The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Carl Zagers. A Eulogy.

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Carl Zagers on his visit to my office to show me some of the things which he was finding on his farm at the Plum Piece.

E U L O G Y.

by: Will Johnson

 

Today we mourn the loss of James Carl Zagers who was born on February 23rd 1927 and died on November 26th, 2016.

Carl was born in the former village of Palmetto Point known in the last years of its existence as Mary’s Point. In the year 1927 when he was born there were a total of 41 children born on Saba. This goes to show the difference on Saba between then and the last thirty years.

His wife was Rose Margarete Collins and she died young leaving Carl with three young children to raise, Lillian, Stephen and Cleve.

 

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Carl with his apron on where he farmed at The Plum Piece.

In 1934 the people of Palmetto Point were more or less forcefully removed by Governor Krugers to an area here in the Bottom, part of a larger property called the Man-O-War ground.

Carl did as everyone back then tried to do in order to survive. He farmed the land and fished the seas. He also built his own fishing boats when the need was there. As so many young men did at the time he also went to Aruba where he worked in the kitchen of the dining room for the Lago oil refinery there. After some years he came back to Saba and was able to find work here with the government. In those days it was not much of a salary but you grasped at any opportunity you could get.

 

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Palmetto Point a.k a. “Mary’s Point’ around 1910.

For many years he was the linesman for the telephone service. Mr. Chester Zagers his former boss will tell you more about that period in his life.

As time moved on and Carl wanted to start a family he found his wife just a stone’s throw from where he lived in the “Promised Land’. He married Rose Margarete Collins at St. Kitts and together they not only started a family but built a house where he lived until he passed away at the age of 89.

Carl and his brother Jimmy were people who retained many memories of past life here on Saba and the people who lived and worked here. I could always ask them to clarify for me some of the families and who was related to whom from Palmetto Point and Middle Island. They would tell me things and when I researched them further they were right on nearly all my questions. I told his son Stephen that I was always promising myself to interview Carl on certain matters thinking perhaps that he would live forever.

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Menno and Corinne here at my home examining some of Carl’s findings on his farm.

He loved to farm and most of his life he farmed, planted the land, kept cattle and pigs and so on in order to provide for his family. The last years of his life he was farming over in a piece called the ‘Plum Piece” situated on a small plateau around 750 feet above Sea Level and on the road around the mountain and just above Palmetto Point where he was born.

This farming of his, led to a major discovery in the history of our island. When I was Acting Governor and Commissioner he called me one day and said he would like to speak to me, so I told him when to come. I thought it was something personal. However he said to me; “I know how much you are interested in the history of our island. I come to you with the following story which might be of interest to you’. And then he went on to tell me that where he was farming at the Plum Piece he was finding all kinds of strange rocks which looked like they had been worked on. ‘Must be Indians, I guess,’ he said.

And he went on to say: “I have some of them at home if you are interested.’ So we made another appointment and he brought a batch of old stones and a talisman made of coral stone with a hole in it which I wear from time to time. I took photos of his visit and offered to pay him for his trouble. He reluctantly accepted payment though he said ‘Mind I did not come for that.’ But I told him, “I suspect there is more to this story,’ and so I am only rewarding you for your labour and for your interest. I had just returned from Holland where I had undergone heart surgery and was still feeling weak. About three months later I thought I was feeling well enough and got my young son Peter to go along with me.

When we got to the Plum Piece there was Carl wearing an apron as if he was working in a gourmet kitchen. He gave me a tour of his farming area and I took a series of photo’s, which I still have and which I will add to this eulogy for posting on my blog The Saba Islander. I gathered what turned out to be some seventy pounds of stone which the Kalinago or Arawak people had left behind. Only when I got to the Queens Garden Hotel and realized that it was only three to four months since my surgery did I get panicky when I was trying to get the bag in my car.

 

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My son Peter with Carl Zagers on the farm

Anyway I discussed it with the then Governor Antoine Solagnier and agreed that we contact Corrine and Menno at Leiden University. They had already been involved for several years in doing research on the Native American past on Saba. They were quite interested of course, though they had doubts if Native Americans would live that far up from the sea.

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Looking down from the Plum Piece you can see the ‘Diamond Rock’.

Menno and Corine decided to come and bring some students with them and to see what was there. This study resulted in a book entitled The Real Saba History. I sent my copy to a friend and fellow historian Lennox Honeychurch on Dominica and I cannot remember the exact title now. The book did give credit to Mr. Zagers for his keen observations and conclusions that there had to be a larger story to the stones and other materials he was finding on his farm.

AS a father it was a struggle to raise his children especially after the death of his wife. However he never gave up and he went on to become a loving grandfather and before his death he was to become a great-grandfather.

He was suffering with skin cancer and had to go to Colombia for medical attention and while there he developed other ailments. After he returned home he steadily got worse and this led to his demise.

In family circles he will be remembered as a hardworking and loving man. I will close by reading a poem entitled The Old Farmers Prayer. I could not find out who the author was but I thought it fitting to remember the life and times of Carl with this poem.

I could not find the name of the person who wrote this poem but I will quote it anyway.

THE OLD FARMERS PRAYER

Time just keeps moving on

Many years have come and gone

But I grow older without regret

My hopes are in what may come yet.

On the farm I work each day

this is where I wish to stay

I watch the seeds each season sprout

From the soil as the plants rise out.

I study Nature and I learn

To know the earth and feel her turn

I love her dearly and all the seasons

For I have learned her secret reasons

All that will live is in the bosom of Earth

She is the loving mother of all birth

But all that lives must pass away

And go back again to her someday.

My life too will pass from earth

But do not grieve, I say, there will be other birth

When my body is old and all spent

And my soul to Heaven has went.

Please compost and spread me on this plain

So my Mother Earth can claim

That is where I wish to be

Then Nature can nourish new life with me.

So do not for me grieve and weep

I did not leave, I only sleep

I am with the soil here below

Where I can nourish life of beauty and glow

Here I can help the falling rain

Grow golden fields of ripening grain

From here I can join the winds that blow

And meet the softly falling snow.

Here I can help the sun’s warming ligth

Grow food for birds of gliding flight

I can be in the beautiful flowers of spring

And in every other lovely thing.

So do not for me weep and cry

I am here, I did not die.

***

May he rest in peace.

 

 

Nurse Angele Cagan

NURSE ANGELE CAGAN

BY; Will Johnson

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Nurse Angele here with her brother Gaston Cagan who used to be a taxi driver and before that worked for the oil refinery on Aruba.

Nurse Angele Cagan was an icon in the Philipsburg in which I knew in the fifties and sixties. She was a native of the village of Grand Case. Where I lived at Captain Hodge’s Guesthouse both Captain Hodge and his wife Mrs. Bertha Hodge-Lawrence were also natives of that village.

The hospital was just a stone’s throw away from the guesthouse. What little spare time Nurse Angele got she would walk up to the Guesthouse in her white uniform to visit with the Hodge’s. She took a liking to me and started calling me ‘Kennedy’. This came about when we were following the election results on radio and when President Kennedy beat Nixon. Everyone but me that night was for Nixon for whatever reason. But I stuck it out and Nurse Angele would buckle up with the laugh when comments were made. She would look in my direction and I had a feeling afterwards that she secretly supported Kennedy but did not want to get in a clash with Capt. Hodge and Miss Bertha.

When Kennedy won she only called me by that name. I remember [don’t all of us] the day he died. I was walking up the Front Street from the office. When I passed the St. Rose Hospital where she worked she was out on the gallery facing the street and called out to me;’ Lord Kennedy, Kennedy dead.’ So I had to go in and sit and talk about the day’s events with her.

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Mrs. Olga Buncamper-Hassell signing the registry, with Jewel Levendag-Wathey watching on as well as Dr. Carl Levendag behind her and Mr. Walter G. Buncamper standing next to Mrs. Lionel Conner-Kruythoff.

I have an article from Saturday October 5th, 1963 from the Windward Island’s Opinion which for this article I would like to share in its entirety. I happen to have in my collection photos of the event from the album of Jewel Levendag-Wathey and I can match the article with the photos. Nurse Angele was important to a lot of people as she delivered a lot of babies in her day as a Nurse.

The article is as follows: TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF NURSING.

On Sunday September 29th, Miss Angele Cagan, celebrated her Silver Jubilee, 25 years as a nurse in the St. Rose Hospital at Philipsburg.

The occasion was marked by a solemn High Mass at 8 a.m. in the Roman Catholic Church at Philipsburg. The church was crowded with many of her friends, relatives and former patients (some of them had come from as far as Marigot and even Grand Case). The Rev. Father Boradori, Parish Priest; in his remarks about Nurse Angele after the Gospel, pointed out that, in the 25 years that she had been a nurse in the St. Rose Hospital, she had always been a very dedicated nurse and he was sure that she did not work for the money, but instead for the love of bringing relief and comfort to suffering humanity. He compared her dedicated service to the Inn-keeper; in a parable of Jesus (A certain traveler had found a sick man by the wayside, given him assistance and taken him to an Inn. In the morning when the traveler was leaving, the sick man had not fully recovered, so the traveler paid the Inn-Keeper for the night and asked that the sick man be taken care of until he (the traveler) returned, promising that he would pay all the costs on his return. The Inn-Keeper did not ask the traveler to pay in advance – but took care of the sick man with the hope that someday the traveler would return.

 

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Father Bruno Boradori then Parish priest giving Nurse Angele the Holy Sacrament while friends look on.

“Our dear Nurse Angele,” he said: “Has been taking care of the sick entrusted to her tender care, by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and one day, I am sure, that at the end of her journey, He will return and repay her for all she has done.’

A reception was given in her honour at the St. Rose Hospital, from 11 a.m. to 12 noon, and among the many persons present were: Lt. Governor, J.J. Beaujon, Dr. Levendag, Ex. Lt. Governor and Mrs. W. Buncamper, Mrs. L.C. Fleming, Mr. Cagan (her brother), Mr. Th.A. Illidge, Mr. and Mrs. R. Carty and Mr. and Mrs. L.B. Scott. Most noteworthy among those present were; Mr. Anthony Buncamper (Nurse Angele ‘brought’ his mother to be with him) and his little son (Nurse Angele ‘brought’ his wife to bed with his son)-

Speeches congratulating Nurse Angele were made by the Revered Father Boradori, L.B.Scott, Th.A. Illidge, J.H. Lake, R. Carty and Dr. Levendag – And all the speakers praised her for her unselfish and dedicated service to the sick of this community during the past 25 years – She was also the recipient of many useful and valuable gifts.

The Windward Islands Opinion joins the rest of the community in congratulating our beloved Nurse Angele and prays that the good Lord, may bless and keep her for many more years.

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Nurse Angele assisted in the delivery of many children on St. Maarten.

Before she retired she built a house on the Back Street. She would go there during the day but would spend most of her time living with Miss Bertha and the Captain over in Sucker Garden. They had sold the Guest House and built a home over there. Catherine Hodge would drop her off at her home on Back Street in the morning and pick her back up at 5 pm and bring her to sleep at the home of the Hodge family. Catherine told me that being a young woman then that Nurse Angele would sometimes have to wait on her and would let Catherine have it when she was late in picking her up. Later on when they all got older she spent her last years in the St. Martin’s Home.

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St. Rose Hospital 1947. Nurse Angele worked here for the better part of her life.

Elsje from the St. Maarten Heritage Foundation said that she would see Nurse Angele coming down the Secretarissteeg (Secretary Alley) to go to work at the St. Rose Hospital. Elsje said she would visit her when she was in the Home. She was in a room that used to be part of the hospital where she had worked most of her life. ‘I always found it a little sad that she worked there and died there. She died on October 17th, 2003 and was buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery. She had no children but lots of nieces and nephews.’

Many of our old timers were true St. Martin islanders and worked where they could. I know of a number of people from the village of Grand Case who found work on the Dutch side and remained working and living there for the rest of their lives. When especially the ESSO refinery called the Lago was recruiting employees who could speak English any number of people from the French side and Anguilla found a way to register via the Dutch side and went on to Aruba. Some of them stayed there and have descendants there still.

