The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “April, 2014”

Mail and Passenger Service 2.

Mail and passenger service in former times.

By Will Johnson


Capt. Arsene H. Hodge on the “Blue Peter” heading towards Saba.




As was mentioned in part one of this story, before the Governor of the colony of Curacao made a contract in 1883 for regular service between the islands, there had existed private connections by Saban owned schooners.

In correspondence between the Windward Islands and the Governor there are many references of money being sent back and forth between the islands and Curacao and carried by Saba Captains. Just to mention a few: Capt. E. B. Hassell of the schooner ‘Mathila”, Capt. Engle Heyliger Simmons of the Swedish registered schooner ‘Sir Carl’; Capt. H.Johnson of the schooner ‘Isabel’ and Capt. P.J. Every of the British registered barkentine the ‘Nimble’. They were paid on a case by case basis. This took place before 1880.

After the ‘Christiansted’ a government owned schooner named “Gouverneur van Hurdt” took care of the mail service from October 1st, 1908 until it was lost in the night of 12th to 13th June 1910. This schooner which had been built prior to 1902 mostly served between the ABC islands.

Shortly thereafter a government owned steamship was taken into service. In a letter from the Minister of Colonies Mr. de Waal Malefyt, dated The Hague April 3rd 1913, he speculates about starting a steamship service to these islands to replace the “Princess Juliana”.

Curacao had steamship service to St.Thomas by a German Company the Hamburg America Line and was connected to Trinidad by the Royal West India Mail Service Line, forerunner of the K.N.S.M. (Royal Dutch Steamship Company.). The Minister wondered whether it would not be possible for the Royal West India Mail service Line to connect the Windward Islands via St. Thomas to Curacao and via Trinidad to Paramaribo, Surinam.

The Dutch Naval Commander in the Caribbean gave as his advice to His Excellency the Governor that the only reason why a boat service between Curacao and the Dutch Windwards was really necessary was for administrative purposes. As he correctly stated in his letter of 12th July 1913, if these islands did not belong to the colony Curacao, then no one would give themselves any kind of headaches over inter-island communications.

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Capt. Samuel Augustus Simmons with Pansy one of his daughters. He made a record run of 48 hours under sail from Curacao to St. Maarten with the schooner the “Georgetown.” in the nineteen twenties.


In order to give a clearer picture of the trade between the islands let us look at the following;

The value of imports into Curacao during the year 1912 were; from St.Eustatius f.239.—from Sint Maarten f.106.—and from Saba f.2657,–. Exports from Curacao to the islands were as follows: to St.Maarten f.10.858.—to St.Eustatius f. 1.953.—and to Saba f. 15.601.–.

At the same time imports to the Windward Islands from abroad were: to St.Maarten f.152.074.—to St.Eustatius f. 52.532.—and to Saba f. 78.498.–, while exports abroad were: from St.Eustatius f.60.374.—St.Maarten f. 43.313.—and Saba f. 5.276.—These figures stand to prove that the trade between the Windward and the Leeward Islands was insignificant when compared with trade from abroad. This hold true even more so today.

Schooner "Three Sisters", Painting by Richard Hassell

Schooner “Three Sisters”, Painting by Richard Hassell

Passenger traffic was not much either. In 1912 departures from Curacao to St. Maarten were 69 (mostly colonial officials and members of the clergy )to St.Eustatius 4 and to Saba 11.

The government owned steamship the “Princess Juliana” had been built in Holland at a cost of f.160.000.—and it arrived in Curacao on 20th November 1910. However due to a faulty design and top-heavy superstructure, which for more accommodations had been recommended by Governor de Jong van Beek en Donk, the ship was not seaworthy. It was 443 gross tons and 229 net tons and had a length of 50, 30 meters, a width of 7,63 meters and a depth of 2,87 meters, fully loaded. There were four, 2-passenger cabins, 1 luxury cabin, a smoking salon, which could be used as reserve accommodations, and a large dining room in the first-class amidships. Also, one 4-passengers cabin, four 2-passengers cabins, and a dining room in the second-class section to the back of the ship. Besides, there were the necessary service-rooms and also facilities for deck-passengers. The ship had a motor capacity of 327 horsepower, and used 25kg of coal per mile.

Due to engine trouble which could not be taken care of at either St.Kitts or St. Thomas the ship had to make it’s first to the Windward Islands via Trinidad. Already on this trip the ship proved unsatisfactory for the crossing of the Caribbean in the path of the trade winds. Since the ship had been built for the coastal trade, it was sold to Surinam for f. 100.000.—where in 1921 it was still reported as doing duty there. After this steamer episode, the trade between the islands went back to schooner trade with Saban owned and operated schooners.

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“The Marion Belle Wolfe” one of the many large schooners owned by Sabans. Here pictured in Kralendijk Bonaire picking up goat manure for Barbados.


The Administrator of Finance in a lengthy report to his Excellency the Governor dated 16th September 1913 suggested that instead of a steamship service between Curacao and the Windwards it would be better and cheaper to make a contract with the owner of the schooner ‘Estelle” (Capt. T.C. Vanterpool of Saba). He also owned the ‘Pretoria”. The suggestion was to let both schooners run a regular service to St.Thomas, and then the passengers could go from there with the Hamburg America Line on to Curacao.

Whereas it had cost the government formerly around f.62.700.—to maintain the mail service with the steamship the ‘Princess Juliana’, the Administrator of Finance stated that the two-schooner service would cost the government no more than f.16.000,– per year. (In 1913, it cost the government f.13.500, — to operate the schooner ‘Estelle’.)


Schooner Estelle belonging to Capt. Thomas Charles Vanterpool.

Schooner “Estelle” of Capt. T.C. Vanterpool at Fort Bay 1934.



In a petition to His Excellency the Governor, the merchants of Bonaire complained that the ‘Estelle’ only called there once a month and although larger than the ‘Gouverneur van den Brandhof” was more uncomfortable, and that they had enjoyed the steamship service provided by the ‘Christiansted’ and the ‘Princess Juliana’ even though they had found it regrettable that the latter proved not to have been built correctly and was unsatisfactory for use in Caribbean waters.

Also the Court of Policy on Bonaire in a separate petition informed the Governor of their preference for a steamship company.

According to a report from His Excellency the Governor dated November 5th, 1913, the ‘Estelle’ although a good sailor took from 7 to 8 days to travel to the Windward Islands, and that “first class passengers” actually meant sleeping in the dining hut and second class passengers had to sleep on deck, and that especially for the ladies in these “modern times” (1913 mind you), this type of transportation between the islands was not yet up to date.


Lighter boats would bring passengers and cargo from the schooners to the rocky shores of Saba until 1973.


Around 1914-1915 His Excellency the Governor started a lengthy correspondence with representatives of the “Ostasiatiske Kompagni” at Copenhagen regarding a service between the islands. The following is quoted from a letter to Mr. Berg at St. Thomas, representative of this company from H.E. the Governor dated 11 December 1915.


