The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

The Life of George Seaman

The life of George Seaman

By Will Johnson

George Seaman

Writer George Seaman at his home at “Break-Heart-Hill” a.k.a. “Brickett Hill”.

 

 

Flying over the Atlantic Ocean just east of the Wide Sargasso Sea, my dear old friend George Seaman came to mind. I was on my way to Amsterdam via Paris flying in style on Air France. I was flying this same route when he died some years ago.

George was a man of many talents which in the end boiled down to the love of writing, of the natural world and women. That everyone should be so lucky to get some of life’s greatest pleasures from these sources.

George was born on the island of Santa Cruz in 1904 when it was still a Danish possession. He insisted that it was some years later. His son George Jr. told me that his father had lied so much to the girls about his age that he actually believed his own lie.

George Sr.’s father was a citizen of the United States who had been a soldier for the North in the Civil War. George was the product of a late marriage of his father to a Danish lady and an only child from that union. He never really knew his father who also had a son by an earlier marriage in the United States.

Before continuing with my personal memories of George here are some excerpts of his life from his book “Every Shadow is a Man”.

Liz Wilson a friend of his has the following to say about the author.” George A. Seaman’s life has spanned almost the entire 20th Century. This true native of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands was born in the seaside village of Frederiksted in 1904 and his early childhood provided a rich preparation for his later years as ornithologist, explorer, naturalist, adventurer, poet, author and protector of wildlife.

However, it was at his stepfather John Dubois’ side that he learned how to fish and hunt and keenly observe plants, planets, stars, insects, birds, fish and the entire natural world around him.

This background prepared him for his first job at the American Museum of Natural History as a taxidermist and field collector which led to five expeditions in Central and South America and the Pacific.

He worked for Standard Oil in Venezuela and during World War II he conducted a successful search for wild rubber in Brazil to aid the Allies.

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George Seaman posing with a bunch of hog bananas.

Returning to St. Croix in 1949 he was appointed Supervisor of Wildlife for the Virgin Islands, a position he held until his retirement in 1969.

Since that time, Seaman has used his years of environmental observation as the basis for his memoirs, his poetry, his poignant and often-times humorous yarns about birds, beasts, and humans. Throughout his books one eloquent thread prevails consistently – the need for tender stewardship and enlightened protection of his beloved island –St. Croix (Santa Cruz!).”

Ro Wauer has the following to say.

“Every Shadow Is a Man” truly provides insight into a different world than that which exists today. St. Croix during the first half of the twentieth century was a place of plenty, where a young man could enjoy the fruits of nature. The island contained an abundance of wildlife then; there was plenty of open space. George Seaman helps us to compare those “birds and times” with what we find today

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George Seaman here posing with Mrs.Lynne Johnson-Renz and her mother Enid Renz-Holzhauser with Will Johnson in the background.

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The value of George A. Seaman’s writings will undoubtedly only increase in time as St. Croix and the rest of the Virgin Islands continue to change. This book documents the status of several birds and their habitats that the author did not previously mention in his earlier nature writings: “Sticks from the Hawks Nest” in 1973; “Ay Ay: An Island Almanac” in 1980 and “Sadly Cries the Plover” in 1987. “Every Shadow Is a Man” is another very special contribution. The reader will find it of great value both for its natural history perspective and also for the pure enjoyment of exploring “back into birds and time.”

At an early age George became interested in nature. At the age of eighteen he shipped off to Panama where he joined an old schooner bound for the Pacific. He stayed for a year in the French Polynesian islands of Tahiti and the Marquesas. He was especially fascinated with the Marquesas. Later on he returned to Fredericksted to see his mother. After that he got employment with the Chiclet Company and also the ESSO. He was able to pursue his love and passion for nature by working in the jungles of Central and South America.

He explored the llanos of Venezuela and the mighty Amazon of Brazil.

In 1934 he visited Saba for the first time with “Tonce” Hassell whom he had met somewhere. Among my documents I have a copy of the Journal he kept while on Saba. Some of his observations on life here were remarkable for the time. He said that Saba was the only place where the children ruled the household. Fifty years later a person close to me observed the same thing. When she would go to pick up a four or five year old to go to Sunday school the parent would say: “He said he ain’t agoing today.”

Eric Lawaetz was also a good friend of George’s and came to see him on Saba before he died. Also Lito Vals of St.John also a writer and a mutual friend as well came to Saba to see George on occasion, as well as many other friends from his youth. George had moved to Saba in the 1960’s and had purchased a house in the area known as “Break Heart Hill” pronounced” Bracket Hill”. He remained here until his death in the l997

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George Seaman here reading his newspaper.

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In his last years I would often visit him at the home he rented in English Quarter. He was drifting then. In his mind he was reliving old love affairs and bringing them up in between scientific discussions. While discussing the formation of planets the conversation would suddenly switch to a love affair on the Tapanahoni River. Just as quick he would return to explain me the mystery of how European and American eels both breed off Bermuda and yet an American eel has never been found in European waters and vice versa.

At a Christmas dinner I remember him regaling us with a Christmas dinner story of his own. He was traveling up the Amazon from Manaus to Iquitos. The cook stuck his head out of the kitchen door at the end of the meal and asked if he wanted dessert. Turns out the cook was a leper with half of his face gone and looked like death twice warmed over.

Everyone of course was grateful to George for that vivid description of his Christmas dinner on the Amazon. And of course there was lots of dessert left over.

Another story he told me when he was about 92 or so was about a Portuguese widow who ran a guesthouse somewhere in a remote village on the Amazon

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I thought a lot about George and the stories he told me when I cruised down the mighty Amazon river.

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George used to eat at her place. After months in the Jungle the widow looked more and more attractive. George finally convinced her to have a date. The widow was dead scared of losing reputation and so gave him specific instructions how to be careful in trying to gain access to her bedroom upstairs.

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Good friends Elmer Linzey, Will Johnson, Jack Lincoln and George Seaman who often met for coffee and discuss world events.

On the appointed night George approached the staircase shoes in hand. The first step creaked terribly. The second step was worse and by the third step the ancient staircase decided to interrupt George’s plans and collapsed with a terrific bang. Everyone in the place started screaming and George was halfway to Peru by the time he stopped running. Several weeks later he decided to risk a visit back to the widow’s lodge. When she saw him she immediately approached him and said to him:” Thank God you didn’t come to the lodge that night. A robber came and the staircase collapsed and it was one mess. And he got away when he ran into the jungle.” I told George at the time that someday I was going to write a novel on his escapades entitled “How to catch a widow.”

When I was Senator I had lots of time on my hands and every day a group of us would meet at Scout’s Place. Besides George there was usually also Elmer Linzey, Walter Campbell, Harry Nietschman, Carl Anslyn and the occasional visitor to the island who would join us to hear our take on world affairs.

I cannot write all here. I am sure all of these friends; especially Elmer will be laughing when they read these memories in the great beyond. Sometime ago when I dreamt about him, Elmer that is, he was in a suit in a parking lot in a strange place. When he turned off he told me goodbye. I told my wife “I think Elmer has reached his destination.” But lo and behold on Aruba he visited me in a dream, which I cannot remember now. In Jorge Luis’ book “Everything and Nothing” he goes into the meaning of dreams and nightmares. He writes, “I have cited Sir Thomas Browne. He says that dreams give us an idea of the excellence of the soul, seeing the soul free of the body, and engaged in play and dreaming. He thinks that the soul enjoys its freedom.”

George’s first wife by whom he had two sons was a Sicilian woman whom he met in Santo Domingo. He was working there as a foreman at the time. I remember once at the bar at Scout’s Place. Carlyle Granger and I were listening to George’s stories with Diana Medero serving us our coffee from behind the bar

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The home at “Break-Heart-Hill” where George Seaman spent many happy years while he lived on Saba.

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I changed my mind about telling this one. Santo Domingo and all of that you know. George’s stories usually implied subjects which only an experienced Calypsonian could think up. All I can say is that it had to do with the occupation by the United States army and how the rebels would entice soldiers on patrol to enter the cane fields with the same visions of Paradise as those of my friends in the Muslim world.

It is perhaps because of his many adventures that he decided to become a writer. As we all know writers see things differently from other people. They have a third eye.

I was on my way to Holland when I paid him his last visit in the hospital. We discussed the novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He compared it to his years on Saba. I was secretly hoping that he would survive till I got back. Many times I had prepared his eulogy in my mind. Two other eulogies which I walked around with in my head were one for John William “Willie” Johnson my fathers’ cousin and one for my uncle Captain Charles Reuben Simmons. When they died I also happened each time to be in Holland on missions for the people of Saba.

George is buried in what was known as the “Potters Field” behind the War Monument in The Bottom. This was the site of the first church on Saba, the Presbyterian Church. Now along with George, Ernie West, Robert Beebe and others are buried there; it has gone from potters field to the “Ricoleta” of Saba. On my last visit to Buenos Aires I visited Ricoleta and the grave of Eva Peron who finally made it into the Duarte family tomb.

Little did the people of Saba know that it was a privilege to have had a man like George choose Saba as his home and last resting place.

He loved islands and was full of stories of island life. I remember him telling me of the time when he visited the island of Jost Van Dyke in the nineteen thirties. The lady who rented him a room gave him a whole heap of scrambled eggs for breakfast. And for lunch. And for dinner. The next morning after another scrambled egg experience, he looked out the window, and saw the lady cleaning a whole set of freshly caught fish. Upon enquiry she told him that she was preparing them for her lunch. “And what about me?” George asked. Surprised the lady said to him: “I was told that you Americans only ate scrambled eggs.”

He and the Canadian artist Bob Richards told me that they would like to have Charles Borromeo Hodge’s poem “Those Bouncing Beauties” inscribed on their tombstone’s. However when Borromeo published that poem on Women’s Day it caused such an uproar that I decided to send the poem to Mauritania instead where those bouncing beauties are a national obsession.

The Spanish poet Fray Luis de Leon wrote:

Vivir quiero conmigo

Gozar quiero del bien que debo al cielo,

A solas sin testigo

Libre de amor, de cello,

De odio, de esperanza, de recelo.

 

( I want to live with myself,/I want to enjoy the good that I owe to heaven,/alone, without witnesses,/free of love, of jealousy,/of hate, of hope, of fear.)

George came to Saba to live alone, without witnesses, free of love, of jealousy, of hate, of hope, of fear. It was not meant to be, even on Saba

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I was in Holland when he was buried. I would have asked the new owners of his house to allow him to be buried in the private cemetery belong to famous sailor Tomma Johnson, which is located next to the house.

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He is survived by his sons George on St. Croix and Johnny in Florida (and I am sure also a good number of love children in the Amazon, Venezuela and Costa Rica.)

As I travel the islands and see what has become of the natural beauty which George so much admired from his youth, I am reminded of Jeremiah l2. 10-11

“ Many shepherds have ravaged my vineyard

and trampled down my field, they have made my pleasant field a desolate wilderness,

made it a wasteland, waste and waterless, to my sorrow. The whole land is waste, and no one cares.”

So long George, your friend

Will

Thomas Clifford Vanterpool

By; Will Johnson

Thomas Clifford Vanterpool

Thomas Clifford Vanterpool

This is an obituary which I received from his son in Canada. Dr. Alan Vanterpool. This obituary appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada. It was written by Michael Shaw, a native of Barbados and later Vice-President and Provost of the University of British Columbia.

“Thomas Clifford Vanterpool, D.Sc. (Sask.), F.R.S.C., Emeritus Professor of Biology at the University of Saskatchewan, known as “Van” to his friends, died in Victoria, B.C. on 15 January 1984. He is survived by his wife of nearly fifty-eight years, Phyllis (nee Clarke), two children, Alan and Joanna, and three grandchildren.

