Soufriere shows signs of Amerindian occupation.
Until recently however, there was little evidence to show that they had been there in any numbers.
Now, the discovery of the terraces and carved rocks at Belfond and the exciting new find of the petroglyph near Jalousie indicate that Soufriere was perhaps one of the most important sites of all.
After the Amerindians, the first permanent settlers to arrive were the French who came around the end of the 17th Century.
Already well-established in Martinique, the realized that the rich fertile soil of Soufriere would be ideal for farming.
In 1746, Soufriere was, officially recognized by France, as Saint Lucia’s first town.
The island changed hands fourteen times between the British and the French but these early estates remained largely in the lands of descendants of these French immigrants.
They brought in slaves from Africa to work the land.
Large areas of land were cleared to plant crop like cotton and tobacco to be sold and shipped overseas.
Sugar was introduced later and soon became the most important crop.
In 1838 Emancipation freed the slaves and they were able to own their own property and land.
Many however, continued to work on the estates where they had once been slaves.
The French Revolution
With the last years of that century came the French Revolution,
Its effects were felt throughout the French Antilles.
In Martinique and Guadeloupe, many royalist were beheaded.
It is said that the ship carrying the guillotine sailed into Soufriere Bay.
The awesome machine was taken ashore and set up in Town Square in front of the church, to continue its work.
The revolutionaries declared that slavery in the French islands was at an end.
But under Napoleon slavery was reintroduced.
British took the island again.
Many of the freed slaves, as well as French soldiers who had deserted, took to the hills.
From their hideouts they organized raids on the town.
They destroyed or damaged many buildings including the baths on the Diamond Estate.
During Soufriere’s history, the town has been shaken by storms many times.
There was the Great Hurricane of 1780, followed by others in 1817, 1831 and 1898.
In 1839 an earthquake shown down the church steeple and more recently in 1955, half the town was destroyed by fire.
Hurricane Allen in 1980 was another blow and in 1991, Yokahu woke up and gave the island a good shake to remind people that he was still around.
Famous Saint Lucians
Some famous Saint Lucians have come from the town of Soufriere.
Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie, who spent most of her childhood in Soufriere became Empress of France, Dr Beausoliel, the islands first doctor came from Soufriere, R Belizaire, wrote Saint Lucia’s first georgraphy book.
Also Queen Elizabeth II, when she set foot on Saint Lucian soil for the first time in 1966, she landed, not in Castries
but on the Soufriere Jetty.
In spite of all these upheavals, Soufriere continues to grow.
It will never be the island’s capital but it has produced men who have been important in the fields of law, commerce and politics.
Towards the end of George Charles’ long term as Prime Minister of Saint Lucia more than half of the House of Assembly were Soufriere men, including him.
Soufriere is still a centre for agriculture but tourism has gained equal importance.