Nevis History in a Capsule
A famous American statesman was born here
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Nevis Island History
Nevis has a long and rich history and is inhabited by people with strong
ties to the U.S. and the UK. Legendary names like U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton and
British Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson (who married a local Nevisian)
pop up as naturally in conversation as discussions about the usually idyllic weather.
Human habitation of the island goes back at least 4,000 years.
Among the artifacts uncovered here are finely-made stone implements
and flint cutting tools made from non-native materials, and beautifully
colored pottery unearthed from burial mounds.
The Caribs, the last Native Americans to "own" Nevis, called
it "Oualie-- Land of Beautiful
Nevis first drew public attention in 1607, when Captain John
Smith visited on his way to establish the first permanent English
colony in North America . Jamestown turned out to be a swampy, mosquito-ridden
site, so miserable a place, that 20 years later, Smith still fondly
remembered his short but enjoyable 6-day layover in Nevis.
He recorded in his diary, "In the little isle of Nevis more than
twenty years ago, I have remained a good time together to wood and water,
to refresh my men and replenish stocks. Also hang two mutineers on the
spot now called Gallows Bay."
The Bay off Charlestown is still known as Gallows Bay, probably not
a name that would be selected today by land developers.
The British colonized Nevis in 1628. Until the 1640s,
ginger, indigo, cotton and provision crops for ships were the staple
The introduction of sugar cane changed the island from
a peasant agricultural base to a system of great sugar plantations in
the 16th and 17th centuries.
Many great houses were built (some now converted to inns) and an aristocratic
planter class lived in splendid style. By 1778, the warm mineral springs
of Nevis had made the island famous all over Europe, where it was called
the Spa of the Caribbean.
You'll have little trouble spotting the oldest buildings, in Charlestown,
with their ornate woodwork designed to create shade
and collect the breezes.
Note: Alexander Hamilton--who served in the American Revolutionary War, was chief of staff to Gen. George Washington and a strong proponent of the U.S. Constitution as well as first U.S. Secretary of Treasury--was born in Charlestown, Nevis. He was killed by Aaron Burr in a famous duel of honor. His birthplace is a popular tourist attraction.
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