The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “February, 2019”

Attempts to revitalize the Salt Industry




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The Great Salt Pond as it looked in full production.

In a report by Local Councilors Abraham Cannegieter and Richard Robinson Richardson dated December 10th 1839 they take an in depth look at the possibilities being pursued to revitalize the Salt Industry.

In an attempt to find the original copy of the Treaty of Concordia of March 13th 1648 they also provide much information as to the state of the island of St. Martin and the salt industry at the time.


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Salt heaped up on the salt lots in Philipsburg waiting for export.

“The originators of the plan for grants in the salt pond, were alone actuated from the motive, that they beheld with regret, so valuable a resource of wealth entirely unimproved, they saw the colony entirely deteriorating, and that so rapidly, that it bid fair to be very soon entirely ruined. They were well acquainted that the revenue of the colony so far from meeting the expenses, were much behind hand, knowing this, they were necessarily convinced that the Colonial Government could not give any assistance whatever to public improvements. They hoped that the inhabitants of the Island, without distinguishing between Dutch or French, by joining together in a public company, and each one contributing his mite from the small remnant of property left to them from the ravages of misfortune, and untoward events, might derive some benefit from the salt pond in question. For this purpose, and in accordance with the recommendation of the originators of the scheme, His Honor the Commander of the colony, gave public notice, to all, and every inhabitant, that they might join together in a company, and contribute by purchasing shares in the same. Responding to this public notice, several of the inhabitants subscribed, among whom were every class of free subjects, they formed a company, and called themselves the “Saint Martin Salt Company”. Each share was unanimously agreed upon, to be fixed at the value of one hundred guilders but in order to assist the most indigent, as low as one eight of a share was allowed to be taken, and in consequence of money being hard to be procured from every shareholder it was permitted to be paid for, in labour or materials, for the making of the company dam, mill saw. From this plain statement of the case, it must be very evident that no base, or unworthy self-interested motive actuated the measure, besides the part of the salt pond from which concessions were bought, namely the Eastern, and northern Shores, so far from being prejudicial to the center of the salt pond, would be a protection from the streams of fresh water into the pond from the surrounding hills, some of which streams are far from being inconsiderable.


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Construction on the Rolandus Canal to carry the fresh water past the Salt Pond out to the sea.

There is not a doubt but the dams of the several salt companies materially served to bring forward the salt crop in the general pond in the Year 1837. Every one acquainted with the circumstances of the grants in question must allow, that it seemed to have been an interposition of divine providence at the time, to prevent the utter ruin of the colony, for in consequence of the very severe drought with which the colony was visited at that period, the sugar crop had entirely failed, provisions for the feeding of the slaves excessively high in price, the merchants in consequence of not having a prospect for immediate payment, afraid to give credit and added to all other miseries the gloomy consideration that slave property became only nominal, because from the locality of the colony, the slaves can whenever they please, abscond to the neighbouring English Island of Anguilla and be made free. The only means therefore by which they could be retained in this colony, were that they should be made happy, and if possible, contented in their station, and that means should be provided for their support.


Another dyke built to keep out the flood waters from the valley of Cul-de-Sac

In the town of Philipsburg at the time, there was at least one hundred slaves, who by their industry contributed to maintain their owners and themselves, these people found employment in the construction of the Dams, and were paid by the St. Martins Salt Company, a half guilder per day for each labourer. Carpenters also found employment and several planters who had not the means to feed their slaves, also hired them at the St. Martins Salt Company’s work, thus were they prevented from starving, or absconding from the plantations, and quitting the Island. It is true that in consequence of the exertions of the said company, several individuals were stimulated to follow the example, and made application for concessions, which so long as they were confined to that part of the salt pond, already mentioned, and could not be prejudicial to any general interest, were complied with, and granted to them; but as soon as application was made by some individuals for a concession on the southern shore, next to Philipsburg and which might have led to the injury of the inhabitants generally in the Island an intimation was given to His Honor the Commander of the Colony of the circumstances and His Honor with most prudential care gave notice that no grants would be given, which could interfere with the center of the pond, or which might be prejudicial to the reaping of salt therefrom, and which was strictly adhered to.


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The Salt Pond as it would look when the salt was “ripe’ for harvest.

