The Boulon Family
(A presentation by Rafe Boulon, summarized by Vicki Bell)
Rafe Boulon began his family story in the early 1900s when his great grandfather was a meteorologist in Puerto Rico. Rafe’s grandfather grew up in Puerto Rico and in 1927 purchased 100 acres for $5,000 which included Trunk Bay. Rafe’s father was born in Puerto Rico but grew up on St. John. His mother was born in Boston but traveled to the Virgin Islands at the age of 21 “on a lark”, met his father, and the rest is history.
In 1956, the Boulon family sold approximately 59 acres of non-beachfront Trunk Bay property to Laurance S. Rockefeller, in connection with the then proposed Virgin Islands National Park. And, in 1957, they sold the beachfront property to the Park Service, keeping only the 3 acres of the “Windswept” peninsula for their own.
Rafe talked about, and showed pictures of, “his crib with a view” looking back across Trunk Bay from what is now the Ranger residence at the eastern end of Trunk Bay Beach. He recalled having Leatherback sea turtles as playmates, and how the area that is now the parking lot at Trunk Bay was a dense grove of fruit trees, supplying fruit and produce for the family guest house. Tortola sloops sailed in regularly at Trunk Bay, delivering produce, or offering a lift over to St. Thomas for the day.
Rafe noted that it was around 1955 that Colonel Julius Wadsworth, who had purchased the land at Denis Bay Beach and the adjacent hill top where the mill is located, constructed the “Christ of the Caribbean” statue at what is now called Peace Hill. The Colonel’s hope and dream at the time, was to gather all the leaders of the world and establish world wide peace.
Rafe’s family ran a small guest house with 8 to 10 rooms at Trunk Bay. Guests on their way to Trunk Bay would be entertained by Mama Dohm at the Red Hook dock while they awaited transportation to St. John. It was sometimes a long wait, but Mama Dohm was quite affable and hospitable, and the guests enjoyed whiling away the time with her, until a boat arrived for them.
Rafe remembered being paid to gather up cigarette butts at Gallows Point for then-owners “Duke” and Kay Ellington. But, Rafe recalled that when his parents found out about this occupation they put a swift halt to it.
There were few roads on St. John, none paved, but many trails, and Rafe spent countless hours, even days, out exploring the island, often camping in old sugar mills. Fishing was big at Mary’s Point, Cruz Bay Creek, and anywhere they could fish or set a fish trap. Thus the children on St. John stayed very busy exploring their island home, and catching dinner for their families.
In 1958 the Boulon family moved to Puerto Rico, but returned to build a stone house at Windswept next to Trunk Bay that was used for summers and other vacations until 1964 when the family moved back to St. John. Today, Rafe and his family live in a house they built at Windswept.
[Oral history][Trunk Bay]