Explore the Lush Landscapes of St. Croix

An aerial view of a beach and some houses.

St. Croix Historical Synopsis

First inhabited by Ortoroids and “Amerindians;” desce ndants of African peoples. Subsequent "tribes" were called: Ceramic, Ciboney, Arawak, Taino and Caribs. These are some of the English names for these peoples who had their own names in their own languages. These were the original inhabitants of the Caribbean and some of them inhabited St. Croix for thousands of years before the European encroachment which started before the 15th century.

Columbus returned to the Caribbean in 1493 on his second voyage with 12 ships. The multitude of ships had the contributions of the Spanish Queen. This was the beginning of the Spanish Succession.

The Spaniards were seeking: new territory, gold, silver and “Indians” to be used for slave labor, food and agricultural production. By the 1600’s the “Indian” population in the Caribbean was in danger of becoming extinct. Save for larger islands that had land for them to escape into the interior; they could have become completely extinct.

Saint Croix (saint-croy), is 84.25 square miles, and was named Santa Cruz (holy cross) by Columbus, is today spelled in French; who inhabited it up until 1733.

The Spanish were the first Europeans to colonize St. Croix. The island probably had a long standing society due to its rich topography. This society is evidenced by Christopher Columbus' confrontation with lots of arrows when first visiting. Spain’s huge settlement to come in neighboring Santo Domingo (Hispaniola), and some major settlements in Puerto Rico are testament to their presence in this area. Out posts around Puerto Rico were built to protect their more important interests to continue the Spanish expansion. These smaller islands were expected to be somewhat productive as they were also cultivated for crops.The Spanish held St. Croix from the late 15th century to the 16th century.

Following the Spanish 125 plus year quest to cultivate land and acquire humans to work as slaves there, both the Dutch and English started feuding over land space and rights to colonize it, after many fights and the subsequent killing of leaders on both sides, the Spanish made an attempt to resettle but were quickly driven out by the French under governor Depoincy. The French were also battling the Spanish in Santo Domingo.

St. Croix France by Denmark in 1733. Denmark had existing colonies on St. Thomas and St. John V.I. that were very productive: St. John as an agricultural cash crop producer and St. Thomas as a trading depot and free port. Soon after the purchase, the French helped the Danes in the battle for St. John during the famous Fortsberg Slave Revolt at the Fortsberg Fortress in 1733. The slaves were not eating properly, and were fed-up with the conditions that they were living in, because of droughts, pestilence and the increased rationing of food and aggression by the European slave masters, they decided to strike back in a brave attempt to take control of their lives.

Denmark eventually sold the Danish West Indies (St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John, Water Island and approximately 46 cays to America in 1917 for $25,000,000 worth of gold.

The island has seen its share of fires, hurricanes, and wars. It was here that the Dutch killed the English governor only to lose two Dutch governors to English hands. It was also here that the great Fire Burn of 1878 transpired. The slaves set fire to the town of Frederiksted due to the frustrations of slavery continuing despite the official freeing of the slaves by Peter von Sholten in 1848 legitimately.

St. Croix is no stranger to adversity. The island and its people have survived some devastating hurricanes: Hugo in 1989, Marilyn in 1995, and smaller ones Georges and Lenny in 98 and 99 respectively. The island is resilient and so are the people. Crucians, as they are affectionately called today, are a happy and peaceful people. It is a very cultural and traditional island.

St. Croix has been preserved in a time capsule waiting to be rediscovered again and again. A quaint, double city island, that has rich town history. Gorgeous 18th and 19th century edifices that have a Dutch architectural influence and Frederiksted’s Victorian style homes line the streets and were purposely laid out in a grid pattern; parallel and perpendicular to beautiful streets, guts and sidewalks.

The people are very beautiful as well. A wonderful mixture of African/European/Spanish blend is now mixing with a current day (ca. 2007) more ethnic African and the “Crucian” (Spanish/African) type. St. Croix has experienced a continuous mixture of ethnicities due to its industrialized economy in the Caribbean bringing a large influx of immigrants from Puerto Rico and other islands to work in its bauxite and oil refinement factories.

