The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Under the Seagrape Tree

Saba Histories

Will Johnson

Introduction

It seems like yesterday when I would be sitting under the sea grape tree reflecting on my future.

A young teenager just finished with high school on Curacao and holding down a job in the Post office.

It was not quiet meditation mind you. The future looked bleak and it required a lot of imagination to think positive.

How the world has changed since then. Just like Jean Rhys on her only return to her native Dominica in “I lived here once”, I too have the same feeling when I try to retrieve that once secluded and quiet spot on the Great Bay.

The Daily Herald seems to think that I am back under the sea grape tree and that I now have enough time for a column.

When I sat under the sea grape tree I used to write a column “News & Views” for the Windwards Islands Opinion of my friend the late Joseph H. Lake Sr. My calling card which proclaimed that I was a columnist was ridiculed by all as a misspelling. Of course being always dressed like Fidel one had to wonder indeed if I had misspelled the word. The wording of this card was used against me by the Democrat Party in the l969 elections when I was opposing them for the Senators seat of the Windward Islands. Various speakers on the Democrat party podium got very emotional about the various services offered on my card. Among them “uprisings quelled, governments overthrown, governments run, revolutions organized and even orgies organized. And me! Well I did not even know what an orgy was. And still don’t.

Anyway the Democrat Party obviously felt that I was offering services which had led to the May 30th, l969 uprising on Curacao which was cause for the election in the first place.

Some people still question whether or not I have strayed from my orginal beliefs and especially get upset when I give a list of my third world heroes. Ayatollah Khomeni and Fidel are not easy to digest for some folks.

Anyway The Herald has asked me (at least Wim Hart has done so) to contribute a column to people I have known in my long political career.

I have been considering it. I am sure there are people who would like to read about the time I crashed the Lt. Governor’s car into a wall on St.John’s while serving as a host for Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her two children, or how I introduced Forbes Burnham to Le Pirate, or when Benny Goodman gave Busby the wrong tip and so on.

Coming from a small island like Saba and growing up in a time which seems world’s away, I have been privileged to meet many celebrities as well as many “small people” who also deserve to be highlighted.

I have always felt the need for a literary magazine for these islands. Not a BIM of course. There are only so many Frank Collymore’s to go around. But I applaud the effort of the Daily Herald’s Weekender to try and combine journalism with literature. Charles Borromeo Hodge told me once that he had a lively correspondence with Frank from New York. To his dismay he found out as he said to me “That Frank turned out to be a Caucasian”.Anyway since he liked me too he must have had a soft spot for Caucasians.

The Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramirez was Vice President under the Sandanistas. He claimed that a revolution had crossed his path and that politics had interrupted his career as a writer.

Ramirez had the following to say about literature and journalism. To the question by the OAS Magazine, AMERICAS, “You’re a political scientist and analyst who writes for many publications. What do you think is the connection between journalism and literature?’, he answers;

“The kind of journalism that I prefer and that I like to see practiced – the journalism that I teach my students in the journalism workshops at the Ibero American Foundation for new journalism in Cartagena – is what is called literary journalism. It’s journalism with the gripping style of literary writing, the kind of writing where you reel in the reader little by little – where you set out the bait, create suspense, and keep the reader connected to the story. Literary journalism is storytelling, stories written with literary language. It’s a big challenge, especially when the written newspapers no longer have the capacity to inform, to really give the news.

These days before you open the newspaper you already know everything that has occurred, so for newspapers to be able to compete, they are going to have to get into descriptive articles, a more in-depth recounting of the event. And they should go back to the kind of old journalism practiced in the early twentieth century, when LA NACION in Buenos Aires used to devote an entire article to Reuben Dario that started on the front page. That’s the journalism I aspire to.”

I will refrain from my old style journalism though. A New York newspaper after reading the Saba Herald questioned the authorities as to how I could be walking around free. That sort of style is reserved for other papers, not for literary journalism which I now advocate and aspire to. That syle of journalism will be dealt with in Saba News Agency TWO.

People I would like to inform readers about vary from Stella Sloterdijk-Richardson, who wrote the most wonderful poem ever written about Saba,to the famous and infamous people I have met. From Fidel Castro to David Frederick, and from the fisherman on his lonely craft to the preacher on his high pulpit.

I will try from time to time to educate our people to look out so they can move up. I want to share the joys of reading and pass on information to our young people and hope that something I write can serve to educate them to look at life from a different perspective. To be realistic and as Sergio Ramirez says: “Societies don’t change because of a single administration during a period of five or six years. They change little by little in a process of accumulation. Change happens when society decides to take ownership of a single project and move it forward with various nuances until it’s consolidated.”

The single most important project of our times is that the youth, the custodians of our future, need real life examples of local pioneers who did what seemed the impossible. I want to highlight some of those native peoples so that our young people can look to their lives for guidance.

Life has changed. I am no longer under the sea grape tree looking out to the future.

High on the hill looking back on the past is where I am at now. Pablo Neruda, (whose former home, now a museum, I have visited in Valparaiso, Chile) in “A Dream of Trains”, best describes where I am at now, in my final stage of reflection and contemplation:

“I was alone in the solitary train,

but not only was I alone –

a host of solitudes were gathered

around the hope of the journey,

like peasants on the platforms.

And I, in the train, like stale smoke,

with so many shiftless souls,

burdened by so many deaths,

felt myself on a journey

in which nothing was moving

but my exhausted heart.”

Letter to myself

I

It must have been from my mother that I inherited the love of politics. From a very early age it certainly seemed to interest me. My mother was an ambitious woman who saw the political process as a means of advancement for her children. She was a Simmons. I later traced her ancestry to Commander Peter Simmons and his wife Rebecca Correa. The latter was the daughter of Moses Correa the only local person of the Jewish faith. Only daughters he had and they all married gentiles and lost the faith but not the genes. From my mother’s line of the family, I am the son of Alma Simmons, who was the daughter of James Horton Simmons, the son of Charles Simmons, the son of Peter Simmons, the son of Solomon Simmons, the son of Commander Peter Simmons and Rebecca Correa, the daughter of Moses Correa.

Isolated on this small rock her ambition must have been implanted in those old genes going back to the Middle East.

At the age of nine I remember following the march between Windwardside and Hells Gate which was organized in support of Saba’s first Senator Charles Ernest Voges. I found it all very exicting as well as the elections of l95l.

During my years in Brakkeput on Curacao (l955-l960) the brothers of the boystown made sure that we were politically involved. Angel Salsback on the 50th anniversary celebration of the existence of the boystown reminded all present how we were introduced to democracy. The Executive Council of the Institute at one time or another had people such as Minguel Pourier and others who served as well. Chief of Police in Brakkeput for a while was my friend Victor Monsanto but the boys rebelled beacuse he took the job serious and was too strict. Mervin and Aurelius Scott, Max Pandt, Ben Vlaun, Lou Halley, Louis Van Heyningen and others come to mind who were leaders in Brakkeputs Executive Council.

My first real participation in direct politics was in l962.I had started working at the Postofice on St. Maarten in l960. I took over the stampwindow from the late Jimmy Halley. Since it was the only place on the island which sold stamps and also used by the French side, before Christmas I knew all of the then 3500 people living on the island. By the way I also remember when St.Martin had 83 cars half of which were never on the road because of a lack of parts.

One of my regular customers was Mr. Joseph Lake Sr., who on July lst, l959 had started the weekly mimeographed paper The Windward Islands Opinion. It was through his encouragement that I started submitting articles to the paper. This immediately got me in trouble with the political establishment. Nevertheless Claude saw potential benefits to himself to use me as one of his field men.

In l962 he faced a very difficult election when he decided to run for Senator.

I remember as if yesterday Claude pulling up around dusk in front of Capt. Hodge’s Guesthouse under his cups and telling me to get my so and so ready as I had been transferred to Saba for four months. I did not question his word, threw my suitcase together and went down to the pier got on board the Antilia and went to Saba.

The Democrat Party on Saba was in trouble at the time. The popular young Administrator Henry Every had been transferred and was one of the candidates against Claude. He was expected to sweep Saba.

I had been given no instructions. I made the decision to support my own Thomas Van Hugh Hassell. He was the first man of colour from Sabato have succeeded in the Antillean Civil Service. He was also the godfather of my brother Freddie. Something in itself remarkable for Saba in the early l930’s when Freddie was baptized. Van Hugh’s white sister was married to Wim Lampe then Lt. Governor and this must have initially had something to do with Van Hugh getting a government job. His climb to the top though was his own.

Anyway I took off enthusiastically campaigning for Van Hugh. Who told me to do that? Those who were paying lip service to Van Hugh were at the same time complaining me to Claude that I was campaigning against him.

My father was not with me though. He was a friend of Henry and there was no changing his mind. It is from him that I learned to respect the land. I did not plant when I was young. I did read once that a tablet had been found in the city of UR and was dated 3500 BC and which read: “He brings disaster upon his nation who never sows a seed, or lays a brick, or weaves a garment, but makes politics his occupation.” Now you know why I do my planting. From early on I realized that politics was a questionable occupation more than five thousand years ago already. To compensate I try and sow a seed from time to time.

The l962 election results speak for themselves. At the beginning of the campaign Claude did not stand a ghost of a chance against the combination of Voges, Lopes and Every.

The end results were as follows: DP 893 WIPP 747. A win of l46 votes for DP.

The totals were one thing. The individual results were another story. For Claude individual votes under him could spell trouble later on. I did not know all of this at the time. I started to discover that something was wrong when upon return to St. Maarten. I had to lug my suitcase up the beach to where I lived whereas Claude and Clem were there at their usual Lido bar headquarters and were well aware of me passing by. Reconsider here. The party won by l46 votes and Van Hugh Hassell got l52 votes on Saba. Who brought in those votes for him? Also Van Hugh was going back to Aruba. Empty handed by the way. The Ministers job promised to him was not forthcoming. For four years (l962-l966) Claude supported a government with minimal support of l2 parliament members. You telling me that Claude could not get a Minister?

Just for the record here are the l962 election results:

WIPP        St. Maarten        Saba     St. Eustatius       Total

Lopes, Hugh I        113       7          212       332

Voges, Ch.E.W.      75         21         6          102

Every, Henry C.      22         231       2          255

Donker, A.T.          2          11         0          l3

Schmidt, Albert      0          0          5          5

Hazel,Cyril J.          35         0          5          40

Total         247       270       230       747

DP            St. Maarten        Saba     St. Eustatius       Total

Wathey, A.C.          457       11         28         496

Hassell, T.V.H.       11         152       8          171

Woodley, C.A.        4          4          133       141

Halley, G.B.           50         4          1          55

Peterson, C.C         1          1          0          2

Anslyn, W.C.          7          21         0          28

Total         530       193       170       893

Claude was more interested in the upcoming Island Council elections for l963 and worrisome to him was the fact that the party had lost both on St. Eustatius as well as on Saba.

In l962 I could not vote I was not yet 21. In l963 I could vote but could not run as one had to be 23 back then to run for office. In l963 I continued to support the Democrat party and learned a great deal from Claude and Clem in that election on St. Maarten. By l966 the voting population on St. Maarten had increased a great deal. While the WIPP headed by Hugh Lopes still won on Saba on his native St. Eustatius he lost to the DP with 379 for the DP and only 8l for the WIPP.

In that election I supported my then brother-in-law Reinier van Delden who was the number three candidate in that election for the DP. The top five vote getters in l966 were:

Claude Wathey       945       DP

Austin Woodley      317       DP

Hugh Lopes           208       WIPP

Eugenius Johnson  103       WIPP

Reinier van Delden 93         DP

In l967 there were no Island Council elections. I travelled to Saba and St. Eustatius with Claude wand helped to engineer a non-election. I felt guilty afterwards and told Mr. Lake that if another election came around that I personally would oppose the Democrat Party if no one else had the guts.

And with that bit of “old time story” the letter to myself will continue and culminate before March lst 2007. Sometime in the future I would like to try my hand at some serious writing. This is not literature. The Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk defined literature. I hope to arrive there some day. He wrote:

“The writer who shuts himself up in a room and goes on a journey inside himself, will over the years discover literature’s eternal rule; he must have the artistry to tell his own stories as if they were other people’s stories, and to tell other people’s stories as if they were his own, for that is what literature is.”

This is my story but that of others as well.

II

Had I read Naipual’s book “The Suffrage of Elvira” earlier I might have decided not to make politics my occupation. As it was it was some thirty years after I had been in politics that I had occasion to read that classic on West Indian politics.

I have learned many things from reading Naipaul. In the latest one which I read “Literary Occasions Essays” he describes the relationship which he had with his father. In his book a House For Mr. Biswas he tells the story of his father in more detail. In the Essays he describes his fathers last years. IN an interview with his mother he asks her:” What form did my father’s madness take?”

“He looked in the mirror one day and couldn’t see himself. And he began to scream.”

Sometime before I read that something similar happened to me. I was shaving and always thinking I am still sweet sixteen I called out to the wife:” I see an old man in the mirror looking at me.” She called out;” You better take a closer look, that person might even be you.”

Before that two Statia girls fixed me on Winair’s plane. I heard the two of them arguing and then one said to the other;”Why you don’t go up and sit next to the old man nuh.” I looked around for the old man and then I realized it was me they were talking about.

Time for reflection. We tend to glorify the things which seem important to us. We often forget that our time and place here is of very little importance in the whole scheme of things.

We are brought back to reality when we indulge in good literature which puts us to think about life and our time and place in this troubled world.

The native Americans were known for their eloquence of speech. The famous Chief Seattle after whom the great city of Seattle was named described man’s place in the universe as follows:

“We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.”

In contemplating on why and how I became involved in politics and made it my life’s work, I often turn to great thinkers for guidance and for peace of mind in a turbulent and thankless profession. Why did I not become a teacher, a horse whisperer or a well poisoner, but instead take up a profession which is a combination of the three (or any three for that matter).

As a child growing up on Saba life was not easy. No electricity, roads, cars, airport, harbour. No nothing of all that.

I remember going to the store to buy two cents worth of fat for an old lady to put in a vegetarian pot of wild mustard. The fat was to give the soup a bit of flavour. The problems we have on Saba the last years are those brought on by plenty and not those of having too little. From early on I felt the need to bring change. When I was growing up there was much despair. As an altarboy I was forever going to funerals to bury people. Women seemed to be always dressed in black. A black and white dress seemed to liven up the place. People were going to the U.S.A. and other places. Houses remained unpainted, others were falling down. As a child I worried constantly as to what was to become of me. I realized that I certainly could not get educated and make it on Saba.

Today those who want can plan a college education and even plan to return to Saba and make a living here. People from all over the world come here now .When I was a boy nearly all of the people living here had not only been born on Saba but their ancestors had been here for hundreds of years. One day flowed in to the next and decay crept in like a mudslide. By the time I entered politics there certainly had been some changes. But old timers will tell you that WIPM brought meaningful change to the lives of working people on Saba.

In l969 there was a mini revolution on Curacao. The Government resigned and called for new elections. On St. Maarten in l968 I became friendly with the late Mr. Alrett Peters who had returned from Aruba and had started the General Workers Union. I helped him with the newspaper “The Labour Spokesman”. This was a monthly paper under his name but even the roosters knew that it was my paper. The “Spokesman” was not government friendly. In fact it was downright hostile. In addition I also had the “Saba Herald” and together with my boyhood friend from the boystown James Maduro we also had “The Emporium Review.” on St. Eustatius .

In l965 through l968 I was also the newsprovider and announcer for PJD-2. I had replaced Sydney Lejuez. Brother Mayer used to pick me up and take me down to Fort Amsterdam twice a week. He refused to take me in the car with a beer in my hand. Once on the airport returning broke from Santo Domingo he loaned me ten dollars on condition that I could not buy a drink with it. Boy did those rum and cokes that I boiught with Brother Mayer’s ten dollars seem like visions of paradise.

Anyway by l969 I had built up enough bad points for major warfare with the Democrat Party. Alrett and I had also caused problems when we submitted a request for the Union to hold a peaceful demonstration in sympathy with the workers on Curacao. Clem brokered a compromise at the beach bar at Passangrahan Hotel (my second office). We settled the matter by having an afternoon off for the workers on St. Maarten . The invincible Democrat Party had been caught off guard and had shown its first sign of weakness. That too was not taken well.

Jose Lake then called me and reminded me that I had told him that if there was a threat of another non-election that I personally would oppose Claude. In what must have been a reckless suicidal moment I said yes that I still thought that way. Thinking it was a private joke among friends. The next day the Windward Island’s Opinion came out with the headline: “Will Johnson to oppose Claude Wathey”, and boy the fight was on. I had no money and a friend (from Nicaragua let’s say) loaned me the thousand guilders with which to pay my deposit to enter my list. Clem is still wondering where I got that money from. If anyone knew how broke I was it was Clem. As a matter of fact I must still owe Clem. And then came the hard part. Besides my good friend Alec “The Butcher” who was one of the first to sign me up I still needed 44 more signatures and only St. Maarten could provide them. The next day a scholarship granted to one of Alec’s 48 (forty eight, yes) children was cancelled. To get signatures after that was like pulling one tooth at a time the way my uncle Reuben Simmons used to do it. Tie the tooth with a piece of fishing line to a nail in the door and wait for a strong wind to blow the door shut and hopefully take out the tooth.

Miracle upon miracle and with help from the Union the signatures came in one by one. One of the last to sign me up was Alrett’s father. He used to come and sit with me at the Union Hall in Cole Bay when I was turning out the newspapers. I did it on an old mimeograph machine that the Teamsters Union had provided us (Jimmy Hoffa them).Old Mr. Peters used to get a kick out of seeing all of the stuff I would put on paper. Things like “Rumors that Wathey plans to buy the Caribbean are totally false. Your reporter interviewed him and he confirmed that at this time it was only Puerto Rico that he was thinking of buying, and that he did not know where people got their news from.”

Anyway at the last minute I got the signatures and the heat was on. St. Eustatius backed me strongly in that election. I would have won but Wallace Peterson after being dispatched to St. Eustatius told Claude, “That boy is going to embarres you there if you don’t spend heavy on the elections.” People who come to mind who helped me were the late Mrs. Laura Rouse, Mrs. Christine Flanders and her husband William, John and Max Suarez, Bengie Schmidt, Orlando Berkel and many more. They even organized a rally on my behalf on Saba and I did not even know it until a week later.