Before that the undersigned endeavor to answer the several questions submitted for their consideration, they deem it necessary to give a short description of the salt pond in question. Which will be found they think, essential to make their explanations better understood. In the Dutch part of this Island, the town of Philipsburg has on its Northern side this salt pond which from the ad measurement of the late Doctor Samuel Fahlberg, is three miles in circumference, but this must be well understood, to be when the pond is filled with water, because when it has dried out sufficiently for the making of salt, at least it is abridged of one fifth of its expanse. This pond it is scarcely to be doubted was formerly a part of the sea of Great Bay, because the narrow Isthmus of sand on which the town of Philipsburg is located, is constantly progressing on the sea, and a bar which is opposite the town, about half a mile distance perceptibly becomes shallower, more particularly so after a southern gale, which blows directly into this bay. The decrease of water has been very great since the earth-quake of 1755 which was experienced very severely in this Island, and produced a very extraordinary phenomenon. The Sea left the shores of Great Bay, and went to a considerable distance beyond the bar aforementioned. Its movement was so rapid abovementioned, the movement was so rapid and instantaneous that fishes were left on the sand; its return was equal in velocity, and for some few moments threatened the destruction of the town. The undersigned received this information from persons of the highest respectability and who were eye witnesses of the fact.



Hard work carrying the salt and up that primitive ladder to heap it up.

From the Western part of the town of Philipsburg, the Isthmus continues, but much narrower, and in a northern direction joins the main land. It is northern strip of san which separates the salt pond from a fresh water pond, or which might with more proprietary be called a small river, which takes its rise in the mountains of Cul de Sac and running through that division of the island, is ordinarily a trifling rivulet, and while pent up in that narrow valley does not expand much, when it reaches the open space at the southern bounds of Cul de Sac it diverges, taking an easterly course and having an open space expands itself, and seeks its way to the ocean. This space was fully wide, and sufficient formerly for the purpose in every season of the Year, and required to be so after very heavy falls of rain, when the rivulet in Cul de Sac overflows the entire surface of the bottom of that valley, and runs down with tremendous rapidity, carrying everything before it. On the shores of the aforementioned, and described narrow strip of sand were growing large trees, whose roots entwined together, supported the sand bank, and the river unobstructed, discharged itself at all times into the Sea, at the western extremity of the town of Philipsburg, and that without the possibility of doing any damage to the salt pond, from which it was effectually separated by nature. We do not therefore find any complaint of its having done so in former days of the colony; but in the year 1778 the Colonia Government had a Stone Bridge built across the Fresh Pond, to connect the main land of the southern shore, to the sand bank opposite.


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The bridge which served more as a dam and would periodically flood the Salt Pond with too much fresh water.

Instead of having this bridge constructed with one, or at most two wide arches sufficient to allow the water to flow at all times unimpeded to the Sea, it would not appear, that the projectors of the bridge were sufficiently aware of the power of the stream as they only constructed the bridge with three small openings in it, each of them only seven feet wide and four feet high. The consequence of which was, that as soon as the water in a tremendous fall of rain found itself unable to have vent through the small openings of the bridge, and became on a level with the top of the bridge, which was several feet higher than the sand bank on the northern extremity, it necessarily recoiled and flowed over into the salt pond. The Colonial Government of that day must have soon discovered the error of the arches of the bridge, and in order as they conceived, to prevent the possibility of the water ever flowing into the salt pond, they had a wall built all along the sand bank. This work was done by contract, and instead of the wall being higher raised than the bridge, with a deep and strong foundation to it, and sufficiently wide to resist the immense force of water, with which it would at times have to contend, it was only built on the surface of the sand, and only of the trifling width, at the top of it, of two feet, and much lower at the northern extremity than the bridge. In order likewise to build this wall the trees were cut down, and thus the narrow sandbank rendered too weak to sustain the pressure of water against it, so that even when there was not sufficient water in the fresh pond to make it overflow in the salt pond, as it could not run into the sea, it filtered through the coarse sand bank and thus found its way into the salt pond. The consequence of such ill-advised measures were that in the Year 1792 when was experienced in this Island, a very severe hurricane accompanied by an immense fall of rain, the rivulets from Cul de Sac came down so rapidly, and with such greater velocity than it could not find vent, through the small arches of the bridge, that it recoiled on the sand bank, and broke away the northern extremity of it, sweeping away the wall with it, forced itself into the salt pond, and so filled it with fresh water. At the time, it endangered the safety of the Isthmus on which the town of Philipsburg stands, and to prevent it from forcing its way through, a small canal was obliged to be made at the eastern part of the town, which gave a vent for the time to the salt pond into the Sea.


