St. John’s Centennial Events Shift Focus to Cruz Bay’s Founding

Gov. Kenneth Mapp greets a brief centennial parade in Cruz Bay on Sunday afternoon (David Knight photo)

The 250th anniversary of the founding of Cruz Bay was the milestone being celebrated at a block party hosted by the V.I. Transfer Centennial Commission in Franklin Powell Park on Sunday.

The Commission’s website had long advertised transfer centennial events on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, but the theme of St. John’s block party was not publicly revealed until a week before the event, when a flyer advertising “Cruz Bay’s 250th Birthday Bash” was released.

The party was a chance to honor the town’s milestone, which technically passed in 2016. Cruz Bay, initially given the short-lived name Christiansbay, was founded in 1766 by the Danish Crown. It has been St. John’s only official town ever since, as well as the island’s primary point of entry and its center of commerce and government administration.

In September of 2016, the 31st Legislature adopted a bill sponsored by Sen. Myron Jackson that proposed a resolution commemorating Cruz Bay’s 250th Anniversary.

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On Oct. 10, 2016, the historic core of Cruz Bay, whose street layout is the same today as it was at its 18th-century founding, was entered into the United States National Register of Historic Places as the fourth historic district in the territory.

Cruz Bay’s birthday block party, which featured food vendors and musical performances by Jon Gazi and Cool Sessions Brass Band, kicked off after a closed Centennial reception at the Cruz Bay battery and a brief transfer parade that drew sparse pockets of curious onlookers during a half-hour period in the afternoon.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp, seated with members of the commission, waved from the park’s bandstand at the parade’s participants – JROTC members and student drummers, a small troupe of local firemen, and a substantial group of retired Danish police officers. At the end of the parade, however, no remarks were made to explain its purpose or why the participants were chosen.

V.I. members of the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps lead St. John’s centennial parade in Cruz Bay.

The retired Danish officers, members of two chapters of the International Police Association, carried a Danish flag but no banner or sign to explain who they were. Most wore blue polo shirts emblazoned with the V.I.’s official centennial logo on the sleeve.

On the same day as St. John’s official centennial events, the Moravian Church in Denmark released a historic apology for Danish and Moravian participation in slavery in the Danish West Indies.

“Together with several other citizens of Denmark, we declare to be troubled about a deeply regrettable past, in which the forefathers of the population on the US Virgin Islands were enslaved and against their will were forced to labor for masters, many of whom came from Denmark,” the Moravian statement read. “For this, although belated, we apologize in the spirit of love!”

Representative of the Moravian church were present in the Danish West Indies starting in the 1730s, their primary mission being conversion of the enslaved.

Sen. Myron Jackson, who attended Sunday’s Cruz Bay block party, said the statement from the Danish Moravian Church was “an important step in reconciliation” between Denmark and the territory.

 

 

 

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