Not only Nurse Angele has gone and left us but the hospital as well and the memories of  the buildings and the people who worked in them as well.In my own way I am trying to make a contribution to the past when we lived carefree lives far removed from the wealth of nations which were to consume us as time went on.

May Nurse Angele and her friends rest in peace and not be forgotten.

 

 

 

The Anslyn Brothers

Carl Anslyn at Schotzenhoek planatation.

William Carl Anslyn feeding his chickens at Schotsenhoek plantation on Statia.

If you misplace a book in my house you can forget about looking for it. Sometimes years later it will turn up stuck between my bookshelves where there are at least 2500 books. I tell friends (and now everybody) that my bedroom resembles the Public Library. I sleep in a huge four poster bed and the room is lined with shelves of mostly books on the West Indies. And then there is my office and most of the other rooms in the house. Books and paper everywhere.

And so it happened with Saban Rascal, a self published book by Carl Anslijn when he was 75 years old. I had asked all over if anyone had a copy of this book of childhood memories written by Carl, to no avail. And just this month the book turned up stuck between another book where I least expected to find it. A hint to the believers. Saint Anthony is your boy to call on for lost items. He always comes true. If you are a believer that is. The Muslims must have an equivalent for him as well. Abu Bakhr perhaps?

Carl and his brother Arthur were the sons of Edward Anslijn whose mother was from Saba and whose father was the famous Dutch Doctor Nicholas Anslijn. He in turn was a descendant of a famous Flemish educator who wrote one or more books on the subject of education.

In an interview in Saba Silhouettes by Dr. Julia Crane ,Carl describes his ancestry as follows:

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Commissioner John Arthur Anslyn in center with other dignitaries.

“My grandfather first came here from Curacao as a doctor. That must have been in l875. My father (Edward) died at the age of seventy-two years. That would give him, let us say, l880 roughly when he was born. My grandfather was a doctor on Curacao, and he had been married to a Venezuelan lady whose father was a military man, and she had died. He came here when he must have been up around forty-five or fifty years, I imagine. Around fifty let us say. My grandmother was very young. She couldn’t have been more than sixteen or eighteen years. He fell in love with her and married her. He took her away to Curacao where they lived for some time. They came back up here then, and he died in Sint Maarten. He left her with three children. She stood here and she married a Saba man who believed that it was much easier to sit down than to work, and she had a tough life.”

Carl and Arthur were very ambitious,and hard working men. They both had an excellent education for their day on the island of Nevis.

Their father Edward was captain of the Luxury yacht the “Nearra” of the Sea Island Cotton company with headquarters on Nevis. The yacht was seldom used and in the hurricane season the yacht had to be sheltered in the Oyster Pond on St.Martin, on St. Barths or St.Thomas, but mostly at the Oyster Pond.

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Capt. Edward Anhslyn father of Carl and Arthur who served for many years as the ferry captain between St. Kitts and Nevis.

Carl used to tell me many stories about the isolation of the area when he was a boy with no one living there and no roads leading to it:

” In Saba Silhouettes he says:” You can imagine, two boys, my brother and I, in a place where there were practically millions of fish, lobsters, every kind of bird, wild goats, wild sheep, horses, cows, everything you could think of. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer never had the equal of what we had! It was one spree from morning until night, roaming the hills, swimming catching fish, boating, sailing, everything you could do. We were very healthy.

Of course it played hell with our schooling becuase in Sint Maarten living at the Oyster Pond, we could not go to school. The town was some miles away, and in those days there wasn’t cars running back and forth like now.”

In between Oyster Pond, Carl and Arthur lived in Nevis. He said: “We went to a very nice school, a private school that a lady educated in England kept for the Administrator’s children and so on. It was the people who had money, that could afford to pay for good schooling and not send their children to the government school. They sent them to Miss Bridgewater’s school because she gave them a better education. In Nevis I studied not only English but French, and we had Latin classes.”

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Commissioner William Carl Anslyn on Aruba second from left. He also served as Senator for Aruba in the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles.

His father Edward later became the captain of the ferry between St.Kitts and Nevis. He and Carl’s mother were divorced by then and he married a lady from Nevis. Carl’s sister Dr.Brontie Gonsalves-Anslijn and his brother the second Arthur known as “brother” are prominent people on Nevis. “Brother” used to run the ferry for years after his father died. I have occasional contact with them.”Brother’s” son Vaughn is a very talented painter and reminds me of his Uncle Carl.

Arthur and Carl were loving brothers all their life. Carl never married. Arthur had three children. Both of the brothers lived into their eighties.

As young men they bought the “Schotzenhoek Estate” on St.Eustatius for fls.5.000.–This is where the Statia Oil Terminal is now located. They bought it from the Every family of Saba/Statia origin. The first Every was Daniel James Hassell Every a brother of one of my great grandmother’s Adrianna. He married the daughter of a Zeelig who owned the plantation and moved to Statia in the mid eighteen hundreds.The Every’s branched out from Statia into St.Kitts where they owned “Brotherson’s Estate” some 900 acres the largest sugar cane plantation on St. Kitts. They also owned whaling ships, schooners, the “Pinney’s Estate” on Nevis and property on the Frontstreet in St.Maarten.

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From left to right. Mr. Rupert Sorton, Mr. Arthur Anslyn, Mr. Carl Anslyn, Mr. Ciro Kroon, Miss Cornelia Johnson, Administrator Walter G.Buncamper, and Mr. Matthew Levenstone early 1955

n the nineteen twenties they were struck with several misfortunes. They lost one son who shot himself accidentally while passing a gun through a barbed wire fence. Two others got lost in a hurricane on their schooner. Their only daughter married a captain of a whaling ship and moved to the U.S.A.

The Every’s spent their last years on Nevis. “Uncle” Carl Buncamper used to visit them and told me how much they missed Statia. They said that if they heard a bird it sang sweeter if they thought it had flown over from Statia to visit them.

Carl told me that Governor Johannes de Graaf was buried on the estate. He decided to dig out the grave but grave robbers had already gone with the golden sword which he supposedly was buried with. All he found was a finger bone. He placed it on the eve of the house above the front door. For two nights there was such an infernal racket on the roof that Arthur gave orders to take the bone back to the grave and bury it. The following night Governor de Graaf allowed them to sleep peacefully.

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Left to right: Guy Johnson, Arthur Anslyn ‘Brother’ and his sister Brontie and then Will Johnson. They , Arthur and Brontie, are the children of Edward Anslyn by his second wife on Nevis.

After several years Carl and Arthur sold Schotzenhoek for fls.25.000.– to a Dutch farmer Mr. van Rijswijk and they went to Curacao to manage two plantations for Dr.Maal whom they had known on Statia.

Carl said: “When you are handling a farm with about four hundred goats, two hundred sheep, a herd of cattle, and big cultivation, two men cannot run it. Arthur wanted to work twenty four hours a day and did not believe in letting a guilder stray from home through employed labour.” Carl wanted to go to church on Sundays and reflect on life, and so they decided to sell.

After Curacao they moved back to Aruba and Carl worked for the LAGO oil refinery. He was a favorite of Juanco Yrausqin of the PPA party and was also a top vote getter. He served as a Member of Parliament for Aruba for seven years. He was also five years a Commissioner and also served as a Member of the Island Council there.

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Commissioner Arthur Anslyn between his cousins Henry and Floyd Every at the opening of the Guesthouse in Windwardside, then owned by the Saba Development Company which was started on Aruba by people like Henry Earl Johnson and other employees of the ESSO refinery there.

When he was sick and ailing I had one hell of a time getting Aruba to pay him his pension. It seemed to me that all the leading politicians on Aruba were unaware of his career. Some even denied that he had ever been a Commissioner. In 1985 they had fixed up sizable pensions for themselves. How I was able to get through for him is too long for this article but he finally got something a few weeks before he died on Aruba.

Arthur came back to Saba in 1950 after their mother had died on Aruba.He brought a jeep with him. I think it was the first privately owned vehicle and the third one on Saba. As a little boy I used to help him. My job was to jump off the jeep and place a rock under the wheel while he switched gears. He named one of his two sons that he had by Phyllis van Putten after me. At least he told me,” If its a boy I am going to name him Will.”

Arthur also has a granddaughter on St.Maarten. Patsy the wife of Joseph H. Lake, Jr.

Arthur became Commissioner and Island Council Member on Saba in 1955 and served for twenty years in both jobs.

Carl returned to Saba in 1968 and he and I were in opposition to one another. He was not easy with his pamphlet “The Bulls eye”, but then neither was I with the “Saba Herald” After one election Carl declared Cessie Granger and myself the world’s two best eye specialists. He said that young people declaring to the voting bureau that they could not see well enough to vote, after being helped by one of us, were miraculously cured when they left the booth.

In l987 he suddenly decided to support me and stayed with me politically until he died.

In “Saba Silhouettes” Carl gave his reasons for leaving a successful political career on Aruba and coming home to Saba.

” All the years that I was away, I was looking forward to the day when I could come home and do what I am doing now., I say, well, that isn’t much of a goal for a man to look forward to, to come home and have a little garden and keep a flock of sheep and keep chickens and birds and peacocks and fish and all that. But it is a very peaceful existence,, and that is something that after so many years in politics, with all its intrigue and treachery, I learned to value the things we have here on Saba, more than a man usually does who is not involved in the rat race. So I yearned all the while for Saba and looked forward to the day I could come home and live as I’m living now.”

I thought I would share a part of Carl’s book with the readers. With certain groups in the Antilles trying to provoke Venezuela the story is timely as well.

On the eight of June l929 Rafael Simon Urbina and some of his Venezuelan supporters took over the government on Curacao. They took Governor Ir. Leonard Fruytier and garrison commander Borren on a ship with them, which they had commandeerd.They were released but the Dutch government replaced Fruytier with B.W.T. van Slobbe a trained military man, and also jailed the mnilitary commander Borren.

Rumors circulated in the meanwhile that Venezuela was going to taek over the islands and Carl in his book “Saban Rascal” gives an account of:

The Urbina Invasion

Our island was in an uproar. News had come that the rebel Venezuelan, general Urbina, had raided Curacao, and many of our simple-minded citizens thought that the other Dutch islands would be raided next.

Nobody stopped to think that our small rocky island had nothing to tempt any rebel force to raid it. Tension was high, and everybody feared the worst when a steamboat was seen approaching the island from the South.

The average islanders believed that we were about to be raided. People gathered about in groups discussing what should be done. Some of the women gathered up their most prized possessions, and were wondering where was the safest place to hide them. There was a lot of talk about hiding in caves on the island, and carrying food and water until the invaders left.

One old man, who lived close to the road which traversed the island, carried a rat trap and put it on the road, as it was the only weapon he had. He told the neighbours that he didn’t have a gun to shoot with, but at least the trap could give one of the invaders a sore toe.

People had begun to leave their homes to hide in the forests and caves, when it was noticed that the steamboat had anchored on the Saba Bank, which was some miles off the island. A sigh of relief went up from many a heart, and people once again went about their daily chores, but lookouts were still kept on several hills to keep watch on the steamboat.

A day later she pulled up her anchor and disappeared in the distance. And so ended our invasion by Urbina’s forces.”

For those who believe that President Hugo Chavez intends to invade Curacao or any of the other Dutch West Indies, the moral of the story is, be vigilant, be prepared, BUY A RAT TRAP.

**************************

Will Johnson

The Johnson’s of St. Eustatius

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Henry Hassell Johnson went to Statia as a young boy  to work for the Every’s of Schotzenhoek plantation , married a Schmidt from Statia who taught him how to read and write and when he was in his twenties he was the biggest businessman on the island.

By Will Johnson

Every now and then, someone living on St.Eustatius, will call to buy my property there. They are usually not familiar with the islands history.

The one they want to buy is not the property which I own on The Bay. They want to buy that large open lot leading from the main street to the old Synagogue.

Each time I have to relate to them, that even though distantly related to those Johnson’s. I am not descended from them, and therefore not an heir to the property. Some of the Peterson’s on Saba together with family in the U.S.A. are the heirs to this property. My Statia ancestors were the Horton’s, who were related to the Hill’s and the Hamilton’s.