St. Croix has always been a place of mixture going back to the days when Great Britain colonized Frederiksted on the west side, and the Dutch from the Netherlands, Christiansted, on the east side, both simultaneously. Ever since, the island has kept its dual city status nicknamed “Twin City” by Virgin Islanders.

St. Croix is the largest of the four Virgins, and the most industrialized. It was also the most productive agriculturally in colonial days. So much in fact that it rivaled the cotton and sugar production that much bigger islands such as Jamaica, Cuba and Hispaniola produced in ratio. Today tourism supplements the economy which is largely driven by the hugeoil refinery there owned by Hovensa; a Venezuelan based oil refinery, Cruzan Rum Distillery, and a soda bottling company.

Spanish is a widely spoken language here because of the large migration of Puerto Ricans that came for work at the oil refinery and the bauxite plants in the 60’s and 70’s. There were other historical migrations in the 30’s through the 50’s when Puerto Ricans came to fill jobs in the sugar cane industry after the slow down and virtual collapse of those industries in Puerto Rico.

St. Croix is beautiful and naturally landscaped with many old plantations to visit, botanical gardens to discover, and excellent diving with sunken ships and the under water history that comes with it. It is also surrounded by many cays including the British Virgin Islands to the North East. The island still does not enjoy the strong tourism based cruise ship economy that St. Thomas has, instead a solid hotel industry exists and a strong desire to develop their potential cruise ship industry.

Formed of coral origin unlike her sister island’s volcanic nature, St. Croix is similar in some ways and then very different and unique in others. St. Croix’ population is 63,000, (2000 census) almost the same as that of St. Thomas despite the big differences in size, but with 84 plus square miles that is a lot of land to go around in ratio to St. Thomas. The highest point is Mount Eagle at 1,165 ft. St. Croix is very close in proximity to the North American Plate but is definitely on the Caribbean Plate. What is interesting is that whenSanto Domingo is experiencing an earth quake the tremors and vibrations can be felt at the same time in St. Croix.

With excellent scuba diving sites and world class golf courses St. Croix has left the turmoil behind and is leaping forward to the future. A relaxing and visually pleasing landscape awaits the visitor and casual explorer.

St. Croix citizens became U.S. citizens in 1927 and voted for their first governor in 1970, Melvin Evans a native of St. Croix became the first elected governor and Cyril E. King another Crucian became the second elected governor. Cyril E. King was the first African to work in the office of a U.S. senator (Humphrey’s 1940’s – 61). John F. Kennedy appointed him as the Government Secretary in 1961. He became governor in 1975 after after loosingin a run off election against Mr. Evans in the previous 1974 election and died in 1978 before he completed his term.

St. Croix has seven senators that represents it constituents in the legislature.

St. Croix – Time line

3500B.C. – 1550 A.D. Ortoroid, Ceramic, Ciboney, Arawak, and Carib tribes.

1493 A.D. Christopher Columbus came on November 14th, and landed on Salt River. He was welcomed by lethal arrows in the air from the tribal people whom he ran into and had a quick conflict as they had be en inhabiting these territories before 2000 BC. This important conflict was the first of many more to come as Coulombs chronicled it as "Cabos de Flechas" ( Point of Arrows). In the centuries to come Puerto Rico became a huge Spanish fort island, while this area became a battle ground for survival. Columbus continued for now on his journey headed north where he found many archipelagos that he named "De Ursula Las Once Mil Virgenes" (The 11,000 virgins). His inspiration being the mythical virgins that followed Saint Ursula to martyrdom in Rome.

Spain is considered the first European nation to colonize, settle or conquer the island. Columbus was contracted by Spain and most surely captured “Indians” for slave labor before the Dutch and English came to the area.

1500's: Spanish Settlement-In the 16th and early 17th century the Spanish colonizers visited St. Croix off and on and probably had small private settlements due to the close proximity to Puerto Rico it was important to visit the islands around and police the general area. The same as cured in and around St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola, Vieques, and Culebra all of these and more were named the Virgins, by Columbus who claimed them all for Spain.