Born in Saba, Netherlands West Indies, on April 22nd 1898, Van moved as a young boy to Barbados, where he was educated at Harrison College, a school of which he often spoke with affection and revisited in his 80th year. The College, founded in 1733, was strong in traditions based on loyalty to the institution, the spirit of fair play, and courtesy and consideration towards others, characteristics that Van displayed throughout his life.

He was in every respect a gentleman. At Harrison College he won his 1st XI colours for both cricket and soccer and innumerable prizes for his prowess in athletics. He obtained the Oxford and Cambridge Higher School Certificate in Science in 1916; he said the examinations were the toughest he ever had to write. After two years as an overseer on a sugar plantation, he entered Macdonald College (McGill) in 1919, again distinguished himself in sports, and graduated in 1923 with a B.Sc. in Agriculture, the Governor General’s Gold Medal and the F.C. Harrison Prize in Plant Pathology. Stimulated by B.T.Dickson, and continuing his studies in plant pathology, the obtained the M.Sc. in 1925 and spent the following year (125-1926) as the Hudson’s Bay Company Research Fellow at the University of Manitoba under the eminent mycologist and former president of the Royal Society of Canada A.R.H. Buller, F.R.S.

Thomas Clifford Vanterpool, and accomplished athlete

Thomas Clifford Vanterpool, an accomplished athlete

Returning to Macdonald College, Van married Phyllis, who had been a student in Home Economics, attended the course in plant Physiology given by F.E.Lloyd, F.R.S.C., and G.W.Scarth, F.R.S.C., and lectured in botany. He was thus tutored by the most outstanding teachers of plant pathology, mycology, and plant physiology in Canada at that time.

In 1928 Van was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Saskatchewan. There he was to spend his entire professional life, continuing to work in his laboratory until 1974, nine years after his formal retirement, when he published his last research paper and moved to Victoria, B.C.: a span of forty-six years unbroken except for a memorable sabbatical leave at Imperial Colege, London, in 1935-36 with W.Brown F.R.S., the dean of British plant pathologists.

In his early years in Saskatchewan Van was responsible for research on browning root rot of cereals, then a serious disease on summer fallow crops. He also taught plant physiology; regularly presenting his students with lists of carefully considered “questions for thought and discussion” designed to challenge the mind. When W.P. Fraser retired in 1937 he inherited courses in plant pathology and mycology, not to mention first year biology (botany), a heavy schedule which he maintained until I joined the department as its plant physiologist in 1950. He often greeted me with the opening gambit, “You’re a plant physiologist, what do you make of this?” His questions were always interesting, but seldom easy to answer, and I can still hear his friendly chuckle when I confessed my ignorance. In later years, after his retirement, he gently teased his younger colleagues, saying that it had taken three people to replace him – a plant physiologist, a mycologist, and a plant pathologist.

Van directed the research of twelve graduate students, including two who later became Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, D.J.Samborski and J.T. Slyhuis. Yet he did most of his published research with his own hands, being the sole author of 65% of his 50 research papers and 90% of some 80 abstracts, bulletins and articles offering advice to famers, and reports in the Canadian Plant Disease Survey. Much of his research had a practical aspect, and his former students have happy memories of working with him in the field or on disease surveys. While still at Macdonald he showed that a serious disease of tomato was caused by double infection with two viruses, but not by infection of either of the two alone. This was the first double virus disease to be described in either plants or animals. His published report (“Streak or Winter Blight of Tomato in Quebec,” Physiopathology 16; 311-331, 1926) based on his M.Sc. thesis, was to become a landmark in the history of virology. Nicholas Hahon reproduced a condensed version of it in his book; Selected Papers on Virology (Prentice Hall, 1964) pp. 103-11, with the comment “Vanterpool’s demonstration was a significant contribution to the understanding of these unique plant viruses.”

Browning root rot of cereals caused average crop losses in 1928, 1933, and 1939 estimated at $10 million per annum. Van identified the casual organisms, and showed that the disease could be controlled by the application of phosphate fertilizer and cultural practices which restored crop residues or farm manure to the soil. By 1950, due to increased use of phosphate fertilizer and the replacement of of the binder and the thresher by the combine, the disease had virtually disappeared and Van produced an analytical paper entitled “The Phenomenal Decline of Browning Root Rot (Pythium spp) on the Canadian Prairies” (Sci.Agric, 332: 443 -452, 1952), which should be read by all students of practical plant pathology. He also pioneered research on the diseases of oil seed crops on the prairies, having initiated studies on linseed flax when it first became an important crop in Saskatchewan and, during and after World War II, on oil seed rape, a crop then new to the prairies. Van was vastly amused when the local paper, reporting on the results of his latest plant disease survey, ran the story: Rape on the increase in Saskatchewan, Vanterpool says.” Oil and see rape is now known as Canola.

Van became a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1933. He was a Member of the British Mycological Society, the Mycological Society of America, and the American and Canadian Phytopathological Societies. He was a former President of the latter and a former Director of the Agricultural Institute of Canada. He served on the editorial boards of Phytopathology, published by the American Phytopathological Society, and the Canadian Journal of Plant Science. For many years he was a member of the National Research Council’s Associate on Plant Diseases, and the Province of Saskatchewan’s Advisory Councils on Fertilizers and Grain Crops.

Although the practical importance of Van’s research and his vast experience were known to plant pathologists in Canada and abroad, it was a long time before he received the recognition and support he deserved in his own department. Indeed until 1961 he suffered in characteristic silence, supported by a loyal and loving wife, under an unsympathetic head, who seemed to have little appreciation of his work, perhaps because Van’s agility of mind sometimes created an impression of disorganization among his less discerning colleagues. His work was finally recognized by the Royal Society of Canada, which elected him to Fellowship in 1965, the year of his formal retirement, and by the University of Saskatchewan in 1968, when he became the first person to earn its degree of Doctor of Science for original published research. Always a little sensitive at never having completed a Ph.D., Doctor Van regarded this as his crowning achievement, though he was the most modest of men; but there was more to come. In 1981 the Canadian Phytopathological Society, of which he had been a charter member in 1929, presented him with its Award for Outstanding Research for 1983, an honour that gave him great pleasure. Though he was very ill at the time, I believe that he was equally pleased to learn that the Award for Outstanding Research for 1983 was bestowed on his former student, J.T. Slykhuis.

The memory of this humorous, generous, kindly and courteous gentleman and scholar is cherished by his family, his former students and colleagues and all who knew him. Ave atque vale, Van! “

In 1980 he visited Saba and stayed at the Captains Quarters Hotel. I was not on the island at the time of his visit. He was distantly related to us through the Simmons side of his ancestry. My brother Eric took him around while he was on the island. He passed away on January 15th, 1984. He is the son of Capt. Thomas Charles Vanterpool owner of many fine Saban schooners and also the building which is the official residence of the Island Governor, and his wife Joanna Dinzey Vanterpool-Leverock (daughter of Governor Mozes Leverock). His mother died in 1900 and his father died in 1950 on St. Thomas. He has a sister living on the French side of St. Martin. He had one son, Dr. Alan Vanterpool of Edmonton, Alberta Canada and a daughter Joanna and her husband Oscar Krasner of Nelville, New York.

Thomas Clifford with his father Thomas Charles Vanterpool and his son Allan.

Thomas Clifford with his father Thomas Charles Vanterpool and his son Allan.

Saba can be proud for a small island as to the number of men and women who though having to emigrate were very successful and became famous in other people’s countries. Through bringing their stories to my readers it is to be hoped that they will use these examples to teach their children. If in those hard times our people could achieve such heights then why not now when there are so many opportunities to advance yourself. Not only while going to school but what you have done after graduation. All my life I have tried and am still trying to learn via reading ,research and writing, yet not forgetting that as part of a community I have other obligations towards my fellow man. Not to end this wonderful life story on a sour note I still want to believe that people will be inspired by the lives and achievements of people who I write about.

 

Commander Lucas Schorer 1687-1696

By; Will Johnson

The poet Rafael Obligador, known in the annals of Argentine literature as “The Singer of the Parana,” loved the landscape where he grew up and he evoked the place in these simple lines.-

“O beloved islands, sweet refuge

Of my boyhood years!”

I have been trying over the past years to share with readers the history of and love for the islands in which I grew up lived and loved and which were the sweet refuge of my boyhood years.

The Dutch first colonized St. Eustatius in 1634. Having denied any Dutch ancestry for the better part of my life, to my dismay and even distress some years ago I dug up a Dutch ancestor on one of my trips to the Dutch archives where I spent lots of time before the advent of the internet. He was on the first boat to come ashore and claim the island for the Dutch.

From the book “Het geslacht Heyliger” by Mr. R.H. Calmeyer we read: “By orders from the gentlemen from Vlissingen Jan Snouck, who therefore as patron had received patent from the West India Company, Peter of Courcelles, on board of an armed cruiser on April 25th 1636, accompanied by a herring fleet, arrived at the uninhabited Caribbean island of St. Eustatius. This was named by him originally New Zealand. He took possession of the island for the West India Company.

 

Area where the Dutch first landed to claim St. Eustatius in 1636

Area where the Dutch first landed to claim St. Eustatius in 1636

His lieutenant (my ancestor) Abraham Adriaensen went ashore to lay claim to the island. He probably landed close to a spot of land owned by me not far from the seashore. Adriaensen who in 1641 became Commander of the island was the father of Peter Adriaensen (Commander 1665) who in turn was the father of Isiah Adrieaensen whose daughter Martha married my great-great-great-great grandfather Mark Horton in 1728. Their son Richard Horton’s tomb (born on St. Eustatius in 1731 –died 4-4-1769) is still in good condition and is located in the Old English cemetery’s graveyard, right across the street from the Methodist Church. He must have been a good man as his mother-in-law Joanna Dinzey is buried right next to him. Her daughter went on to remarry to an Abel Blyden of St.Kitts and moved to St. Barths while some of the children moved to Saba and established themselves there.

You will ask yourself by now, what has this to do with Lucas Schorer? Just bragging man! Just bragging!

Of the many Dutch officials in the first part of the colonization of these islands, we know of none of them whose” likeness” as the old people would say, was left behind, except one.

In W.R. Menkman’s book “De Nederlanders in het Caraibische Zeegebied”, there is a photograph taken of a painting of “His Honour” himself Lucas Schorer. This painting is part of the collection of the “Rijksbureau voor kunst historie en ikonographisch documentatie”, in The Hague.

Portrait of Commander Lucas Schorer in The Hague

Portrait of Commander Lucas Schorer in The Hague

From this painting one gets the impression of a most refined gentleman, being served his afternoon tea, with a pirate ship off the coast in the background. Perhaps either the Dutch painter or the Dutch West India Company felt that that was the proper way to portray a Dutch Commander living in the tropics. Nothing could be further from the truth if we are to believe his superiors reporting back to the West India Company on his activities here in our islands. It would seem that he only got the job because his family was an influential family in the Province of Zeeland and shareholders in the West India Company as well.

Lucas Schorer was the Commander of St. Eustatius and Saba from 1687 to 1689 and demoted to Vice Commander of Saba from 1690 to 1696. He left such a reputation behind that from then to now nearly all the Administrators of Saba have been natives to this island and of English, Scottish, Irish and African descent.

He was born in 1657 in Middelburg Zeeland as a son of Daniel Schorer and Maria Backer. According to a letter written by him from Saba on July 20th 1698 to the West India Company there was no one here in the islands that were related to him. He never married and died a bachelor.