On the third of July last Mr. Mikelson representative of the “Ostasistische Kompagni” at Copenhagen, called on me, introduced by Mr. Edwin Senior, agent of the Hamburg-Amerika Line. He informed me, that his said company had o.a. the intention to start a steamship communications between Denmark and St.Thomas and, in connection therewith, to cause a smaller steamer to run between the different West Indian islands and, if possible, also Maracaibo. As he had learned that the Government of this colony wished to have a steamship communication between the different islands of the colony, he asked me whether the Government would be willing to grant a subsidy if the islands were included in the itinerary.

Schooner Priscilla

Schooner “Priscialla” of Capt. T.C. Vanterpool at Fort Bay 1923.



I answered him, that if no steamer was bought in Holland for the navigation between the islands of this colony, his proposal might probably be accepted. I then asked him to make his conditions known to H.E. the Minister of Colonies at The Hague, to which he replied, that he ought first to consult the Management of his company in Europe.

H.E. the Minister, whom I had made acquainted with the matter, requested me lately, to enter into negotiations with you.”

The agent at St. Thomas, Mr. H. Berg, responded to H.E. the Governor on 13th January 1916 as follows:


We are in receipt of your highly esteemed letter of 11th December 1915, and have noted the contents with great interest.

The East Asiatic Company, Copenhagen, for which we have the honour of being General Agents for the West Indies, have for many years maintained a regular service between Europe and St. Thomas with comparatively large passenger and cargo steamers, and lately also with Motor ships.

We are now placing before the East Asiatic Company your much honoured proposal, and shall take the liberty of reverting to the question in due course.

We beg, however to mention that, at the present time, it would be very difficult to secure suitable steamers for the service indicated, and owing to the scarcity of tonnage and high freights paid in the open market we would have to look for a big subsidy to keep up the regular service between the islands of your colony.

We beg to kindly state how large a subsidy you eventually could offer if we succeeded in providing suitable ships to do the service.”

The steamship service referred to earlier was quite costly. For the period October 1905/1906 the government paid the Hamburg Amerika Line fls.20.000.—for the services of the “S.S. Christiansted.”

The”S.S. Princess Juliana” had cost the government fls. 160.000.—Due to poor construction it proved unsatisfactory for use in the Caribbean Sea and was shipped to Surinam for the river trade. It served a total of 26 months, from November 20th, 1910 until the end of 1912, and the operating costs to the government were fls.60.000.—per year.

After having been accustomed to some years of steamship service with the “S.S.Christiansted” and the “S.S. Princess Juliana” it was back to schooner services for the islands after 1912.

(To be continued).








Mail and Passenger Service In Former Times

Mail and passenger service in former times.
By: Will Johnson

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The “Blue Peter” transported mail and passengers between the Dutch Windward Islands from 1947 to 1962.



When we talk about mail service we should include passenger service as well. In former times when there were no planes flying between the Dutch islands schooners had a contract with the colonial government to transport mail and passengers.
We have a letter dated 25 April 1853, circular No. 57 in which the Governor of the Colony “Curacao and dependencies”, invites a number of merchants on Curacao to make a monthly contribution to the maintenance of bi-monthly mail service to St. Thomas from Curacao by schooner.
Monthly pledges were made by several merchants to a total of fls.319.—per month. The Windward Islands at that time sent their mail by the Captains of privately owned schooners to be processed on St. Kitts. The government mail was taken care of in the same fashion.
From St. Kitts it then went on to St. Thomas, and the mail coming to these islands from Curacao went via St. Thomas and St. Kitts in the same manner. This was mostly government mail as there was hardly any contact between people from the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands back then. This was long before the oil refineries had started up and people from these islands started moving to the ABC islands. There was the occasional schooner which government chartered between the islands. I have correspondence from Curacao dated September 18th, 1845 where the Governor is sending correspondence to Saba with the schooner ‘Mary Francis’ owned by Capt. William Simmons. Also correspondence of October 7th 1845 ,whereby the Governor is sending two soldiers J.S. Kok and F.L.Flores, with the Government schooner ‘De Wesp’ to St.Eustatius.
Also the newly appointed Lt. Governor of St.Eustatius Mr. W.H.J. van Idsinga was transported to St.Eustatius with the Dutch schooner “Esser” with Captain C.M. de Haseth.
After the Post offices had been established, so that on March 1st 1884 all three islands in the Windward Islands had a Post office, it became necessary to arrange for more direct transportation between Curacao and the Windward Islands. The Post Offices were opened on the following dates: On St. Maarten on January 1st, 1882, St. Eustatius, March 1st, 1884, The Bottom Saba March 1st 1884 and Windwardside, Saba on March 1st, 1944.
In 1886 an officer and philatelist on board H.M.S. “Atjeh” visited Curacao and wrote the following to a Dutch stamp Journal; “The forwarding of letters between the West-Indian islands Curacao, Bonaire, St.Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba takes place free of charge and is transported by the Government schooner “Gouverneur van den Brandhoff.” From the colonial report of 1875 we can read that mail traffic from Curacao to the three Dutch Windward Islands was routed through the Dutch consul at St. Thomas, and thence to the Dutch consul at St. Kitts, from which island small vessels transported the mail to the three Dutch islands, and vice versa.

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The S.S. “Christiansted” at Fort Bay.

On January 30th 1886, a contract was signed with Mr. J.J. Scopean. This contract with the Government of the Colony called for the monthly services of the schooner named the “Gouverneur van den Brandhof” to all three Windward Islands for the yearly sum of fls.4.800.–. The schooner measured 219.46M3 or 76.73 gross tons.
In 1901 this contract was renewed with his widow Mrs. E.P. Laglois and was increased to fls.6.000.—per year. There were rates for first class passengers of fls.60.—to Curacao and for 2nd class passengers and children below the age of 12 the fare was half that of a 1st class passage. The freight on furniture and baggage for a family coming from Curacao was fls.125.—and between the Windward Islands it was fls.50.—Rates by the way which we consider quite high for a schooner back in 1886. There was even a rate of fls.50.—to transport someone who was insane and who was not accompanied.
A new contract was entered in to on December 28th, 1903. The rates for passengers remained unchanged to those applied in 1886 by Mr. Scopean, until the new contract was signed in 1903, and the rates decreased. A first class passage became fls.50.—second class passengers and children f.25.—whereas furniture and baggage for a family was reduced to fls. 100.—from Curacao and fls.40.—between the Windward Islands.

Three Sisters arriving in Curacao carrying personnel for oil industry

Three Sisters arriving in Curacao carrying personnel for oil industry 1929. She was owned by Capt. William Benjamin Hassell and his brothers.

In a letter dated 4th August 1903 to the Governor, the Administrator of Finance reports with satisfaction that he was able to convince Mrs. E. P. Laglois to reduce the tariff for passengers traveling on her schooner between the islands. We should not forget that there were private schooners from Saba trading between the Windward Islands, New York, Bermuda, St.Kitts, St.Thomas and Barbados back then. People were not exactly jumping to get an expensive ride on Mrs. Scopeans schooner either; they had other choices, especially between the Windward Islands.

