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HomeCommentaryOpen Forum: How Estates Got Their Names, Part 4

Open Forum: How Estates Got Their Names, Part 4

An image of the Hogensborg estate of the late 1700s, today located across from Sunny Isle Shopping Center on St. Croix. It was the residence of a prominent Danish family, known as the Sobotker. Hogensborg is a Danish name, meaning “City of the Hawk.” (Image courtesy Olasee Davis)
A print of the Hogensborg estate of the late 1700s, today located across from Sunny Isle Shopping Center on St. Croix. It was the residence of a prominent Danish family by the name of Sobotker. Hogensborg is a Danish name, meaning “City of the Hawk.” (Image courtesy Olasee Davis)

The late naturalist George A. Seaman once said, “Only great names remain.” He was referring to the names of estates on St. Croix. Names you might have to roll your tongue to pronounce, or figure out the interpretation behind them. The owners of these estates have long gone in the dust of the wind, and we can only guess at the inspiration behind the names they left on a small Caribbean island. Believe me, all that is left for us are names to recall the glories of yesteryear of an island when sugar was king. 

Olasee Davis
Olasee Davis (Submitted photo)

This series continues with names of plantations where different nationalities — namely Danish, Dutch, French, Spanish, and English — named estates on St. Croix with a twist of imagination. We must agree, however, that each estate’s owner beat a different drum and music when naming their plantations. One can only guess that Estate Pearl, Golden Rock, Ruby, Diamond, and Betsy’s Jewel, for instance, were symbols of great wealth for the owners. 

Then there are other estates like Paradise, Mary’s Fancy, William’s Delight (which in 1754 belonged to William Richardson, thus the name), Morning Star (German, Morgenstern), and Profit (same as Raapzaat Heylinger’s Plantage, 1754), giving names of being optimistic on fighting the elements of nature to make a profit in the sugar industry on St. Croix. 

On the other hand, there are estates that are hopeful and given names that seem meant to ward off their owners worst fears. Such estates are Humbug, Retreat, Stoney Ground, Barrenspot, Hard Labor and Slob. Whereas there are estates whose owners were attempting to get through the day, or have a good night’s bed rest. Such estates that come to mind are Catherine’s Rest, Work and Rest, Peter’s Rest, and Rust-op-Twist, which in Dutch means “Rest after exertion.”  

There are also names given to estates on the islands that were devoted to the exploitation of slavery, with such names as Negro Bay, White Lady, and White Bay. Religion also played a significant role in the lives of the planters and their slaves that toiled the soil, making St. Croix the fourth-largest producer of sugar in the world. Such estates were given biblical names such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Canaan, Elijah’s Retreat, Lebanon, St. John (particular for the Roman Catholic faith), St. Georges and the like. 

There were a number of estates with the words “mount.” Estates like Mount Victory, Blue Mountain, Mount Eagle, Mountain, Mount Pleasant, etc., which again indicate higher ground. While the word “hole” — Bugby Hole Estate — appears altogether unattractive, and the word “valley,” such as Cotton Valley, Caledonia Valley, and Pleasant Valley, seems to appear in significantly fewer numbers of estates named by planters. 

Late 1700s Danish well tower located on the west side of Sugar Bay within Estate Morningstar. It is approximately 16 feet in diameter and estimated to over 40 feet in high. This historic Danish water tower is within Salt River Bay National Historical Park & Ecological Preserve. (Photo by Olasee Davis)
A Danish well tower from the late 1700s is located on the west side of Sugar Bay within Estate Morningstar. It is approximately 16 feet in diameter and estimated to be more than 40 feet tall. The tower is located within the Salt River Bay National Historical Park & Ecological Preserve on St. Croix. (Photo by Olasee Davis)

Water played a significant role in the development of the sugar industry on St. Croix. Estate names such as Spring Garden, Spring Gut, Wheel of Fortune, Little Fountain, and Big Fountain, or Spring Field are not surprising, especially on an island often threatened by drought. We do have estates named with bay — for example, Salt River Bay, Cane Bay, Teague Bay, and Great Pond Bay — perhaps to advertise a location near the sea for easy transportation. 

