The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson


Saba Day 2002

Saba Day speech by then Lt. Governor a.i. Will Johnson



Around 1850 Mr. Engle Heyliger was in a dispute with Saba’s Lt. Governor (and former pirate) Edward Beaks over the legality of having transferred what he termed ‘Kings Land’ via an auction to the people of Saba. In connection therewith, Mr. Heyliger made a complaint to the Governor of Curacao who requested Lt. Governor Beaks to give an account. Beaks not only wrote a letter but accompanied it with a large number of signatures by local residents to back up his legitimate transfer of the Kings Land to the people of Saba.

Saba, 9th July 1850

To His Excellency

J.J. Rammelman Elsevier Esq.

Governor of Curacao and dependencies



I have the honor to inform Your Excellency that on the 12th ulto., I received from His Excellency Major John de Veer Lieutenant Governor of St. Eustatius, a letter dated the 8th ulto: accompanied with a copy of one from Mr. Engle Heyliger of this island dated St. Eustatius the 7th ulto: in which Mr. Heyliger informed His Excellency “ that I had sold a tract of land situated in the Southern part of this island, called The Company’s  land, and which had been considered by all former Governors  as belonging to the Crown, the sale of which he states, had caused much dissatisfaction among  the generality of the inhabitants and prayed that His Excellency would investigate the business  for the welfare of the inhabitants and the Island.

1950s - Rendez-Vous

Former Agricultural lands in Rendez-Vous

Therefore, now most such I positively beg leave to make Your Excellency acquainted with the following facts related to the sale of the said land by me. In the month of June 1939, I sold at Public Auction in lots for the benefit of whom it may concern after it had been duly advertised a tract of land called The Company’s land situated in Jallops Quarter at the Southern part of this island for the sum of f.1059.50 an amount much beyond its real value, and much more, than I calculated it could sell for, and which land was purchased by six different individuals of this Island. In making this sale I beg to assure Your Excellency that I was under the impression and belief, that the land had originally been the property of some private individuals and had remained unclaimed by the proprietors for a period of fifty years and upwards and Your Excellency will perceive by the certificates I have the honor to send herewith, that the same opinion was entertained by many others and that consequently I had the right to dispose of it at any time and appropriate the proceeds thereof for the benefit of the Island, and being at that time in want of means to pay a debt I had contracted from 1837 to 1839 for an extra expense which this island had been subjected to of f169.87 appropriation of cost of building a prison for the levitation of the criminal John Every and of f.240.- for the serviced of Abraham James Vlaughn attending the prisoner during the time that the said John Every was confined therein. I appropriated the sum of f.409.87 to pay these amounts, having no other means to work with, and reserved the balance of f.649.62 for the use of the Island.  I beg to assure Your Excellency that I was not aware at the time I sold the land that then existed any extra prohibitions ti the sale on any lands belonging to the country never having received any instructions on the subject, a copy of the general instructions for the Government of Curacao & its dependencies furnished me in 1848 being the first one received. I was therefore entirely ignorant of such prohibition and  should Your Excellency consider  I have acted wrong in selling this land, I beg respectfully to inform Your Excellency, that the land can be immediately restored to its former state, the purchasers being quite ready and willing to return it to me for that purpose.

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Payment receipt for building the jail.

How the state of this land could in any way affect the welfare of the Island and its inhabitants I respectfully assure Your Excellency I am at a loss to understand, for the revenues derived from its previous to its being sold which never exceeded f.24.– per annum in as or could be in any way injured by the sale.

At the period I sold the land June 1839 this island was immediately  under St. Eustatius,and formed a part of the Government of His Excellency Lieutenant Governor John de Veer.

I sold it publicly, the circumstances was known throughout this island and generally at St. Eustatius. How is it be supposed that had there been any dissatisfaction on the occasion that some as some represent as would have been the case to his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor of Saba de Veer previous to Mr.  Heyliger’s of the 7th January last which occurred  after a lapse of 10 years, nor would Mr. Heyliger’s  anxiety for the interests of the inhabitants and the Island have now this late been drawn out, had not a quarrel of a private matter between this individual and myself at a dinner party the night of the 31st December which induced him to address me a letter dated the 2nd. January last a copy of which I have also the honor herewith to hand  Your Excellency from a perusal of which, Your Excellency will readily perceive that Mr. Heyliger is acting from no patriotic  fuss  and disinterested natives, but that he is solely actuated by  spirit of revenge emanating  from the occurrences of the 31 st December last.


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Governor Jamie Saleh on a Saba Day visit with  Lt. Governor a.i. Will Johnson in 1998, great-great grandson of Richard Johnson Commander i 1828. Accompanied by Senator James Ray Hassell and Commissioner Steve Hasell.

While I have the honor to submit the foregoing to Your Excellency and at the same time most respectfully

Solicit Your Excellency’s favourable consideration of the case.

And I have the honor to be, Your Excellencies most obedient and very humble

Servant, The Lt. Governor of the island Saba

Edward Beaks.

Our Lt. Governor backed up his letter with signatures of the most prominent white men on the island. Saba was still in a state of slavery at the time and only men could sign. The Woods family being the exception as they had bought their freedom from the Thomas Dinzey heirs in the early eighteen hundred’s.

Saba, January 1850

We the undersigned natives, residents and Burghers of the island Saba.

Do hereby declare that we are fully aware when the sale  at auction took place of a certain tract of land by order of His Excellency Edward Beaks Governor, and to which we were and are perfectly content and satisfied and that we have never expressed any dissatisfaction ever relative to the sale of said land and we further declare we have always understood it was land to which the inhabitants had the rights.

Henry J. Hassell, Former Commander of the Island and at present Senior Member of the Court.

Josiah Peterson, Member of the Court. Abraham Simmons, Moses Leverock and Peter Simmons, Assessors.

James B. Hassell and Jacob E. Hassell, Members of the Advising Council.

Hercules Hasssell, Provisional Secretary

John Peterson, Marshall

Other signatories.

Abraham Davis, John Toland, William Simmons, Richard Simmons, Edward B. Darsey, John Simmons, James Heyligo, Hercules Hassell Jr., William Simmons, George Hassell, Thomas C. Vanterpool, John Simmons 2x, Thomas Darsey, Peter Hassell, Henry Every, Peter J. Johnson, John Hassell 2x, Abraham Mardenborough, Josiah Peterson Jr., George Holm, Henry Hassell, John Leverock, Mark Horton, Abraham J. Peterson, Thomas P. Mardenborough, John H. Every, John H. Hassell, John H. Every, James Hassell, Abraham H. Hassell, Daniel Peterson, James B. Hassell, Abraham Every, Richard J. Hassell, Richard Woods*, Peter Hassell, John R. Barnes, Thomas W. Beaks, John G. Hassell, William Simmons, Thomas D. Horton, Edward Simmons, Thomas Johnson (my great grandfather).

The following persons who cannot write have fixed their crosses as their signature:

Abraham J. Vlaughn (Scout)., Thomas Dinzey, Daniel Simmons, James Baker, John H. Winfield, Henry H. Hassell, Samuel Green, John R. Hassell, Thomas Every, James Every, James Johnson, John Hassell, Josiah Hassell, Thomas Mardenborough, Christopher Mardenborough, Abraham J. Every, Peter H. Every, John Every, Daniel Simmons, Henry Hassell, Peter Woods*, Peter Hassell,

Wenter Peterson, Fida Leverock, Richard Hassell, Charles Peterson, Peter J. Every, Charles Hassell, Edward Hassell, Daniel Woods*, Peter Collins, Edward Barnes, James Hassell, Peter Carter Hassell, Richard Johnson, John Johnson, Cohone (Colgohoun) Johnson, Jacob Johnson, John Every, William Keeve, Henry Hassell, John Hassell, Peter J. Every, Abraham Every, Scipio Every, Richard Simmons, Richard Every, Peter Woods*, James Hassell, Phoenix Simmons, Henry T. Zeagers, Thomas Hassell, Thomas Beal, David Horton, Phoenix Hassell, John Molner, Abraham Richardson, James Hassell, James Horton, Thomas J. Every, John H. Hassell.


Commander Richard Johnson was still alive in 1850. He lived well into his nineties.

30th January 1850

A true copy of the original exhibited to me.

The Provisional Secretary

Hercules Hassell.

Another supporting letter was from one of my great grandfathers Richard Johnson.

“We the undersigned residents and Burghers of the Island Saba.

Do hereby certify and declare that we have always understood from our Fathers that the land situated in Jallops Quarter called the Company’s Land was left by the proprietor for the benefit of the Inhabitants of this island and that we have never known it to be Kings Land or called as such, and the said land was sold at auction by order of His Excellency 7th June 1839.

Signed Richard Johnson, former Commander of the Island.

Henry J. Hassell, former Commander and at present Senior Member of the Court.

Signed in presence of me.

Saba, 31st January 1850.

Hercules Hassell, Provisional Secretary.


P1020098 (2)And this was the letter which caused the whole commotion.

To His Excellency Edward Beaks Lieut. Governor

In consequence of my having recently applied to the Court here in a case similar to this for satisfaction and receiving none, it is positively my intention to lay before the Honorable Court of St. Eustatius the treatment received on the 31st. Ulto. I therefore notify the same to you.

And further state we shall then know whether the sale of the track of Company’s land was considered a legal sale or not, and which has been a continual dissatisfaction to the rest of the inhabitants as well as myself.

And I am of opinion that those who rejoice at the slaps I received will have a right to regret.

Yours Respectfully

(signed) Engle Heyliger

Saba 2d. January 1850.

A true copy of this original exhibited to me this 1st day of February 1850. The Provisional Secretary

Hercules Hassell.

Lt. Governor Edward Beaks was constantly complaining about the fact that he was not receiving a salary.  He had been dismissed in 1828 for being involved in piracy and later reinstated.

In Ryan Espersen’s latest work with the intriguing title: “Fifty shades of Trade: Privateering, Piracy, and Illegal Slave Trading in St. Thomas, Early nineteenth century he has the following interesting information which involved Governor Edward Beaks.

“ Destroying captured ships was a common occurrence as a means to hide evidence of piracy. The sheer number of ships being brought into St. Eustatius would be difficult to launder and re-sell regionally without drawing unwanted attention. In the case that prize ships themselves were to be re-sold for profit, they were brought over to Saba and left abandoned at anchor, most often at Well’s Bay (DNAVIH# 143). The ship was repaired as necessary by Saban carpenters, with evidence made to remove evidence of the ship’s origins, such as its name and place of manufacture. This could include painting the ship to make it look different than its former self. Usually, the ship would then be claimed by a merchant in St. Eustatius, who would claim that his ships papers were lost or destroyed by the pirates who captured it. A new set would be furnished by the Lt. Governor of Saba, the ship would sail for St. Eustatius, and it would be resold most often in St. Thomas or St. Barts.


Marion_Belle_Wolfe_headed to Guyana 1952

One of the many old Saban owned schooners. The “Marion Belle Wolfe” here on her way from Barbados to Guyana 1949.


Merchant houses in St. Thomas that sponsored the cruises also managed payments of commissions to parties involved in the laundering process. In the case of the Admiral Pacheco, another prize from Las Damas Argentinas, Cabot & Co. Paid a 12% commission to St. Eustatius governor van Spengler and John Martins for receiving and transshipping its prized goods at St. Eustatius. Charles Mussenden, and Island Council Member of St. Eustatius and chief of police, took the prize ship to Saba where it was repaired and had its identity concealed by Saba shipwrights. (New York Gazette 12/9/1828; Baltimore Gazette 1/15/1829). Cabot and Co. Then paid van Spengler 150 pieces of eight to provide a new Dutch register for the Admiral Pacecho, which was renamed the Elizabeth (ibid). The Lt. Governor of Saba received 500 dollars in undisclosed currency, along with coffee and sugar, for these acts.”

There you have it.







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