The first political rally which I held on St. Eustatius I was welcomed at the airport by my friend Mr. Vincent Astor Lopes with a pamphlet. Welcome to the United Russian Alliance.

My party was the URA a branch of a party on Curacao.

The day before the election bets were being placed by the Democrats on St. Maarten that I could not get 40 votes on the three islands. Jocelyn who went so far as to say that I would get 75 was laughed out of town by the pundits.

The results of the l969 election was as follows:

U.R.A.       St. Maarten        Saba     St. Eustatius       Total

Johnson, W.S.        138       222       232       592

Pietersz, E.M.         2          5          3          10

Jesurun, E.A.V       3          7          1          11

Johnson, J.B..         0          2          0          2

Total         143       236       236       615

DP            St. Maarten        Saba     St. Eustatius       Total

Wathey, A.C.          1172     163       66         1401

Rogers, S.N.           14         9          159       182

Anslyn, W.C.          7          91         1          99

Arndell, A.J.           124       8          5          137

Lake, J.H.   33         0          5          38

Woodley, C.A.        6          2          31         39

Total         l356      273       267       1896

Considering the odds against me when the election started up, the following day I was greeted on the streets of Philipsburg as if I had won the election.

Several things must be mentioned from that election. Brother Stanley Rogers who is still alive on Curacao came to find me on St. Maarten . He said he could not return to Curacao before shaking the hand of the little white boy who had beat him on his native Statia. Also it was so that I could not find shelter on St. Maarten . Finally Mr. Melford Hazel sent Sam to pick me up. I used to live out of a suitcase anyway. Melford put me to live in the Sea View Hotel for nearly two years rent free and challenged the world to dare and take me out of his hotel. From there in the then Taj Mahal upstairs I found refuge, except when I spent time in Her Majesty’s goal on backstreet. I owe you more than one Sam. When I heard that Melford was not doing well I went to see him. We spent a long time in his garden reminiscing on those days.Wherever he is in heaven he will smile when he reads this.

After that showing all sorts of offers came in. I remember in the Zanzibar on Backstreet being offered a position in the Antillenhuis in Holland where I could have used the occasion to study law. I declined and hanged in there. In November l970 a group of us started the WIPM party. People like Camille Bailey, Edgar Lynch, Jocelyn Arndell, Ralph Berkel. In l97l we took 8 of the l5 seats on the Island Council of the Windward Islands. But that part of the story will have to wait until next time.

III

The nights were softer back then. Our music was the gentle sound of the wind rustling through the leaves of the sea grape trees below my grandmother’s house.

From that location, next to the church on Hells Gate, you could see St. Maarten and all the islands around. At night there was hardly a light to be seen on any of the islands except on St. Kitts at Sandy Point.

I can still smell my grandfather’s supper. He loved roasted sweet potatoes and smoked herring done on the old coal pot. That was also the last meal he requested the day before he died.

My grandmother used to take a puff or two on an old corn cob pipe, while telling me stories of our ancestors.

This was just after the second world war.

It was a great treat for me to spend a weekend at the home of my grandparents. They were the parents of my mother Alma Simmons.

I am the son of Alma Simmons, the daughter of James Horton Simmons, the son of Alice Eliza Horton and Charles Simmons, the daughter of James Horton III of St. Eustatius and Catherine Elizabeth Hassell, the son of James Horton II and Peter Ann “Tanner” Simmons, the son of James Horton I and ALice Eliza Hamilton, the son of Mark Horton and Martha Adriaansen, the daughter of Jacob Adriaansen the son of Isaac Adriaansen the son of Peter Adriaansen, the son of Abraham Adriaansen from Vlissingen who landed on St. Eustatius on April 25th, l636 and claimed it for the Dutch. I own the property on St. Eustatius close to where he landed.

My grandfather’s brother Peter George “Unc” Simmons born l858 used to tell the family that Alice Eliza his mother had been named after her great grandmother who was a close relative of Alexander Hamilton. I have not been able to prove that (yet) but I reserve bragging rights as long as the research continues.

I am related through the blood to the Johnson, Hassell, Beale, Horton, Hill, Vanterpool, Vlaun, Kelly, Correa, “Coonks”, Pierce, Molinieux, Adriaansen and Hamilton families.

Back in those quiet days and gentle nights I would be regaled with stories handed down through the generations to my grandmother and on to me. And so I am now the memory priest of the family.

It was at this spot when my mother was six weeks old in September l909 that a bolt of lightning came crashing down from the skies. It killed her sister Loura (l2 years old), destroyed the old house, nearly killed Alice Eliza Horton, badly burned my mother’s cousin Violet and scared Uncle Reuben Simmons into a statue. Alice Eliza was a “rank” Anglican and refused prayers from the Roman Catholic priest, Father Mulder ,stating that no one should come close to her till her “Minister” arrived. She lived to tell the story for three more years. These are the stories I remember. These memories are the ones I drew on when I was homesick like a dog in the boystown on the then isolated and beautiful lagoon “Spaansche Water” on Curacao.

By now you will have already read that for the first time sine l97l I am not a candidate for the Island Council elections.

Although the URA party in l969 was established by Edsel “Papy” Jesurun on Curacao, it was more convenient for the Democrat party to link me to the FOL party in their campaign.

It did not help my cause when Stanley Brown came up during the elections to lend some support. Freddy Lejuez was my campaign manager on St. Maarten .

Carl Anslyn (DP candidate) issued a pamphlet against me on Saba in which he appealed to the population to get their firebuckets ready and to make all necessary preparations as “Will Johnson is on a mission which includes burning down your house.”

It did not help either that all those years I was always dressed like Fidel.

I remember once causing an uproar on St. Maarten ‘s airport when five friends of mine and I were going to St. Eustatius . Chester Wathey was at the airport. He was not amused and confronted me about my intentions. In later years I realized that there is fear in numbers.

One nut dressed like Fidel was bad enough, but six people travelling together dressed like communist gueriallas was downright menacing. After doing so well in the l969 elections on Statia I used to go there as often as I could. I have wonderful memories of those trips. My bedroom was the room in the old guesthouse which is now the Vincent A. Lopes Island Council Hall. I like to tease Clyde van Putten and them that I used to sleep in the room where they now debate.

I have climbed into the Quill at least l2 times, probably more than anyone from Saba ever did. When I am in Statia I am at peace among friends and I pay a ritual visit to the graves of Richard Horton born l731 and his mother-in-law Joanna Dinzey.

Richard was the brother of James Horton 1 and they were sons of Mark Horton and Martha Adriaansen. He (Richard) was the Church Warden for the Old English church. I have held in my hands the Record Book which he kept for the church. It is more than 250 years and in perfect condition. Safely located in the National Archives behind the Central Train Station in The Hague. When I visit The Hague I make a regular pilgrimage to the archives to do research.

In November l970 a group of us formed the WIPM party. In l97l we won on Saba and St. Eustatius and struck a mighty blow to the Democrats on St. Maarten where we first got two seats out of five, then one was taken away, but later returned when Sydney Lejuez crossed the floor and joined the WIPM party.

Since l97l I have been a candidate in every island election. On March lst 2007 for the first time in 36 years I am not running for office. I hope to now take on other challenges. To return to the memories of my youth and to share these memories with my many friends. I am proud that in all the elections in which I took part that in every polling station on all three Windward Islands that I got votes at each polling station.

Proud also that if given any length of years and if my peace is disturbed by any chickenleg and johnny cake politicians, that I will pull a Compton on them and return to the field of battle I am so accustomed to.

This is not a farewell to arms, just the sound of the bugle calling me to pick up my tent and move on to other challenges.

And so I say THANK YOU to the loyal friends and supporters on all the islands of my youth and my dreams.

Paths of Origin

For a number of years I have been intrigued by a story told to me by a cousin (Carl L. Johnson) who lives in New York and who is nearly twenty years my senior.

According to him our great uncle Peter George Simmons nicknamed “Unc” used to tell him that we were related through the Horton’s to Alexander Hamilton of Nevis. “Unc” is also the great- grandfather of Commissioner Bruce Zagers.

My search thus far has been directed to the Hamilton’s with no firm results. The relationship could have been via the Simmons’ to the Fawcett’s, his mother’s side of the family and I am still looking at that.

You must take oral history seriously and many times I have solved questions of local history through listening to old timers telling stories they had heard from grandparents. Peter George Simmons was born on October 1st 1858 and died April 30th 1946. His mother Alice Eliza Simmons born Horton was born in 1831. He would have known his great-grandfather James Horton Sr. who died in 1869 at the age of 94 (born on St. Eustatius 1775). He would have also known his grandfather James Horton Esq. born 1801. He was the “Kings Attorney” and died February 6th 1877 and his wife Catharine Hassell died on March 3rd, 1873.

Thus growing up between 1858 and 1877 he would have heard stories around the old coal pot or oil lamp about his mother’s people. She (Alice Eliza Horton) born 1831 would in turn have heard stories from her mother, grandparents and other family members about their people on St. Eustatius and why they had moved to Saba.

They are descended from Mark Horton and Martha Adriaansen (see population list 1728). Sometime before 1750 the family moved to St. Eustatius and was prominent there in the old English church and as business people. They were married into some of the prominent families there, the Hills, Clarancieux, Mussendens and so on. There is still a building on the Bay in Statia known as the” Horton Building” (See Steve Kruythoff’s history of the Windward Islands.)

The Horton family being a small one is well documented through my research. I have not yet been able to verify with any degree of certainty the relationship between the Horton’s and Alexander Hamilton. However I have found a lot of interesting things along the way. Alexander Hamilton did have an important connection to Saba via his mentor the Reverend Hugh Knox.

In Ron Chernow’s book,” Alexander Hamilton”, he has the following to say about the Reverend Hugh Knox and Alexander Hamilton.

“The next year, Hamilton published two more poems in the paper, now recreating himself as a somber religious poet. The change in heart can almost certainly be attributed to the advent in St. Croix of a Presbyterian minister named Hugh Knox. Born in Northern Ireland of Scottish ancestry, the handsome young Knox migrated to America and became a schoolteacher in Delaware. As a raffish young man, he exhibited a lukewarm piety until a strange incident transformed his life. One Saturday at a local tavern where he was a regular, Knox amused his tipsy companions with a mocking imitation of a sermon delivered by his patron, the Reverend John Rodgers. Afterward, Knox sat down, shaken by his own impiety but also moved by the sermon that still reverberated in his mind. He decided to study divinity at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) under its president, Aaron Burr, an eminent divine and father of the man who became Hamilton’s nemesis. It was almost certainly from Knox’s lips that Alexander Hamilton first heard the name of Aaron Burr.

Ordained by Burr in 1755, Knox decided to propagate the gospel and was sent to Saba in the Dutch West Indies. This tiny island near Nevis measured five square miles, had no beaches, and was solitary enough to try the fortitude of the most determined missionary. Rough seas girded Saba’s rocky shores, making it hazardous for ships to land there. As the sole clergyman, Knox resided in a settlement known as the Bottom, sunk in the elevated crater of an extinct volcano; it could be reached only by climbing up a stony path. Knox left a bleak picture of the heedless sinners he was assigned to save. “Young fellows and married men, without any symptoms of serious religion but keepers of negro wenches rakes, night rioters, drunkards, gamesters, Sabbath breakers, church neglecters, common swearers, unjust dealers etc.” After all of that one can only guess as to what more could have been included in that etc.!

An erudite man with a classical education, Knox was starved for both intellectual companionship and money. In 1771, he visited St. Croix and was received warmly by the local Presbyterians, who enticed him to move there. In May 1772, he became pastor at the Scotch Presbyterian church at a salary considerably beyond what he had earned inside his old crater.

After the lonely years in Saba, the forty-five-year-old Knox felt rejuvenated in St. Croix. It is there that Alexander Hamilton became his student and protégé.

Much has been written about the Reverend Hugh Knox and his stay on Saba. Dr. Johan Hartog mentions that after 16 years on Saba he moved to St. Croix, due to some accusation by some inhabitants of Saba, probably of a moral nature.

However Governor Peter Simmons and prominent Burghers as well as members of the congregation, provided him with a letter of introduction, which expressed their confidence in him.

There is also confusion as to who was his wife. One historian claimed that he was married to Christina Love daughter of the Governor of St. Lucia. Another claimed that he was married to the daughter of the Governor of St. Croix. However the author Henry B. Hoff in and article in National Genealogical Society Quarterly (March 1986:31) entitled “Some Americans in the Danish West Indies” confirms that he was married to Mary Simmons, daughter of Governor Simmons of Saba. He had a daughter Rebecca who died on December 29th, 1773. She would have been named after Rebecca Correa, her grandmother who was the wife of Governor Peter Simmons. Even if he had taken up the lifestyle of the Sabans and taken on a wench as a result of a mid- life crisis, his father-in-law would have given him a letter of recommendation.

Mary his wife died on St. Croix on January 24th, 1778. Hugh died on St. Croix at the age of 63 on October 9th, 1790. After his wife Mary died he may have taken on a new wife.

Whereas Nicholas Cruger exposed Alexander Hamilton to material realities, the Reverend Hugh Knox provided him with a strong spiritual and intellectual grounding. Knox who took Hamilton under his wing shortly after Rachel’s death. Was a Scottish Presbyterian Minister at odds with the mainstream of his faith because of his firm belief in free will over the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. For someone like Hamilton who was otherwise predestined to a life of obscurity, we can see how Knox’s philosophy would have appealed to him. The Reverend’s encouragement and influence undoubtedly led Hamilton to dream big dreams. Knox a brilliant sermon-writer and occasional doctor, took the young orphan under his wing and tutored him in the humanities and sciences.

When he was able to get away from the office, Hamilton further expanded his intellect in Knox’s library, where he read voluminously in the classics, literature, and history. Hamilton, who had early fancied himself a writer, published an occasional poem in the local paper, and impressed the residents of the island with a particularly vivid and florid account of the great hurricane of 1772.

On August 5th, 1779 Governor Thomas Dinzey of Saba in a letter to His Excellency General Clausen of St. Croix concerning runaway slaves refers to the reverend Hugh Knox as attorney to himself and Isaac Simmons, so that the reverend remained in contact with Saba even after he had moved to St. Croix.

In 1790 when the Reverend Dr. Thomas Coke of Methodist fame visited Saba he wrote that there was a church but no preacher. The last preacher Dr. Hugh Knox had left the island in 1771 (Knappert p.115)

Mention is also made of the English Presbyterian Church on Saba and the Rev .Hugh Knox in 1755 and 1758. In a letter from G.van Essen dated 26 February 1756 and 18 January 1758, which is to be found in the old classical archives in Amsterdam section St. Eustatius p.20 -2l, he refers to Rev. Hugh Knox on Saba.

Hamilton’s grandmother, Mary Fawcett was already married in 1718 and had a daughter Ann. In all she had seven children including Rachel(born 1729). Only Ann and Rachel survived. In 1740 Mary divorced and moved first to St. Kitts and then to St. Eustatius. Her husband John died in 1745. In Ron Chernow’s book page 17 he states: ” In 1756, one year after Hamilton was born, his grandmother, Mary Faucette, now residing on the Dutch island of St. Eustatius, made out her final will and left “my three dear slaves, Rebecca, Flora and Esther”, to her daughter Rachel.” The Horton’s and the Faucette’s would have been on St. Eustatius at the same time and would certainly have known each other.

I was helping two young archaeologists recently. They found in the archives of the Roman Catholic Church a printed sermon from 1792 dedicated to the people of Saba. It was a eulogy for the 29 year old Reverend John Elsworth delivered at Ellington, Connecticut, parts of which I will quote from.

Not long after he finished his studies at Yale College and commenced a preacher, he was invited to the Church of Christ in the Island of Saba, formerly the charge of the great and good Doctor Hugh Knox.

Warmed with love to Christ and zeal to promote the salvation of men, he received solemn ordination to the work of the gospel ministry, as the pastor of the church of Christ, in that distant region.*

*The island of Saba, contains about 120 European families – is in the vicinity of St. Eustatius and belongs to the United States of Holland. It enjoys a salubrious air, and is esteemed the healthiest of the islands.

That eminent divine, the Rev. Doctor Knox, member of the Presbytery of New York, was minister of the church there many years. He removed from thence to the island St. Croix, where, lately by death, he finished the labors of a long and useful life.

In consequence of application from the church in Saba, for one to succeed him, Mr. Ellsworth was ordained in September 1789, at East-Windsor, by the Ministers of the Church in the Vicinity. Letters from respectable characters on the island, with which the writer has been honored, express the highest and most affectionate esteem of him, during his ministry there.

To the Church and Congregation in the Island of SABA Honorable and Christian Friends

When, at your request the late Mr. Elsworth received ordination, with a view to his settlement with you as your spiritual pastor, it was the hope of the friends of religion that his life and usefulness would be prolonged, and that you might long rejoice in his light. But the sovereign arbiter of life, is sometimes pleased to call from their labors, those who appear to be best qualified, by natural and gracious endowments for extensive usefulness; perhaps to teach us that he is not confined to means, to us apparently best fitted to carry on the purposes of his grace, and also, to raise them to sublimer scenes, and more exalted employments in heaven.

The church of Christ sustains a loss by the death of so good and promising a Minister of Jesus. We sincerely sympathize with you in this bereaving providence. May a double portion of the spirit of this ascended servant of Christ, rest on his successor, who is now with you; and may his faithful labours for your spiritual interests, be crowned with abundant success.

After his return to the continent, he frequently expressed a cordial regard for you, as a people whom he sincerely loved, and whose salvation he ardently desired; and with whom had his health permitted, he would have chosen to have spent his days; and a grateful sense of those respectful attentions shewn to him, and kindnesses received from you, and particularly from His Honor Governor Dinzey, and his worthy family, in whose family he lived, during his residence in the island.

Accept, honorable and Christian brethren, the following discourse, as a tribute of respectful remembrance from the afflicted parents of the deceased, and from your sincere friend and servant, in our common Lord,

David M’Clure

East-Windsor

Connecticut,

Nov. 30, 1791

The sermon of 31 pages I will not serve up for your benefit, however it is interesting to read of the great interest in the salvation of the group of night rioters as described by Doctor Knox in 1772. By the way I passed this along to some of the younger folks and they had a good laugh and one said ;”My God, it is true, the more things change the more they remain the same.”

