Point Udall @ Et Stykke Land, St. Croix

100 Million Years of History

Celebrating 100 million Years of History

 Et Styke Land is the name of the estate at the Eastern most end of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands and it’s history was pretty much written in stone 100 million years ago when this portion of St. Croix was uplifted from the seafloor. The geography and formation of St. Croix is more closely related to the development of the Islands of Cuba, Hispaniola and Pureto Rico than the volcanic development of the St. Thomas and the Lesser Antilles. Et Stykke Land was to the east and lower than the island formed around Ham’s Bluff around the same time.

Issacs Bay Bolder

At the time, the seafloor of the Caribbean Plate consisted of alternating layers of Mudstone, Sandstone and Limestome which are compressed mud, sand and skeletal fragments of marine organisms from mass extinction events respectively. Obviously, there is no such thing as an orderly earthquake so the land mass rose in a very disorderly and broken manner and one of my favorite boulders which broke off in the upheaval is the one now lying on it’s side in the middle of Isssac’s Bay which shows the layered ocean floor.

Upheavals and uplifting continued for the next 35 million years more or less and created two islands the one on the east from Seven Hills to Et Stykke Land and the one associated with Ham’s Bluff, Caledonia and Crique Dam with an open sea between the two. While Et Stykke Land was bigger, it was much lower than Ham’s Bluff.

Development of soils and plant life occurs over millions of years and the development depends on factors of land mass size, distance to the nearest neighbors, climate and topology. The world’s smallest islands, like Jarre Island South of France in the Mediterranean, remain barren windswept rocks with little biodiversity because they are too small, too low, and too isolated to get the initial population of seeds and animal life. Until the uplifting of the seafloor around and between the east and west end 25 million years ago there was probably not much life on Et Stykke Land because the land mass was too low, small and isolated for soils and plant life to develop.

Once the island became about it’s current size twenty-five million years ago, the lower portion of the East End started to develop it’s own micro climate. From Easter to September, during the rainiest period, the most air currents from Africa drift to the Northwest but the East end is too low to cause any substantial uplift and cause rain.

During the winter months, clouds and rain develops west of Estate Grapetree Bay and rain falls on the southwest side and center of the island. Therefore, the rain will fall on the Center and West End of the island and pretty much any time of year, the very eastern portion is without rainfall. Depending on the source, Et Stykke Land can have as little as 15 inches of rain a year with a typical year having 25 to 30 inches.

Despite being one of the smaller and completely isolated islands in the Caribbean, seeds drifted in from elsewhere and plants and soil started to develop. The seeds were also carried by birds, ocean currents and hurricanes. Since man has always had a major impact on his environment, we will never know exactly what St. Croix looked like before the Neo-Indians reached the islands about the time of Christ.

The Saladoid and Ostionoid were the Neo-Indian groups who colonized and occupied the island. The principle difference between these groups is that the early arrivals who colonized the Islands seemed to keep close cultural ties with their South American origins and their ceramic and pottery designs were similar for about the first thousand years. At the peak of their population on St. Croix, the cultural contact appeared to diminish as the island groups developed their own style along with Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.

While not technologically advanced, these groups were proficient at firing ceramics, making cotton rugs and hammocks, fishing, foraging, farming and fun. There control of fire was evident in the way they fired ceramics, built their canoes and cooked their foods. They introduced important food crops and commerce items wherever they traveled. They traveled with wild avocado, yellow sapote, sapote, peanuts, Lima beans, cotton, bottle gourds, fruit trees, papaya, manioc, possibly maze, calabash, pineapple, soursop, guava and sapodilla. In all probability they also brought us tan-tan as that is classified as a per-Columbian species according to researchers at the USDA Forest Service and the straight poles would have been valuable in building thatched huts and poles for supporting crops. Moreover the nitrogen fixing capability of the plant would have been an asset.

The other important aspect of their farming method was as South and Central American Tribes, they would have been familiar with and used slash and burn agriculture which had the benefit of enriching the soil for a few years before destroying it.

The importance of the knowledge of Saladoid and Ostionoid culture is that they were present at Cramers Park for almost 1500 years before Columbus and had ample time to totally alter the habitat of Et Styke Land although other than the sea isle cotton and tan tan, the other dominant species observed during hikes include include Seagrape, Acasha, grass, Cactus and Ginger Thomas all of which are native species. I might suggest that this area was burned and because of the dryness of the area, the only thing of value they could grow was cactus which store water, tan-tan, cotton and grass all of which do quite well in the driest of areas. The first three definitely had value to the settlement. The introduction of Guinea Grass which is hard to ignore was definitely African or European for animal feed and grazing.

Cramers Park was the only place on the North-shore, east of Estate Grapetree to have a Neo-Indian settlement because it apparently was the only area to have a stream. Once the East End had been burned, it would have been very logical to use the drier most easterly land for tan-tan and cotton and the land by the stream adjacent to Cramer’s Park for growing crops. Thus, the actual settlement would have been between the gardens and the sea.

The dry south side of the island probably wasn’t altered too much during the early Neo-Indian era except for the chance introduction of Tan Tan and cotton. However, as the soil was depleted on the north side, it would have been easier to burn the south side by Jack’s and Issac’s Bay and plant Tan Tan and cotton there then to find a new place to settle on an increasingly crowded island. There were no know Neo-Indian settlements from Salt Pond to Et Styke Land on the south side as there was no know water or streams on that portion of the island.