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The long wall dyke which was built below the level of the bridge and proved to be of no use during the periodic floods.

From this year 1792, no attention whatever was given to repair the damage done to the sand bank or dyke as it is called; nevertheless in the year 1797 such was the duration of the drought, that the cul de sac rivulet became dry, and the salt pond that year gave an immense crop of salt, and the continued drought allowed the reaping of it for one Year, after which such a vast quantity of rain fell, that the salt pond was once more filled with rain water and the breach in the dyke so deepened as to have eight feet water in it. In this condition it remained until the Year 1805, when the Governor and Council of the Dutch part entered into a contract with Messieurs Gerald du Clouz, and Edward Scott, to erect a dyke, to separate effectually the salt pond from the fresh one, and agreed to pay them for the same, two thousand two hundred dollars, payable from the revenues of the first salt crop. Those gentlemen complied with their engagement, but as the source of mischief remained unaltered by the bridge across the fresh pond being higher than the Dyke, the consequence was, that in the Year 1806 in the month of September, when this island experienced a fall of rain of three days continuance, that the dyke was carried away. It had been constructed with floodgates, but such was the consternation at the time, that they were never thought of until the destruction of the Dyke. Moral of the story


Up until the early nineteen sixties locals could wade out into the Salt Pond and get enough salt for home use.

for present day St. Martin: “The More things change the more they remain the same.”


When the salt in the pans were ripe for harvest.




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The Court House and Scale House in front from around 1890.

There have been several times in the history of relations between French St. Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten that conflicts arose over the treaty between the two sides of the island. Even in 1963 the French government questioned the agreement of March 23rd, 1648 in relation to the stewardship of the Juliana Airport. Based on the treaty the French wanted joint control over the airport. Before that time there were several conflicts concerning the right to harvest salt. Based on the agreement of 1648 the French claimed the right to also harvest salt.

I have a lengthy correspondence from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from December 20th, 1972. At the time the Kingdom Committee was in place to prepare for the independence of the Dutch islands known as the Netherlands Antilles as well as Suriname. I was a Member of that committee. The islands were able to get away from independence at the time as Aruba wanted a separate status and those discussions dragged on until January 1st 1986. Suriname however did get its independence in November of 1975.

The original document of the treaty f which the history is well documented, was never found in The Netherlands or in the islands. All references to the agreement of Concordia go back to J.B. du Tetre who referred to it in his “Histoire generale de l’establisment des colonies francaises dans les Antilles de l’Amerique” (Paris 1668). In conflict situations between 1830 and 1840 over the use of the salt pond, in 1941 when the French occupied the Dutch part of the island, and in the years 1963 and following no official appeal was ever made to the agreement of 1648 even though it was referred to.


Senator Claude Wathey and others seeking for that elusive togetherness of the islands.

Already in 1839, no original copy could be found on St. Maarten. Cannegieter and Richardson, members of the Colonial Council in their report of December 10th, 1839 stated: “ That we have not been able to discover any other important document relative to the salt pond in this colony, nor the treaty of 1648, is not however the least astonishing, because in the year 1810 when the British captured this island , in consequence of no capitulation having been made with them, their military force marched into the town of Philipsburg, and occupied the Court House in this town as a barrack. In the Secretary’s Office, in that building was deposited all the archives of the colony, and the day after their occupation, it was discovered that the said Secretary’s Office had been broken open, the papers and books taken from the Desks and Shelves and thrown on the floor, a great many of the papers torn in pieces, and rendered useless, and the whole cast in utter confusion. At the time it was supposed, that the infamous act was perpetrated by some of the military, who had expected to have found money, and being disappointed, had thus wantonly destroyed the Books and Papers. The perpetrator or perpetrators were never found out, and in fact the British Authorities did not give themselves much concern about the matter.

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The Great Salt Pond a sometimes bone of contention between Dutch and French

The Secretary Adrianus Beckers was occupied for a considerable time, in assorting such of the papers which were not entirely torn up, and by his assiduity, and attention they were brought into some order, very many however were rendered entirely useless and it is more than probable, that if the treaty of 1648 had ever been among the archives, that it was then destroyed.”


