St. Thomas is a part of the U.S. Virgin Islands and is situated in the Caribbean Sea. It is also an unincorporated territory of the U.S. and its capital is Charlotte Amalie. St. Thomas covers an area of thirty-one square miles and has a population of around fifty-one thousand residents. Notable residents from the island of St. Thomas include Midre Cummings, William Alexander Leidesdorff, Alton Augustus Adams, Denmark Vesey, Ashley Graham, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Al McBean, Hannah Davis, Rashawn Ross, Rothschild Francis, Callix Crabbe, Ralph Moses Paiewonsky, Theron Thomas, Kelsey Grammer, Rothschild Francis, Calvin Pickering, Morris Simmonds, Emile Griffith, Camille Pissarro and Elizabeth Anna Hendrickson.
St. Thomas can trace its history back to 1500 BC., when it was occuppied by the Ciboney tribe. Over the years, the Ciboney tribe were forced out by the Arawak tribes, who in turn were force out by the Carib tribes. In 1493, Christoper Columbus found the island as he was making his way to the New World. In the mid-seventeenth century, the Dutch West India Company started a port on the island. By 1666, the Danish conquered the island and ruled the island through the Danish West India and Guinea Company. The Danes established sugar plantation which would become the major economic activity of St. Thomas. They also imported a large number of African slaves to be used as a labor force on the island.
The Carib tribes were also pressed into sugar plantation work and eventually died off. By the nineteenth century, the sugar trade was threatened by American competition, drought and numerous hurricanes. As a result, St. Thomas began to enter into a period of decline. In 1848, slave labor was abolished and the sugar industry became even more fragile. Eventually, the United States purchased the island in the Virgin Island purchase of 1917 for twenty-five million dollars. Limited U.S. citizenship was granted to the population in 1927 and the Department of the Interior took over administrative duties on the island in 1931. In 1954, the U.S. Virgin Islands Organic Act gave the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John territorial status.
A popular attraction on St. Thomas is Blackbeard’s Castle. This castle is a U.S. Virgin Island’s National Historic Landmark. It was erected in 1679 by the Danish to be used as a fortification for the harbor. It is situated at the highest point of Government Hill and was originally called Gun Tower. During this time, it was occuppied by soldiers on the lookout for enemy ships. Sometime during the eighteenth century, the Danish abandoned the castle and it was believed to have been used by Blackbeard the Pirate to spot ships to plunder. Today, the castle has a small hotel named Blackbeard’s Castle Inn and has a snack bar and a pool. Buck Island National Wildlife Refuge is the next popular attraction on the island.
Buck Island National Wildlife Refuge is situated two miles south of St. Thomas. It contains a rocky coastline that is bordered by beautiful coral reefs. Also located here is a lighthouse that is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. The wildlife refuge sits on forty-five acres and is mainly composed of grassland and cacti. Its a great place to bird watch because of the large number of migratory birds that come to the area. Part of Buck Island National Wildlife Refuge is called Buck Island Reef National Monument. This small uninhabited island covers an area of one hundred and seventy-six acres and is situated a mile north of St. Croix. It was established as a protected area in 1948 by the United States Government. This area is controlled by the National Park Service and the majority of its attractions is underwater. There is a forty-five hundred acre reef that attracts over fifty thousand tourists a year.
Water Island is another prominent attraction. This island is located in the St. Thomas District and is the last island to be acquired by the United States. It covers an area of almost five hundred acres and is the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The population of the island is around one hundred and sixty residents. The key features of the island are beaches such as Honeymoon Beach, Fort Segarra and plantation ruins. Fort Segarra is a partially built underground fort that the United States started during World War II. Its original purpose was to defend the submarine port on St. Thomas, but the end of the war led to the abandonment of the project. It was briefly used after the war as a testing site for the Army’s Chemical Warfare Division, but was eventually transferred to the Interior Department. Visitors can get tours of the tunnels, underground rooms and gun placements.
Fort Christian is a fort that was built by the Danes in the seventeenth century. It is the oldest standing building in the United States Virgin Islands and over the course of its history has served as fortification, town center, a government facility and even a prison. It currently contains the St. Thomas Museum. The museum contains art and historical objects from the seventeenth century. In 1977, Fort Christian was designated as a United States Historical Landmark.