The written history of Nevis begins with the account recorded by Columbus when he sailed by Nevis in 1493. The name Nevis is derived from “Nuestra Senora de Las Nieves,” which means “Our Lady of the Snows,” because of the cloud capped mountain reminding Columbus of snow.
Prior to the Columbus saga, Nevis was named Dulcina “Sweet Island” by the Arawaks and later Oualie “Land of Beautiful Waters” by the Caribs. Later in the 18th century Nevis became known as “Queen of the Caribees.” Evidence of the Arawak inhabitants can also be seen in the finely crafted stone tools and intricately colored pottery found on specific parts of the island. Over the years Nevis has made a number of significant contributions to the Caribbean and the World. Two men who played a part in international history were Alexander Hamilton and Lord Horatio Nelson. Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of America and its first Secretary of the Treasury was born on Nevis on January 11, 1757. Nelson, Britain’s most famous admiral, used Nevis as a base of operations in the mid 1780’s and married a Nevisian, Frances Nisbet in 1787.
Nevis continued to be part of the British colonial holdings until 1967 when it achieved Associated Statehood with St. Kitts. On September 19, 1983, Nevis became part of an independent nation and formed part of the sovereign democratic state of St. Christopher and Nevis. It has the unique constitutional arrangement of being part of the Federal Parliament while having a separate parliament and its own Nevis Island Administration headed by a Premier.
The island is covered with the ruins of the sugar plantation era, which declined in the late 1800s after slavery was abolished and the sugar beet created competition for sugar cane. Over the years, volunteer groups and researchers have come to the island to explore the history of the old buildings and record them for future generations. Several archaeology projects led by university researchers from England and the United States continue each year.