We, at Good Day Charters, thought it would be fun to read a little bit about the history when it comes to our caribbean islands. It’s always fun do do some research before you jump on a plane to see where you’re actually going…you never know, you might end up on a private boat rental who would take you around the beautiful Virgin Islands to show you all that stuff… 😉
St. Thomas – The Really Old Years
- Archaeological confirmation cites that St. Thomas was once home to natives of the Ciboney tribes, the Taino or Arawak tribe and the Caribs.
- It is said that Christopher Columbus “discovered” St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands during his second voyage to the New World in 1493.
- In 1671 the Danish West India Company acquired its charter from King Christian V to seize and take possession of St. Thomas and islands altogether that might be unoccupied and useful for plantations.
- The first two ships that set sail to settle St. Thomas included an original crew of116 men contracted by the company and 61 convicts that headed out on August 30, 1671 arriving on February 26,1672.
- The first of many ships transporting slaves to the island started in 1673. On this date, a ship of 103 slaves was sent to St. Thomas. 24 more slaves were sent in 1675 and 16 in 1678.
- By 1680, the population was 156 whites and 175 blacks. One fort, one road running through the island, and about 50 plantations was the entire settlement.
- St. Thomas grew slowly and many Dutch colonists slowly arrived from near by islands. Due to the colonization, the very beginning Dutch was the dominant language.
- The capital of St. Thomas is Charlotte Amalie in honor of King Christian V’s wife.
- The Esmit Brothers, who served as the 2nd and 3rd governors of St. Thomas, illegally and blatantly traded with buccaneers as well as allowing them to use St. Thomas as a hideout.
- Stories of piracy on St. Thomas and the other Virgin Islands are quite common including well-known tales of pirates Blackbeard and Bluebeard.
The 1700s in the Virgin Islands
- The early 1700’s were the boom period for St. Thomas, sugar became the popular crop and slave trading was on the rise. African slaves were used for labor on the many plantations that dotted the island.
- In 1717, a small group of planters, slaves and soldiers were sent from St. Thomas to claim John. And, on June 13, 1733 the Danish West India Company bought St. Croix from France. In 1754 a proposal recommending that the Danish Government take over the administration of the islands was approved by King Frederik V. The islands became crown colonies.
1800s to 1900s on the Islands
- In 1815, St. Thomas became a free port in 1815 and in the years afterwards it became a shipping center and distributing point for the West Indies. Charlotte Amalie prospered commercially. English, French, German, Italian, American, Spanish, Sephardim and Danish owners of large and small importing houses were thriving as well.
- In the late 1800s through early 1900s, several major natural disasters including hurricanes, fires and a tsunami left Charlotte Amalie needing a major re-build. Years passed before the old warehouses that once stored goods for trade would be rebuilt to house the fancy boutiques and stores that line the streets today.
- On St. Croix, plantations suffered with labor issues and low market prices on sugar. The Danish West Indies became more and more dependent on Denmark, and its treasury, during these difficult times.
- Negotiations between the United States and Denmark commenced on several occasions between 1865 and 1917. The final deal negotiated a $25 million purchased between the United States and Denmark. The United States flag was hoisted on the three ‘Virgin Islands of America’ on the 31st of March 1917.
- Prosperity returned to Charlotte Amalie and St. Thomas as air and sea travel increased in the 1950s. Tourism continued to grow in the years thereafter.
St. Thomas and the Virgin Islands Today
- Thomas moved into the 21st century maintaining its prominence as one of the Caribbean’s top vacation destinations and Charlotte Amalie as a favorite cruise ship port of call.