The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

De Bovenwindsche Stemmen

Image (136)De Bovenwindsche Stemmen

By: Will Johnson

The first edition of “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen” appeared on August 31st, 1933 and the Editor of this bi-monthly paper was Mr. Wilhelm Frederick Carl Ludwig August Netherwood who was born on St. Barths in 1870`. The paper in spite of its Dutch name was completely written in English. The paper was stenciled and had a total of sixty copies every two weeks. Tell me about stenciled papers. I did the “Saba Herald” for twenty five years on stencil mostly. My brother Eric did all the stenciling. Finally when his wife Wilda phoned me and said that he had threatened to throw himself over the cliff, I then took over the task. Living next to an even higher cliff it is a miracle that I am still around. Yes tell me about a stenciled newspaper indeed! According to its rival paper “De Slag om Slag” which started publication the following year, a committee had been established by Miss Slothouwer a well known Dutch teacher on St. Maarten at the time in order to establish a newspaper. She saw the great need to give St. Maarten and by extension St. Eustatius and Saba a voice which could resonate in the colony. On that same committee Mr. A.R. Brouwer was also a member but due to disagreements as to what the newspaper should concentrate on Mr. Brouwer parted ways with the committee and started his own paper. Image (140)His paper “De Slag om Slag” which first appeared on December 22nd, 1934, had a decidedly ant-colonial tint despite the fact the he was the son of the well known Lt. Governor A.J.C. Brouwer. He was also married to one of the Van Romondt family members so that he actually belonged to the elite of the island at the time. However you would not notice that from his writings. The “Bovenwindsche Stemmen” on the other hand tried to steer clear of controversial issues and stuck with the promotion of agriculture and defending the government as much as it could.  In the early part of the 20th century the “Amigoe” newspaper on Curacao carried a column by the same name. The Roman Catholic priests stationed on the Dutch Windward Islands would send in news from these islands to be published in that paper. Also the Rev. Charles McIntosh Darrell, Methodist Minister and one of the principal writers for the paper, started his own column in the Amigoe as of June 21st, 1943 under the same name. This was no coincidence as the Rev. Darrell had been one of the principal writers of the newspaper “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen”. The column followed the demise of the paper in the second half of 1942 due to a shortage of stencil paper caused by the Second World War.

Old St.Martin newspapers

A sampling of some of the St. Martin newspapers of the first half of the 20th century. The second half started with ‘The Windward Islands Opinion’ started by Mr. Joseph H. Lake Sr. on July 1st, 1959.

I only have one copy of “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen” issue # 32 of January 19th, 1935. However I do have almost all of the copies of “De Slag om Slag”. Because of the constant state of war between the two papers just by reading  “De Slag om Slag” one can get a good idea of much of what appeared in the paper of Mr. Netherwood and the Rev. Darrell.

I would like to present just a small sample of the war of words between the two papers. In a lengthy rebuke in one of Brouwers editions he says the following:” Although neither time nor space allow me to handle this inexhaustible supply of sermonized rubbish in the proper way, I shall prove to the public by criticizing on one or two of your insinuations, the audacity of your attack; the sly, sneaking method you pour out on the public, in order to slug away at others, and at the same time safeguard an impregnable hiding place for yourself. To trust also that you will be, the one in future, to take up the cudgel against “unwarranted and disgraceful attacks upon private individuals in this community” as suggested by Mr. W. Netherwood. Such bombastic 5-column rubbish will be sure to prolong the “Bovenwindsche Stemmen’s” life.”

In “De Slag om Slag” of February 6th, 1937 under the heading “Bovenwindsche Stemmen Again”, Mr. Brouwer writes the following: ‘The Bovenwindsche Stemmen and the Rev. Darrell do not seem to be very well pleased with our comments on their insulting article and letter in which our Editor was compared unfavourably to the wharf rats of London docks; his mentality, morality, fidelity, integrity etc., were questioned.”


The Saban Captains and their schooners would regularly buy and transport salt from the Great Salt Pond to many parts of the world. See my book “The Diary of a St. Martin Salt Checker”. Available at the Museum on St. Martin.