Former Lt. Governor Max Pandt, ever since we were in Boys town Brakkeput on Curacao has been bragging to me that he is descended from Sir John Of The Hill, in England who lived in the time of William The Conqueror. So be it.

There were Johnson’s on St.Eustatius from early on, but not in the same numbers as on Saba. In a document of September 21st 1805 in the settlement of the estate of Venancio Fabio, among the properties listed is one on The Bay. It is described as follows; “Premises with house of wood, two stories, consisting of a cellar, a warehouse and 3 top rooms, a cistern, outhouse, furnace, kitchen at the Bay (Op de Baai), to the North a piece of land belonging to the widow Johnson.”

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Austin Johnson of Saba was transferred twice to Statia to work there and he carried his family along once.He loved to read and he said that when he finished the last book in the Library and was going back into the Fort the Administrator called out to him and said ‘Johnson, I have good news for you. Tomorrow you can pack for Saba, you have been transferred.

I remember at Captain Hodge’s Guesthouse in the nineteen sixties meeting a beautiful lady from the USA, who with her son, were on their way to bury her husband on St.Eustatius. He was a Johnson from that island. Besides his accomplishments in life, the lady was testimony to his good taste. As we would say in the West Indies; “What a sweet thing.” That is the equivalent of the more politically correct way of describing her as a beautiful lady.

She told me how she had met her husband. He was a banker in New York, high up in the ranks of the bank. She was a secretary. Each time she had to meet with him it was difficult to understand him. He retained his Statia accent all his life.

And so one day he informed her that since she could not understand him that he would be better off marrying her. And since he was a handsome man, she decided to accept his offer and they lived happily after. Years later I met with her children and told them that story and one of the sons said: “Yes mom was a knockout .”

One thing Johnson did not forget was his beloved St.Eustatius where he had grown up as a boy. He had instructed her to bring his ashes back home to be buried on native soil.

He was one of the many children of Henry Hassell Johnson who was a businessman on St.Eustatius. He also owned Golden Rock estate and other properties in town and on The Bay.

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Mr. Irvie Mussenden with his wife Amy Johnson and daughter Sybil. I still correspond with Sybil who lives in California.

My old friend Charles Arnold knew him well. In Julia Crane’s book Statia Silhouettes, he had the following to say: ” And the Every’s, they came from Saba. One fellow came from Saba a small boy and he became the biggest merchant in the island. That’s Henry H. Johnson. The property across here, he owned that. And he raised his family here. But the boys, soon as they get big enough that they might want to be friendly with girls and everything he send them to the States, everyone, send them to the States to school. So all the boys went away, and then the girls come up. One schoolmaster from Holland, Schotborgh, he’s still living. He married to one o’ his daughters. And some o’ the others hardly they didn’t marry to them. And after he sent away, the girls went to the States also. The three boys they died, but I guess the most o’ the girls are still living.

And they come back occasionally, want to do business here, but they can’t get the property divided to suit themselves. About nineteen heirs to the property now, and they can’t get it settled. They won’t agree, you know, that they could use it.”

As Mr. Charlie said, Henry Johnson went to Statia as a young boy. His parents were James Johnson and Sarah Hassell. On February 27th, 1888 when he was 23 years old, he married Jane Elizabeth Schmidt (25). Her mother was Maria Elizabeth Schmidt and was descended from a Schmidt who had been the harbormaster.

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Johnson’s warehouse on the bay. His properties are for the most part still intact as the family which remains are still divided and so no one can do anything with it.Photo June Boulton.

Johnson’s first wife died at an early age. She was only 31 when she died on May 8th, 1894. As was the case many times back then she died , shortly after delivering her fourth child ,James Clarence Austin Johnson who was born on May 7th, 1894 and died on June 2nd, 1894.

They had three children who survived: Henry Stanley Johnson born September 18th, 1888. Florence Amelia Johnson born December 22nd 1892 and died October 12th 1895, and Helen Lucille Johnson, born August 3rd, 1890. Helen later married Captain Ralph Holm, another Statia/Saba family. Helen did not have any children so that the descendants of Henry Stanley Johnson are the only ones who are descended from Jane Elizabeth Schmidt.

Henry Stanley was the only one who remained on St.Eustatius and carried on the business of his father. He also owned a grocery store on Saba and was a Local Councillor here.

Henry H. Johnson’s second wife was Amy Hassell of Saba. She was a daughter of Henry Johnson Hassell and Joanna Beaks Hassell and she was born on May 10th, 187l.

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Some of the Johnson’s and Pandt’s playing Tennis at The Cottage ancestral home of the Pandt family.

 

The custom on Saba at the time was to have your mother’s maiden name inserted as a middle name. My grandfather James Horton Simmons was named so because his mother was a Horton. That is why you have a situation that Henry Hassell Johnson took as his second wife the daughter of Henry Johnson Hassell. Get it!

They had the following children: George Clarence Johnson born 17-September -1899.John de Veer Johnson born December 10th, 1903, Mabel Louise Johnson born October 3rd, 1903, and Ida Leolin Johnson born 1897 who married Johannes Wilhelm Theodoris Schotborgh (aged 22) on December 17th, 1914.

After his second wife died as Shakespeare would have put it; “Johnson was visited in his gray hairs by a young mulatto woman named Olive Woods by whom he had three lovely little people, two girls and one boy before going on to the Walhalla of old West Indian men.” Old soldiers and all of that you know.

Charlie Arnold in “Statia Silhouettes” goes on to say:” At the time the white people – we had quite a lot o’ white people that owned the estates but they didn’t work on them. All

elderenas-97th-birthday-6-25-1967-whole-gange

Capt. Ralph Holm on the left with his hand on the shoulder of his wife Helen Lucille Johnson daughter of Henry Hassell Johnson and Jane Elizabeth Schmidt. They had no children. The Holm family came to Saba from Statia and are descended from a Holm born in Copenhagen.

the work was done by the Negroes, the Negroes.

But they (the whites) never marry each other. The funniest thing – not a white man in Statia would marry a white girl. Never! I could never understand that. They didn’t marry but they would get children by the black girls.They always wanted the black girls. They kept them and they get children but they never do much marrying. Occasionally a couple o’ them get married to the girl. But the girl, the white girl that got married, is from some ministers came in, some people from England or something, Holland or something. But not one o’ the white men that born in Statia would marry one o’ the white girls. It’s very unusual, and I could never find out from a kid. I noticed it from a kid and when I grow – when I grew up then I could understand better. But not one couple that you can say, well a white man from here married to a white girl. The Pandts and the different one, all o’ them never got married. And we had quite a lot o’ white men in the island then, quite a few. Funniest thing, never married. If they didn’t get married to somebody off the island, they never got married. None o’ them that you can say, see.” Mr. Charlie has certainly made his

Statia - Old photo of Oranjestad 1940's

Old photo of Oranjestad 1940’s. Some of Austin Johnson’s family here going to church. In the background was the store of Henry Johnson and the two story building belonged to the Every’s of Schotzenhoek plantation at one time.

point.

Some years ago at the airport on Sint Maarten, I introduced a Johnson cousin of mine to Miss Elrine Leslie of St. Eustatius. I told her that his grandfather was Woolseley Pandt of St.Eustatius. She gave him a good looking over and whispered to me:” Lord, Gena would have been happy to see he. She had like the colour you know.” She was referring to Eugenia Houtman (Ankar) who had 12 children by the white man Peter John MacDonald Pandt and so she would have been the great grandmother of my Johnson cousin who was unaware that his great grandmother was, as Charlie would have said, “one o’ them black Statia girls.”

The Mussenden family was also intermarried with the Johnson’s. However I have much interesting information on the Mussenden family and that will be the subject of another article in the future. As Mr. Charlie said; ” And then the Mussenden’s. They owned the most o’ the land on the South part o’ the island.” Senator Kenneth van Putten told me they owned all the land from Oranjestad to White Wall at one time.

The last Johnson to have lived on St.Eustatius was Miss Lillian Johnson( “Miss Lil”). She was an in-law of Mr. Irvie Mussenden. The Johnson’s must have left a good name behind though. In 1969 when I ran for Senator I pulled 232 votes on St.Eustatius out of a total of 503 votes cast on that island equivalent to 46% of the votes cast. You read me good Clyde.? 46%. Now if you think you bad, try and beat that percentage Clyde if you can.46%. All o’

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The Johnson store in former times. Photo June Boulton.

them Statia politicians going to get out their calculator now to see how they compare.

I have more photo’s in my archive of the Johnson family which I will add to this article when i get time to try and find them.

I wrote this some years ago and I will be going to Statia tomorrow for meetings and will be there for the celebration of Statia Day and looking forward to seeing friends there. God bless Statia and its people!

De Bovenwindsche Stemmen

Image (136)De Bovenwindsche Stemmen

By: Will Johnson

The first edition of “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen” appeared on August 31st, 1933 and the Editor of this bi-monthly paper was Mr. Wilhelm Frederick Carl Ludwig August Netherwood who was born on St. Barths in 1870`. The paper in spite of its Dutch name was completely written in English. The paper was stenciled and had a total of sixty copies every two weeks. Tell me about stenciled papers. I did the “Saba Herald” for twenty five years on stencil mostly. My brother Eric did all the stenciling. Finally when his wife Wilda phoned me and said that he had threatened to throw himself over the cliff, I then took over the task. Living next to an even higher cliff it is a miracle that I am still around. Yes tell me about a stenciled newspaper indeed! According to its rival paper “De Slag om Slag” which started publication the following year, a committee had been established by Miss Slothouwer a well known Dutch teacher on St. Maarten at the time in order to establish a newspaper. She saw the great need to give St. Maarten and by extension St. Eustatius and Saba a voice which could resonate in the colony. On that same committee Mr. A.R. Brouwer was also a member but due to disagreements as to what the newspaper should concentrate on Mr. Brouwer parted ways with the committee and started his own paper. Image (140)His paper “De Slag om Slag” which first appeared on December 22nd, 1934, had a decidedly ant-colonial tint despite the fact the he was the son of the well known Lt. Governor A.J.C. Brouwer. He was also married to one of the Van Romondt family members so that he actually belonged to the elite of the island at the time. However you would not notice that from his writings. The “Bovenwindsche Stemmen” on the other hand tried to steer clear of controversial issues and stuck with the promotion of agriculture and defending the government as much as it could.  In the early part of the 20th century the “Amigoe” newspaper on Curacao carried a column by the same name. The Roman Catholic priests stationed on the Dutch Windward Islands would send in news from these islands to be published in that paper. Also the Rev. Charles McIntosh Darrell, Methodist Minister and one of the principal writers for the paper, started his own column in the Amigoe as of June 21st, 1943 under the same name. This was no coincidence as the Rev. Darrell had been one of the principal writers of the newspaper “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen”. The column followed the demise of the paper in the second half of 1942 due to a shortage of stencil paper caused by the Second World War.

Old St.Martin newspapers

A sampling of some of the St. Martin newspapers of the first half of the 20th century. The second half started with ‘The Windward Islands Opinion’ started by Mr. Joseph H. Lake Sr. on July 1st, 1959.

I only have one copy of “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen” issue # 32 of January 19th, 1935. However I do have almost all of the copies of “De Slag om Slag”. Because of the constant state of war between the two papers just by reading  “De Slag om Slag” one can get a good idea of much of what appeared in the paper of Mr. Netherwood and the Rev. Darrell.

I would like to present just a small sample of the war of words between the two papers. In a lengthy rebuke in one of Brouwers editions he says the following:” Although neither time nor space allow me to handle this inexhaustible supply of sermonized rubbish in the proper way, I shall prove to the public by criticizing on one or two of your insinuations, the audacity of your attack; the sly, sneaking method you pour out on the public, in order to slug away at others, and at the same time safeguard an impregnable hiding place for yourself. To trust also that you will be, the one in future, to take up the cudgel against “unwarranted and disgraceful attacks upon private individuals in this community” as suggested by Mr. W. Netherwood. Such bombastic 5-column rubbish will be sure to prolong the “Bovenwindsche Stemmen’s” life.”