A sermon made at the funeral of Governor Peter Simmons by the Rev. Dr. Hugh Knox is supposed to be in the Library of Congress. To any of you computer experts who can find that sermon for me I would be deeply grateful.

And the search for the relationship with Alexander Hamilton goes on. To those who do not know him I will end with the following quotation: “I consider Napoleon, Fox and Hamilton the three greatest of men of our epoch, and if I were forced to decide between the three, I would give without hesitation – the first place to Hamilton. He divined Europe.”

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand.

So far for now this bit on information on Dr. Hugh Knox and John Elsworth.

Mail Service in former times

I

When we talk about mail service we should include passenger service as well. In former times when there were no planes flying between the Dutch islands schooners had a contract with the colonial government to transport mail and passengers.

We have a letter dated 25 April 1853, circular No. 57 in which the Governor of the Colony “Curacao and dependencies”, invites a number of merchants on Curacao to make a monthly contribution to the maintenance of bi-monthly mail service to St. Thomas from Curacao by schooner. Monthly pledges were made by several merchants to a total of fls.319.-per month. The Windward Islands at that time sent their mail by the Captains of privately owned schooners to be processed on St. Kitts. The government mail was taken care of in the same fashion.

From St. Kitts it then went on to St. Thomas, and the mail coming to these islands from Curacao went via St. Thomas and St. Kitts in the same manner. This was mostly government mail as there was hardly any contact between people from the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands back then. This was long before the oil refineries had started up and people from these islands started moving to the ABC islands. There was the occasional schooner which government chartered between the islands. I have correspondence from Curacao dated September 18th, 1845 where the Governor is sending correspondence to Saba with the schooner ‘Mary Francis’ owned by Capt. William Simmons. Also correspondence of October 7th 1845 ,whereby the Governor is sending two soldiers J.S. Kok and F.L. Flores, with the Government schooner ‘De Wesp’ to St. Eustatius . Also the newly appointed Lt. Governor of St. Eustatius Mr. W.H.J. van Idsinga was transported to St. Eustatius with the Dutch schooner “Esser” with Captain C.M. de Haseth.

After the Post offices had been established, so that on March 1st 1884 all three islands in the Windward Islands had a Post office, it became necessary to arrange for more direct transportation between Curacao and the Windward Islands. The Post Offices were opened on the following dates: On St. Maarten on January 1st, 1882, St. Eustatius, March 1st, 1884, The Bottom Saba March 1st 1884 and Windwardside, Saba on March 1st, 1944.

In 1886 an officer and philatelist on board H.M.S. “Atjeh” visited Curacao and wrote the following to a Dutch stamp Journal; “The forwarding of letters between the West-Indian islands Curacao, Bonaire, St. Maarten , St. Eustatius and Saba takes place free of charge and is transported by the Government schooner “Gouverneur van den Brandhoff.” From the colonial report of 1875 we can read that mail traffic from Curacao to the three Dutch Windward Islands was routed through the Dutch consul at St. Thomas, and thence to the Dutch consul at St. Kitts, from which island small vessels transported the mail to the three Dutch islands, and vice versa.

On January 30th 1886, a contract was signed with Mr. J.J. Scopean. This contract with the Government of the Colony called for the monthly services of the schooner named the “Gouverneur van den Brandhof” to all three Windward Islands for the yearly sum of fls.4.800.–. The schooner measured 219.46M3 or 76.73 gross tons.

In 1901 this contract was renewed with his widow Mrs. E.P. Laglois and was increased to fls.6.000.-per year. There were rates for first class passengers of fls.60.-to Curacao and for 2nd class passengers and children below the age of 12 the fare was half that of a 1st class passage. The freight on furniture and baggage for a family coming from Curacao was fls.125.-and between the Windward Islands it was fls.50.-Rates by the way which we consider quite high for a schooner back in 1886. There was even a rate of fls.50.-to transport someone who was insane and who was not accompanied.

A new contract was entered in to on December 28th, 1903. The rates for passengers remained unchanged to those applied in 1886 by Mr. Scopean, until the new contract was signed in 1903, and the rates decreased. A first class passage became fls.50.-second class passengers and children f.25.-whereas furniture and baggage for a family was reduced to fls. 100.-from Curacao and fls.40.-between the Windward Islands.

In a letter dated 4th August 1903 to the Governor, the Administrator of Finance reports with satisfaction that he was able to convince Mrs. E. P. Laglois to reduce the tariff for passengers traveling on her schooner between the islands. We should not forget that there were private schooners from Saba trading between the Windward Islands, New York, Bermuda, St. Kitts, St.Thomas and Barbados back then. People were not exactly jumping to get an expensive ride on Mrs. Scopeans schooner either; they had other choices, especially between the Windward Islands.

His Excellency the Governor was taking no chances however, as on August 19th of that same year he wrote to the Lt. Governors of all three Windward Islands enquiring from them if they had received any complaints concerning the rates for passengers or freight on the mail schooner, to please inform him of same.

The Lt. Governor of St. Eustatius Mr. G.J. van Grol, who was always interested in agriculture, stated in a letter to the Governor dated September 28th, 1903, that he had complaints concerning the freight charges on yams and potatoes. He stated that six barrels of yams at fls.5.-was fls.30.–. Then there was a 20% freight charge of fls.6.–. Import duties on Curacao were f.0.90 and transport in Curacao f.0.75 bringing charges to f. 7.65 so that in effect the farmer on St. Eustatius only received fls. 22.35 for 6 barrels of yams.

He said that if freight charges could be decreased then it would stimulate more exports of agricultural products from St. Eustatius to Curacao. He also thought that the costs of a passage were rather high.

The Lt. Governor of Saba, Mr. H.J. Beaujon (grandfather of Jan Beaujon of Windward Islands Bank Ltd.), in a letter of 4th October 1903, stated that although he had not received any complaints that the general opinion was that the cost of a passage to Curacao was high especially in view of in his own words the “impoverished table” (meager rations as we would say), offered on board. No French cuisine on those old schooners.

The Lt. Governor of St. Maarten , Mr. A. J. C. Brouwer answered the Governor on 6th January 1904.

He said that he had received no specific complaints but that there was general discontent as to the high costs of passages and freight. He said that even though a trip to Curacao could take from four to eight days or more, the high cost of the passages was inexcusable.

He said that before 1886, that there were about 5 or 6 occasions per year when one could get to Curacao by schooner and a first class passage varied from fls.25.-to fls.40.-and in many cases if the person was traveling with freight or to pick up same, then they did not have to pay any passage at all.

The Lt. Governor in addition wrote to His Excellency on 1st February 1904 that upon enquiry from the merchants the last 4 months of 1903 a total of f.45.-had been paid out in freight charges, but that this was on the low side as there had not been any export of potatoes to Curacao during the period mentioned. He also quoted some freight charges on items to Curacao:

Flour and potatoes, per barrel          fls. 1.-

Petroleum per box  0.37, 50

Genever per box of 19.50 liters        0.50

Smaller boxes         0.25

Corn and peas per bag        0.50

General merchandise per M3           7.-

Medium sized boxes contents unknown        0.50

In 1984 some of the old timers whom I interviewed could remember those days. According to Ralph Hassell, then ninety, his grandfather Capt. Henry Johnson had a two-master schooner called the “Spring Bird.” He went on a drunk in Curacao took in with pneumonia and died there. Ralph’s father “Old Claw” (John Benjamin Hassell) was a mate on board and brought up the schooner from Curacao after which she was sold. A year later his grandfathers’ remains were brought here in the schooner the “Gouverneur van den Brandhof” which ran the mail at the turn of the century and he was buried here on Saba in the family cemetery.

In February 1904 a vessel named the “Prince Hendrik” took over the service of the schooner from the “Gouverneur van den Brandhof” temporarily and on the same conditions.

On St. Maarten, D.C. van Romondt & Co., were agents for the schooner as is apparent from a letter from that firm of February 1st 1904 to Mr. A.B. Mussenden on St. Eustatius .

On October 10th, 1908 a new agreement was made between the owner and the government, this time for f.645.-per month, and in an appendix to this agreement dated February 16th 1909, the rent was increased to fls.800.-per month.

On June 21st, 1911, the first of the Saba owned mail boats entered the scene, namely the schooner “Priscilla”, as is apparent from the following agreement:

1st. Albert Land, temporary Administrator of Finances as appointed by Government, and

2nd. Capt. Samuel Augustus Simmons, captain of the Dutch schooner “Priscilla” with 69 registered tons and belonging to Saba, do hereby declare to have made the following contract with regard to a voyage to the Islands St. Maarten , St. Eustatius and Saba and return, under the following conditions:

1st. That the schooner be perfectly seaworthy properly crewed and in every respect equipped to leave on this voyage on the 23rd instant with destination to the aforementioned islands.

2nd. that the schooner must call twice at each of these islands, once to land the mails and once to take the mails.

3rd. that the government will pay to the contracting party Simmons on his arrival at Curacao, the sum of three hundred and seventy five guilders for the transport of mails and other government goods.

4th. that for government passengers of Curacao to one of the islands aforementioned shall be paid to the contracting party Simmons: for each first class passenger, with luggage the sum of forty guilders and for each second class passenger, with luggage, the sum of twenty guilders. 5th. that feeding of the government passengers, shall be at the expense of the contracting party Simmons.

The ‘S.S. Christiansted” a steamship owned by the German Company the Hamburg America Line maintained the services from 1st July 1905 through September 1908 and published a regular schedule. The ship was registered under the Danish flag and the captain was Capt. Hansen. At that time Denmark owned St.Thomas, St.Croix and St. John. The agents for the ship were: On Saba Mr. Joseph Benjamin Simmons, on St. Eustatius Mr. Henry Hassell Johnson and on St. Maarten Mr. Wilfred E. van Romondt.

The S.S. “Christiansted” was built in 1904. It was 321 gross tons or 167 net tons. It had a length of 140′, width 24′ and a depth or draft of 11′. It had an average speed of 9 knots and an engine of 310 horsepower and used 4 tons of coal every twenty four hours.

The passenger’s accommodations were not large. Besides a first class saloon, two 3 persons’ cabins, there was a “smoking room”, in which some passengers could be accommodated. Furthermore there was room for 60 deck passengers and for 360 tons of freight. A monthly service was organized from Curacao to the Windward Islands, whereby St. Thomas and St. Kitts were called at, and a bi-weekly service to Aruba and Bonaire. A subsidy of fls.20.000.-a year was granted to the Hamburg Line. The first year of operation the company claimed to have a deficit of fls.10.000. Obviously the Colonial Government was unwilling to finance at such a heavy cost the incidental transportation needs between the islands.

II

As was mentioned in part one of this story, before the Governor of the colony of Curacao made a contract in 1883 for regular service between the islands, there had existed private connections by Saban owned schooners.

In correspondence between the Windward Islands and the Governor there are many references of money being sent back and forth between the islands and Curacao and carried by Saba Captains. Just to mention a few: Capt. E. B. Hassell of the schooner ‘Mathila”, Capt. Engle Heyliger Simmons of the Swedish registered schooner ‘Sir Carl’; Capt. H.Johnson of the schooner ‘Isabel’ and Capt. P.J. Every of the British registered barkentine the ‘Nimble’. They were paid on a case by case basis. This took place before 1880.

After the ‘Christiansted’ a government owned schooner named “Gouverneur van Hurdt” took care of the mail service from October 1st, 1908 until it was lost in the night of 12th to 13th June 1910. This schooner which had been built prior to 1902 mostly served between the ABC islands.

Shortly thereafter a government owned steamship was taken into service. In a letter from the Minister of Colonies Mr. de Waal Malefyt, dated The Hague April 3rd 1913, he speculates about starting a steamship service to these islands to replace the “Princess Juliana”.

Curacao had steamship service to St.Thomas by a German Company the Hamburg America Line and was connected to Trinidad by the Royal West India Mail Service Line, forerunner of the K.N.S.M. (Royal Dutch Steamship Company.). The Minister wondered whether it would not be possible for the Royal West India Mail service Line to connect the Windward Islands via St. Thomas to Curacao and via Trinidad to Paramaribo, Surinam.

The Dutch Naval Commander in the Caribbean gave as his advice to His Excellency the Governor that the only reason why a boat service between Curacao and the Dutch Windwards was really necessary was for administrative purposes. As he correctly stated in his letter of 12th July 1913, if these islands did not belong to the colony Curacao, then no one would give themselves any kind of headaches over inter-island communications.

In order to give a clearer picture of the trade between the islands let us look at the following; The value of imports into Curacao during the year 1912 were; from St. Eustatius f.239.-from Sint Maarten f.106.-and from Saba f.2657,–. Exports from Curacao to the islands were as follows: to St. Maarten f.10.858.-to St. Eustatius f. 1.953.-and to Saba f. 15.601.–. At the same time imports to the Windward Islands from abroad were: to St. Maarten f.152.074.-to St. Eustatius f. 52.532.-and to Saba f. 78.498.–, while exports abroad were: from St. Eustatius f.60.374.-St. Maarten f. 43.313.-and Saba f. 5.276.-These figures stand to prove that the trade between the Windward and the Leeward Islands was insignificant when compared with trade from abroad. This hold true even more so today.

Passenger traffic was not much either. In 1912 departures from Curacao to St. Maarten were 69 (mostly colonial officials and members of the clergy )to St. Eustatius 4 and to Saba 11.

The government owned steamship the “Princess Juliana” had been built in Holland at a cost of f.160.000.-and it arrived in Curacao on 20th November 1910. However due to a faulty design and top-heavy superstructure, which for more accommodations had been recommended by Governor de Jong van Beek en Donk, the ship was not seaworthy. It was 443 gross tons and 229 net tons and had a length of 50, 30 meters, a width of 7,63 meters and a depth of 2,87 meters, fully loaded. There were four, 2-passenger cabins, 1 luxury cabin, a smoking salon, which could be used as reserve accommodations, and a large dining room in the first-class amidships. Also, one 4-passengers cabin, four 2-passengers cabins, and a dining room in the second-class section to the back of the ship. Besides, there were the necessary service-rooms and also facilities for deck-passengers. The ship had a motor capacity of 327 horsepower, and used 25kg of coal per mile.

Due to engine trouble which could not be taken care of at either St. Kitts or St. Thomas the ship had to make it’s first to the Windward Islands via Trinidad. Already on this trip the ship proved unsatisfactory for the crossing of the Caribbean in the path of the trade winds. Since the ship had been built for the coastal trade, it was sold to Surinam for f. 100.000.-where in 1921 it was still reported as doing duty there. After this steamer episode, the trade between the islands went back to schooner trade with Saban owned and operated schooners.

The Administrator of Finance in a lengthy report to his Excellency the Governor dated 16th September 1913 suggested that instead of a steamship service between Curacao and the Windwards it would be better and cheaper to make a contract with the owner of the schooner ‘Estelle” (Capt. T.C. Vanterpool of Saba). He also owned the ‘Pretoria”. The suggestion was to let both schooners run a regular service to St.Thomas, and then the passengers could go from there with the Hamburg America Line on to Curacao.

Whereas it had cost the government formerly around f.62.700.-to maintain the mail service with the steamship the ‘Princess Juliana’, the Administrator of Finance stated that the two-schooner service would cost the government no more than f.16.000,– per year. (In 1913, it cost the government f.13.500, — to operate the schooner ‘Estelle’.).

In a petition to His Excellency the Governor, the merchants of Bonaire complained that the ‘Estelle’ only called there once a month and although larger than the ‘Gouverneur van den Brandhof” was more uncomfortable, and that they had enjoyed the steamship service provided by the ‘Christiansted’ and the ‘Princess Juliana’ even though they had found it regrettable that the latter proved not to have been built correctly and was unsatisfactory for use in Caribbean waters.

Also the Court of Policy on Bonaire in a separate petition informed the Governor of their preference for a steamship company. According to a report from His Excellency the Governor dated November 5th, 1913, the ‘Estelle’ although a good sailor took from 7 to 8 days to travel to the Windward Islands, and that “first class passengers” actually meant sleeping in the dining hut and second class passengers had to sleep on deck, and that especially for the ladies in these “modern times” (1913 mind you), this type of transportation between the islands was not yet up to date.

Around 1914-1915 His Excellency the Governor started a lengthy correspondence with representatives of the “Ostasiatiske Kompagni” at Copenhagen regarding a service between the islands. The following is quoted from a letter to Mr. Berg at St. Thomas, representative of this company from H.E. the Governor dated 11 December 1915.

“Sir, On the third of July last Mr. Mikelson representative of the “Ostasistische Kompagni” at Copenhagen, called on me, introduced by Mr. Edwin Senior, agent of the Hamburg-Amerika Line. He informed me, that his said company had o.a. the intention to start a steamship communications between Denmark and St.Thomas and, in connection therewith, to cause a smaller steamer to run between the different West Indian islands and, if possible, also Maracaibo. As he had learned that the Government of this colony wished to have a steamship communication between the different islands of the colony, he asked me whether the Government would be willing to grant a subsidy if the islands were included in the itinerary.

I answered him, that if no steamer was bought in Holland for the navigation between the islands of this colony, his proposal might probably be accepted. I then asked him to make his conditions known to H.E. the Minister of Colonies at The Hague, to which he replied, that he ought first to consult the Management of his company in Europe.

H.E. the Minister, whom I had made acquainted with the matter, requested me lately, to enter into negotiations with you.” The agent at St. Thomas, Mr. H. Berg, responded to H.E. the Governor on 13th January 1916 as follows: “Sir,

We are in receipt of your highly esteemed letter of 11th December 1915, and have noted the contents with great interest. The East Asiatic Company, Copenhagen, for which we have the honour of being General Agents for the West Indies, have for many years maintained a regular service between Europe and St. Thomas with comparatively large passenger and cargo steamers, and lately also with Motor ships.

We are now placing before the East Asiatic Company your much honoured proposal, and shall take the liberty of reverting to the question in due course.

We beg, however to mention that, at the present time, it would be very difficult to secure suitable steamers for the service indicated, and owing to the scarcity of tonnage and high freights paid in the open market we would have to look for a big subsidy to keep up the regular service between the islands of your colony.

