Why the 4th of July is Such a Big Deal in the USVI

Cruz Bay c1852, painting by Fritz Melbye

Cruz Bay c1852, painting by Fritz Melbye (Image from Mr. Knight’s Facebook page)

The Fourth of July isn’t just about a parade, fireworks, music and dancing in the US Virgin Islands. There is true meaning be the holiday, meaning that we wanted to remind you about once again this year.

David Whitney Knight Sr. posted the following on his Facebook page yesterday, and we thought we’d share it with all of you. We hope you all have a safe and happy holiday. We know we will. Oh and we have some pretty big news to share with you all tomorrow…

From Mr. Knight:

This is why Cruz Bay’s July 4th Festival is so significant to the history and people of St. John.

Emancipation was first proclaimed on St. John at Cruz Bay on July 4, 1848

Early on Tuesday morning July 4, the government schooner Vigilant sailed into St. Thomas harbor carrying news of the pronouncement of Emancipation on St. Croix. Later that afternoon the owner of the Lamesure plantation on St. John, Captain Ingjald Mourier, arrived at Cruz Bay bringing word of the decree. After hastily informing the Police Master, Judge Carl Hanshell, of the news, Mourier and Hanshell set out on horseback to inform the people in the countryside. Just after sunset, enslaved individuals on the Cruz Bay Quarter estates of Adrian and Rustenburg were the first to learn of their newly achieved freedom.

According to the last pre-Emancipation census carried out in the Danish West Indies, the town of Cruz Bay had fifteen occupied households with a total population of 117 inhabitants: ninety-four free persons, and twenty-three unfree.

The enslaved Inhabitants of Cruz Bay at the time of Emancipation were:

Jacob, born St. John, 19 years old, Moravian, unmarried, a sailor.

Hanna, born Africa, 30 years old, Moravian, unmarried, a servant.

Juliana, born St. John, 11 years old, Lutheran, unmarried, a servant.

Anna Dorothea, born St. John, 24 years old, Moravian, living with John Henley.

Nicolas, born St. Thomas, 20 years old, Lutheran, unmarried, a servant.

Maria Clarissa, born Africa, 50 years old, Lutheran, unmarried, a servant.

Catharina, born St. John, 30 years old, Lutheran, unmarried, a servant.

Mary Ann, born St. Barths, 36 years old, Moravian, unmarried, a servant.

Philippus, born St. Thomas, 60 years old, Moravian, married, a carpenter.

Mary, born Africa, 40 years old, Moravian, widow, a servant.

Patience, born Africa, 50 years old, Moravian, unmarried, a servant.

Caritas Gotlief, born St. John, 35 years old, Moravian, widow, a washer.

John Providence, born St. John, 15 years old, Lutheran, unmarried, a servant.

William Steven, born St. John, 8 years old, Moravian, a servant.

Margaret, born Spanish Town, 55 years old, Moravian, unmarried, a servant.

Isabella, born St. John, 14 years old, Lutheran, unmarried, a servant.

Rosina, born St. John, 19 years old, Lutheran, unmarried, a servant.

John Frederik, born St. John, 20 years old, Lutheran, unmarried, a sailor.

Charles, born Africa, 48 years old, Moravian, unmarried, a servant.

James, born Africa, 50 years old, Moravian, unmarried, a servant.

Henry, born St. John, 20 years old, Lutheran, unmarried, a servant.

Abraham, born St. John, 15 years old, Lutheran, unmarried, a servant.

Edmund Waldemar, born St. John, 1 year old, Moravian.

5 comments for “Why the 4th of July is Such a Big Deal in the USVI

  1. marc
    July 4, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Thanks for sharing, really makes you think! Happy 4th!!

  2. Jill
    July 4, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Thank you for sharing this important part of the history of our Independence Day!

  3. Kathy in Wisconsin
    July 4, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    Thank you for this important and thought provoking post. Freedom is definitely the theme of the day. As for the ‘pretty big news’ to be shared tomorrow, ,of course we are all wondering if that is actually the. LITTLE news everyone is waiting for! Perhaps the hurricane baby has made an appearance! Best wishes to all

  4. Donna Broderick
    July 4, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    Thank you Mr.Knight. That history is very enlightening!!!!

  5. Trina Darling
    July 4, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing this important piece of history. It puts perspective on all we are going through now and it can’t be as bad as it was back then.

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