Capt. John Clarence at the wheel of the 'Maisie Hassell' and his brother standing Capt. William Benjamin Hassell

Capt. John Clarence at the wheel of the ‘Maisie Hassell’ and his brother standing Capt. William Benjamin Hassell

His Excellency the Governor was taking no chances however, as on August 19th of that same year he wrote to the Lt. Governors of all three Windward Islands enquiring from them if they had received any complaints concerning the rates for passengers or freight on the mail schooner, to please inform him of same.
The Lt. Governor of St.Eustatius Mr. G.J. van Grol, who was always interested in agriculture, stated in a letter to the Governor dated September 28th, 1903, that he had complaints concerning the freight charges on yams and potatoes. He stated that six barrels of yams at fls.5.—was fls.30.–. Then there was a 20% freight charge of fls.6.–. Import duties on Curacao were f.0.90 and transport in Curacao f.0.75 bringing charges to f. 7.65 so that in effect the farmer on St. Eustatius only received fls. 22.35 for 6 barrels of yams.
He said that if freight charges could be decreased then it would stimulate more exports of agricultural products from St. Eustatius to Curacao. He also thought that the costs of a passage were rather high.
The Lt. Governor of Saba, Mr. H.J. Beaujon (grandfather of Jan Beaujon of Windward Islands Bank Ltd.), in a letter of 4th October 1903, stated that although he had not
received any complaints that the general opinion was that the cost of a passage to Curacao was high especially in view of in his own words the “impoverished table” (meager rations as we would say), offered on board. No French cuisine on those old schooners.
The Lt. Governor of St.Maarten, Mr. A. J. C. Brouwer answered the Governor on 6th January 1904


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Governor H.J.Beaujon,center, also father of Governor Japa Beaujon.

He said that he had received no specific complaints but that there was general discontent as to the high costs of passages and freight. He said that even though a trip to Curacao could take from four to eight days or more, the high cost of the passages was inexcusable.
He said that before 1886, that there were about 5 or 6 occasions per year when one could get to Curacao by schooner and a first class passage varied from fls.25.—to fls.40.—and in many cases if the person was traveling with freight or to pick up same, then they did not have to pay any passage at all.
The Lt. Governor in addition wrote to His Excellency on 1st February 1904 that upon enquiry from the merchants the last 4 months of 1903 a total of f.45.—had been paid out in freight charges, but that this was on the low side as there had not been any export of potatoes to Curacao during the period mentioned. He also quoted some freight charges on items to Curacao:
Flour and potatoes, per barrel fls. 1.—
Petroleum per box “0.37, 50
Genever per box of 19.50 liters “0.50
Smaller boxes “0.25
Corn and peas per bag “0.50
General merchandise per M3 “7.—
Medium sized boxes contents unknown “0.50
In 1984 some of the old timers whom I interviewed could remember those days. According to Ralph Hassell, then ninety, his grandfather Capt. Henry Johnson had a two-master schooner called the “Spring Bird.” He went on a drunk in Curacao took in with pneumonia and died there. Ralph’s father “Old Claw” (John Benjamin Hassell) was a mate on board and brought up the schooner from Curacao after which she was sold. A year later his grandfathers’ remains were brought here in the schooner the “Gouverneur van den Brandhof” which ran the mail at the turn of the century and he was buried here on Saba in the family cemetery.
In February 1904 a vessel named the “Prince Hendrik” took over the service of the schooner from the “Gouverneur van den Brandhof” temporarily and on the same conditions.
On St. Maarten, D.C. van Romondt & Co., were agents for the schooner as is apparent from a letter from that firm of February 1st 1904 to Mr. A.B. Mussenden on St.Eustatius.

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D.C. van Romondt of the St. Martin van Romondt’s who owned most of that island for over one hundred years.

On October 10th, 1908 a new agreement was made between the owner and the government, this time for f.645.—per month, and in an appendix to this agreement dated February 16th 1909, the rent was increased to fls.800.—per month.
On June 21st, 1911, the first of the Saba owned mail boats entered the scene, namely the schooner “Priscilla”, as is apparent from the following agreement:
1st. Albert Land, temporary Administrator of Finances as appointed by Government, and
2nd. Capt. Samuel Augustus Simmons, captain of the Dutch schooner “Priscilla” with 69 registered tons and belonging to Saba, do hereby declare to have made the following contract with regard to a voyage to the Islands St.Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba and return, under the following conditions:


Capt. Thomas Charles Vanterpool. He owned many of the schooners which had the mail contract from the Dutch Government to transport passengers and mail between Curacao and the Dutch Windward Islands.

1st. That the schooner be perfectly seaworthy properly crewed and in every respect equipped to leave on this voyage on the 23rd instant with destination to the aforementioned islands.
2nd. that the schooner must call twice at each of these islands, once to land the mails and once to take the mails.
3rd. that the government will pay to the contracting party Simmons on his arrival at Curacao, the sum of three hundred and seventy five guilders for the transport of mails and other government goods.
4th. that for government passengers of Curacao to one of the islands aforementioned shall be paid to the contracting party Simmons: for each first class passenger, with luggage the sum of forty guilders and for each second class passenger, with luggage, the sum of twenty guilders.
5th. that feeding of the government passengers, shall be at the expense of the contracting party Simmons.
The ‘S.S. Christiansted” a steamship owned by the German Company the Hamburg America Line maintained the services from 1st July 1905 through September 1908 and published a regular schedule. The ship was registered under the Danish flag and the captain was Capt. Hansen. At that time Denmark owned St.Thomas, St.Croix and St. John. The agents for the ship were: On Saba Mr. Joseph Benjamin Simmons, on St. Eustatius Mr. Henry Hassell Johnson and on St. Maarten Mr. Wilfred E. van Romondt.
The S.S. “Christiansted” was built in 1904. It was 321 gross tons or 167 net tons. It had a length of 140’, width 24’ and a depth or draft of 11’. It had an average speed of 9 knots and an engine of 310 horsepower and used 4 tons of coal every twenty four hours.
The passenger’s accommodations were not large. Besides a first class saloon, two 3 persons’ cabins, there was a “smoking room”, in which some passengers could be accommodated. Furthermore there was room for 60 deck passengers and for 360 tons of freight. A monthly service was organized from Curacao to the Windward Islands, whereby St. Thomas and St.Kitts were called at, and a bi-weekly service to Aruba and Bonaire. A subsidy of fls.20.000.—a year was granted to the Hamburg Line. The first year of operation the company claimed to have a deficit of fls.10.000. Obviously the Colonial Government was unwilling to finance at such a heavy cost the incidental transportation needs between the islands.


Schooner "Mona Marie" of Capt. William Benjamin Hassell, also of Saba/Barbados

Schooner “Mona Marie” of Capt. William Benjamin Hassell, also of Saba/Barbados.

( To be continued.)

