Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/St Croix


ST CROIX, or Sainte Croix, one of the Danish West India Islands, is situated between 17° and 18° N. lat., about 40 miles south-south-east of St Thomas. Twenty-three miles long, and with a maximum width of 6 miles, it has an area estimated at 51,168 acres. Blue Mountain, the highest peak (1100 feet), lies in the range of hills running parallel with the coast in the western half of the island. The narrower eastern end is also hilly. In the centre and towards the west the surface is undulating, and towards the south flat with brackish lagoons. With the exception of about 4000 acres, the soil is everywhere productive; but only about one-third of the area is devoted to sugar-growing and one-sixth to pasture-land, the greater part of the remainder being either worthless brushwood (the haunt of small deer) or scanty timber. Besides little Negro hamlets there are two garrison towns—Christiansted (or popularly Bassin) on the north coast, with a small harbour 15 to 16 feet deep at the entrance, and Frederiksted (popularly West End) on the west coast, with an open roadstead. The population of the island was 23,194 in 1860, 22,760 in 1870, and 18,430 in 1880. This decrease is due to the comparative failure of the sugar-crops. Destruction of the forests (or some unsuspected cause) has brought diminished rainfall (from 20 to 34 inches per annum); and the belt of abandoned cane-ground has been steadily increasing. To help in checking this decay the Government constructed (1876) a great central factory, to which the juice is conveyed from the plantations by a system of pipes. Apart from the official element (mostly Danish), the white inhabitants of St Croix are almost wholly British either by birth or descent.

St Croix was discovered by Columbus on his second voyage. In 1651 France entrusted it to the Knights of Malta, and in 1733 it was purchased by Denmark for 750,000 livres (167,000 rixdollars). Slavery was abolished in 1848, and coolies began to be employed in 1863.