The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

The Life and Hard Times of Isaac Simmons

By: Will Johnson

In the 17th and 18th centuries the Council of Policy on Saba had several functions of which the administration of Justice was one of them. Whenever the Council met in session to deal with criminal cases it was described as the Criminal Court of Justice. This was also referred to as the delegated court of justice. The Council consisted of four members, which can be compared to our standards today as Judges of which the Commander, later on to be called Lt. Governor was the Chairman. Mostly it was the same people who busied themselves with political affairs, who also were members of the Criminal Court of Justice. In January 1817 the Court consisted of the following persons: Edward Beaks Provisional vice Commandant, further Henry Hassell, John Hassell, George J. Hassell, John Beaks Simmons, Joseph Dinzey Horton and Charles Simmons, Secretary of the Court. Where are we at today under “enlightened” Dutch rule one might ask.

Governor Moses Leverock who served from 1863 to on his death in 1875 was in function. This lithograph is from a French creole Haitian book on West Indies geography and Haitian history. During his life time he served as a Member of the Court and also as President.

Governor Moses Leverock who served from 1863 to on his death in 1875 was in function. This lithograph is from a French creole Haitian book on West Indies geography and Haitian history. During his life time he served as a Member of the Court and also as President.

Back in the day as is the expression used now, Saba functioned as an independent state . On paper we were Dutch after 1816 but all the Commanders, Lt. Governors and other public officials were Sabans who ancestors had been here for centuries. The Local Courts were manned by all Saban people including two of my great-great- grandfathers James Horton and Thomas Johnson. I have an entire file on the latter. I even found a Court Case in which he was representing a minor, Mary Every, which case went to the High Court on St. Eustatius. Even the two lawyers on Statia involved in this case were natives. Representing the minor Mary Every on behalf of Thomas Johnson was Henry Doncker de Geneste and representing the other party, Henry Johnson, was Abraham Solomons. It is very interesting to read their written pleas and you come to the conclusion that lawyers today would be hard pressed to equal that performance.

On one of my many trips to the Kingdom archives in The Hague I found a microfilm with the cases brought before the Saba Court of Justice in the eighteen hundreds. There was not enough time to read through it all. The next time I went back there were so many silly rules in place that there was no time for research. I even had to go back to the hotel to get my passport, fill out numerous forms and by the time I entered the research center I only had half an hour left and then they could not find the microfilm. However Ryan Espersen, who keeps me up to date and shares his research with me, found the microfilm and suggested that I write about the character Isaac Simmons. He was constantly in and out of Court and there was a Court Case even beyond his death.

Starting with February 16th, 1822 there was a case of William Simmons against Isaac who demanded payment for a young beast which was shot in his mothers land in the night by Mr. Dinzey’s negroe man Peter, which he the said Isaac Simmons was the cause of by giving a musket to Peter. The case was reconvened on February 27th and Isaac did not appear.

May 7th, 1824.

The Honourable Edward Beaks Vice Commandant of this Island summoned Isaac Simmons to appear before the Court held at Government House on Friday the 7th of May, then and there to answer to make appear that Mr. Louis B. Granger is a son of a bitch, as he peremptory acknowledges in his presence that he had called him a son of a bitch, and furthermore in the most daring manner defying his authority by threatening in his presence in Government house that he would beat and mash him up which he attempted to do a few hours later.

February 3rd, 1825.

Isaac Simmons vs. Joseph Baker, a free mulatto man

Baker treated him with gross language…That he had heard that he waited with a cow skin for him, and that if he dared to touch him with it, that he would take the cow skin from him and whip him with it which he the said Joseph Baker acknowledges before the court that he did make use of the same words to Mr. Isaac Simmons.

[Baker to ask pardon from Simmons, never to do the like again, if he does, fined 100 pieces of eight. If he can’t pay, he will be sent to St. Eustatius.]

June 1st, 1825.

Hon. Edward Beaks Jr. vs. Matthew Winfield Esq.

Striking Mr. Isaac Simmons with a stick in his face…Defendant fined 30 pieces of eight and court costs.

Hon. Edward Beaks vs. Isaac Simmons.

Answer for beating Mr. Thomas Simmons alias Tommy Nelly…And for laughing at some observations made to him on the subject by the Vice Commandant defying his authority.

January 23rd, 1827.

