The History of St. Lucia’s First Town
Soufriere is located on St. Lucia’s west coast and has acquired a reputation for its legendary beauty. From white sand beaches, coral reefs, and exotic jungles, to waterfalls, volcanic springs, and the town’s trademark Pitons, there are many scenic features found within Soufriere’s borders.
The first people to inhabit St. Lucia’s Soufriere area were the Amerindians. They were a group of indigenous people believed to be of South American origin who sailed up the chain of Caribbean Islands from the Orinoco basin. Until recently, there was little evidence to show that they had been there in any significant numbers, but the discovery of the terraces and carved rocks at Belfond and the exciting new find of the petroglyph near Jalousie indicate that Soufriere was perhaps one of their most important sites.
Arrival of the French
After the Amerindians, the first permanent settlers to successfully establish themselves in St. Lucia were the French, who came around the end of the 17th Century. Already well-established in Martinique, they realized that the rich fertile soil of Soufriere would be ideal for farming. In 1746, Soufriere was officially recognized by France as St Lucia’s first town. In fact, the name of Soufriere comes from the French, who gave the town its name for the “sulphur in the air” coming off the volcano.
With the last years of the 1700s came the French Revolution. Its effects were felt throughout the Caribbean’s French Antilles, including St. Lucia. It was also the most tumultuous period in the history of the island and in Soufriere.
Soufriere became the headquarters of the Revolutionary Party, declaring an end to slavery in the French Islands, but under Napoleon, slavery was reintroduced. Many of the freed slaves, as well as French soldiers who had deserted, took to the hills. From their hideouts they organized raids on the town. The Battle of Rabot was fought right here at Fond Doux Resort & Plantation, where the fortifications and ruins can still be seen today.