The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “March, 2020”

The Hill on Saba once owned by Pan American Airways.


Thais Hill property of Pan American International Airways.

Few people on Saba today realize that Pan American World Airways once owned Thais Hill in the village of St. John’s. The land with the hill and all around it was purchased in 1945 from various families natives to the village’ Mr. Gordon Hipple Mayer, construction engineer, attorney for the company bought  Thais Hill property in three transaction.

I was always under the impression that the Dutch Government was somehow involved. However on further research I found out that it was solely a venture  of the company Pan American World Airways. This was done to establish communications with their flight from Miami to Rio do Janeiro in Brazil.

Pan American landing at St. Maarten in the nineteen seventies.

Pan American approaching Juliana Airport

With this article I will post some photo,s of the type of planes they used for the route Miami – Rio  and of the infrastructure at Thais Hill with the buildings and tower.

The deeds of transfer took place on August 3rd 1945 and August 5th 1945. In order to see how the people of the village of St. John’s especially were moving away from the island especially to Barbados and the United States I will quote as much as possible from the deeds in question.

Seller Mrs. Gertrude Hassell, Notary M.Huith and date August 3rd 1945.

” Mrs Susan Gertrude Hassell, widow of the late John Beaks Hassell, representing her own interests and;

B. Representing the interests of her daughter Miss Beryl Hassell residing on Saba.

C.  Representing her son Mister Edward Donallen Hassell, mariner residing in Demarara (British Guyana).

D. Representing her daughter Cora Jane Hassell spouse of Alfred A. Delecorte, residing in the State of New York, United States of America.

E. Representing her son Mister Lisle Alexander Hassell mariner, residing at Curacao Netherlands West Indies.

F. Representing her son Mister John Emilius Hassell residing in the State of New York, U.S.A.

G. Representing her daughter Stella Hassell spouse of William Henn and residing in the State of New York, U.S.A.


Mister Gordon Hipple Moyer, residing at Miami Florida acting as attorney bought the property for Pan American Airways.

Three fourths undivided portion of the land know as “The Hill” situated on Thais Hill in the district of St. John’s, which land is bounded as follows;

” On the North by land owned by the heirs of the late James Beaks Hassell;

On the South and East across the entire foot by the lands belonging to the heirs of John George Hassell Leverock.

On the West by the cliff commonly known as “The Lookout on Thais Hill” .

And such with all the rights and servitude s, profits and charges as well as conveniences  and inconveniences ,attached to the above described property hereby sold and purchased.

The appearer seller declares that she and her constituents acquired the right of ownership to the above described land hereby sold and purchased by virtue of legal inheritance from their deceased spouse and father James Beaks Hassell, who acquired the right of ownership by inheritance from his mother Ann Louisa Hassell, who in turn inherited said property from her parents.

Both of the appearers declared that this sale and purchase has taken place for and in consideration of an amount of five hundred and six guilders and twenty five cents which amount the appearer seller declares to have received from the purchaser, granting unto him in his aforementioned quality full receipt and acquittance fro said purchase sum. Passed at the residence of Miss Ella Roosburgh situated in The Bottom district of this island and in the presence of Messieurs Wilfred Percy Mendez Labega, and Oswald Meredith Williams both government officials and both residing on this island and well known to me Notary who along with both the appearers and me Notary have signed this act immediately after same had been read.”


Passengers boarding the Pan American flight at Miami

Second deed August 5th, 1945.

Appeared before Maximillian Joseph Huith:

Mister John William Hassell, retired mariner, mandatory of Miss Susan Laura Leverock, at present residing at  Torwood, Pin Hill  Barbados, British West Indies

Bounds: “On the North by the bounds of the deceased Rachel Wilson; this constitutes the head bounds and commences from a rock with a chop in it and extends in a direct line sixty three and three tenths meters to another FRoc and the letter E cut in it.

On the North-East by the lands formerly owned by Thomas Beaks Hassell, but at present generall known to belong to William Hassell and the lands belonging to the heirs of the late John George Hassell Leverock, this constitutes one of the side bounds.

524e283ebb99551930b1721b64273eac2180ee4a0b145b3d8f9799ea804caef1 Charles Stellrecht 2

Engineer Charles Stellrecht with the Pan American facilities in the background. The tower is not visible in this photo and I have a better copy somewhere which when I find it will post it.

On the South-East by the land belonging to the heirs of James Beaks Hassell deceased. This constitutes the other side bound and commences from the aforementioned rock with a chop in it and extends in a direct line sixty nine and three tenths meteres to a large rock with a water hole in the top of said rock.

The appearer seller declares that his constituents acquired the right of ownership tothe property by virtue of an act of sale and purchase passed at this island on the nineteenth dy of November in the year nineteen hundred and seventeen before the then Notary Mister Frederick August Simmons and witnesses.

The property was sold for one hundred and ninety one guilders and fifty cents. A ct passed at the residence on St. John’s of Misss Anny Mary Every, of no particular vocation. Witnesses Leslie Barnes and Ann Mary Every.


