Something about Susan Caroline Bough

Not everyone has the luxury of scholars documenting the story of your ancestor.  However, Dr. Elizabeth Rezende discussed in a lecture, at the St. Thomas University of the Virgin Islands Campus, “Susan Bough, negotiating through a Man’s World of Business in the Danish West Indies, 1905-1920.
Dr. Rezende, Adjunct Professor, taught Anthropology and Caribbean History Courses at University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix Campus.

In 2012, the lecture in St. Thomas was well received.    The lecture was presented in power point.   Below is a portion of the presentation with fewer pictures.

Shopkeeper Susan Bough in the Hierarchy of  Mercantilism in the
                                   Danish       West Indies,    1905-1923

                                       By Elizabeth Rezende
                        University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix Campus

St.Thomas probably reached its height in shipping in the 1860s at the
end of the sailing  and the beginning of the steam ship era. There
were a number of international sailing companies which called upon the
port,  which served as a transfer station. The European lines of the
Hamburg Imperial line, the Royal Mail Steamship Company and the
Compagnie Generale Transatlantique made stopovers both as part of
their incoming and homeward bound destinations. These agencies had
made St. Thomas their Caribbean base as did the Hamburg America Line,
in 1871. HAL ran six routes from St.Thomas to the Caribbean and South
and Central America and the south eastern coast of the US, including
New Orleans, Pensicola, and Gulf port. In these vessels, cargo,
passengers and mail were sent to and from St.Thomas. Passengers and
mail were swiftly routed to other destinations by  inter-island
sloops; merchandise was also shipped or stored in the large warehouses
lining the harbor shores. Each company had set up its own European
Commission merchants who oversaw the distribution of this merchandise.
“The Commission merchants ruled the entire business. Lewis speaks of
”The nefarious practices of the St. Thomas commission agents,
especially the excessive storage charges they levied. . . .  (36).
From the warehouses stevedores brought  goods to the wholesale and
retail wholesale and retail shopkeepers of Dronningens Gade more
commonly known as Main Street.

In order to give an overview of mercantile affairs in the Danish West
Indies from 1860-1920, I have first assembled a group of pictures, In
this first view of the inner harbor of  St. Thomas.  Ever since the
founding of the island in 1672, the port was called St. Thomas even
though it was situated in the city of Charlotte Amalie.

As seen from Bluebeard’s tower are the warehouses of the individual
commission merchant houses. These warehouses were  set out into the
water on wharves. The warehouses are there today, but after a 1950s
infill project, Veteran’s Drive was created and runs from Frenchtown
to Havensight. In the photo of the harbor are six sailing ships and a
number of lighter boats, which will go out to them in order to off
load cargo and mail and to on load merchandise,  The smaller ships
will take the passengers in to town. The picture is taken before the
1864 dredging of that portion of the harbor, known as “haulover,” a
section of part terrain and mostly a hundred years’ of ballast,  sand
and bricks, which had been pitched there from the many boats coming
from Europe. You will notice in this picture that there are no coaling
companies set up at the shore of Hassel Island.

Exported from St. Thomas and St. John in the early twentieth center
were crates of bananas and  pineapples which were grown by the
Plantation Fruit Company, as experimental crops after the 1902 the
failure of the sale of  St. Thomas and St. John to the US.  To the
left of the picture, you see the lighter boat with the large oars
ready to take on the shipment. Also exported was the famous bay rum,
made by three competing companies. Bay trees grew exceptionally well
in the St. John soils. The leaves were picked by daily laborers, who
received compensation by the pound. The leaves were brought to one of
the many distilleries where  the oil was steamed and pressed out of
the leaves. In St. Thomas,  either alcohol or sugar cane rum was added
to make a fragrant after shave lotion. Michelsen was one of the
manufacturers as shown by the seal; Paiwonsky, later made its own
brand and used the Hamburg America Line and its six outward routes
from St. Thomas to market their product  in each of the South and
Central American ports served by that line. Paiwonsky was able to
secure large amounts of financing for this endeavor from the newly
established National Bank of the Danish West Indies, set up in 1906.