In “De Slag om Slag” of February 6th, 1937 under the heading “Bovenwindsche Stemmen Again”, Mr. Brouwer writes the following: ‘The Bovenwindsche Stemmen and the Rev. Darrell do not seem to be very well pleased with our comments on their insulting article and letter in which our Editor was compared unfavourably to the wharf rats of London docks; his mentality, morality, fidelity, integrity etc., were questioned.”

netherwood

The Saban Captains and their schooners would regularly buy and transport salt from the Great Salt Pond to many parts of the world. See my book “The Diary of a St. Martin Salt Checker”. Available at the Museum on St. Martin.

 

Another excerpt from “De Slag om Slag” in its edition of February 15th, 1936 # 53 under the headline: “Bovenwindsche Stemmen Motto”.

“It is without the least bit of surprise that we read in the Bovenwindsche Stemmen of the 8th instant No. 58 in their leading article entitled “Some Local needs” the following: “ In this connection, we would again refer to the question of moral training in the Public Schools, which we have reason to know is regarded by the Educational authorities in quite a different light to that in which it has been represented in the columns of “De Slag om Slag” where a campaign of vile slander has been launched against the Editor of this paper.”

The “Slag om Slag” reiterated by stating: “We were not surprised to read this we say, since it has been the motto of “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen” to mislead their readers from the time their No. 1 issue appeared on August 31st 1933.” Those boys were not easy and the tit for tat continued as long as both papers appeared. This led to exchanges of letters which would imply that the Editor intended perhaps to make a legal case in his defense. Such a letter appeared in the issue of January 18th, 1936.

To the Editor of “De Slag om Slag”

Dear Sir,

In order that responsibility for the defamatory letters by “Ex Scholars” which have lately appeared in your paper may be placed where it belongs, I politely ask that you will furnish me with the name of the individual (or individuals) from whom the letters have emanated. Yours Truly, W. Netherwood.

Reply from “De Slag om Slag”

  1. Netherwood Esq.

En ville,

Dear Sir,

In answer to yours of even date we refer to our issue of the 2nd of March 1935, No. 5 wherein we stated on page 4: “We promise not to mention names of correspondents” etc.

Yours truly.

A.R. Brouwer, Editor, “De Slag om Slag”.

It was not all war though. On January 26th, 1936 in issue # 50 under the heading Wedding ,we read in “De Slag om Slag” the following:

charles-mcintosh-darrel

The Rev. Charles McIntosh Darrell, Methodist Minister.

At 5 0’clock on Wednesday afternoon 15th instant quite a large crowd was gathered before the Weslyean Methodist Church to witness the marriage ceremony of Mr. W. Netherwood and Miss Grace Darrell which was to take place there. The church itself was full to overflowing. The bridegroom arrived at about 10 minutes to 5 and at the stroke of 5 the Bride escorted by her brother Mr. Jim Darrell arrived. They were followed by two Bridesmaids, Miss Irma Brouwer and Miss Carmen Darrell both dressed in pink with picture hats nestled slantwise on their heads. After the ceremony the company repaired to the home of the Bride’s father, Rev. Ch. Mc.I. Darrell.”

What Brouwer did not mention was that Mr. W. Netherwood was sixty six years old and the bride in her twenties. Who did make a poem on Mr. Netherwoods ability or lack of same to consummate the marriage was Wallace Peterson. I remember sitting with him one day in the “Oranje Café” and he reciting with relish his poem about the intended marriage. I wonder if the “Ex Scholars” meant by Mr. Netherwood could not have been Wallace and his five cents worth of poetry about the upcoming wedding. Mr. Netherwood had first been married at the age of 23 on July 19th, 1893 to Miss Ella Leonora van Romondt (29). She was born on December 24th, 1863 and died at the age of 61 on March 14th, 1925. Mr. Wilhelm Fredrik Carel Ludwig August Netherwood was born on St. Barths in 1869 and died on St.Maarten on October 18th, 1948, and his parents were George Wilhelm Netherwood and Malvina Augusta Abbott. He came to St. Maarten as a bookkeeper for the Van Romondt family. He later went into business for himself and owned the building on Front street where the Philipsburg Utilities was formerly located. One of the many lovely two-storey houses which formerly graced the town of Philipsburg, this house was first a public school and then later used as a town-house of the first D.C. van Romondt.

His wife Ella was a sister of Mr. Granville van Romondt. Their parents were John George Louis Illidge van Romondt and Anna Paulowna van Romondt.

Mr. Netherwood had no children from either marriage. He was a “grand man” according to some of the old timers like Mr. Carl Buncamper who were privileged to know him personally. He never drank and did not encourage his friends to drink. In the downstairs section of his home there was a large billiard table and in the evenings he would invite his friends for a game of billiards.

Mr. Netherwood owned several schooners, including the “Cyril”. He used them to export salt to Guyana and elsewhere. In his book “Memories of St. Martin N.P.”, Mr. J.C. Waymouth mentions the loss of a fine schooner, the Prins Hendrik. It was lost on a reef while coming out of the Oyster Pond on the 3rd of October 1911, after the hurricane season. Mr. Netherwood who was her sole owner, thereby sustained a loss of $ 4.000.–.

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Mr. Netherwood’s House is the first one on the right. It later became the Philipsburg Utilities, a hardware store.

Mr. Netherwood and his brother-in-law Mr. Granville van Romondt owned a building where Risdon’s Snack bar used to be located and that is where they conducted their business. This property was later sold to the Every’s of St. Eustatius. After they were lost on the schooner the “Verdun” it was sold to Mr. William Benjamin (Willie Bee) Peterson.

Mr. Netherwood served as local councilor for some thirty years and the people looked upon him as a sound and honest man At one time the Methodist Synod wanted to remove the Rev. Charles McIntosh Darrell from St. Maarten. Mr. Netherwood went to the Synod to represent Mr. Darrell as he was a steward in the Methodist Church. In spite of his efforts and even though Rev. Darrell had only one more year to serve in order to get a Dutch pension, it was decided to remove him to Marigot, Dominica, and he resigned. After an appeal to headquarters in England he was allowed to serve out his year on St. Maarten. One of the reasons why the Synod wanted his removal was because he had built the Methodist Manse too large. It was claimed that the reason for this being so was that he hoped to board there when he retired. It was out of this struggle for the cause of the Rev. Darrell that Netherwood started publishing the bi-monthly “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen”, on August 31st 1933, from his home on the Front Street. The Rev. Darrell was one of the principal writers for the paper. By the time the paper had to be closed down Mr. Netherwood was already old and not in the best of health.

Mr. Netherwood was one of the wealthiest people on St. Maarten, yet he died a poor man. He never tried to get money in a dishonest way. He was buried in the Methodist cemetery and acquaintances say there is no tombstone to mark his final resting place. He was concerned for the welfare of St. Maarten and the people had such confidence in him, despite the fact that he was a foreigner; they elected him as their local councilor. He was also the United States vice Counsel starting in 1898 already. He tried in vain to revive the salt industry with his personal funds and some of the salt pans were under his direction. In the end he became so poor that he would have to borrow money from the government

Image (1357)

This photo was taken in the early nineteen sixties just a few years after Mr. Netherwood died. This would have been the lovely town of Philipsburg where he lived and did business.

 

to reap the salt.

After his death the Rev. Darrell lived in Mr. Netherwood’s former home. There is from where he started a column in the “Amigoe di Curacao”, entitled “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen” which appeared at irregular intervals with news of the Dutch Windward Islands. Today few people know of these newspapers and some people even act as if they never did exist. However in their day everyone looked forward to their two local papers on St. Maarten, one of which the Editor (Mr. A.R. Brouwer) was born on Saba and the other Mr. Netherwood was born on St. Barths. Obviously their passport into St.Maarten was the fact that both of their wives belonged to the then all powerful Van Romondt family. As a former Editor of “The Labour Spokesman”, and co-Editor of the “Emporium Review” and for 25 years the “Saba Herald”, all three stenciled papers, I have a great appreciation for anyone who under the circumstances (and at the same time like Mr. Brouwer fighting the colonial authorities), dedicated themselves to publishing a mimeographed newspaper. George Horace Lorimer wrote that;”Writing is like religion. Every man who feels the call must work out his own salvation.” And Mr. Netherwood was one of those who felt the call and made it a reality through his “Bovenwindsche Stemmen.”, and it would be remiss of us not to remember his legacy.

Image (57)

After the salt was harvested it would be heaped up on the shore until it could be exported.

*****************************************

Miss Paula Clementina Dorner

Miss Paula Clementina Dorner

By; Will Johnson

miss-paula-dorner

On December 16th, 1986, Minister Leo Chance signed the National Decree appointing my person as the representative for Sint Maarten, Saba and St.Eustatius on the Committee concerned with the issuing of new stamps of the Postal services honouring meritorious persons in our island communities.

The other committee members were

The director of the Postal Services R.H. Galmeijer,( member/chairman). Mr E.A.V. Jesurun of Curacao, Dr. A. F. Paula of Curacao, and Mr. F.J.I. Booi of Bonaire.

 

While I served on the committee I nominated a number of persons to be thus honoured and was successful with all of the ones I nominated. They were from St.Maarten: Mr. Cyrus W. Wathey, Mr. Joseph H. Lake, and Mr. Evert Stephanus Jordanus Kruythoff.

For Sint Eustatius: Mrs Christine Flanders and Miss Paula Clementina Dorner;

For Saba: Mrs. Maude Othello Edwards born Jackson, and Mrs. Gertrude Johnson born Hassell.

After the Post office of the Netherlands Antilles was given away to Canada I never heard another word either about the committee or the need to honour people who had served these islands. This was a good way to honour people and the families appreciated what I had done to bring recognition for these people through the issuing of a stamp in their honour. Somalia for many years did not have a government. Some say they still don’t have one. They do have their own Post offices though.

During the period that I served on the Committee it was fun for me to do research on the lives of the people whom I nominated. I got help from a number of friends who knew them as well. I did not do a bad job in bringing the women forward. Of the seven which I succeeded in nominating, four of them were women. There would have been a lot more but alas the new owners of the Post office did not see any financial rewards in honouring people they had never heard of. As the Post office goes, so goes the country as well.

I would like to give some information on Miss Paula Clementina Dorner of St.Eustatius, who appeared on a 40 cent stamp issued by the Postal Services of the Netherlands Antilles on September 20th, 1989.

She was born on St. Eustatius on January 15th, 1901, daughter of Jacob Henry Dorner and Agnes Eusebia Godet.

She was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and became a teacher at the Roman Catholic Elementary school in 1919. She taught in the first grade until 1965 when she went on pension. And so for nearly fifty years she directly influenced several generations of Statians who attended her class.

Her religious beliefs also led her to take part in the political life of her island. She was the first woman of Sint Eustatius who took part in elections. She ran on a list in the elections of June 4th, 1951 and obtained 13 votes. Although 5 parties took part in the elections her party the K.V.P. (Catholic People’s Party) was successful in the sense that party leader G.A.Th. Heyliger was elected as a member of the Island Council. Together with Mr. Vincent Astor Lopes he was also elected as Commissioner in the first Executive Council of Sint Eustatius.

miss-paula-dorner-house-2

Miss Paula Dorner’s House in Oranjestad, St. Eustatius.

She was directly involved with all which took place in the Roman Catholic Church on Sint Eustatius. She was charged with preparing the young children for first Holy Communion. This task she carried out until her death. She was also leader of the choir and was also the organist. The church on Sint Eustatius was blessed with two great organists.

Before Miss Dorner around 1890 the fourteen year old Cathy Lispier was so talented in playing the organ that she attracted a large number of people to the church. Until her death at the age of 79 she remained the organist and Miss Dorner surely learned from her.

Miss Dorner and her sisters Clasina and Carrie lived next to the Roman Catholic Church on the Van Tonnigenweg. Her house was a place loved by young and old as Miss Paula and her sisters were always socially active in the Statian community. These many years later after her death most old timers on Sint Eustatius know who ‘Miss Paula’ was, where she lived, and,what her contributions were to the community.