On April 12th, 1838 at a reception of Lt. Governor D.J. van Romondt, at which were present the French Director of the Interior at Guadeloupe and the French Commander of St. Martin, Captain Forget. (I know the French pronunciation is different, but I could not help thinking when writing this article that perhaps Mr. Forget, forgot where he had put the old document.)

On that occasion Mr. Diederick Johannes van Romondt requested if he could locate and send him a copy of the agreement of 1648.

On April 14th 1838 a missive was received by Governor D.J. van Romondt from Guadeloupe containing the requested document. This document was used in 1839 by King William II as the basis for a new treaty with France.

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When the Great Salt Pond was in full production employing hundreds.

On October 29th 1964 a copy of this same document was submitted by the French State Secretary to the Dutch Government.

On December 10th 1839 a lengthy report was submitted to His Honour the Commander of the Netherlands part of the Island of Saint Martin from which we will now quote.

“ We the undersigned Abraham Cannegieter and Richard Robinson Richardson, Burghers and Inhabitants of the said part of Saint Martin having received Your Honour’s invitation “to elucidate or resolve the questions propounded by His Excellency the Governor General, in the best manner possible according to our knowledge, and to add thereto such other particulars, as we may deem necessary on the subject”, undertake the task, with that diffidence which arises from the consciousness of our feeble abilities to do full justice to the theme; as however we wish to comply with the request of our much esteemed Chief, and feel persuaded that he will make every allowance for the circumscribed means from which we can derive information, we do not hesitate to enter on the elucidation.

After going into the history of the first colonization of St. Martin and the stories relating to the treat of 1648 they continue with their report as follows:

“The undersigned have diligently searched for among the archives of this colony, the agreement before mentioned, but have not been able to find it. We found a treaty entered into, on the 14th of July 1734 between Charles Bochart, Seigneur de Champigny, Governor General of Martinique and its dependencies among which the French part of St. Martin was included, on the one part, and Nicholas Salomons, of St. Martin having full powers from John Heyliger, Governor General of the Island of St. Eustatius, St. Martin and Saba, and Jacobus Barry, Vice Governor of the Dutch part of St. Martin, by which treaty, the strictest friendship and good understanding was secured between the two colonies, either in war or peace, but nothing is mentioned therein about the salt pond.

The earliest document which we found among the archives of this colony relative to the salt pond in the Dutch part of Saint Martin, is a petition, dated 28 August 1778, signed by 162 of the principal inhabitants of the Dutch part of Saint Martin, to the West India Company in Holland, against an offer which it seems had been made by a Mr. Henricus Godet of this Island, to purchase, or lease the said salt pond from the said West India Company. In this petition, we discovered a clause that states “the, inhabitants of the French part of this island, have equal rights to pick salt as the Dutch, as has been always customary , and if they were to be deprived of this right, that no doubt that then the Dutch inhabitants would be deprived of fishing, hunting, trading, and all other privileges which they enjoyed in the French part, in the most friendly manner.

Image (348)We also found among the archives an act of harmony, and good understanding between Johannes Salomons Gibbes, Commander of the Dutch, and Chevalier de Durat, Commander of the French part of this island, dated the 13th of March 1785 whereby they ratified all former agreements between the two colonies, and a convention agreed upon between William Hendrik Rink, Commander of the Dutch part of this island and Laruyere agent of the French Republic, dated 12th Germinal, Year 3 which answers to the 5th April 1795.

The undersigned in bringing this circumstance to the knowledge of His Excellency I.C. Baud, are convinced that he will no longer be astonished that this document has vanished away from the colonial archives and we feel it to be our duty to vindicate the upright conduct, and honest intentions of our fellow citizens, who were members of the Court of Policy of this colony, in the year 1831, when petitions were made for grants in the salt pond, and which were conceded to some of the inhabitants as their grants specify. Every measure was then adopted to prevent the shadow of suspicion from being cast on the intention. The originators of the plan for grants in the salt pond, were alone actuated from the motive, that they beheld with regret, so valuable a source of wealth entirely unimproved, they saw the colony entirely deteriorating, and that so rapidly, that it bid fair to be very soon entirely ruined, they were well acquainted that the revenues of the colony so far from meeting the expenses the expenses were much behind hand, knowing this, they were necessarily convinced that the colonial Government could not give any assistance whatever to public improvements . They hoped that the inhabitants of the island, without distinguishing between Dutch or French, by joining together in a public company, and each one contributing his mite from the small remnant of property left to them from the ravages of misfortune, and untoward events, might derive some benefit from the salt pond in question.”