This streetscape shows Dronningens Gade  at the height of the busy
day. To the left is Fechtenburg and Co. To the right is the St. Thomas
Apothecary, run by the Danish pharmacist A.H.Riise and later by his
son Valdemar. While the Fechtenburg building fascade is a series of
arched doorways shuttered with heavy wooden doors, the apothecary’s
second story sports a distinctive lacy balcony,  held up with wrought
iron framing,

As seen from the newspaper advertisement, Fechtenburg and Co. imported
provisions, breadstuffs, canned goods wines and liquors in addition to
ship oils and paints. At the bottom of their ad,  one can  see that
that the company catered to the shipping community.

The apothecary was known for selling medicines , but the store had
expanded to selling luxury items as well. Here in the interior, is a
picture taken in 1894 by Jens H. Martiny of his counterparts, clerks
and apothecary assistants. Carlito Achille Anduze, 15, Orville Sidney
Kean, 22, and Dominico Vago, an Italian immigrant. Pictured behind
them are the bottles of imported whiskeys and wines.

This is a pre 1912 picture of the St. Thomas market, whose
characteristic bungalow had not yet been erected. Situated next to the
market was the dry goods store with a family grocery and a rum
department.  The owner was  Alfred Harris Lockhart, who was born in
St. Croix in 1862,  orphaned and  sent to St. Thomas at ten years of
age to live with the Watlington family.  He became  a Commission
Merchant, importing a host of goods, one of which was Aarlburg
Portland Cement in barrels from Denmark .

Between each of the warehouses were a set of narrow gauge rails on
which iron-wheeled carts brought goods and supplies  to and from the
wharves to the different areas of the warehouses. With all this buying
and selling of goods, St. Thomas was known as “The Emporium or
Entrepot of the West Indies.”

For St. Croix, the Quebec Steamship Company provided service for
cargo, passengers and mail to and from New York City and the many
ports of the Caribbean.  Many manufactured goods and provisions came
directly to the Frederiksted’s  open roadstead in large steamships
from New York and were transferred into the wharf by lighter boats.
Christiansted was not a harbor for large ships because of the coral
reef which protected the harbor ran the entire northern coast of the
town. Thus, Frederiksted was the leading harbor of the island.
Hogsheads of rum, molasses and sugar were exported to New York or
brought to St. Thomas  after which transferred to the large
ocean-going vessels for Europe.

This is Frederiksted harbor. The grinding equipment for the new sugar
cane factory at Bethehem  came via one of the three the East Asiatic
Company’s steamships: St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix into the
Frederiksted harbor. These smaller steamships were constructed to
negotiate the DWI harbors and were of 3,000 tons.

Because of the more accessible harbor in Frederiksted,  shopkeepers of
the larger wholesale or retail businesses  were located in that town.
 The leading merchants, Arnold M. Golden and his son Luis M. Golden,
Robert L. Merwin, and R.D. Benjamin, would receive some goods directly
from the American ports through Quebec Steamship Company. In order to
negotiate their European goods from the Commission Merchants there,
these retailers  traveled frequently to St. Thomas as seen through the
passenger lists recorded in the Avis.  Mr. Merwin himself had taken
out loans with the National Bank of the Danish West Indies in order to
facilitate his buying of needed goods for many of his Frederiksted
businesses. He even desired to run a mail service from St. Thomas to
St. Croix and applied for a loan from that institution in order to
purchase the inter-island schooner.

There were a score of smaller shopkeepers in Christiansted. This shop
sold bottles of spices, and condiments and from the ceiling hangs a
variety of tin ware.

