St. Vincent & the Grenadines is rich with history which dates back thousands of years. Many scholars believe that the first known inhabitants on St. Vincent were Amerindians. The first tribe was the Ciboney, followed by the Arawak, then the Caribs, who took over the island around 1300. Long before Christopher Columbus spotted this island during his third voyage in 1498, it had been called Hairoun by the Caribs. Columbus named the island St. Vincent, since it was “discovered” on 22 January, the feast day of the Spanish patron saint, St. Vincent.
The Caribs were known to be highly defensive of their island, and for nearly 200 years, Europeans did not attempt to stake a claim there, as they had on most other Caribbean islands. It should also be said that some scholars who have looked into Ancient American origins point to the Afro-Olmecs of the Mende regions of West Africa as being the ancestors of the Black Caribs or Garifuna of St. Vincent. (See Race and History for more information). It’s also accepted knowledge that the first non-Carib inhabitants to land on St. Vincent were Africans who had escaped when a Dutch slave ship sank off the coast in 1675. Under this theory, the Caribs at first welcomed them into their lands, and St. Vincent soon became known as a place of refuge for escaped slaves from Barbados and St. Lucia. Over the course of a few generations, the Africans and Caribs blended into a race known as Black Caribs, as opposed to the “pure” Caribs, known as Red or Yellow Caribs. When problems between the two groups arose, the island was divided in half, with Yellow Caribs taking the west and Black Caribs taking the east.
While the English were the first to lay claim to St. Vincent in 1627, the French would be the first European settlers on the island when they established their first colony at Barrouallie on the Leeward side of St. Vincent shortly before 1700. Despite the French settlement, England still assumed ownership of the island, and in 1722, King George I gifted the Duke of Montague with St. Vincent and St. Lucia. Within a year, the Duke ordered an expedition to the island, headed by a Captain Braithwaite. Needless to say, the group was not welcomed to the island, and had to flee the combined resistance of the French and Caribs. Soon after, France started another settlement (at present-day Kingstown) in the island’s great southern bay. Some twenty years later, in 1762, a second English expedition was successful in taking the island, and the Treaty of Paris confirmed England’s claim when France officially ceded the island to the British. The next 35 years would bring more British-French fighting over the island (France took control of St. Vincent from 1778 – 1783), and Carib-British fighting, until the Caribs’ final surrender in 1797. Over the next three years, some five-thousand Black Caribs (Garifuna) would be forced off the island by the untrusting British and relocated to Roatan, which was part of British Honduras. Only a small number of Caribs were allowed to stay at Sandy Bay in the northern part of the island.
More about Carib history can be found on the following websites: History of the Caribs and ArawaksThe Garifuna (Black Caribs)The ‘Carib’ Work Stones of Chateaubelair: curio or calendar system?The History of the Carib Peoples of the Caribbean
SVG Guide’s Our History and People
Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink
The Caribs of St. Vincent
St. Vincent Timeline
St. Vincent Heads of Government
Slavery in St. Vincent
Flags of St. Vincent
The History of the Massacre of Two Jesuit Missionaries in the Island of St. Vincent – 24th January, 1654
European Settlers, Africans & Immigrants
We have not been successful in locating many records from the time the French ruled St. Vincent. There is one census microfilm listed with the LDS/Mormon Library for the year 1732. It’s not known if this was a simple population count, or if names were included. It can be found in the FHL INTL Film Area, Film #1098209, Item 1. In early 2004, the St. Vincent archives in Kingstown was beginning a project to translate a number of records donated by the French government. No other details of the project or a completion date are known.
English and Scottish Settlers
The bulk of the information assembled on this website centers on the many English and Scottish people who came to St. Vincent. Some of them relocated from nearby islands in the Caribbean when land sales began, while others arrived on military assignment. Some individuals were successful merchants who owned ships which sailed from England and Scotland to ports throughout the Caribbean. Most of the English inhabitants were Anglican (Church of England). The records of St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Kingstown, St. Vincent has recorded vital records dating back to 1765. There are many records pertaining to St. Vincent in the National Archives of England and Scotland.
Tens of thousands of people (conservative estimate) were brought from the African continent in the bonds of slavery to St. Vincent, starting from the early 1700’s. Early documents shed some light on their origins and even list specific areas of Africa as their nativity. At least one narrative has been published about the life of an enslaved African born on St. Vincent. To read Ashton WARNER’s story, follow this link: Ashton Warner – Story of a St. Vincent native born into slavery. For more information on the Slave Trade and the African Diaspora:History of the Slave TradeAfrican Studies in the West Indies
East Indian Immigrants
Large numbers of people came to St. Vincent from India to fill the void for plantation labor after emancipation. According to the book “Christianity in the Caribbean”, Edited by Armando Lampe, on page 114 “10,000 (East Indians) migrated to the Windward Islands of Grenada, St. Vincent and St. Lucia.”. The book references a total “immigration of over 500,000 Indians into the British West Indies between 1840 and 1871.” Website developer Richard Cheddie has compiled a tremendous amount of information about the East Indian immigration to the West Indies on his outstanding website. Visit his website’s Main Page for details on all Caribbean Islands, and to locate his page featuring a list of ships bringing these immigrants to St. Vincent. *Many names can be found on these webpages.
The SVG Indian Heritage Foundation is also now on the web. Visit their site: svgindianheritage.com
Large numbers of people came to St. Vincent from Madiera as indentured servants after emancipation. Many became prominent businessman. Some researchers with St. Vincent Portuguese roots can be found on the Portuguese in the West Indies Website at Rootsweb.
A number of individuals born in St. Vincent have achieved fame on the island and around the world. They include politicians, entertainers, writers, mariners, and others. See our growing list of these Noted Vincentians by clicking here.