After she went on pension she was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen with a medal in silver in the Order of Oranje Nassau.

Paula C. Dorner died on December 1st 1969. Through her work and example she opened many doors for women in the Statian community and her name is held in honour by all of those who had the privilege of meeting her.

Miss Paula’s house is used now as the headquarters of the Democrat Party. In the nineteen eighties I stayed in the house for a week with my family. The house was then called‘t Tuin Huisje’.It was October, calm and very hot but we look back fondly on our stay there.

Carl Anslyn at Schotzenhoek planatation.

A photo of William Carl Anslyn  at Schotzenhoek Plantation feeding his chickens. It was owned by he and his brother Arthur for some years.

The late Mr. William Carl Anslijn knew her well. Carl and his brother Arthur had bought the Schotzenhoek plantation from the Every family of Saba/Sint Eustatius. They lived on Statia for several years before the second world war. When I was doing research on her life I asked him and then Senator Kenneth van Putten to give me information. Carl wrote the following:

“I remember Paula as a person who always had a smile and a cheerful word for everybody. It did not take me long to find that the most of her time when not teaching in the Catholic school or engaged in choir practice and church work, was spent in helping others.

Since every time we came to town from our estate’ Schotzenhoek’, it was always a pleasure for us to stop by for a ‘short’ visit which often lasted an hour or more.

Paula’s sisters Clasina and Carrie were very much respected and liked by my mother, my brother and I, and the same could be said of Paula.

Paula and her sisters were highly respected and liked by the entire Statian community, and many were the gifts of fruit, greens, etc. which were sent to their home by well-wishers.

We grew to regard Paula and her family as our relatives, and many were the happy hours we spent at her home. Some times when I sit and think of the days gone by I imagine us all sitting on their porch on a bright moonlight night, with the fragrance of the jasmine flowers all around us, and peace and contentment in our hearts.

The three sisters were God fearing and religious, and their lives were above reproach.

We spent many happy hours in their company, and when the time came for us to leave Statia it was with sorrow in our hearts that we had to leave such good and loyal friends behind. We kept in touch for many years, but time like an ever flowing stream, bore them also away, and I am sure that among the old folks on Statia there are many who still think fondly of them, and if godliness, goodness, and kindness insure one a place in Heaven, then they are in Heaven.”

Of course Carl is strictly speaking for himself here. His brother Arthur was a bird of different plumage. The old fox would have viewed a house with three single ladies living in it as identical to that of a coup with three pullets in it.

I asked Kenneth about my take on Arthur and he laughed and said:” Yes Arthur was after one of the sisters but she would not take him on.”

I just returned from Statia doing the eulogy for my friend Lasil Rouse. As I passed the old Dorner house memories of my pleasant week there came back to me and thus I decided to share this bit of information with my reading public.

I also went to see Mr. Siegfried Lampe in the hospital. I would like to compliment Statia with its nice clean hospital. Mr. Lampe is 95 and despite the hardships he has been through the last years, I was amazed at how strong he was. He complimented me on my articles and asked me to never stop writing.Image (72)

I must say I am getting a bit of a swell head with all the compliments I get from all the islands where my articles circulate. So many people call me or stop me about what I write. From the immigration officers on St.Maarten, to the airport cleaners, the taxi drivers, and many of my friends from when I was a young teenager on St.Maarten. I think the articles have brought me as much reputation as my political career.

Anyway I enjoy doing this and I promise all of those who ask, that I will try and put a book together in future of the most interesting articles. It also goes to show that our people long for a time and a world which has been mostly lost to us. I would also like to encourage others to share their memories with the reading public.

This article was published in my column Under The Sea Grape Tree some years ago. Some people told me that I had the wrong house. However that is the one pointed out to me at the time. I would appreciate a correction on that one with a photo of the house they have in mind. I remember seeing a more modern one, but could that have been her most recent house and not the one I am referring to? Anslyn refers to sitting on the porch when visiting in the evenings and the one I refer to is still there and has a nice porch. Anyway if anyone can help me out with photo’s of both houses I would be grateful. I will be on St. Eustatius for Statia day and will also take photo’s if I get a chance. Also I was never able to get a good photo of her. If anyone can contribute a good photo of her for this article that too would be appreciated.

 

*   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

BEFORE THEY GO

st-eustatius-gazetteBEFORE THEY GO

BY: Will Johnson

There are dire predictions that newspapers are about to disappear. This is based on the advent of the Internet and to the phenomenal rise of Social Media. And so it is important to document the role of newspapers on our Dutch Windward Islands.

In the past in order to call oneself a journalist it was necessary to attend a school of journalism. Many journalists went on to become famous authors.

Nowadays any semi-literate can bring down institutions and governments by making all sorts of accusations, many times without any basis of truth to them, on social media. This has put enormous pressure on the mainstream media and the printed press. Some large newspapers are now under serious threat of extinction.

On our islands many newspapers have been founded by and bound to one individual.

I recently posted a copy of The St. Eustatius Gazette from August 17th, 1792 on Facebook. Many of my friends had never heard about this newspaper and some were amazed that it was an English language newspaper.

In his book “A Lee Chip” my son Ted has the following to say about the fact that most people outside of these islands have no idea that the Dutch Windward islands have ALWAYS been English speaking.

There is much more and I will only quote a small part from the book:

English Language Usage on Saba

“As we have seen in the previous section, Saban English has been the only language used by the inhabitants of Saba since the late 17th century. English language instruction through the educational system in Saba will be discussed in the following section.

“Besides the origins of Saba’s first European settlers, other factors contributed to the use of standard and non-standard English, often in its dialectal form, as the language of communication in all levels of society, including government and the judiciary. The Netherlands took a very “hands=off” administrative approach during the 18th and 19th centuries. Very little Dutch was used in Saba during the Dutch administrative period. This boiled down to Saba being virtually self-governing in certain respects, often by local born administrators or ‘Commanders’. Saba was also surrounded by other islands using their own varieties of creole English. There was little need to communicate with any other island in the vicinity of other than English.

document-of-st-eustatius

Antigua 14th, June 1736: ‘having no Dutch here, being that all St. Eustatius speaks English.”

Services at the three major churches that were established on Saba by the late 1800’s (the Anglican, Catholic and Wesleyan Holiness Church) were all conducted in English. Local government ordinances and decrees were more often than not published in English or translated into English throughout the colonial period in Saba. Court verdicts were also issued into the English language well into the 20th century.

“Only in the 1950’s did the official language on Saba become Dutch. This had little effect on most correspondence and ordinances issued by the local government. Other official documents, like deeds to transfer title and the few wills that were made during the colonial period, were also all in English.

“In 1968 Saba’s first newspaper, the ‘Saba Herald’, was published by Mr. Will Johnson, a native Saban, who started the newspaper while living on St.; Martin. The Saba Herald was published monthly for twenty-five years and often inadvertently included many phrases and words from the local dialect of Saba, as illustrated in the dictionary section of this book. From 1986 until 1990 another monthly newspaper entitled Saba Unspoiled Queen was published by another local Saban, Mr. Roddy Heyliger. Both newspapers were published in English.report-from-1847

“English was also confirmed as an official language of the now defunct Netherlands Antilles in 2007, which includes Saba. Since 2010 Saba has been a public entity of the Netherlands. Legislation introduced in Saba on January 1, 2011 confirmed that the English is an officially recognized language in the so-called BES islands of Saba and St. Eustatius.’

In a letter from 1736 which is attached to this article the last line reads: “but all Eustatia speaks English.”

Also in a report of the situation on Saba and St. Eustatius for the year 1847 it is stated in the part about education on St. Eustatius:” The youth here enjoy normal English education from local teachers. Because of the lack of a Dutch school the knowledge of the Dutch language is completely unknown by the inhabitants.”

And so it should not be surprising that The St. Eustatius Gazette was an English language newspaper though it carried sometimes advertisements in Dutch.

This newspaper is the oldest known weekly paper published in the Dutch West Indian colonies. We do not know if it existed for a long time. In any event we are certain that it existed from 1789 to 1793, so several years after February 3rd 1782 when the English Admiral Sir George Bridges Rodney captured the island because the North Americans via St. Eustatius had acquired the weapons they needed in their struggle for political freedom from England.

A year after Rodney’s attack on St. Eustatius the island was captured by the French and returned to the Netherlands.

A pity that so few of these papers survived. Much could be learned today about life on St. Eustatius back then.

In 1905 there were three copies of this paper which belonged to Father Jan Paulus Delgeur O.P. Those were the issues on June 23 1790, December 28th, 1792 and January 25th 1793. Father Delgeur wrote about this in the Amigoe di Curacao newspaper of July 22, 1905. He describes them as three musty smelling, thumb marked, weather beaten, yes something appetite spoiling sheets of paper.’

What happened to them after this is a mystery. The present Officer of Justice (1944) Willem F. M. Lampe who was Lt. Governor of the Windward Islands from 1927 to 1930, in his day found one copy. Whether it was one of these or another one is no longer known and to great damage of the history of the colony Curacao was sent to an exhibition in Holland in 1928 and returned to Curacao but disappeared after that. Years later this copy was found in the University library on Curacao. What happened to those of Father Delgeur is unknown and years later some copies were found in someone’s loft in London. I cannot put my hands on it now but I know that Dr. Johan Hartog wrote an updated article on this find.

The St. Eustatius Gazette was a weekly paper and was published by Edward Luther Low, at his office, next to Mr. Henry H. Haffey’s and nearly opposite Messrs. Hardmah and Clarkson’s where all manner of printing is done with ease and dispatch. In the last issue in possession of Father Delgeur a change was made in the name in the sense that ‘and Company’ was added to the name.

In one of the papers it was announced that an estate of a certain Longbotham was being sold:

‘Three separate tenements with kitchens, negro houses, necessaries and cisterns etc. There will likewise be sold at the same time:

The S laves.

Quaco – an excellent family slave and fisherman: Jack commonly [sic] known by the name of Jack Hamm, a silver-smith by Trade, and a capital workman, Stephen a tailor by trade; Judith – a young woman, with her two mulatto children. Likewise a few articles of jewelry, etc.etc.

Run Away

A Negro woman Dinah, belonging to Mr. Charles Chadwick of St. Martins, about 5 feet high, rather square over the shoulders, a remarkable hairy face and breast. A reward of eight Joes will be paid down on her delivery to Captain Chadwick at St. Martins.’

The following announcement takes the cake:

Run Away

Last night my wife, Bridget Coole. She has a tight neat body, and has lost one leg. She was seen riding behind the Priest of the parish through Termoy; and we never was [sic] married. I will pay no debt that she does contract, she lisps with one tooth, and is always talking about fairies, and is of no use but to the owner. Signed with an X by Rhelim Coole. * Well she must have been of some use to the Priest.

The weekly paper also gave international news. After 28 days of sailing a schooner had arrive on St. Eustatius from London with news from the continent.

From London: ‘that the Duke of Brunswick has been burnt in effigy on Kensington common by a number of friends of the French revolution etc.

From Paris: ‘All was quiet there when the last accounts left that city; the people expressed the greatest dependence on the National convention, a severe decree had been passed confiscating all the property of the aristocrats’ etc. (in that same year King Louis XVl was decapitated).

An announcement of the following book states:

‘Manners and Customs in the West-Indies by Samuel A. Mathews.

A certain I.B. Morton’s appears to have written a pessimistic and impolite article about the West Indies. Matthews goes after him with his book, calling Morton’s a lying hero who’ indiscriminately attacks the inhabitants of all ranks and denominations. He could have pardoned anything but his [Morton’s] scurrilous invective’s leveled at the fair sex.”

As with papers after that The St. Eustatius Gazette had problems with collection of payments for subscriptions as is evidenced from this announcement.

‘The Editor will be thankful to those gentlemen who have not yet favoured him with the payment of their half year subscription to do so as soon as possible. He assured them their neglect will lay him under many inconveniences.”

