Saint John is an island in the Caribbean Sea and a constituent district of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), an unincorporated territory of the United States. St. John is located about 4 miles east of Saint Thomas, the location of the territory's capital, Charlotte Amalie, and 4 miles south and west of Tortola, part of the British Virgin Islands. It is 50.8 km² (19.61 sq mi) in area and has a population of 4,170 (2010 census). Because there are no airports on St. John, the only access to the island is by boat. The ferry service runs hourly from St. Thomas and daily from Tortola; regular ferries also operate from Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. Approximately 60% of the island is protected as Virgin Islands National Park.
St. John was first settled by the Arawak Indians who had migrated north from coastal Colombia and Venezuela around AD 300. The Arawaks inhabited the island until around the year AD 1300, when they were driven off by the more aggressive and warlike Carib Indians. Extensive archaeological work has been undertaken from 1996 to the present at Cinnamon Bay. The artifacts from this dig are currently being studied and should yield more detailed information on pre-Columbus civilization in the Virgin Islands (Taino).
Christopher Columbus is credited with being the first European to see the Virgin Islands during his second voyage to the New World in 1493. He named the island group "Once Mil Virgenes", or Eleven Thousand Virgins, in honor of the feast day of Saint Ursula and the 11,000 virgins who were martyred with her.
The Danish West India and Guinea Company represented the first Europeans to settle the island in 1718. They are also credited with naming the island St. John (Danish: Sankt Jan). The Danish crown took full control of the colony in 1754, along with St. Thomas and St. Croix. Sugar plantations, such as the famous Annaberg Sugar Plantation, were established in great numbers on St. John because of the intense heat and fertile terrain, which provided ideal growing conditions. The establishment of sugar plantations also led to the importation of more slaves from Africa. St. John was the site of one of the first significant slave rebellions in the New World in 1733, when enslaved Akwamu rebels from the Gold Coast took over the island for six months.