St. Eustatius was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Throughout the colonial era, Statia’s ownership changed hands with as many as 22 different countries. After the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Netherlands ended, the island became, and has remained, official Dutch territory since 1816.
At the end of the 18th century, Statia made history. During the uprising in the British colonies in North America, the authority of the British on Statia was severely undermined. In the harbor a lively trade continued with the rebels. The sale of weapons yielded gold. All seafaring nations started to participate. By having their cake and eating it too – friend and foe alike – prosperity increased to unprecedented levels.
On November 16, 1776, an “independent” American ship approached the harbor at Oranjestad. From the Andrew Doria a 13-gun salute rang out as a tribute to the authorities on Statia. Fort Oranje responded with an 11-gun salute, confirming the independence of America. Under the responsibility of Governor Johannes de Graaff, Statia was the first nation to officially recognize the brand-new United States of America.
The old world was aghast. But Statia was paid for the friendly gesture in even more trade and wealth. As far as Oranjestad was concerned it was an important gesture. On the quayside warehouses were filled to the brim. The extent of the legal trade was only slightly larger than that of the illegal trade. After the American Revolution Statia reached the absolute peak of its prosperity in 1795.
Nowadays, St. Eustatius is a large open air museum. Statia lives its history both above and below the water. Find a blue bead during your last trip? Then you’ll definitely come back to Statia for another visit!