1621: The English were the first European country to formally settle St. Croix, but because of the same claim of ownership and the policing of the area the English were murdered and some transported to Puerto Rico.

Spanish monitoring and quasi control:

1625-1631: St. Croix was colonized by both the Dutch and the English almost simultaneously.

1645: English and Dutch fight a big fight after many small fights and disagreements over land and the legal rights to St. Croix because the British Governor was murdered in the Dutch governors house, as a result the Dutch Governor was killed in a battle. The Dutch elected a new governor who was invited by the English to reestablish good relations but only under false pretenses because the newly elected Dutch governor was arrested and subsequently killed and whose dead body was paraded on the streets. The Dutch were also trying to settle Tortola B.V.I. around 1648.

1650: Spanish murdered and drove the English off of St. Croix in August. The Spanish had a major colony on Puerto Rico by now and did not want any of the unrest, turbulence and wars in St. Croix to disturb their settlement in Puerto Rico, and after losing so much wealth to French and English pirates and Privateers, one could understand why.

1651: France drove off the Spanish through Monsignor Lonvilliers de Poincy who was the Governor of The French West Indies.

1653: Denmark, already involved in the Slave Trade by way of colonizing Africa and forcefully exporting Africans as slaves, was now planning to join in on the complete European colonization of the Caribbean - eventually colonizing St. Thomas in 1665 and St. John in 1694 -1718. St. Croix’ colonization by the Danes did not occur until 1733.

1654: St. Croix was turned over to the French - Knights of Malta a very rich and powerful Catholic sect controlled St. Croix for approximately fifteen years. They were afraid of catching Malaria and thought that it originated from the forests of trees and bushes so they burnt down much of the trees and bushes.

The process of burning trees is actually good for producing high quality fertile soil, this was not their goal but fortunately it helped to create fertile ground in St. Croix in later years when it was booming agriculturally in the late 18th to early 19th centuries.

1665: The French Revolution created a French West Indian Company. Christiansted French Town Basin was established by order of King Charles IV. St. Thomas was colonized by Denmark around that same period.

1674: The French Crown, dissatisfied with how the island was being run, took over the management and fought Great Britain for St. Croix.

1695: The French moved to Saint Dominique (Haiti), in large numbers and St. Croix’ Agricultural economy was not at a concentrated level. Haiti had more land and was not far away.

1697: Denmark set out to make a serious step into the Slave Triangle by establishing the Danish West Indian and New Guinea Company. It was so successful that by 1742 the Danes had established 264 plantations in St. Croix by leasing the land competitively to anyone that wanted land to cultivate for crops through the plantation system regardless of Nationality. Denmark was a neutral territory and this system was less discriminatory and open.

1733: Denmark purchased St. Croix from France. for $550,000 franc livres.

1736: Compulsory confirmation was introduced which required some ability to read.

1739: In Denmark; the Danes passed an ordinance to create schools in Denmark for their poor and peasant children to receive an education.

1742: 264 Plantations exist in St. Croix bustling economy.

1749: Fort Christianvaern was built in Christiansted north of the island. The fortress was later used as a police station and a court house.

1754: The Royal Academy of Art was established.

1760: Fort Frederik was completed and named after King Frederik V. in that same year the Crucian Rum Distillery was established this distillery went on to creating some of the finest rum in the world winning many gold medals in taste contests.

1766 – 1808: King Christian ruled Denmark. He kept many of his father's advisers but was challenged by an emerging charismatic leader in the court party; Johann Friedrick Struensee. Struensee was the royal physician but took control of the government established freedom of the press, eliminated torture andthe Privy Council, basically reorganized the government administration by changing the German chancery to a foreign ministry.

1771: Struensee was not well liked by some in government, after being made the royal secretary his policies upset industrialists, he had the support and protection of the Royal Guards however, for when they were ordered to disband, they mutinied.