Also located in Christiansted was  Susan Bough, one of the female
merchants in the town. Unlike the other women  who had inherited their
businesses after the deaths of their husbands, such as Jane C.
Canegata,  whose husband was a Commission Merchant as seen in the
advertisement and Mrs.  Somershill, Susan Bough was unmarried.  Her
younger brother Joseph Emanuel Bough had been a retailer, and she may
have worked for him, The 1901 census shows that he at age 29 was a
provisions dealer. He was living with the family at 32 Queen Cross
Street, which Susan Bough had owned after her father had lost it in

Susan Bough was born in 1864 to Christiansted clerk, David Bough and
former free colored woman, Elizabeth Prince Jackson.  She started her
career as a retail merchant of dry goods around 1905. The first notice
we have of her business dealings is through a bond recorded in the
Real Property Mortgage Book. (Recorder of Deeds)  The bond was
recorded on Mar. 28, 1905 from Susan Bough to the New St. Croix
Savings Bank for $5,000 frcs. (Five francs was worth one dollar).
With a first priority mortgage in her personal home property 32 Queen
Cross Street and  in 23 Company Street, most likely the place of her
shop.  On Dec. 16, 1920 she had paid off the loan in full (p.52).
This must have been the initial seed money she had received for the
establishment of her dry goods business.

She is listed as a retailer in the 1911 census.  As seen from the
picture, she is standing in the yard goods section of her store. Of
special note are the pieces of madras cloth hanging from the line
behind her. Madras was cotton material of distinct yellow, red,
orange, and green plaid combinations, material which was  produced in
India and sold through English manufacturers. At the time,  madras or
what was called “Martinique cloth “ was worn by the Crucian laboring
women as headscarves. In St. Croix,  madras was not a preferred
material for skirts, such as it was in the French West Indies,
perhaps because it was  an imported brand, it was far too expensive.
Middle class town women, on the contrary,  did not wear madras at the
beginning of the twentieth century.

Miss Bough shop located 23 Company Street Credit from Book St. Croix Historic Photos Elizabeth Rezende and Anne Walbom

According  to a Jan. 25, 1911 Avis newspaper ad, Miss Bough must have
encountered financial problems in her business as Lawyer Stakemann
announced that a number of goods would be sold at auction on January
28, 1911 at her property at 23 Company Street, Christiansted. Among
the items were “the stock in trade consisting of provisions, horses, a
harness, a phaeton and a buggy, mules, donkeys and cows”. Immediately
following that event, the auction would continue  at 42 Company Street
where selected pieces of her “household furniture, consisting of
mahogany rocking chairs, bedsteads, tables,” and other furniture and
one parlor organ, very fine “ would be sold.

There are no entries in the mortgage books between 1911 until May 12,
1917 when she takes out  her first  loan of 3,000 frcs. from the
St.Croix Labor Union Savings Bank and paid it off on December 6, 1923.
According to the records of the National Bank of the Danish West
Indies, the St . Croix Labor Union’s president, D. Hamilton Jackson
had secured a large loan of 10,000 frcs. from which the Union then
divided the funds and offered loans  to members. (Rigsarkiv)

Miss Bough was certainly not a laborer in the rural districts of St.
Croix, for whom these loans were originally intended. Her younger
brother Ralph Bough served as a vice president of the Labor Union,
and the records show that the money was collected by Mario de
Chabert..  The lien books of the Recorder of Deeds office show that
the bond was cancelled (p.85).

Again, on Sept. 21, 1918, Susan Bough is noted as being indebted to
Mr. Rudolph Doyles for 2,500 frcs, which he had loaned her and for
which amount she was to have put up her properties of 32 Queen Cross
and 23 Company Streets. She agreed to repay the amount in quarterly
payments of 75 frcs with 6 per cent interest and paid in full Dec.
6,1920 (p.49).

