Discover the “Golden Rock”: an island teeming with history
The island was discovered by Columbus in 1493, but changed hands 22 times before eventually being owned by the Dutch. In the meantime, the French, English and Dutch eagerly sought to take advantage of the strategic location of this small island in the Caribbean Sea. The tiny nation earned the name the “Golden Rock” from its prominence as a trading port in the 17th century.
Origins of the “Golden Rock”
After the discovery of Sint Eustatius in 1493, the Europeans lost interest in settling here due to the lack of natural fresh water sources. Consequently, it remained uninhabited for a long time. In 1636, the Dutch built cisterns on the island, and it soon became permanently inhabited. Fort Oranje was built and Sint Eustatius became a transit port for African slaves, sugar, molasses, gin, rum, cotton, and other products. The island’s activities were an important source of income for the Dutch West India Company. Trade blossomed with the constant flow of ships in and out of the harbor, making Sint Eustatius a wealthy trading outpost and filling the warehouses in Oranjestad with luxury products. The “Golden Rock” was born!
The island’s prosperity was a huge attraction for European countries that repeatedly fought to gain and maintain control of its resources. At the end of the 18th century, the island was firmly in British hands when rebellion erupted across the British colonies. Neutral Sint Eustatius supplied the colonies with ammunition and supplies but also sold to the rebels, resulting in unprecedented levels of prosperity on the island..
On November 16, 1776, Statia made history when an unknown ship approaching the port fired a thirteen-gun salute. Fort Orange responded with an eleven-gun salute, and as the ship turned out to be an American vessel in the service of the recently founded United States of America, Sint Eustatius became the first country to recognize America's independence. The world was baffled, but Statia was rewarded with even more trade and wealth. The warehouses on the Oranjestad quay were filled to the brim.
The “Golden Rock” resonates
The British were not happy with this recognition, as it seriously undermined their authority in their North American colonies. They declared war on the Netherlands and conquered Sint Eustat ius in 1781. It was not until 1816 that the island officially became Dutch territory again. History continues to resonate in the present day with the naming of Sint Eustatius’ national anthem “Golden Rock”.