The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson


‘My dear Kees’

Introduced by: Will JohnsonPhotoScan My Dear Kees

A letter in Dutch to me from Arnhem dated March 9th, 1995 reads as follows:

My dear Mr. Johnson,

My wife and I both retain good memories of our meeting a week ago. In the meantime we have in our possession a few copies of “For the Love”, and I have read it with growing interest and agreement.

As we promised you hereby enclosed are a few texts which concern the married couple Hudig-van Romondt: letters from Kees to his sister in Amsterdam, the piece “To my children” which Kees wrote at the age of 80, the memories of St. Maarten, which Bessie Soeters-Hudig – daughter of Kees Hudig and Annie Hudig-van Romondt and mother of my wife – put on paper in 1945, and letters from two people who had worked under Kees and at his departure in 1893 asked for letters of reference.

Much evil has been done to Sint Maarten, we can only hope that it will not get worse. A lot will depend on the counterforces, and we wish those who want to do this all the energy and strength which will be necessary.

And what we further hope is that your following visit (your 23rd) to the Netherlands will take place within a short time and that we will have the opportunity to meet with you (and yours).

With our best wishes to you and friendly greetings

Barthold Hengeveld

The booklet “My dear Kees” contains letters from St. Martin written in 1892 by Ann Sophia van Romondt to her husband Cornelis J. Hudig during his journey to Rotterdam.

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This is what the Great Salt Pond would have looked like when it was being exploited by Mr. Kees Hudig. Those big white spots in the town are the salt heaps.

Who was Kees Hudig?

Between Front Street and Backstreet in Philipsburg, Saint Maarten, there are short connecting roads. At one time local authorities named these small streets after men who, in 19th century public life of the island, played an interesting role. One of the streets bore the name C.J. Hudig.

Cornelis Johannes (Kees) Hudig, 1846 -1930, was born in Rotterdam. He was the youngest of seven children, visited the gymnasium in Rotterdam and went to Delft to study engineering. Before he had finished his studies he was invited by the ‘Exploitation Company of Salt lakes of St. Martin’ in The Hague to go to St. Martin to assist Monsieur Berne, who at that time was the director. Soon after he arrived, in 1869, Berne retired and Hudig was appointed director.

During 24 years he served the Company with all his energy and engineering skills. He improved the quality of the salt and after years of effort even attained a modest profit for the Company.

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The harvested  salt being stacked up in large heaps in the town and getting ready for export.

But the salt works did not yield the results expected by the Company. Johan Hartog, in his book ‘De Bovenwindse Eilanden’, published in 1964 by De Wit, Aruba, gives some reasons:

-the abundance of rain (as compared with the Leeward Islands);

-the frequency of typhoons in this region;

– the difficulty of getting schooners loaded: the ships had to be anchored in the Great Bay for days, during which the salt was picked from the heaps, headed to barges lying ashore and thus brought to the schooner;

-the increasing competition and the import restrictions in the USA.

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This is an old view of Philipsburg or (Great Bay). You can see schooners in the Bay coming for salt. The large white house on the right by the seashore was the town house of Governor D.C. van Romondt.

In the weekly journal ‘De Ingenieur” 1905 nr 25 p 402 -412 Hudig, who was in the editorial staff of the journal since 1901, described ‘De Zout-industrie op het eiland St. Martin’ and, from personal experience, gave additional reasons:

  • The unfavorable situation of the Great Pond, at the base of the Cul-de-Sac and other hills, from which rainwater poured into the pond;
  • The composition of the bottom of the pan: silt, mud from the surrounding hills, with the effect that salt could not be shoveled with spades but had to be lifted by hand and washed in the brine before it was loaded in rafts, a labour-demanding job. After the abolition of slavery labour had become expensive.

From St. Martin Hudig corresponded with his family in Rotterdam. His youngest sister, Maartje Hudig (1845-1941), had married an Amsterdam, Jean Francois van der Waarden. Four of Kees’ letters to Maartje have been saved.

In a letter of May 9, 1871 he writes: you inquire after my acquaintances; almost all are van Romondts, like Diederik, his wife, his daughter Susan and his sister Albertine.’

