US Virgin Islands History

US Virgin Islands history is quite a complete one, indeed. Understanding a little bit about the history of the US Virgin Islands can certainly help you better appreciate this insular island territory and its culture. Various countries have laid claims to the US Virgin Islands since Christopher Columbus named them in 1493, and the names of some of the islands and their cities reflect past occupancy. Now a holding of the United States, the US Virgin Islands enjoy a booming tourism industry, part of which is bolstered by some of the island group's historic attractions. Some of the plantations here offer quite a lot of insight into US Virgin Islands history, so if you like history and are visiting, you might put a few of them high on your list of places to visit.

The first known people to inhabit the United States Virgin Islands were Siboney, Taino, and Carib Indians. The Caribs were the group that controlled the islands until Columbus arrived, forever marking a turning point in the history of the US Virgin Islands. The name that Columbus gave to the islands is meant to honor Saint Ursula and her 11,000 virgins. The period that would follow the arrival of Columbus would see a handful of European powers establishing and then losing control. Spain was the first to attempt occupancy of the United States Virgin Islands, only to be followed by England, France, and the Netherlands. The Danes bought the island of St Croix from the French in the year 1733. They had already settled on Saint Thomas and St John in the latter 1600's, and once St Croix was added, the islands became part of the royal Danish colonies. The city of Frederiksted on St Croix island was a Danish settlement, and the name certainly reflects that part of the city's history. The Little Princess Estate on St Croix island was built in 1749 by Fredrik Moth, who was the island's first governor, and it's certainly worth a visit if you want insight into plantation life.

The sugar industry was the main industry in the United States Virgin Islands in the 18th and 19th centuries, and plantations like the Little Princess Estate are vestiges of that part of US Virgin Islands history. The Cruzan Rum Distillery is a rum factory that still operates on the island of St Croix, and guided tours here can not only give insight into rum making practices, but also into the history of the US Virgins Islands. The old windmill here is of particular interest, as is, of course, the world famous rum. Featured on the St Croix Heritage Trail, the Estate Mount Washington Plantation is just another one of the historic plantations worth viewing. It's the most well-preserved sugar plantation on St Croix island, and self-guided tours can be enjoyed here.

Fort Christian is one of the most renowned historic sites in the US Virgin Islands capital city of Charlotte Amalie, and if you find yourself on St Thomas island, you might plan to include it on a walking tour. It dates to the year 1672 and was named after Christian V, who was the king of Denmark and Norway. Concerning the aforementioned sugar plantations, the abolition of slavery in the US Virgin Islands helped to bring their glory days to an end. Governor Peter von Scholten would be the man to officially put an end to slavery in the islands, which he did in 1848. As the islands became economically stagnant, the Danes began to entertain foreign interests in them. The United States almost bought the islands of St John and St Thomas from the Danes in 1867, but the sale was never realized. In 1902, the Danish parliament would again deny sale of the islands to the United States. However, come World War I, things would change. The United States saw the island territory as a strategic point in the Caribbean, and they kept pressuring Denmark to sell its holding, which they finally did for a sum of $25 million. The deal would be finalized in 1917, with the United States assuming control on March 31.

The inhabitants of the United States Virgin Islands were granted citizenship in 1927, and in 1970 the territory was granted Home Rule, meaning they could more or less govern themselves. Today, they continue as an unincorporated territory of the United States, and tourism has most definitely replaced sugar as the main industry here. In the 1950's and 60's, tourism really began to take flight, partly due to the embargo that the United States placed on Cuba. In 2004, some 2 million people enjoyed US Virgin Islands cruises, and by the looks of things, they are still as popular as ever. Once you see merely an image of a stunning US Virgin Islands beach, you realize why so many come here. Besides offering wonderfully interesting historic points of interest, the United States Virgin Islands also offer an almost unparalleled level of fun in the sun.

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