The Mussenden Family
This once important family is no longer on St. Eustatius, yet less than one hundred years ago the family owned most of the land between Oranjestad and the White Wall. The Mussenden family goes all the way back to 1696 when there is mention of a Major William Mussenden in the population records. His son William (Charles?) is mentioned in the records of 1700, 1705, 1715, 1729 and 1725. The son of William, Nathaniel Mussenden is mentioned in the records of 1728; Nathaniel was the father of Charles and in the Rodney Roll of 1781 there are three Mussendens mentioned, Charles, James and William Charles. On July 19th, 1747 a license to marry was issued to the engaged pair Charles Mussenden, young man and native of st. Eustatius and Rebecca Simmons, native of Saba, both residing on st. Eustatius, to enter a state of matrimony. The marriage took place on August 6th, 1747. Throughout the centuries the Mussenden’s looked to Saba for their wives. The last two Mussenden brothers on Statia both married Johnson’s. On February 13th, 1913, Mr. Nathaniel George Garnett Wolseley Mussenden (22), whose parents were Samuel Augustus Hassell Mussenden and Amalia Louisa Cruger, married Helen Lucille Johnson (23) whose parents were HenryHassell Johnson and Jane Elizabeth Schmidt. He died in the “Kaisers War” and she then married Captain Ralph Holm a descendant of yet another Statia/Saba family. on December 23rd, 1925 Mr. Benjamin Irving Mussenden (32) married Amy Johnson (30), born May 23rd 1895 on Saba. He was the brother of Nathaniel and Amy was the daughter of James Johnson and Sarah Jane Hassell.
Mr. irving Mussenden went on to become the Inspector of Taxes of the Netherlands Antilles. After elementary school on St. Eustatius Irving followed a business course in Brooklyn, New York.
At the age of sixteen he started working for the government of st. Eustatius. From 1909 to 1917, he worked at the Post Office and later at the Court of Justice. From 1917 to 1919 he was in the United states and worked at the Chemical Bank of New York. he then returned to Statia and filled various functions, namely “Officier van Justitie” (Public Prosecutor), Receiver, Notary and Acting Lt. Governor. Already in 1923 he was made a Knight in the order of Oranje Nassau, mainly because he was the founder of the Public library consisting of more than 3000 books. in December 1924 he was transferred to Curaçao to the Department of Finance. in 1931 he was appointed Colonial Treasurer. On January 1st 1938 he was appointed inspector of Taxes for the Netherlands Antilles and held that position until September 30th, 1955, when he retired. He is the only person to have filled this position for more than 17 years. He had cancer of the kidneys and as a result passed away in Curacao on July 27th, 1961. People who knew him describe him as a very polite person who loved to read and to do research about Statia. His only child Sybil Aileen was born in Curaçao on October 31st, 1929, and married Richard Bland McQuiston Mitchell, born in New York January 30, 1924 and died July 14th, 1999. They had four children all born in Curaçao, now living in the USA. The Mussenden family name has now disappeared from the Netherlands Antilles.
Before I met Sybil here on Saba I had the following letter from her dated September 11th, 2001.
“Dear Will Johnson, Although you don’t know me, I feel as if i know your whole family. This is because my friend Inge uit de Bos sent me a copy of your family tree. Hoping I could find some ancestor of mine among yours. We may not be directly related, but I can’t believe there is not a Johnson or a Hassell that are not kin in some way. My father was Benjamin Irving Mussenden, born 1893 in Statia, died 1961 in Curaçao. My mother Amy Johnson born 1895 in Saba –died 1945 in Curaçao. her parents were Sarah Jane Hassell and James Johnson. I know I am related on the Hassell side to Freda Hassell (still living in new Jersey, I think, her sister Lillie died years ago). but do you know anything about Sara Jane’s parents and/or grandparents?
Looking up the Mussendens, Inge was able to get more information for me. We found that a Major Will Mussenden was appointed to Governor of Statia in 1695. I have only been to Saba twice but I loved it. I have no close family on either island. My father had one brother who died in World War 1; My mother had one sister Lillian who died years ago, unmarried. I myself am an only child – my husband “Mitch” died in 1999. We have four children Amy (50) – Pamela (46), Richard (41), Chris (39) and 4 grandchildren. I have known Inge since grade school in Curacao and we keep in touch. looking over your “tree” I see you have a Samuel Augustus Simmons; my father’s father was Samuel Augustus Hassell Mussenden – i wonder where the Hassell came from. I wish now I had asked my father more about his family – my mother died when I was fifteen and i was not yet interested in “family” stories. I have my grandmother’s (Amalia Louisa Cruger wife of Samuel A.h. Mussenden) autograph album; amazing to think the poems were written more than 100 years ago and such beautiful handwriting. Hoping to hear from you soon, sincerely, Sybil Mitchell.
I have another letter dated st. Eustatius, August 12th, 1911 and addressed to Mr. W. D. Mussenden at bath Maine, and it reads as follows:
“Dear Mr. Mussenden, often I have proposed to write to you and renew old acquaintances with yourself and family if you are all in the land of the living which I hope to be a fact. Some little time ago a niece of my wife – a brother’s child – living in Memphis Tenn. sent her a photograph taken on the day of her graduation, and as I have Kate taken on the day of a like event, more than ever i determined to write. This young lady Miss Wolseley Mussenden, asked her aunt to give her some information on the Mussendens from which she sprung, also some of the principal events in the history of the little island in which her parents were born. I herewith enclose a copy of what a friend kindly got for us from the old archives of the island. i thought it would be interesting to you and your family. i should be pleased to hear from you and about all of you that i knew. My wife natalie, son henry Alexander, join with me in kindest regards and best wishes for you all. yours very truly. h.b. Mussenden.” The letter went on to mention that William Mussenden was the founder of the family on st. Eustatius and he was probably born in 1642. he was a Captain in the british Army in 1672. he was a Major and Deputy Governor of st. Eustatius in 1693 and married a Miss Jacobitz. he died in 1697. William the only child known to have been born to this couple was born on Statia in 1681. He married Maria daughter of Jan Seys probably before 1704. William Mussenden and his wife were still alive in 1735. The date of his death is not known. Charles son of the preceding pair was born on St. Eustatius october 24th, 1722. he married Rebecca Simmons, a native of Saba and died at the age of 84 on the 31st of May 1806. The rest of the family tree has been mentioned already. The H.B. Mussenden who wrote the letter was married to Mary Natalie Georgiana Mussenden daughter of N.G.G.W. Mussenden. She died 03-03-1939. The Mussenden name must have meant a lot to H.B. as in going through the family records I found out that he was Henry Washington Wilmans and had changed his name officially to Mussenden so that he could pass on the Mussenden name to his son Henry Alexander who was born on September 3rd, 1900.
The Mussenden family is chiefly remembered through Irving as he helped quite a few of his fellow islanders to become customs officers in Curaçao. The surviving old timers remember how much land they owned. some say they owned as much as 5000 acres, however, that would be the whole island, but they did own a lot of land. like the van Romondts of st. Maarten, today neither the name Mussenden or any land belonging to them remain on Statia. And so passes the glory of this world.
Will Johnson -Saba