We beg to kindly state how large a subsidy you eventually could offer if we succeeded in providing suitable ships to do the service.” The steamship service referred to earlier was quite costly. For the period October 1905/1906 the government paid the Hamburg Amerika Line fls.20.000.-for the services of the “S.S. Christiansted.”

The”S.S. Princess Juliana” had cost the government fls. 160.000.-Due to poor construction it proved unsatisfactory for use in the Caribbean Sea and was shipped to Surinam for the river trade. It served a total of 26 months, from November 20th, 1910 until the end of 1912, and the operating costs to the government were fls.60.000.-per year.

After having been accustomed to some years of steamship service with the “S.S.Christiansted” and the “S.S. Princess Juliana” it was back to schooner services for the islands after 1912.

III

After 1912 the islands were back to schooner service. Shortly thereafter World War I started.

Although the Dutch Government was neutral the islanders were perceived to be sympathetic to the Germans. The owners of the schooners were mostly from Saba and were accused of trading with the German submarines. A newspaper from Guyana quoted Sir Winston Churchill of making that accusation. According to my old friend Elias Richardson, then a police officer on Saba, after the war one of the famous submarine captains Count Felix Graf von Luckner b. Dresden 9 June 1881, died Malmo Sweden, 13 April 1966 on July 7th, 193t, visited Saba to thank some of the old captains. I have a copy of an autographed photo of him which he left behind when he visited here in the nineteen thirties. He was known as the Sea-Devil and his crew ‘The Emperor’s Pirates’. He commanded a large three master schooner the SMS ‘Sea Eagle’ (1916-1917). He sunk many ships and caused no casualties.

Despite the war the Governor on Curacao continued to search for a solution to the transportation problem between the islands. In a letter to His Excellency the Governor dated 22 January 1916, the Administrator of Finance suggested that a subsidy of fls.30.000,– per year and at most forty thousand, should be sufficient to cover the costs of the mail service by steamship, as it now costs the government fls.15.000 per years for the schooner service.

In a letter dated 19th May 1917 from the Lt. Governor of St. Eustatius to His Excellency the Governor of the colony Curacao he indicated that they were becoming worried over the total dependency on St. Kitts and the fact that some of the ships calling there, among them the “Corona”, and one of the Canadian ships may be taken out of service. The Quebec Lines sailed between St. Kitts and New York with stops at Bermuda. This line was very convenient for Windward Islanders back then. Among those ships were the “Corona”, the “Perema” and the “Guyana.” In the Ellis Island records in New York harbour one can find records of many of the people from these islands who entered the United States through that port. Just as a curiosity. In doing research between the twenty odd million people who entered through that port in a fifty year period 99.9% of the Lejuez’ were from St. Maarten and the same goes for the Leverock’s of Saba.

The Lt. Governor of St. Eustatius quotes the “St. Kitts-Nevis Daily Bulletin” of Friday May 18th, 1917 as stating:

“The small islands of Anguilla, St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius all depend on St. Kitts for food supplies as steamers do not call at their ports. When our food stuff cargoes are short for want of grace, these islands also suffer by reason of this port being the distribution center.

The food question is becoming a very serious matter and if one of the United Steamships is taken off this route, the situation will become still more acute. We can quite realize the difficulties, which exist in the distribution of vessels of the merchant service but, we hope, that the claims of the West Indian Islands for protection from starvation will be given some consideration by the British or American governments.” In 1917 the Johnson Line from Sweden offered to do the mail service but nothing came out of that as well as several other offers including the Philadelphia Shipping Company.

In a letter dated 24th October 1917 from the Lt. Governor of St. Eustatius he informed His Excellency the Governor that the situation was getting worse. Captain Ben Hassell of Saba who had brought him shingles from Demarara had informed him that that country would no longer be exporting to these islands. Also, that the export of sugar (Sugar Prohibition Order 1917) had come into effect lately in St. Kitts and Nevis. Especially the muscavado sugar is sorely missed.

In a report from His Excellency the Governor dated November 5th, 1917 he stated that the Lt. Governor of Saba had recently been to Curacao on the schooner “Estelle” and that Saba and St. Maarten were not having any difficulties with imports from the British islands. He stated that Mr. Henry Hassell Johnson, one of the largest importers on St. Eustatius , was being refused goods from the British islands because he was known as being hostile to the entente powers. In other words he was a German sympathizer in World War I. On November 21st, 1917, the Lt. Governor of St. Eustatius denied that Mr. Henry H. Johnson was having any difficulties with imports because of his sympathy towards the Germans and that he, Johnson, had proven this to him. The problem was that St. Kitts itself was short on imports, but that small quantities of sugar were again being exported to St. Eustatius.

After much correspondence back and forth and proposals to have steamers of the Royal Mail Service do the run, the Minister of colonies decided in 1918 to have two schooners built for the purpose.

The Governor did not feel much for the proposal. Also there was a report from Mr. Jansen of the Curacao Petroleum Company (SHELL) which in 1915 had started a complex on Curacao which was to become the largest oil refinery in the world. Mr. Jansen said that the schooner “Estelle” which was a fast sailer had been giving excellent service to these islands. He suggested to continue with the “Estelle” until the war was over and then to build a steamer of 150 to 200 tons capacity with accommodations for 15 passengers.

His Excellency the Governor in a detailed report on March 16th, 1918, informed the Minister of Colonies in The Hague of the problems connected with the building of two schooners, and said that we could wait for better communications between the islands until the war was over. He further stated:” For the service to the Windward Islands we have an excellent schooner chartered the “Estelle” for fls.24.000.-per year. Although this is a privately owned schooner, in my opinion it is far better doing it this way and less costly than if the schooner was owned by the government. This service can suffice until after the war that a steamer can be built.”

The Minister of Colonies Mr. Pleyte did not give up that easy. In a lengthy report to Governor Nuyens of 2 April 1918 he complained about the high costs of hiring the schooner “Estelle” which had gone from f.1000.-to f.1.250.-and then to f.2.000.-per month in less than two years. He said that his offices could get the American government to release quality lumber for the purpose of building two large schooners. He also suggested that government officials visit the islands more often and that the two schooners, one servicing the Leewards and one the Windwards would also provide good inter-island communications, and that these two schooners could alternate in the once a month across the Caribbean trade between the two island groups.

On August 2nd, 1918 the Governor wrote back to the Minister of Colonies that indeed in normal times the price being paid to the owner of the “Estelle” would be considered high but he must remember the world was at war. He stated that the “Dreadnought” a sister ship of the “Estelle” and also belonging to Capt. Thomas Charles Vanterpool of Saba was being hired out to a Cuban for fls. 4.000.-per month.

He further stated: “I recently was requested by telegram to hire a schooner to transport corn from La Guaira. I could get two schooners about 200 tons each for f.10.000.- each for the trip, but the owners insisted that they should use the ships for themselves on the return. The “Estelle” nowadays could earn a lot more money than it is receiving as a subsidy from the government. However the owner lives on Saba and therefore prefers this run above other runs, whereby he would lose the opportunity to be often at home. In addition he is hoping to be able to keep his vessel on this run for as long as possible. If the government started to build its own schooners, then he would probably try to profit as much as possible from the opportunities now available and cancel the contract. This would bring us into great difficulties. At the moment we cannot do without the services of a ship which makes the trip between Curacao and the Windward Islands. Any moment Curacao can be the only place from which St. Maarten , Saba and St. Eustatius get their supplies. St. Kitts and St.Thomas on more than one occasion have prohibited exports whereby our Windward Islands found themselves in great difficulties.

“On January 18th, 1918 the Governor of the British Leeward Islands cabled me as follows: “Governor Dutch St. Maarten asks me to inform you that owing to prohibition of exports, foodstuffs from St. Kitts, situation in St. Maarten is very grave and famine is threatened. He asks you to send him immediately from Curacao a special vessel with food supplies. I deeply regret that owing to shortage of foodstuffs in these islands I cannot come to his assistance.”

“Fortunately the “Estelle” which returned here from the Windward Islands, could carry food supplies back, because there was no other vessel available at the time. For a period of several months Curacao supplied the Windward Islands with the most important food supplies, which worry us a lot because many times supplies here were also very scant. It was therefore of incalculable value that we had a vessel that could transport the required amounts each month.” So far His Excellency the Governor.

In the continuation of this article we will cover the period just after World War I when the schooner trade continued between the islands.

IV

On November 18th, 1918 the Governor of the colony Curacao wrote to the Lt. Governor of Saba in connection with plans to buy the schooner “Estelle” to enquire if there were any mortgages on the vessel. There were none. The “Estelle” had been purchased for Capt. T.C. Vanterpool by Capt. Engle Heyliger in Gloucester Massachussets. For tax purposes the sales price in 1906 was listed as being f.100.–. When Capt. Vanterpool sold the “Estelle” in 1919 to the government he did so for the sum of f.50.000.-.That was the going price in those days. About that same time in the old property registers we have a record of the purchase of the schooner the “Buena” of Providence Rhode Island. Capt. William Benjamin Hassell residing in Barbados acting as Attorney for his brother Abraham Hassell residing in Rhode Island, sold it to their brother John Clarence Hassell, on Saba. The sale took place on November 29th, 1920 for fls.40.000.-.The schooner was renamed the “Maisie Hassell”.

The Minister of Colonies authorized the purchase of the “Estelle” in a letter dated October 4th, 1918. The Minister again expressed his preference to have two schooners instead of a steamer.

On January 10th, 1919, the Administrator of Finance stated in a letter to His Excellency the Governor that, the day before, the notarial deed had been passed in which the “Estelle” had been purchased by government.

The Governor on January 29th, 1919, informed the Minister of Colonies of the purchase. He said that the deed of transfer would be sent up later, as it had been sent to Saba to be inscribed in the register of mortgages. He also stated that the former owner Mr. T.C. Vanterpool would continue on as Captain.

In 1918 the 2nd chamber of Holland of Holland bought a second schooner named the “Gladys”, which went ashore on a rock. The following schooner the “Anna” proved to be too slow. The “Estelle” which had been rented for fls.24.000.-per year, after purchase cost the government f. 50.000.-to operate, and after three years the schooner was sold for f.8.000.-

In January 1920, Governor Helfrick purchased the schooner the “Virginia” for the trade between the Windward Islands and St.Thomas. The Governor had said that it would cost between 75 and 80 thousand guilders to build a new schooner. The “Virginia” was sold to the government for f.40.000.-by Captain Abraham Mardenborough, who remained on as Captain. He was married to Ms. Ohney Wathey and they were the owners of the former lovely old wooden home opposite the Orange School on the Front Street of Philipsburg.

The “Virginia” had been built in 1917 in Curacao. It was 70 feet long, was 55 net tons and could carry 83 tons of freight. The “Estelle” was 105 net tons.

During the year 1919 and again in 1920 there was a lively correspondence between the Governor, the Minister of Colonies and the owners of the Royal Netherlands West India Mail Company, concerning the possibility of a steamship stopping at St. Maarten on the way to and from Europe, and a connecting service from there on to Curacao, while maintaining a schooner service between the Windward Islands and St. Kitts.

At the request of His Excellency the Governor, the Honourable Canton Judge Mr. F.G. Schalkwijk in a report dated January 6th, 1921, described his trip with the government owned schooner the “Estelle” from Curacao to St. Maarten . We include it, so that our readers of today will have some idea of what a journey from Curacao or vice versa meant back then.

“Your Excellency requested me to give a written report of my experiences and observations of my journey to the Windward Islands, where I had traveled to, in order to assume my post as Canton Judge.

I gladly comply with this invitation. Hopefully that in this manner I can assist to bring about improvements in a situation which a concerned administration can no longer allow to remain as it now exists.

We started our journey from Curacao in the afternoon of December 20th, 1920 and the 28th of December following we reached our destination St. Maarten around 12 noon. The weather during the crossing as a rule was rough, the last days in the evenings even stormy. The number of first class passengers was originally 14 of which one got off in Bonaire. These persons consisted of two families, each of three persons, four religious sisters (nuns), one female teacher, the writer of this article and his housekeeper.

Because of this large number, both huts, aft and stern, the cabin and the captains hut were all taken up for sleeping. As for the material care on board, the food in general was of good quality and not badly prepared. But it is served in the cabin which also serves as sleeping quarters. The bunks are hard, the sheets dirty; for the hand baggage there is no other place than the already packed cabin. The W.C. is in the immediate vicinity of the huts, but the sewerage system proved to be inadequate; the dirt is removed with difficulty and often the sea returns what has been given her gladly and with much trouble.

The lavatory is in the W.C. It consists of a washbasin with a fawcett and a bucket underneath.

A voyage with the “Estelle” need not be uncomfortable under all conditions. With several experienced passengers, and with good weather, a sailing voyage across the Caribbean can be an enjoyable experience. But the voyage is a painful experience when the schooner is filled to capacity with passengers of which all, myself the exception – are seasick and of which a great many have to spend the night in the same room – the cabin where the meals are also served.

I will spare Your Excellency the gory details of the filth, in the morning in the cabin, when the buckets of vomit were still not cleared and a high sea made the breakfast fly off the table, turned over the buckets and all of that swimming around the floor with the clothes and the handbags. I yoke when I think back on those scenes. (I too while translating and typing the Honourable Judges account).

One should also remember, that on a simple schooner as this, seasickness even with good weather is unavoidable, at least for ladies. Nearly all female passengers stayed the entire length of the voyage in their cabins.

There is also a factor which helps to dirty the “Estelle” quicker on a voyage, and which also causes this to be an unpleasant memory for all. I mean the facts that people of different sexes are forced to sleep in the same place; I shared the cabin with our housemaid, a religious sister and a young girl.

There is no question of prudishness. Seasick people do not have thoughts about sins. But the looseness of morals, which generally is the result of being together for a long time in surroundings without comfort, did not go so far, that in this case one could dress and wash up in the company of one another. Besides taking this out of consideration, with the continuous swinging and rocking of the vessel it is only possible for a born seaman, to go to the W.C. and to wash up properly.

One has to be contented with the inevitable, does not bathe, does not clean up oneself and eventually reaches his destination, tired because of sleepless nights, with dirty and soiled clothing, feeling in poor health because of constipation, which occurred to several of the passengers, as a result of the obstacles to do quietly that which nature calls on us to do daily.

Is it any wonder then, that in the hearts of many first class passengers eventually bitterness and resentment occurred against the Government, which in the matter of travel facilities show so little concern towards its servants?

How much damage do they suffer to their clothing and other goods, for which they are never compensated?

And yet we had no complaints, when we compare our fate to that of the second-class passengers. They consisted of several families of the masses (proletariat), in addition to three government passengers. They lacked everything. Accommodations for sleeping practically did not exist; the hold was such a cramped affair and dirty, so that nearly all preferred to spend the night on board in between the deck cargo. A W.C. did not exist, and the use of the one of the first class was prohibited to those of the second class.

In the first days the food here also left much to be desired; it appears that the government only compensates the captain with a certain amount of money for each passenger, but according to him, the amount granted is far from enough. Quality and quantity of the food improved though, after complaints were lodged from that quarter.

It appears to me that the Government cannot remain indifferent to the situation as outlined herein. I know from experience that an ocean voyage has its inconveniences. But from the moment that one knows, that with modern means of transportation the distance between Curacao and the Windwards can be covered in a few days’ time, a journey of nine days, in a schooner beating up against the wind, is felt as a personal injustice.

The Hon. Judge went on to give recommendations as to how the accommodations on the “Estelle” could be improved in the event the government could find no other means of transportation. He emphasized also the need and the importance to improve communications between Curacao and the Windward Islands.

The cook on board the “Estelle” was Fifteen (15) year old Diederick Every, great uncle of Lt. Governor Jonathan Johnson. I interviewed him sixty-five years later and will give his story sometime in future.

Lt. Governor Van der Zee, of the Windward Islands, also made a report on a voyage with the schooner “Estelle” and had the same complaints as His Honour the Judge. He concluded his report on conditions on board the “Estelle” by stating that: “I must mention that a pig is still walking around on the deck of the vessel.”

Both gentlemen though had nothing but praise for the crew who under these circumstances nevertheless managed to be extraordinarily helpful to the distressed passengers.

V

Voices were once again raised to the Colonial Authorities in The Hague as a result of the reports made by Judge Mr. F.G. Schalkwijk and Lt. Governor van der Zee.

People were once again calling for better transportation between the Leeward and the Windward Islands. Bear in mind there were neither airports nor airplanes flying in those days.

In 1920, the Government owned the two schooners the “Estelle”, 105 net tons and the “Virginia”, 55 net tons. The “Estelle” made a monthly trip to Curacao, while the “Virginia” made a weekly trip through the Windward Islands to St. Kitts and back. My cousin Carl Lester Johnson who lived on St. Maarten in the nineteen thirties used to tell me stories about Captain Abraham Mardenborough who used to own the Virginia. After he retired on St. Maarten he used to take a stroll up to the square in the afternoons. Lester told me that he had a gold pocket watch on a long gold chain. The boys would ask him “Captain Mardenborough can you tell us what time it is?” He then would go through an elaborate ritual to take out the watch and in an authoritative voice announce the time of the day and allow the boys to see his precious gold watch.

The Minister of Colonies in 1921 proposed to the Governor to allow first class passengers to travel via Trinidad and St. Kitts with steam service so as to make the trip more comfortable for them and to make more room available on the schooners for second-class government travelers such as policemen, military personnel and so on.

In 1922, the government was again looking at schooners, as in a letter dated August 2nd, 1922, a Mr. Lampe on Curacao on behalf of the firm D.C. van Romondt & Co., at St. Maarten was offering the Dutch schooner the “Cyril” for rent to government at the rate of fls. 1.250.-per trip. In a telegram to His Excellency the Governor, the Lt. Governor on St. Maarten Mr. Vander Zee, recommended the schooner “Champion” (97 tons) which was three years old belonging to Mr. David Nesbeth, for eleven hundred and twenty guilders per month. The “Estelle” had been removed from service, according to a letter from ‘Herrera Hermanos’, Bonaire, dated August 14th, 1922. They offered their schooner of 160 tons, the “Reliance” for f.1.000.-per month. This was a new vessel built on Bonaire which had made its maiden voyage in July 1920 and was describer as a fast sailer.

