The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Easier research tool: The Internet.

Formerly my research consisted of going to the National Archives in Willemstad and The Hague and going through old documents one by one. After a while I gave up on the National archive in The Hague as they had so many petty rules and regulations that if you did have a morning free from scheduled meetings you would end up with at best one half hour to go through one old file or check a microfilm.

On Curacao it was a much more different problem. So many people know me there that I had not well sat down to plan my few hours when one or more or even plenty more people doing their own research would enter the building, see me there, and come over to greet me. Even people from another office building saw me go there and later told me that they were wondering what I was doing there as I was accustomed to go by their building and quarrel about projects.

Nowadays I have so many tools available to me via the Internet and from friends that I forget sometimes what all I have in my computer which has not been read as yet. Also with the computer you can brighten up the old documents and enlarge them so that reading documents from more than two hundred years ago is like reading a letter from a recent girlfriend. Just kidding.

Sometime back Ryan Espersen who is doing his own research, shared with me a whole set of documents from the National Archives in The Hague. I had almost forgotten them and came across them by accident when I was looking for something else in the computer. Among those documents are the Vendue Register starting with the year 1780.In these Registers are recorded all the Public Auctions which took place, whose estate was being auctioned off, who were the participants in the auction and so on.

Also I have historian friends who share information with me which they think I would be interested in. Recently my friend of many years and fellow historian Rose Mary Allen of Curacao was attending a conference of Caribbean Historians in the Bahamas. A gentleman from Puerto Rico presented a document at that conference which is of great importance to the History of Saba. I am in the process of contacting him to get permission to use his document. He found the information in the Spanish Archives in the lovely city of Seville . It concerns an incident which took place in 1654. It is quite extensive and informative. I have no problem reading and even translating this document from the Spanish and will do so later on.

For now though I would like to suffice with sharing a tiny portion of the documents which Mr. Ryan Espersen has been so gracious to share with me. Besides this on the Internet I have found so many articles and books which I have been trying to get these many years and now I can read them at my leisure. I am also eternally grateful that I learned several languages from early on and can enjoy reading good novels and historical items in Dutch, Papiamentoe and so on.

To give an idea of what I have in my computer still unread for the most part, here is just one item from the Auction Books.

Saba, September 21st, 1780.

” With consent of the Honourable Thomas Dinzey Esquire Governor of this island, this day is exposed to publick sale by His Honour a cask of rum belonging to Joshua Hassell that was seized for the Honourable West India Company through Peter Halley, neglecting not reporting the rum, he being the Master of the schooner “Three Friends”. This cask of rum exposed to the highest bidder. The cash to be paid the twenty second of this instant to the Vendue Master – Dinzey.

The cask of rum bought by Madam for Peter Halley for 25 Spanish Dollars.

By me: Charles Winfield.

* Now don’t ask me who the “Madam” is, her name is not mentioned, but it could be the wife of the Captain in order to recoup some of the money for the fine paid.

I have just started going through the documents so I will have much more in future articles.

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