St Martin History

Throughout the history of many Caribbean Islands, most were home to various Indians. What we know as St Martin or St Maarten was home to the Siboney and Arawak Indians. As you study the Caribbean Islands, specifically the history of St Maarten or St Martin history, you will hear the name of Christopher Columbus. However, before European explorers made it to St Martin, the Carib Indians migrated into the area and killed or took the majority of the Arawak Indians as slaves. When Europeans arrived, the island was in control of the aggressive Carib Indian warriors, as were several other Caribbean Islands.

Christopher Columbus never visited the St Martin; however, on one of his voyages he did claim it for Spain. On November 11, 1493, St Martin history states that Columbus spotted the island and named it after the saint’s feast day—Saint Martin of Tours. Spain may have listed the island in their list of territories; but they more or less left the island as it was instead of colonizing. The French on the other hand, had the desire to colonize not only St. Martin Island, but also all the islands found from Trinidad to Bermuda.

The Dutch West Indian Company also wanted to have the island under their control and was the first to originally start the European portion of St Martin history by setting up camps in 1631, starting with Fort Amsterdam. At this time, the Dutch West India Company started mining salt, and about this same time period the first governor in St Martin history was appointed in Jan Claeszen van Campen. Other settlements were scattered throughout St Martin belonging to the English, French, and of course the Dutch.

Spain attacked in 1638 and took over all the Dutch settlements. Spain was now in control and built the Old Spanish Fort at Point Blanche. The Dutch tried in vain to recover the island.

After the long battle between the Netherlands and Spain, Spain once again had no need for the Caribbean Island and left in 1648. St Maarten history shows that both the French and Dutch were eager to gain control of this beautiful island and its magnificent white sandy beaches.

After a few battles, both sides realized the other would never retreat. In 1648 in the history of St Maarten, the Treaty of Concordia was signed, which separated the island into two distinct countries—one side owned by the French (St Martin) and the other by the Dutch (St Maarten). This brought about the beginning of the unique St Martin culture.

Even though they had an agreement in hand, both sides still had a few squabbles about the way in which the land should be divided. As the history of St Maarten explains, the boundaries were changed a total of sixteen times by 1816. The French have twenty square miles in the north and the Dutch have sixteen square miles in the south, both offering a unique and different St Martin culture to explore.

Like all countries, trying to develop a nation with its own beliefs and culture, St Martin had a ways to go since both sides had very different thoughts on many things. Today, you will see a wonderful island that has grown independently on each side of the island making it one that is fascinating to visit with the diverse cultures side by side. St Martin culture is of course a nation divided, but one that coexists today without any problems. From Philipsburg, St Maarten on the Dutch side to Marigot, St Martin on the French side you will find many wonderful things to do that will leave you enchanted.

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