I have written much about the men who started the first newspapers on St. Martin but for this article will give some brief details.St.Masrtin Day by Day

  1. St. Martin, Day by Day appeared every Saturday in the English language. Editor/publisher was Josiah Charles Waymouth (Wesleyan-Methodist). Especially dedicated to inter-island politics and the economy. Appeared from January 22nd, 1911 until May 1st, 1920.

Waymouth was a warrior against the misuse of the power of civil servants back in the day. An example of his criticism over the bad connections between the islands in the very first edition of his paper: Our inter-colonial dreadnought has not yet arrived from Curacao. “The schooner from Saba was named the ‘Dreadnought.”.

1922.

The Dutch Windward Islands Times. In English. Because this newspaper was printed on St. Kitts, B.W.I. it did not appear on a regular basis; sometimes every fourteen days etc. General content. Editor the Wesleyan-Methodist Minister C. McDarrell. Existed for about one year. (see Amigoe di Curacao 17 June 1922).

1924.

New Life, ‘published at such dates and as often as circumstances under God permit.’ The paper was edited by Josiah Charles Waymouth (Wesleyan-Methodist) and announced itself as “put forth for successful common service with others, in the field of objective Christianity, our great aim will be to relay the Master’s Voice’. The paper gave some foreign news, local news, criticism and such everything in very devout wording. In the first issue the editor reflects on how in ‘Day by Day’ for ten years he fought for betterment in the administration of the Windward Islands and how now that this has arrived, ‘remains for us to work for the reformation of humanity.’ The paper was issued ‘at 81 Front Street.’ First issue 1 May 1924. Only a few issues appeared. At the time Mr. Waymouth was already in his seventies and it was always difficult to get paper and so on.

1933.Old St.Martin newspapers

Bovenwindsche Stemmen, (Windward Voices) every fortnight; except for the title everything was in English. Editor Wilhelm Netherwood (Methodist). In the beginning contributions in the area of religion, politics, the economy, late almost exclusively to agriculture and local news. ‘News bulletins’, from this paper, appeared in De Bovenwindsche Stemmen in the Amigoe di Curacao newspaper. First appearance 31 August 1933 and in the Amigoe di Curacao on September 16th, 1933.

Because the paper was stenciled and in the war it was difficult to get materials the paper came to a halt in the second half of 1942, after which C. McDarrell started writing for the Amigoe di Curacao under the Column ‘De Bovenwindsche Eilanden (see Amigoe di Curacao 21 June 1943 and following).

1934.Image (140)

De Slag Om Slag (Blow for Blow), appeared every Saturday in the English language. Critical on the politics of the day, economy and government. Editor Anthony R. Waters-Gravenhorst Brouwer. He was jailed for criticizing the Governor and the paper did not appear while he was in jail. The first paper appeared on December 22, 1934 and ended in November 1939 when the Editor was about to be jailed again because he allegedly insulted a friendly head of state (Adolph Hitler), and he took his own life.saba-herald

The new era of newspapers started on July 1st 1959 with the patriot Joseph H. Lake Sr. returning from Aruba and starting the weekly paper The Windward Islands Opinion. I have written extensively on his life and on the lives of those who went before him. Any new article on newspapers will have to start off with the life and times of Joseph H. Lake Sr.

Credits: Ryan Espersen materials

Dr. J. Hartog’s research on newspapers.

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Christine Elizabeth Flanders

Christine Flanders:

By; Will Johnson

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In the booklet issued as a eulogy for the occasion of her funeral, I was pleased to see that I was mentioned as one of her dearest friends. That was indeed the case.

I first met Christine and her husband William (“Tin Tin”), when I started my campaign for Senator on the U.R.A. ticket in 1969.

I was trying to sneak in to Statia. The Democrats on St. Maarten had spread the rumor that I would be stoned on arrival at the airport, thrown back on the plane and sent back to St.Maarten .Therefore I was taking no chances.

At the Juliana airport Winair informed me that my brother Freddie wanted to talk to me. I thought that he wanted to warn me not to go. To my great surprise he informed me that Statia wanted to know exactly when I would arrive as they had a steel band waiting for me and a parade would be organized to take me in to town.

On arrival my friend Commissioner Vincent Lopes of the Democrat Party was among the crowd to sort of welcome me as well. He presented me with a pamphlet which was headlined Welcome to the United Russian Alliance. I have a file with all of those pamphlets from 1969 still lying around.

After the welcome we headed to the home of William and Christine Flanders in a big parade. This the Democrats had not expected. When I met Christine I could see immediately who was in charge. I was not much of a public speaker at the time and was not expecting to have a political rally. Well Christine informed me that she had eighteen speakers lined up and  asked if I had anyone besides myself. Among the speakers was “Willy Doc”, the father of Papa Godet.  Willy Doc had once organized a rebellion on Statia against Act. Governor Ernest Voges. This rebellion had to be put down by sending armed troops to Statia to arrest “Willie Doc” and take him to Curacao. So in case you were wondering where Papa Godet got his rebellious spirit from, now you know.

Statia people don’t need anything on paper to speak from. We had a great evening with fire and brimstone speeches and from there the friendship started. I was living on Sint Maarten at the time and was completely on my own. I had some help from people like Stanley Brown, Jopie Abraham and especially Freddie Lejuez, but the all powerful Democrat Party was not about to let a young upstart spoil the day for them so I had a rough time, but in the end thanks to people like Christine I did very well.

My brother Eric wrote me during the campaign and said the rally on Saba had gone well and I did not know what he was talking about. Turns out Christine and a group from Statia had organized a charter and came to Saba and held a public rally on my behalf to get some of the Saba people to vote for me. They kept the meeting on the porch of “Brother’s Place” a building which eventually came to me. It was destined to be so I guess.

In the years following I used to go to Statia often. Christine and William had a small snack bar and I would spend lots of time with them. The only thing I could not figure out was all the small children in the house and yard. I wondered how Christine at her age had all those little people. I was enlightened at the funeral when to the laughter of the congregation one of those little people, now a woman, explained that she was a big woman before she realized that Christine was not her mother.The lady who was always quietly in the background and whom we all thought was the maid was the mother of all the children. When she was on her last and I went to see her at the hospital, she was lying out like an African queen. Still talking politics to me, surrounded by her children, while the real mother sat discreetly outside the door on the wall looking on. Of course William was the father but Christine had raised them as if they were her own. She herself had no children, but it didn’t matter to her as Williams children were hers.

One of the times that I was on Statia and had climbed the Quill with my boys, we decided to drop in at the Community Center and buy some soft drinks. William was running it at the time. We had a good chat. I was staying in the country at Ishmael Berkel’s new house and enjoying the two weeks there with no electricity and recalling my youth. At the same time Julia Crane was there working on Statia Silhouettes and I was able to give her some background advice.

I went on to St.Kitts and Nevis and then to St.Maarten on that vacation. To my surprise when I walked down the Front street, I heard someone call out to me from the St.Rose Hospital. To my surprise it was William. He was dressed in his pajamas and I asked him what was the problem. He informed me that he had some pain in his chest and that the doctors were checking him out. He looked the same as always to me. Just about two weeks later I got a call from Christine informing me that if I wanted to see my friend William that I must come to Statia immediately as he was on his last. I could not digest that information. When I arrived at the home and Christine told me to go see him in the bedroom, I could not believe my eyes. He was just a shadow of his old self. He was a chain smoker and had contracted lung cancer. In another week he had passed away and my brother Guy went up to attend the funeral as I was on a mission off island at the time.

I represented the Windward Islands on the Committee to honour citizens with a postal stamp. Christine was one of those who I was able to have the Postal services give that honour to.

On July 1st, 1998, I sent the following letter to Mrs. Marelva Maduro, Postmistress on St. Eustatius.

“Dear Mrs. Maduro,

I would appreciate very much if you would make the necessary apologies on my behalf for not being present today. Due to the fact that I am Act. Lt. Governor for the coming three weeks and I have to meet some commitments made here I cannot travel these days.

However I would like to congratulate the family of the late Mrs. Christine Flanders on today’s occasion. Her family includes all of  St.Eustatius.

The people of St.Eustatius can feel rightfully proud of this noble daughter of the soil who is being honoured by the Postal services of the Netherlands Antilles.

There is much that I would have liked to have said about my friend Christine had I been on St.Eustatius today. I would like to simply state that I am thankful that I was in a position to bring forward her name for this honour which she so truly deserved.

My congratulations go out to the people of St.Eustatius and may the memory of my dear friend Christine remain with us through the monuments of her work and through this postal stamp honouring her.

Sincerely Yours, The Act. Lt. Governor of the Island Territory of Saba.

W.S.”Will”Johnson. “

Some of her well known  family members are Ms. Alida Frances of the Tourist Bureau and Mr. Eldridge van Putten, of St.Maarten respectively a niece and a nephew.

She was born Christina Elizabeth Roosberg. Born on the island of St.Eustatius on May 25th, 1908 and died September 8th, 1996 on St.Eustatius. This year she would have been 100 years old.

She was the second of five children born to Louisa and Alexander Roosberg. She grew up on St.Eustatius, took her elementary education there, worked hard and developed an undying love and devotion for her native island. At a very tender age it was evident she would become a natural leader, a philosopher and a social worker.

Somewhere in her early twenties she migrated to Curacao. In 1938 she moved to Aruba in search of a better life. As many young Statians were doing at that time, she became quite active within the San Nicolas community of Aruba. For all causes, but yet her thoughts were always back home. In Aruba she met and married her late husband William Wallace Flanders on June 13, 1939. Their marriage produced no offspring, but her home was never empty as she cared for many nieces, nephews and other relatives who needed her care. While being an excellent homemaker she still found time to engage in various activities that enriched her skill and knowledge to become an outstanding leader among women. She was a liberated woman and a strong woman.

She was always interested in the youth. Parents cooperated with her in every way possible as she planted in many children the seed of community service. She contributed to many students and young people who left Statia to better themselves. When Statia’s steel band toured Aruba in 1955, it was Chris who made the arrangements for their visit, which was a great success. Her late husband William Flanders better known as “Tin Tin”, always supported her.

She was a member of the Windward Islands Club, so when it was time to raise funds to build the Windward Islands Club building, it was Chris who got her band of children together to raise the much needed monies in support of the cause.

She was also a member of the B.I.A. ( Benevolent Improvement Association). Many of her productions, including Genevieve, The Basket of Flowers, Pontius Pilate and the Prodical Son were staged at the B.I.A. hall or Cecilia Theatre on Aruba.

In 1964, Chris and her family returned to her beloved Statia, and as ever she pursued her ambition to see Statia and its people move forward, socially, culturally, politically and economically. Her activities ranged far and wide. Her many endeavours included the establishment of the St.Eustatius Welfare Improvement Association. Under the umbrella of this organization many worthy projects came into existence. The Artisan Foundation was created as a means to create employment for many young men who remained unemployed in the early 1970’s. The young men were taught trades in woodwork and in the tanning of leather.

Chris was at the head of the negotiating table with the Pandt family for the purchase of land for the Cottage ballpark in the early seventies. This was carried out under the auspices of the St.Eustatius Welfare Improvement Association.

The Community Center is another initiative executed under the management of the SSWWO (St.Eustatius Social Welfare Work Association), with Chris as its first President of the Board. The land on which the Center is constructed was purchased from Mr. Knijbe and donated to the Statia Community by Chris and her late husband. This was not too much for her. On June 2nd, 1996, she was honoured by the board of the SSWWO when the community center was renamed the Christina and William Flanders Community Center.

Carnival on Statia was co-founded by Chris in 1964. The experience she gained through her involvement in Aruba’s carnival and was implanted on Statia as a means to promote Statia’s culture. In 1978 she was contracted to head the Federal Government Office of Cultural Affairs. Together with the late Dr. Snow she founded the November 16th pageant: The reenactment of the first salute.

Her zeal for perfection led to her engagement in some very innovative forms of pastry and cake making. She was very famous for turning out wedding cakes. Her cakes were some of the most tasty and beautiful known on Statia. When her sight started to fail her in the early 80’s she was forced to abandon this exercise. Only on special occasions she would still try her hand at her famous Christmas cakes. She was also an accomplished seamstress.