Also a Mr. Theodore F. van der Linde Schotborgh, owner of the 85 foot schooner “Carlota” offered his schooner for sale to the government for fls.40.000.-The schooner had been built on Curacao in 1912 by his father-in-law Rene Hellmund and was built from Indjo (Cohi) and Vera wood which according to him was far superior than vessels built in the United States of Nova Scotia. He said that he was also willing to rent it to the government for fls.2.000.-per month.

To give an idea of the number of offers available, there was also a letter dated Curacao July 13th 1922; Mr. C.B. de Gorter offered the Dutch schooner “Meteor” of 143.56 gross tons for sale for a sum of seventy three thousand guilders or fls. 1.900.-rent for a once a month trip to the Windward Islands. Also Mr. Netherwood on St. Maarten offered his schooner “Cyril” at fls. 1.250.-per month. The Lt. Governor of St. Maarten however thought that the schooner was too old and unreliable. Also a Mr. Arends on Aruba offered his schooner the “Aoemoria” at fls. 2.000.-per trip, and a Mr. Boom offered the schooner “Frieda” for fls. 1.300.-per month.

The “Ina Vanterpool” belonging to Capt. T.C. Vanterpool of Saba was the successful competitor in the tender for the mail transportation. This schooner remained in service until she was wrecked in a gale in the harbour of St. Eustatius on Wednesday, September 15th, 1926. The “Ina Vanterpool” was a three master built in Barbados by Capt. Lovelock Hassell of Saba and was sold to Captain Tommy for fls. 162.500.–. In 1927 we read in J.C. Waymouths book “Memories of St.Martin N.P.” the following; “News reached us on December 30th of the loss of two of our Island crafts – the schooners “Georgetown” and the “Express”.

The owner of the first was Captain Tommy Vanterpool of Saba who had already last year sustained the loss of the “Ina” on September 15th, while performing the same services as that of the “Georgetown”. The “Georgetown” went ashore at Nevis and the “Express” went ashore at Martinique.

My uncle Charles Herbert Simmons who was only 16 at the time was a sailor on the “Georgetown” went it went ashore on Nevis. The captain at that time was Capt. Herman Simmons. None of the crew was lost but it took several anxious days before news of his safety reached my grandparents on Saba.

The “Georgetown” was known as a fast schooner. In a race to St. Maarten from Curacao, Captain Samuel Augustus Simmons took the schooner there in forty eight hours. The schooner did not have an engine. This schooner was a 2 master Canadian schooner, around 60 to 70 tons. Capt. Randolph Dunkin told me that he had made one trip on the “Georgetown” which his uncle Capt. T.C. Vanterpool had purchased from Capt. Lovelock Hassell.

A schooner called the “Alice” which belonged to Mr. Hilivere Lawrence of Grand Case was chartered by Capt. T.C. Vanterpool to take the place of the “Georgetown” and left on January 9th, 1928 for Curacao. She made several trips but was not big enough for the trade, and then Capt. Tommy went to the United States to buy the “Mayflower.”

The schooner “Virginia” in the gale of 1928 broke her moorage and was never heard of again. She was anchored in St. Kitts and did not have anyone on board.

The “Mayflower” arrived in 1929 and was also equipped with an engine. She had two masts, was 190.27 tons and was 147 feet long. She had been built in Gloucester, Massachusetts to compete in the “Bluenose” races, but was not allowed to compete because she was built in the style of a yacht. She broke her bowsprit and both masts in 1931, to the North-East of Bonaire and was later sold to a group in Jamaica.

My uncle Captain Charles Reuben Simmons who commanded the “Mayflower” for Captain Vanterpool between 1928 and 1930 used to tell me that in 1929 he left St. Kitts with 375 passengers and 48 hours later landed them at Curacao. Once he managed to carry 460 passengers with the “Mayflower” on a trip from the Windward Islands to Curacao. He also took some cattle on board at St. Eustatius in case the schooner got becalmed he would then butcher the animals to feed the passengers. On return trips to the Windward Islands he carried as many as 100 people. The least amount of passengers he ever carried to Curacao was 110 from Dominica. Every fifteen days he would make the run to carry workers for the oil refinery there.

The “Three Sisters” a three master schooner which had been purchased by Capt. William Benjamin Hassell, in 1927, and was 190.76 tons and 115 feet long, took over the mailservice in 1929 and was the last of the Saba owned mail schooners to ply the trade between the Dutch islands.

The captain was Will Leverock of Windwardside. In Dr. Julia Crane’s book “Statia Silhouettes” my old friend Ralph Milburn Simmons had the following to say about his time on those schooners: “Then I got a job on the schooner that used to transport passengers to Curacao, what we call “moose boy” to attend to the passengers. Five dollars a month in those days. But five dollars was plenty money those days. There were no real tourists, just immigrants, immigrants. The schooner used to carry immigrants down to Curacao to find work, you see. So in between you might find a couple -’cause there was no steamers those days. In between then you would find a big shot then would be traveling’. Those schooners would belong to Tommy Vanterpool. I don’t know if you heard about him. He died in St. Thomas. He died in St. Thomas.”

“And then after that I learned how to steer a ship. And then there was another schooner named the “Three Sisters”, three masts. A ship came in one day while I was down there, in Curacao and they said they wanted some men. And I asked the captain – the captain was named Will Johnson, from St. Johns -and I asked the captain to let me stay off, and he told me all right.” Ralph had been dealing with me for so long in the politics that he gave the captain my name. It should be Will Leverock.

The “Three Sisters” ran an independent service and then was followed by the K.N.S.M. steamship service with the ‘Atlas.” The “Three Sisters” was lst off St.Croix in 1932 when she struck a reef. I remember being told by one of her owners, the late Mr. Carl Hassell, that they earned back her purchase price on her first run to Curacao with passengers and freight.

After the “Virginia” was lost, the “Diamond M. Ruby” a 2 master schooner belonging to Capt. R.T. Barnes of St.John’s village came up from Barbados and ran the mails between the Dutch Windward Islands. In the 1920’s the schooner “Johanna” belonging to Mr. David Nesbith of St. Maarten ran the mailservice for awhile. The Captain was first William “Paget” Simmons of Saba and after that Captain Bremer of St. Maarten . We have a copy of a petition dated St. Maarten , 9th July 1931, and signed by the leading citizens of that time addressed to the Honourable President and Members of the Court of Policy on St.Martin N.P. which reads as follows:

“We the undersigned long suffering islanders hereby express our hope that the Government will be convinced of the necessity of providing a subsidy to enable a line of steamers to call here fortnightly on their way from and to New York.

“We know that in the past we have been grievously neglected and our wishes disregarded; but we trust that the Government will on this occasion grant us our sincere desire.

“Steamship communication is now being maintained between Curacao and this island at great cost to the colony. This service so far as we can see could very well be dispensed with. Its tangible results consist in the transportation of a few passengers, packages and mails. The bulk of this business goes with the mail schooner “Three Sisters” and could be dealt with entirely by that vessel.

In presenting our plea for the subsidizing of a direct steamship service between New York and this place, we can confidently state that such a service would shorten by half the time now required for the transport of mails and cargo from the United States to the Netherlands Part of this island, while also serving to remove the great handicaps under which business is carried on here as compared with the French division. In fact the benefits derived would extend directly and indirectly to all sections of the community. The monthly service from New York now in operation only on a trial basis, and will doubtless in the event of a subsidy not being granted, be eventually withdrawn. We beg that the request embodied in this document be submitted to His Excellency the Governor with a plea for his favourable consideration. This petition was signed by about 75 influential citizens, many of them merchants from the Dutch side of the island.

We will continue next time with the service after 1931 and in which the K.N.S.M. played a big role and Capt. Gittens worked on some of those ships. He has promised to share his experiences with our readers on this interesting part of our history which the few old-timers would like to hear about one more time before they start their journey to the great beyond.

World War I and the Islands


Education on Saba in bygone years

The educational system as we know it today is quite different from what was available in former times. For a great part of its history since the island was settled by Europeans in the early part of the seventeenth century there were no schools at all.

In the year 1816 there was no public school on Saba when the Dutch took over the island from the English who had occupied it for some years. There were however some individuals who gave lessons to their own children and to the children of other family members and friends. When the historian M.D. Teenstra visited Saba in 1829 he observed that in the Anglican Church in The Bottom, that one of the members of the Council of Policy was also functioning as a schoolteacher and was giving lessons in the English language to about fifteen children. On June 1st 1836 the R.C. Priest Martinus Joannes Niewindt (born Amsterdam 17 May 1796- died Curacao 12 January 1860), who later became Bishop, visited Saba and said that few of the 1800 inhabitants could read or write. Niewindt could not communicate with the people as he was unable to speak English. In 1863 the Reverend Warneford of the Anglican community, reports that a Sunday and Day school would be established shortly. In 1857 in a letter we read that nearly all persons of Windwardside and The Valley (The Bottom) could read. In 1864 he writes;” I have much cause to be thankful for the good spirit evinced in this Island, and for the efforts which have been made to obtain from the Dutch Government an annual grant for the support of a resident minister and schoolmaster. Schools are all important here now, for the laboring class have newly received their freedom, and require to be instructed in the very first rudiments of Christianity. In 1867 he writes that the population of Saba was 1411 and that the attendance at the Anglican Church School was 30 boys and 25 girls. In 1948, the Rev’d. Francis W. Jenson, the then Rector saw the need for an Anglican Kindergarten. He at once contacted the Government, and was given immediate support. On January 5th 1948 the school opened with teacher Mrs. Ursula Dunkin who taught until 1968 and then had to leave to care for her sick mother and was replaced by Miss Esseline R. Simmons.

In a letter from Father J.C. Gast in 1854, a visiting Roman Catholic priest, he mentions that nearly all the white inhabitants in The Bottom and in the Windwardside could read and write. This sounds rather strange as in 1790 out of a population of 1400 there were only five (5) people on the island who themselves could barely read and write.

In Windwardside after 1844, Sarah Mardenborough gave religious lessons until 1873. She had converted to Catholicism. She taught the youth, took care of the church, helped the priests and took care of the ill. As a result she contracted leprosy but kept on giving instructions to the youth of Windwardside. She died on December 19th, 1903 at the age of 79 and is buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery in Windwardside. Much later in the village of Hell’s Gate, Mary Jane Johnson also taught children there. According to research done by R.C. Priest, father G.J.M. Dahlhaus, in a chronological history of education on Saba, he stated that Father Gast wanted to start a Roman Catholic School in The Bottom. The Anglican Church of course had their own school there which was a continuation of the school which Mr. Teenstra had observed in 1829 already.

In 1890 there was no public school on Saba. However a teacher residing on Saba was given a grant by the colonial government to give free education to the poor. At that time he had some thirty pupils. In 1878 there was a school in The Bottom with 41 pupils and two schools in Windwardside with respectively 33 and 54 pupils. These were the Anglican schools and a private school affiliated with the Roman Catholic church and led by Mrs. Gertrude Johnson born Hassell. Of course instruction was limited and was conducted in the English language the native tongue of all the inhabitants of the island back then.

There was a school in Palmetto Point (Mary’s Point) from 1919 to 1923. John H. Skerrit of Montserrat was the government teacher. Lt. Governor Van der Zee who visited the school in 1921 wrote that the school had 18 pupils, Because of costs the school was closed in February 1923.

Education back then was more geared to survival. The Navigation School of Capt. Freddie Simmons which existed from 1909 to 1922 provided lessons for teenage young men who aspired to a career at sea. The results of this school did Saba proud as close to 200 young men passed through this school and many of them went on to become famous captains especially in the merchant marine of the United States. The making of socks and gloves was an old home industry on Saba and was still being done in 1829. Socks were sold for fls.6.—per dozen and gloves for fls.8.—a dozen. These were made from cotton grown and spun on Saba. After the demise of this home industry, the people went over to the making of hats including high quality Panama hats. In 1857 the earliest mention of this was by the R.C. Priest Father J.C. Gast. He wrote that the plaiting of hats was the only general branch of home industry which is practiced here. The straw came from Cuba. As a result of the Spanish-American war in 1898 there was stagnation in the import of straw from that country. People then tried to import straw from Puerto Rico.

After 1890 the Dominican nuns propagated the making of straw hats in Simpson bay on St. Martin and on Hell’s Gate on Saba, and courses were given to all interested parties.

The late Mr. Volney Hassell who was blind from birth, in Saba Silhouettes gives us an idea of the importance of plaiting hats back then and the switch over to the drawn thread work. He lost his father in the eruption of Mt. Pelee in 1902. His father was mate on a schooner which was in the harbor at the time of the eruption. Volney describes two important home industries on Saba when he was a young orphan in a poverty stricken society.

“Ye see our hats? We got a nice press out there [Mammy] plait ‘em, she never sewed ‘em, only just plait it, ye see, with a pen knife. I don’t know in them times how the people got through, ye know, how ever they could ever get them entire strips as fine as that. She plait and she save up her money till she got to twenty – five dollars (Dutch dollars), and she drawed it and bought the press out of it, ye see. You know there used to be a woman here to learn ‘em how to plait ‘em from Holland. The Panama hat ,that is. We hired her our house there. She was there six months. We hired it for six dollars a month. Look, our old grandmother she would sit up at night. They’d strip the tire, you see. Well, I don’t know how they ever got them stripped, but they’d do it with a pen knife, you see, and strip ‘em fine. They’d make you a fine hat and a course one; one for we to have to wear on Sundays and then one, well, for the weekdays, for the working to carry the burdens on, you see. And she could sit there at night, and plait that without light, with eleven strands, we’ll say. And then she’d make we a fine one. You know anything about Panama hats? Well, that was almost next to them, what they called the fine hats. And she could set there to the end of the table and sew ‘em. And then you know what we’d do? We’d take ‘em and put the plait on the table and take a cup or a glass or anything and rub it down like that, you see, till it come smooth, and then they’d take the sulphur and put it into a barrel, and skein up the plait just like you skeins up rope, and put it on a piece of tin inside the barrel like that. And now don’t ask how white they’d come, but that would clearly take your breath, the sulphur. We never soaked it, we just put it o’er the barrel in the sulphur for it to draw it white you se. To draw it white, white, white, and they couldn’t be no whiter, you see. And then you had to light the sulphur, don’t you know, down in the barrel. The barrel never got burned. And after they was smoked, then they turned to sew them, you see.

“Well, then after then, well [Mammy] beginned with the Spanish work. And then in the late years she done plenty of the Spanish work, when she could get the chance, ye know, after she was done with all the work, and set up at night till ever so late and do the Spanish Work. Mammy was pretty old then. They’d send my sister Ruby in the States, the Spanish work, the drawn-thread work, and she’d sell it o’er there, and she’d send we the money like that. In them days that kept we up here, ye know.”

The so called “Spanish Work” or Saban Lace was introduced to the island by Mrs. Gertrude Johnson born Hassell (1854-1939) a young lady who had been sent to a convent on Curacao to study to become a teacher. It became the leading home industry in the 20th century. In the First World War as many as 250 women were involved in the making of drawn thread work. The population then was just over two thousand. Continuous lessons were given through the generations to keep Saba lacework alive. Mr. Eric A. Eliason wrote a wonderful account of the history of Saba Lace in his book “The Fruit of Her Hands”.

Dominican Nuns from Voorschoten on August 28th, 1905 opened a school in the “Upper town” in The Bottom in a small house belonging to Lovelet Hassell who had formerly given private lessons in this house. On October 1st, 1907 the school was recognized by the government and was eligible for a small subsidy. There were 40 students from The Bottom and 23 from elsewhere. In 1906 a new school was built at a cost of fls.5.000.—and inaugurated on August 16th, 1906. The two first nuns to come to Saba from St.Eustatius where they had been stationed were Sister Bertranda Geene and Sister Euphrosine van den Brink. In 1911 a new school was built in Windwardside. This building still exists. In 1905 there was a R.C. school run privately by Gertrude Johnson born Hassell (the one who had introduced the Spanish Work to the island) and her niece Peter Elenor Hassell. This school In Windwardside was taken over by sister Bertranda on October 1st, 1907. On January 1st, 1908 two more nuns were assigned to Saba. One of these nuns was Sister Winefrieda Graig. She was British by birth. She was born on 22 June 1869, in Birmingham, England. She died on March 6th, 1959. Her father was a merchant in Birmingham who sent his children to the continent to get a French education.

At the beginning of the twentieth century there was also public school education in Windwardside. Where Captain Quarter’s hotel was later established there was first a school and later a hospital. Later on in the building behind the Post office, there was a schoolroom. This later became the Public Library.

In 1910 the St.Joseph School was built and the “old school” in The Mountain was sold to Capt. Thomas Hassell. The new school was dedicated on June 22nd, 1911. Sister Euphrosine van den Brink was a pioneer in the building of schools. Because of the bad economic situation on the island there was some year’s as much as 62% absenteeism.

The Dominican nuns did much to further education on Saba. The last ones to leave the island in the mid nineteen seventies were Sister Agatha Jansen, Sister Bendicta Bisschop, and Sister Arcadia O’Connor and Sister Waltruda Jeurissen, the last two mentioned left already in 1974 and the first two mentioned left in 1977.

In Windwardside in 1935 a new school was built and in 1957 a new school was also built in The Bottom. I went to both of the old schools, which were wooden buildings, the old school in Windwardside, still standing, above the Rectory and the old school in The Bottom, former church, which was torn down to build the new concrete building. The building now used by the Department of Works, was used as a public school from around 1920 until 1973 when it was closed down because of the then small attendance. It was then decided to move the hospital on St. John’s to The Bottom and to start a secondary school there. In 1983 work was started at the same location and the primary school was transferred to that location as well. The schools in The Bottom and in the Windwardside were closed down. The children are now carried by busses from all over the island to the schools on St. John’s. The Bottom is now dominated by the Saba School of Medicine which was set up by Sabans, the Saba Government and Dr. David Frederick in 1988. It started out on a small scale in the old Roman Catholic school building. This building is now leased out by government and used as a hardware store and the one in Windwardside, built in 1955, is used as the Eugenius Johnson Center.

