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The earliest known Water Island settlers were the Taino Indians in the 15th century. Water Island was named by Europeans for its natural ponds of fresh water. Many islands in the Lesser Antilles lack potable water, so Water Island was a frequent stop for pirates seeking to replenish their ships' stores of fresh water.

Danish claims to the island date to at least 1769. During the 18th century and early 19th century, the island was owned by several free blacks and mulattos who oversaw cotton plantations and raised livestock. In 1905 the island was sold to the Danish East Asiatic Company.

The United States purchased Water Island in 1944 to protect the submarine base on St. Thomas during World War II. From 1944 to 1950 the island was under the operation of the Department of Defense.

In 1952 the entire 450 acres of Water Island was leased by Walter and Floride Phillips from the Department of the Interior under a master lease. The Master Lease subdivided lots into approximately .75 acre lots which were leased to buyers.  After the termination of the Master Lease in 1993, the Department of the Interior sold the lots to the owners of the subleaseses. 


Control of Water Island was transferred from the federal government to the US Virgin Islands Government on December 12, 1996. Sublease holders were given the opportunity to purchase their land via Quitclaim Deed. 

Two other Deeds were executed which transferred all the remaining land to the VI Government (yellow/orange/pink areas of map). 

Sprat Bay, the northern most part of Water Island, consisting of 115 acres was conveyed to a Homeowners Association which conveyed the lots to those who had a sublease.  Sprat Bay subsequently donated the green lots to the Nature Conservancy which forms a greenbelt around the enclave of Sprat Bay Estates.

Water Island has a rich archaeological history.  David Anderson, National Park Service, conducted a very comprehensive investigation of Water Island and published a very concise summary which can be found via the following web link:  http://www.nps.gov/history/seac/wi/wi-report.htm 

For an indepth history of Water Island researched and written by Chuck Gidley visit Water Island History.


Water Island History