Anse Citron

Many old maps of Saint Lucia show a place called Anse Citron where you would expect to see Choiseul. In English that means 'Lime Bay'. Perhaps the sailors who went ashore for food and water found limes growing there. This would have been an important discovery. Lime juice was a protection against scurvy, a disease caused by being too long at sea without fresh fruits or vegetables to eat. Until 1763, the village near the river mouth was also called Anse Citron. In February of that year, the English and the French signed a pact called the treaty of Paris. It made Saint Lucia a French possession. They celebrated by remaining the village Anse Choiseul in honor of the Duke of Choiseul, French Minister for Foreign Affairs. This was later shortened to 'Choiseul'. During the French Revolution, the Republican General Richard was sent to govern Saint Lucia. He gave all towns and villages new names. Choiseul was now called 'Le Tricolore', like the French flag with its bands of red, white and blue. In 1796, the British defeated the French and Le Tricolore became Choiseul once again. Choiseul is about half way between Soufriere and Vieux Fort on the southwest coast of Saint Lucia. To the north is the Gros Piton, to the west the Caribbean Sea. This part of the island is not lush and green like the countryside behind the Pitons. It is more open and much drier. The rivers do not flow through wide valleys as they do in Dennery, Cul de Sac and Roseau. Instead they run swiftly between the steep banks of deep ravines. In one place, the River Doree tumbles along at the bottom of a canyon 150 feet deep. A bridge, barely 20 feet wide, crosses it from side to side. If you stand on the bridge and drop a stone, several seconds go before you hear the splash as it hits the water.

There is a story about this bridge. People say the man who built it made a pact with the devil. He promised that when it was finished the devil could take the first person who walked over it. When the bridge was completed, he was so excited he forgot his promise and ran across. Fortunately, his little dog ran ahead and reached the other side first. The devil must have been satisfied with the small prize. They say the dog vanished and was never seen again. Ever since then it has been called the Devil's Bridge.



Islet a Caret

The village of Laborie lies on the coast in the South-west corner of Saint Lucia. It is some five miles north of Vieux Fort. Two large rivers mark the boundaries of the district of laborie. The River Doree in the north and the Black Bay River to the  south. The Balembouche River and the piaye River also flow down to the coast just north of Laborie Bay. Amerindian artefacts have been found by all these rivers, even as far inland as Getrine, Banse and Fond Berange. Laborie was probably first settled by the French in the 18th Century. The village is not on a river but on a beautiful bay. A large reef runs from the southern end right up to Balembouche. It protects the beach and encourages large deep water fish to come in to feed. It also provides a sheltered anchorage for boats, once they can find their way through the reef to the calmer waters inside. On Bellin's map of Saint Lucia, drawn in 1758, there is a small island lying off shore, close to where Laborie is today. On the map it is marked Islet-a-caret, which is French for Turtle Island. Caretta caret is the proper name for the loggerhead turtle. Turtles need a sandy shore for nesting so the island may have got its name because turtles went there to lay their eggs. It was probably only a sandbank that built up on top of a reef. In 1763, there were just about a dozen houses in the small community of Laborie.

By 1770, more houses had been built along with a church. By 1775, there were 81 estates in the quarter of Islet-a Caret. Their main crop were sugar, cotton, cocoa and coffee. Twelve years later, in 1787, Lefort do la Tour's map still showed the village as Rade et Anse de l'Ilet a Caret, meaning Turtle Island Anchorage and Beach. Some time between 1787 and 1789 the village recieved a new name. The hurricane of 1780 had destroyed most of the houses and the church. The church was rebuilt by Baron de Laborie, Governor of Saint Lucia from 1784 to 1789 and so the village was renamed Laborie in his honour. Father Louis Tapon laid the cornerstone of the present church in 1907. The hurricane did more than blow down buildings. The little island in the bay also disappeared about this time. Perhaps it was swept away by the high winds and the rough seas during the storm. Anyway, after this the small island no longer appeared on any maps. Soon there was no one left alive who remembered seeing it.


Vieux Fort

As far as we know, the first inhabitants of Saint Lucia were Amerindians from South America. They arrived in canoes after making their way slowly north up the chain of Caribbean islands. The Arawaks came around the year 400 AD or earlier. They probably landed at the southern end of the island, where Vieux Fort is today. As the steered their boats through the reefs into calmer waters, they would have seen shores covered with a heavy growth of mangroves. Behind them the land was flat, but in the distance it rose up into jagged mountain peaks. From these mountains, wide sparkling clear rivers ran down to the sea. There were fish, crabs and shellfish in the mangroves and flocks of brightly colored birds in the forest. Everywhere there were berries, fruits and roots that were good to eat. Arawaks were only too happy to stay. Unfortunately for the peaceful Arawaks, the Caribs who followed them were reportedly less peaceful. They waged war on the Arawaks, killing the men and taking the women and children into their own camps. For many years they ruled the island. Then, in 1605, some Englishmen came ashore in small boats in the area of Vieux Fort. Their ship had been blown off course and they needed food and water.

At first the Caribs were curious. They went to meet the strangers carrying fruit and vegetables that they exchanged for knives, beads and trinkets. When they realized the Englishmen intended to stay they were no longer friendly. They attacked the camp, setting fire to the rough shelters that the men had built and killing many of them. Their survivors were forced to escape in a small boat. Once more the Caribs were in command, but not for long. Soon other foreigners arrived, French, Dutch and more English. Although the Caribs usually started by being friendly, they always ended up killing the new arrivals or chasing them away. More strangers came, they had guns and they built forts to protect themselves from the Carib raids. One of these forts was at Point Sables. It was built by some Dutchmen to protect their ships when they came in to get wood and water. After a while they abandoned it, but the ruins remained. That was how Vieux Fort got its name, for in English Vieux Fort means 'old fort'.


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