Of all the nuns I remember sister Arcadia the best. For the licks I got from her of course. She must have learned disciplinary tactics from the schools in Trinidad. V.S. Naipaul in “Miguel Street” in the account of his ram goat describes how the teacher soaked the tamarind stick used as a whip in water so that the lash would have more effect. Sister Arcadia would send one to cut a tamarind stick and then whipped you with it. She used as her threat “I am going to hit you a Peter Selie.” Once she threw her shoe at me from behind the desk. I ducked and Alton Johnson took the torpedo full smack in the face. She was a native of St. Maarten. Her brother, William O’Connor’s son Joseph Alphonse Constantine O’Connor was later my boss on St. Maarten. Those were the days and I think back on them fondly as I am writing this, even fondly of the “Peter Selie’s” Sister Arcadia doled out. Her shoe did not always miss its mark I can assure you.

The Church of
England in Saba

In June 2001, Ms. Ingeborg M. uit de Bos-van der Naaten, who was doing research on my ancestors in the National Archives in Holland, sent me a list of information which she had found. Among the list of documents she had consulted was one which stated that a meeting of “the English Church on Saba was held on July 23rd, 1763 to secure a salary to the Reverend Richard Davis for 3 years to be “Our Pastor”. A pledge was made to pay him 1250 pieces of 8 per annum.” In another note it states that “On October 5th of the same year, present at Vestry: Richard Davies.”

In 1777 the Rev. Kirkpatrick requested permission of Commander Johannes de Graaf to officially establish an Anglican Church on Saba. Permission was granted and thus the Anglican Church came into official existence, though from the aforementioned record, it was already in existence in 1763. Research indicates that the present Christ Church building in The Bottom was restored in 1777, after having been severely damaged by the great hurricane of 1772. Folklore has it that the doors of the Dutch Reformed Church on St. Eustatius were found close to my home in The Level on Saba in that ‘category five’ hurricane.

Although Dutch historians claimed that Saba was settled by the Dutch from St. Eustatius in 1640, there is reason to believe that the villages of Palmetto Point and Middle Island were already settled soon after 1629 by refugees from similar named villages in St. Kitts, after a large Spanish fleet captured that island. The Irish indentured servants, being Catholic, and allied to the Spanish, were allowed to leave and settle on other nearby islands. In 1665 a pirate fleet from Jamaica led by Edward and Thomas Morgan (uncles of Sir Henry Morgan) captured St. Eustatius and Saba. They dispersed the 57 Dutch settlers and their families to plantations in the English islands and took the African slaves back to Jamaica as booty. There were over 200 Irish, Scots, English and French left, besides two Dutch families of ten people, who remained on Saba as well as 70 or 90 pirates who had mutinied. From 1672 to 1679 the English again occupied Saba. Already in 1659 in a petition to the Dutch West India Company, the inhabitants had requested a clergyman who had knowledge of the English language.

The few Dutch colonists who came from St. Eustatius around 1640 built themselves a small settlement on the South side of the island above Fort Bay. This settlement was destroyed by a landslide in 1651. After this the surviving colonists came to live in the area which they had previously farmed. This area known as “The Valley” later became known as the town of “The Bottom” as the English thought it was the bottom of the crater. At the entrance to The Bottom there was a small church, behind the present World War II monument. The hill we call “Paris Hill” is referred to in old property records as “Parish Hill”.

In a bill-of-sale of January 21st, 1829 in the property bounds reference is made “to East old church place and the High Road.” We have reason to believe that here was located the “Church of Christ” of the Presbyterians started by the renowned Reverend Hugh Knox. He was born in Northern Ireland of Scottish ancestry and migrated to the American colonies. Ordained in 1755 Knox decided to propagate the gospel and was sent to Saba. On Saba he married Mary Simmons daughter of Governor Peter Simmons and his wife Rebecca Correa. He moved to St. Croix in 1771 where he became the teacher of the great Alexander Hamilton and inspired him to go to the colonies in the North which later became the United States of America. On March 19th, 1765 Reverend Knox made a now famous eulogy at his mother-in-laws funeral, a copy of which I have in my collection, and is probably one of the few great sermons preserved from that period in our West Indian history. Remarkably in 1792 a eulogy conducted for his young successor John Elsworth who died on November 22, 1791 at the age of 29 also survives and I also have a copy in my collection. The latter eulogy conducted in East Windsor Connecticut was dedicated to the people of Saba. It states that ;” After his return to the continent, he frequently expressed a cordial regard for you, as a people whom he sincerely loved, and whose salvation he ardently desired; and with whom had his health permitted, he would have chosen to have spent his days; and a grateful sense of those respectful attentions shown to him, and kindnesses received from you, and particularly from his Honor Governor(Thomas) DINZEY, and his worthy family, in whose family he lived, during his residence in the island.”

I mention this as although the Presbyterian Church did not survive they left an impressive record for such a small island and their members flowed into the growing community of the Church of England.

In 1791 when Dr. Thomas Coke of Methodist church fame visited Saba he wrote that there was a church but no preacher. Indeed during the first century of the Church’s life on Saba, it was unable to provide a resident pastor for the island, but the population remained actively Anglican.

When the Dutch historian M.D. Teenstra visited Saba on February 13th, 1829 he wrote that the only religious instructor on the island was John Toland a “Presbyterian”. In that Teenstra was mistaken. He states also that; “The Church building after the hurricane of 1772 has been completely rebuilt. In 1821 it was re-shingled. It is a square building, not very large, of which the solid walls are built of cut stone. The same building serves as Council Hall and school.”

John Toland was born on Saba. Dr. Thomas Coke in his history of the Methodist Church in the West Indies refers to a Toland as a Methodist missionary preacher in Tortola around 1790 to 1800. That could have been the father of our John Toland, as the Methodists were briefly active on Saba around that time and the name Toland is only related to John and his family on Saba.  The Reverend John Toland was married to Ann Louisa Rodgers of Antigua. They had four daughters and a son James Osborne Toland. James died May 12th, 1870 on Saba.  One of the daughters, Susan Rebecca, married Richard Robinson Richardson of St. Martin on July 22nd, 1835 and another daughter Annie married Abraham Charleswell Simmons Vanterpool and died in childbirth in Virgin Gorda.

I have a record of passengers arriving in the United States at the port of Washington, North Carolina, on the schooner “Eli Hoyt” in 1837 stating that the Reverend John Toland and Mrs. Mary L. Toland both age 57 were passengers. He had been to North Carolina in 1836 and served for one year as pastor of the Episcopal Church in Bath. Their children (should be grandchildren) accompanying them in 1837 were, Master James Toland age 14, Miss Rachel L. Toland age 12 and Master Hugh Toland age 8 and travelling with them was Master Thomas C. Vanterpool, age 8 a son of their deceased daughter Annie. The Vanterpools had been resident in Tortola before Saba so that Dr. Coke’s Toland could have been Hugh Toland, father of the Rev. John Toland. The Reverend died on Saba on December 4th, 1863.  We don’t know much about the North Carolina connection but we do know that Rachel died there in 1838 and that Hugh remained in the United States and married there and ended up on Staten Island and has descendants in the United States.

The church was served by a visiting Anglican priest from Anguilla from 1861 to 1878. As he kept good records much is known from him about his service to Saba. In 1867 he writes that the population of Saba was 1411. The attendance at the Anglican Church School was 30 boys and 25 girls. In a letter of 31 December 1867 he says: “I have also to express my great satisfaction at the Congregations in the Islands of St. Barths and Saba. I spent the last Sunday in the year on the latter island, on which occasion I had a full assembly at both Morning and Evening services. Indeed I may say I had a Congregation all Sunday night, far into Monday morning – for on that night at 9 we experienced a fearful shock of earthquake and in a few minutes the Governor’s House (Moses Leverock) was filled by a terrified crowd, for whom, after some order was restored, I prayed, and implored God’s merciful protection, and administered from time to time words of consolation to those ready to faint with fear, imploring them to put their trust in God. On Monday morning, I proceeded to the Windwardside, and held service as usual in Capt. John Hassell’s hospitable house, to a large assembly of attentive and fear-stricken people (for the Mountains still quake). I made my discourse applicable to the occasion and received 6 new communicants.”

On February 25th, 1878 the Holy Trinity Church in Windwardside was consecrated by the Right Reverend. William Waldrond Jackson, Bishop of Antigua. According to cannon law the Anglican community here falls under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Antigua.

In course of time, five Sabans have become Anglican clergy. These are: John W. Leverock, nephew of Governor Moses Leverock, Alvin Edward Simmons, both of the Bottom, Frank Hassell of St. Johns, Aldric Steeling Hassell of Windwardside, and Ivan Heyliger of The Bottom.

Saban Anglicans were also active in spreading the faith to other islands. The Anglican Church on Curacao was for a large part financed and built by Sabans, and also the church on St. Eustatus. Sabans would go there on weekends to help with the building and the priest on Saba still serves the Anglican community on that island. In 1977 the church issued a booklet with interesting historical facts which was written by Mr. Frank Hassell  who along with his sisters Norma and Bertha are the pillars of Holy Trinity Church.

The Church of England had 1500 members on Saba in 1874. However, with the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church on Saba in 1860 the numbers declined. In 1877 there were 1458 Anglicans on Saba out of a total population of 2072.The Anglican Church has lost its dominant position over the years since then, however the church still carries on and the remaining members of the church are as dedicated to their church as those who in 1763 got together to pay a salary to the Reverend Richard Davis, and may God continue to bless their work on Saba.

    “We love the place O god

      Wherein Thine Honour dwells

      The joy of Thine abode

      All earthly joy excels.”

The Church of
Rome in Saba

The Roman Catholic Church arrived rather late on Saba. In the Spanish period from 1511 until 1648 Saba fell under the bishopric of Puerto Rico. There is no evidence of the Spanish doing anything here as far as settlement of the island and with no settlers it goes without saying that there were no religious activities. In 1665 when the Jamaican pirates from Port Royal captured the island and left many of their men behind, we doubt if they had religion in mind as a safe haven but rather their piratical activities from this new base. The islands’ religions were the Presbyterians under the famous Dr. Hugh Knox (1755 – 1772), and then later on the Church of England which got permission in 1777 to build a church in The Bottom Saba. Before that Sabans had been making use of the Dutch Reformed Church on St. Eustatius. The Rev. Anthony Kowan baptized many Sabans between 1709 and 1736, and the Rev. Josias Jacques was stationed on Saba starting on November 18th, 1736 and remained here for three years. The Dutch Reformed Church never did take hold among English descended people. The Presbyterian Church of Christ building was located on the grounds of the cemetery behind the World War II monument in The Bottom. The great hurricane of 1772 destroyed it. Also the hill which people call Paris Hill was named Parish Hill after the Presbyterian Parish church at the foot of the hill. That name of the hill can be found in the old property registers. When the new Anglican Church also “Christ Church” was built the Presbyterian Church members joined the Anglican Church.

The first famous Roman Catholic priest Labat and companion of pirates visited Saba on Sunday April 27th and landed at 10 AM. He was received by the Commander Jacob Leverock who invited him for lunch at his home. Father Labat gave a good description of life on the island back then. He was also invited in to the homes of several French refugees. He describes as the main industry that of making shoes. He said he purchased no less than six pair of finely crafted shoes. His schooner also sold some hides to the islanders which Labat had purchased on Cow Island. Father Labat left on Monday afternoon April 18th, 1701.

In 1836 Msgr. Martinus Niewindt, the apostolic prefect of the Roman Catholic Church of the Dutch West Indian colony called “Curacao and dependencies”, visited the Windward Islands. Having been on Sint Maarten and St. Eustatius earlier, he now also wished to visit Saba. On none of these three islands was there a priest in 1836.

The advent of Roman Catholicism on Saba reads like an adventure novel. When Father Labat was on Saba in 1701 he did not have missionary intentions. Niewindt most certainly did. At the end of May, 1836, he arrived at Ladder Bay accompanied by Manuel Romero, a Venezuelan priest who had come to Curacao a year earlier as a political refugee. Niewindt spoke French and Dutch; Romero spoke only Spanish. The climb to the top led over piles of stone and between steep chasms. Having arrived at The Gap the pair was stared at perplexedly by the Sabans. Communication was not possible. Neither of the two priests spoke English, and the Sabans spoke no French, Spanish or Dutch. Finally a woman from Guadeloupe came forward with whom Niewindt could communicate in French. She led the two priests to the deserted home of an earlier departed Anglican clergyman.

On the following day, June 1st, 1836, the first Holy Mass by a Roman Catholic clergyman was said on Saba. Were there people then on Saba who considered themselves Roman Catholic? For more than a century no priest of that religion had been to Saba. Could those present have had the faintest notion of a difference in religion any more than the woman who took Niewindt to the home of the Anglican priest? Niewindt could explain nothing, and the woman from Guadeloupe was not sophisticated enough to understand. Niewindt had brought English catechism books along, and these he liberally distributed. Except for a few, the 1800 inhabitants were illiterate. After the celebration of the Holy Mass the people presented five children to be baptized. Niewindt happily obliged. The first recorded baptism is on June 1st, 1836 and the child was named Simon Peter a natural child of Peggy Dinzey.

After this the two priests set out, supposedly with a guide, along the Western flank of the mountain to Behind The Ridge and to Hell’s Gate which would undoubtedly have been a difficult but fascinating journey. Who could have suggested such a strange route to them? Late in the day Niewindt and Romero arrived at Windwardside where they received shelter in the home of Peter Hassell, an Anglican. Peter was the husband of my great aunt Esther Leverock Johnson. In his home another Holy Mass was celebrated the following day.

Niewindt writes that, “Curious girls peeped through the shutters when the ‘new priest’ put on his vestments”. From this one can again conclude that the people simply regarded Niewindt as the successor of the departed Anglican priest. Niedwindt could interpret nothing; there was not a single person who understood him.

Five years later in 1841 Niewindt succeeded in finding a pastor for St. Eustatius, at that time the most important of the three islands. Just as Saba was partly colonized by the Dutch from St. Eustatius in the 17th century, so it was from there that it received the Roman Catholic Church in the 19th century. Father Joannes F.A. Kistemaker from St. Eustatius visited Saba in 1843 and appointed Miss Sarah Mardenborough to give some religious instruction. Sarah became in fact the founder of this church on Saba and the Ecclesiastical Chronicle also refers to her as Apostola Sabae. She was born on Saba on February 19th 1824 as Sarah Catherine and baptized by Father Kistemaker on June 22nd, 1850. Her parents were Christopher and Maria Mardenborough-Hassell.  For 29 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 the 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 where she spent the night and remained until the ceremonies of Good Friday. In 1903 on December 19th at the age of 79 this remarkable woman died and was buried in Windwardside. In 1873 her work was taken over by Gertrude Johnson-Hassell who was a trained teacher. She taught in a private house. In 1898 a house was bought and used as school.

Saba had other dedicated women to the Catholic faith. Mary Jane Johnson worked in Hell’s Gate and Ann Elizabeth Johnson (Miss Sheshe) did ecclesiastical work from 1858 until her death at the age of 93. She was my great aunt and I sleep in one of her four poster beds. On a small island history has its personal side as well and is therefore interesting to me.

In 1850 the Catholic Mission (Prefecture of Curacao) bought a house at Windwardside to be used as a rest house and oratory. At that time the Anglican community had realized that Niewindt and his successors were not of their church. In those days with no politics the churches were at each other’s throats like differing political parties of modern times. A house that had been used by the church and which belonged to a converted Anglican, on his death, was inherited by a “Protestant” who after a barrage of rocks had been thrown at the house while Mass was being held, gave the Priest Father Gast a few hours to vacate the house as who knows it may have been torched. Families were torn apart with all the conversions going on. The Roman Catholic priest is claimed to have gotten no less than 90 converts in the week after the great earthquake of 1857 by telling the people that more would follow if they did not come back to the “true faith”. I heard this story from John William “Willie” Johnson who had heard it most probably from our great aunt Miss Sheshe. So I decided to check the baptismal records for 1857 and came up with 103 baptisms for that year. The largest number for those years, and so once again you cannot discount oral history.  This earthquake caused rifts in the earth and gasses escaped. Saba was no stranger to earthquakes back then. On February 8th, 1843 there was a serious earthquake with aftershocks the following days. I have an article from the New York Times of 1867 describing an earthquake on Saba and its consequences but that and other stories of natural disasters will have to wait for now.

Father Gast belonged to the Order of the Crusaders. He was reluctant to come to Saba where there were no Catholics and the population was hostile to the new religion. He was appointed in April 1853, came to Statia in January of 1854 and finally to Saba on March 6th and conducted his first baptism on June 2nd, 1854. The child John was born in the village of St. John’s on November 15th, 1853 and his parents were William and Sarah Hassell.  Father Gast wanted to build a church but was instructed to build an altar in his own house. In his first two months he got 32 converts.  After the Catholic children were not allowed into the existing private schools and pamphlets were spread against Father Gast, in August of that same year he started his own school and had 20 children and on July 2nd, 1854 he also started baptisms on Hell’s Gate. It wasn’t him. I am most sure it was Father Mulder. Rumor has it that my grandfather James Horton Simmons was the last Anglican holdout on Hell’s Gate. He was also fond of salted cod fish. Father Mulder supposedly asked him if a case of salt fish would do the conversion. Horton told him:”That will do it.” Horton had a set of daughters considered a liability back then. They could not catch a goat or fish on the rocks so Horton decided that the case of salt fish was a good enough offer and could keep his family going for awhile. That is the rumor mind you. I knew Horton but was too small to ask him such a delicate question.

In 1860 the Church of the Conversion of St. Paul was built in Windwardside. The plot of land had been the quarantine station for new arrivals to the island. The stones for the church were brought up by slaves from the Spring Bay, where they had been part of the building of a sugar plantation. Lime was used in those days in building up the walls, and because of that the salt in the lime is still a reason for having to paint the church quite often. In 1877 the Church of the Sacred Heart was built in The Bottom. Its present building in The Bottom is the third one and dates from 1934. In 1911 the Church of the Holy Rosary was established in Hell’s Gate, and its first wooden structure was replaced by the present one in 1962.

The work of the Roman Catholics was not without success. In 1878, 35 years after Sarah Mardenborough had begun; Saba had about 600 Roman Catholics.

