Culture & History

In the middle of it all - The peaceful calm of St. Kitts suggests nothing of the extraordinary history of the island.  For centuries, St. Kitts occupied a critical position in the European struggle for the islands of the West Indies, which were rich with sugar plantations and were considered the gateway to the Caribbean.  As a result, the struggles and conflicts in and around St. Kitts shaped much of the history of the entire Caribbean.

Island History

Discovery and early times

The recorded history of St. Kitts begins with the second voyage in 1493 of Christopher Columbus who sailed past the island but did not land. There is some doubt as to whether he named the island after himself, or after the patron saint of travelers, St. Christopher.  From a distance, Columbus thought the island resembled the shape of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child on his shoulder. In any case, by the time the Englishman Thomas Warner arrived with fourteen other settlers in 1624 to found the first non-Spanish European colony in the Caribbean, the island was known as St. Christopher's. It was only later that it was affectionately nicknamed St Kitts.

Blessed by a volcano

Columbian Carib inhabitants knew their island as Liamuiga, or "fertile land," a reference to St. Kitts rich and productive volcanic soil. Today that name graces St. Kitts' central peak, a 3,792-foot extinct volcano that has left its legacy of a rich geologic history and lush tropical vegetation.  It stands majestically above the ever-expanding rainforests that spread like great green canopies where sugar cane was once cultivated.  This is why the first non-Spanish settlers of the Caribbean chose what was then called St. Christopher. Along with its fertile soil St. Christopher offered fresh water, abundant forests, and salt.

First settlers and Bloody Point

It was 1623.  An English gentleman by the name of Sir Thomas Warner brought his family, along with fourteen others, to an island inhabited only by native peoples. They arrived at what is now Sandy Point. Less than two years later Pierre Belain d'Esnambue led a small group of French settlers to the island. Within a year, blood flowed. Not each other's blood, not yet. This early eruption of violence wiped out the entire native population of Arawaks and Caribs. It was an out and out massacre at what is now Bloody Point. Once the English and French had the island to themselves, they could expand their sugar and tobacco plantations at will, and began bringing in African people to serve as slaves. And so the seeds of St. Kitts's rich culture were sewn, influenced by the peoples of Africa, Europe and the Caribbean itself.

A history of quite contradictions

From its early settlement by Europeans, every religious conviction found fertile soil on the island of St. Kitts. Besides the many reform movements of Christianity, the tiny island made room for Jewish and Catholic worship, as well as Free Masonry. St.Kitts was the home of one of the oldest Jewish Temples and oldest Masonic Temples in the Caribbean. However, the plantocracy of the island had little tolerance for the few islanders who were staunch advocates of abolishment, and at least two of the most influential abolitionists were forced to leave the island.