Messieurs William Haddocks, Joseph Dinzey, Richard Dinzey versus Mr. Isaac Simmons, and that he the President was present in the latter part of said dispute, and after having command the parties to keep the peace, saw Messieurs Haddocks and Joseph Dinzey strike said Mr. Isaac Simmons. Ordered Messieurs William Haddocks and Joseph Dinzey to appear the charge was brought against them which they could not deny. The court therefore in doing Justice in the name of His Majesty the King of the Netherlands, condemns the said gentlemen in a fine of $10 each. Ordered then Mr. Richard Dinzey versus Isaac Simmons to appear. When the memorial of the plaintiff was read in the presence of the defendant of waylaying him on the evening of the 20th instant, the defendant presented a petition denying  the charge with some accusations against Messieurs  William Haddocks and Joseph Dinzey ( which the court had already taken cognizance) as also against some Negroes belonging to Messieurs Joseph Dinzey and Richard Dinzey ( the plaintiff then asked leave of the Court to call Mr. Abram Simmons and hear his evidence in the case). Ordered Mr. Abram Simmons to appear who declared an oath as follows; that Mr. Isaac Simmons came up from the Bay in the morning of the 20th instant and appeared to be very angry, and said that he was determined that day to have satisfaction from Mr. Richard Dinzey. Mr. Joseph D. Horton was present when this took place at my house. Mr. Horton and I told him that he had better leave it alone as the former difference was already settled- the plaintiff also asked that Mr. Haddocks should be heard. Mr. Haddocks was called, who declared an oath as follows:”I was coming down from the Castle in company with Mr. Richard Dinzey his Lady and Child, who were in front. Just as we pass the road near Mr. David I did not perceive any other in front until I heard Mr. Dinzey screech out when I perceived some person in contact with Mr. Richard Dinzey which proved to be Mr. Isaac Simmons. I perceived he had received a blow under the eye. Who gave the blow I could not say. The road is a direct one and I did not see any man advancing until the attack was made. The President then asked the defendant if he had anything further to advance, he answered that he was determined to have satisfaction from the plaintiff good or bad, but he expected it would have been too late that night. Mr. John Davis was desired to appear who declared on the part of the defendant that Mr. Abraham Simmons (alias Pook) declared to him that he parted with Mr. Isaac Simmons at the cross road and he the said Abram Simmons (Pook) went into the Company yard and immediately after which heard the cry of a child. The parties were then desired to withdraw, when the Court after mature deliberation resolved that from the evidence on the part of the plaintiff in the name of his Majesty the King of the Netherlands do condemn the defendant to pay a fine of forty five pieces of eight and likewise costs of the court proceedings within forty eight hours. The parties were then called in and the sentence of the Court made known to them. The plaintiff stated to the court that he would avail himself of the time stipulated in the sentence in case he wished to appeal, and likewise that he did not convince himself hereafter safe from other attacks from the defendant. The Court in consequence of which, indicted the parties in the sum of $200 each that they shall neither directly nor indirectly molest each other. The Court was then closed.

November 1st 1839.

Mr. Isaac Simmons vs. Scipio a slave belonging to Mr. Daniel Every Sr. Defendant for abusing him the plaintiff, and threatening to kill him.

……after hearing the opinion of Mrs. William Simmons and Moses Leverock two of the assessors; on the 30th ultimo had ordered the said Scipio to be apprehended and placed in prison until the case could be further investigated. The parties requested to appear when Mr. Isaac Simmons declared that he repaired to the neighborhood of the dwelling of Scipio the slave of Mr. D. Every Sr., on the 30th ultimo with the intention of searching for some potatoes, which he had lost. When the said slave Scipio opposed him and said:”You son of a whore, if you attempt to search, I will kill you on the spot. Mr. Peter Every who represented his father Daniel Every Sr., made no objection to the accusation of the plaintiff against said slave Scipio, but requested the leniency of the Bench. Condemn the said slave Scipio to receive 50 stripes at the whipping post and the owner to pay the expenses incurred f6…

February 6th, 1840

Capt. Engle Heyliger vs. account of Isaac Simmons having taken possession of a certain tract of land situated at the Ladder, which he the said Captain considered to be his property, as well as that of other heirs of Thomas Dinzey…. Do declare that the said land is actually the property of Captain Engle Heyliger and the other heirs of Thomas Dinzey deceased.

December 28th, 1841.

Isaac Simmons vs. Mr. William Simmons.

Beating the plaintiff in his own house while in a defenseless state of intoxication…inflicted several blows on him while he was laying down and in a defenseless state, that he then went out in his yard, and the said William Simmons repeated the blows [which are plain to see] in his face, and besides a kick in his right side. Mr. William Simmons declared that his brother-in-law Mr. Solomon Simmons informed him that the said Mr. Isaac Simmons were abusing him, and his brothers, and that he went to him the said Isaac Simmons, he being in his house at the time , and asked him if he knew what he were about “that the said Isaac Simmons answered yes”, he then asked him if he had abused him, that he answered “no, but acknowledged that he abused his brother James” that the said Isaac Simmons then attempted to slap him in the house, and that he then defended himself and gave him a slap and came out and that the said Isaac Simmons followed him as far as the wall, and attempted to strike him again, and that he then inflicted the blows of which the plaintiff bears the marks in his face, he being on the wall and the plaintiff in his own premises at the time.

Beyond the grave Isaac Simmons was still “appearing” in Court.

October 18th, 1858.

John Simmons vs. Captain Robert Stovels Dinzey Simmons

For having told his lady last evening in the public road in the presence of Messieurs James Simmons Winfield, James Every, Edward Simmons and Richard Simmons [on her asking him] what he meant by reproaching him, about Isaac Simmons deceased her former husband –The Capt. Robert S.D.Simmons stated that he was murdered by Scipio and Cliff she asked what he meant by they murdering him, he said, they murdered him on my [John’s] account and he further stated that her deceased husband chased her through the mountain. The above charge was admitted by Capt. RSD Simmons with the following exceptions – that he did not say that Isaac Simmons was murdered on account of John Simmons, but he supposed on account of his wife Eliza Simmons and that he was informed of the murder by a man named Mingo, formerly the property of Capt. Benjamin Richard Wright Horton at Trinidad, as will be seen by his declaration before the Court this day. Note below: The Court has found no grounds whatever for a further investigation of this case.

Declaration of Capt. R. S. D. Simmons before the Court 18th October 1858 on oath:

“That about 10 years ago I was on board of the English schooner “Swift” commanded by John James Simmons laying at Trinidad, and I was informed by the man named Mingo formerly the property of Capt. B.R.W. Horton, that he heard Cliff say that him and Scipio murdered Isaac Simmons, and that Scipio tied a handkerchief around his neck and choked him to death. I further declare that my reason for stating to Mrs. Eliza Simmons-“I suppose Mr. Isaac Simmons was murdered on her account was owing to her being married so soon after his death, also urged by passion – that I do now solemnly declare – that I had no other reason and further that I know nothing either directly or indirectly of her having anything to do with the alleged murder-and beg to withdraw every word or words mitigating against her character in my assertions. So help me God. [ on November 11th he was fined f.200 to give to Eliza, fined f20.—by the Court and fined f 7.50 for the Court expense.

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