A Brief History of
Virgin Islands - US
The history of the Virgin Islands is woven into a rich tapestry of tales. It all started with Christopher Columbus' second voyage in 1493. He first sighted St. Croix, which he named Santa Cruz and claimed for Spain. Sailing further North, he found endless islands and christened them Las Islas Virgenes - The Virgin Islands.
After this excitement, the islands drowsed on, stirred only by an occassional passing buccaneer or explorer. In the 1600's European powers continued to claim and settle Caribbean islands. At various times, Holland, France, England, Spain, Denmark and the Knights of Malta all wanted to possess the Virgin Islands.
In 1671, Denmark clearly ruled St. Thomas, establishing the first permanent settlement there. In 1685, the Danes signed a treaty with the Dutchy of Brandenburg to allow the Brandenburg American Company to establish a slave-trading post on the island. At about the same time, the early governors gave their tacit approval to the use of St. Thomas as a pirate refuge, knowing that the local merchants would benefit from the open sale of pirate booty on the city streets. But while piracy ceased to be a factor in the island's economy in the early 19th century, the slave trade continued until 1848.
From 1700 to 1750, when piracy already was on the wane, legitimate trade was on the upswing and prosperous merchants replaced buccaneers on Dronnigens Gade (Main Street) in Charlotte Amalie.
By 1718 they Denmark's island settlements expanded to St. John. A fort was constructed in Coral Bay, one of the safest harbors in the Caribbean. In 1733, Denmark arranged to purchase St. Croix from France, uniting the three Virgin Islands of today. During this colonial period, St. Thomas was known as a shopper's paradise for pirates and buccaneers, who perched atop the mountains to "spyglass" approaching ships. The most famous and colorful was Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard. Legand has it that he sipped rum laced with gunpowder from his stronghold at Blackbeard's Tower.
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Virgin Islands - US
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