On February 4th, 1690, Vice Commander van Beverhoudt wrote to the “Heren X” the bosses of the West India Company that Lucas Schorer was living in a state of concubinage on the island of Nevis with the widow of the late Louis Houtcooper, who in life had been Commander of Saba and St. Eustatius. However after only two months of keeping house with the widow, Lucas Schorer packed her and her children up and shipped them to Surinam, from where she wrote him several letters. Why is beyond me as he had found a nice widow and got rid of her and you would think he would have appreciated that.

The Bottom from 1890 as it would have looked in the time of Schorer.

The Bottom from 1890 as it would have looked in the time of Schorer.

Some months later however, on July 20th 1690, van Beverhoudt in a letter to the West India Company retracted all his earlier complaints against Schorer,”as he had allowed himself to be informed by people who turned out to be false witnesses. On that same day Lucas Schorer notified the West India Company that since a few days he had been on Saba. All differences with the people of Saba were set aside after the residents were able to bear witness that they had been misled by false and malicious tongues. As a result they again swore allegiance to him. However on June 20th, 1696 after a Commission of enquiry from St. Eustatius had made a report on their investigation of his conduct he was dismissed as the Vice Commander of Saba. It appears that he had turned to the bottle “kill devil” as it was called back then, and as a result of living it up on Saba he could give no account of his financial administration. And as we well know to this day the Dutch are very particular about how you spend their money.

After that Schorer delayed giving any account of his administration due to illness and consequent inability to write up a report. And as a footnote to history the Van Beverhoudt referred to here was killed by a falling rock under the cliffs between the Tent Bay and the Ladder Bay and to this day the rock on which he was fishing is called “Governor’s Rock.”

Remnants of the Lower Town where thousands lived when the island was "The Golden Rock"

Remnants of the Lower Town where thousands lived when the island was “The Golden Rock”

The last we read about Lucas Schorer is in a letter from Commander Isaac Lamont of St. Eustatius and Saba dated November 14th 1701 stating that now that the hurricane season is over that he intends to visit Saba and to take Schorer back with him so that together with Schorer he can go over the accounts. Schorer must have returned to Saba however as on the population list of Saba taken on February 3rd, 1705 Lucas Schorer is listed as a resident of Saba.

The process of “Antillianization” began when Commander Lamont replaced Schorer with the native born Jacob Leverock and James Hassell who had been Act. Commander before when Schorer was forced to resign.

Schorer did play an important role though when as Commander of the two islands on Sunday April 3rd 1689 and the days following he defended the islands against the French Count de Blenac. Though unsuccessful the French allowed him and his troops to leave the island peacefully and they went to Nevis. The attack by the French solved a political problem for him as just before that the Sabans had decided to break away from the administration on St. Eustatius and even threatened to join with the English islands as 95% of the European part of the Saban population were descended from people of the British islands who had been left behind by the Jamaican pirates in 1665 supplemented by 90 of their own crew members. The Sabans had even gone ahead and appointed their own Commander and Island Secretary. Their complaint was that the “Central Government” on St. Eustatius favoured that islands interests over those of their colony Saba. Since independence was not the thing to threaten with back then, the best attention getter was for the Sabans to threaten to join into a “Federation”, if you could call it that, with the English islands with whom they shared a common heritage and language.

After Lucas Schorer it was all native Saban Commanders, Jacob Leverock followed by another of my ancestors Charles Simmons and his son Peter Simmons (for the period from 1720 to 1778) followed by Thomas Dinzey and the Beaks dynasty which included Mozes Leverock (married to a Beaks) and continued up to October 15th, 1875 when Jan Jacob Beaujon Quast was appointed Lt. Governor.He came from Curacao but was descended from one of the many French Hugenot families who had colonized St. Eustatius together with the Dutch. I will do a separate article on those who served Saba as Administrator over the centuries albeit with various titles ranging from Commander, Vice Commander, Vice Lt. Governor, Administrator, Lt. Governor and now Island Governor.

The Old English church yard where warden Richard Horton who died in 1769 is buried

The Old English church yard where warden Richard Horton who died in 1769 is buried

It seems that eventually Lucas Schorer got fed up with the Sabans and removed himself back to the metropolis (St. Eustatius). He is buried in the cemetery of the Dutch Reformed church there. And I still cannot get over the fact that he would send away a widow to Surinam and live a lonely debauched bachelor life on these small islands. That alone would have given me a very negative opinion of him. Zorba the Greek would have said;”To refuse a widow is counted as one of the greatest of sins.” And so in my book, Lucas Schorer goes into history through his portrait in The Hague and sending the widow to exile in Surinam!!

A visit with “Miss Olive”

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Mrs. Lena Vanterpool-Lampe with Mrs. Olive Simmons-Heyliger

By: Will Johnson

For her book “Saba Silhouettes”, Dr. Julia Crane interviewed a cross section of the population. She did not only interview older people. However she interviewed many interesting people whose stories are of interest for our understanding of our history. She could not publish all her interviews in the book. She shared her interviews with me while she was doing a similar project on St. Eustatius. I was there while she was doing her interviews and we met almost daily to consult on matters pertaining to both Saba and St. Eustatius.

The following is from her diary of April 27th, 1964.

“Spent the morning typing. There was a terrible rainstorm. In the afternoon went to visit with “Miss Olive” Simmons/Heyliger. When I asked her about Indian artifacts and any knowledge she might have of Indian materials she told me: “I have some pieces of Indian things which were dug up where Clement Sorton’s house is now (across from the Anglican Church). You could once see that there had been some sort of building there long ago.” She said that her cousin had once had a store where the closed buildings are on Audrey May Zagers’ property kitty-cornered from the big mango tree and that she had kept the artifacts to show to visitors. Now Miss Olive keeps them at her home and they are seldom seen. One American teacher had photographed the artifacts and sent the photo to the Smithsonian (or somewhere in Washington) for identification. Unlike the reports I had heard of the only artifacts found in Saba, these were really beautiful things, especially a conical pestle about eight inches in length, a stone rounded and bored for hafting as a weapon, and a Celt. I photographed them all as best as I could in her yard. Miss Olive said that, contrary to the idea given in Josselin de Jong’s writings, she could not remember that Indian pottery was ever to be found on the surface as one walked around. (This was later corroborated by such experts on these things as Mr. Edmund Hassell “Mucker”.) I have not yet, despite great questioning; ever found anyone who ever heard of de Jong’s digs at the Anglican Church, or anyone who has any Indian pottery in his possession.

Mr. Carl Zagers bringing Amerindian artifacts to Will Johnson which he found on his farm at the "Plum Piece"

Mr. Carl Zagers bringing Amerindian artifacts to Will Johnson which he found on his farm at the “Plum Piece”

Miss Olive said that the house in which she and her sister (Marion) live was built by their mother’s father (John James Simmons). His first wife gave him eight children and after she died he married the woman who was Miss Olive’s grandmother (Ann Phantose Taylor)

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Miss Marion Simmons, sister of “Miss Olive”.

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This grandmother came to the West Indies as a little girl from Scotland, and her mother died on the voyage here. The little girl, her grandmother, stayed in St. Thomas and the father kept coming for visits and wanting to take her home. He was a Captain. After the last visit, on which he had made arrangements to come back and take her with him back to Scotland, the father returned no more —lost at sea. (His name was Taylor), The people in St. Thomas with whom the little girl (Miss Olive’s grandmother) had been staying kept her—the family in Scotland and here didn’t want her to run the risk of being lost at sea as her parents had been. She married her Saba husband when he already had eight children. A woman from Windwardside had been taking care of the clothes for the children, etc. Miss Olive’s grandmother had five children herself, making a total of 13 for her grandfather.

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Grocery store and rum shop of Mr. Theodore Sigismund Heyliger “Mr. Dory” as it looked in the nineteen fifties.

When they first came here, some of the neighbors came to complain about the conduct of the slaves during the absence of the family and urged the husband to beat them. Miss Olive’s grandmother went out and faced the group and told them never to come again because they would never flog their slaves again. So she was loved by the slaves. She said that before she would see them flogged she would give them their freedom. In those days the slaves lived on the land of the white people, and most could stay after emancipation. Miss Olive’s family had one slave called Parmelia who hired to them after emancipation. “But now they are our equals. My grandfather had a lot of slaves. He had a lot of land up in Troy and a lot around this house—he used the slaves to cultivate it. The emancipation day was a big day in Saba. The owners gave each slave good clothes. The government sent two doctors; and the owners dressed the slaves well because for each slave the doctors found to be in good condition the owner was paid 200 guilders. My family got paid for every one because they were fine—but some people did not get paid because their slaves were not in good condition. They (the ex-slaves) had a big party with cake and everything up where Rupert Sorton’s store is now located, where the house with the verandah now is. (I was told that the emancipation declaration was read off by Governor Moses Leverock from this verandah.)If a baby was born the night before the emancipation the owner got the 200 guilders for it. With my grandmother, the slaves continued with her the same as before emancipation –they doing her work and she taking care of them. They had to give the slaves names when they were emancipated; but the Simmons family didn’t give Simmons. Sometimes when a slave woman would have a baby for a white man she would give the government the name of the father for her baby. This happened with one Heyliger, for example, which is how those people have the same name as my husband’s family. Even if the child was for the Heyliger they should have said “no” the child should have the woman’s name instead of the man’s if they were not married. The Leverocks gave their slaves the name Levenstone or Livingston. Many of my family’s slaves went to sea—partly to the States and to Bermuda.

My father’s parents were Peter Simmons and Anne Leverock. On my mother’s side it was John Simmons and Anne Phantose Taylor. My father and the Simmons family on my mother’s side were not related. The house called “Bunker Hill” belonged to my half uncle (Frederick Augustus Simmons Sr. who died January 18th, 1901 at the age of 63 and his wife Annie Beaks Simmons died Feb. 21st 1916 at the age of 74.) and the one above belonged to another uncle. When “Bunker Hill” first belonged to Uncle Fred it wasn’t as big as it is now. The one who built it had only one son, and they all died. It was sold several times.” Miss Olive said that Annie Simmons is her cousin and Annie Simmons Permenter is a distant relative.

Miss Olive says that when the Judge is going to come to Saba the Griffier (court recorder) comes ahead of time and takes down the information about the case and gets everything ready. Then when the Judge comes he has to stay only a couple of days to settle all the business.

Mr. Theodore Sigismund Heyliger and his wife Olive Henrietta Simmons

Mr. Theodore Sigismund Heyliger and his wife Olive Henrietta Simmons

Miss Olive used to work for Mr. Theodore “Mr. Dory” Heyliger in his grocery store where the bank is now located. When his first wife died Mr. Dory married Miss Olive and they together with her sister Marion continued to live in her father’s house. He was Moses Leverock “Pa Mody” Simmons. Miss Olive’s husband Theodore Sidgismund Heyliger was born October 1st 1871 and died December 11th, 1958. His parents were John Joseph Dinzey Heyliger and Mary Ann Simmons. His first wife was Leila Winfield who died at the age of 66 in 1938. He then married “Miss Olive” who used to work with him in the store. The wedding took place on February 21st, 1939. I remember him well sitting there in his store. He never had any children. Eugenius Johnson told me a story once how after work he stopped together with Kenneth Peterson at Mr. Dory’s to have a drink since it was Friday. In those days Eugenius had to walk from Hell’s Gate to The Bottom and back to work for government for ninety guilders a month. On that particular day he left a hundred guilders worth of stamps for my cousin Estelle Simmons who ran the Post Office on Hell’s Gate. When he got home Estelle asked him what about the stamps he was supposed to bring for her. Realizing that he had left them at Mr. Dory’s, he turned right around and walked back to the Bottom. The store was closed so he went by Mr. Dory who had locked them in his safe and after retrieving them Eugenius headed back on foot to Hell’s Gate. Twice on foot to The Bottom and back to Hell’s Gate on the same day.
In Dr. Crane’s diary of Saturday, May 9th 1964 she writes: “In the afternoon visited Miss Olive Heyliger and obtained several clippings from her to be copied. Miss Olive told me that they used to build big 3-masted boats on Saba but now only the small fishing boats are built.” On that same topic on Friday April 10th, 1964 she writes: Mr. Evelyn Zagers stated that they used to build many ships here, some of them two masters of 75 tons or more. How they launched them beats Mr. Zagers but he believes by rollers.”

Since Dr. Crane did her research much more information has been found on the Amerindian population of Saba before the European settlement. Corinne and Menno Hoogland leading teams of archaeologists from the University of Leiden have visited here on several occasions doing research and have founds many interesting tools and other implements used by the Amerindians. Carl Zagers also brought to my attention that he was finding all kinds of strange rocks over where he was farming in “The Plum Piece” above the village of Palmetto Point (aka Mary’s Point). I went there shortly after open heart surgery and brought back on my head a bag of tools used by the Amerindians to add to my collection of artifacts that I have at home and which had been given to me by various people. The Leiden study group have also done excavations there and added much knowledge of how the Amerindians survived on the island.

'Dory' and Miss Olive getting married 1939

‘Dory’ and Miss Olive getting married 1939

Miss Olive was born on September 16th, 1891 and passed away on December 26th, 1971. Her parents were Mozes Leverock Simmons and Clementina Beal Simmons. In her last years she would get help from her neighbours from the Zagers/Collins families in the Promised land and my brother Eric would look after her legal interests as by then most of her close family as well as the former well to do families of The Bottom had emigrated to Barbados, Bermuda and the United States and would only come back for an occasional visit while others turned a rock when they left and never returned. She was one of the last of those last families and was always very proud of her Scottish grandmother and her interesting story.

Miss Olive and her sister Marion at their father's home in The Bottom

Miss Olive and her sister Marion at their father’s home in The Bottom

The Wesleyan Holiness Church on Saba

by Will Johnon

In 1984 I had a correspondence with Pastor Williams of the Pilgrim Holiness Church. The letter was dated November 14th, 1984. At the time Pastor Williams was trying to get funding for repairs to the beautiful historic Manse in The Bottom. This correspondence will serve to introduce the history of this church on Saba and then followed by a part of the history written by Pastor Williams.

Dear Pastor Williams,

Enclosed please find a few documents, pertaining to the history of the Pilgrim Holiness Church on Saba. From the petition some facts can be obtained. Also herewith some other facts that I have found:

Dr. J. Hartog “DE BOVENWINDSE EILANDEN” -1964- (Translated from the Dutch).

“An inhabitant of Saba lost his home in the hurricane of 1898, and through a falling rock also lost his son. He joined the Free Gospel Mission, a sect resembling the Salvation Army, in search of consolation. This sect (denomination) worked in Antigua but had their headquarters in Barbados. This movement established itself on Saba. In 1902 they had a school there, but this was closed in January of 1907 due to the departure of the female teacher.

This denomination did not make much progress and when the missionary J.R. Mayhew departed on May 16th, 1909 it was announced that no other missionary would be coming out. The adherents then started looking to the United States for a similar religious direction, and on December 10th, 1909 James M. Taylor of the Faith and Love Mission arrived with a group of people. A certain Warner remained behind for the Gospel Mission. When the missionary C.S. Symth was succeeded in 1912 by Miss A. Coulter this denomination adopted the name of Apostolic Holiness Church, which in 1915 was changed to Pilgrim’s Holiness Church, when Sabans had learned to know this denomination in the United States and a missionary came to our island. The Pilgrim Holiness Church is practically limited to the United States, has a total of twenty thousand members, and came into being in 1896 through a separation from the Free Methodist Church in California.”

Also I found in the old records the church members of the Apostolic Holiness Church for the year 1930: Men 4, Women 29; Total 33. The other enclosed document will also be of some help to you. But I am sure what you have here will be of some help.

Sincerely, Will Johnson.

“The Wesleyan Holiness Movement on the island of Saba, started way back in 1913 under the name of “The Apostolic Faith Mission”. The Apostolic Faith Mission had its headquarters in the United States of America. This religious Movement was very effective in its outreach ministries. Hence, a large delegation of missionaries was sent to various parts of the world, including the Caribbean area.

In Divine Providence, one Mr. James M. Taylor arrived on the island of Saba on December 10th, 1909 with a group of people. It is reported that a religious group (Faith and Love Mission) pioneered work on the island from 1902 to May 16th, 1909. They did not make much progress; and therefore, had to depart. It was then in that same year 1909, that the Apostolic Faith Mission began negotiations with the Island representatives to have a religious work started on the Island. Having received permission to do so, pioneer work began in 1912.

The Apostolic Faith Mission was very instrumental in Christianizing many of the inhabitants on the island. The Missionary work on the island was very productive in spite of severe opposition at times. The missionary work started in the Windward side. Services were held in a rented building. It is reported that there were those who showed little or no sympathy for such religious gatherings. The word however, made steady progress until a church building was erected in The Bottom. This, the Apostolic Faith Church was built in The Bottom in 1919. The congregation was then pastured by Rev; J.W. Craig an American missionary.

On the 23rd April 1920, a resolution was passed and seconded, and agreed upon by more than sixty (60) members, followers, and adherents. The resolution was handwritten and addressed to His Excellency the Governor General on Curacao; petitioning His Excellency to officially recognize as an independent body this religious movement. His Excellency replied, and stated that he had no objections to officially incorporate the church under the laws of the Government of Holland.

In October 1922, the Apostolic Faith Church formed a merger with the Pilgrim Holiness Church. The merger came into effect, as a result of scriptural holiness that swept across the various denominations in the United States in the last half of the nineteenth century. The original purpose of the founders of the “Pilgrim Holiness Church” was to promote worldwide holiness evangelism that remained an indelible characteristic.

Pilgrim Holiness Church extended its work to: South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, England etc. and here in the Caribbean to St. Kitts and Nevis, Saba and Curacao among others. So influential was this movement that many diligent seekers were attracted to its faith.

At the completion of his term of office, Rev. Craig returned to the United States. It appears that difficulties arose in the recruiting of other missionaries to the Island to carry on the work. Hence, a native on the island, a Christian, with a burning love for Christ felt that God could use her to push forward the work on the island. She was Miss Irene Blyden. She was very effective in her role as a leader and a pioneer. She traveled to the United States of America and did her graduate studies at “God’s Bible School”. There she met Mr. Alfred Taylor, a native of Sandy Point, St. Kitts whom she married.

Upon their return from “God’s Bible School”, they were joined in Holy Matrimony in her homeland, Saba. They were later sent to the island of Nevis; and to this couple was born two boys and two girls. One of the boys (Dr. Wingrove Taylor) later became the general Superintendent of “The Wesleyan Holiness Churches” in the Caribbean. The other three children are residing elsewhere.

The Taylor’s work of evangelism was greatly blessed of God, and their names were acclaimed throughout the region. Their work on the Island of Nevis in particular, was so richly blessed and effective that even up until this day the mention of the name Sister Taylor or Brother Taylor speaks of nobleness. She was such a noblewoman, great in her personality, maternal to neglected children, that her dedication spoke volumes to those who remembered her. They both excelled in their earthly ministries until they were given their final call to join the blood washed already in the great beyond. The Taylor Memorial Wesleyan Holiness Church in Charlestown, Nevis is named after them both in honour of their services and dedication rendered here on earth.

The Pilgrim Holiness Movement proposed to form a merger with the “Wesleyan Methodist Church of America” on June 26, 1968. Before the merger in 1968 numerous negotiations were made to have a merger between the two churches. Many were the objections to the merger; and also the General Conference failed to muster a two third majority vote to form a merger. However, on the above date a merger was formed.

The Wesleyan Movement on Saba has over the years struggled and maintained its stability. In the face of much opposition and conflict, the church has given to the community a powerful witness of the saving and keeping grace of God. One of the main families who have been with the church these many years are the Smiths. Mrs. Ruth Smith especially was widely respected for her faith and her deep commitment to her church and her community.

Being the only evangelical church on the island, the church has tried over the years with the assistance of her chief shepherd, (Jesus Christ her Lord) has tried to be lights in the community. Because of the church’s stand for godliness and purity of life, many have sought and have found that the life of a Christian is the most satisfying and rewarding life to live. The island of Saba is one of the three islands grouped together to form a District. The other islands are: St. Kitts which is headquarters, Nevis and Saba.

The Modern Wesleyan Church - Saba, The Bottom

The Modern Wesleyan Church – Saba, The Bottom

Saba has been very privileged over the years, to have had a succession of missionaries and ministers. It would seem to the writer, that this beautiful island was specifically selected through divine providence, as a place to draw significant persons from around the world to represent Him (Christ) in a noble manner. There were several missionaries and ministers that labored on the island of Saba namely:

Rev. Beins from England who served for a period of time; Rev. Torton from the USA also served for some time. Rev. and Mrs. E.E. Phillippe from the USA. Mr. and Mrs. H. Spence, St. Kitts, Miss Pearson, Antigua. Miss Mason, Antigua. Mr. Thomas, Barbuda. Mr. Winter, Barbuda. Rev. and Mrs. H. Herbert, St. Kitts. Rev. and Mrs. O. Charles, St. Kitts;

In 1984 Rev. Williams expressed his concern about the state of the Wesleyan Manse. Regrettably the church did not have the funds the restore the old building and eventually it was demolished and replaced with a concrete building on the same property further down the road. The lovely old mansion was at one time the home of Capt. Will Simmons In his report the Rev. Williams said:” The Wesleyan Manse on Saba is over one hundred years old. It has served as a resting place for all the above mentioned names. It continues to be a significant dwelling house, for, so very often missionaries and ministers and visitors to the Island, and the manse is where they stay. As stated earlier, the Wesleyan Church is the only evangelical church on the Island. Therefore, whenever another evangelical organization or representative visits the Island, the Wesleyan church accommodates such. Hence, the manse becomes a temporary resort. The building, being so very old leads us at this stage to express our concern for the Manse.

Church being built with Edward Simmons home behind

Church being built with Edward Simmons home behind

The dwelling house is nicely built. It stands in the central part of The Bottom; and it is so uniquely designed that the visitor to the island cannot help but by noticing the building which so typically represents Saba’s culture. The building itself is very large. It has three large bedrooms, and a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and a study room. The architectural design is very beautiful, especially the interior with its beautiful carvings in the roof and to the sides. The concern then for this cultural and historical building, is that repairs would be done to it in order to preserve its beauty. The building itself is in very bad condition. It leaks in every room. The boards are quite rotten, due to constant rainfalls. Some of the boards in the floor are actually sinking; which is hazardous not only to its present inhabitants but also to visitors to the house. For the size of the building, it would be very costly to renovate the entire building. However, due to the bad condition of the building, it is felt that the most difficult areas be repaired. An estimated cost of the repairs would be fifteen thousand guilders. Hence the Pastor and members of the Wesleyan churches on Saba request the assistance of the foundation for the preservation of buildings to carry out some of the repairs to the building. As Pastor of the Wesleyan churches on the Island, the members and other concerned individuals in the community will be very grateful for the assistance granted. In hurricane George the church was severely damaged and Pastor Vernon Liburd did a tremendous job in repairing the damage and also at the same time he enlarged the church and the congregation has increased quite a bit since he has been on Saba.

