Thomas Warner (explorer)

Last updated

Sir Thomas Warner (1580 10 March 1649) was a captain in the guards of James I of England who became an explorer in the Caribbean. In 1620 he served at the brief-lived English settlement of Oyapoc in present-day Guyana of South America, which was abandoned the same year. The Dutch controlled most of the territory. Warner is noted for settling on Saint Kitts and establishing it in 1624 as the first English colony in the Caribbean.


Early life and education

Warner was born in Suffolk, England in 1580. He entered the army at an early age, which provided him with his main training.

He later married and started a family with his wife, which included their son Philip. Thomas Warner had an Island Carib mistress on St. Kitts, and their son was called "Indian Warner". Indian Warner was killed in the Dominica Massacre. [1]

Military career

Warner became a captain in James I's guards. In 1620 he accepted assignment to the colonies, and took his family with him to the Oyapoc Colony in 1620 in today's Guyana. He served as a captain under the command of Roger North.

Tomas Painton, another captain in the colony, suggested that Warner should try to colonise one of the islands in the Lesser Antilles, which Painton thought had more favourable conditions. In 1623 Warner abandoned his Guiana post and set sail North through the archipelago. Oyapoc was soon abandoned by the English.

St Kitts

Early settlement

After checking each island, Warner decided that Saint Kitts would be the best-suited site for an English colony. He noted its strategic central position ideal for expansion, friendly native population, fertile soil, abundant fresh water, and large salt deposits. He and his family landed on the island and made peace with the local Kalinago people, whose leader was Ouboutou Tegremante . They were part of the indigenous Carib people of the islands.

Warner left his family on the island and returned to England to gather more men to officially establish a colony. He was supported by Ralph Merrifield, a merchant, who provided the capital, and the brothers John and Samuel Jeaffreson. The Jeaffresons agreed to bring a second vessel with settlers and supplies. Warner returned to St. Kitts on January 28, 1624, with the Hopewell and established the colony of Saint Christopher, the first English colony in the Caribbean. He established a port town at Old Road, downhill from Tegremante's capital village. Another name for St. Kitts is St.Christopher.

French arrival

In 1625, a French captain, Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc, arrived on the island. He had organized a fleet of colonists hoping to establish an island colony, after hearing about the success of the English on Saint Kitts, but his fleet was destroyed by a run-in with the Spanish Armada. Only his flagship and its passengers survived to reach St. Kitts. Feeling sorry for the French colonists, Warner allowed them to settle on the island. Saint Kitts was thus the site of the first French settlement in the Caribbean. They took the ruins of the town of Dieppe, which they rebuilt. Warner accepted the French to gain more Europeans on the island, as he thought the local Kalinago were becoming less enthusiastic about the newcomers.

Kalinago genocide

Warner's concerns proved accurate. As the European population on Saint Kitts continued to increase, Tegremante grew suspicious of the foreigners. In 1626, after a secret meeting with Kalinago heads from neighbouring Waitikubuli (Dominica) and Oualie, the natives decided to ambush the European settlements on the night of the next full moon. The plan was revealed to the Europeans by an Igneri woman named Barbe [2] She had recently been brought to St. Kitts as a slave-wife after the Kalianago raided an Arawak island. According to the French historian Jean Baptiste Du Tertre, she despised the Kalinago and had fallen in love with Warner.

The English and French joined forces and attacked the Carib at night. The colonists killed between 100 and 120 Caribs in their beds that night, with only the most beautiful Carib women spared to serve as slaves. [3] The French and English set about fortifying the island against the expected invasion of Carib from other islands.

According to Du Tertre, in the ensuing battle, three to four thousand Caribs took up arms against the Europeans. He did not estimate the number of Caribs killed, but said the fallen Amerindians on the beach were piled high into a mound. The English and French suffered at least 100 casualties [3] Others report that at Bloody Point, which then was the site of the island's main Kalinago settlement, over 2,000 Kalinago men were massacred. Many had come from Waitikubuli, planning to attack the Europeans the next day. The Europeans dumped the dead into the river, at the site of the Kalinago place of worship. For weeks, blood flowed down the river, for which it was named Bloody River. The Europeans deported the remaining Kalinago to Waitikubuli.