Another excerpt from “De Slag om Slag” in its edition of February 15th, 1936 # 53 under the headline: “Bovenwindsche Stemmen Motto”.

“It is without the least bit of surprise that we read in the Bovenwindsche Stemmen of the 8th instant No. 58 in their leading article entitled “Some Local needs” the following: “ In this connection, we would again refer to the question of moral training in the Public Schools, which we have reason to know is regarded by the Educational authorities in quite a different light to that in which it has been represented in the columns of “De Slag om Slag” where a campaign of vile slander has been launched against the Editor of this paper.”

The “Slag om Slag” reiterated by stating: “We were not surprised to read this we say, since it has been the motto of “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen” to mislead their readers from the time their No. 1 issue appeared on August 31st 1933.” Those boys were not easy and the tit for tat continued as long as both papers appeared. This led to exchanges of letters which would imply that the Editor intended perhaps to make a legal case in his defense. Such a letter appeared in the issue of January 18th, 1936.

To the Editor of “De Slag om Slag”

Dear Sir,

In order that responsibility for the defamatory letters by “Ex Scholars” which have lately appeared in your paper may be placed where it belongs, I politely ask that you will furnish me with the name of the individual (or individuals) from whom the letters have emanated. Yours Truly, W. Netherwood.

Reply from “De Slag om Slag”

  1. Netherwood Esq.

En ville,

Dear Sir,

In answer to yours of even date we refer to our issue of the 2nd of March 1935, No. 5 wherein we stated on page 4: “We promise not to mention names of correspondents” etc.

Yours truly.

A.R. Brouwer, Editor, “De Slag om Slag”.

It was not all war though. On January 26th, 1936 in issue # 50 under the heading Wedding ,we read in “De Slag om Slag” the following:


The Rev. Charles McIntosh Darrell, Methodist Minister.

At 5 0’clock on Wednesday afternoon 15th instant quite a large crowd was gathered before the Weslyean Methodist Church to witness the marriage ceremony of Mr. W. Netherwood and Miss Grace Darrell which was to take place there. The church itself was full to overflowing. The bridegroom arrived at about 10 minutes to 5 and at the stroke of 5 the Bride escorted by her brother Mr. Jim Darrell arrived. They were followed by two Bridesmaids, Miss Irma Brouwer and Miss Carmen Darrell both dressed in pink with picture hats nestled slantwise on their heads. After the ceremony the company repaired to the home of the Bride’s father, Rev. Ch. Mc.I. Darrell.”

What Brouwer did not mention was that Mr. W. Netherwood was sixty six years old and the bride in her twenties. Who did make a poem on Mr. Netherwoods ability or lack of same to consummate the marriage was Wallace Peterson. I remember sitting with him one day in the “Oranje Café” and he reciting with relish his poem about the intended marriage. I wonder if the “Ex Scholars” meant by Mr. Netherwood could not have been Wallace and his five cents worth of poetry about the upcoming wedding. Mr. Netherwood had first been married at the age of 23 on July 19th, 1893 to Miss Ella Leonora van Romondt (29). She was born on December 24th, 1863 and died at the age of 61 on March 14th, 1925. Mr. Wilhelm Fredrik Carel Ludwig August Netherwood was born on St. Barths in 1869 and died on St.Maarten on October 18th, 1948, and his parents were George Wilhelm Netherwood and Malvina Augusta Abbott. He came to St. Maarten as a bookkeeper for the Van Romondt family. He later went into business for himself and owned the building on Front street where the Philipsburg Utilities was formerly located. One of the many lovely two-storey houses which formerly graced the town of Philipsburg, this house was first a public school and then later used as a town-house of the first D.C. van Romondt.

His wife Ella was a sister of Mr. Granville van Romondt. Their parents were John George Louis Illidge van Romondt and Anna Paulowna van Romondt.

Mr. Netherwood had no children from either marriage. He was a “grand man” according to some of the old timers like Mr. Carl Buncamper who were privileged to know him personally. He never drank and did not encourage his friends to drink. In the downstairs section of his home there was a large billiard table and in the evenings he would invite his friends for a game of billiards.

Mr. Netherwood owned several schooners, including the “Cyril”. He used them to export salt to Guyana and elsewhere. In his book “Memories of St. Martin N.P.”, Mr. J.C. Waymouth mentions the loss of a fine schooner, the Prins Hendrik. It was lost on a reef while coming out of the Oyster Pond on the 3rd of October 1911, after the hurricane season. Mr. Netherwood who was her sole owner, thereby sustained a loss of $ 4.000.–.


Mr. Netherwood’s House is the first one on the right. It later became the Philipsburg Utilities, a hardware store.

Mr. Netherwood and his brother-in-law Mr. Granville van Romondt owned a building where Risdon’s Snack bar used to be located and that is where they conducted their business. This property was later sold to the Every’s of St. Eustatius. After they were lost on the schooner the “Verdun” it was sold to Mr. William Benjamin (Willie Bee) Peterson.

Mr. Netherwood served as local councilor for some thirty years and the people looked upon him as a sound and honest man At one time the Methodist Synod wanted to remove the Rev. Charles McIntosh Darrell from St. Maarten. Mr. Netherwood went to the Synod to represent Mr. Darrell as he was a steward in the Methodist Church. In spite of his efforts and even though Rev. Darrell had only one more year to serve in order to get a Dutch pension, it was decided to remove him to Marigot, Dominica, and he resigned. After an appeal to headquarters in England he was allowed to serve out his year on St. Maarten. One of the reasons why the Synod wanted his removal was because he had built the Methodist Manse too large. It was claimed that the reason for this being so was that he hoped to board there when he retired. It was out of this struggle for the cause of the Rev. Darrell that Netherwood started publishing the bi-monthly “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen”, on August 31st 1933, from his home on the Front Street. The Rev. Darrell was one of the principal writers for the paper. By the time the paper had to be closed down Mr. Netherwood was already old and not in the best of health.

Mr. Netherwood was one of the wealthiest people on St. Maarten, yet he died a poor man. He never tried to get money in a dishonest way. He was buried in the Methodist cemetery and acquaintances say there is no tombstone to mark his final resting place. He was concerned for the welfare of St. Maarten and the people had such confidence in him, despite the fact that he was a foreigner; they elected him as their local councilor. He was also the United States vice Counsel starting in 1898 already. He tried in vain to revive the salt industry with his personal funds and some of the salt pans were under his direction. In the end he became so poor that he would have to borrow money from the government

Image (1357)

This photo was taken in the early nineteen sixties just a few years after Mr. Netherwood died. This would have been the lovely town of Philipsburg where he lived and did business.


to reap the salt.

After his death the Rev. Darrell lived in Mr. Netherwood’s former home. There is from where he started a column in the “Amigoe di Curacao”, entitled “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen” which appeared at irregular intervals with news of the Dutch Windward Islands. Today few people know of these newspapers and some people even act as if they never did exist. However in their day everyone looked forward to their two local papers on St. Maarten, one of which the Editor (Mr. A.R. Brouwer) was born on Saba and the other Mr. Netherwood was born on St. Barths. Obviously their passport into St.Maarten was the fact that both of their wives belonged to the then all powerful Van Romondt family. As a former Editor of “The Labour Spokesman”, and co-Editor of the “Emporium Review” and for 25 years the “Saba Herald”, all three stenciled papers, I have a great appreciation for anyone who under the circumstances (and at the same time like Mr. Brouwer fighting the colonial authorities), dedicated themselves to publishing a mimeographed newspaper. George Horace Lorimer wrote that;”Writing is like religion. Every man who feels the call must work out his own salvation.” And Mr. Netherwood was one of those who felt the call and made it a reality through his “Bovenwindsche Stemmen.”, and it would be remiss of us not to remember his legacy.

Image (57)

After the salt was harvested it would be heaped up on the shore until it could be exported.


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