From this report another interesting article can be written as the report on the lost treaty is much too long for a single article.

The Old Brick Building under French occupation in World War 11.

In 1941 the French briefly took control of the Dutch side on behalf of the Vichy Government.

There is something I would like to mention from this report and this involves the Year 1825. “A remarkable occurrence took place, during the time of the pond making salt in this year. In the evening an uncommon stench was experienced in the town of Philipsburg, which was attributed to the mephitic air from the Pond, and on the morning after, all the houses in the town, which had been painted white, had become perfectly black, and the silver and plate in the town of the same colour. Such a circumstance had not been noticed in former salt crops and it was also remarkable, that so powerful a stench did not produce any disease in Philipsburg.”

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Photo from 1948 showing an unchanged scene of the quiet life on St. Martin going back centuries.

Worthwhile mentioning also is the fact that Richard Robinson Richardson was a lawyer also known as “Dicky Dick”. and that his house on Backstreet is still standing. It was later bought by Johannes van Romondt, then by Zilah Richardson to whose family if I am not mistaken the house still belongs.

And a number of people claim descent from Mr. Richardson including Mark Williams who can tell you more on his lineage and connection to Mr. Richardson.

The report covers interesting information of the attempts to revitalize the salt industry and which continues on through various other reports. They all considered the salt pond the most important resource for possible development and improvement of the economy of Sint Martin as salt was a much-needed commodity in the fishing industry in Nova Scotia and other places. And yes, the original copy of the treaty has still not been found.



Commuting in the Eastern Caribbean


By: Will Johnson



The tall grave on the right or the one in the corner are candidates for the grave  of Sarah Catherine Mardenborough who died on December 19th, 1903 at the age of 79 and was born on Saba on February 19th, 1824.

The surname Mardenborough does not exist on Saba anymore. There are a number of people though with names like Hassell, Peterson, Johnson, Simmons etc. Who have Mardenborough ancestors.

I am busy reading the book by Julianne Maher “The Survival of People and Languages”. Schooners, goats, and cassava in St. Barthelemy, French West Indies.

The same could be said of Saba in former times. On page 31 we read the following: “ Vaucresson, French Intendant, writes in 1713 that, once the French no longer have land on St. Christopher, St. Barthelemy and St. Martin are too poor and too distant from Martinique to justify French protection or support. St. Barth and St. Martin are thus left to their own devices. Surrounded by English islands and at 150 miles distance from the larger French islands, they were particularly vulnerable to attack.

More turbulent times lie ahead. In 1742, Sieur Bernier of St. Barth, descendant of the Bernier families we met in 1681 sailing the islands to pick up livestock for Martinique, reports to Champigny, the Governor of Martinique, that there is talk on St. Martin of impending war with the English. Champigny sends him back to gather more information (Champigny 1742). Bernier was right. Annoyed by attacks from French corsairs harboring in St. Barth, the English invade St. Barth and St. Martin in 1744. Champigny reports that St. Martin was quickly taken by the English due to the imprudence of the French commandant there but that St. Barth resisted longer and even repelled the invaders several times before ceding after their leader was killed. The Bristish report (Memorial of 1762) that Christopher Mardenborough, with a privateer from St. Kitts, dispersed all the French inhabitants on St. Martin and took their slaves, leaving the French half of St. Martin uninhabited. The total evacuation of St. Martin in 1744 will explain later its differences from St. Barth.”


Plaque in the back of the church in Windward Side Peter Hassell and his mother-in-law honoured for their role in getting the Roman Catholic Church a  building to worship in.

In the St. Peter’s church yard on St. Kitts there are several Mardenborough’s buried. Two children with the name of Giles Mardenborough. Another is that of Christopher “of this island was born June 1st 1734 and died September 17th, 1806. This stone is erected to His Memory by his grateful children. He was a son of the Christopher Mardenborough who in 1744 invaded St. Martin and St. Barth’s from the island of St. Kitts and who did much damage to those two islands and their people.

