Virgin Islands – History

  • Humans first arrived in the Virgin Islands about 2500 to 3000 years ago from South America. This time period is called the Archaic Age.
  • The oldest site found on St. John is just off the beach at Lameshur Bay.
  • South Americans settled the island about 1300 to 2500 years ago and their villages have been found at Cinnamon Bay, Coral Bay, Caneel Bay and Lameshur Bay.
  • There was a population explosion about 1000 to 1300 years ago. Prehistoric villages were established on most of the beaches of St. John.
  • The development of Taino culture occurs around 500 to 1000 years ago. The site at Cinnamon Bay defines Classic Taino Culture in the Virgin Islands.
  • Europeans discovered the Americas when Columbus came to the islands in 1493. Columbus gave the islands original Spanish names.
  • In the late 1500’s, piracy began in the islands when Privateers (Pirates) discovered a safe haven in the islands. Powerful European nations invaded Spain’s Caribbean territories and battled over ownership.
  • The Danish attempted to establish a settlement in St. Thomas in 1665 but they were not successful until 1672.
  • The Danish claimed St. John in 1718, but the early settlers were from all over Europe and included wealthy planters, pirates, religious refugees, convicts, and free and enslaved Africans.
  • By 1728 there were over a hundred sugar plantations on St. John. The enslaved Africans seized control of the Island for over 7 months in 1733. Troops from the French Island of Martinique finally put down the rebellion.

Credit: National Park Service