Between 1717 and 1718 the Danes colonized St. John and the first 20 planters began to grow sugarcane, cotton and other crops. By 1731, a mere 14 years later, Annaberg, which means Anna's Hill, was under cultivation and there were over 100 other plantations on the island. There were approximately 200 whites and 1000 black slaves on the island. In 1733, there was a bloody revolt and the slaves held the island for six months. Rather than surrender, those who had not been captured, committed suicide.
By the 1800's Annaberg was one of St. John's largest producers of sugar.
Annaberg in the 1930's.
The windmill, used to crush sugarcane, is one of the tallest in the islands. It was built sometime in the 1820s or 30s. When I was kid, a family lived in it. They had built a second floor out of wood. Now-a-days the only things that live in it are the native wild honey bees.
During times when the wind was slack, they used the horse mill, which you can see in the older picture above. It is the large circular structure in the front left.
This is the boiling house, or factory building, where the sugarcane juice was boiled down.Sugar, molasses and rum were made from cane.
In the left foreground is an oven still used for demonstrations in baking bread.
See the hillside behind the building? Imagine it completely cleared and terraced. All the work, done by slaves.
Inside the factory building were big iron vats where the juice was boiled. One of the vats is still in place. The fires beneath the vats were kept stoked from the other side of the wall.
This is where the fires were.
The sugar put into a cup of tea by a European lady, the molasses used by English cooks, the rum sipped by Aristocratic gentlemen, came from places like Annaberg.
This one shows how Annaberg may once have looked. The buildings have wooden second stories.
This barely visible etching, is of a sailing ship. Perhaps it's a trade ship, perhaps it's like one that brought slaves to the islands. It looks to me like that's a British Union Jack flying from the rigging.
What these drawings do for me is bring home with clarity that once a real live person was in that space.
In the 1950s a pair of manacles still hung from the wall. I saw them.
Below the horse mill, there are also remnants of slave huts. Besides working the plantation all day, slaves had to provide some portion of their own food on land set aside for them to cultivate.
It was thankless, back-breaking work.
Yet behind it all was the view of the ocean, the sky and the British Virgin Islands.
I have long wondered, sweating in the heat of a summer's day, if a slave did not look out across Sir Francis Drake Channel and breathe in the beauty.
When England freed its slaves, I just know, those still in bondage at Annaberg looked with longing across this channel at the island of Tortola.
Some left behind families and risked their lives to escape to freedom.
Happy Martin Luther King Day.