The name Giles who was probably the father of Christopher continues on in the person of Giles Mardenborough who was married to Esther Peterson and both of them were still alive and on Saba in the year 1882. He was at one time the owner of the large piece of land known as ‘Giles Quarter’,’

The name Mardenborough existed on Saba much longer than I was aware of when I started this article and looking up information of the name on Saba. In the population list of 1699 and 1705 there are a John Mardenborough and a Poinwells Mardenborough. In 1715 the same names are there with a Paul added to the list. In a petition after the severe hurricane of August 31st 1772 there is a Peter and a Thomas Mardenborough, and in 1823 there is a Peter Sr. And a Peter Jr, as well as a Thomas Mardenborough.

The most well-known of the Mardenborough’s was Sarah Catherine. She died on December 19th, 1903 at her home in the Windward Side at the age of 79. She was born on February 19th, 1824. Her parents were Christopher Mardenborough and Mary Hassell. In the Roman Catholic church records Sarah is considered as the founder of the church on Saba.


Captain Abraham Mardenborough’s schooner the Virginia. Lost in a hurricane in Nevis.

“Father Johannes F. A. Kistemaker from St. Eustatius visited Saba in 1843 and appointed Miss Sarah Mardenborough  to give some religious instruction. Sarah thus became in fact founder of this church on Saba and the Ecclesiastical Chronicle also refers to her as “Apostala Sabae”.  She was baptized by Father Kistemaker on June 22nd, 1850. She was part of the large Hassell family in the Windward Side who converted from being Anglicans. Her mother Mary was a sister of Peter Hassell who donated the property in Windward Side where the church was built in 1860.

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Elliot Elmore Mardenborough and his wife Blanche Peterson. After his death in New York she came back to Saba and lived  in the Windward Side with her sister Edith. They had no children.

For twenty-nine years she gave religious instruction, and, after 1854 when a resident priest came, she served as assistant to each succeeding priest until 1873. She taught the youth, took care of the churches, and nursed he sick. As a result of the last-mentioned occupation she contracted leprosy. Even then she had the children gather around her bed to prepare them for first Holy Communion. Each year on Maundy Thursday she had herself taken to the church on a stretcher where she spent the night and remained until the ceremonies of Good Friday. When this remarkable woman died in 1903, she was buried in the cemetery in front of the church in the right corner to the street known as the “Founder’s Corner. One of the fancy graves is hers and the other one is that of Peter Hassell. He by the way was the husband of my great aunt Esther Lowell Hassell born Johnson. Someone recently suggested to widen that section of the cemetery and remove those graves so that larger trucks can pass. I think that people should buy smaller vehicles instead of wanting everything sacred to the people of Saba removed.


The Dominican Nuns who came to Saba in 1904 and served Saba until 1984.

In 1873 her work was carried on by Gertrude Johnson-Hassell who was a trained teacher. She taught in a privately-owned house. She is also the one credited with introducing the “Spanish Work” or “Saba Lace” to the women of the island. A life saver for many families in former times.

There was a Captain Abram Thomas Mardenborough who died on St. Maarten on January 17th, 1951. He was a widower of Ina Maria Johnson and he later married Mary Ann Wathey “Miss Ohney” sister of Malcolm “Mally” Wathey. They lived in a lovely mansion opposite the Oranje School on the Front Street. This fell victim to progress as it is called and replaced with an ugly cement building. Captain Abe was the owner and captain of the mail schooner the “Virginia”. It was built on Curacao by the S.E.L. Maduro ship builders. The schooner served the Dutch Windward Islands and also St. Kitts and St. Thomas. It was later purchased by the government for the same purpose. My cousin Carl Lester Johnson who lived as a boy on St. Maarten in the nineteen thirties would tell me stories of many of the old timers he knew over there. He said that when Captain Abe retired, he would always be dressed in a suit in the full heat of Philipsburg. He had a pocket watch on a long gold chain. The boys would get a lot of pleasure from asking him the time of the day. This was followed by a long and careful procedure of Captain Abe taking his good time to bring out the watch from its hiding place and then in a firm voice gave the time of the day. With the same slow procedure, the watch would be carefully deposited to its hiding place in an inner pocket of the jacket Mr. Abe would be wearing while taking his stroll down the Front street. He had a couple of children by his first wife. One was named Ulric and another one was Elliot Elmore born in 1901 and was married to Blanche Peterson who lived on the “Fort” in later years with her sister Edith.