Edward Simmons who gave the land to have the church built on, here with his sister Annie Simmons-Pamenter and a Maid

Edward Simmons who gave the land to have the church built on, here with his sister Annie Simmons-Pamenter and a Maid

Mrs. Annie L. Pamenter-Simmons gave a personal account of her participation in the Mission Church in an interview with Dr. Julia Crane: I was born and baptized an Anglican. I was a child about six years old when [my family] went over to the Missions, and from then on until I was married. It was the Christian Mission then. It changed its name so many times. I stayed in it all the time from then on until I was married, in the Mission Church. My eldest brother didn’t leave the church – neither one of the boys – but my brother used to be in the choir.

You see after my brother died the priest in charge of the church here – it was a native of Saba, and, of course, it was too bad – after we got the news of the boy’s being lost at sea, something he sent to tell my mother. A message came that she could buy a “salvation stick” from the Missions to heal her broken heart. I don’t know, but it was a hard time and sore time, especially from the man you thought was trying to lead you to God and to try to comfort you. A message came to tell her to buy a “salvation stick” from the people at the Mission to heal her broken heart, so after that we left the church. We went to the Mission entirely.

You see, the Missions were right there where they have the church. That whole piece of property where the Mission is belonged to my brother (Edward who died in 1960), left from one of the aunts, the brother that died here. So he used to keep a little store in the house that was here after he came from Bermuda, and then after he gave up the store the Missions rented the house. It was a nice house. They took down all the partitions, and they used to keep the services there. [Before that they used] just the old house there, and when they went St. Johns they would rent a house in St. Johns and the Windwardside. Then the family left the church up there, the Anglican Church, and went to the Missions and they died Missions, all of them.”

The Wesleyan Church on St.  John's

The Wesleyan Church on St. John’s

Mail and Passenger Service SIX and final

MAIL SERVICE (six)
By; Will Johnson

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M.V. “Baralt” of the KNSM serviced the islands in the 1930’s.

In 1932, His Excellency the Governor proposed to have a bi-monthly steamship service to the Windward Islands and in a letter to the K.N.S.M. he suggested that if they wanted an increase on their subsidy then they would have to provide a bi-weekly service to the Windward Islands instead of a monthly one.
Sabans were still interested in the so-called “mail-contract”, as is evident from this letter dated, May 27, 1932, to His Excellency the Governor of Curacao.
Dear Sir,
I am in a position to obtain a steam vessel suitable for a trade through the islands. But before investing the money in the vessel I would like to have the assurance of some kind of trade for her. Being that I have always had the desire to operate a steam vessel between the islands I will make you an offer to take care of the mail contract through the islands. For the sum of one thousand eight hundred dollars ($1.800.–) per month with free port charges in the Dutch islands, I will give you the service according to the attached schedule with a suitable steam vessel, as soon as you would desire the service.
My father Samuel Augustus Simmons was in the government service, and I was born and raised on the island of Saba and have had the interest of the island at heart and would like to give the islands a regular and steady mail service. A letter of assurance from you that the mail contract could be obtained upon my arrival at Curacao with a suitable ship would be greatly appreciated and I would have the vessel there as soon as you desired. Thanking you in advance for your prompt reply. Very obediently yours.

 

Cameron Dudley Simmons.
Colonial policy at the time was such that the interests of K.N.S.M. (Royal Dutch Steamship Company) came first.

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M.V. “Libertador” at Fort Bay part of the KNSM and in service until 1942.

In the Vice Lt. Governor’s report for 1934 he stated that the b-weekly service of the “S.S. Baralt” of the K.N.S.M. was functioning well. The following number of motor/steam ships was listed as calling at Saba in 1934: 56 the same as in 1933 and 55 sailing vessels as compared to 53 in 1933.
In the Colonial Councils sessions of 1932 – 1933 in a provisional report on the budget for the colony Curacao and dependencies for the year 1932 questions were raised concerning the steamship service to the Windward Islands, as to dependability, the need for such a service and the costs involved.

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M.V. “Hertha” belonging to Mr. Chester Wathey, at Fort Bay. She was in service from 1962 and for a few short years. Also in the photo the sloop “Santa Lou” of Capt. Randolph Dunkin.

This was in relation to an increase requested by the K.N.S.M., for providing this service. His Excellency the Governor reported that the steamship service to the Windward Islands with the K.N.S.M. had existed since November 11th, 1930, and the following route was being followed: Curacao – St.Maarten – San Pedro de Macoris – Santo Domingo City- Curacao.
This was a monthly service until December 1st, 1931. After that it was changed to: Curacao-St.Thomas-St.Maarten-Saba-St.Eustatius-St.Kitts-St.Eustatius-Saba-St.Maarten-Curacao.

 

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Saba schooner “Esther Anita” in New York harbour in 1910. Owned by Capt. William Benjamin Hassell. Regular service between Saba, St.Kitts and St.Maarten to New York was provided by Saban owned schooners.

In March of 1932 the K.N.S.M. decided to have a bi-weekly service, whereby Bonaire was also included in the schedule.
The results of this service from December 1st 1931 to 22 June 1932 were as follows:
A total of 596 first class passengers and 862 deck passengers were transported. Between St. Eustatius and Curacao alone a total of 651 collies were transported and from Saba to various ports 4500 collie’s.

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Schooner “T.N.Barnsdell” of Capt. Ernest Alfred Johnson. First mate was Capt. Charles Reuben Simmons.

In the trade St.Eustatius-Curacao, St.Maarten-Curacao and Saba-Curacao, cattle transported were 108, 105 and 14. In total from St. Eustatius 2318 bags of sweet potatoes were shipped (an average of 200 bags per trip). A total of 1886 bags of mail were transported in the same period.
This service was maintained by the “Atlas”, a name soon transformed by Windward Islanders to “AT LAST”, and the “S.S. MIDAS”.
The Governor further reported that on a recent inspection trip to these ilands he had experienced first hand how much this link between the Windward Islands and Curacao was appreciated by the islands up here.

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All landings on Saba, with passengers and cargo, took place in this fashion from the early sixteen hundreds until November 8th, 1972 when the new pier was built.

While all of this was taking place there were still much private commercial activities taking place between the islands. The Sabans living on Barbados had more than twenty large schooners registered in their names. They traded throughout the West Indies. Besides those schooners, in 1932 the following vessels were registered on Saba according to a report dated 19th January, 1932.
“Dutch Princess”, schooner 202.38m3
“Diamond M. Ruby”, schooner 146.30 m3
“E.J.S.”, coaster 23.84 “
“Esther Anita”, schooner 185.09 “
“Holetown”, “ 95.97 “
“Manuata”, “ 210.39 “
“Roseita”, “ 207.25 “
“Vivian P. Smith”, “ 181.08 “
No less than seven schooners were registered on Saba in 1932.

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Capt. Al Hassell with chief mate Kenneth Peterson (former Post Master, Treasurer, Member of the Island Council etc.) on the Brianne C.

In 1935 the “Baralt” was still providing the service between the islands. In 1941 it was the “Liberator.” The foregoing was all taken from the official archives on Curacao. What follows is from research done on the island and in interviews conducted with some of our older citizens like Mr. James Anthony Simmons (94) who not only remembers the days of the “mail-service” but who also sailed on the Saban owned schooners that provided this service.

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Schooner “The Marion Belle Wolfe” of Capt. Will Leverock rescues a home in Little Burin harbour after the November 18, 1929 tidal wave at Port au Bras Newfoundland.

The “Baralt” came in fortnightly, usually on Thursday, and then it would go to Statia and St.Kitts and then return to Saba on Saturday. People who worked at the Post office had to go down to the Fort bay at 4am to receive the mail.
The Second World War brought a return of schooners to the trade. In 1943 mention is made of a sail ship the “Fedalma” and also in 1946 this schooner was chartered by the government.
In 1945 an agreement was made between the Government of Curacao and Mr. Frederico M. Arends of Aruba to rent the schooner “Carmania” for fls. 1.500.—per trip fro a once a month trip from Aruba, via Curacao to St.Maarten, Saba and St.Eustatius and back to Curacao. This agreement was approved on December 3rd, 1945 by His Excellency Governor Piet Kasteel.

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Cargo boat belonging to twins Eddy and Al Hassell which provided regular service to Saba for a number of years,

On November 28th, 1946 an agreement was made with the owner of the sloop “Astrea” to have a weekly service between the Windward Islands for fls. 65.—per trip, because the motor schooner “Trixie” which maintained the regular service was defect and was out of service. Owner of the “Astrea”, a sloop was Capt. Matthew Levenstone.
In 1946 a telegram from Curacao stating that the “Fedelma” had left Curacao with freight for Saba.
According to a letter of 13th January 1947 from Prospero Baiz & co. to the Vice Lt. Governor of Saba, they informed him that the M.V. “Kralendijk” had started its service on the 24th of December 1946. On October 3rd, 1948 the Vice Lt. Governor received a letter that the “Kralendijk” on the Saturday before that date had sunk to the North of Bonaire but that the passengers and crew were safe.

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Painting of the “Francis W. Smith” owned by Capt. Frank Hassell of St. John’s Saba and resident of Barbados. Father of Capt. Eric Hassell.

Among the passengers were Pastor Ivan and the late Mrs. Gertrude Berkel of St.Eustatius and if I am not mistaken Mrs. Mary da Silva –Conner told me once that she was on board and had lost her suitcases which also contained many old photo’s of St.Maarten..
On December 18th, 1948 a contract was signed with Prospero Baiz & Co. for the “M.V. Willemstad” to maintain the service between Curacao and the Windward Islands. The cost of a first class passage was f.65.—and second class was f. 50.–. Basically it had remained unchanged for eighty years. The “Willemstad” had a wooden hull and was built in England in 1943 and was 455.57 registered net tons. The ship had room for 37 cabin passengers and 21 deck passengers.

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Schooner belonging to Capt. Augustine Johnson of Saba.

On journeys between the Windward Islands the government allowed 37 cabin and 70 deck passengers and between the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands it was 37 and 39 respectively. In order to avoid confusion on each island the agent was instructed to sell no more than 9 cabin passages and 10 deck passages and the Vice Lt. Governor was instructed not to issue a clearance to the ship if the agent acted contrary to these instructions.
During World War II, the “Libertador” of the KNSM was in service until 1942. In that year H.S. Johnson was appointed agent of the schooner “CAMIA” and another schooner named the “MARIA” and a sloop called the “Energy”. Also the schooner “Esther Anita” was still referred to as carrying cargo in 1943. On December 12th, 1942 under Capt. T.C. Barnes the “Esther Anita” was taking on cargo at Curacao for Saba. In that same year Herman Hassell (Hassell & Co.) was appointed agent for the “CAMIA” and the “S.S.ENO”.

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Maine schooners coming in from the fishing banks under a friendly race. Sabans bought many of their schooners from Gloucester and would often race them in between the islands.