Some of the well-known priests on Saba in the early history of the church were; Father Josephus Philip Thomas Kock born 29 August 1823 and died 19 August 1890. He served here 24 years and is buried in the vault next to the church in Windwardside, as well as Father Laurentius Mulder (b. 28 August 1843 died 3 August 1916). He served 25 years. Father Niewenhuis also served for 28 years, and Father Norbertus Matthias Joannes Petrus de Groen (b. 16 Aug. 1879 and died 1944) served on Saba for 21 years. The first church in Hell’s Gate was the work of Father de Groen. He was an old salt with wrinkled brow and rough hands. He was equally at home handling the rudder of the vessel he sailed from island to island as that of the vessel of St. Peter, or the reins of the horse on which he climbed the steep roads of Saba.

There are four priests buried on Saba. In The Bottom, Father Anton Jansen who died earlier this year, and in Windwardside, Fathers Kock, Mulder and Boradori. The latter was felled by a massive heart attack while giving Mass in the church at Windwardside and died on the altar with a full church praying in attendance.

The first Saban Roman Catholic priest to be ordained is the well-known Father Simon Wilson who became a priest on July 4th, 1976.

The church was also involved with our schools. In 1907 the Reverend Sisters of the Dominican Order arrived here from Holland. On October 1st 1907 the school was recognized by the Government. In 1908 a small convent was built behind the Rectory at Windwardside which building still exists. In 1911 the new school was opened in Windwardside which building is still in use as a Parish-Hall. In 1925 the present Rectory in Windwardside was completed and in 1955 the new school opened in Windwardside which is now used as the Eugenius Johnson community center.

The period of Dominican Nuns and Priests came to an end in the nineteen seventies. The only interest the Dutch seem to have in religion nowadays is to wage a Don Quixote style war against other religions like the devout Muslims.  The last years the church on Saba is being served by priests from the Philippines, the present priest being Father Dan Pastor. And a wish expressed in 1848 by the later Bishop Father Niewindt to the papal nuncio in Trinidad was realized in the nineteen seventies. Niewindt had asked to send some religious English speaking nuns to Saba. Nothing came of it. However when the Dominican Nuns left Saba in the nineteen seventies, Father Jansen was able to convince the Living Water Community of Trinidad later on to send people to Saba for the same purpose and they have been serving Saba and St. Eustatius these past years. And it would seem that the old antagonisms between the different faiths have been healed and there are harmonious relations between the different faiths.

May it continue to be so!

A history of a small West Indian Town


Two Eulogies (Rebecca Simmons-Correa and……..*


Donkey on wheels

Few people realize today what a sea change it meant for Saba when the first motor vehicle arrived on the island. Saba was at least 30 years behind the rest of the islands as St. Maarten already had two cars in 1914.The first car on St. Maarten was a Ford belonging to Louis A. van Romondt; some months later a second car arrived, a Chevrolet for Mr. A.C.Wathey, (Claude’s grandfather).

 On Saba in 1923 when a merchant imported a donkey from St. Eustatius to bring up his cargo from the Fort Bay to The Bottom the porters went on strike as they considered this modern form of transportation to be harmful to their ages long profession of bringing from a barrel of beef to a grand piano up on their heads from Fort Bay to all parts of the island.

 One aspect associated with bringing a motor vehicle to Saba which we seldom think about is the planning which went into how to bring the vehicle safely to shore. One has to remember that Saba at the time had no such thing as a harbor. On a calm day the Fort Bay was very rough in comparison to the Great Bay on St. Maarten. Also the road network only extended from Fort Bay to The Bottom and had only been completed on October 16th, 1943. Photo’s accompanying this story will serve to demonstrate the difficulty in unloading a vehicle in rough waters in the open sea and bringing it safely to shore. We do not even know who came up with the idea to lash two lighter-boats together and to place on top of these boats a wooden platform to hold the vehicle. Then the two boats on arrival in the heavy surf and rocky shore would have to be turned around to take the pounding of the waves. Two hastily placed wooden ramps would be placed against the boats and the vehicle with driver already in place would make its descent into the rocks and assisted by boatmen and other volunteers would be hauled up through the rocks to a dry spot under the cliff. Miracle of miracles, between 1947 and 1974, after which motor vehicles were landed on the pier, a couple of hundred motor vehicles were landed without major incident in this fashion.

 Many stories have been told about the first JEEP’s arrival and the impact it had on the population. In 1947 Saba had a population of 1150. The islands maritime tradition was long behind us. The Captains and their families from The Bottom, St. John’s and Windwardside had migrated to Barbados, Bermuda and the United States in the first thirty years of the twentieth century. Shortly after that people started going to Curacao and especially Aruba. A good number of those who lived here in 1947 had never even been off-island and had certainly never seen such a thing as a motor-vehicle a so called “donkey on wheels.”

 Formerly the Lt. Governors kept a sort of daily journal. The arrival of the Jeep was of such importance that then Vice Lt. Governor Max Huith (the title of the job back then “Onder Gezaghebber), carefully noted down enough of the event that we can enjoy reading about it today. The event was that important that the Lt. Governor of the Windward Islands came along with the M.S. “Kralendijk” to obviously be a part of Saba’s history. He must have realized that Saba would no longer be the same in the future.

We quote from Vice Lt. Governor Max Huith’s Journal:

Monday 17 March 1947;

 This afternoon at around 5.15 pm, arrived with the M.S. “Kralendijk” from St. Maarten Mr. P.H. van Leeuwen, Lt. Governor of the Windward islands, R.J.Beaujon Jr., Director L.V.V., Drs. J.H. van Boven, Director of the Department of Social and Economic Affairs; Mother Vicar of the Dominican Nuns; Mother Prioress Sebastina Fay, Mother Vicaria Candida, and Prioress Amalia.

 On that same occasion a JEEP, coming from the Department of Public Works on Curacao and destined for this island arrived. In the afternoon the necessary preparations were made in connection with the unloading of this means of transportation.

 After having welcomed the Lt. Governor, those who had arrived went to The Bottom, where, at the home of the undersigned, refreshments were served.

Tuesday March 18th 1947;

 At 6.30 AM went to the Fort Bay, to try to get the “JEEP” rolling. In the beginning the motor refused to start, so that the undersigned went back to The Bottom by horse for discussions with the Lt.Governor of the Windward Islands. In the meantime the Captain and the Engineer of the M.S. “Kralendijk” had worked on the JEEP, and finally for the first time in the history of Saba, a motor vehicle was driven via the Fort bay road over the roads of The Bottom. The enthusiasm of the people, especially the children, was great. It is a pity that mentioned JEEP before being shipped had not been thoroughly checked by Public Works. It became apparent that the gasoline line was blocked; gasoline pump did not function; the lights did not work; battery empty and handbrake not working. All of this, according to the Captain and Engineer of the M.S. “Kralendijk”. Also Mr.R.J. Beaujon Jr., Director of L.V.V. who in connection with the “refusal” of the JEEP had made a special trip from The Bottom to the Fort bay, has also observed these defects.

 In the course of the morning the Governments special breed chickens were visited. In the afternoon discussions were held with the Lt. Governor of the Windward Island and the Director of Social and Economic Affairs and Director of Agriculture, Stock raising and Fisheries on a number of subjects. In the late afternoon the new road between The Bottom and St. John’s was inspected by the Lt. Governor and the undersigned. The Lt. Governor expressed his satisfaction with this road.

Wednesday March 19th, 1947:

This morning at around 8 o’clock Lt. Governor of the Windward Islands and entourage left with the M.S. “Kralendijk” to St. Eustatius. They were accompanied by the undersigned to the Fort bay. At 9 o’clock back to The Bottom and carried out office work. In the afternoon the schoolboys from The Bottom were given the opportunity to take a ride in the JEEP through The Bottom. These children were overjoyed when for the first time in their life they were privileged to experience something like this. “Look how fast the trees are passing us,” one of the children shouted. “Who would have thought this”, said an old lady, who begged to be taken for a ride also. The boys were given turns in groups of five or six. This is the extent of what the “onder Gezaghebber” had to tell on the arrival of the first JEEP on Saba. Mr. Oliver “Ally” Zagers of Hell’s Gate who had learned to drive while working in Bermuda had the privilege to bring the first motor vehicle on shore. In 1938 when the road to The Bottom from the Fort Bay was started, the three labourers who broke out the first steps were my grandfather James Horton Simmons, “Lee Thomas” Hassell (Senator Ray Hassell’s grandfather) and Norman Hassell the latter who is yet among the living. Today there are nearly 900 motor vehicles of all kinds on Saba. The motor vehicles made a great change in the life of the people of this island, which in many ways has been a blessing and in others a curse.

 In my book “Tales from My Grandmother’s Pipe” I tell the story of my first experience with the JEEP. I had heard the bigger boys’ talking about what I thought was a new SHEEP that the Government had ordered. As can be seen from Mr. Huith’s Journal the highlight of the Lt. Governor’s visit was to pay a courtesy visit to the Governments new chickens, so that a new sheep would have not been unusual.

Anyway on arrival in The Bottom I saw at the Government Wireless Radio Station some sheep grazing which was not unusual. The Bottom still has issues with goats grazing. I was not at all impressed with the sheep. We had bigger ones than that at home. That is until we got down by the Anglican Church and Mr. Huith had decided to inspect the new road being built in the direction of St. John’s. Well you can imagine the terror of hearing the motor and seeing this “donkey on wheels” headed in my direction. Jet plane could not overtake my flight to the nearest mango tree and in between my tears I saw Mr. Huith and his machine which I had mistaken for a sheep flying around the corner.

 People from other islands made fun of us of course. They said that people had brought packs of grass for the JEEP to eat and so on. For people in the other villages like Windwardside it took some years before they saw the JEEP. Old people who could not get around and had never been off-island and in some cases had never even visited another village, had to wait until Calvin Holm broke down the Governments barrier and rode the first Jeep into Windwardside in 1952, and so there was no official ceremony. Calvin made it as far as where the Big Rock market is now and had to back up all the way to Over-the-Peak before the alarm was sounded to the Police Station in The Bottom that Calvin had broken the barricade and had driven into Windwardside illegally. For the Government a problem but for us young boys Calvin had made our day. In the beginning we used to think that the only motor vehicles in the world were JEEPS. Following that one of the Governments, Arthur Anslyn brought in one from Aruba, and also Alvin “Bobby” Every, followed by a JEEP pickup for the Government to help bring materials for the road and then Mrs. Elaine Hassell (wife of road builder Lambert Hassell) brought in a NASH car. In 1953 until 1955 when I left the island for school on Curacao I still had to walk to and from school in The Bottom. It was only in the last few months of school in 1955 that we could catch a lift with the Government’s pickup. Some years ago when I was Commissioner I had much trouble getting money out of State Secretary De Vries to buy some new school busses. Every day it seemed that more forms had to be filled in and questions to be answered. Finally as to why we needed new school busses, I informed the State Secretary that the donkey which transported the children to school had died of old age and that we wanted to go over to a more modern form of transportation. Well it was not too long after that, five brand new Toyota “Donkey-on-Wheels” arrived on Saba to transport the schoolchildren. And so now you know.

Rebecca Levenston-Jones,*


Hosting Jackie Kennedy

My diary of March 22nd 1978 has only one entry, but one entry of that kind is enough. It reads as follows:

“Mrs. Jackie Kennedy-Onassis, accompanied by her son John Kennedy, her daughter Caroline Kennedy and nephew Mr. A. Radziwill visited Saba. The Kennedy children stayed overnight at Captain’s Quarters Hotel.

Mrs. Kennedy went back in the afternoon. I drove her around. She came to my home in The Level and had iced-tea and a chat with Lynne. Mrs. Kennedy is a nice lady and we had a very nice day with her, and the people of Saba were very happy to see her.”

As there was a lot more to the story than just that, let me share the experiences of that day with my readers.

I received a call late in the evening of March 21, 1978, from Mr. Robbert Volgers of Windward Islands Airways asking if I could host an important guest the next day. I was Commissioner but had also been Acting Administrator for nearly a year.

As there was no Administrator, I was pretty busy. It was a difficult year for me, but a rewarding one.

I got a lot done for the island and was able to submit many projects for financing which are now monuments on the island. I had also just completed my new home some months before and my family was expanding.

The guest was Jackie O, better known to us on Saba as Mrs. John F. Kennedy, former wife of the late President, one of the few United States Presidents who enjoyed great respect in most countries. She was accompanied by her children John Kennedy Jr., Caroline Kennedy and her nephew, A. Radziwill. Mr. Volgers came along too, of course, and Police Chief Osmar Ralph Simmons accompanied us for the day.

Old timers say that “Tell-a-Sabie” is faster than using the telephone. I guess Mr. Volgers had made a few other calls besides the one he made to me, as there were loads of cars on the way to the airport, when I went to pick her up.

When she arrived I could see by the look on her face that she was not expecting a crowd of people to be on hand to welcome her. I therefore tried to spirit her away as quickly as possible.

Since I had just moved into my new home at The Level, I had arranged for her to have tea there and plan the rest of the day.

I remember her admiring the cabinets in the kitchen which were locally made. My wife Lynne recalls that Mrs. Kennedy commented on how blue the Caribbean Sea was and she compared it to the Greek islands of the Mediterranean sea.

The children went diving so we decided to go first to Captain’s Quarters Hotel and have lunch there. At the hotel it was pure chaos. The ferry “Martini Bianco” was in port with 150 Venezuelan tourists on board.

They all descended on the hotel upon hearing that Mrs. Kennedy was there. They just stood around our table gaping at her and taking pictures.

They were shouting out to her how to pose, and wanting to have a photo taken with her. I tried to give her some privacy, but it was impossible.

Restaurants were scarce at that time, so we had to stick around and suffer through it. Had I known I could have asked her to lunch at my place, but my children were small, Teddy was three and Chris only six weeks.

When lunch finally was served a local man in his cups rushed our table and, in his enthusiasm to show the crowd that he could kiss Mrs. Kennedy, nearly overturned the table. Now you done know. At that point I suggested to her that I would take her for a drive.

On our way to The Bottom, I decided to take her to a house on St. John’s belonging to Lindsay and Claire de Mambey. From their swimming pool there is a spectacular view of The Bottom. The late Eugenius Johnson was tailgating me. I had to make a sharp turn on the road leading up to Crispeen.

My indicator lights were not working. Eugenius, God rest and bless him, is lovingly remembered for his many skills and contributions. Driving was not one of them. Eugenius’ philosophy about bumpers and fenders was that they were only attached to the car to protect the engine. In his way of thinking it was only natural to use bumpers and fenders as much as possible on the walls of Saba to protect the engine. The consequence of this was that I crashed the Administrator’s car into the wall. It shook up Mrs. Kennedy, but I reversed the car out of the wall and continued on up the hill.

In the meantime Eugenius continued on to The Bottom unaware of what had happened. The Administrator’s car was not in the best of conditions anyway. It was an old white Toyota Corolla and had seen better days. When we arrived at the house, I assured Mrs. Kennedy that there was no need to worry.

I tried to let her remain there for a while, so that she could enjoy the great view and the privacy as well. In the meantime we were running out of time. We had to get back and check on the young folks. They had returned from diving and had decided to go up the mountain. I took her up the mountain road as far as she could go and for her to have some privacy. We sat there talking while waiting for the children to come down the mountain. I think she enjoyed that part of the day. I had instructed Major Simmons to ask people to stay at Banana Gut and not to come up the steps so that she could have some time to herself.

Time dragged on and I could see that she was concerned. I assured her that the children would be fine and that they were accompanied by the dive masters and a policeman. She, however, was concerned about getting back to St. Maarten as she was staying at La Samanna Hotel and had an important dinner date there. She asked me if I would take care of them and send them over the next morning. I told her she could trust me with that one.

Everywhere we went crowds of people were there to see her off. I apologized to her and told her that since the island only had 1200 people, they had all seen her. I also told her that people loved her husband. By that time, having been in an accident together we had become familiar to each other. I detected a hint of mischievousness in her eyes when she smiled and said to me;” You mean Mr. Onassis? I wanted to say, “Of course.” But as a good host I acted embarrassed and said, “No Madam, I meant President Kennedy.” At the airport there were crowds of people there to see her off. She got the same reaction from our people as Her Majesty the Queen gets when visiting the island.

After saying goodbye, and as she was about to enter the plane, she came back to me and put some money in my pocket and said; “I hope that will be enough to take care of the hotel.” Later when I checked my pocket after the plane had taken off I felt like the customs officer in Paris. He had once paid a ten dollar fine for Mr. Aristotle Onassis who did not carry cash money with him and needed to pay for something or the other. The customs officer told the press that he wanted to tell his grandchildren that he had paid a bill for Mr. Onassis.

Well, now that I have grandchildren of my own, I can safely tell them that the sixty dollars in my pocket could not go far. Lucky that I had complete charge of the government back then. My salary was only NAf. 600 per month, and then as still now, the Windward Islands Bank had my house mortgaged, I could not afford to take on any extra bills for the rich and famous.

Mr. David Harden was the operator of Captain’s Quarters at the time. He claimed, by the way, to be 63rd cousin to Queen Elizabeth II, twice removed. Despite those impressive credentials, he too was in a financial bind. So he and I decided that the Government of Saba, perennially cash strapped, would host the Kennedy children, for the difference. I asked the police to keep an eye on the hotel that night and got them off safely the next morning. I remember having had a very interesting conversation with Mrs. Kennedy’s nephew. He was quite mature in his thinking and asked intelligent questions about the island and its history.

People claimed that John Kennedy Jr. had returned to Saba some years later to dive. I have no proof of that and Glen Holm of the Tourist Bureau also is not certain if as people claim that he did return. When John Kennedy Jr. was lost in the plane accident in 1999, to be honest I was very upset. I had been responsible for him and his sister. I had great hopes for him when he started his career.

Regrettably he was all too young when he died. I only have a photo of that day in which you can only see my elbow. There were so many taken that day, but

I was too busy taking care of the lady. Considering everything surrounding the Kennedy family, I thought my readers would be interested to hear about my day with Jackie Kennedy.

And boy, I am relieved that I have been able to unload the story of the accident on my readers. All these years I have been embarrassed to have been the cause of that accident. Now that it is out in the open I feel relieved. I balanced out the accident in my mind though, with the good discussions I had with the lady on the step road leading up the mountain.