1772: On January 17th Struensee was caught, arrested and beheaded. The new administration of aristocrats were not as friendly towards foreigners.

1773: Boston Tea Party

1776: A law was established that blocked foreigners from royal service.

1776: American Revolution occurred. This was where Alexander Hamilton was instrumental in not only strategic military prowess, but also in writing the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton was raised in St. Croix for at least 7 years.

1848: Peter von Scholten abolished slavery in St. Croix and all the Danish West Indies on July 3rd in Freedom City Fredericksted and subsequently traveled to the two other islands to read the declaration of their independence on the 4th and 5th in St. Thomas and St. John respectively. Under the able leadership of
General Budhoe and other freedom fighters that were fed up with the empty promises for freedom from slavery after every revolt and going to burn the entire island down and to its knees.

1862: Slaves “indentured servants” were brought to work, these actions were not well received.

1864: A Crucian contractor was chosen to build Government House his name was Richard Bright. Mr. Bright a master carpenter who lived in St. Thomas on Kongens Gade (King Street) and died in the summer months of 1866 before the edifice was completed.

 Government House was completed by George Nunes and Company.

 The capital was moved from St. Croix to St. Thomas. Saint Thomas had a newly built governors mansion and a bustling trading economy.

The town of Frederiksted was burnt down to the ground during the great “Fire Burn” due to the African “slaves" attack on the economic infrastructure to counter the continued practice of slavery and the importing of Africans from Trinidad who were used as indentured servants despite the abolishment of slavery.

. Queen Mary was one of the leaders of this attack.

1917: America purchases the four islands and 46 cays for 25,000,000 dollars worth of gold. Crucian leaders and some from the populace petitioned the United States to be included in the purchase agreement. Not only were they experiencing negative relations with the Danes but St. Croix was not included in the first bid in 1866 under Secretary of State William Henry Seaward.

Naval Administrators governed the islands

1917-1919: James Harrison Oliver; Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy administered the Islands.

1920-1921: Joseph Wallace Oman; Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy

1921: Cyril E. King was born on April 7th, a future leader in the world was to later to lead the Virgin Islands in principle and ideals. He attended St. Ann’s Catholic School and graduated from St. Mary’s Catholic School. He attended the American University in Washington D.C. and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration. Over his life time he would go on to receiving honorary degrees and many other accolades in public service to his community and America.

1921-1922: Sumner Ely Wetmore Kittelle; Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy

1922-1923: Henry Hughs Hough; Captain of the U.S. Navy

1923-1925: Phillip Williams; Captain of the U.S. Navy

1925-1927: Martin Edward Trench; Captain of the U.S. Navy

1927-1931: Waldo Evans; Captain of the U.S. Navy

Governors appointed by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior

1931-1935: The first appointed Governor; Paul M. Pearson, was born on Oct.22, 1871 and died March 27, 1938.

1935-1941: The second elected Governor; Lawrence W. Cramer, was born on Dec. 26, 1897 and died Oct.18, 1978.

1941-1946: The third appointed Governor; Charles Harwood, was born on May 14, 1880 and died on Oct.23, 1950, the Charles Harwood highway was named after him.

1946-1949: The forth appointed Governor; William Henry Hustie, was born Nov.17.

1949: Cyril E. King started working in the office of U.S. Senator Humphrey. This lasted for approximately 11 years until he was appointed as V.I. Government Secretary under Kennedy, before he received that job he became senior staff member and worked as a researcher for a special subcommittee on disarmament. Senator Humphrey was born in 1904 and died April 21, 1976.

1950-1954: The fifth appointed Governor; Morris Fidanque DeCastro became the first native born governor.

1954-1955: The sixth appointed governor; Arcihbald Alphonso Alexander, was born May 14, 1888 and died Jan. 4, 1958. Archibald was appointed at a very mature age.

1956: Laurance S. Rockefeller the conservationist purchases and later donates 5000 acres (approximately 3/5of the island) to the V.I. National Park Service.

1955-1958: The seventh appointed Governor; Walter Arthur Gordon was born on Oct.10, 1894 and died April 2, 1976 at the ripe age of 81.

