The historic record lacks detailed documents for the early history of Hassel Island, during the 1600s. It is known that in 1607 Captain John Smith, on his voyage to establish Jamestown in Virginia, stopped in the harbor to obtain wood, water, and also collect sea turtles. His diary notes it as a “fine place”. A plaque commemorating the visit is located in Emancipation Park in Charlotte Amalie. (See image below.)
In 1650, Prince Rupert, with an English squadron under his command, entered the harbor. His ship struck what is today known as Prince Rupert’s Rock on the east side of the harbor entrance. He supposedly took his ship into what is now known as Careening Cove for repair. The land came under Danish ownership in 1672, as they colonized the present day Virgin Islands under the Danish West India Company.
In the late 1600s, St. Thomas was a safe haven for pirates and privateers. The British burned the pirate ship La Trompeuse, which was under the protection of the Danish governor, in the harbor in 1683. Under pressure from the British government to cease abetting pirates and privateers, when the famous Captain Kidd arrived requesting permission to land in 1699, he was refused.
Hassel Island had 10 recorded owners prior to its purchase by James Hazzell in 1784. One of those owners, Jacob Magens, his wife, and his cook were murdered in their home on the island in 1773, and their collection of silver was stolen.
Because of its thin soil cover and mountainous terrain, Hassel Island was never a prosperous agricultural estate. Most of its income was derived from the repair of ships in Careening Cove, a protected anchorage in the middle of the island on the eastern side.