She was a god fearing woman and played an equal important role within the Methodist Church where she was baptized as an infant. She was a class leader for many years. She also attended various sessions of the Synod. When her sight started to fail her she would still attend her church on a regular basis. However in 1992 when she was forced to walk with the help of a walker, her attendance at services was limited. Her heart was always with those who worshipped, for she insisted that she receive a program of the service each Sunday. The last time Chris was at church was to participate in and celebrate the 150th anniversary service of the church held on July 7th, 1996.

Chris was a charter member of the Masonic Lodge, a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. She and her husband also served as the ticket agents for the National Lottery until the early 1980’s.

She was honoured with a Gold Medal by Her Majesty Queen Juliana of the Netherlands in the 70’s for her sterling and invaluable contribution to the further development of Statia and its people.

She was most passionate about the establishment of the Auxiliary Home for the Handicapped . Her ultimate goal was to see a full fledged Home for the Handicapped and the Elderly established on Statia. She would often relate of the struggle to obtain the necessary funding for the expansion of the Auxiliary Home. She had hoped to see the home opened and running, and even being one of its first residents. However, just one day prior to her becoming ill, she turned over her application to someone who she felt was more in need of a space at the home.

Chris was known far and near as a strong voice for Statia. Even in the last days her spirit remained strong and confident. She was privileged to speak with all her children, family, relatives and friends until the very end. Her final wish was for the people of Statia to live in love and harmony. “Please do all that you can to make Statia a nice place to live once again,” she said.

Chris will forever remain synonymous with a strong voice and love for her beloved island and people of Sint Eustatius.

 

Will Johnson

Frederique Froston

frederick-froston

Left to right Frederique Froston, Granville Cannegieter and Jim Richardson.

In Memory of Frederick Froston .

(October 8, 1914 –September 7th, 1988)

By; Will Johnson

Of course you must have known Frederick (pronounced Federeek) Froston. Unless you are not from St. Martin, that is. An unlikely hero, yet he epitomized all that was good in the old St. Martin. To many he was just a taxi-driver. He was the driver of M-16. At a time when hardly anyone on St. Martin made a living from driving a taxi, Frederick took care of all those who came from the neighbouring islands. Those were the only “tourists” back then.

Over the years he became an institution. Nearly everyone from Saba and St. Eustatius knew Frederick. And each one in their own way has stories to tell about Frederick. When someone from Saba arrived at St. Martin’s airport, the other taxi drivers identified them as “Frederick’s people.”

He lived in town. Great Bay as he called it. He was originally from the French side and over there they still refer to Philipsburg as “Great Bay” which is the correct name for the harbor. The house he lived in had formerly belonged to Carol Labega, close to the “Oranje” School and on the Front Street facing the beach. Among the many things he did he also sold lottery tickets, and he won the grand prize once, or part of it.

I cannot remember correctly. Immediately word went out that he had lost the ticket. He told me years later: “You think I’se a fool eh! All a dem would ah want part oh it!” The property he bought with his winning included a two-storied house and it cost all of three thousand guilders. Beach property back then in Philipsburg was less than property on Backstreet. No sun tanning then, only a worry about tidal waves and hurricanes, and Backstreet was farthest removed from such calls of nature. Frederick was a practical joker and many are the jokes he pulled on people. Among friends his escapades are legendary. In his old age he was honoured by the Lions Club of Saba. The Saba Island Government also proposed his name to be honoured with a medal by Her Majesty the Queen, and he received this medal on St. Martin.

At the time of his death I could not make it to his funeral as I was stuck on Curacao and I published the eulogy I had wanted to make as an article in the “Saba Herald” and in “The Chronicle” on St. Martin. So many people have asked me to put my St. Martin father “Under the Sea Grape Tree”, that I feel obliged to once again bring him to the attention of a much wider audience now in the Eastern Caribbean.

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Frederick was the master of all trades around the hospital and for the Nuns. Ten guilders a month was his pay. He did everything and even convinced some gullible Saba people that he was the doctor from Guadeloupe and the type of operation he was going to do on them.

This is the eulogy which I wrote at the time of his death: “He was the “alpha” and the “omega” for the Saba people. The first and the last. The first person on St. Martin, to meet you, the last person to send you off.

In former times when Saba children had to travel to St. Martin by boat, we were told by our parents; “Never mind, Frederick will be the first person you will see there on the wharf.” All Saba knew Fredericks car number “M-16.” And, without fail, when you landed on the wharf, seasick and exhausted from the trip, Frederick would be there, in his own way, half worrying, half joking, with “Eh, eh, lil feller, – man, you white in dee face.” “Better get you to Miss Browlia’s quick.”

Miss Browlia Maillard, a former schoolteacher living on Backstreet, took in boarders from Saba and Statia into her home. Although only a stones throw away from the wharf Frederick huddled you into his taxi and carried you across town to Miss Browlia’s. For many who left Saba for the first time before 1950 this was an experience in itself, as Saba before 1947 had no motor vehicles of any kind

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Saba proposed Frederique for a medal. We had a special ceremony over here for him. Minister Leo Chance, Governor Wycliffe Smith, Former Administrator Eugenius Johnson, the Lions Club and I all sang his praises and gave him a full envelope to thank him for his services to the people of Saba.

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By the time you reached Miss Browlia’s, Frederick knew all your business and was already a familiar person in your life. By next day when he passed around and asked if you wanted to go out into the “country” with him, you felt as if you had known him all your life.

Going out into the “country”, or to Marigot, with Frederick is yet another story. I remember when St. Martin had 83 motor vehicles on the island. Although traffic was minimal in those days, and I remember many times going to Marigot with Frederick and never meeting one car coming to Philipsburg, yet it would take the better part of an hour to get there. Frederick’s taxi was like the Maribor train which runs through South Australia with supplies to outlying railroad towns and sheep stations. The train makes stops all along the long route. There is a dentist on board who pulls teeth at different stops. There is a grocery on board a post office and so on. In the back of Frederick’s “taxi” there would be hog food to be delivered first to a house next to Miss Ela Brown in the Little Bay area of Cul-de-Sac. While there to my great surprise he would be scolding the children running around the yard, even picking up one and giving the child a good beating. On my enquiry as to how he could lick the people’s children, he laughed and said “But they’s mine, you know. I have nine by this lady”. By the time Frederick finished rattling of how many children he had, and by whom, you reckoned that he had fathered half the country. In later years, in teasing him, I would exaggerate the number to others present and state that the true number was 63. He would get a good laugh out of that, “Lord no, Will, you know that all I have is 20.” On St. Martin in the good old days that was considered a small family for a man about town. I once asked another good friend of mine to bring a list of his children to my office so that he could get a reduction in his taxes; he looked perplexed and exclaimed “Man what a job you have given me.” When he returned a week later with a list of 48 people I thought he had not heard me correctly and instead had taken a census of the village of Middle Region where he lived. But after much enquiry and explanation it was established that indeed all 48 of those people listed were his children. So Frederick’s offspring were small by comparison.

038 - Saba-1956-58 - Blue Peter - Ready to sail

Everything was the Blue Peter back then or the sloop the Gloria and Frederique  would be there to get you to the boat or to pick you up anytime of night or day.

Next stop was at Miss Ela Brown’s to drop off empty bottles and to pick up milk for delivery. In addition to this in the trunk of his taxi he had a big bathtub of fish which he sold for the Simpson bay friends of his. A strap of fish sold for 12 good cents. You would probably pay twenty dollars for a similar strap of fish today. If you bought a strap for 15 cents you got a lobster for free. People would tell Frederick, “Man go fire yoh backside. What oi goin to do with a lobster? Give me the strap for 12 cents man.”Lobsters back then were so plentiful that people used them for feeding their hogs.

And so stop after stop would be made. Pick up a letter here to mail; drop off a parcel there, and the occasional passenger would be incidental to his mission. If you did see a car on the road Frederick would put his hand over his eyes and be on the lookout as if a pirate ship was coming to capture M-16. Once we stopped to talk at 10Am to Mr. Ferdinand Beauperthuy who was going to “Great Bay” to mail a letter to his son in New York. Each wanted to know from the other where they were going at that ungodly hour of the day. In Marigot there would be a series of messages to be done for folks in Great Bay and orders received for messages to be done in Great Bay on return. By the time you arrived back at Miss Browlia’s it seemed as if you had been on an extraordinary excursion.image-1765

If you stayed a week on St. Martin Frederick would be stopping every day to enquire about you and to tease, “Boy you find a gal friend yet?”, and, “Miss Browlia, keep an eye on tha lil feller, I see him watching dee girls dem in Marigot, you know.” I was twelve at the time.

Finally my day arrived to go to Curacao on the big KLM DC-3. Frederick would pass by at the crack of dawn to remind you (as if you did not know already) that at such and such an hour the plane would be coming and that he would be there long beforehand to pick you up. How long beforehand he never said so at the crack of dawn you would be dressed and ready to go and anxiously on the lookout for Fredericks return.

When finally the time came to go aboard the plane, in the excitement you had forgotten that in a special paper wrapped up in your pocket, you had the money your parents had given you with which to pay Frederick. He would never ask for payment, so when you did remember and asked him what you owed him, he would either give you a ridiculous high figure to scare the wits out of you or tell you the true figure; “Meh,boy, I does charge dee big people dem five guilders but a lil feller like you a dollar (two guilders and fifty cents in those days) will do.” That was for a week or more of transportation and adventure with M-16. As you shook his hand to tell him good-bye he would say “Here meh boy, take this twenty cents (fifty cents now), you may need it in Curacao.” And with admonishments to you to do your best in school and other such stern lectures he would stand around until the KLM taxied off with 32 passengers, two stewardesses for its nearly four hour flight to Curacao.image-1722

A year later, as soon as you stepped off the plane Frederick would be there fussing over you, “Eh, eh, look like dee girls dem in Curacao treat you good, you get tall. I hope you do your lessons though and not only run after dee girls dem.” And he would be rightfully proud when you told him that you had gone over to another class.

If you had to leave in the early morning hours for Saba, whether it was at 2 am or 5am Frederick would be there an hour beforehand waking you up with “come me lee feller, time to get you down to the Blue Peter. Captain Hodge say he leaving early this mornin.”

When schooldays were over and I started working at the Post office in the old Courthouse, Frederick fussed over me and the others from Saba as if we all belonged to him.

I remember when the Lions honoured him on Saba some years before he died. The honorable Lt. Governor Wycliffe Smith recalled how as a boy he used to be afraid of Frederick. We were all afraid of Frederick. As a grown man I drank too much and on occasion acted in a stupid way. Frederick would run me all over town until he caught up with me.”Man you mek me shamed. Wuh man how you could do that?” By the time Frederick was finished scolding me I was truly repentant.

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In his taxi M 16 Frederique would also transport straps of fish to sell in Marigot and elsewhere.

Many were the joys we shared in doing community work. Frederick was the “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” at the St. Rose hospital for the royal wages of TEN GUILDERS per month. Together he and I took care of the sick from Saba and together we buried the dead. Fredrick would pretend to those who did not know them that he was the doctor and pull all sorts of pranks on them. I remember once an old lady named “Mercelita Every” who died from burn wounds. Frederick and I buried her by ourselves as the only bearers, with the Reverend father and one altar boy taking care of the services. Once in the church when we were about to bury a sailor named “Preacher” suddenly there was a loud knocking from the coffin. On insistence of his sister the service was stopped and we had to open the coffin. “Preacher” was as dead as a door nail. As we carried him down the front street in the ambulance which also served as a hearse and which Frederick also drove for ten guilders a month, the knocking started again. Coffin opened once more. “Preacher” dead, everyone agreed. As we were about to put the coffin into the ground, whatever djinns were in the coffin only then started to knock like crazy. Frederick looked at Allan Busby and me and informed us: “Knock all you want me boy but the joke is over and in the grave you are now going.”So said so done and perhaps “Preacher” or the djinns still knocking.

