Today St. John Island forms part of the U. S. Virgin Islands, an unincorporated territory of the United States. It sits just to the west of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea. Much of the island falls within Virgin Islands National Park.(1)
Only 19.6 square miles in area, this hilly tropical island possesses a truly fascinating history. Historians sometimes divide its past into three segments: the Pre-Colonial, Colonial, and the Modern Periods.
The Pre-Colonial Period
Archaeologists have discovered evidence suggesting Native Americans visited the island as early as 770 B.C.(1) Some researchers believe Taino Indians from South America emigrated to St. John Island around 300 A.D.(5)
By 1200, Arawak Indians resided in this region. Then, around 1300, Carib Indians invaded, assuming control of at least part of the island.(3)
The Early Colonial Period
In 1493, the explorer Christopher Columbus sailed past the Island of St. John.(3) Later, pirates sometimes visited the area, also.(4) Spain laid claim to the Western Hemisphere following Christopher Columbus' voyages, but Spanish rulers could not prevent other European nations from sending ships into the Caribbean region.
By 1684, Britain and other nations had asserted claims over the Island of St. John. British settlers established plantations on the nearby Island of Tortola. They tried to prevent Danes from settling St. John. On March 25, 1718, a group of 20 Danish settlers from the Island of St. Thomas established an outpost at Coral Bay.(2)
The Late Colonial Period
Planters who settled on St. John brought many African slaves to work on sugar plantations in the area. They cleared away the natural vegetation and transformed the landscape into terraced farmland. The slave population expanded, until slaves greatly outnumbered free residents. A brief, bloody slave uprising occurred for several months during 1733.(2)
In 1754, the Danish government assumed control of St. John and several nearby settlements.(3) The Danish government finally abolished slavery in 1846.(6) St. John remained a Danish colony.(3)
The Modern Period
In 1917, the United States paid Denmark $25 million for the U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. government wanted to establish a military presence to prevent Germany from using the region for its naval operations.(4)
During the 1930s, St. John attracted tourists.(2) Its economy still depends primarily upon tourism today.
As you can see, the island of St. John is rich in history. It has become a place for people not only to vacation, but to visit the historical places on the island. If you want to visit St. John Island and see all the history for yourself consider a vacation villa or home from CimmaronStJohn. They offer a variety of places to stay throughout the island with beautiful views and accommodations.