Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Annaberg, St. John

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.

The oven.

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.

One of the most interesting aspects of Annaberg is the little "dungeon." It's not a dark, dank hole, just a very small room built off behind the windmill. It has  a window through which a good breeze usually blows. But on its plastered walls, are etchings, probably carved into the plaster by slaves.

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.


  1. What an interesting post on a subject I knew nothing about. How tantalising that view must have been.

  2. Wow, what a fascinating place and story! Thanks so much for sharing your photos and insight. I love the windmill particularly :)

  3. What a beautiful place Bish. What a beautiful post. Thanks for the tribute to Dr. King.

  4. Those are such cool pictures! It reminds me of that tour I did in St. Croix, remember? And isn't St. John sort of uninhabited? Or more wild or something? Very cool. Thanks for sharing this little bit of history! :o) <3

  5. Another interesting, beautiful post! I LOVE that old sketch! Man...very incredible stuff you've seen.

  6. Wow, that is an interesting but harrowing history. I don't remember a lot about these islands from my history classes in school. So I always learn something new or refresh my memory with these posts you do!

  7. Very interesting, Bish. Sometimes we see these historical sites and forget the blood, sweat and tears that went into building and maintaining them. Thanks.

  8. The buildings and scenery are a beautiful reminder and reflection. Lovely! :O)

  9. I love old ruines - you can stare at them for ages and wonder what it would have been like in it's prime time.. gorgeous photos.

  10. We don't anything cool like that where I live. My city's history is dull in comparison.

    That water looks so inviting.

  11. Wow, such an incredible history, its amazing to think that people through slavery was acceptable back then, I am so pleased to be living in our times.

    Thanks for sharing, Bish, very insightful.

  12. A sad history against such a beautiful backdrop. I love the sketches.

  13. I love your island stories. What fascinating history.

    Those sketches are haunting and the thought of the manacles - just heartbreaking.

  14. These pictures must hold so many stories, secrets. I love them.

  15. Love the photos, Bish - what history those walls hold. Did they not use any wood to build things? I'm amazed at all the stone.

  16. What an interesting post! Thanks for sharing the photos. I love the etchings in the dungeon - fascinating!

  17. Wow! Bish! Great photos. The etchings are amazing. We have the Biltmore House and every time I go there I think about the slaves who worked there. You can almost here them talking and gossiping about the Biltmore's when you stroll through the kitchen. I bet when one is at Annaberg you get that same feel. Even more so.

    Thanks for educating me. xoxoxo

  18. Hello,thank you for that enlightening post. I love pics of old buildings like that, there really is something amazing about them

  19. What an interesting post and with gorgeous photos, as always. Thank you for this, Bish.

  20. Facinating history! Wow. And lovely pictures. Slavery is a horrible thing but it never quite leaves us in one way or the other in this world.

  21. Slaving while surrounded by all that beauty must have been much like being surround by the sea without fresh water.

    The etchings in the stone and your pictures of the ruins were so poignant--time erasing all that pain, but very slowly as if it wanted remnants to stay as long as possible and tell the story.

  22. Such a fascinating place! And the photos are gorgeous - I have such a weakness for ruins.

  23. It's so neat to see these buildings and landmarks, but sad to, knowing the history of slavery that comes with it.

    I can imagine tho, that these places bring you a lot of story inspiration! :)



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