The interior of the sea planes used by Pan American on its route from Miami along the Caribbean islands to Rio.

Third deed August 5th, 1945.

Mary Ann Every representing her own interests and those of her sister Edith Every. Sells 1/4 undivided portion of the land known as “The Hill” bounded as follows. On the North by lands of the heirs of the late John Beaks Hassell. On the South and East across the entire foot by lands belonging to the heirs of John George Hassell Leverock and on the West by the cliff commonly known as “The Lookout at Thais Hill”

Seller said that she and her sister acquired the right of ownership to the aforementioned property known as “The Hill” by virtue of a legal inheritance from their father the late John Every who died at this island on the seventeenth day of the month of December in the year nineteen hundred and hirty one; he having acquired the right of ownership by virtue of an act of sale in the year nineteen hundred and twelve before the then Notary Engle Heyliger.

The price for this sale of land to the Pan American World Airways  represented by Charles Higgle Moyer was fls 168.75. Witnesses were Milbourne Leslie Barnes of no particular vocation and John William Hassell , retired mariner.

sikorsky_S40_02Pan American World Airways was founded by two US Air force Majors. In 1927 it began an airmail service between Key West Florida and Havana Cuba and was the United States’ first scheduled International flights.

Within a year, aviation visionary Juan Trippe took the controls of Pan AM and introduced its first passenger services to Havana. An ad campaign cosponsored by PAN AM and Bacardi successfully encouraged Americans to fly away from alcohol prohibition in the US to drink rum in the sun in Cuba, and Trippe quickly Pan AM’s network .


Interior of the pane. Looks better than what we have now.

By 1930 PAN AM  was flying routes through most of the Central and South American countries. Crucially it used a fleet of flying boats or clippers  to land aircraft, to land aircraft on the water at destinations that did not have concrete runways for traditional planes.

On October 26, 1958 Pan Am became the first United States airline to fly jet aircraft. A Pan Am Boeing 707 streaked across the Atlantic from New York to Paris in eight hours. In 1970 Pan Am carried 11 million customers and invested half a billion dollars in a large fleet of Boeing’s 747.

On my birthday September 22nd 1972 I flew across the Atlantic to Frankfurt Germany on a PAN AM 747. When they announced that the Chief Pilot was a Richardson little did I realize then that he was the son of Henry Richardson of St. Martin and Stella Richardson-Sloterdijk of Saba.


Mr. Charles Stellrecht here checking the communications equipment.

Pan Am started operating their beacon on Saba on August 20th, 1945. Their engineer who was stationed here was a Mr. Charles Stellrecht. In 1947 the famous Dutch photographer Willem van de Poll took a number of unique photo’s of the facilities and Mr. Stellrecht.

Mr. Stellrecht was charmed by one of the beautiful redheads of which Saba had a large stock back in the day. She was a sister of my old friend Trevelyn Barnes of Chrispeen. After the station closed down the couple moved to the United States and had several children there one of which I understood ad visited Saba in recent years.

In 1949 the beacon was transferred to St. Maarten and reconstructed at what later became known “Beacon Hill’.

74fe33c9864313774f28af1706fb199d1e72e8a174fae99741341953f1ad58dc Charles Stellrecht

Engineer Charles Stellrecht going up Thais Hill to the beacon of Pan American Airways.Sometime after that Thais Hill property was acquired by the merchant Joseph Emanuel Vlaun a St. Maaten native who was married to the widow Mathilde Hassell born Every of Chrispeen who he met on the island of Aruba where they both worked and lived. I do not have the information available as to when he purchased it.


However on May 24th 1960  he sold the property to Mr. Arthur Unger a writer for the New York Times.The property was sold for six hundred dollars. Mr. Eugenius Achilles Johnson a government offical represented Mr. Unger in the transaction.

The property measured  nineteen thousand and twenty square meters (19.o20m2)  equivalent to 4.69 acres.

The Notary passing the deed was Henry C.Every, then Administrator of Saba and the witnesses were my brother Thomas Erica Johnson and Kenneth Peterson both government officials.

On june 9th, 1978 the firm of M.Isreal and Associates of New York presented to Mr. Unger a fesibility study on the possibility of developing the property with a number of housing units which could be sold. From then on I had contact with Mr. Unger and attached to this article is a letter from him on March 3rd, 2003.

Scan1096As a writer for the New York Times Mr. Unger wrote a front page article in its Travel Edition about Thais Hill. I know I have it  somewhere as I do not throw away anything like that. I believe it was titled “A Hill Unto Myself” or something like that.

I cannot remember when Mr. Unger died and what became of the property and who owns it not. I would have to see Thais Hill developed and I advise the Government to look into acquiring it as a sort of heritage site for the use of the people of the village of St. John’s village.


Police Chief Bernard Halley here visiting with Charles Stellrecht at the Pan American Communications station on Thais Hill. Both of them were married to ladies from St. Johns Halley to a Dowling and Stellrecht to a Barnes.



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