Ownership history

Oxholm’s West Indies maps and drawings: St. John

One of the best collections of maps and drawings from the Danish West Indies was made by the officer Peter Lotharius Oxholm in the years 1778-1780. The collection contains 32 maps and drawings, including 4 maps from St. John.
Map of the island St. John.
In 1780 Oxholm produced the first proper map of St. John. The island is the size of Fanø in Denmark (51 square kilometers), but very rocky and difficult to negotiate. Nevertheless, Oxholm’s topographic map is quite impressively accurate. The island in his time was partially uncultivated and had only a few plantations in operation. There were only about sixty European inhabitants on the island. The Schimmelmann family plantation Carolina was at Coral Bay on the east end, on the plain that was virtually the only horizontal and cultivable piece of ground on the entire island. On the west end at Cruz Bay a town had been staked out, but it had still not really been built. Oxholm’s map has subsequently been engraved in copper and reproduced. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.209)
Cruz Bay.
After the slave rebellion in 1733, the fort at Coral Bay on the eastern end of the island was razed, and it was decided instead to construct a town at Cruz Bay on the western end closest to St. Thomas. Even in Oxholm’s time, however, only a very few buildings had been built in the new town. His drawing shows floor plans and facades of the quarters for the enlisted men, the kitchen and the officer’s residence. This involved simple but solid buildings. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.339)
A relatively newly-constructed battery in Cruz Bay.
In Cruz Bay on the west end of St. John, there was a relatively newly-constructed battery, equipped with twelve heavy cannons. The installation was equipped with a catchment for collecting rainwater for the cistern. There was still no guardhouse for the soldiers, so instead they had to stay in the small kitchen “in all the smoke and dirt, for which reason their eyes, health, clothes and weapons naturally are in accordance with this,” as Oxholm notes. The nearby small bakery, shown at right in the drawing, could be used as a magazine for the battery. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.341).
The fort on the top of the steep Fortsbjerg (Fortsberg) at Coral Bay on the east end of St. John.
The fort on the top of the steep Fortsbjerg (Fortsberg) at Coral Bay on the east end of St. John was the place where the slave rebellion in 1733 started. After having taken over the fort, the enslaved gained control of practically the entire island and were not defeated for eight months. After this traumatic experience, the Danes blew up the fort at Coral Bay and moved the operations to Cruz Bay on the island’s west end. Fifty years later, when Oxholm drew the ruins, most of the walls and the entire officer’s house in the fort yard had disappeared. Today, the ruins lie much as they were in Oxholm’s time. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.343.