In case number 98/1920, Lawyer Stakemenn,  representing several
American and British concerns,  found “spinster and merchant of
Christiansted Susan Bough acknowledging indebtedness to E.F. Darrell &
Co, NY for 350 frcs.; Owen and Hill,  NY, 439 frcs; East Coast Cereal
Co, NY, 294 frcs; and the Wm. White and Sons of Glasgow,  L 11. A
total ofmore than 1,083 frcs. had been loaned to her.  For these  she
had used her properties at 23 Company, 32 Queen Cross, 5A Fisher, 5B
Fisher, 22,23 Fisher, 25 DA Queen Cross , 25 DC Queen Cross and 1
automatic truck plus a number of pieces of mahogany furniture and
cupping cabinets. Dec. 6, 1920 she had paid 325 frcs. to Stakemann.
Witness of this calling in the loan were John and William Phaire, one
of whom is her brother in law, married to her sister Elizira.

In the very male mercantile world of St. Thomas and St.Croix in the
early twentieth century, Susan Bough had to negotiate many of the same
loan procedures as the men with whom she was competing in business. As
seen from the various records of liens from 1905-1923, she was a woman
who was able to secure substantial amounts of money on her own and
with the assistance of men in order to start up her business. How many
times she had start ups, no one knows. But during the times that she
was in business she was seen as a woman who was attempting to be
financially independent. In looking at the number of real properties
she had owned and the vehicles and the mahogany furniture, it seems as
if she had enjoyed periods of stable profits from her selling that
allowed  her discretionary amounts of income to invest in other
properties. Her success may have been in knowing the right people and
being persistent  By being able to secure funds from the New St. Croix
Savings Bank and the St. Croix Labor Union Savings Bank, two large
financial institutions in the Danish West Indies, attests to her
ability to use her acumen for business and her network of friends and

Susan Bough’s business card is a part of the collection in the St. Croix Landmarks Society archives.  The card says: Susan Bough

Susan Bough

                                                                     Dealer in


                                                                     Cigars, Bay Rum

                                                                     Confectionary, etc.

                                                                     Susan Bough

Although the actual death of Susan Bough is not yet known. The 1940 US Census shows the elder Susan age 65 living with her younger sister Eliza Bough-Phair and family on St. Croix. Susan presumably died during the 40’s.

Although, my contribution at any given point is marginal, Dr. Rezende added skin to the bones.  Thank you Betsey for this research, and your significant contributions to the stories of the Free Colored population of St. Croix USVI.


By shelley dewese

As I continue to search out my history, I am discovering how much I did not know. The more information disclosed about my ancestry, the more I learn and understand how I am the person that has evolved today. My family's research efforts have taken me on an enlightening journey back through the past in the U. S. Virgin Islands (formerly Danish West Indies) and Coastal Georgia. As with most people of Afro-Caribbean descent, my ancestry stems from peoples brought together by colonialism and conquest; it stems from people thrown together, albeit forcibly, by the throes of enslavement. As a result, my DNA tells me that my people originate in Africa, Europe, England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Lesser Antilles, and Leeward Caribbean Islands. Two collections made my dream to research my ancestors in the Danish West Indies a reality. I have conducted extensive research using the St. Croix Population Database 1734-1917, a St. Croix African Roots Project product, and a research and document transcription effort sponsored by the Virgin Islands Social History Associates (VISHA). The other catalyst has been accessing the extensive photo, manuscript, and microfilm collections at the Library and Archives of the St. Croix Landmarks Society at Estate Whim in St. Croix. My heartfelt thanks go to all my cousins, extended "cousin-family," friends, and research colleagues from the St. Croix-based Virgin Islands Ancestry Discovery Group, for their input and collaboration. I also want to thank the UJima Genealogy Group in Coastal Georgia and; webmaster Amy Hendrick has introduced me to Southern History and its people. This site allows you to transform yourself to a time during the Danish period (1734-1917) when life was both complex and straightforward. If you have any questions, comments, or need assistance searching for a Danish West Indies ancestor, I invite you to drop me an email. I especially appreciate the followers' encouragement.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: