The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “June, 2015”




My friend James Elridge Maduro of St. Eustatius


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James Maduro behind Max Nicholson on Saba for the opening of the Leo Chance pier on November 8th, 1972.

He used to like the Elridge part of his name and would often put much emphasis on it when asked for his full name. He told me that his father was from St. Thomas. The name Maduro is a typical Sephardic Jewish name from the Iberian Peninsula and they moved around the world with the Dutch. Many of them were settlers of the first order in Pernambuco, Curacao and yes also on St. Eustatius where Maduro was born. Many went to St. Thomas as well after the ruination of the economy of Sint Eustatius at the end of the eighteenth century. I used to tease him that he should do some DNA testing to see if he was descended from one of those Sephardic Jews.

I first met James in 1955 in the Boys Town on Curacao on the shores of that beautiful lagoon called the Spanish Water. He was joined later on by his brother Henry.

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Part of the Boys Town Brakkeput. When we were there the whole area was empty except for the facilities of the Boys Town. Now it is all built up.

From early on James acquired a nickname after a local skinny bird named “Chuchubi” and that name became stuck on him with his friends for the rest of his life. His character was such that the brothers who ran the boys town, and who were normally strict with us, were enthralled with James. I can hear them now with their Dutch pronunciation asking “”But where is Shushubi”? Later, many years later, when the Brothers came around the islands to visit with the boys who had been in Brakkeput I remember when on Statia they had an interview on radio with their much beloved pupil whom they called “Shushubi”. I remember listening to that interview and laughing my head off listening to the interaction between him and the Brothers. James loved to throw around his Dutch and in every conversation he would bring in words of advice in the Dutch language. It brought me back to the days of my boyhood when I would hear him and the brothers interacting in the Boys Town.

He had a special personality and was so busy with so many of his own projects around the place that I cannot remember exactly what he studied for. It may have been a plumber at the Trade School, but we all remember him best for his projects around the Boys Town.

I remember once he found, somewhere along the lagoon, the frame of an old boat. He decided to make that into a project. He had no lumber so when he found some discarded canvas, he begged the Brother at the carpenter shop to loan him some glue and in less than no time we had a boat to fish in around the lagoon. It leaked like a basket so we would pull up to a rock and fish from there. We would catch a number of small fish which served as a substitute for our meals in the boy’s town.

In these latter days when there is so much emphasis on racism, I remember the “Sinterklaas” celebration probably in the year 1958. To be fair the Brothers were ahead of their time. One of the Dutch Brothers was the “Sinterklaas” with several boys as his helpers. He had not well got himself in position on his throne when we heard a ruckus out in the Court Yard of the large pavilion where twenty five of us boys lodged. Suddenly a black “Sinterklaas” made his appearance with his helpers being some of the white boys from St. Martin and Saba. When the debate started as to who should be the real “Sinterklaas” for these tropical isles we realized it was our “Chuchubi” who was playing the role. The whole thing was hilarious and the Brother from Holland ceded his throne to “Shushubi” and James carried on with the rest of the evenings program and even though he was just a teenager he did a wonderful job in his new role.This had been arranged in advance by the Brothers.

In Brakkeput with a couple of hundred teenagers to deal with small scuffles which we called fights would break out. He and I were involved in two and he won both times and we remained friends for life without having to fight about anything.

Brakkeput boys 11

Here visiting Saba are some of the Brothers who loved Maduro as their own son “Shushubi” as they called him.

After Curacao we went our separate ways but not very far. We both ended up on St. Maarten and I saw him infrequently. I remember once when I was supporting the D.P. all the way back in 1966 I was travelling with a young lady from a very important Curacao family. We had a public meeting at the Lopes home on Statia and I ended up at Flanders little snack bar. There James joined me. I sat in the corner and the young lady sat opposite me and they were visible to anyone passing in the street. All of a sudden I heard an uproar out in the street. My friend James was “a courtin” back then and Mina his wife to be ,while passing by, thought it was he escorting that white girl from Curacao. Anyway the problem was solved when I got up to see what was taking place. There was no electricity back then and everything was oil lamps, but those are the days I remember most fondly. However in 1969 I decided to run for Senator of the three Dutch Windward Islands against the then all powerful Senator Claude Wathey. I found James, then living in a house on the main road of Cul-de-Sac in order to get advice from him. I had occasionally been in the harbor of St. Eustatius from the early nineteen fifties and spent two months in 1961 working in the Post Office there and staying in the Government Guesthouse. Though I met a number of people at that time it was James who lined me up with people like Christine and her husband William Flanders, the Suarez brothers, Benjie and his sister Miriam Schmidt, Mrs. Laura Rouse, Clifton Berkel and a number of others.

By the time the elections were over I had 236 votes on Statia and the Democratic Party had 267. Bets were being placed by D.P. supporters on St. Martin that I would get less than 10 votes on Statia. My personal vote was 232 and the Statia strong man on the ticket Brother Stanley Rogers only had 159. I remember about two weeks after the elections when I walked down from the Sea View Hotel where I was living at the time I saw a distinguished looking man with a tie on. He spoke to me as soon as I reached the sidewalk. He told me that he could not go back to Curacao before meeting the little white boy who had defeated him on his native island. He later became Minister and we remained lifelong friends. Many are the times I would visit his home on Curacao and even slept there once when Commissioner Vincent Lopes and I could not find a hotel room.

From then on I was known to all of Statia as the Suarez brothers took me house to house twice during the campaign of 1969 and then once again after to thank even those who had not voted for me.

Emporium Review 2

Just after the September 1969 elections James and I decided to start a newspaper for Statia and I was the Editor for the first edition and then turned it over to James and he carried it on for several years.

In later years I had enough influence to have my friend James appointed as Act. Lt. Governor and he was also canton judge at one point. Together James and I started the newspaper the “Emporium Review” and he carried it on for a number of years.

We were both raising families back in the seventies and so we did not get together very often. He was here for the opening of the Leo Chance pier and he served as the Tourism Director on Statia, so I cannot say that I did not see him often. He also served on the board of Windward Islands Airways N.V. with my brother Thomas Eric and they became friends as well.

James Maduro 2

James Maduro to the left when he was Director of Tourism for his native island.

He moved back to St. Maarten and started running his own bus service. He was a bit of a capitalist in his own way. When I would try my radical socialist ideas on him he would give me a tolerant look and would say:” I hope you are joking and don’t believe all of that communist stuff.” We never got mad with each other.

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Here he is together with Clifton Berkel, and Mr. Coffie and some other friends at a reception at the old Governors House on Front street Philipsburg. The reception was for the new incoming Prime Minister Mr. Ernesto Petronia.

Once when my son Teddy was living at the home of Senator Millicent de Weever on St. Maarten, my other son Chris went over for a visit. He had instructions from Teddy how much the bus fare was. One day when he took a bus from town back home to Millicent’s place he noticed the driver gave him a look of recognition. After he paid his fls. 1.50, and started to walk off, the driver called him back. Chris thought perhaps the driver wanted more money of which he had none. The driver asked him “Tell me something, are you Will Johnson’s son?” Chris confirmed that, and the driver gave him back his money and told him:” You look just like your father when he was your age. I cannot charge a child of my friend Will Johnson for a ride in my bus.” Chris told me the story but since he did not ask for a name it remained a mystery to us for a number of years. One night James called me for advice on some matter or the other he brought up the story of Chris riding on his bus. We both had a good laugh when I told him how it was a mystery to us all this time who the bus driver was. I have so many friends on St. Martin that many times favors were extended to my children on the same basis and it was nice to know that it was my friend James who had befriended Chris.

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I am not absolutely certain, but this might even be the boat which James restored with canvas and glue. Here on the shores of the Spanish Water with some of the boys posing for the picture.

The last time I spoke to him he could hardly speak. He had such a bad sore throat that I told him to better keep quiet and I would do the talking. It was a week before he made the journey to Columbia where he passed away. Life throws many fast balls at us and one which he had was diabetes. His last years were troubling ones with his legs having to be amputated and so he lost the ability to make an independent living. His children did well and he was very proud of their achievements when we would speak on the telephone.

My friend ‘Chuchubi” is gone now to that great beyond and we are certain that he will rest softly. To his family and the people of St. Eustatius we say: “You have lost a great son. He held his beloved island St. Eustatius close to his heart and in his own way he did what he could to bring attention to and to be involved in issues of importance to Statia and her people. May his memory live on fondly in the hearts of his family and the people of Statia and the other Dutch islands who knew him.

Farewell James and rest softly.


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Sabans owned many schooners up until the middle of the last century. This is the “Mona Marie” of Captain Ben Hassell which was torpedoed by the Germans in World War II off St. Vincent.

It is interesting to note that the trade between Saba and St. Eustatius was carried on mostly by Saba Captains whose fathers and grandfathers had been English and Scottish pirates. Most of the names from the year 1744 still exist on Saba even today. Among the captains I have several ancestors Jacob Valaan , a Courlander and the name was later to become Vlaun, Vlaughn etc. I have an original document from 1780 when he died his possessions were sold on auction as he had children by two separate wives and that was the way it was done back then, with the heirs having the privilege to bid on his possessions first.Also on this list Charles Simmons and Daniel Every are among my ancestors. I recently was sent a letter by a friend of mine Rose Mary Allen of Curacao who had attended a Conference of Caribbean Historians in the Bahamas. She sent me a document presented by a Puerto Rican historian who had located in the archives of Seville a long document in Spanish on a group of maroons who had escaped from Saba in 1654. I will translate that and deal with it later on. In that document it is stated that the majority of the population of Saba at that time were Englishmen, something never mentioned by Dutch historians.They always claim that Saba was settled by the Dutch from the island of St. Eustatius around 1640, but in my research many Irishmen, English and Scots came to Saba from St. Kitts in 1629 and established the villages of Palmetto Point and Middle Island. I am my own university and unlike academia who quote exclusively from other academia I have combined oral history with research in local archives as well as those of Curacao, Holland and England to come to various conclusions which I can defend when I make my dissertation to my own University which is me!

EUX           From           Captain        Boat type       Vessels name                    Cargo

In: 1-1-1744   Saba    James Every        Bark         Swallow                              None

7-1-1744           ”         James Every          ”                ”                                        ”

10-1-1744          ”        James Every           ”               ”                                     6 slaves

14-1-1744           ”        Robert Cooks          ”           Jonge Sucke                     None

16-1- ”                 ”        James Leverock    ”            Hopewell                              ”

18-1- ”                 ”         James Every         ”           Swallow                              3 passengers

26-1-  ”                 ”         Charles Gordon     ”            Elizabeth                            None

30-1-  ”                  ”        Henry Hill               Boat      Elizabeth& Susanna              ”

30-1    ”                   ”       James Every          Bark      Swallow                                ”

1-2-   ”                     ”       William Winfield        ”          Hopewell                               ”

4-2-   ”                      ”       William Winfield        ”          Speedwell                        4 passengers

5-2-   ”                      ”        James Every          ”           Swallow                             None

13-2-  ”                     ”         James Leverock    ”         Hopewell                               ”

13-2-  ”                      ”         Hercules Hassell   Boat     Elizabeth                        3 passengers

17-2-   ”                   ”            James Tucker       Bark      Robert                          None

22.2.   ”                      ”           Jacob Simmons     Bark     Recovery                      None

25.2.   ”                      ”             James Leverock     Bark    Hopewell                       7 passengers

3.3.      ”                      ”            John Sandeford       Bark      Recovery                    5 passengers

3.3.      ”                       ”            William Winfield         ”         Speedwell                   6 turtles

5.3        ”                      ”             William Winfield         ”        Zeebloem                     None

7.3.       ”                      ”              Hercules Hassell    Boat   Elizabeth & Susanna          ”

7.3.       ”                       ”              Abraham Simmons   Schooner  Charming Sally         ”

8.3.   1744               Saba             Jacob Simmons       Bark           Recovery           2 barrels coffee

11.3.    ”                      ”                 John Davis                ”             Robert                  None

19.3.    ”

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.

”                 Abraham Simmons    Boat       Charming Betty       ”

26.3.  1744               Saba             Jacob Simmons         Bark        Recovery            5 passengers

31.3.    ”                      ”                  Jacob Simmons           ”             Recovery          10 passengers.

18.4.     ”                      ”                  Jan Schort               Boat         Charming Sally     None

18.4.     ”                       ”                 William Winfield        Bark         Speedwell         14 turtles, 3 tons potatoes

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Schooner the “Mayflower” in the 1920’s in Statia’s Road stead. Captain Charles Reuben Simmons and owner was Thomas Charles Vanterpool of Saba.

26.5.     ”                      ”                  Joris (george?) Simmons  Bark   Recovery         5 passengers

7.6.    1744              Saba                James Leverock         Bark        Hopewell           200lbs coffee  40?

17.6      ”                   ”                      William Winfield            ”         Zeebloem              6 passengers

22.6.      ”                   ”                      James Leverock          ”         Hopewell                2 passengers

22.6        ”                   ”                      Jacob Simmons           ”        Recovery            10 slaves, 6 passengers

22.6.       ”                   ”                       James Every              ”        Swallow                 2 passengers

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Schooner the “Ina Vanterpool” lost in the hurricane of 1928 on Statia. Was owned by Capt. Thomas Charles Vanterpool and named after his daughter.

7.7          ”                    ”                       Daniel Every               ”      Hopewell                2 passengers

15.9.    1744             Saba                    Daniel Every               ”      Hopewell                None

29.9         ”                  ”                         Harmanis Mulder        ”       Duijl                      4 passengers

5.10         ”                   ”                         Charles Simmons        ”   Speedwell                46 passengers

20.10        ”                   ”                          Charles Simmons       ”   Speedwell                  None

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

Capt. John Clarence at the wheel of the ‘Maisie Hassell’ and his brother standing Capt. William Benjamin Hassell. 1920’s.

26.10        ”                   ”                        Charles Simmons         ”    Speedwell               6 passengers

4.11.         ”                   ”                         Jan Plaroir                   ”    Hopewell                 None

8.11           ”                  ”                          Charles Simmons        ”   Speedwell                10 passengers 100lbs coffee.

16.11         ”                   ”                          William Wood           Schooner  Union               1 passenger

22.11         ”                   ”                         Jacob Valaan           Bark       Hopewell                8 passengers

24.11.        ”                   ”                          Jacob Simmons        ”            Recovery               None

Activity in the Bay at St. Eustatius

Activity in the Bay at St. Eustatius

9.12.       1744           Saba                       Charles Simmons      ”       Speedwell                   None

15.12.         ”                ”                             Philip Watkins          Boat      Paket                      1 passenger

16.12          ”                 ”                            Jacob Simmons       Bark      Recovery                2 passengers

26.12           ”                 ”                           Jacob Simmons          ”          Recovery                None

28.12           ”                 ”                            Daniel Hassell             ”         Speedwell                None

28.12            ”                ”                             Jacob Valaan              ”         Hopewell                 None.


In the road stead of St. Eustatius in the nineteen seventies.

I also have the list of vessels leaving the port of St. Eustatius in the year 1744 for Saba which I will add to this list when I get a chance.

Ryan Espersen has been sharing parts of his research with me and I am thankful to him for that. I am recording certain things on my blog for future generations to know how our people survived on this small island in former times. It was either fish or cut bait. Each man and woman for themselves.No government employment to depend on then and it may happen again in the future.

Here is the list of boats coming from St. Eustatius to Saba in the year 1744 with passengers and cargo. As St. Eustatius grew in economic importance in the next fifty years the trade between the two islands was much more than in 1744.Also I am of the belief that certain items were not listed as cargo, e.g. fish, ground vegetables, livestock and so on. What is listed as cargo in 1744 was probably” cargo” which was subject to some sort of tax and control of movement of people between the islands. This would answer the question as to why anyone would be sailing up and down between the two islands without any “cargo” or passengers. From other historical sources the trade between the two islands consisted mainly of food and livestock which most probably was not subject to any form of taxation and therefore not listed under “cargo”.