The problem with slash and burn type agriculture is that there is an insatiable need for new land, yet burning or damaging the forest canopy destroys the streams. The Neo-Indian population peaked prior to the arrival of Columbus and prior to that time was relocating inward to find more farm land and then they probably migrated westward back to Puerto Rico pressured by the environmental changes they had caused and also pressured by the Caribs who were coming north and occupying the Lesser Antilles.

There is at least one report that when Columbus crew first sighted St. Croix from the North East they were quite pleased because it appeared cultivated like a great Garden. (The actual Diary for this voyage has been lost so it would be hard to verify that claim.) However, any landscape would have been preferred to Guadalupe where a crew got lost in the dense forests for so long that they were almost left behind.

After discovery of Santa Cruz, the Spanish had little impact on Et Stykke Land and the only notable presence on Santa Cruz was Ponce Deleon who came with a garrison to farm the opposite end of the island as the Puerto Rican conquistadors were so busy chasing native women and looking for gold that they were in danger of starving to death. Their farming in cooperation with the Indians was apparently limited to the southwest plain.

Of course after they got the supplies they needed, the treaty with the Indians was broken and some Indians enslaved. The Indians got the message and left St. Croix permanently after 1500 years of relatively successful occupancy.

The small population of Dutch and English settlers also had minimal influence on the island as they were so busy fighting each other that they had little time for productive farming. The island was next managed by the Knights of Malta and then the French.

Two thirds of all who came under the French died from fevers because “the air was so infected by the vapors from the ground”. This was probably still a very wet island and the presence of the Neo-Indians only had localized impact on the environment with the critically dry Et Stykke Land being hardest hit.

Point Cadejarre, St. Croix

The earliest Maps of St. Croix by the French and Danish support the concept of a wet island with a dry east end by the location of rivers and streams and the names given to the prominent features. Supporting the concept of a wet island is the fact that the Lapointe map of 1671 shows four major rivers on the western half of the island and the Danish Map of 1754 identifies a dozen large and small tributaries. The French identified the very east end as dry naming the point on the south side of East Bay “Point Cadejarre.”

This doesn’t have any translation as a single word but when you break it down into the two words it apparently evolved from, “cade” means abandoned by it’s mother and Jarre is the desolate and barren island south of France previously mentioned. As there was no other major landmass in site and this point would look as desolate and barren as Jarre Island, they apparently used the compound word Cadejarre to indicate a barren point of land without a mother country.

Morne Rond, St. Croix

We also have from the French era, Morne Rond where Rond is a circle and Morne means desolate, gloomy or joyless. Or, there was a desolate little round hill to the west of Point Cadejarre which is still there today. Of course this was also a little joke based on a play on words. Saint-Amand-Montrond was a beautiful historic spiritual center located in the middle of France.

At this time, the ecological history was pretty much set in stone as the original plant species of the fragile east end of the island had been disrupted by the Neo-Indians with their slash and burn agriculture and the introduction of non-indigenous species. However, the French made two decisions which permanently altered the landscape of the rest of the islands. To solve the disease problem they decided to burn the entire island from east to west and the prevailing winds in the dry season would have helped them achieve their goal. The other decision was to stop focusing on dry region crops like cotton but use the available manpower to focus on growing cane. This was now possible because the densely wooded center and west end were now cleared of the forests and this was the intrinsically wetter side of the island.

Looking Down on Point Udall from Sugarloaf (Goat) Hill

 When the Danes purchased the islands from the French, their assessment of the very east end of the islands apparently changed very little from the French. The names of Morne Rond and Cape Cadejarrre survived til the present and the only dramatically new geographical name was Et Stykke Land for the property located in the Estate associated with East Point which has now been named Point Udall. Et Stykke Land means “a piece of land” and as creative as the Plantation Owners were in naming their estates, this area was simply not worthy of any other name until the local Government conferred that honor to Morris Udall and renamed East Point after him.

About John Boyd

I have been hiking the hills and beaches of St. Croix Virgin Islands for over 30 years and in retirement have decided to become a Heritage Hiking Guide specializing in the local history, geology, settlers, plant life and environmental changes by all settlers of the last 2000 years but just along the trails I hike.
This entry was posted in 2012 Season, Cotten Garden, Cramer's Park, Et. Stykke Land, Issacs Bay, Jacks Bay, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Point Udall @ Et Stykke Land, St. Croix

  1. Pingback: Hike to Hams Buff & Maroonberg | Hike St. Croix

  2. Pingback: Sugarloaf Hill, Goat Hills and St. Croix’s East End Park System. | Hike St. Croix

  3. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
    After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I
    hope you write again very soon!

  4. Leonard M. Grigonis says:

    I was a 12 year-old kid in 1967 on St. Croix and did little else but look for Spanish gold on every reef. I didn’t find any but one day this native boy brought a brass pistol butt to school he found on a beach. I was no historian but was sure it was 18th Century. I never got to “dig up” that beach and find the silver some drunken pirate dropped in the sand…I left St. Croix in 1968 certain that someone else would find what I knew was there and sure that in the crystal waters off that island I had the time of my life..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s