The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Administrator Max Huith

Administrator Maximillian Joseph Huith.

by:Will Johnson

Administrator Max Huith wife Cynthia Labega 1948,

Administrator Max Huith with his wife Cynthia Labega and their two sons who later both became doctors.

In the past century most government officials on Saba were natives of Sint Maarten. Radio operators, Police officers, teachers, and even Administrators as the position of Island Governor was referred to between 1919 and 1983. As the three Dutch Windward Islands had one Lt. Governor, his representative on Saba and Sint Eustatius during aforementioned period carried the title of Vice Lt. Governor and later on Administrator. The term for that position was usually two years but could be extended to more.

Among the St. Maarten born Administrators of Saba were Ernest Voges, Max Huith, Ludwig Reginald Carty, Walter Granville Buncamper, Carol Labega, Reinier van Delden, Joseph Emanuel Richardson and George Larmonie. We are mentioning native St. Martiners only. There were others living on St. Martin from Holland and Curacao who were also appointed from over there.


The house at the bottom of the frame around the middle of the photo  was the family home of  Mr. Max Huith where he was born. 

Maximillian Joseph Huith was born on St. Maarten on Saturday June 9th, 1909. His father was Gustav Adolf Huith who was born in Menningen (Beiren-Germany) on Sunday 13 September 1868 and his parents were Konrad Huith and Marie Katharina Eck. He was recruited as a police officer by the Dutch and sent out to St. Maarten. There were several others like Voges, Bremer and so on who came out from Germany, names which are synonymous with St. Maarten these past hundred years.

Mr. Max Huith’s mother was Rosella Augustina Hollander born on St. Martin on Friday 25 August 1871 and her mother was Sophia Hollander.

Vice Lt. Governor Max Huith checking on road progress.

Vice Lt. Governor Max Huith checking on road progress.

Back in those days there were also many epidemics passing through the islands and Mr. Max Huith’s twin brothers died on January 22nd. 1912. They were Karl and Gustav Adolf. In that year there was diphtheria or something of the sorts going around and caused many deaths in all the Eastern Caribbean. He also had a sister named Agnes who married Mr. Carel Frederick Boskaljon in 1925 and she died at the age of 28.

Mr. Huith was married to Cynthia Bernadine Labega who was born on Thursday 21 May 1908. Her father was the legendary teacher and author William Frederick Adolphus Labega and her mother was Marie Isabel Roberts.

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Administrator Max Huith with friends and Island Dignitaries around 1948.

The St. Martin he grew up in was very different to nowadays. Despite the hardships, the unblemished natural resources of the island led one to acquire a lifelong attachment to this beautiful island.

His family home was where Sang’s Supermarket is now located. I can still remember the old house standing there in ruins. Of course like so many others of his generation who made a career for themselves in the government civil service corps, they had no idea as to how St. Maarten would later develop or else they may have gone into the private sector. In the long run the property still proved to be a great asset to him as I am told that when it was sold the price was close to one million dollars.

I have mentioned Mr. Huith in a former article as being the Administrator of Saba when the “Donkey on wheels” (The Jeep) was introduced to Saba in 1947. He served intermittently from January 30th 1943 until May 23rd, 1950. In between he also served for a period as Act. Lt Governor of the Windward Islands (January 22nd, 1945 to March 11th, 1946).

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Administrator Max Huith visiting the village of Hell’s Gate around 1947.

Back then the Administrators kept a daily journal. From Mr. Huith’s journal in the past I wrote the full story of the arrival of the first motor vehicle on Saba in: “Donkey on wheels”.

I will just quote from the morning after the Jeep had arrived and could not start. Tuesday March 18th, 1947. “At 6.30 AM went to the Fort Bay to try to get the “JEEP” rolling. In the beginning the motor refused to start, so that the undersigned went back to The Bottom by horse for discussions with the Lt. Governor of the Windward Islands. In the meantime the Captain and the Engineer of the M.S. “Kralendijk” had worked on the JEEP and finally for the first time in the history of Saba, a motor vehicle was driven via the Fort Bay road over the roads of The Bottom.” And so a worthy person like Mr. Max Huith stood at the cradle of a momentous change in the lives of Sabans long fought for by people like Mr. Errol Hassell and many others who had long voiced the hope for this sea change on Saba.

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Administrator Max Huith with friends around 1947.

He was also on Saba when on January 26th, 1950, Prince Bernhard was the first Member of the Dutch Royal family to visit Saba. I found a photo taken secretly by Mr. Huith’s son Karel with his father and Prince Bernhard while in discussion at the home of the Administrator.

I was too small to know him personally at the time. Also he lived in The Bottom and there was no road only a footpath between Windwardside and there so I seldom got there before I started primary school there in 1953.

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HRH Princess Juliana then in exile in Canada visited St. Maarten in 1944. The dignitaries from Saba and St. Eustatius went to St. Maarten by boat to see her. She is seen here shaking Administrator of Saba Max Huith’s hand, before him is Josephus Lambert Hassell (the road engineer).

