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HomeNewsArchivesDE POINCY SENDS SETTLERS TO SAINT BARTHELEMY

DE POINCY SENDS SETTLERS TO SAINT BARTHELEMY

After the death of Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc, governor of Saint-Christophe, it became imperative that a capable successor be found and appointed to fill the now vacant position. After many conferences, a commander of the Order of Malta, Phillipe de Lonvilliers de Poincy, 57 years of age, was chosen.
He was given the title of Captain General of Saint-Christophe and Lieutenant General of the Islands, In Service to the King and In His Name.
After the death of the Cardinal de Richelieu and of King Louis XIII,
in 1643, the queen, Anne of Austria, stripped de Poincy of his wealth. De Poincy fought the agents of the Company and regained his position.
It was about this time, that de Poincy decided to occupy the tiny island of Saint Barthelemy. De Poincy also sent settlers to occupy the portion of Saint-Martin which had been granted to the French. On March 17, 1648, Governor de Poincy sent 300 soldiers to Saint-Martin to secure the French settlement, which the Dutch had tried to take over and had chased away the French inhabitants. In 1648 de Poincy, now governor of Saint Christophe, sent the Sieur Jacques Gente with 52 men to settle the island of Saint Barthelemy. At this time also, was sent the Sieur Bonhomme, who built houses on Saint-Barthelemy, for the French. With the Sieur Bonhomme was also sent some black people from Saint Christophe, to work under the rule of the commanders.
At this time, 1648, Guaiacum tress were plentiful on the island of Saint Barthelemy. Since this was a very hard wood, it provided timber for building houses and for boat repairs. There were also many trees which are called Poiriers, both the red and the white varieties.
The new settlers brought with them, to Saint Barthelemy, trees of mango, limes, oranges, breadfruit, sugar apples and soursops. They also brought cotton seeds and tobacco seeds, cuttings of manioc, yams, sweet potatoes, and many other vegetable and fruits and herbs.
In the year 1656, just 8 years after the first permanent settlement on Saint Barthelemy, the Caribs came on a moonlit night and with a vengeance, massacred most of the settlers, men, women and children while they slept. As the Europeans had done to them, on other islands, the Caribs too, planted stakes and impaled the heads of several of the massacred colonists. The few colonists who had managed to flee to the hills, and thus escaped the massacre, eventually made their way back to Saint Christophe.
It was not until 1659, after peace had been achieved with the Caribs, that another trial at settlement of Saint-Barthelemy was made. This time, only 30 men volunteered to settle on the tiny island. There are no records to tell us of the life of these early pioneers on Saint Barthelemy.
In 1651, the Order of the Knights of Malta, through de Poincy, purchased the island of Saint Barthelemy and the French portion of the islands of Saint Martin.
By now, the Spanish had begun taking notice of the many improvements on the French islands; the forts, the exports, the French sailing vessels flying the Fleur-de-Lis of the French King, sailing among the islands of the Antilles. These French ships were trading with the foreign pirates who preyed on the Spanish galleons and who also raided the Spanish settlements.
As a condition and part of the negotiations for the acquisition of Saint
Barthelemy and the French portion of Saint Martin, de Poincy set the condition that he should remain the Governor of Saint Barthelemy and of French Saint Martin. The Order of the Knights of Malta did not object to this condition. Spain was wise enough not to interfere with the French possessions after the acquisition by the Knights of Malta.
In 1651, the Jesuits tried to get into Saint-Martin with the help of
de Poincy but they remained in the role of visiting missionaries to the new
settlements. Their base remained on Saint Christophe and Guadeloupe, where their goal was to convert the "paupers". The character and deportment of de Poincy's settlers prompted Father Breton to remark that "there were all kinds of heathens on the islands".
There were several religious orders on the islands, each vying with the others for dominance. There were the Dominicans (known as the white monks), the Jesuits and the Capuchin friars. In 1656, some members of the Carmelite friars also arrived in the islands.
On Saint Barthelemy, in 1659, the little colony was doing very well.
The colonists had found useful plants which were probably brought there
by the Arawakan people and by the Caribs, during their short stays on
Ouanalao ( the Carib name for Saint Barthelemy). There were also the
fruits and vegetables and the Castor Oil plant. There were manioc, cotton
and tobacco which had been abandoned by the former colonists. The
new settlers, having cleared the land, planted corn and sweet potatoes.
They planted cuttings of manioc and other crops in all of the cleared areas. Cotton seeds and tobacco seeds were planted in small fields. For meat, the colonists had brought goats and sheep.
The new settlement prospered and by 1664, there were over 100 persons on Saint Barthelemy. According to Father du Tertre, " the colonists carved objects out of the wood of the guaiac tree, which is hard wood".
In 1665, Colbert, the secretary of King Louis XIV, negotiated the purchase of Saint Barthelemy and French Saint-Martin from the Order of the Knights of Malta. Now all the French islands came directly under the protection of the new "Company of the West Indies". The Company of the Isles of America had been dissolved. The Lords of the Old Company were not happy with the transfer but after assurance that their wards would not suffer, they had no choice but to accept the transfer.
Editor's note: In the next installment, we will tell of the arrival of the Irish on the Island of Saint Barthelemy.

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