And with the advent of Face Book one of my friends on Facebook is a descendant of Captain Abe and lives in the United States.


My Face Book friend Anne Marie Mardenborough great granddaughter of Capt. Abram Mardenborough  and his wife Ina Marie Johnson. Her grandfather was Ulric Mardenboorough who was born on Saba and moved to New York in his twenties with his brother Elliott. 

The Saba Mardenborough’s had some connection with Christopher Mardenborough of St. Kitts fame as the name continued on in the Mardenborough family on Saba.

There are a number of other family names which have disappeared from Saba but still remembered by families who descended from the originals.

I will end this with the statement:” I have studied beyond my own needs, and for my own entertainment. Knowing the world beyond my own small domain. Transmitting what I have learned to others who have not yet ventured beyond their own environment.”





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I am not absolutely certain. I found this one years ago in a collection of one of the former priests. It could also be his mother but I believe it is that of Sarah Catherine Mardenborough credited as Founder of the Roman Catholic Church on Saba.

After I wrote this article Dr. Ryan Espersen  shared additional information with me which he had found. I  decided that I would add the information here for those in future who would be interested in this remarkable family. A sloop named the ‘Elizabeth’ had been intercepted by the British and On October 31st, 1745 Benjamin King took a testimony from the crew of the sloop.

” Depositions of James Johnson mate of the sloop ‘Elizabeth’ and John Mardenburgh mate of the said sloop to interrogatory to them exhibited in to repartorio to provide the same sloop lawful prize…

To the first interrogatory James Johnson said that he was born in British seas and had been living at the Dutch island of Statia for the past give years. ( my great-great-great grandfather was a James Simmons married to Annie Martin (pronounced Martin whose father was a businessman on St. Eustatius.)

To the second interrogatory [John Mardenburgh] saith, that the said sloop was taken there the twenty first day of October, was in the island of St. Christopher’s by Capt. Phillpot of his Majesty’s ship ‘Woolish’ and was first carried to Old Road whence he remained for two days and was afterward brought to the Harbour of St. John in the island of Antigua, saith that one gun was fired after the said sloop from his Majesty’s said ship the ‘Woolish’, and had last sailed from Grand Terre, [Guadeloupe] an island belonging to the French King, but had no clearance from there and was bound to St. Eustatius and sailed under Dutch colours.

The third interrogatory the saith examinant saith that he was the Master of the sloop when she was taken and the owner thereof was Joseph Blake.

To the fourth interrogatory the said examinant saith that the other examinant  John Mardenburgh   and four negro slaves [to wit] Francois, Laurence, Robin, and William, were all mariners on the said sloop when taken saith that Francois were the slaves of the said Joseph Blake, the owner of the said sloop, that William belonged to Mr. Lindesay. a Dutchman and that the other belonged to Giles Mardenburgh a creole of Saba, a Dutch island, saith that the deponent nor the others, have not any property or wares in the said sloop or for lading.

To the fifth interrogatory saith that when the said sloop was taken she was bound to St. Eustatius, but sailed last from Grand Terre, saith that the deponent , saith that the voyages began from St. Eustatius and was thence bound to Grand Terre, and was to have to have endeth at Eustatia saith that the deponent carried a dry good cargo consiting of chequed linen and Pinabriggs from Eustatia to Grand Terre and was loaded with barrels of sugars molasses and cotton.

The sixth interrogatory saith that JosephBlake is the sole owner of the said vessel and cargo that he and his family have lived many years in Sint Eustatia and are subjects of the States of Holland saith that to his knowledge he does not know where the saith Joseph Blake was born, but believe him to be either an Englishman or Irishman.

To the seventh interrogatory saith that he the examinant hath sustained no particular loss by the capture of the saith sloop.

To the eight interrogatory saith that he delivered all the papers he had on board ( which were a Dutch pas and two / that he threw no papers overboard before or after he was taken.

To the ninth interrogatory saith the deponent that he had not any bills of lading, [inventory], clearance, co? or custom house papers for the goods on board befroe the same said sloop was taken. Signed James Johnson.

The other deponent John Mardenburgh saith that he was born at Saba a Dutch Island that he hath heard what countryman Joseph Blake (in the deposition name) is

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