Meet Charles, a St. John Treasure

Charles is the gardener at Annaberg.
Charles is the gardener at Annaberg.

St. John is the home to countless amazing residents. Some were born and raised here, while others made a choice to move to the island and create a life. Everyone has a story whether it be from their past, present or what their future plans include. Today, we’d like to introduce you to one of our favorites – Charles.

Charles Jackson was born and raised on the island, and has spent the past 11 years working as the gardener at the Annaberg Plantation. I’ve had the privilege of spending ample time with Charles, wandering through his garden and sampling a variety of fruits, herbs and sugarcane over the years. For the past two-and-a-half years, I’ve routinely taken my island tour guests to meet Charles. He’s a special person and one of our island’s treasures.

You may be wondering what motivates Charles to tend to the plantation’s garden year after year. For him, it’s quite simple.

“I like plants. I’m a plant person. I like to feed people. I like to be in charge. Land and food, you get woman. Land and food. So I do it,” Charles says with a smile. “I feel happy. You don’t work, you don’t get paid. I like it. It makes me happy.”

“When you plant a tree, it’s growing,” he continued. “It makes my work over. It’s finished.”

But it’s really not that simple. Charles doesn’t just plant something and move on. He tends to it, cares for it and he really knows a lot about what’s growing in his garden. Sure he has delicious fruits like mangoes, genips and papaya. But there is so much more happening behind the fences.

Recently I brought an island tour guest to the garden who had neck pain. He grabbed a leaf from a Noni tree and handed to my guest. “Put it on your skin to work the body,” he said. Charles refers to the tree as the “Painkiller Bush.” He also said when its fruit is soft and mushy that you can blend it and “it makes you feel healthy.”

Meet Charles, a St. John Treasure 1
The Noni tree at Annaberg

Recently I complained to Charles about my one-year-old son and how he thinks thinks sleep is the enemy. He wandered over to a soursop bush, grabbed a leaf and handed it to me. He told me to crush up just a bit and put it into the baby’s bottle. He said it would help him sleep. Perhaps it was a coincidence but Dalton actually slept well that night.

Soursop
Soursop

Charles also believes that soursop can help cure cancer. And you know what? I believe him.

Charles is at Annaberg every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. His full-time position was scaled back following the 2017 storms. I hope the National Park Services realizes what a treasure Charles is for our island to those who visit us and reinstate his full time hours soon.

(February 2020 update: Charles is now full time!)

In the meantime, please be sure to stop by Annaberg on your next trip and say hello. The garden is located on your right as you walk up the hill at Annaberg.

The garden at Annaberg is to the right of this path.
The garden at Annaberg is to the right of this path.

20 thoughts on “Meet Charles, a St. John Treasure”

  1. We will be bringing our little “farmers” to meet Charles the next time we are on the island…he sounds like an amazing person!

  2. Charles loves what he does, he is proud of his garden and loves to share his knowledge. He is friendly and anxious to share the fruits of his labor, although to him it’s a labor of love.

    • In all of our conversations, he has never given it to me. And in all of the NPS literature on him, he doesn’t use his last name. He did not respond to a few requests asking this either. So I figured he prefers to go by his first name only. 🙂

  3. We visited Charles last June when he trying to get the garden back in shape after the hurricanes. He is such an upbeat person. We sent some garden tools and a few supplies to help his garden project recovery. We weren’t able to come back this year but are glad to see his garden is making a comeback.

  4. We spent 3 winters aboard our boat in the USVI. We took every visitor we had to Annaberg and saw Charles every time. He is truly a treasure! Friendly, kind, knowledgeable and a joy to spend time with. He explained flora and fauna to our guests and even explained how they make charcoal.
    I was pleased to see him in a photo after IrmaRia so I knew he was safe. Thanks for this story. I hope the park service gets him back on a full time schedule.

  5. We spoke to him a couple weeks ago when we were walking through the Annaberg ruins, really cool. He was an encyclopedia of knowledge about local trees and plants

  6. My wife and I have a second home on the island. We know Charles well and there are NO words to describe what a treasure he is. He is well loved!!!

  7. Have known Charles for 40 yrs…George and I called him “take a break”….he was always working, and a true friend….George and he would always trade their harvests. Please give him a big hug and a huge Hi from me. Nancy Hedlund

  8. We gave charles elvis a ride from town to annaberg back in may 2019. Dont know why but he looked like he could use a lift. He stated he had been to jury duty that morning and was headed back to tend to his garden. Very nice and talkative man. It was our pleasure meeting up with him.

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