The following are estates with meanings or names after planters. Mon Bijou is an estate name where you have to roll your tongue like a Frenchman. This estate within King Quarter originally belonged to Peter Heyligar Jr. The name Mon Bijou on the Oxholm’s map, meaning “my jewel” in French, is the site of the Fredensfeld mission. Estate Annaly, located in the highlands of the Northside A Quarter of St. Croix, was once owned by a wealthy planter from the island of Montserrat named Nicholas Tuite. “Ly” means “shelter,” as in “Anna Lee.”

This late 1700s century water well is located at Estate Lower Love within the Department of Agriculture grounds. The tree growing within the water well is a native (Ficus citrifolia). Aerial roots of the tree are destroying this historic structure. Once was functioning up to the middle of the 19th century. (Photo by Olasee Davis)
This late 1700s water well is located at Estate Lower Love within the Department of Agriculture grounds. The tree growing within the well is a native (Ficus citrifolia). Aerial roots of the tree are destroying this historic structure that functioned up to the middle of the 19th century. (Photo by Olasee Davis)

Hogensborg Estate, located on Prince Quarter, was the residence of a prominent Danish family on St. Croix, known as the Sobotker. Hogensborg is a Danish name, meaning, “City of the Hawk.” La Vallee Estate, located on the Northside B Quarter of St. Croix, of the William Pickering Plantage, is a French name, meaning “the valley.” According to some sources, the estate was named after Father Jacques de LaValliere who survived the great plague on St. Kitts and traveled to St. Croix, where he became the island’s first Catholic priest. Thus, the name Estate La Vallee.

Mount Stewart Estate, which rises 878 feet above sea level on the Northside A Quarter west of Bodkin Hill, St. Croix, was so named in honor of the original proprietor, Robert Stewart. There are two loves with a Jealousy between them. Upper Love, located in Prince Quarter on St. Croix, was a major sugar plantation with several streams watering Lower Love Estate. Formerly known as Old Love, as Lower Love was called New Love, both were patented originally to Lucas de Windt, a Frenchman. 

This 1850 printing showed St. John rough landscape. Mamey Peak on St. John, one of the highest peaks on the island of 1,164 feet above sea level named derived from our naïve fruit Mammey Apple. (Image courtesy Olasee Davis)
This 1850 lithograph shows St. John’s rough landscape. Mamey Peak on St. John, one of the highest peaks on the island at 1,164 feet above sea level, is a name derived from our native fruit, the mammey apple. (Image courtesy Olasee Davis)

I will pause and mention a few estates on St. John and St. Thomas and how they got their names. Beverhoutberg Estate is about a quarter mile southwest of Adrian on St. John, taking its name from the 545-foot hill that was named after John von Beverhout. He was an early planter on St. John that distinguished himself as a militia captain and defended Peter Duurloo’s plantation during the 1733 slave revolt on St. John. Mamey Peak on St. John, one of the highest on the island at 1,164 feet above sea level, is a name derived from our native fruit, the mammey apple.

Lerkenlund Estate overlooking beautiful Magens Bay beach on St. Thomas is a name derived from the Danish “Lerken” (lark) and “Lund” (grove). Mafolie Estate, well known for its magnificent panoramic view of the island’s natural beauty, derives from the French “Ma Folie” (My Folly).

As I am about to conclude, the estates of the Virgin Islands are rich in history like an old picture on a wall and like tombstones eroded by the elements of nature.

The marching of time is changing the islands’ history, grinding to dust the vitality, dreams, aspirations, and poetry of estates that once graced the landscape of the Virgin Islands. Believe me, names are important because they tell about a place, a time, and a past that still lingers in the landmarks of the islands’ history. The planters gave the names of the estates, but the craftsmanship of the ruins, historic buildings, etc., that scatter throughout the Virgin Islands should remind us of the enslaved population that built the islands’ economy.

Editor’s Note: Read Part 1 of How Estates Got Their Names here. Read Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

Olasee Davis is a bush professor who lectures and writes about the culture, history, ecology and environment of the Virgin Islands when he is not leading hiking tours of the wild places and spaces of St. Croix and beyond.



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