The Church of Rome on Saba

The Saba Islander

4b97b4a4782a72e77676b89800c9eabc03dc6c54541f08abe15ea6f7e3e65e0f The St. Paul’s Conversion church in Windwardside, the first Roman Catholic church built on Saba in the year 1860. In the photo are Fred Hassell and Peter Every and his wife Lean.

The Church of Rome on Saba

By: Will Johnson

The Roman Catholic Church arrived rather late on Saba. In the Spanish period from 1511 until 1648 Saba fell under the bishopric of Puerto Rico. There is no evidence of the Spanish doing anything here as far as settlement of the island and with no settlers it goes without saying that there were no religious activities. In 1665 when the Jamaican pirates from Port Royal captured the island and left many of their men behind, we doubt if they had religion in mind as a safe haven but rather their piratical activities from this new base. The islands’ religions were the Presbyterians under the famous Dr. Hugh Knox (1755…

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My friend the former slave girl.

-My friend the former slave girl.

By Will Johnson

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Thatched roofed houses of former slaves and poor whites on Saba until 1940’s.


Once, when giving a lecture in the elementary school on Saba on slavery a student asked me if I had ever met a slave. Another one asked me if I had ever owned a slave. On the second question I hesitated as in our West Indian societies we treat our wives and our children as well, at best as indentured servants.

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Under the Hill in Windwardside, 1870 .


On the first question I answered NO without giving it much thought at the time. As we grow older we remember more things from our youth than from our immediate past. And so it was just recently I was remembering things about growing up in Windwardside and how different it was then and now. When school was over and after foraging dry wood for my mother to cook with, cutting some grass for the cattle and looking after my goats Over-the-Peak, there was little left to do but hanging out.

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Mr. Joseph Kock Johnson popularly known as “Gabo” first cousin of my father Daniel Thomas Johnson.



My hanging out consisted a lot in listening in on the breadlines to the men not only bragging about the most and the biggest fish they had caught, but also telling stories about going around Cape Horn, where they had been in Africa, China and so on. My hanging out also consisted in visiting the old ladies many of whom had either lost a husband at sea or had died in Cayenne from the yellow fever in the gold fields and who were buried in an unmarked grave in some foreign jungle. They would tell me stories while doing their “Spanish Work” which in some cases was their only means of survival. A number of them were befriended by relatives or correspondents who lived in the United States, Barbados or Bermuda, The correspondents would sell their work and befriend them in other ways by mailing “love packages” with canned goods, clothing and so on.

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Another example of how the former slaves lived. This is a thatched roof house on St. John’s.



I remember once Norman Hassell telling me that on his visit with his father to St. Johns village, to see an old lady relative, she had told his father that she was a blessed woman as she had a niece in the United States who sent her two dollars every month and she could survive from that. Two dollars mind you. My parents would loan me out to sleep in the home of older people when their relatives were either off-island or the person had no close relatives but was a friend of the family. This was necessary in case if the person took in ill during the night and a doctor had to be called or a relative or neighbour had to be alerted. I was dead scared that one of these old ladies would die while I slept. The need for this never happened on my watch. If it had taken place I would not have known as I was a heavy sleeper. Having a curious mind about the past of these older folks, and as I progressed in school, I would ask them many questions. Having supper under an old oil lamp these old folks were happy to have a young person in their home who wanted to talk about how life was when they were growing up on this isolated island. How isolated we were at the time only became apparent when I left the island to go away to school in 1955


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Miss Lilly Every.



And so my memory took me back to my friend the former slave girl. She and her husband both had been fathered by a liaison between a slave woman and her white owner. They were from the Every, Mardenborough and Peterson families.

She lived in the Windwardside with her three daughters. Her husband had died some years before. For this article I will include an interview with one of her daughters many years after her death. I remember the night she died and went to the wake at her home with my mother. On the way back we thought it strange that Marinus and Percy ten Holt were sticking so close to us as if we were a caravan passing through enemy territory. When we passed Gabo’s house we understood why. They had been teasing him, calling him “The man on the barrel hoop”. He, Joseph Kock Johnson was a first cousin of my father’s. He got that teaser when he first visited New York on a schooner from Saba and saw a man on a bicycle and said it looked like a man on a barrel hoop. Those were the metal rings on the potato barrels which we would use with a forked stick to run around and play with. Anyway when poor Gabo struck out with his stick he struck my mother on her shoulder, while the Ten Holt posse took off and disappeared in the dark. Poor “GABO” was so upset he nearly cried. My mother assured him that it was not too bad in order to comfort him but the next day her shoulder was black and blue.

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Miss Johannah Every.



We were coming from the wake of Sarah Ann Elizabeth Every born Peterson age 102. The year was 1954. She was born in 1852 or eleven years before slavery was abolished in 1863. Her parents were Sarah Mardenborough and John Peterson and they were “rank” Roman Catholics. She was the widow of Thomas Lovelace Every whose parents were John William Every and Mary Peterson. The couple had five children in all four girls and a boy, the latter who went to the United States and died there. They lived in three small wooden houses given to them for their lifetime, amidst the white folks who had fathered them, namely the Petersons the Every’s and the Mardenboroughs. The houses have disappeared since they all passed away and are now incorporated in the museum property. They lived in peace there except for one local character” Lee Rat” who said they should put these mulatto people to live Over-the-Peak. The “Lee Rat” was the same one who set a rat trap in the road when there was a rumor that Venezuelans were about to invade Saba in 1929.He thought that was the least he could do and would send one of those Venezuelans back home with a sore toe. One of her daughters Mercelita was badly burnt in a fire caused by an old oil lamp which burned down her little house. She died on St. Maarten and the only ones to bury her in the Roman Catholic cemetery down street were Frederick Froston and I.

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Miss Lilly Every seated next to her neighbour Miss Marguerite Hassell’s house.



One of the reasons I used to visit Elizabeth or “Mamma” was the fact that she had no legs and for me, a young boy then, this was a source of great curiosity. Yes they had diabetes back then and at the age of 50 in the year 1902, without anesthesia of any kind both her legs were amputated. This was done by sharpening an old hatchet, giving the patient a quantity of rum, “kill devil”, to drink and with a butchers sharp eye it was off with the offending part of the body. With the love of her three daughters who never married or had any children, she survived another fifty two years. They even had wheels put on a regular chair so that she could slip around the house. She lived just above the house of Mrs. Marguerite Hassell the post mistress which before then had belonged to the merchant Bloomfield Hassell.

In all her 102 years she had never left Saba and had only visited The Bottom once. I never realized that she had been born into slavery. For this article I researched the old property registers and found out the following information. On June 20th, 1861 Mr. Josiah Peterson Esq. frees mulatto boy Thomas aged 19. Witnesses were John Peterson and Jacob E. Hassell. This was her future husband Thomas Lovelace Every who was born in 1843. Also I found the following transaction of November 11th, 1853 whereby Mr. Peter Mardenborough sold to Mr. Thomas Mardenborough house and land in “Shallops Quarter” and slaves.viz.Sarah a mulatto woman, Sarah a sambo woman, her child Sarah Elizabeth, the negro man Yankey and the boy William Thomas for f.420.–.

