Cinnamon Bay History

St. John US Virgin Islands

Cinnamon Bay History

The first inhabitants of Cinnamon Bay were the Taino who lived there from about 1000 AD until the end of the 15th Century.

European settlement began in 1718 when the Danish governor of St. Thomas gave permission for planters to claim land on St. John. They only had to meet the following conditions: One white man was to be on the plantation within three months, and sugar mills were to be built within five years. The plantations would be exempt from taxes for seven years.

Cinnamon Bay was originally named Store Caneel Bay, or in English, Big Cinnamon. What we now know as Caneel Bay used to be Klein Caneel, or Little Cinnamon. These bays were named for the many cinnamon trees (bay rum) found there. Later on, the name of the bay was translated into English and became known as Cinnamon Bay. Klein Caneel Bay became simply, Caneel Bay.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Cinnamon Bay was devoted to sugar cane production.  Factors such as the depletion of the soil, the emancipation of the slaves and increased competition led to the decline of the sugar industry. The estate substituted other crops, and at the turn of the 20th century the plantation began to produce bay rum oil from the leaves of the bay rum tree. This was the principle ingredient in the well known cologne, St. John's Bay Rum Cologne 4oz.

In 1913, Cinnamon Bay was owned by a Danish company. The land was dedicated to the breeding and raising of cattle. Danish and English cattle were mixed with the native breed producing a strong strain which became well known throughout the West Indies.

In the 1930s, Cinnamon Bay was owned by a Puerto Rican who continued using the land for cattle production. He set up a grocery in the storehouse, which is now the museum and beach shop. (Update: The building was destroyed in 2017 by hurricane Irma.) It was stocked with goods which he brought in from Puerto Rico on his schooner. He would then take cattle, charcoal, baskets and provision crops back to Puerto Rico for sale.

In 1955, Cinnamon Bay was sold to Jackson Hole Preserve Inc. and later donated to the National Park.

Today Cinnamon Bay is home to a rebuilt campground, very much a "glamping" type setup, but very much worth consideration for visitors to St. John.

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