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The sleepy and laid back island of St. John has always had a history of bucolic agricultural existence. Until 1675 the island remained unsettled by the various European settlers that were inhabiting the neighboring islands.
Named by Spanish explorers after St. John the apostle, the island is only nine miles long and five miles wide. When Governor Iverson claimed the land for the West India company in 1675 it was virtually untouched. Little more than fifty years later, in 1733, there 92 plantations parceled out encompassing 90 percent of the island. These plantations produced cotton, tobacco and indigo but the primary crop was sugar cane. Farming on the rocky hillsides was labor intensive work and the production of sugarcane was economically viable only through the use of slave labor. By the mid 1700's the slave population topped 2000. When the Danish government freed the slaves in July of 1848 the sugar industry with the related production of molasses and rum, quickly disappeared from the island. You can visit the ruins of several of the sugar mills for a fascinating look into another time. Located on the north shore in Leinster Bay, Annaberg Mill is a wonderful historic site. Dating from 1780 the plantation originally encompassed 518 acres. Today, you can view the restored mill and surrounding buildings. It is a short walk from the shore and offers beautiful views of Sir Francis Drake Passage. On the sound side, in Reef Bay, is the ruins of the last functioning mill on St. John and you can tour the grounds and buildings that still contain some of the original machinery. From Reef Bay it is only a short hike to the Petroglyphs: on the edge of a small pool of water are several petroglyphs whose source is unknown. Throughout St. John there are miles of hiking trails from which you can explore the natural beauty of the island.
For a century the island returned to small subsistence farming endeavors and has never returned to commercial agriculture. In the late 1940's, after World War II Lawrence Rockefeller bought a 5000 acre parcel of land which he donated as a National Park. The park now covers roughly 12,900 acres which includes approximately 5,600 acres of offshore waters and reefs. The park is now a UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve which makes it a living laboratory. By visiting St. John aboard a private charter yacht you are able to explore the beauty of this island both above and below water.
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|Captain Wayne and Barbara Elsworth|
5304 Yacht Haven Grande, Suite 104
St Thomas, VI 00802