I am one hundred percent certain that Sarah Elizabeth daughter of the Sambo woman Sarah is our Sarah Ann Elizabeth Peterson as she was darker than her mulatto husband Thomas Lovelace Every. Also Sarah the sambo woman was given the name Mardenborough and who married John Peterson and so the daughter became Sarah Ann Elizabeth Peterson.

We did not discuss slavery much as at the time I was unaware that she had been born a slave. She did tell me some stories about the day of emancipation. In the eighteen fifties when many slaves were being sold to American slave traders as there were rumors that the Dutch was finally planning to do away with the slave trade. However the mulatto’s in most cases were spared the fate of once more being sold into slavery from what had now become their homeland. In the old registers there are many instances of this taking place like this one;” December 24th, 1856. Miss Elizabeth Peterson frees her slaves Rose Genette and John Henry, leaves her house and lot including cistern to them, but not to be sold. To be used until their deaths. Executor her brother Josiah Peterson. Witnesses; Jacob E.Hassell and John Hassell.

A pity that all of the songs made by former slaves have been lost. The black local midwife Rosita Lynch, born Hassell who delivered me, had a daughter Wemely who could compose a waltz at the drop of a hat and put it to music. One of those remembered is “The “Maisy” is mine, she can sail anytime etc.” On St. Maarten there was one now only remembered by a few. The “Occasionals band” used to sing it when I would enter the Lido Bar here when Claude Wathey sent me to Saba in 1962 to campaign for him; “What a night Wathey had to the front, Oh the young girl dressed in red killed poor Wathey dead” etc. They still will play that song if you ask them. That was a great uncle of Claude’s who “went down street great joy to reap and was brought back home wrapped in a sheet”. Something like that.

In an interview with Eulalie Peterson-Every daughter, on February 24th, 1978 in the Saba Herald the interview was entitled;” A visit with Miss Lillie”.

Miss Eulalie Every, who was born June 15th, 1888 never left Saba except on one occasion when she was in her twenties, she took a trip out on the Saba Bank. During her nearly 90 years Miss Lillie never made any other landfall, but the island on which she was born and raised, and on which she hopes to die.

Miss Lillie’s brother James was a sailor on the ”Cobb” an American three master schooner under the command of Donald Simmons of The Bottom. Donald’s father James Simmons, who was also a captain, took the vessel out to sea for a brief layover while Capt. Donald and the other members of his crew visited with their families on Saba. Donald’s brother, Peter was also a captain, and under his command was the “Sprague” another American three master.

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S.S. “Christiansted” served Saba between July 1905 and September 1908. Sloops Muriel, left and Ethel right were built on Saba and belonged to Joseph B. Simmons and Joseph Horton Simmons. “Black Head” and “Red Head” Joe they were called.



Although Miss Lillie will be 90 this year she has an excellent memory. On the day of her three hour adventure out into the unknown Miss Lillie can still remember that the “M.V. Christiansted” the government steamer was in port. Her grandparents from her mother’s side were John Peterson and Sarah Mardenborough. Both of them died at the age of 86. According to Miss Lillie her father “Pappy” died young, he was only 79. Of course. Seeing that her sister Johanna also lived well into her nineties, 79 would be considered young in that family. I spent quite an afternoon trying to convince Miss Lillie that she should consider moving into the old age home when it opens, but she is adamant about remaining independent and swears that she doesn’t like people around her. Her home is in such bad condition that it cannot be reap aired, and the government cannot build her a new home since the Home for the Aged will soon be available. What to do with Miss Lillie? Force her to give up her independence?”

Well, Miss Lillie solved that problem herself. Just after making her 90th birthday, she passed away in her home on July 7th, 1978, just four months after we had the interview with her.

And so, as for her mother the answer is YES, I did know a former slave and she was a friend of the family and perhaps family as well. She has no descendants on Saba and perhaps none in the United States as her son only had one child and the child died without having any children himself. May she and hers continue to rest in peace.

Blow for Blow


By: Will Johnson

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“Broertje” Brouwer and his spouse.



On December 22nd, 1934 the newspaper “De Slag-om-Slag” saw the light of day at the home of the Editor on Frontstreet No. 61, Philipsburg, St. Martin. This newspaper was started by Anthony Reynier Waters Gravenhorst Brouwer who was born on Saba on Wednesday October 19th, 1892. The other newspaper at the time was “De Bovenwindse Stemmen” of which the Editor was Wilhelm Frederick Carel Ludwig August Netherwood who was born on St. Barths in 1870. I guess with those long names the newspaper business must have served some purpose to them.

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The rival newspaper “De Bovenwindse Stemmen”.



Brouwer was known to his family as “Broertje” or little brother, although there was nothing little about him. He was some 6 feet and 7 inches tall. He was the son of the famous A.J.C. Brouwer who had been Lt. Governor on all three Windward Islands for a total of thirty years. Although the family was a Dutch family they integrated so much in the local society that no one at the time had any doubt that “Broertje” Brouwer was a true St. Martiner even though he was born on Saba of Dutch parents. He grew up on St. Martin. In those days the dominant family on St. Maarten was the Van Romondts and both Brouwer as well as Netherwood were married to van Romondt ladies.

Remarkable is that both newspapers with a Dutch language masthead were published in the English language. The only exception were Government Notices which were in Dutch but translated by the papers so that the reading public would know what  message the colonial masters were trying to convey to them.

Brouwer’s paper was the more radical of the two and projected itself as being the voice of the perennial “small man”. The “small man” of the nineteen thirties seems to have gotten no bigger as politicians now still carry the “small man” around in their baggage of folk vocabulary around election time. Bread and butter issues, so to speak.

In the nineteen sixties I became friends with “Broertje’s” son A.J.C. “Jan” Brouwer an engineer who was the Inspector of Government buildings for the Netherlands Antilles. Jan had most copies of his father’s papers and my friend Clark Gomez Casseres on Curacao took on the task of making photo copies of all the papers for me. I only have one copy of “De Bovenwindse Stemmen” but so many times “De Slag om Slag” refers to articles written by “De Bovenwindse Stemmen” that I have the whole history of that paper as well and those who wrote for the paper. I will do a separate article on that paper as well when I get a chance.

It is remarkable how similar the news was back then to now. Brouwer was involved in politics. In those days two local councilors were elected by the moneyed class to advise the Lt. Governor on local matters. Brouwer ran amuck with the elections and brought out the voters who in the past had shown lukewarm interest in voting. As few as four people would take part in the election before Brouwers time. He also ran for the position of representative in the parliament. Rufus Plantz was the favoured candidate of the Amigoe the newspaper on Curacao owned by the Catholic Church. Brouwer dug up Plantz birth certificate, proving that Plantz’ mother was a De Geneste from St. Eustatius and his father was a German, and Plantz had been born on St.Thomas and baptized a Protestant. Nevertheless Plantz won that election in 1936. Brouwer had a field day in throwing out for public review gossip about Plantz and the fact that technically he was a foreigner.