As the Holy Koran states: “Bismillahir ramahir raheem al-hamdu lil-lahi rab-bil “alameen ar rahma nir raheem maliki yawed-deen.” (In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the most merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, mankind, djinns and all that exists.”) I only hope that the djinns in “Preacher’s” coffin had a satisfactory answer to Allah as to why they tried to confuse Frederick and all of us into believing that “Preacher” was still alive in the coffin.

I think it was Aristotle who said:” I don’t do dead bodies.” I remember once sitting with Alan Busby on the wall of the old “Lands radio” Building on the Backstreet. All of a sudden in the distance we saw M-16 mashing five coming down the road past Miss Browlia’s place. Alan jumped up and started in the direction of the back of the build with an “I’m out of here.” I called out to him; “Why?” He said” Man I cannot handle dead bodies today”. Frederick stopped the car and said to me;”Where he gone? “Who,” I asked? “Alan? I need you boys to help me with an old lady. Her legs are up in the air and we can’t get them down so she can fit in the coffin.” I go then to the back of the building. “How did you know Frederick want us to handle a dead body?” Alan seemed to have the ability to predict these sorts of things. Anyway we decided to go with Frederic to the morgue at the back of the hospital where now all sorts of people congregate for cocktails not knowing how many dead spirits lurking around there. I never knew until then how hard it was to get stiff legs straightened out. No wonder they refer to a dead person as a” stiff”. It was then that I adopted the Aristotle philosophy even though I never realized it at the time. But when I read it, I was convinced that back in good old Athens there was a chariot driver who must have been a Frederick character and who had tried to convince Aristotle to help him to straighten out a stiff. Or was it Plato?

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This is the old terminal building from which Frederique operated his M-16 Taxi to transport people from Saba and St. Eustatius.

 

In his last years Frederick suffered much, but he bore his afflictions gracefully. At the end of July 1988 I said to my wife, “I feel ashamed that I have not seen Frederick for so long.” So I took my two eldest sons, and said to them: “Come along, I want Daddy’s friend to know you.” As we sat there talking, he sitting in the wheelchair, with both legs having been amputated due to the diabetes, he kidded around with the children; “Will, me son, watch out for those lil fellers, they look like they already like dee girls dem.”

As I turned off, after sitting with him for over an hour, we shook hands, a second time. I said “Frederick, keep your chin up.” He said “Me boy, I don’t think I got too much longer here.” And although he looked well in body, I believed him. I called out to him from the car twice before taking off, then blowed the car horn and bid him a final farewell.

When I received the news of his death I told my children. Their reaction pleased me; they were genuinely saddened and reacted in disbelief at the news of his death. I did not have to say anything. They said to me;”Daddy you have lost a good friend.” Yes indeed, I had.

He told me that as a young boy he had grown up on Belvedere Estate when it belonged to Johannes van Romondt and was a working sugar cane plantation. He had gone from that era to a time that St. Martin was under siege by people from all over the world. The world he knew and loved had changed so much that the strength he needed to fight his illness had disappeared and he was ready to leave this new world which he was unaccustomed to.

As I said before, duty called me to Curacao and I could not be on hand to do the eulogy at the funeral. Another friend Mr. Frank Hassell was there to see him off and Senator Kenneth van Putten and others from the neighbouring islands. I now believe that it was meant to be that way. Frederick wanted me to convey to you the reader, on behalf of the people of Saba, what a genuine man, what a true friend he was to the people of Saba and the other islands in this part of the Eastern Caribbean. “Surely Goodness and mercy will follow him and in God’s house for evermore, his dwelling place shall be.” So long Frederick.

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This is the one boat town which Frederique operated from and which we both loved and enjoyed to the fullest.

Post script. It was actually Plato who said; “I don’t believe in seeing dead bodies.” On a recent trip to St. Martin I took Alan Busby out for dinner and we reminisced on Frederick. Alan told me how Frederick would hide behind the “dead-house” at the hospital and frighten the mourners by making all kinds of weird noises. Another story which I forgot to tell about Frederick; I used to write stories about people I knew such as Evans Deher, Frederick and so on in the then “Chronicle” newspaper. One night after ten I got a call. The person on the other end was laughing so loud that I thought at first it was a crank caller. And believe me having been in politics my entire life I have received an unfair share of crank phone calls. However I did hear a familiar voice saying; “Johnson hold on let me catch my breath.” Turns out it was an old friend from Anguilla Clarence Connor. He told me; “Johnson boy my wife tells me that you are going to be the end of me. She tells me I should stop reading all that stuff that you write about people like my dear friend Frederick and Evans Deher. I laughed so much when I read your stories that I thought that my belly would burst.” Well that is a compliment for a writer. Clarence went on to tell how much he enjoyed reading about his old friend Frederick and like so many other people in the Eastern Caribbean he encouraged me to keep on writing these sorts of stories. So it goes to prove that people long to read something about the past history of these islands.

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St. Eustatius in 1819

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Fort Oranje, formerly Fort Hollandia

Sint Eustatius in 1819

By; Will Johnson

On August 27th, 1819 the Governor-General of St. Eustatius, St. Martin and Saba made a report over the general situation on St. Eustatius which was sent to the Ministry of Colonies. It affords the efforts to look back which differences the St. Eustatius of 130 years ago shows with that of today.

The small Statia is situated nearly one thousand kilometers to the North-East of Curacao. The report describes it as elongated round, with a circumference of five hours, extending from: North to South 9000 feet and from the East to the West 15.000 feet. According to recent information the surface area is about 21 square kilometers.

The description goes on to read: “The South-East and North-West points of this island are formed by two high mountains, which because of their very steep descent to the sea at some places cannot be circumvented. The South-East point consists of only one round mountain, which in former centuries must have had fiery eruptions. Its crown and crater as well as the deep valley within it gives this impression. Also the name of the Quill which the inhabitants have given to it, is derived from this. The North-Westerly point has many tops, of which some are inaccessible ravines.

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A nice painting of St. Eustatius in the 18th century.

The high plain which lies between these two mountains on the South Westerly side of it, the Upper Town Village or the Upper Town and the principal fort are situated. It is the only one on the island and slopes gently on the North-East and East sides to the sea where on some locations some boats and canoes can land. On the South-West side of the aforementioned plain, as far as the coast extends, artificially cut out perpendicular to the sea, the height there is in excess of one hundred feet above sea level.

The small strip which because of this has been formed between the aforementioned high plain and the sea and is called The Bay. Being that the widest part is around one hundred steps and a length of around one quarter going is occupied with a double row of houses and warehouses, comprising the Lower village of Lower town. From there one can climb up on three separate wide paths which have been carved out in perpendicular style and partially paved over. The middle or oldest path which leads to the Fort Hollandia or ‘Oranje” , and the new path of about eight hundred steps situated on the South-East side are very steep and tiresome to climb up; less steep and easier to climb up is the North-Westerly path which leads to the battery ‘Amsterdam’.

Statia - Gallery overtrading the road is the home of Mr. Arthur Valk.

Kerkstraat with house of Mr. Arthur Valk a renown local historian of St. Eustatius of the 20th century.

This descriptive peace contained in the last alinea, would today [1949)] sound a little bit otherwise. The long road formerly leading through the Lower village is now only partially existing and difficult to recognize. The long row of houses and warehouses has disappeared. However not without a trace, because he who stands on the edge of the plus-minus 40 meters high plain above the Bay path, can see clearly (when it is calm and there is clear weather at any rate) the foundations of the once enormous mansions and warehouses which were once the pride and wealth of St. Eustatius.

Houses which fetched a crazy high rent. Houses of which the lower floor were so full with merchandise , that through a trap door in the top floor bales and crates were pushed up to the ceilings. Sometimes the merchandise had to be heaped up in the streets, with no other cover than a gigantic piece of canvas. The former Lower Town of St. Eustatius in the second half of the eighteenth century experienced sometimes two thousand (2000) to three thousand (3000) merchant ships per year anchored in the roadstead.

The former ‘Fort Hollandia’ or ‘Oranje’ is presently called ‘Fort Oranje’, although it is no longer a fort. The walls since a long time have been demolished, and the canons only have meaning as historical curiosities. . (*Translator, I do not know what the author means by this. Was the Fort much larger and extended further into the town in past times? The walls of the fort are still in place).

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The Jewish cemetery on St. Eustatius where formerly when the island was known  as The Golden Rock the economy was driven by Jewish Merchants.

The middle section has a small public garden with a Memorial to Admiral de Ruyter; besides that one side has several small public buildings.

The three paths leading to the Upper Town still exist. In 1930 on the middle one or the Old Bay Path was still in use, because then there were no motor vehicles on the island. These do appear at the present time to be there and then the North-Westerly light sloping path will again be used.

That the foundations of the former Lower Town, about one and a half kilometers, at present lie in the water, has absolutely nothing to do with the digging of the Panama canal, as a Statian with all necessary force wanted me to believe, but is more a result of the sinking of the middle section of St. Eustatius . This consists of a more loose material, volcanic sand and small stones. One heavy rainfall of grinding a gully in the ground of a meter and a half. According to my personal conviction this island in long gone days must have consisted of two small islands with a narrow and shallow sea strait in between them. This small strait throughout the ages was filled in because of the volcanic ash and other materials from the explosions of the crater. On the West side of the island, where the town lies, exactly half way between the Quill and the Little Mountains, along the coast the sinking of the land is more pronounced. It appears to me that in the last 150 years the land has been sinking at a rate of around one decimeter per year and that is very much

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Slave ships of the Dutch West India Company which sold enslaved Africans to nearly all of the colonizers of the West Indies. St. Eustatius and Curacao were large slave markets for the West India Company.

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Concerning the water supply of the island [in 1819] the report notes;

“There are no springs and the water is obtained by catching the rain in cement cisterns of which each home is provided with one. On some plantations there are also wells of 120 to 140 feet depth, but the water of these wells is mostly brackish and only suitable for the cattle to drink. “

The cisterns of St. Eustatius have for a good part gone the way of the rest of the island which means that most of them are in an extremely bad condition. There are however still many good and useful cisterns. These are mostly very elongated, carved out of the ground [and not cemented on top of the ground as most of them are on Curacao] and provided with a roof in the form of a barrel. They catch the water off the gutters of the roof, but because they are dug in the ground, a stand-alone cistern can also catch water from a piece of land cemented over on an incline towards the cistern where the water flows into the cistern via a hole at the end of the cistern plain.

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A view of St. Eustatius around 1819.

The population of St. Eustatius according to a census taken in 1817 consisted of:

507 Whites

336 Free colored’s

1748 Slaves

This makes for a total residents of 2591 people.

For the year 1818 these figures amounted to;

501 Whites

302 Free Colored’s

1865 Slaves

Which gives a total of 2668 souls.

What concerns religion, there are 218 Protestants of which the greater part consists of Calvinists and Episcopalians 5 Lutherans, 6 Methodists, 30 Roman Catholics, one Quaker and 5 Jews.

In earlier years there must have been a lot more Jews on St. Eustatius. They had a Synagogue of which the walls are still standing to this day.

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The late Mr. Siegfried Lampe descended from an old Statia family was in a sense the successor of the native historian Arthur Valk. In the last fifty years Mr. Siegfried Lampe was the man who everyone turned to for information on the islands rich history.Photo credit: Walter Hellebrand.

Thirty Catholics on St. Eustatius was by far not the lowest figure. In later years it would fall to under ten, only to increase after the arrival of Missionaries. In 1930 the amount of Catholics was around 250. In 1935 it was still the same.

In 1819 St. Eustatius had two medical doctors of which one was appointed as officer of health at the garrison and served there. We know an island with a population twice the size of that which St. Eustatius had in 1819, and which has a much larger garrison and which has to make do with only one doctor. [* Translator: I don’t know which island the good priest is referring to here. It could not be Sint Eustatius as in 1935 the population had dropped to 1198 inhabitants, in 1948 this was 921 inhabitants and in 1960 the population rose to 1014 inhabitants and there was no garrison on the island in those years].This chapter of the book was written in 1949 and the book was published in 1951.

From the book: “Onze Bovenwindse Eilanden” by Father M.D. Latour O.P. (Curacao 1951). Translated from the Dutch by Will Johnson.

 

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