The early accounts were by Europeans and told from their point of view. Modern scientists and historians estimate that many of their claims were fraudulent or exaggerated in order to justify the killings.

Ethnologists have put the events into a different context. The killings occurred in late January, near the middle of the dry season. The Kalinago called this the season of "Bat man", due to the abundance of the species then. Usually, they made raids on the Taino and other Amerindians at this time to take sacrifices to appease "Bat man," to ensure the dry season ended and the wet season began. (This was called the season of "Frog woman".) Kalinago had gathered from various islands at St. Christopher at the time, because of its location: on the border between the islands controlled by different groups, it was used as a base for Kalinago raids against the Taino. Evidence of atrocity was that the Europeans killed so many and defiled the Kalinago place of worship, a means of frightening the Kalinago of neighbouring islands.[ citation needed ]

After the Kalinago Genocide of 1626, the Europeans partitioned the island, with the French gaining the ends, Capisterre in the North and Basseterre in the south; and the British gaining the centre. Both groups colonised neighbouring islands from their bases. The English settled Nevis (1628), Antigua (1632), and Montserrat (1632). Warner was appointed as Governor of St. Kitts, Nevis, Barbados and Montserrat in 1625.

The French colonised Martinique (1635), the Guadeloupe archipelago (1635), and St. Barths (1648).

In 1643 Warner was appointed as Parliamentary Governor of the Caribee Islands. After his first wife died, he was said to have taken a Carib woman in a 'common-law marriage' and they had a lasting relationship. Warner died on March 10, 1649, in St. Kitts and was buried in a tomb in Middle Island. The Carib woman was reported to have given birth to many other children after Warner's death.

Slave trade

After the Kalinago Genocide of 1626 and the subsequent partitioning of the island, Warner imported many thousands of African slaves for labour. They were forced to develop and work on large sugar and tobacco plantations to raise commodity crops for export. As the years passed, Sir Thomas Warner amassed a wealth that would amount to over £100 million in today's terms. He died on March 10, 1649 in St. Kitts, and he was buried in a tomb in Middle Island.

See also

Related Research Articles

Nevis Island in the Caribbean Sea

Nevis is a small island in the Caribbean Sea that forms part of the inner arc of the Leeward Islands chain of the West Indies. Nevis and the neighbouring island of Saint Kitts constitute one country: the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Nevis is located near the northern end of the Lesser Antilles archipelago, about 350 km east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 80 km west of Antigua. Its area is 93 square kilometres (36 sq mi) and the capital is Charlestown.

Saint Kitts and Nevis Country in the Caribbean

Saint Kitts and Nevis, also known as the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, is an island country in the West Indies. Located in the Leeward Islands chain of the Lesser Antilles, it is the smallest sovereign state in the Western Hemisphere, in both area and population. The country is a Commonwealth realm, with Elizabeth II as queen and head of state.

History of Saint Kitts and Nevis aspect of history

Saint Kitts and Nevis have one of the longest written histories in the Caribbean, both islands being among Spain's and England's first colonies in the archipelago. Despite being only two miles apart and quite diminutive in size, Saint Kitts and Nevis were widely recognized as being separate entities with distinct identities until they were forcibly united in the late 19th century.

Saint Kitts island in Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Kitts, also known more formally as Saint Christopher Island, is an island in the West Indies. The west side of the island borders the Caribbean Sea, and the eastern coast faces the Atlantic Ocean. Saint Kitts and the neighbouring island of Nevis constitute one country: the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Saint Kitts and Nevis are separated by a shallow 3-kilometre (2 mi) channel known as "The Narrows".

Island Caribs Group of people who live in Venezuela and the Lesser Antilles islands

Island Caribs, also known as the Kalinago or simply Caribs, are an indigenous people of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. They have descended from the Mainland Caribs (Kalina) of South America. The people spoke a carib pidgin language of Karina origins.