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1920’s, schooner “Priscilla” and a sloop in the harbour of Saba in the 1920’s. The schooner was one of a fleet of schooners owned by Captain Thomas Charles Vanterpool.

St. Eustatius  to     Saba      Captain            Boat type  Name            Cargo

4-1-1744                               James Every         Bark  Swallow        None

7-1- 1744                               James Every            :”          ”                 ”

10-1-1744                             Robert Cooks             ”   Jonge Sucke     ”

14-1- 1744                              James Every              ”   Swallow           ”

18-1-     ”                                James Leverock           ”   Hopewell       ”

22-1-     ”                                Charles Gordon             ”   Elizabeth       ”

25-1-    ”                                 James Leverock             ”    Hopewell     ”

25-1-    ”                                  James Every                 ”  Zeebloem      1 passenger

29-1-    ”                                 Henry Bill (Hill?)             ”   Elizabeth&Susanna  None

30-1-    ”                                  William Winfield              ”   Zeebloem       None

31-1-   ”                                    William Winfield              ” Speedwell        None

1-2-    1744            Saba          William Winfield               ”  Zeebloem          ”

2-2-       ”                  ”                James Every                  ”   Swallow            ”

4-2-       ”                   ”                William Winfield            ”     Swallow  2 passengers

10-2-     ”                   ”                 James Every               ” Swallow       None

14-2-      ”                   ”                 Robert Tucker           ”    Robert        2 passengers

17-2-    1744         Saba               James Leverock         ”    Hopewell    None

22-2-       ”                 ”                  James Leverock         ”        ”                ”

26-2-        ”                ”                  James Leverock          ”        ”               ”

28-2-         ”               ”                  Thomas Pecker           ”     Robert         ”

Arriving at Saba.

Saba as seen from a boat approaching the island. That view remains the same as it would have been in 1744.

2-3-          ”                ”                   Abraham Simmons Schooner Charming Betty     None

4-3-           ”                ”                  John Sandifort          Bark   Recovery    None

4-3-           ”                 ”                  Hercules Hassell      Boat Elizabeth&Susanna      None

5-3-           ”                 ”                 William Winfield         Bark  Zeebloem      None

1-3-          ”                  ”                 James Leverock        Bark   Hopewell      None

16-3-        ”                  ”                 Abraham Simmons    Boat Charming Sally   None

23-3-        ”                 ”                  James Every              Bark  Swallow   2 barrels sugar

24-3-        ”                 ”                  Jacob Simmons          Bark Recovery  None

25-3-        ”                ”                  Abraham Simmons      Boat Charming Sally  2 barrels rum, 2 passengers

28-3-        ”               ”                    Jacob Simmons           Bark Recovery  None

30-3-       1744       Saba               Jan Plas                      Bark  Zeebloem   None

31-3-          ”             ”                  Abraham Simmons        Boat Charming Sally    2 passengers

1-4-            ”              ”                 James Leverock            Bark   Hopewell       None

19-4-          ”              ”                 Daniel Vanderpoel         Bark  Drie Vrienden   None

30-4-          ”              ”                William Winfield              Bark    Zeebloem      None

6-5-            ”              ”                 James Leverock            Bark    Hopewell       2 passengers

6-5-            ”              ”                  Jan Faroumet             Schooner  Charming Betty   None

16-5-       1744       Saba            William Winfield             Bark      Speedwell       None

23-5-          ”             ”                 William Winfield             Bark Zeebloem            None

28-5-          ”             ”                  James Leverock           Bark Hopewell              None


The island of St, Eustatius as it would have looked like in 1744 when it was fast becoming a big trade center for the region and beyond. During the revolution by the British North American colonies much of the trade to those colonies was conducted via St. Eustatius and it is from that time that Saba captains became acquainted with builders of schooners and owners of large fleets of schooners of which many Sabans were captains.

