Here, St. John


 Stories of People & Place

W elcome to Here, St. John, an audio tour of the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, as told by St Johnians.

The island of St. John is a remarkable spot in the Lesser Antilles islands in the center of the Caribbean chain, astonishingly diverse in its ecology as well as in its human history and culture. It’s no wonder that St. John is a beloved destination for people from around the world. St. John is also the location of Virgin Islands National Park, which owns two thirds of the real estate.

Life on the island for its residents, and particularly for those born on the island, is complex. The park, its visitors, and the people who are part of the tourism industry have been the dominant voices of the place.

So, beginning in the summer of 2020, Outer Voices embarked on an expedition to create an introductory tour of St. John as told by St Johnians. We also invited scientists who are longtime residents of St. John to speak on behalf of the other species who share that place.

Here, St. John is the result of many people’s time and effort to explain their own place, their point of view, and their way of life to people who come to visit. Our collective hope is that visitors take time to listen to their stories, their history, and their experience of life on St. John, to gain some understanding of the place they are traveling to before they come, and when they get here, gaining a glimpse of the incredible wealth of culture and experience of ordinary life on this extraordinary place.

We are grateful to all the St Johnians who agreed to participate, by sharing their perspectives on the history of the island and sharing their own personal histories: Elroy Sprauve, Eulita Jacobs, Faye Fredricks, Rosa Samuel, Paul Thomas, Dr. Hadiya Sewer, Kurt Marsh, Jr., Eleanor Gibney, Rafe Boulon, Jalayne Jones and David Knight Jr. Many thanks also to Nazareth Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cruz Bay for allowing us to meet and record in their hall, and to the good people of St. Jan Co. for sharing their vision and knowledge.

We are equally grateful to the scientists who have endeavored to speak on behalf of the species they strive to protect: Dr. Caroline Rogers, Jeff Miller, Adren Anderson, and Willow Melamet. Many thanks also to the Love City Pandragons for allowing me to record their rehearsal at Susannaberg one beautiful evening. 

We look forward to expanding on the tour in the future, including new stories, additional speakers, and more places on the island. 



Here, St. John would not have come to pass without the support and partnership of The Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park. We are grateful for the support of the National Endowment of the Humanities via the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.

Gratitude to the dedicated crew that made the magic – Sara Goggin, assistant producer, Malia Guyer-Stevens, storymap maker, and Stellwagen Symphonette for their peerless music and sound design.

Thanks for listening,

Stephanie Guyer-Stevens

Click anywhere in this section to experience the full Story Map.

Stories of St. John


Tyre Palms by Nancy Borowick

  • Welcome to St.John — Kurt Marsh, Jr.
  • Manners — Eulita Jacobs, Rosa Samuel, Faye Fredricks
  • St. John Taxis — Paul Thomas talks about the history of the taxis.
  • Growing up in Cruz Bay. Childhood stories from the 1930’s through the 1990’s — Eulita Jacobs, Faye Fredricks, Dr. Hadiya Sewer, Paul Thomas
  • Working at the Park in the Early Days — Anecdotes from Paul Thomas about working for Virgin Islands National Park.
  • St. John Ferries — Dr. Hadiya Sewer recalls life as a part of one of the families that run the ferries.
  • Growing up at Sieben — Elroy Sprauve tells about his childhood at Estate Sieben, his father Julius Sprauve, and life on St. John in the days before the park.
  • Queen Brefu and the Slave Revolution — Kurt Marsh Jr. gives the history of the slave revolution on St. John and its repercussions across the Caribbean.
  • History of Caneel Bay — Eleanor Gibney provides a history of Caneel Bay, its use and ownership since the early 20th century until now.
  • Bru Nansi and Tiger — Faye Fredricks tells the story of Bru Nansi, the trickster spider, going to the beach at Trunk Bay with his friend, Tiger.
  • Growing up on Bordeaux — David Knight Jr. describes his childhood growing up on Bordeaux Mountain.
  • Growing up on Trunk Bay — Rafe Boulon talks about his family’s history at Trunk Bay and his childhood growing up there.
  • Bush Medicine — Eulita Jacobs talks about the main medicinal plants of St. John, and recalls life as a local herbalist over the past many decades.
  • Becoming A St John Naturalist — Eleanor Gibney
  • Maho Bay Sea Turtles — Adren Anderson and Willow Melamet talk about the special sea turtle population at Maho Bay and the problems they are facing.
  • Coral Reefs 101 — Jeff Miller provides an introduction to understanding coral reefs.
  • Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease — Jeff Miller describes the disease that’s devastating the coral population on St. John and what we can do about it.
  • Being a Coral Reef Scientist on St. John — Dr. Caroline Rogers talks about studying corals on St John.
  • Hurricane Hole Before and After Hurricane Irma — Dr. Caroline Rogers tells about the special coral reef life in the mangroves in Hurricane Hole and what has happened there since the 2017 hurricanes.
  • Creating an Anchorless Park — Paul Thomas talks about the social ramifications of creating an anchorless park, and Rafe Boulon talks about the environmental impact of creating an anchorless park.
  • The Trees of St. John — Eleanor Gibney
  • Outro Montage — Faye Fredricks, Jalayne Jones, Rafe Boulon, Dr. Caroline Rogers, Eulita Jacobs

People

Credits

Here, St. John was conceived created and produced by Outer Voices, in partnership with Friends of Virgin Islands National Park.

Special thanks to Executive Director Tonia Lovejoy, former President Todd Sampsell, and former board member Andy Stillman for making Here, St. John possible.

Major underwriting from the National Endowment of the Humanities was received as a grant from the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.

Executive Producer: Stephanie Guyer-Stevens
Assistant Producer: Sara Washington Goggin
Story Map Creator: Malia Guyer-Stevens
Final mix and scoring: Stellwagen Symphonette
Original music performed by: Love City PandragonsPressure BusspipeBamboula Dance Drums (Smithsonian Folkways) and Stellwagen Symphonette.

Gratitude to the Love City Pandragons for allowing us to record their rehearsal session.

Many thanks to the people of Nazareth Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cruz Bay, St. John for sharing stories and allowing us to record on their grounds; to Bajo El Sol for helping to create the conversations; and to the people of St. Jan Co. for sharing their vision of the future of St. John.

Thanks also to the Virgin Islands National Park for their interest and enthusiasm for this project.


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