In 1493 Christopher Columbus was back on his second Caribbean cruise. The native Taino and Caribe people did not provide a warm welcome and he sailed on. Spain showed disinterest in the islands. Due to being at about the Atlantic half way point, other European Seafarers established settlements on the island. Some of these sailors were privateers that used strongholds on the island to raid Spanish ships. These Pirates flourished in the area. In 1671 King Christian of Denmark claimed the islands known as St. Thomas and St. John. The governors realized that fortune of St. Thomas would be its beautiful natural harbor and they took advantage of it. They welcomed the Privateers like Sir Francis Drake, Edward Teach aka Blackbeard, and the storied Bluebeard. The main city was named Taphus for all the taverns and ale houses that lined the shore. Pirates like that kind of thing you know. The city was a free port and did a booming business. In an effort to garner greater esteem the name was changed to Charlotte Amalie after King Christians wife. Trade drove St. Thomas’ economy despite the sugar plantation on the island.
The inclusiveness and acceptance of diversity proved a magnet to people like the Shepherdic Jews of Spain who escaped persecution and came here to worship in freedom. The St. Thomas Synagogue built in 1883 is one of the oldest Jewish Synagogue under the American Flag. St. Thomas prospered with trade and in the mid 1800’s was a key coaling stop for trans-Atlantic trade.
In 1917, after years of negotiation, the United States Purchased St. Thomas and the rest of the USVI from Denmark for 25 million…..What! 25 million for the USVI! Gimme some of that sweet action. In 1927 residency was granted to the residents in 1927. During WWII US Forces were stationed on the Island. Being the heart of the Caribbean, St. Thomas has seen some hurricanes, most notably Hurricane Hugo in 1989 but the infrastructure and services on the island continue to improve. Today it is one of the favorite cruise stops in the Caribbean and a favorite among tourists, not only because US citizens don’t need a passport for paradise and US based cell phones work there but because the people of the island are warm and welcoming and the island has exquisite scenery and beaches and I want to be back there again right now. (sigh)