netted over 2,500 people

This final column on the home-
stead program on St Croix focuses
on homestead communities and
some of the people in the program.
It was said that 2,500 men,
women and children participated in
the homestead program. Most home-
steads were family enterprises.
The communities they lived in
include Estate Rattan, Estate
Colqiahoun, Mount Pleasant, the
Northside (comprised of Rust Up
Twist, Belvedere, La Vallee, Cane
Bay and Prosperity plantations),
Estate St. John, Estate La Grande
Princesse, Whim Estates comprised
of Whim, Carlton, Two Williams,
Campo Rico, Good Hope, Roan's
Bay and the Hope Plantations.
Today, you will find most black
Virgin Islanders on St. Croix live in
these communities, even though
other communities were developed
after the homestead program. Places
like William's Delight, Bethlehem
Estates, Golden Grove, Castle
Burke, Upper Love and other
estates still grew cane in the 1930s
and '50s. Strawberry and Barren
Spot had cane up to the late 1960s.
People who came to St. Croix
from other Caribbean islands or
. countries would be surprised that
the island's economy was based on
sugar not too long ago.
When I talk about the natural or
agricultural history of SL Croix to
young people, they don't believe
you could once drive from town to
town seeing cane without a single
housing development on Queen
Mary Highway.
The communities during the
homestead era lived and worked
together. They helped one another
on farms, discussed their needs,


their crops and their problems. If
one family didn't have flour, anoth-
er family gave. Doors of homes
were left unlocked. Some families
even helped others financially.
In those days, cooperation rather
than competition governed the lives
of homesteaders.
In this period of St Croix agri-
cultural history, streams still flowed
year 'round. Homesteaders who are
alive today can tell you they used to
cart water from streams and wells.
Nonetheless, given the chal-
lenges of farming with limited
resources and little support from
government, most homesteaders
had to relinquish their land after a
few years. In the end, fewer than
130 homestead families survived.
To me this was sad. Gone are
the days when women, men and
children sang in the cane fields.
And never to return are the still
nights when you could hear the
stream water flow.
The wild animals that once
grazed in the cane fields, farm
ponds and wetlands are no longer
abundant. A life where people live
and respect one another is no longer
to be found.
In this letter written by home-
steader John F. Davis in July 22,
1930, to Herbert D. Brown, one can
feel the pain and suffering of our
people in the 1930s and 1950s.

"Dear Sir: I approach you with
sympathy towards my condition. I
have erected a house of four rooms
on a piece of land to which I have
no title claim and have invested
over $600 labor in that land. I did
not do it for boast, but I did as an
example for other men to follow.
"But now, you have started the
project I am asking you kindly to
use every energy asn able hearted
American in helping me to purchase
that land. You know Sir, that if you
approach Mr. Skeoch for a sale
question as a representer of mine,
ten word from you to Mr. Skeoch
will worth more than ten thousand
of mine. I am asking you kindly Sir
to part with nature feeling for me,
with a family of ten children, five
boys and five girls, and if I should
die, no heritage in my labor for
"If you should succeed in so
doing Sir, I will stand out as a last-
ing monument to your clemency,
and I will be a good and noble
example for other men to emulate.
And your humble petitioner as in
duty bound shall ever pray. I am
yours most humble obedient servant
Mr. John F. Davis."
How can I not tell the people of
these islands that the environment,
agriculture and culture are our birth
rights to fight for politically and
spiritually? Rise up, you mighty
people, and take your stand for
these islands.
This column presents the views
of Olasee Davis, who has a master
of science degree in range manage-
ment and forestry ecology and is a
St. Croix ecologist, activist and

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