The History of St. John


Pre-History of St John

St John is a volcanic island, part of a undersea mountain range which includes the larger islands of the Greater Antilles, the Virgin Islands, and the Lesser Antilles. This chain of islands begins with Cuba and ends with Trinidad, off the coast of Venezuela.

In St John, there is a clear geologic record that stretches back some 100 million years to the late Cretatious period. This earliest stages of island building began when the major continents were closer together.

The first stages of island formation took place underwater. The first volcanic flows were later uplifted and exposed. The oldest exposed rocks of St John are still recognizable as separate flows. Known as the Water Island Formation, they include examples of pillow lava. Four other stages followed in the development of St John.

The Roisenhoi Formation was a time of explosive shallow water and subaerial volcanism. The material of this formation contains extensive explosive volcanic products such as andesite and tuff (solidified ash). The end of the Roisenhoa Formation was followed by a calm period during which sediments (from coral and the skeletons of planktonic creatures) slowly accumulated on slopes as a dark limestone known as Outer Brass.

Covering this dark limestone is a layer of relatively impure sediments composed of debris of the Louisenhoj and Outer Brass. The Tutu Formation was probably laid down underwater during periods of earthquakes and tremors. It appears to have resulted from sub-marine landslides and watery flows of suspended sediments.

One of the last major events in the geologic history of the island is evident along the northern coast, where a molten rock mass intruded and cooled before reaching the surface. Cooling at a relatively slow rate beneath the surface resulted in a medium, fine grained, black rock known as diorite, exposed at Mary's Point.


History of the Virgin Islands

The history of the Virgin Islands started with Christopher Columbus' second voyage in 1493. The first island he saw was St. Croix, which he named Santa Cruz. After sailing further North, he found many more islands which he named Las Islas Virgenes - The Virgin Islands.

After his visit nothing much happened other then an occasional passing pirate or explorer. In the 1600's European powers continued to claim the Caribbean islands.

In 1671, Denmark clearly ruled St. Thomas, establishing the first permanent settlement there. In 1685, the Danes signed a treaty which allowed the Brandenburg American Company to start a slave-trading post on the island. At about the same time, St. Thomas became a pirate refuge. But piracy ceased to be a factor in the island's economy in the early 19th century and the slave trade continued until 1848.

From 1700 to 1750 trade was on the rise and prosperous merchants replaced the pirates on Dronnigens Gade (Main Street) in Charlotte Amalie.

By 1718 the Denmark's settlements expanded to St. John. A fort was constructed in Coral Bay, one of the safest harbors in the Caribbean. Remains of the fort are still there. In 1733, Denmark purchased St. Croix from France, uniting the three Virgin Islands, Water Island was recently added making four US Virgin Islands. St. Thomas was known as a paradise for pirates and buccaneers, who looked for approaching ships through spyglasses. The most famous was Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard.

The Danes declared St. Thomas a free port in 1724. Throughout the 18th century the islands prospered with sugar plantations and St. Thomas became a major trading center until 1848 when Denmark abolished slavery.

The United States bought the islands in 1917, as part of its military defense, for $25 million. The US wanted to prevent the islands from becoming a German sub base. In 1927 were residents granted U.S. citizenship. After World War II, St. Thomas became the tourist attraction it is today.

On of the latest signs of the islands' growth was the addition of Water Island to the US Virgin Islands in 1996. It is located just south of St Thomas. The island is a tranquil retreat with secluded beaches and resorts, making it a lovely addition to the Virgin Islands.

Culture

The people in the Virgin Islands come from all over the world. There are African descendants, the French, who have emigrated from French islands, Puerto Ricans, and transplants from the U.S. Also living here are many "down islanders" and a sizeable number of East Indians.

Each of the islands has its own celebration. St. Croix's is in December, St. John's is over July 4th and St. Thomas' is in April. Carnival dates back to when Africans first arrived on the islands. Today Carnival is celebrated with colorful parades, elaborate costumes, music, dancing children, fabulous floats, stilt walking mocko jumbies, food fairs filled with West Indian dishes, all-night partying, calypso music and steep pan competitions, beauty pageants and more.

The origin of Mocko Jumbies has been traced to the 13th and 14th centuries. It comes from a central African language meaning “healer.” In the English language it means “to mock”, meaning imitation, as in false spirits. Mocko Jumbie, the traditional symbol of Carnival, is the "elevated spirit" on 10 to 20 foot stilts, dressed in bright colors that you see throughout the parade. The origins of mocko jumbies come from the traditions of West Africa. When the enslaved Africans were brought to the Caribbean, their religious traditions and observances came with them. But they were forbidden by the European slave masters to practice their religious customs, so they transferred it into a festive context, to disguise it, so to speak. But it was just a camouflage for its true religious meaning.

West Indian food includes kallalo, fungi, saltfish, lobster, red beans and rice, plantains, curried chicken, patés, stewed mutton, conch fritters and johnny cakes.

You can listening to Calypso, Reggae or steel pans. Also popular are the Scratch Bands. From the "make do" era when instruments were scarce, musicians use gourds, washboards, ukuleles and flute-like instruments. The traditional folk dance of the Virgin Islands, the Quadrille, dates back to the 18th century.

For more visit www.stjohnhistoricalsociety.org/

People born in the US Virgin Islands derive their U.S. citizenship from congressional statute. Even though USVI residents are U.S. citizens they are ineligible to vote for the president of the United States. It is interesting to see how the laws and the statutes of limitations in the USVI and compare to other states in the U.S.

 


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