29-5-          ”             ”                 William Winfield              Bark Zeebloem           1 passenger

4-6-           ”               ”                 James Leverock            Bark  Hopewell        2 barrels meal, 3 passengers

10-6-         ”               ”                  James Leverock           Bark   Hopewell       2 barrels rum

18-6-         ”              ”                   Jacob Simmons            Bark    Recovery      14 slaves

19-6-         ”              ”                   James Every                 Bark Swallow           None

23-6-       1744         Saba             James Every                Bark Swallow           2 passengers, 5 slaves

23-6-           ”              ”                  James Leverock          Bark Hopewell          None

25-6-           ”             ”                   Jacob Simmons            Bark Recovery         None

3-7-             ”              ”                   Daniel Every                 Bark  Hopewell        1 passenger

Image (797)

Sabans were captains from very young ages. Here sitting on the railing is Capt. Laurie Hassell, then 19, and he was captain of his father’s (Captain Ben) schooner the “Mona Marie” sailing out of Barbados all the way to Guyana, Turks &Caicos islands, Jamaica, Saba and so on.

3-7-             ”              ”                    Thomas Simmons        Bark Speedwell       None

4-7-             ”             ”                     William Winfield             Bark  Zeebloem  1 cargo house furniture

23-7-            ”             ”                     Daniel Every                Bark   Hopewell     None

21-7-           ”              ”                     William Winfield           Bark  Zeebloem 6 passengers

21-7-           ”              ”                      Hermanises Mulder     Schooner  Union 12 passengers

31-7-            ”              ”                    Daniel Wingort             Bark  Three Sisters   None

6-8-              ”              ”                    Henry Hassell               Bark Charles&Elizabeth  None

12-9        1744          Saba                Daniel Every                Bark  Hopewell              None

Image (423)

Sabans built their own schooners and sloops from very early on and up until recent times when smaller fishing boats were built in the villages and carried down to the sea for launching and to fish the Saba Bank.

26-9-         ”                 ”                  Hermanus Mulder           Bark   Duijt                    None

30-10        ”                  ”                  James Every                   Bark   Hopewell           None

30 -10           ”                 ”                   Charles Simmons          Bark    Recovery          None

9-10-          ”                  ”                 Charles Simmons             Bark Speedwell           4 passengers

14-10-        ”                  ”                  Jacob Simmons               Bark Recovery             None

25-10-        ”                  ”                   Charles Simmons           Bark   Speedwell          None

9-10-          ”                 ”                   Jacob Simmons                ”         Recovery           None

1-11-          ”                 ”                    Charles Simmons             ”        Speedwell             ”

4-11-          ”                 ”                    William Winfield                 ”         Speedwell           ”

13-11-        ”                ”                     Charles Simmons              ”          Speedwell       3 passengers

19-11-         ”                ”                     Charles Simmons             ”         Speedwell        None

Image (1716)

Originally this family is supposedly descended from the Dutch Van der Poel listed here. However the name was Anglicized from very early on to Vanetrpool, as when this family came to Saba in the early to mid eighteen hundreds from Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands the name was already spelled as Vanterpool. As a family they owned the most large schooners which conducted trade with Curacao and New York.

20-11       1744          Saba                 Jacob Simmons                ”      Recovery           None

4-12-          ”               ”                         Hercules Hassell             Twee Vrienden            ”

5-12-           ”              ”                        Charles Simmons              ” Speedwell         700lbs cotton, 1 barrel rum

11-12-         ”              ”                         Philip Watkins               Schooner   Paket       None

12-12-         ”              ”                         Jacob Simmons             Bark   Recovery        None

24-12-         ”              ”                         Jacob Valaen                 Bark   Hopewell        None

24-12-          ”              ”                         Daniel Hassell                Bark Speedwell       None

Dorothy Palmer

This was life at sea for most Sabans in former times. This is a large schooner the “Dorothy Palmer” at sea. Sabans like Capt. Lockland Heyliger were captains of the Palmer fleet. He was Captain of the large five masted Rebecca Palmer. Life at sea was not easy but had its rewards as many of our captains lived well into their nineties before moving on to larger oceans to conquer.

And so we present you with this tidbit of information for the trade between St. Eustatius and Saba for the year 1744.

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