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An Overview of St Croix Recorded History


 from "Divers Information on the Romantic History of St. Croix" by Florence Lewisohn,
1963; Florence Lewisohn on behalf of St. Croix Landmarks Society

St. Croix today is an hospitable island that has a little of everything except cold weather.

The island has changed remarkably since Columbus discovered it in 1493 and was driven off by hostile Indians. In the nearly 500 years that have intervened, this little area of 84 square miles and 52,628 acres has alternately suffered and prospered from the blind forces of nature and history. It has attracted a remarkable variety of people during its history, not all of whom benefited the island.

During the period of development of the Western Hemisphere, St. Croix was fought over, colonized, bought, sold, captured and recaptured because of its strategic or economic potential. It is popularly said to have existed under the flags of seven nations. This tally does not include periods of possession or use by aboriginal tribes, pirates, filibusters, squatters, private owners, religious and trading companies, or the few times when it was not occupied by anyone at all.

Our documented history begins with the Indians found on the island by Columbus, and seen again by Governor John White 94 years later when he stopped here three days on his way to found Virginia in 1587.

THE VANISHED INDIAN. When Columbus sent his men ashore at St. Croix's Salt River entrance to look for fresh water, November 14, 1493, the landing party encountered a canoe full of Indians and a lively fight took place on the water. Columbus' men got more or less the worst of it, but captured a few Indians whom they took with them. Columbus named the spot "Cabo de Flechas" or "Cape of The Arrows."

When the island came to be actually settled in the early 1600's, there were no Indians left. It is assumed that most of them were carried off in raids by the Spaniards to work the gold mines of Santo Domingo.

To this day the question remains unsettled as to whether St. Croix was inhabited by the warlike, cannibalistic Caribs or the peaceful Arawaks, or both. The Arawak culture predominated, as artifacts show, but the cultural traits were carried by the women, and the Caribs as they moved northward through the Antilles from the Orinoco area, liked nothing better than capturing Arawak women. There is also evidence of strong relationships with the warlike Tainans of Puerto Rico, and the peaceful Taino of Hispaniola, who sometimes had women as chieftains.

In any case, St. Croix has at least forty Indian village sites, and is rich in Indian artifacts*. The Salt River village site is a favorite digging spot for local amateurs.

An archaeologist once uncovered a row of flat stone slabs standing on edge at Salt River, with petroglyphs and pictographs on them. Hundreds of the "three pointer" religious stones were found there, and are still to be picked up along shore or inland. The still-visible earthen fort built there by the French in the 1650's abounds in shell deposits and other Indian artifacts. There are also sites at Estates St. George, Fair Plain, Glynn, Grove Place, Plessen, Coakley Bay, Cane Bay, Longford and Sprat Hall, to mention just a few.

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