I again came in contact with him when I started working in the Old Courthouse in Philipsburg in 1960. Officially I was working in the Post office but my boss Fons O’Connor was also Notary, Treasurer, Canton Judge and agent for the Curacao Bank. I was called on to fill in for others when they were ill. I did not mind as I picked up a lot of experience by doing so even though my salary remained at around US $100.—per month.

Mr. Huith came into the picture as comptroller from Curacao of Government assets in the Windward Islands. He would come to these islands from Curacao at least twice a year. No calculators back then and I have never seen anyone before or after who could add up numbers on a sheet of paper as fast as he could. You would see his eyes roaming the sheet of numbers from bottom to top while using his pencil as a sort of measuring stick. When he reached the top he would place a number at the bottom of the page and wham in less than no time he would be ready and would move on.

He and I clashed for the first time on a matter of government assets. There was a pack of old yellowed paper which had probably been made just after Noah’s flood. I always thought it strange that if I made any mistakes in typing a letter and which could not be erased, Fons pulled a red line through it and we both had to sign it and there was a special file for this.

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Teacher Mr. Frank Hassell paying a visit to Mr. Huith after he was retired and lived in The Netherlands.

Mr. Huith if on his previous trip had left 100 blank copies from the Noah flood file, would have you check how many valid letters had been sent out and how many were in the spoiled letter file. If these added up to 25 then there had better be 75 blank copies over.

I was a young rebel back then and under my breath I launched one set of Nixonians (President Nixon was known for using cuss words). Mr. Huith jumped on me and asked me what the matter was. When I told him that it was ridiculous to have such a foolish system in place, he looked me in dismay and said: “My boy the government paid money for that pack of paper and it should not be wasted.”  That pack of paper must have been bought by government when Mr. Huith was a boy. Even unusable rusty paper clips seldom used had to be counted  which was cause for me to again use a  another flood of Nixonians.

Mr. Huith in the meantime had become Inspector of Taxes under which Customs fell.

In October 1962 I was sent to work in the Customs building in Willemstad on the corner of the “Handelskade” (Commercial pier). I was sent there to take a ten months crash course in assessing taxes and in collecting taxes, which knowledge was to be applied on St. Maarten on my return. I was lodging at the Hotel Washington just a short walk from my office. I have written an article in the past in Dutch for the NAPA, the Dutch language newspaper on Curacao on my stay at this hotel which was a combination of regular guests, and ladies from Central and South America coming to sell and purchase goods. What they sold is a matter for you to speculate on. There were no drugs back then so they had to make a living any which way they could.

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Visit of HRH, Prince Bernard to Saba in 1950. This photo was taken secretly by young Karl Huith then twelve years old.

Anyway once again I crossed paths with Mr. Huith who was then my boss. Lots of good quality paper in that building and I even suggested to him, “Mr. Huith, man can you send us a new pack of paper for the Courthouse on St. Maarten?” By that time he and I had become friends. He had many fond memories of the years he had served on Saba and still kept in touch with the many friends he had made there.

Even the rare visitor to the island would be entertained by Mr. Huith and his wife Cynthia. They too he kept in touch with. Just a few years ago I had contact with a lady from California who had been friends with them. She and her husband (Leanne and Bill Carter) had spent their honeymoon on Saba in 1948 and she wrote to tell me all about her stay on Saba and sent me some photos of her and her husband with the Huith family, both on Saba and when Mr. Huith visited them in the United States.

He was a very amiable man and an avid photographer all his life. I corresponded with him years ago and he sent me some copies of his photographs for use in my articles and books. I wonder whatever became of his collection of photographs of these islands.

After Mr. Huith retired my former schoolmate later Prime Minister Minguel Pourier became the Inspector of Taxes. In the meantime Mr. Huith’s two sons had become Medical Doctors. I did not know them personally. One of them Karel E. Huith worked as urologist in the district hospital “Het Nieuwe Spitaal” at Warnsveld close to Zutphen.


Frontstreet, Philipsburg. This scene seldom changed and this is what it would have looked like when both Mr. Huith and his wife Cynthia Labega were young people growing up there.

Mr. Huith, after his retirement, and his wife moved to Holland to be close to their sons. Friends from Saba like Mr. David Donker kept in contact with them by mail, and I even seem to believe that Mr. Donker had visited them in Holland. He was the one who called to tell me the news that Mr. Huith had passed away.

They loved in the town of Berkelo and I have a photo with Mr. Frank Hassell visiting them there. And of course Mr. Huith, then an old man, had his camera hanging from his shoulder.

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The famous JEEP or “Donkey on wheels” to be brought to Saba on March 17th, 1947 for then Administrator of Saba. Many of the islands residents especially women and children who had not traveled that much were able to witness a motor vehicle for the first time.

At my age I enjoy writing these memories of times and friends long gone. I happen to have found a number of photos with Mr. Huith when he was working and living on Saba as Administrator. The photos always attract a lot of attention for the readers of my column “Under the Sea Grape Tree”, and when I am going through my collection and I come across a photo from my past I immediately start writing a column in my head. So for this and many other reasons it is worth a whole deal to save and share photos of our past and friends we have known.

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