Back (L-R) 1. Granville van Romondt, 2. Oliver Lampe (2nd husband of Ella van Romondt) 3. Walter Nisbeth (Lou Nisbet’s father). In front seated left to right: 4.Lionel van Romondt. 5. Johannes Wathey. 6. Anthony Reinier Waters Gravenhorst Brouwer 7. Louis “Lou” van Romondt, brother-in-law of “Broertje Brouwer.”


In going through the paper there is much concern with the schedule of the SS.”Baralt”, so much so that the Captain refused to accept packages or mail from St. Kitts or Curacao for Brouwer. There is also much concern about the digging of wells for the water supply, the droughts, and the amount of salt being reaped and shipped out. In the paper of October 29th, 1939, there is the following item under the heading SALT:

“Salt reaping continued this week by the small concessions of D.C. van Romondt & Co., and Mr. W. Netherwood. Still only four captains working. We omitted to mention that the sloop “Bernadette” took 189 barrels of salt from this port last week. The schooner “Nina II” took more or less 500 barrels this week.”

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“Broertje” Brouwer as a young man. You would not think that a six foot seven inches man and son of a Governor of thirty years would be a rebel but that he was.


The paper pays a lot of attention to the state of agriculture and cattle raising and what could be done to improve these sectors of the economy. Every new agriculturist had to bear the brunt of Brouwers anger and he frequently pointed out what was wrong with their plans and the way in which the agricultural station was being run. Brouwer was also a sort of “bush lawyer’ and an elected member of the Court of Policy. The newspaper also carried commentary on the “melee” around town in its weekly column “Sambo and Buddy Jep.” Nothing was sacred to these two characters, but in order to read it you need a good command of the local slang. The “Bovenwindse Stemmen” had an Uncle Ramus  and Anus character to counteract “Sambo and Buddy Jep.” In the # 83 edition of the “Bovenwindse Stemmen” it is revealed that the Rev. Charles MacIntosh Darrell was the originator of Uncle Remus and the “Slag om Slag” took umbrage with that in vol. 101 of January 23rd, 1937 in which it stated;”We had not thought that so highly cultured and intellectual a person would have stooped to an Uncle Ramus creation.”

There were also news items about natural phenomena like the hurricanes and other bad weather. However I found two items which will be interesting to readers now looking back on those days. In the paper # 124 of July 3rd, 1937 we read: “Freak Meteor.”

“On Friday June 25th at about 10.30 p.m. a bright and sudden flash across the Western sky followed by a deep detonation told us that a meteor had struck the earth’s atmosphere. The entire South Western Sky was illuminated by this glorious phenomenon. On the following evening however (June 26th) a phenomenon of very rare occurrence took place at about 7.20. A fairly large meteor shot from out the zenith in a North Westerly direction. After having struck the earth’s atmosphere and exploded it left in its wake a luminous trail, resembling the glow of a phosphorescent body. This luminous vapour, or whatever it might have been, remained suspended in the Western sky in the form of an inverted question mark for more than 15 minutes, after which time it began to dissipate and finally vanished.”

In the paper of Saturday October 21st, 1939 we read the following; METEORITE

“ On Thursday afternoon, 19th, instant (October 19th, 1939) at 5 o’clock there was quite a lot of excitement in this little town, after a sound which resembled a clap of thunder, or an explosion was heard. The most war-scared persons declared that it was either a submarine, or a battle ship shooting or some vessel behind the hills or an airplane. Some said it was a clap of thunder, but several people saw what they described as a ball of fire falling through the sky, after they had heard the explosion. It must have been a meteorite.”

There are many other historical facts from that period. In the paper of January 21st, 1939 there is a list of electors (voters) as required in article 5, letter A of the Ordinance of November 1869, Publication Sheet No. 24. It gives a good idea as to who was who back then as only men were allowed to vote and the law required that the voter must have a certain amount of capital or the equivalent in land in order to be able to vote. There were 168 voters in total most of who had historical St. Martin names.

Besides local news there was news from the neighbouring islands, the French side and also international news. Many interesting letters to the Editor which includes one under the pseudonym of the “SUFFERER” and is dated January 23rd 1937, which starts off with:” Dear Mr. Editor. St. Eustatius is in an awful state. One little Surinam doctor is running the whole show and we have no one to take our cause. He says he is going to send all English people away from the island and he has begun already.”The letter goes on to give details of a young woman from Anguilla being deported because she did not have enough money to pay the Surinam doctor (Doctor Berkenveldt) to deliver her third baby for a Statia man.

Another news item from St. Eustatius dated March 20th, 1937 is as follows: Potatoes from St. Eustatius.

“On account of having 700 odd barrels of potatoes to load at St. Eustatius for Curacao the S/S Baralt did not arrive here until about 9 o’clock on last Saturday evening. She left about midnight for Curacao.” In that same edition is the following news item; VESSELS IN HARBOUR

“On Tuesday morning we noticed no less than 2 schooners and 5 sloops in the harbor and on Wednesday morning there were 2 steamers, 1 schooner and 4 sloops in. This reminded us of “old times” when we have seen as many as 13 schooners anchored here taking salt.”

Much attention was paid to sports, especially cricket. There is a poem of around 100 stanzas written by one of the Beuperthuys about a cricket match between St. Martin and St. Kitts. Some of the names of the cricket clubs in 1937 were; “The Rising Sun” from French Quarter, the “Philipsburg C.C.”, the “Juliana Cricket Club” and  “The Sporting Club” of Marigot. Much attention was paid to cockfighting and there were long advertisements and articles with the names of famous fighting cocks and where the matches would be taking place. Also horse racing especially between horses owned by Mr. L.B. Scot and the Beauperthuy brothers were given a lot of coverage, as well as boat racing on Queens Birthday and on Bastille Day.

Brouwer was not immune from trouble with the law as is evidenced from the following two articles.

In a case brought by Governor W. J van Slobbe held on June 6th, 1936 the man-of-war H.M.S. “Johan Maurits van Nassau” was in Great Bay harbor, according to rumors to intimidate the inhabitants of the island who were in Brouwers corner. The following article covers that; OUR EDITOR’S PROSECUTION.

“ It seems to have become a ‘fait accompli’ since our Editor received this week a citation to appear before the Court on the fourth of June charged with firstly insulting His Excellency by having in a meeting with the Court of Policy, which meeting was Public, because the President J.D.Meiners, the Member A.C. Wathey and the Secretary L.C. Carty were present, uttered the following words:” It seems as if it is a habit of the Governor to make fools of people; I can prove that the Governor never keeps his promises.” Secondly for having said in this same meeting that ‘His Excellency made notes of his promises which promises were never fulfilled; I believe that His Excellency left it (aforesaid list) there (on the floor) with the hope that it would be swept up and thrown in the waste basket.” Brouwer was speaking in his capacity as elected representative of the people and for this he was condemned and transported to Curacao to spend six weeks in Curacao jail. So much for democracy back then.

