St. Croix is known by many for it’s rich history, there is even an archaeological museum here where you can learn about some of the island’s earliest inhabitants. The St. Croix Archaeological Society Museum houses a number of interesting pre-Colombian era artifacts that have been excavated here on St. Croix, but new artifacts from multiple eras are still being uncovered today. In fact, while Company Street was being excavated for infrastructure improvements at the end of 2016, many new artifacts dating back to the early days of Christiansted were uncovered by resident archaeologist David Hayes.
Company Street is one of the main roads in Christiansted, and has been since the town was built in the mid-1700s. Stretching from Fort Christiansvaern to the cemetery gate of St. John’s Anglican Church, Company Street was historically a two lane dirt road lined with homes and shops built when the Danish owned St. Croix. David Hayes was the archaeologist that performed the Company Street dig, and he kindly presented his artifact findings to the public which included pieces of clay pipes, shards of china and pottery, bottles, glasses, and other relics from everyday life in the mid-18th century.
Interestingly, the areas of Company Street on which certain artifacts were found indicated the socioeconomic status of the people who lived and worked in that area. On the side of Company Street closer to the cemetery and the Free Gut neighborhood, Mr. Hayes found mostly pottery and a few clay pipe stems, indicating residents of the time were of lower class economic status. Outside Apothecary Hall, closer to Fort Christiansvaern, Mr. Hayes found stemmed wine glasses, the bottoms of Dutch gin bottles, and china, indicating residents of a higher economic class lived on this end of of town.
Company Street was also the site of Sunday Market Square. At this market, enslaved peoples that worked the sugar plantations would sell their goods and wares on their only day off, Sunday. As you may have read in our our blog Alexander Hamilton’s History on St. Croix, Hamilton’s mother’s store and residence was located on Company Street, just half a block from the Sunday Market. The goings on at Sunday Market, as well as in the neighboring Free Gut (an area where slaves who had earned their freedom resided), were an integral part of forming Alexander’s social and economical ideals. During the Company Street dig, Mr. Hayes found a lot of Moravian pottery in this area as one would expect based the proximity to both Sunday Market Square and Free Gut.
Opposite the location where Bentick’s Market stands today, Mr. Hayes found a huge cache of artifacts in a pocket of ash and charcoal about 3 feet below the surface of the road. Recovered in this cache were pieces of china, a tea pot lid, pipe stems, and even some pieces of chamber pots. In this case, Mr. Hayes believes the kitchen of an adjacent building caught fire and, once extinguished, the owners likely dug a hole in the dirt road and dumped the burned and broken items into it. Another interesting historical find was a large brick culvert built to direct water from Company Street all the way down to Water Gut. This culvert was 64″ tall, and was constructed in the mid to late 18th century.
If you would like to learn more about the history of St. Croix, I would recommend starting with a visit to the the St. Croix Archaeological Society Museum. The museum is located in the Apothecary Hall courtyard on Company Street, and is open on Saturdays from 10am-2pm. You can also visit other historic sites across the island including Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, Fort Christiansvaern, Fort Frederik, Estate whim, as well local historic churches, cemeteries, and plantation ruins. To learn more about the St. Croix Archaeological Society and it’s museum, you can visit their website at: www.stcroixarchaeology.org.
– Jennie Ogden, Editor