History & Culture

Historical map of St. Croix, with close-up of Buck Island.
Close-up of a 1799 map by Peter Lotharius Oxholm showing Bock Island (Buck Island). The signal station is the building with the flag pole, near the center of the image.

NPS Collections.

People have come to Buck Island to enjoy the island’s beaches, waters, fish, and other wildlife, for nearly 2,000 years. By ca. A.D. 400, Amerindians living on St. Croix, who had arrived to the region via the Lesser Antilles and the Lower Orinoco River and Guyana coastal areas, began to visit Buck Island to fish, hunt lobsters and large land crabs, gather conch and possibly gathering sea turtle and bird eggs. Archeology has revealed that they camped in the beach forest, leaving behind pieces of pottery and their campfires, or hearths.

Buck Island has been called many names over the years - Cabrit, Cabrito, Burre, Goat, Vert, Holm, Gedeøen Frederiksgave, Pockholz, Pocken Eyland, and Bocken Eyland . On early maps dating to the 1600s, Buck Island is called Isle Verte, or Green Island, and what is today called Green Cay was called Isle a Cabrits. By the 1700s, Buck Island was labeled on maps as Pocholz or Pocken Island, and later it became known as Buck Island. It is believed that the change in name is due to a map maker's error, but the name "pockholz" is a historic name for Lignum vitae, or the ironwood tree, which used to grow on the island and was an important resource used by Europeans.

When St. Croix was taken over by the French in 1650, many plantations were established across the main island. However, there is no evidence that people lived here on Buck Island during this time. Historic maps dating from 1650-1690 do not show any buildings.

In 1754, the first person is listed as managing or owning Buck Island – Johann Deidrich, the town clerk of Christiansted; the estate was referred to as Deidrich’s Plantage. He ran the island until 1773. It is known that between 6 and 12 enslaved Africans lived on the island at any time during Deidrich’s tenure; in 1772, three enslaved people were listed as living here. Deidrich reportedly built a house high on the island, to view the shipping lanes.

In 1789, the Danish government built a signal station on the highest point of Buck Island. This station alerted the guards stationed at Fort Christiansvaern (in Christiansted) of arriving ships by raising a flag.

The position of the signal keeper changed hands often over the years. In 1822, Buck Island became a possession of the Danish Crown, through landskassen, the act by the land treasure to appropriate rural lands by the government for their protection. In the 1850s, the Danish landskassen of St. Croix were controlled by the colonialskassen, the colonial land treasury.

Danish tax list showing the names of slaves that lived on Buck Island in 1841.
Danish tax list for 1841 showing the names of enslaved Africans living on Buck Island.

NPS archives (St. Croix Landmarks Society)

In the 1840s, historical records show that the Burgher Council on St. Croix recommonded that Buck Island be used as residence for Obeah practitoners (spiritual and religious leaders among peoples of African descent). They would be employed by Mr. Christopher Løve, who had resided on the island for many year. The Landtreasury office built these residences, which were made of hardwood posts and thatched roofs.

Oral histories collected from people who lived on Buck Island in the early 20th century described how they grew sweet potatoes, cut down trees to make charcoal, and raised sheep and goats. Hardly any sugar cane was grown here. Until the 1920s, leases were given so people could graze goats. Goats remained feral on the island until the 1940s.

History of creation of the park. In 1926, a bill was introduced to the St. Croix Colonial Council to establish Buck Island as a game preserve, but because of its infestation with mongoose the preserve was not established. Under the Virgin Islands Organic Act of June 22, 1936, the Government of the Virgin Islands obtained direct control of Buck Island, though the U.S. Federal Government maintained control of the submerged lands. In 1948, the Government of the Virgin Islands established Buck Island and its surrounding reefs as a territorial park. In 1961, control of the island was transferred to the National Park Service, and later that year President John F. Kennedy, in recognition of the need to preserve for scientific and educational interests “one of the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea,” established Buck Island Reef National Monument by Presidential Proclamation (No. 3443). Finally, on January 17, 2001, President
William J. Clinton expanded the Monument’s size by 18,135 acres.

Last updated: April 6, 2018

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2100 Church St. #100
Christiansted, St. Croix, VI 00820


(340) 773.1460

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