History of
St. Maarten/St. Martin
Due to the lack of fresh water, at first no one
wanted the island except the Indians already living here.

Island Descriptions

Hotel Search

Cruise Planning

Island Tours

Caribbean Recipes

Caribbean Weather

History of St. Maarten and St. Martin

To the Indians, the island was known as Sualouiga, "land of salt," and indeed it was the salt pans that attracted the first serious European settlers. One still prominently exists on the outskirts of Philipsburg.

Whether Columbus ever saw this particular landfall is debatable. He did name an island St. Martin on his second voyage, but that may actually have been Nevis, which is not far away.

In any case, the sailors who came afterwards called the land St. Martin, and why not, since Columbus' names were boringly pious, not at all descriptive, and easily interchangeable.

Correct or not, the St. Martin label has stuck ever since. Still, I wonder how St. Martin himself might view the beaches on the French side, where topless females are the norm and going bottomless is also acceptable.

Because the island had no permanent water supply, the Arawaks and Caribs were left pretty much alone for the next 140 years after "discovery" except for occasional Spanish raids for slaves to work the gold mines.

The French and Dutch began making plans for occupation around 1630, but the Spanish forcefully returned and built a fort at Great Bay.

In 1644, the Dutch West India Company commanded by one of its directors, Peter Stuyvesant, attacked to take the island back.

The Dutch were victorious, although Stuyvesant lost a leg to a cannonball. It hardly put him out of commission, since he later went to North America and became the Governor of New York, then New Amsterdam.

In 1648, the Dutch and French settlers of St. Maarten decided life for everyone would be easier if they did not war with one another even if their mother countries did. So they signed a treaty of eternal peace.

And partitioned the island, somehow.

Return to St. Maarten/St. Martin Homepage