Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia Barnes last week announced the discovery of buried historic cannons by a cleaning crew from the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works working on the Cruz Bay beach last month.
The crew alerted the nearby St. John Administrator’s Office stationed at the historic Cruz Bay Battery. St. John Administrator Leona Smith and her staff, along with the DPW crew, further inspected the site to verify the finding. Upon further investigation, the team found that there were not one, but three cannons buried along the shoreline.
DPNR’s Virgin Islands State Historic Preservation Office Acting Director Sean Krigger was contacted for advice on the matter. He reviewed photos of the discovered cannons and agreed that the cannons appeared to be historic. Based on the location and exposure of the cannons, it was decided to relocate the historic findings to a secure location for further examination.
Krigger and Fort Christian Museum Curator Levi Farrell visited St. John the next day to inspect and document the cannons. Their inspection confirmed that the cannons are historic artillery.
Local Historian David Knight, who recently completed an historic background study on the town of Cruz Bay for the VISHPO Historic Preservation Fund Subgrant program, discussed the findings with Krigger.
The cannons may have come from the Coral Bay fortification after it was decommissioned in 1765, according to Knight.
Knight’s research revealed that cannons and ammunition were brought to Cruz Bay from the old fortress in Coral Bay and placed on a crude earthwork on the beach while plans were worked out for the new fort.
The decision to locate the new fort on Cruz Bay town’s shoreline, however, took longer than expected and the cannons, being exposed to salt air and dampness, quickly rusted and became unserviceable. Once the new fort was built in Cruz Bay, the temporary earthwork that held the cannons was removed and the cannons were relocated.
At that point it is not clear what transpired with the cannons. One was used as a bollard on the landside of the Cruz Bay dock for several decades. With the passage of time, the other three cannons were set aside and forgotten, until their recent discovery.
“The discovery of these three cannons has highlighted the point that Cruz Bay town is still very rich in historic and archaeological history,” said Krigger.
VISHPO plans a Ground Penetrating Radar Survey for the area where the cannons were discovered to determine if other cannons or other metal artifacts are present.
For more information contact VISHPO at (340) 776-8605.