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By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 4, 2003, 10:15
Saint Thomas is an island in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), a United States territory, in the Caribbean Sea.
On Saint Thomas is the USVI capital, Charlotte Amalie.
The island of St. Thomas is a part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is believed the island was originally settled around 1500 BC by Ciboney tribes. They gave way to the next settlers of the island the Arawak and Caribs. Only to be wiped out by the Europeans after Christopher Columbus' discovery of the island in 1493, this was his second voyage to the New World. Prior to Columbus' discovery the island was inhabited by pirates. The pirates found the deep natural harbor, now known as Charlotte Amalie, superb for their ships. Some of the most famous pirates to visit St. Thomas are Blackbeard and Bluebeard.
The next European powers to come to the island were the Danish around 1666. By 1671, the Danes ruled the entire island. Their primary use for the island was agricultural. They divided up the majority of the land into parcels for sugar cane plantations. Some time later the government decided the economic future of St. Thomas lied in the natural harbor. They slowly began to devlop areas around the harbor. The original name for the harbor and surrounding area was Taphus. Taphus means beer houses and halls, the primary types of business in the area. The area was renamed in 1691 to Charlotte Amalie in honor of King Christian V's wife.
As economic development prospered on the island, the governors decided to move into the slave trade. In 1685 the Danish government signed a treaty with the Duchy of Brandenburg, there by allowing the formation of the Brandenburg American Company, a slave trading business. The slave trade was established on St. Thomas. Within the same timeframe pirates were allowed to use St. Thomas as a refuge. Between the slave trade and piracy Charlotte Amalie became one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean.
From about the 1700s through the mid 1800s St. Thomas saw many changes. Among these changes included the decline of piracy, Charlotte Amalie being declared a free port by King Frederik V and the abolition of slavery in 1848. The importance of St. Thomas diminished as a trading port during this time.
The 1800s and 1900s saw little prosperity in St. Thomas. Natural disasters plagued the island. Between hurricanes, fires and a tidal wave Charlotte Amalie was left needing a major rebuild. It would be some years before the old warehouses would be turned in to shops and boutiques for tourists.
In 1917 St. Thomas was purchased by the United States for $25 Million, as part of the defense strategy for fear the Germans would turn the island with its deep harbor into a submarine base. Eventually residents were granted U.S. citizenship in 1927. The island was turned into a defensive base during World War II and was managed by the Military and Dept. of the Interior until 1936 with the passage of the Organic Act.
The Organic Act of 1936 established a local government under rule of the Secretary of the Interior until a revision of the act in 1954. The revision called for the President of the United States to appoint a governor who would report to the Secretary of the Interior. By 1970, all of the Virgin Islands established a democratically elected form of government. The island has gone thru many changes from being a haven for pirates to a prime sugar producer, the changing of controlling countries. The island's major source of income now is the tourism trade.
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