1958-1961: The eighth appointed Governor; John David Merwin was first native born administrator of the Virgin Islands, a sign of things to come. He was born on September 26, 1921.

1961: Cyril E. King was appointed as Government Secretary (equivalent to Lt. Governor) by John F. Kennedy.

1961-1969: The ninth appointed Governor; Ralph M. Paiewonsky was born on Nov.9, 1907 and died on his birthday on Nov.9, 1991.

  • King was appointed as Government Secretary by John F. Kennedy. This position was the equivalent of the Lieutenant Governors position today.

1969-1970: The tenth and last appointed Governor; Melvin Evans, was appointed as Governor after the early resignation of Ralph M. Paiewonsky was accepted by then President Nixon. Something very curious about his resignation, he was probably aware of the up coming elections and the changes that were on the horizon. To save embarrassment he was probably asked to resign.

Term limited elected officials, a supreme court, and a constitution

1970-1974: The first elected Governor; Melvin Evans was elected by the people of the Virgin Islands. He was the first person to be elected by the people after 53 years under American rule. Melvin was born on August 7, 1917 and died on Nov. 27, 1984. The time had come for the people to choose their ownadministrator. Melvin Evans wasn’t an easy choice over the charismatic Cyril E. King even though he served the people in the highest position by appointment of the President previously.

1970: Melvin Evans was elected as Governor after a run off election with Cyril E. King.

1974: Second elected GovernorCyril E. King, was born on St. Croix April 7th, 1921 and died January 2nd, 1978 before he was able to complete his term in office.

1977: Cyril E. King wrote a congratulatory letter to Dawuud N. Nyamekye; formerly David M. Horsford after his victory winning the title as Prince of Carnival.

1978-1987: Third elected Governor; Juan Francisco Luis was born on July 10, 1940. Juan Luis the incumbent lieutenant governor became governor.

1987-1995: Fourth elected Governor; Alexander A. Farrelly was born on Dec.29, 1925.

1995-1999: Fifth elected Governor, Dr. Roy Lester Schneider was born on May 13th, 1939. Dr. Schneider was a former Prince of Carnival in St. Thomas and as governor pushed for the hospital to be named after him. An obvious affinity lighter or white complexion in women. He was viewed by many in the community as being pompous and arrogant.

1999-2007: Sixth elected Governor; Charles W. Turnbull Ph.D. was elected Governor.

2002: Governor Charles W. Turnbull was re-elected as the seventh Governor.

  • The islands thrived under Turnbull’s administration.
  • He was re-elected as governor for a second term.
  • He was a historian and educator.

2007: Eighth elected Governor; John P. DeJongh was elected, with his running mate and Lieutenant Governor, Gregory R. Frances from St. Croix.

One of their goals in office is to stimulate St. Croix’ economy by encouraging the Cruise ship industry to try the island as a new destination while trying to provide some incentives.
Currently: St. Croix is more cultural than all the other islands combined, partly due to its agricultural past, lack of a strong tourism based economy and various celebrations and activities; agricutural fair, better land for the cultivation of crops.

Historically: St. Croix has always been more industrialized with the third largest oil refinery in the world and a distillery (Cruzan) that has been producing some of the finest rum in the world.

Government: St. John has one Senator (at large). The other two islands St. Thomas and St. Croix have seven senators each for a total of fifteen total. Under the new constitution these dynamics may change. There is now a growing desire in the community for changes to made in the legislature. Currently in the executive branches of government a Governor and Lt. Governor are elected every four years and fifteen senators in the Legislative Branches are elected every two years. There is also a Delegate to Congress but without voting rights in the House. Commissioners are appointed by the Governor and are approved by the Legislature. They head: Agriculture, Police, Housing Parks and Recreation, Education, Tourism, Planning and Natural Resources, Public Works In the judicial branch the District Court of the Virgin Islands and the Territorial Court exists.

2008: Road construction is on going for a highway that would connect to Center line road and the Melvin Evans highway.