Another article dated April 17th, 1937 is headlined; SLAG OM SLAG IN TROUBLE.

“Some time ago a letter was sent to the Slag om Slag for publication. As this letter was fairly well written it was taken up in the columns of this paper. The party against whom this letter was written took offense and lodged a complaint with the officer of the Public Ministry here. On being questioned our Editor, much against his will, laid over the original letter he had received, because he did not have time to communicate with the writer and find out from him, if he might be responsible for any fine which might be placed on the paper. It now appears the signature was forged and as the culprit has not yet been found, our law, we are told, will prosecute this paper or its Editor for not having given the name of the writer. Our law

it appears, holds the paper which publishes a letter responsible even if that letter is proved to have been forged.”

And with the debate raging over how the name of “Country” St. Martin should be correctly spelled, here is a news item from issue number 114 of April 24th, 1937.

“St. Martin has become Sint Maarten officially since the 1st of April, but we fear only the officials will use this way of spelling the name. All over the world people are trying to spell words with as few letters as possible, except in Holland.”

The Slag om Slag ended tragically on December 1st, 1939. When Mr. Brouwer learned that he would have to go to jail once more for insulting a friendly head of State (Hitler) in his newspaper, he took a gun and committed suicide at his home after having been seen in the Oranje Café just across the street from where he lived. He was only 47 at the time. His son Jan who was in Holland studying at the time always insisted that the authorities had nevertheless eliminated his father through their unjust application of the laws, even if he had pulled the trigger himself.

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The “Slag om Slag” or “Blow-for-Blow” owned and edited by “Broertje Brouwer”.

Education on Saba in bygone years.

Education on Saba in bygone years

By Will Johnson

The educational system as we know it today is quite different from what was available in former times. For a great part of its history since the island was settled by Europeans in the early part of the seventeenth century there were no schools at all.Image

In the year 1816 there was no public school on Saba when the Dutch took over the island from the English who had occupied it for some years. There were however some individuals who gave lessons to their own children and to the children of other family members and friends. When the historian M.D. Teenstra visited Saba in 1829 he observed that in the Anglican Church in The Bottom, that one of the members of the Council of Policy was also functioning as a schoolteacher and was giving lessons in the English language to about fifteen children. On June 1st 1836 the R.C. Priest Martinus Joannes Niewindt (born Amsterdam 17 May 1796- died Curacao 12 January 1860), who later became Bishop, visited Saba and said that few of the 1800 inhabitants could read or write. Niewindt could not communicate with the people as he was unable to speak English. In 1863 the Reverend Warneford of the Anglican community, reports that a Sunday and Day school would be established shortly. In 1857 in a letter we read that nearly all persons of Windwardside and The Valley (The Bottom) could read. In 1864 he writes;” I have much cause to be thankful for the good spirit evinced in this Island, and for the efforts which have been made to obtain from the Dutch Government an annual grant for the support of a resident minister and schoolmaster. Schools are all important here now, for the laboring class have newly received their freedom, and require to be instructed in the very first rudiments of Christianity. In 1867 he writes that the population of Saba was 1411 and that the attendance at the Anglican Church School was 30 boys and 25 girls. In 1948, the Rev’d. Francis W. Jenson, the then Rector saw the need for an Anglican Kindergarten. He at once contacted the Government, and was given immediate support. On January 5th 1948 the school opened with teacher Mrs. Ursula Dunkin who taught until 1968 and then had to leave to care for her sick mother and was replaced by Miss Esseline R. Simmons.

In a letter from Father J.C. Gast in 1854, a visiting Roman Catholic priest, he mentions that nearly all the white inhabitants in The Bottom and in the Windwardside could read and write. This sounds rather strange as in 1790 out of a population of 1400 there were only five (5) people on the island who themselves could barely read and write.

In Windwardside after 1844, Sarah Mardenborough gave religious lessons until 1873. She had converted to Catholicism. She taught the youth, took care of the church, helped the priests and took care of the ill. As a result she contracted leprosy but kept on giving instructions to the youth of Windwardside. She died on December 19th, 1903 at the age of 79 and is buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery in Windwardside. Much later in the village of Hell’s Gate, Mary Jane Johnson also taught children there. According to research done by R.C. Priest, father G.J.M. Dahlhaus, in a chronological history of education on Saba, he stated that Father Gast wanted to start a Roman Catholic School in The Bottom. The Anglican Church of course had their own school there which was a continuation of the school which Mr. Teenstra had observed in 1829 already.Image

In 1890 there was no public school on Saba. However a teacher residing on Saba was given a grant by the colonial government to give free education to the poor. At that time he had some thirty pupils In 1878 there was a school in The Bottom with 41 pupils and two schools in Windwardside with respectively 33 and 54 pupils. These were the Anglican schools and a private school affiliated with the Roman Catholic church and led by Mrs. Gertrude Johnson born Hassell. Of course instruction was limited and was conducted in the English language the native tongue of all the inhabitants of the island back then.

There was a school in Palmetto Point (Mary’s Point) from 1919 to 1923. John H. Skerrit of Montserrat was the government teacher. Lt. Governor Van der Zee who visited the school in 1921 wrote that the school had 18 pupils, Because of costs the school was closed in February 1923.Image

Education back then was more geared to survival. The Navigation School of Capt. Freddie Simmons which existed from 1909 to 1922 provided lessons for teenage young men who aspired to a career at sea. The results of this school did Saba proud as close to 200 young men passed through this school and many of them went on to become famous captains especially in the merchant marine of the United States. The making of socks and gloves was an old home industry on Saba and was still being done in 1829. Socks were sold for fls.6.—per dozen and gloves for fls.8.—a dozen. These were made from cotton grown and spun on Saba. After the demise of this home industry, the people went over to the making of hats including high quality Panama hats. In 1857 the earliest mention of this was by the R.C. Priest Father J.C. Gast. He wrote that the plaiting of hats was the only general branch of home industry which is practiced here. The straw came from Cuba. As a result of the Spanish-American war in 1898 there was stagnation in the import of straw from that country. People then tried to import straw from Puerto Rico. After 1890 the Dominican nuns propagated the making of straw hats in Simpson bay on St. Martin and on Hell’s Gate on Saba, and courses were given to all interested parties.

The late Mr. Volney Hassell who was blind from birth, in Saba Silhouettes gives us an idea of the importance of plaiting hats back then and the switch over to the drawn thread work. He lost his father in the eruption of Mt. Pelee in 1902. His father was mate on a schooner which was in the harbor at the time of the eruption. Volney describes two important home industries on Saba when he was a young orphan in a poverty stricken society.