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Roman Catholic priest Father Nieuwenhuis in 1887 in his last will states that Hudig was living in this house to which later the church was added and then it became the Convent.

This Diederik was Diederik Charles, then 36 years of age, resident of the van Romondt’s country house “Mary’s Fancy’ in Cul de Sac.

Between the many Van Romondts Kees further mentions, there appears: ‘Robert van Romondt, his mother and his sister Ann Sophia’. Ann Sophia was then 21 years old.

In 1872 he writes; ‘This day we are going to sail in the pan with a company of ladies and gentlemen, I hope this time no misses will fall into the pan.’

And in the same letter:’ did you ever imagine your little brother to be a jurist? Neither did I but other folks took a different view and appointed me member of the ‘Court of Justice’!’


Dr. George Illidge van Romondt (1809-1854) graduated in 1834 from the Medical School at the University of Leiden. He was born on St. Maarten and died there. One of his children was Ann Sophia ‘Annie’ van Romondt who in 1877 married Kees Hudig. 


Kees Hudig married Ann Sophia van Romondt January 18th, 1877.


Ann Sophia van Romondt (1849-1926) was born in St. Martin. She was one of the third generation of Van Romondts on the island: her grandfather Diederik Johannes (1781-1849) came to the West in 1801. In 1804 he married Ann Hassell (1784-1845), daughter of a planter. They had eight children, five of them produced their forty-eight grandchildren. In 1820 Diederik Johannes was appointed ‘gezaghebber’ (governor) of St. Martin.

Diederik’s second son Diederik Christiaan (1807-1865) married Susann Pietersen from St. Barth’s. His younger brother George Illidge (1809 -1854) married Angelina Petersen, sister of Susann. Thus the (twelve) children of Diederik Christiaan and the four of George Illidge were first cousins in the double sense.

Diederik Christiaan’s first son was Diederik Charles (1835 – 1904), owner of ‘Mary’s Fancy’; he married Ann Mary du Cloux (1834-1893); he married Ann Mary du Cloux (1834-1893); their fourth child was Diederik Christiaan (1871-1948), who in his later years had some fame as ‘Mr.D.C.’


George Illidge died at the age of 44. His wife, ‘Miss Gina’, was left with four children. In a few years the oldest son, Charles (1841-1913) left Saint Maarten for Martinique, where he raised a family. The youngest son died at the age of sixteen. Only Robert (1843-1878) and Ann Sophia remained.

There was, however a big ‘extended family’: most of the gentleman’ in Saint Maarten were relatives, and social intercourse was flourishing.

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A view of the town as it would have looked when Hudig was there exploting the Great Salt Pond  to which the town borders on the right.


Apart from visits to the neighboring islands Ann Sophia before her marriage had never been abroad. The honeymoon In January 1877 brought her to a wintery Rotterdam and a big family-in-law.

Head of the family in Rotterdam was Kees’ oldest brother, Jan (1838-1924), ship broker and ship owner, member of the city council, patron of the arts, widower with five daughters and one son. One of his sisters, Marie, took care of the children.

Ann Sophia (Annie), though cherishing a keen interest in all her husband’s family, suffered from the cold and bustle of the big city and was happy to be back in Saint Martin.

In the ensuing eleven years their seven children were born: Lina (1878), Nellie (1879) Bessie (1881), Jan (1882), Annie (1884), Frans (1886) and Gaston (1888).

The Hudig family lived in upper Front Street until their departure for Holland: all these years the nanny Ellen Nadoll was with the children.

1892 was a crucial year: the salt ponds did not yield enough. The Exploitation Company sent Adriaan (Ad) ter lag, twenty years of age, to assist Kees Hudig. Moreover: the daughters were in need of further education and epileptic Jan had to be taken care of. It was decided that Kees would make the long journey to Holland.

Six times during his absence Anne had the opportunity to send letters. The older children in turn added their messages. Kees preserved these letters.

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Bringing in the harvested salt on these flat scows after which it will be heaped up on land and would be ready for export.


Kees Hudig arrived back in Saint Maarten mid July 1892. Clearly he had prepared the departure of the whole family. One day, early in 1893 the’ Caribee ‘ anchored near Point Blanche, took the family on board and brought them to the States, from where after some time they embarked for Rotterdam.