On August 27th, 1947 in a release the Vice Lt. Governor of Saba the honourable Mr.Max Huith issued the following notice to the public;
The undersigned brings to the knowledge of the general public that the regular boat communication between the islands St.Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius and St. Kitts by the Government motor schooner “BLUE PETER” will begin present year and will be as follows:
Tuesday:
Departure Arrival
St.Maarten 6AM St. Eustatius 11 AM
St.Eustatius 12 noon Saba 3PM
Saba 4PM St.Maarten 8PM
Thursday
Departure 6am to St.Kitts via Saba and St.Eustatius
Friday:
Whole day at St. Kitts
Saturday
Departure St. Kitts 6am – to St. Maarten via St. Eustatius and Saba. Passages ranged from fls. 5.—first class Saba-St.Eustatius to fls. 12.50 St.Maarten – St.Eustatius.
In 1951 the KNSM had a monthly service with the “ M.V. CLIO” and the “M.V. ENO” from Curacao.
In a report from the Administrator of Saba to the Lt. Governor of the Windward Islands in 1952, he gave an idea of the sea traffic into Saba for the following years:
1950 Arrivals
Man-of-Wars 2
Motor and Sail 160
Sail 99
Motor 30
Yachts 23 Total: 214
1951 Arrivals
Motor vessels 33
Motor and sail 144
Sailing vessels 119
Yachts 24 Total: 310
That was the only traffic as Saba did not have an airport until 1963.
In his report the Administrator also stated that the schooner “Blue Peter” maintained a regular scheduled weekly service to Saba. The “Blue Peter” had been purchased on Curacao after the war from an American couple who used it as a private yacht.
In 1952 the “M.V. Willemstad” came to the Windward Islands once a month from Curacao while the “INO” belonging to KNSM also called at the Windward Islands once a month.
The traffic in to Saba in 1952 was as follows:
Man-of-Wars 2
Motor vessels 30
Motor and sail 141
Motorboat 1
Sailing vessels 107
Yachts 18 Total 299

 

After World War II the islands had airports. The airport on St.Maarten was built in 1943, the one on St.Eustatius in the early nineteen fifties and the one on Saba in 1963. The need for transportation by sea became less and less. As St.Maarten grew in the tourism trade all the imports of food came directly from the USA.

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M.V. the “Trixie” with Capt. Austin Hodge as well as the “Blue Boats” of Remi de Haenen of St. Barths also gave service to the Dutch Windward Islands during World War II.

The government maintained the service with the “Antilia” until the mid nineteen seventies after which she was sold. The “Blue Peter” was sold on Curacao to someone from Bonaire and she was later lost between those islands with a number of passengers and crew.Her masts were removed and she was renamed the “Isidel.” The Wathey brothers (Chester and Claude) for a while operated the motor yacht the “Puppet” and the M.V. “Hertha” between the Windward Islands but the service did not last long as it was not profitable. Capt. Randolph Dunkin and Capt. Matthew Levenstone had several sloops over the years up until the end of the nineteen eighties. The brothers Capt. Eddie and Al Hassell used to run the cargo service for a number of years with the “Briane C.” and then the “Lindsay Moran”. After they decided to go into other businesses, the trade between Saba and St. Maarten was maintained by boats from that island and also from Anguilla. There is hardly any trade with St. Kitts by boat and none at all with Curacao since the M.V.”Antilia” was sold. The L.A.I. Chance pier which was opened for maritime traffic on November 8th, 1972 made a significant difference to Saba in terms of boat traffic.

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Painting of the “Margareth Truph” of Capt. Arthur Wallace Simmons which painting is owned by the author.

The bringing ashore of passengers and cargo by boat which had been in place since the sixteen hundreds came to a complete halt. The islanders were able to buy large fishing boats and also the dive tourism took off with a number of large boats serving visitors who come to Saba specifically to dive. There is also a regular ferry service from St. Maarten with a high speed boat capable of carrying fifty passengers namely “The Edge” and this service provides a good alternative for residents especially in times when the plane cannot land. Craig Buchanan started a reverse service with his “Dawn II” which departs from Saba with passengers and returns in the evening from St. Maarten with freight and passengers. The harbour is always busy with fishing boats and dive boats going and coming as well as with barges coming to carry sand and gravel to other islands, small container boats and other boats bringing in cargo and passengers. Much has changed on Saba over the years. The hardworking schooner owners of the past, their crews and the longshoremen who brought goods and passengers safely to shore are a thing of the past. Like a tale that is told are the days when Saba produced a great number of captains and their children who became learned men and women in other countries. The local population as such has either gone to live elsewhere or are gradually dying out and being replaced by new immigrants coming in from all over the world. What little we had of culture has disappeared and has been replaced by borrowed culture from other islands and countries. The once thriving agricultural society has been replaced with a dependency on government employment and as one visitor described it “make believe jobs”. On the other hand the yearly losses of lives at sea has largely disappeared. As one man told a National Geographic reporter who asked him why he had abandoned the sea for a job in the Post Office:” At least I will not drown in the Post Office.” And so we leave you with a thought from Shakespeare “Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground.” And to those we lost at sea Shakespeare gives the following food for thought:” Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made: Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea change, into something rich and strange.” The Tempest.

 

Mail and Passenger Service (Five)

MAIL SERVICE (FIVE)

By Will Johnson

Schooner 'Ina Vanterpool'

Ina Vanterpool lost at St.Eustatius on September 15th, 1928.

 

 

 

Voices were once again raised to the Colonial Authorities in The Hague as a result of the reports made by Judge Mr. F.G. Schalkwijk and Lt. Governor van der Zee.

People were once again calling for better transportation between the Leeward and the Windward Islands. Bear in mind there were neither airports nor airplanes flying in those days.

In 1920, the Government owned the two schooners the “Estelle”, 105 net tons and the “Virginia”, 55 net tons. The “Estelle” made a monthly trip to Curacao, while the “Virginia” made a weekly trip through the Windward Islands to St. Kitts and back. My cousin Carl Lester Johnson who lived on St.Maarten in the nineteen thirties used to tell me stories about Captain Abraham Mardenborough who used to own the Virginia. After he retired on St.Maarten he used to take a stroll up to the square in the afternoons. Lester told me that he had a gold pocket watch on a long gold chain. The boys would ask him “Captain Mardenborough can you tell us what time it is?” He then would go through an elaborate ritual to take out the watch and in an authoritative voice announce the time of the day and allow the boys to see his precious gold watch.

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Young lady on board one of the great schooners of Saba’s fleet.

 

The Minister of Colonies in 1921 proposed to the Governor to allow first class passengers to travel via Trinidad and St. Kitts with steam service so as to make the trip more comfortable for them and to make more room available on the schooners for second-class government travellers such as policemen, military personnel and so on.

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Capt. Edward Anslyn who for many years ferried passengers between Nevis and St. Kitts. His son Arthur “Brother” Anslyn followed in his fathers footsteps.

 

In 1922, the government was again looking at schooners, as in a letter dated August 2nd, 1922, a Mr. Lampe on Curacao on behalf of the firm D.C. van Romondt & Co., at St. Maarten was offering the Dutch schooner the “Cyril” for rent to government at the rate of fls. 1.250.—per trip. In a telegram to His Excellency the Governor, the Lt. Governor on St. Maarten Mr. Vander Zee, recommended the schooner “Champion” (97 tons) which was three years old belonging to Mr. David Nesbeth, for eleven hundred and twenty guilders per month. The “Estelle” had been removed from service, according to a letter from ‘Herrera Hermanos’, Bonaire, dated August 14th, 1922. They offered their schooner of 160 tons, the “Reliance” for f.1.000.—per month. This was a new vessel built on Bonaire which had made its maiden voyage in July 1920 and was describer as a fast sailer.

1919-04-04 - Sch. Margaret Throop

Crew List of the schooner Margareth Throop which had several captains from Saba.

Scooner Mayflower

Schooner “The Mayflower”. This one belonged to Capt. William Benjamin Hassell and his brothers and they changed the name to “The Three Sisters.”

 

Also a Mr. Theodore F. van der Linde Schotborgh, owner of the 85 foot schooner “Carlota” offered his schooner for sale to the government for fls.40.000.—The schooner had been built on Curacao in 1912 by his father-in-law Rene Hellmund and was built from Indjo (Cohi) and Vera wood which according to him was far superior than vessels built in the United States of Nova Scotia. He said that he was also willing to rent it to the government for fls.2.000.—per month.

186-estelle

Schooner “Estelle”, but I am not quite certain that it is the one owned by Capt. T.C.Vanterpool.

 

To give an idea of the number of offers available, there was also a letter dated Curacao July 13th 1922; Mr. C.B. de Gorter offered the Dutch schooner “Meteor” of 143.56 gross tons for sale for a sum of seventy three thousand guilders or fls. 1.900.—rent for a once a month trip to the Windward Islands. Also Mr. Netherwood on St. Maarten offered his schooner “Cyril” at fls. 1.250.—per month. The Lt. Governor of St.Maarten however thought that the schooner was too old and unreliable. Also a Mr. Arends on Aruba offered his schooner the “Aoemoria” at fls. 2.000.—per trip, and a Mr. Boom offered the schooner “Frieda” for fls. 1.300.—per month.

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Model of the schooner the “Marion Belle Wolfe” made by Capt. Will Leverock.

 

The “Ina Vanterpool” belonging to Capt. T.C. Vanterpool of Saba was the successful competitor in the tender for the mail transportation. This schooner remained in service until she was wrecked in a gale in the harbour of St.Eustatius on Wednesday, September 15th, 1926. The “Ina Vanterpool” was a three master built in Barbados by Capt. Lovelock Hassell of Saba and was sold to Captain Tommy for fls. 162.500.–.

In 1927 we read in J.C. Waymouths book “Memories of St.Martin N.P.” the following; “News reached us on December 30th of the loss of two of our Island crafts – the schooners “Georgetown” and the “Express”.

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Government schooner “The Blue Peter” bearing to in preparation of anchoring in Fort Bay Harbour, Saba.

 

The owner of the first was Captain Tommy Vanterpool of Saba who had already last year sustained the loss of the “Ina” on September 15th, while performing the same services as that of the “Georgetown”. The “Georgetown” went ashore at Nevis and the “Express” went ashore at Martinique.

My uncle Charles Herbert Simmons who was only 16 at the time was a sailor on the “Georgetown” went it went ashore on Nevis. The captain at that time was Capt. Herman Simmons. None of the crew was lost but it took several anxious days before news of his safety reached my grandparents on Saba.

The “Georgetown” was known as a fast schooner. In a race to St. Maarten from Curacao, Captain Samuel Augustus Simmons took the schooner there in forty eight hours. The schooner did not have an engine. This schooner was a 2 master Canadian schooner, around 60 to 70 tons. Capt. Randolph Dunkin told me that he had made one trip on the “Georgetown” which his uncle Capt. T.C. Vanterpool had purchased from Capt. Lovelock Hassell.

Capt. Lockland Heyliger's schooner

Schooner E.Starr Jones, one of the many four masters under the command of Sabans. This one was under command of Capt. Lockland Heyliger.

 

A schooner called the “Alice” which belonged to Mr. Hilivere Lawrence of Grand Case was chartered by Capt. T.C. Vanterpool to take the place of the “Georgetown” and left on January 9th, 1928 for Curacao. She made several trips but was not big enough for the trade, and then Capt. Tommy went to the United States to buy the “Mayflower.”

Capt. Phyllis Randolph Dunkin

Capt. Randolph Dunkin, son of Capt. Ernest Vanterpool and owner of several sloops like the “Santa Lou” which traded between Saba and St.Kitts and also St. Maarten until well into the nineteen sixties.

 

The schooner “Virginia” in the gale of 1928 broke her moorage and was never heard of again. She was anchored in St. Kitts and did not have anyone on board.

The “Mayflower” arrived in 1929 and was also equipped with an engine. She had two masts, was 190.27 tons and was 147 feet long. She had been built in Gloucester, Massachusetts to compete in the “Bluenose” races, but was not allowed to compete because she was built in the style of a yacht. She broke her bowsprit and both masts in 1931, to the North-East of Bonaire and was later sold to a group in Jamaica.

Matthew Levenstone and The Gloria

Capt. Matthew Levenston and his sloop The Gloria. He traded between Saba and St. Maarten until the nineteen seventies on a number of sloops owned by him. He and I nearly got lost on this sloop in a storm in September 1957.

 

My uncle Captain Charles Reuben Simmons who commanded the “Mayflower” for Captain Vanterpool between 1928 and 1930 used to tell me that in 1929 he left St. Kitts with 375 passengers and 48 hours later landed them at Curacao. Once he managed to carry 460 passengers with the “Mayflower” on a trip from the Windward Islands to Curacao. He also took some cattle on board at St.Eustatius in case the schooner got becalmed he would then butcher the animals to feed the passengers. On return trips to the Windward Islands he carried as many as 100 people. The least amount of passengers he ever carried to Curacao was 110 from Dominica. Every fifteen days he would make the run to carry workers for the oil refinery there.