Leeward Islands subgroup of islands in the West Indies

The Leeward Islands are a group of islands geographically situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. Starting with the Virgin Islands east of Puerto Rico, they extend southeast to Guadeloupe and its dependencies. In English, the term Leeward Islands refers to the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. The more southerly part of this chain, geographically starts with Martinique and is called the Windward Islands. The island of Dominica is geographically and historically part of the Leeward Islands, however for political reasons in 1940 the management of the island was transferred from the British Leeward Islands to the British Windward Islands.

French West Indies French territories in the Caribbean

The term French West Indies or French Antilles refers to the eight territories currently under French sovereignty in the Antilles islands of the Caribbean:

Antillean Creole is a French-based creole, which is primarily spoken in the Lesser Antilles. Its grammar and vocabulary include elements of Carib, English, and African languages.

Caribbean Basin

The Caribbean Basin is generally defined as the area running from Florida westward along the Gulf coast, then south along the Mexican coast through Central America and then eastward across the northern coast of South America. This region includes the islands of the archipelago of the West Indies. Bermuda is also included within the region even though it is in the west-central Atlantic, due to its common cultural history created by European colonization of the region, and in most of the region by the presence of a significant group of African descent.

Pierre Belain dEsnambuc Governor of Saint-Christophe

Pierre Belain, Sieur d'Esnambuc (1585–1636) was a French trader and adventurer in the Caribbean, who established the first permanent French colony, Saint-Pierre, on the island of Martinique in 1635.

The Kalinago Genocide of 1626 was the genocidal massacre of some 2,000 Island Caribs by English and French settlers.

Tegremante was the Island Carib chief on St Kitts when Thomas Warner arrived by 1623 to establish a colony. He was killed in his sleep during the Kalinago Genocide of 1626.

The French settlement of St. Kitts and Nevis started in the early seventeenth century. Throughout its history on Saint Kitts until the nineteenth century, France had frequent clashes with the English for the occupation of the island, until its final defeat in 1782, which definitely gave the island to the British. Today, the descendants of French make up a portion of the white population of the archipelago.

Battle of Nevis

The Battle of Nevis on 20 May 1667 was a confused naval clash in the Caribbean off the Island of Nevis during the closing stages of the Second Anglo-Dutch War between an English squadron and an Allied Franco-Dutch fleet intent on invading the island. The battle ended up being an English victory in that prevented a Franco-Dutch invasion of Nevis.

Irish immigration in Saint Kitts and Nevis began in the 1620s with the English settlement of the island, and continued into the 18th century.

Chief Kairouane was a Kalinago (Carib) leader of Grenada. For years, he led the resistance against European invaders attempting to set a hold on the island. In a sudden turn of affairs, however, he led a small band of survivors who had rejected slavery on a deadly escape over a cliff, which the French named Morne de Sauteurs or “Leapers Hill.” Today his daring act is mythologized as a reminder of the Indigenous resistance in the region.

Jacques Dyel du Parquet French governor

Jacques Dyel du Parquet was a French soldier who was one of the first governors of Martinique. He was appointed governor of the island for the Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique in 1636, a year after the first French settlement had been established. In 1650 he purchased Martinique, Grenada and Saint Lucia. He did much to develop Martinique as a colony, including introduction of sugarcane.

Robert le Frichot des Friches, sieur de Clodoré was a French governor of Martinique from 1665 to 1667. He was an energetic and effective leader during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, in which France was an ally of the Dutch from the start of 1666. He used Caribs as auxiliaries, and helped take several islands in the Antilles from the English.

Pierre du Halde was a French soldier who was the second governor of the French colony on Saint Christopher Island between 1636 and 1638.


  1. Hubbard, Vincent (2002). A History of St. Kitts . Macmillan Caribbean. p.  17. ISBN   9780333747605.
  2. Jean Baptiste Du Tertre, Histoire Generale des Antilles..., 2 vols. Paris: Jolly, 1667, I:5-6
  3. 1 2 Du Tertre (1667), I:6
Government offices
New creation Governor of Saint Christopher
Succeeded by
Rowland Rich
New creation Governor of Antigua
Succeeded by
Edward Warner