For six weeks the family was accommodated at Kees’ sisters’ and brothers’ in Rotterdam; after that they lived in The Hague.

After several other jobs Kees in 1901 was appointed deputy-editor of the weekly journal ‘De ingenieur’. At this post he remained until 1926: at the age of 80 he took leave.

For many years Annie and Kees lived with three of their children. Ann Sophia never really got used to Holland, she missed Sin Maarten. She died at the age of 76, early in 1926.

Engelina (Lina), 1878-1931, lived with her parents until their death.

Cornelia Johanna (Nellie), 1879-1960, studied history of art and eventually was appointed conservator of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; in the family ‘aunt Nellie’ was renowned as a narrator, she was great in oral history.

Elisabeth (Bessie), 1881- 1955, attended the art academy in The Hague; in Indonesia she married D.H. Soeters in 1907 and there her three children were born.

Jan, 1882-1934, stayed with his parents until he was admitted to the Institution of epileptics in December 1927.

Ann Sophia (Annie), 1884-1967, married S.H. Stoffel, factory manager, and lived with him in Delft where her four children were born.

Frans, 1886-1928 studied for the office of notary, stayed with his parents. He acquired a renal disease, stayed with his sister Bessie in Woerden from 1927 and died young.

Gaston, 1888-1965 was a deputy manager in Indonesia. He married twice and had a daughter and two sons.

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A view of the Vineyard, one of the many fine homes which were owned by the Van Romondt family. They owned most of St. Martin in their day.

While typing this in the booklet I found a handwritten note dated March 2, 1995 which reads:

Senator William S. Johnson

“To the historian and lover of Saint Maarten my wife and I present the document “My dear Kees’, containing the letter, written in 1892, by lovable Ann Sophia Hudig –van Romondt to her husband Cornelis Johannes Hudig, longtime manager of the Salt lakes of St. Martin.

Yours Sincerely

Berthold Hengeveld, medecin.

The letters are very interesting as it gives an interesting look on life in St. Martin in 1892 and also one of the daughters wrote an interesting story of life growing up back in St. Martin at the time. I will ask the family for permission before proceeding with those letters. I have had no contact with them in years and for all I know they may have published the information they shared with me in book form.

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My book published by MacMillan in which I put the history of the Van Romondt family, after which many members of the family from various parts of the world contacted me and we became friends.

What I will do for this article though is to add two interesting letters written in the same handwriting and both dated St. Martin, March 15th, 1893 and addressed to Mr. C.J. Hudig Esq.

Respected Sir,

I have heard with much regret and heart felt sorrow that you intends leaving us for your native country. Yet I cherished the hope that it would not be in a time like this when we so much needs you. But I have now seen that it is the fact, and so shortly permit me then, Sir, to turn you thanks for the many benefits which I have derived daily from work given me by your generous hands. Sir, I feels grateful & thankful for the many dollars which I have made in your service. I have always took pleasure in serving you and I feel morally convinced that I will never serve under a better. My grandest wishes is that when on your voyage home, yourself and family may have one of the pleasantest shortest and best of passages, and that in your own land or whosesoever you may travel; may God’s blessings, health, wealth and long life attend you and your family. Such Sir is the heart felt wishes of your obedient R (obert) A Cannegieter

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This is what the Front street in Philipsburg would have looked like in the time of Kees Hudig and his family who lived on the  street.

Now Sir I have served you long and I believe honestly and I know not what change may take place, or where I may travel and I feel a recommendation from you would worth me much. It is therefore Sir that I ask you please to confer that last favor on yours Adrianus Cannegieter. The other letter in the same tone but somewhat different wording is from James Henry Labega.

In 1994 Maarten J. Stoffel found the letters from his grandmother Annie van Romondt to her husband Kees Hudig, written in 1892, between old papers. He handed them to his cousin Joy Hengeveld-Soeters, their granddaughter, and her husband. The latter is responsible for copying, introducing and annotating the letters.

An interesting final note is that Mr. Adriaan (Ad) ter Laag, who at the age of twenty, was sent in 1892 by the company to assist Kees Hudig also found himself a wife among the Van Romondt family.


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