Excerpted From St.
John Off The Beaten Track
By Gerald Singer
The trail to the Rustenberg ruins begins about 200 yards west of
the head of the Cinnamon Bay trailhead on Centerline Road. Park
your vehicle off the road across from the Cinnamon Bay trailhead
and walk up Centerline Road the short distance to the Rustenberg
Trail, which leads south and will be on your left.
The trail to these exciting and extensive ruins is a little over
a quarter mile and leads through a shady forest environment. The
plentiful bay rum trees in the area provide a refreshing fragrance
as you walk along the level and narrow path. Once you arrive at
the ruins there will be spur trails leading to various parts of
the old plantation and sugar works.
Look for the remains of the horsemill with the storage room built
into the horsemill's stone retaining wall.
The sugar boiling room is right next to the horsemill, and the
old coppers and boiling benches are still in evidence. Nearby is
the cooling cistern for the rum still.
Rustenberg was one of the original 12 plantations located within
the Reef Bay Valley. Two parcels of 150 acres each were distributed
to Jacob Magens in 1718. Magens brought coffee plants to St. John,
and Rustenberg was the first plantation on the island to grow that
crop. During the early eighteenth century Estate Rustenberg produced
cotton, cocoa and coffee in addition to sugarcane. Towards the latter
part of that century the emphasis shifted to sugar production, and
by 1767 the vast majority of the plantation acreage was devoted
to that crop.
During the nineteenth century the profitability of sugar was declining
on St. John and Rustenberg, like many other sugar plantations on
the island, began to phase out production. A hurricane in 1867 was
the last straw, and sugarcane was no longer grown at Rustenberg.
During the first part of the twentieth century the area around
Rustenberg experienced a brief economic comeback by growing and
harvesting bay rum.
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