United States Virgin Islands
While the Spanish were busy cultivating the much larger island of Puerto Rico to the west, Dutch and English planters found the soil and climate favorable on St. Croix. Though claimed by Spain, St. Croix did not have the gold that the Spaniards sought and was left unprotected, a situation that prompted the French to forcibly take possession of the largest of the Virgins in the 1600s. Again, without close supervision from the homeland, the French governor acquired title to the whole island and then transferred his holdings to the Knights of Malta, presumably for a comfortable retirement and a small fortune. Not surprisingly, France was unhappy with the arrangement and took possession again in 1665.
In 1733, the Danish West India Company purchased St. Croix from France and built forts in Christiansted and Fredricksted for protection. The Danes also recognized the prosperity of the nearby Dutch free port of Statia and declared their Virgin Islands to have the same status, paving the way for the sugar and cotton plantations on St. Croix to compete with the English colonies 1200 miles to the northwest.
The Danish Virgins flourished as free ports and, by the end of the eighteenth century, there were 114 windmills and 14 animal-driven mills crushing cane. Only Barbados was producing more sugar. Today, from almost anywhere on this island, you can see the remains of the stone structures that supported the windmills. If you look closely around these ruins, you can see the remains of some of the boiling houses where the cane juice was cooked to thicken it to make sugar. Free-port status also stimulated the production of rum. The molasses that had been shipped to the New England rum distilleries was now being distilled on St. Croix. Without the heavy burden of an export tax burden rum production increased and since rum was a much more profitable cargo than molasses, thirsty ship captains were soon lying at anchor to load this valuable cargo.
In 1776, while the attention of the navies in the Caribbean was tuned to news of the Revolutionary War being fought to the north, an unidentified schooner hoisted the stars and stripes. As the trading vessel gathered way, a salute was fired. The courtesy, returned by the fort at Fredricksted, was the first acknowledgment of the new nation that eventually bought these islands in 1917. A month later a US war ship was saluted in Statia which prompted a vicious attack by Britain's Admiral Rodney. Best known for its Cruzan Rum, St. Croix, the largest of the US Virgin Islands, is a colorful island dotted with the remains of numerous windmills, boiling houses and plantation houses.
- From an interview with Gary Nelthropp in Nov 2009, here are some historical perspectives.
- There is only 1 sugar cane spirit distiller in this database from United States Virgin Islands.
- Cruzan Rum Distillery
- There are also 2 companies in this database blending/bottling sugar cane spirits from United States Virgin Islands.
- A.H. Riise