“Ye see our hats? We got a nice press out there [Mammy] plait ‘em, she never sewed ‘em, only just plait it, ye see, with a pen knife. I don’t know in them times how the people got through, ye know, how ever they could ever get them entire strips as fine as that. She plait and she save up her money till she got to twenty – five dollars (Dutch dollars), and she drawed it and bought the press out of it, ye see.You know there used to be a woman here to learn ‘em how to plait ‘em from Holland. The Panama hat ,that is. We hired her our house there. She was there six months. We hired it for six dollars a month. Look, our old grandmother she would sit up at night. They’d strip the tire, you see. Well, I don’t know how they ever got them stripped, but they’d do it with a pen knife, you see, and strip ‘em fine. They’d make you a fine hat and a course one; one for we to have to wear on Sundays and then one, well, for the weekdays, for the working to carry the burdens on, you see. And she could sit there at night, and plait that without light, with eleven strands, we’ll say. And then she’d make we a fine one. You know anything about Panama hats? Well, that was almost next to them, what they called the fine hats. And she could set there to the end of the table and sew ‘em. And then you know what we’d do? We’d take ‘em and put the plait on the table and take a cup or a glass or anything and rub it down like that, you see, till it come smooth, and then they’d take the sulphur and put it into a barrel, and skein up the plait just like you skeins up rope, and put it on a piece of tin inside the barrel like that. And now don’t ask how white they’d come, but that would clearly take your breath, the sulphur. We never soaked it, we just put it o’er the barrel in the sulphur for it to draw it white you se. To draw it white, white, white, and they couldn’t be no whiter, you see. And then you had to light the sulphur, don’t you know, down in the barrel. The barrel never got burned. And after they was smoked, then they turned to sew them, you see.

“Well, then after then, well [Mammy] beginned with the Spanish work. And then in the late years she done plenty of the Spanish work, when she could get the chance, ye know, after she was done with all the work, and set up at night till ever so late and do the Spanish Work. Mammy was pretty old then. They’d send my sister Ruby in the States, the Spanish work, the drawn-thread work, and she’d sell it o’er there, and she’d send we the money like that. In them days that kept we up here, ye know.”Image

The so called “Spanish Work” or Saban Lace was introduced to the island by Mrs. Gertrude Johnson born Hassell (1854-1939) a young lady who had been sent to a convent on Curacao to study to become a teacher. It became the leading home industry in the 20th century. In the First World War as many as 250 women were involved in the making of drawn thread work. The population then was just over two thousand. Continuous lessons were given through the generations to keep Saba lacework alive. Mr. Eric A. Eliason wrote a wonderful account of the history of Saba Lace in his book “The Fruit of Her Hands”.

Dominican Nuns from Voorschoten on August 28th, 1905 opened a school in the “Upper town” in The Bottom in a small house belonging to Lovelet Hassell who had formerly given private lessons in this house. On October 1st, 1907 the school was recognized by the government and was eligible for a small subsidy. There were 40 students from The Bottom and 23 from elsewhere. In 1906 a new school was built at a cost of fls.5.000.—and inaugurated on August 16th, 1906. The two first nuns to come to Saba from St.Eustatius where they had been stationed were Sister Bertranda Geene and Sister Euphrosine van den Brink. In 1911 a new school was built in Windwardside. This building still exists. In 1905 there was a R.C. school run privately by Gertrude Johnson born Hassell (the one who had introduced the Spanish Work to the island) and her niece Peter Elenor Hassell. This school In Windwardside was taken over by sister Bertranda on October 1st, 1907. On January 1st, 1908 two more nuns were assigned to Saba. One of these nuns was Sister Winefrieda Graig. She was British by birth. She was born on22 June 1869in Birmingham, England. She died on March 6th, 1959. Her father was a merchant in Birmingham who sent his children to the continent to get a French education.

At the beginning of the twentieth century there was also public school education in Windwardside. Where Captain Quarter’s hotel was later established there was first a school and later a hospital. Later on in the building behind the Post office, there was a schoolroom. This later became the Public Library.

In 1910 the St.Joseph School was built and the “old school” in The Mountain was sold to Capt. Thomas Hassell. The new school was dedicated on June 22nd, 1911. Sister Euphrosine van den Brink was a pioneer in the building of schools. Because of the bad economic situation on the island there was some year’s as much as 62% absenteeism.

The Dominican nuns did much to further education on Saba. The last ones to leave the island in the mid nineteen seventies were Sister Agatha Jansen, Sister Bendicta Bisschop, and Sister Arcadia O’Connor and Sister Waltruda Jeurissen, the last two mentioned left already in 1974 and the first two mentioned left in 1977.

In Windwardside in 1935 a new school was built and in 1957 a new school was also built in The Bottom. I went to both of the old schools, which were wooden buildings, the old school in Windwardside, still standing, above the Rectory and the old school in The Bottom, former church, which was torn down to build the new concrete building. The building now used by the Department of Works, was used as a public school from around 1920 until 1973 when it was closed down because of the then small attendance. It was then decided to move the hospital on St. John’s to The Bottom and to start a secondary school there. In 1983 work was started at the same location and the primary school was transferred to that location as well. The schools in The Bottom and in the Windwardside were closed down. The children are now carried by busses from all over the island to the schools on St. John’s. The Bottom is now dominated by the Saba School of Medicine which was set up by Sabans, the Saba Government and Dr. David Frederick in 1988. It started out on a small scale in the old Roman Catholic school building. This building is now leased out by government and used as a hardware store and the one in Windwardside, built in 1955, is used as the Eugenius Johnson Center.Image

Of all the nuns I remember sister Arcadia the best. For the licks I got from her of course. She must have learned disciplinary tactics from the schools in Trinidad. V.S. Naipaul in “Miguel Street” in the account of his ram goat describes how the teacher soaked the tamarind stick used as a whip in water so that the lash would have more effect. Sister Arcadia would send one to cut a tamarind stick and then whipped you with it. She used as her threat “I am going to hit you a Peter Selie.” Once she threw her shoe at me from behind the desk. I ducked and Alton Johnson took the torpedo full smack in the face. She was a native of St. Maarten. Her brother, William O’Connor’s son Joseph Alphonse Constantine O’Connor was later my boss on St. Maarten. Those were the days and I think back on them fondly as I am writing this, even  fondly of the “Peter Selie’s” Sister Arcadia doled out. Her shoe did not always miss its mark I can assure you.

Literature consulted: Dr. J. Hartog “Geschiedenis van de Bovenwindse Eilanden.

M.D. Teenstra: Een bezoek aan Saba -1829)

Encyclopedie van de Nederlandse Antillen, De Walburg Pers. 1985

De Zusters Domicanessen van Voorschoten, Mathias S. Voges

A Brief Outline of History and Data on the work of the Anglican Church in Saba 1777-1977

Gouden Jubleum der Dominicaner missie op Curacao 1870-1920 N.V. Centrale Drukkerij, Nijmegen

Tales From My Grandmother’s Pipe; Will Johnson, 1979 etc.

Saba Silhouettes, Life Stories from a Caribbean Island. Dr. Julia Crane, Vantage Press, 1989

The Fruit of Her Hands, Saba Lace History and Patterns, Eric A. Eliason. Saba Foundation for Arts 1997.


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