Mustique’s Early History

 

I wanted to back up for a few moments and tell you a little bit more about the history of the fabulous island where I spend so much of my time.

Since the island rarely allows press to visit, Mustique hasn’t been talked about very much other than to mention the who’s who of guests who come there and the rarefied amenities of the island.   Though it’s small and not very populated, the island itself has a fascinating and colorful past.

Mustique is part of the Grenadines, a small chain of islands that resulted from a volcanic eruption of Grenada. Politically, the northern islands, which include Mustique, are part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which on a broader scale is within the Commonwealth of Nations (a former colony of the British empire). Though the island is no longer technically under British rule, the British influence remains strong and the famous face of Queen Elizabeth is on the currency to this day.

The earliest inhabitants of the Grenadines were pre-colonial people who likely arrived from the Orinoco Basin in South America around 2,500 B.C. Various archeological findings would indicate that the Arawak people (as they were named) likely called the islands home between 250 B.C. and 1,000 A.D. More recently the Caribs (from which the Caribbean gets its name) made their home on Mustique and the other islands in the region.

Spanish sailors took to the crystal clear waters of the Grenadines in the late 15th century and called them “Los Pajoros” or The Birds, because from a distance they looked like small birds. Less imaginative pirates who hid and repaired their ships in the bays of the islands in the 16th and 17th centuries referred to the islands as The Grenadines and that name managed to stick. French fishermen were also drawn to the Caribbean for the purposes of hunting sea turtles from about 1650 to 1750 and took control from the Caribs. The island was known for its tall trees and lush greenery and the Europeans who were now coming to the Caribbean in greater numbers soon discovered that the islands were perfect for growing sugar. and the West Indies suddenly became significant economically. Sadly, this meant that the island was cleared of its entire population of tall trees and therefore many other dependent species of plants and animals. The Grenadines passed to the British with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, at which time British farmers Alexander Campbell and John Aitcheson bought the island of Mustique.  This tradition of Brits on Mustique has continued throughout the years with the likes of Princess Margaret, Mick Jagger and countless others.

After the British took over the island they built three stone fortresses to protect the island. These included Fort Liverpool, Fort Percival, and Fort Shandy and their ruins (in addition to the occasional cannon) can still be found. A long blockade cut the French off from West Indian sugar and eventual victory over Admiral Villeneuve in 1804 ensured British control, but soon farmers discovered that sugar could be grown in Europe and they abandoned the island. All of the sugar plantations that had been in operation, including the Endeavour, Rutland, Old Plantation, East Lot, Adelphi, Campbell Valley, and Aberdeen were shuttered. In 1835, two plantations were reopened on Mustique by the British government, as they were still considered economically viable. In 1865 the two were merged into one estate by members of the Hazell family of St. Vincent, but Mustique continued to exist in a state of limbo.

Only the sugar mill at Endeavour and its “Cotton House” (which has since been converted into the famous hotel) remain. Next up some more recent history!

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