The “Three Sisters” a three master schooner which had been purchased by Capt. William Benjamin Hassell, in 1927, and was 190.76 tons and 115 feet long, took over the mail service in 1929 and was the last of the Saba owned mail schooners to ply the trade between the Dutch islands.

Capt. Charles Reube Simmons in Demerara

Capt. Charles Reuben Simmons at the wheel of a ferry on the Demerara River during World War 11.

 

The captain was Will Leverock of Windwardside. In Dr. Julia Crane’s book “Statia Silhouettes” my old friend Ralph Milburn Simmons had the following to say about his time on those schooners: “Then I got a job on the schooner that used to transport passengers to Curacao, what we call “moose boy” to attend to the passengers. Five dollars a month in those days. But five dollars was plenty money those days. There were no real tourists, just immigrants, immigrants. The schooner used to carry immigrants down to Curacao to find work, you see. So in between you might find a couple –‘cause there was no steamers those days. In between then you would find a big shot then would be traveling’. Those schooners would belong to Tommy Vanterpool. I don’t know if you heard about him. He died in St. Thomas. He died in St. Thomas.”

Ralph M. Simmons, sailor

My old friend Ralph Simmons who sailed on many of the old Saba schooners transporting mail and passengers between the islands.

 

“And then after that I learned how to steer a ship. And then there was another schooner named the “Three Sisters”, three masts. A ship came in one day while I was down there, in Curacao and they said they wanted some men. And I asked the captain – the captain was named Will Johnson, from St. Johns –and I asked the captain to let me stay off, and he told me all right.” Ralph had been dealing with me for so long in the politics that he gave the captain my name. It should be Will Leverock.

Captains, Will, Jim,and Engle Simmons -St.Thomas with WFM Lampe

Captains Will, Jim, and Engel Simmons all harbourmasters of St. Thomas with Governor Wim Lampe of Saba.

 

The “Three Sisters” ran an independent service and then was followed by the K.N.S.M. steamship service with the ‘Atlas.” The “Three Sisters” was lost off St.Croix in 1932 when she struck a reef. I remember being told by one of her owners, the late Mr. Carl Hassell, that they earned back her purchase price on her first run to Curacao with passengers and freight.

After the “Virginia” was lost, the “Diamond M. Ruby” a 2 master schooner belonging to Capt. R.T. Barnes of St.John’s village came up from Barbados and ran the mails between the Dutch Windward Islands. In the 1920’s the schooner “Johanna” belonging to Mr. David Nesbith of St.Maarten ran the mailservice for awhile. The Captain was first William “Paget” Simmons of Saba and after that Captain Bremer of St.Maarten.

Hilton Whitfield

Mr. Hilton Whitfield was a sailor with the Saba Captains between the islands.

 

We have a copy of a petition dated St.Maarten, 9th July 1931, and signed by the leading citizens of that time addressed to the Honourable President and Members of the Court of Policy on St.Martin N.P. which reads as follows:

“We the undersigned long suffering islanders hereby express our hope that the Government will be convinced of the necessity of providing a subsidy to enable a line of steamers to call here fortnightly on their way from and to New York.

“We know that in the past we have been grievously neglected and our wishes disregarded; but we trust that the Government will on this occasion grant us our sincere desire.

Jeep landing from MV 'Antilia' at Saba

Our next chapter will deal with the motor vessels which took over the trade from the Saban owned schooners. This is the government owned M.V.Antilia here with a Jeep being landed sometime after 1947.

 

“Steamship communication is now being maintained between Curacao and this island at great cost to the colony. This service so far as we can see could very well be dispensed with. Its tangible results consist in the transportation of a few passengers, packages and mails. The bulk of this business goes with the mail schooner “Three Sisters” and could be dealt with entirely by that vessel.

In presenting our plea for the subsidizing of a direct steamship service between New York and this place, we can confidently state that such a service would shorten by half the time now required for the transport of mails and cargo from the United States to the Netherlands Part of this island, while also serving to remove the great handicaps under which business is carried on here as compared with the French division. In fact the benefits derived would extend directly and indirectly to all sections of the community. The monthly service from New York now in operation only on a trial basis, and will doubtless in the event of a subsidy not being granted, be eventually withdrawn. We beg that the request embodied in this document be submitted to His Excellency the Governor with a plea for his favourable consideration. This petition was signed by about 75 influential citizens, many of them merchants from the Dutch side of the island.

Navigation School (Capt. Freddie Simmons)

Capt. Frederick Augustus Simmons with some of his students. He, assisted by retired Saba captains had a school of navigation between 1909 and 1922 and more than one hundred future captains graduated from this school.

 

We will continue next time with the service after 1931 and in which the K.N.S.M. played a big role and Capt. Gittens worked on some of those ships. He has promised to share his experiences with our readers on this interesting part of our history which the few old-timers would like to hear about one more time before they start their journey to the great beyond. (To be continued).

 

Mail Service (Four)

By: Will Johnson

Image (1939)

Capt. John “Butchie” Craane with “Sea Bean” Berkel on the “Blue Peter” in Great Bay harbour St. Maarten 1950’s.

 

 

 

 

On November 18th, 1918 the Governor of the colony Curacao wrote to the Lt. Governor of Saba in connection with plans to buy the schooner “Estelle” to enquire if there were any mortgages on the vessel. There were none. The “Estelle” had been purchased for Capt. T.C. Vanterpool by Capt. Engle Heyliger in Gloucester Massachussets. For tax purposes the sales price in 1906 was listed as being f.100.–. When Capt. Vanterpool sold the “Estelle” in 1919 to the government he did so for the sum of f.50.000.—.That was the going price in those days. About that same time in the old property registers we have a record of the purchase of the schooner the “Buena” of Providence Rhode Island. Capt. William Benjamin Hassell residing in Barbados acting as Attorney for his brother Abraham Hassell residing in Rhode Island, sold it to their brother John Clarence Hassell, on Saba. The sale took place on November 29th, 1920 for fls.40.000.—.The schooner was renamed the “Maisie Hassell”.

Image (563)

A Saban schooner leaving Basseterre St. Kitts in the 1920’s.

 

The Minister of Colonies authorized the purchase of the “Estelle” in a letter dated October 4th, 1918. The Minister again expressed his preference to have two schooners instead of a steamer.

On January 10th, 1919, the Administrator of Finance stated in a letter to His Excellency the Governor that, the day before, the notarial deed had been passed in which the “Estelle” had been purchased by government.

The Governor on January 29th, 1919, informed the Minister of Colonies of the purchase. He said that the deed of transfer would be sent up later, as it had been sent to Saba to be inscribed in the register of mortgages. He also stated that the former owner Mr. T.C. Vanterpool would continue on as Captain.

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Fred Hassell (on deck) and Isaac Hassell (up front) and John Wilson unloading the “Blue Peter” 1948.

 

In 1918 the 2nd chamber of Holland of Holland bought a second schooner named the “Gladys”, which went ashore on a rock. The following schooner the “Anna” proved to be too slow. The “Estelle” which had been rented for fls.24.000.—per year, after purchase cost the government f. 50.000.—to operate, and after three years the schooner was sold for f.8.000.—

In January 1920, Governor Helfrick purchased the schooner the “Virginia” for the trade between the Windward Islands and St.Thomas.

The Governor had said that it would cost between 75 and 80 thousand guilders to build a new schooner. The “Virginia” was sold to the government for f.40.000.—by Captain Abraham Mardenborough, who remained on as Captain. He was married to Ms. Ohney Wathey and they were the owners of the former lovely old wooden home opposite the Orange School on the Front Street of Philipsburg.

The “Virginia” had been built in 1917 in Curacao. It was 70 feet long, was 55 net tons and could carry 83 tons of freight. The “Estelle” was 105 net tons.

During the year 1919 and again in 1920 there was a lively correspondence between the Governor, the Minister of Colonies and the owners of the Royal Netherlands West India Mail Company, concerning the possibility of a steamship stopping at St.Maarten on the way to and from Europe, and a connecting service from there on to Curacao, while maintaining a schooner service between the Windward Islands and St. Kitts.

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In later years (from 1947 on) cars were unloaded at Saba and placed on a ramp on two lighter boats strapped together and then pulled to shore and landed.

 

At the request of His Excellency the Governor, the Honourable Canton Judge Mr. F.G. Schalkwijk in a report dated January 6th, 1921, described his trip with the government owned schooner the “Estelle” from Curacao to St.Maarten. We include it, so that our readers of today will have some idea of what a journey from Curacao or vice versa meant back then.

“Your Excellency requested me to give a written report of my experiences and observations of my journey to the Windward Islands, where I had traveled to, in order to assume my post as Canton Judge.

I gladly comply with this invitation. Hopefully that in this manner I can assist to bring about improvements in a situation which a concerned administration can no longer allow to remain as it now exists.

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Schooner “Robert L. Bean” stranded off Florida owned by Capt. Augustine Johnson (with arm on hip) and the insurance people. She could not be salvaged.

 

We started our journey from Curacao in the afternoon of December 20th, 1920 and the 28th of December following we reached our destination St.Maarten around 12 noon. The weather during the crossing as a rule was rough, the last days in the evenings even stormy. The number of first class passengers was originally 14 of which one got off in Bonaire. These persons consisted of two families, each of three persons, four religious sisters (nuns), one female teacher, the writer of this article and his housekeeper.

Because of this large number, both huts, aft and stern, the cabin and the captains hut were all taken up for sleeping. As for the material care on board, the food in general was of good quality and not badly prepared. But it is served in the cabin which also serves as sleeping quarters. The bunks are hard, the sheets dirty; for the hand baggage there is no other place than the already packed cabin. The W.C. is in the immediate vicinity of the huts, but the sewerage system proved to be inadequate; the dirt is removed with difficulty and often the sea returns what has been given her gladly and with much trouble.

The lavatory is in the W.C. It consists of a washbasin with a fawcett and a bucket underneath.

A voyage with the “Estelle” need not be uncomfortable under all conditions. With several experienced passengers, and with good weather, a sailing voyage across the Caribbean can be an enjoyable experience. But the voyage is a painful experience when the schooner is filled to capacity with passengers of which all, myself the exception – are seasick and of which a great many have to spend the night in the same room – the cabin where the meals are also served.

I will spare Your Excellency the gory details of the filth, in the morning in the cabin, when the buckets of vomit were still not cleared and a high sea made the breakfast fly off the table, turned over the buckets and all of that swimming around the floor with the clothes and the handbags. I yoke when I think back on those scenes. (I too while translating and typing the Honourable Judges account).

Capt. Charles Reube Simmons in Demerara

Capt. Charles Reuben Simmons on the Demerara River during World War II.

 

One should also remember, that on a simple schooner as this, seasickness even with good weather is unavoidable, at least for ladies. Nearly all female passengers stayed the entire length of the voyage in their cabins.

There is also a factor which helps to dirty the “Estelle” quicker on a voyage, and which also causes this to be an unpleasant memory for all. I mean the facts that people of different sexes are forced to sleep in the same place; I shared the cabin with our housemaid, a religious sister and a young girl.

There is no question of prudishness. Seasick people do not have thoughts about sins. But the looseness of morals, which generally is the result of being together for a long time in surroundings without comfort, did not go so far, that in this case one could dress and wash up in the company of one another. Besides taking this out of consideration, with the continuous swinging and rocking of the vessel it is only possible for a born seaman, to go to the W.C. and to wash up properly

One has to be contented with the inevitable, does not bathe, does not clean up oneself and eventually reaches his destination, tired because of sleepless nights, with dirty and soiled clothing, feeling in poor health because of constipation, which occurred to several of the passengers, as a result of the obstacles to do quietly that which nature calls on us to do daily.

Image (1945)

Schooners from Bonaire from time to time also provided service to the Windward Islands.

 

Is it any wonder then, that in the hearts of many first class passengers eventually bitterness and resentment occurred against the Government, which in the matter of travel facilities show so little concern towards its servants?

How much damage do they suffer to their clothing and other goods, for which they are never compensated?

And yet we had no complaints, when we compare our fate to that of the second-class passengers. They consisted of several families of the masses (proletariat), in addition to three government passengers. They lacked everything. Accommodations for sleeping practically did not exist; the hold was such a cramped affair and dirty, so that nearly all preferred to spend the night on board in between the deck cargo. A W.C. did not exist, and the use of the one of the first class was prohibited to those of the second class.

Image (1959)

The Captain of the schooner checking on his “first class” passenger. A private cabin! What more could one ask for?

 

In the first days the food here also left much to be desired; it appears that the government only compensates the captain with a certain amount of money for each passenger, but according to him, the amount granted is far from enough. Quality and quantity of the food improved though, after complaints were lodged from that quarter,

It appears to me that the Government cannot remain indifferent to the situation as outlined herein. I know from experience that an ocean voyage has its inconveniences. But from the moment that one knows, that with modern means of transportation the distance between Curacao and the Windwards can be covered in a few days time, a journey of nine days, in a schooner beating up against the wind, is felt as a personal injustice.

Image (1960)

Life on board the old schooners trading between the islands in former times.

 

The Hon. Judge went on to give recommendations as to how the accommodations on the “Estelle” could be improved in the event the government could find no other means of transportation. He emphasized also the need and the importance to improve communications between Curacao and the Windward Islands.

The cook on board the “Estelle” was

Fifteen (15) year old Diederick Every, great uncle of Lt. Governor Jonathan Johnson. I interviewed him sixty fives years later and will give his story sometime in future.

Lt. Governor Van der Zee, of the Windward Islands, also made a report on a voyage with the schooner “Estelle” and had the same complaints as His Honour the Judge. He concluded his report on conditions on board the “Estelle” by stating that: “I must mention that a pig is still walking around on the deck of the vessel.”

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Mr. John Heyliger of The Bottom, Saba was one of the many men from Saba who were sailors on those old Saban owned schooners.

 

Both gentlemen though had nothing but praise for the crew who under these circumstances nevertheless managed to be extraordinarily helpful to the distressed passengers.

(To be continued).

 

 

 

 

 

Mail and Passenger Service 3.

Mail Service (Three)
By: Will Johnson

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The “Mayflower” in Statia’s harbour. Owned by Capt. T.C. Vanterpool and one of her captains was Charles Reuben Simmons of Hell’s Gate. 1920’s.

 

 

After 1912 the islands were back to schooner service. Shortly thereafter World War I started.
Although the Dutch Government was neutral the islanders were perceived to be sympathetic to the Germans. The owners of the schooners were mostly from Saba and were accused of trading with the German submarines. A newspaper from Guyana quoted Sir Winston Churchill of making that accusation. According to my old friend Elias Richardson, then a police officer on Saba, after the war one of the famous submarine captains Count Felix Graf von Luckner b. Dresden 9 June 1881, died Malmo Sweden, 13 April 1966 on July 7th, 193t, visited Saba to thank some of the old captains. I have a copy of an autographed photo of him which he left behind when he visited here in the nineteen thirties. He was known as the Sea-Devil and his crew ‘The Emperor’s Pirates’. He commanded a large three master schooner the SMS ‘Sea Eagle’ (1916-1917). He sunk many ships and caused no casualties.

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Count Felix van Lockner was provisioned in World War 1 by Saban captains. He visited Saba to thank them.

Despite the war the Governor on Curacao continued to search for a solution to the transportation problem between the islands.

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S.M.S. “Sea Eagle”

In a letter to His Excellency the Governor dated 22 January 1916, the Administrator of Finance suggested that a subsidy of fls.30.000,– per year and at most forty thousand, should be sufficient to cover the costs of the mail service by steamship, as it now costs the government fls.15.000 per years for the schooner service.
In a letter dated 19th May 1917 from the Lt. Governor of St.Eustatius to His Excellency the Governor of the colony Curacao he indicated that they were becoming worried over the total dependency on St. Kitts and the fact that some of the ships calling there, among them the “Corona”, and one of the Canadian ships may be taken out of service. The Quebec Lines sailed between St. Kitts and New York with stops at Bermuda. This line was very convenient for Windward Islanders back then. Among those ships were the “Corona”, the “Perema” and the “Guyana.” In the Ellis Island records in New York harbour one can find records of many of the people from these islands who entered the United States through that port. Just as a curiosity. In doing research between the twenty odd million people who entered through that port in a fifty year period 99.9% of the Lejuez’ were from St. Maarten and the same goes for the Leverock’s of Saba.

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Schooners in Basseterre St. Kitts. Many Saban schooners traded with New York via St. Kitts (sugar and passengers) and St. Maarten (salt and passengers).

 

 

The Lt.Governor of St. Eustatius quotes the “St.Kitts-Nevis Daily Bulletin” of Friday May 18th, 1917 as stating:
“The small islands of Anguilla, St.Maarten, Saba and St.Eustatius all depend on St. Kitts for food supplies as steamers do not call at their ports. When our food stuff cargoes are short for want of grace, these islands also suffer by reason of this port being the distribution center.
The food question is becoming a very serious matter and if one of the United Steamships is taken off this route, the situation will become still more acute. We can quite realize the difficulties, which exist in the distribution of vessels of the merchant service but, we hope, that the claims of the West Indian Islands for protection from starvation will be given some consideration by the British or American governments.”
In 1917 the Johnson Line from Sweden offered to do the mail service but nothing came out of that as well as several other offers including the Philadelphia Shipping Company.
In a letter dated 24th October 1917 from the Lt. Governor of St.Eustatius he informed His Excellency the Governor that the situation was getting worse. Captain Ben Hassell of Saba who had brought him shingles from Demarara had informed him that that country would no longer be exporting to these islands. Also, that the export of sugar (Sugar Prohibition Order 1917) had come into effect lately in St. Kitts and Nevis. Especially the muscavado sugar is sorely missed.

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Capt. William Benjamin Hassell standing with “Tomma” Johnson seated on one of his schooners in Bonaire.

In a report from His Excellency the Governor dated November 5th, 1917 he stated that the Lt. Governor of Saba had recently been to Curacao on the schooner “Estelle” and that Saba and St.Maarten were not having any difficulties with imports from the British islands. He stated that Mr. Henry Hassell Johnson, one of the largest importers on St.Eustatius, was being refused goods from the British islands because he was known as being hostile to the entente powers. In other words he was a German sympathizer in World War I.

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Henry Hassell Johnson left Saba at the age of 12, barefoot and illiterate to be a goat herder on St. Eustatius for the Every family. By the time he was in his twenties he was the wealthiestt man on that island and could walk from the Caribbean side of the island to the Atlantic without having to step on any one else’s property.

On November 21st, 1917, the Lt. Governor of St.Eustatius denied that Mr. Henry H. Johnson was having any difficulties with imports because of his sympathy towards the Germans and that he, Johnson, had proven this to him. The problem was that St. Kitts itself was short on imports, but that small quantities of sugar were again being exported to St. Eustatius.
After much correspondence back and forth and proposals to have steamers of the Royal Mail Service do the run, the Minister of colonies decided in 1918 to have two schooners built for the purpose.
The Governor did not feel much for the proposal. Also there was a report from Mr. Jansen of the Curacao Petroleum Company (SHELL) which in 1915 had started a complex on Curacao which was to become the largest oil refinery in the world. Mr. Jansen said that the schooner “Estelle” which was a fast sailer had been giving excellent service to these islands. He suggested to continue with the “Estelle” until the war was over and then to build a steamer of 150 to 200 tons capacity with accommodations for 15 passengers.
His Excellency the Governor in a detailed report on March 16th, 1918, informed the Minister of Colonies in The Hague of the problems connected with the building of two schooners, and said that we could wait for better communications between the islands until the war was over. He further stated:” For the service to the Windward Islands we have an excellent schooner chartered the “Estelle” for fls.24.000.—per year. Although this is a privately owned schooner, in my opinion it is far better doing it this way and less costly than if the schooner was owned by the government. This service can suffice until after the war that a steamer can be built.”
The Minister of Colonies Mr. Pleyte did not give up that easy. In a lengthy report to Governor Nuyens of 2 April 1918 he complained about the high costs of hiring the schooner “Estelle” which had gone from f.1000.—to f.1.250.—and then to f.2.000.—per month in less than two years. He said that his offices could get the American government to release quality lumber for the purpose of building two large schooners. He also suggested that government officials visit the islands more often and that the two schooners, one servicing the Leewards and one the Windwards would also provide good inter-island communications, and that these two schooners could alternate in the once a month across the Caribbean trade between the two island groups.

 

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Mail schooner the “Virginia” owned by Capt. Abram Mardenborough of Saba but who married Miss Ohney Wathey and resided on St. Martin.

On August 2nd, 1918 the Governor wrote back to the Minister of Colonies that indeed in normal times the price being paid to the owner of the “Estelle” would be considered high but he must remember the world was at war. He stated that the “Dreadnought” a sister ship of the “Estelle” and also belonging to Capt. Thomas Charles Vanterpool of Saba was being hired out to a Cuban for fls. 4.000.—per month.
He further stated: “I recently was requested by telegram to hire a schooner to transport corn from La Guaira. I could get two schooners about 200 tons each for f.10.000.- each for the trip, but the owners insisted that they should use the ships for themselves on the return. The “Estelle” nowadays could earn a lot more money than it is receiving as a subsidy from the government. However the owner lives on Saba and therefore prefers this run above other runs, whereby he would lose the opportunity to be often at home. In addition he is hoping to be able to keep his vessel on this run for as long as possible. If the government started to build its own schooners, then he would probably try to profit as much as possible from the opportunities now available and cancel the contract. This would bring us into great difficulties. At the moment we cannot do without the services of a ship which makes the trip between Curacao and the Windward Islands. Any moment Curacao can be the only place from which St.Maarten, Saba and St.Eustatius get their supplies. St. Kitts and St.Thomas on more than one occasion have prohibited exports whereby our Windward Islands found themselves in great difficulties.

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Capt. Charles Reuben Simmons. Among others he was captain of the “Mayflower” and traded with Curacao.

“On January 18th, 1918 the Governor of the British Leeward Islands cabled me as follows: “Governor Dutch St.Maarten asks me to inform you that owing to prohibition of exports, foodstuffs from St. Kitts, situation in St.Maarten is very grave and famine is threatened. He asks you to send him immediately from Curacao a special vessel with food supplies. I deeply regret that owing to shortage of foodstuffs in these islands I cannot come to his assistance.”
“Fortunately the “Estelle” which returned here from the Windward Islands, could carry food supplies back, because there was no other vessel available at the time. For a period of several months Curacao supplied the Windward Islands with the most important food supplies, which worry us a lot because many times supplies here were also very scant. It was therefore of incalculable value that we had a vessel that could transport the required amounts each month.” So far His Excellency the Governor.

 

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Sailor Peter Every. We have a separate story of his life. He sailed with Capt. Ben Hassell. He said that he wanted to sail to get fat like his uncles who sailed on four master schooners.

In the continuation of this article we will cover the period just after World War I when the schooner trade continued between the islands.
(To be continued.).

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