When I was a boy on St. Maarten there was a lady on Backstreet who used to sell peanuts. She advertised them as useful to “crack and converse” and that became her nickname. We did not have any peanuts, but Jackie and I “cracked and conversed” to our hearts’ content. So much so that she could tease me on the way to the airport about the accident and that, perhaps, I had meant to tell her that Saba people admired Onassis. At that time I had not yet read “Het Teken van Jonah” by Boeli van Leeuwen who did not have any flattering comments about her marriage to Onassis.I would have never drawn that to her attention, though.

And so life on a small island does have its benefits at times when a simple island boy like myself can “crack and converse” with the rich and famous and have fond memories of it as well.

Capt. Matthew Levenston*


Capt. Randolph Duncan*

Captain Randolph Dunkin, known to all his friends as ‘Rannie’, was born on Saba on December 27th, 1907. His mother was Mary Dunkin from Below-The-Gap. He was born in old Capt. Will Simmons’ home, which coincidentally now belongs to his nephew former Lt. Governor Wycliffe Smith.

Randolph’s father was Captain Ernest Vanterpool, a member of the family which produced several captains and owners of schooners.

Randolph went to school in the building where the Housing Foundation is now located.

His teachers were Sister Euphresine and Sister Georgine. Randolph also had four sisters on his mother’s side of the family. One of those sisters was the well-known Mrs. Ruth Smith a great Christian, volunteer social worker and so on. He started sailing in 1923. He left here with “Gardy” Hassell on the “Cyril” a 60 tons schooner which belonged to Mr W.H. Netherwood of St. Maarten. This schooner was lost on a reef, after a hurricane season, coming out of the Oyster Pond.

He then started sailing on the schooner the ‘Virginia’. This schooner was owned by Captain Abraham Mardenborough and later sold to the government with Captain Abraham still in command. Captain Abraham was married to Miss Ohnie Wathey and they had a lovely old time mansion on the Front Street in St. Maarten. It was located on the beach across the street from the ‘Oranje School’.

Later on Randolph went to sail on the “Ina Vanterpool’ a large three master schooner which belonged to his uncle Captain Thomas Charles Vanterpool. After that he went to sail on the ‘Thelma’ a schooner owned by Captain Aldrick Dowling of St. John’s. That schooner used to trade with Barbados and St.Thomas but also went to other places in the Caribbean. He later sailed on the large schooner the “Three Sisters” owned by Captain William Benjamin Hassell and his brothers.

When he started sailing he started out as a cabin boy and went to the islands around Saba like St. Kitts and St. Thomas. He went to Barbados on a trip with Capt. Will Leverock on the “Three Sisters” to put her on dry-dock and remained there for 15 days. They left here on a Monday and arrived there on a Friday morning. All the boats mentioned so far were strictly sailboats.

The motors only came with the large 145 foot schooner the “Mayflower” in 1929. This vessel was a large 2 master and belonged to Captain Thomas Charles Vanterpool. Her captain was Reuben Simmons of Hell’s Gate. The schooner broke her bowsprit and both masts in 1931, to the North-East of Bonaire. She went to Bonaire, towed there by the Dutch Man-O-War the “B.K.” There she underwent the necessary repairs and then sailed to Curacao. Captain Tommy sold her to someone in Jamaica and that’s the last anyone heard of her. The “Thelma” went ashore in Tortola in the thirties. The “Virginia” in the gale of 1928, broke her moorage and was never heard of again. She was anchored in St. Kitts and did not have anyone on board. Captain Mardenborough was not on that trip. Captain Conrad Richardson was captain at the time. Randolph used to sail once a month to Curacao with the “Ina Vanterpool” and the “Three Sisters”. The “Mayflower” made the trip every two weeks. He sailed with Capt. T.C. Vanterpool and Capt. Reuben Simmons mostly. Captain Reuben was not there the time she broke her masts, Luke Vlaun was the captain.

Later on he went to Curacao to work for the SHELL oil company, on boats bringing crude oil from Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. This he did for about one year. Then he went to Aruba where he worked for ESSO for two years on Lago’s oil fleet. He came back home to Saba in 1939.

Before that time, in 1932, he owned a sloop named the “Nautilus” which he bought from Granville van Romondt for fls.1.250.—.She got lost between St. Kitts and Statia in 1934. The wind just came up strong and rolled her over. They had a flat bottom 9 ft boat on board. He and his brother Garnet Hughes rowed into Statia to get help. They left William James Linzey and Hilton Whitfield on the upturned wreck.

This accident happened at 10.30 pm, they arrived in Statia at 1 am at the Police Station. They picked up two boats and accompanied by police officer Van Zanten they headed back to the wreck. They had lights with them. Randolph was in one boat and Garnet in the other. Hilton saw the light and gave a whoop. According to Captain Randolph, Hilton and Jamesy looked like two wet rats. They got back safely into Statia on a Saturday morning.

In 1939 on his return to Saba he bought the “Energy” a “cobalt” Tortola boat, one mast. He bought it from J.A.W.Georges, a Tortola merchant for US $300.—He had that sloop until the war was declared and then he sold her to the government for fls.900.–. He then went back to Aruba and worked there until he returned to Saba in 1946.

He bought another “cobalt” named the “Eden” in 1946 from Edward Tutt in Tortola. He paid U.S. $1,300.—for her and owned her until 1959, then he bought the much larger “Santa Lou” from Blanche Potter in Tortola for US $ 4,600.—

Capt. Randolph was also shipwrecked on the sloop the “Bertha Johnson” which belonged to the Magras family on St. Barths. He went to St. Kitts and loaded with 120 sheets of asbestos for St.Barths. He left the “Eden” in St. Barths and took the “Bertha Johnson” and was on his second trip to St. Kitts when he got lost. The sloop had been built by Stanley Johnson in St. Eustatius.

This accident happened on the night of June 21st, 1949. All of his crew was lost. They were William Wilson, married to Rosalie Wilson, they had 7 or 8 children. Peter Linzey, brother of Maude Linzey. He was married to Christine a sister of Capt. Randolphs, and they lived at The Gap, and Desmond Levenstone, a bachelor.

William Wilson and Peter Linzey were the grandfathers of our present State Secretary Mrs. Amelia Nicholson, born Linzey. Only Randolph survived. According to him it was a squally night ,and then suddenly a thick squall loomed up out of nowhere. He decided to put in at Sandy Point. While going in, rain came in to the land. He put the helm into the wind, and she turned right over, about one and a half miles from the shore and within 2 or 3 minutes she sank. Desmond, Peter and Page got out from between the rigging. Randolph and Page were swimming on oars. He called out to the others. They continued to swim and call out to one another. After a while Desmond and they did not respond. Page was fully clothed, and then all at once he said he couldn’t hold out any longer, and just took in water like a bottle and sank away to his death in the depths.

After awhile Randolph’s foot touched the sand. He continued swimming in the dark until he felt his belly touch the sand. He had landed around Belle Tape Point, North of Sandy Point. He started swimming from around 10.30 pm and arrived at the Police station at 1 am. He walked along the beach and into Sandy Point by the bakery in front of the Police station. Right away Sergeant Bridgewater called on the telephone to town, but not until the next day at 10 am did the police boat leave Basseterre to look for survivors, but nobody was found. The police sent a cable to Saba to inform the families.

I was only a boy then, but I can still recall how upset people were over this calamity. Then people here had compassion for one another, more so than today.

Randolph sold the “Eden” to Capt. Charles Barnes who lived in St. Barths for US $2,000.—plus he got $1,000.- to buy the motor for the “Santa Lou.” He owned the “Santa Lou” from 1959 to 1966, and then lost her in Anguilla. She was a total loss. This happened on the 2nd day of January 1966. James Anthony Simmons was with him. She brought up to shore with engine, sail and everything. This happened in the night and as the beach was so white it was difficult to estimate the distance to shore. The vessel was a total loss and he had no insurance.

He then bought the ‘Roselle’ another sloop in Dominica from MacLawrence. He paid $13,500.—BWI for her. In 1973 he sold her to Max Nicholson who later sold her in the Virgin Islands.

Randolph’s main run used to be between Saba and St. Kitts, but he made three trips to Puerto Rico for cement, 500 bags a trip which took all of 8 to 9 days in going and coming. He was a banker, a mailman, and used to withdraw money from the banks for people here and make deposits as well. Sabans then used to bank their money with the Royal Bank of Canada and Barclays Bank on St. Kitts. Saba merchants used to deal with John Gumbs (married to three Leverock sisters from Saba. Yes all three, not together, but in some form of succession.), Sahelie and other general merchants such as S.E.L. Horsford and company which was a lumber company.

One of the boats built on Saba which Randolph remembers was the ‘Augusta” built here by Horton and registered in Tortola.

He also remembers making a trip on the ‘Georgetown’ a 2 master Canadian built schooner around 60 to 70 tons which belonged to T.C. Vanterpool. She was first named the ‘Olympic’ and belonged to Capt. Lovelock Hassell who had moved to Barbados. She went ashore in Nevis in 1928, the Captain was Herman Simmons who had moved to St. Maarten and lived on the Front Street. The ‘Alice’ belonged to Hilvere Lawrence of Grand Case St.Martin. She was a two master schooner and was rented by the Vanterpools. She made several trips to Curacao but was not big enough for the trade.

Then Captain Tommy went to Maine to buy the ‘Mayflower’. I did this interview back in 1984 and it seems like yesterday and I wrote then: “Captain Randolph still likes to sail and he goes up and down with Al and Eddie Hassell on their cargo boat the ‘Brianne C.’ I recently made a trip with them to St. Eustatius to attend the funeral of Mr. Vincent Astor Lopes. Randolph was in the Captains Chair and at 76 he is still quite active.”

During his many years as Captain between Saba and St. Kitts he proved to be of great service to our people here on Saba. In 1976 he was decorated by H.M. the Queen for his outstanding services. A small isolated place like ours needs heroes of our own that our young people can look up to. Randolph, in our opinion, is a hero worth looking up to.

His son Willis recently passed away on Curacao. His daughter Paulette is alive and has lived all her life on St. Eustatius. He has a number of grandchildren and great grandchildren on Statia. One of his grandsons was former Commissioner Neuman Pompier. He also has a niece Mrs. Marie Senior-Hughes living in Windwardside and of course his nieces Shirley and Yvonne Smith as well as Act. Lt. Governor Roy Smith ,all living on Saba still.

Randolph was married to Ms. Ursula Dunkin for whom the former Anglican Kindergarten was named. The street leading past his former home in The Bottom is named in his honour. I remember once some folks coming down from the USA looking up their family tree. One of the grandsons of Estelle Simmons-Vanterpool told me that his grandmother, who lived in St. Thomas, told him that if any brown skinned people claimed to be an uncle or aunt to listen to them as her father had roamed around the town quite a bit. Some days later I passed the young man on a wall sitting with Randolph with a tape recorder interviewing him. Just a few months ago the same person was back on Saba and telling me stories he had heard from his’ uncle Randolph’. Many of the people whom Captain Randolph used to help are all gone now but they always talked highly of him in appreciation of his many years of dedicated service. It would be difficult to image nowadays any number of merchants from especially the Windwardside giving Randolph money to deposit in their bank accounts on St. Kitts where he also had authority to withdraw monies from their accounts and pay bills on their behalf.

It was another world back then and that is not so long ago when you come to think of it. Saba remembers you Captain ‘Rannie’ and pride fully so.

Island Council Member David L.H. Donker*


Tribute to the Road Builders of Saba

The smallest island (five square miles) in the Netherlands Antilles, Saba is primarily a dormant volcano covered in rain forest. Saba is actually the tip of a submerged, extinct volcano, with steep underwater cliffs that are famous for extraordinary, unspoiled scuba diving.

Saba can best be summarized as a volcanic rock, full of steep climbs, four colorful small villages, a permanent population of about 1,500 people, world class diving, great hiking, and tranquility. After that, the only thing left for anyone to talk about is The Road, a true monument to creative engineering. The Road and the David & Goliath effort involved in its construction is the conversational diamond around which every taxi driver builds his tour.

This single winding road that gets you around to most all. The Road was laid by hand, and runs from the airport at Hell’s Gate to the harbor at Fort Bay. There are no names at all for any of the narrow, windy tributary streets in the tiny hamlets of The Bottom (Saba’s capital), St. John’s, Hell’s Gate or Windwardside, the second largest of Saba’s four villages. The Road is one of the best maintained highways on the planet…the entire nine-mile length of The Road is swept every day – by hand.

Building a road straight up the steep mountain face defied not only gravity, but most men’s imaginations. Professional consulting engineers and road builders all declared it an impossible feat. And indeed, try driving the twisted swivel stick that winds its way from 131 feet above sea level up and around to 1,968 feet–to see the high, perfectly flat stone work retaining walls holding back the steep, rocky inclines-and one quickly grasps the enormity of this engineering feat.

From the 1650s on into the middle of the 20th century, the Sabans made do with 900 steps rising from the sea that the hardy Dutch settlers had carved into the steep rock. These steps were the only way to get anything – from a hatpin to a grand piano — up to the settlements.

Then, in the early 1940s a stubbornly optimistic Saban carpenter named Josephus Lambert Hassell took a correspondence course in engineering, gathered a team of 20 locals and began to build “The Road That Couldn’t Be Built.” They used only wheelbarrows; it took them 25 years to complete.

Mr. Hassell began in 1943 with the design and supervision of this engineering marvel building the portion from Fort Bay to The Bottom first. Over the next 20 years, 14 km of road was painstakingly laid by hand and wheelbarrow by locals.

The Road is the perfect national legend for this isolated community of individualists and although stories have been written about its construction, noted Saban historian Will Johnson’s tribute is a time honored favorite.

Saba was first settled by pirates from St. Kitts, after the Spanish attacked that island in 1629. They named the villages they established on Saba Middle Island and Palmetto Point after the area where they had lived on St. Kitts.

Three hundred years later, goat paths and step roads were all they had to show for their having lived here.

They, as some of the best navigators in the West Indies, had roamed the great oceans of the world and traded throughout the West Indies with their large barquentines and schooners.

Yet the complaint on Saba was that they brought little change to their own island, when they returned. They admired the things they saw on their travels though.

We have an interesting account of a journey by the schooner the Alice to New York in 1890 by Edward Beaks Hassell (Baker). The schooner, Alice, belonged to Capt. Solomon Simmons (Butchie Coonks). After picking up passengers and salt on St. Maarten and Anguilla they headed North to New York.

There, Baker, dodging the horse and buggy traffic on fifth Avenue in his bare feet was pursued by gangs of shoe blacks. offering him a free polish for that unique pair of West Indian shoes.

 It was his son, Errol Hassell, who thirty years later as a local Councilor was to propose a proper budget to start a real road from The Fort Bay to The Bottom to make life easier for the islands people.

Lee. Thomas Hassell, Norman Hassell and my grandfather James Horton Simmons broke ground in 1939 to start the road from the Fort Bay. They were laborers and were being paid Fls. 0,65 cent per day.

The road was a community effort but it is generally recognized that it was the men of Hell’s Gate who worked the hardest to get the road built. It could have been the fact that their village was the last on the line from the Fort Bay. Many years later the airport changed things around.

Josephus Lambert Hassell, was the legendary engineer who built the road. As a local councilor he also advocated putting money on the budget to continue building the road to reach all the villages.

Matthew Levenstone and other Commissioners continued the trend and Administrator Henry Every made the final push to get the road to the airport and Cove Bay in 1961.

 After WWII on March 17th 1947, the first motor vehicle, a jeep, arrived on Saba for the Lt. Governor. Sabans devised a way how to get it ashore by strapping two lighter boats together with a platform on top, and a ramp, which would be put up against the boat when they rammed into the rocks at Fort Bay.

The driver Mr. Oliver Sagers was aboard the JEEP, engine already running and ready to make the mad dash over the side, and into the surf, and assisted by the porters rushed through the boulders onto the shore.

Mr. Max Huith then Vice Lt. Governor, claimed that some old timers thought the Jeep was a living being and offered to cut the grass needed for it to eat. Saba has gone a long way since the road was built. We now have over 700 motor vehicles on the island.

Recently government decided to restore a section of the old road between St. John’s and Over-the-Peak. This section of the road was known as The Dancing Place! Someone crossing there in the night claimed he had seen six men on a moonlight night, dancing around an open coffin and seemingly having a good time.

As a young boy I used to keep a flock of goats over in that area. I would never let dark catch me there, and even high day if I could not see an yone coming or going I would make a mad dash to get safely past The Dancing Place. That story is so entrenched in my being that an offer of a million guilders to spend the night there would have to be declined with thanks.

Sometime back my boyhood friend Allan Busby came to see me to congratulate me on restoring the road. When asked if he would spend the night there (at Dancing Place), he looked at me and said, “Boy you crazy?” “I thought you were my friend but you want me dead.” All kinds of questions come up about that place. Who was in the coffin? What tune were they dancing to? And last but not least, Why, Why, Why.?

While restoring the road we decided to improve on a monument started by Mr. Dick van den Berg as a tribute to Josephus Lambert Hassell some years ago. A bench has been built around the rock. One will be able to sit there and enjoy the view towards St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis (and at times Montserrat). At the same time we encourage all joggers and exercise enthusiasts to use this section of the old road instead of the main road. And while using it to reflect on the hardships of the past.

 Just imagine what it must have been like for a female porter with a 100 lb bag of flour on her head, delivering her own baby, putting it in the basket at her side and continuing on her mission before going to the doctor to check on herself and the baby.

The past is important. By restoring this section of the road and putting it to a practical use we want to honor Josephus Lambert Hassell, the engineer, as well as all the local workers who built ‘the road which could not be built.’

My father Daniel Thomas Johnson, was earning Fls. 2.50 per day as a foreman for most of the time it took to build the road. For those who knew him, he can be seen working among his men in one of the photographs accompanying this article.

Saba was built stone by stone, wall by wall, building by building, village by village by a hardworking people in the hope that their children would enjoy a better life. We do have it easier now but most people doubt seriously that we are happier than our hard working ancestors.

Death of the “Mona Marie”


The Vanterpool Family*

Some years ago members of the Lions club visiting here from Trinidad were being hosted at the Lt. Governor’s residence by Lt. Governor Sydney Sorton.

In his speech he commented on how visionary old Captain Thomas Charles Vanterpool was when he built that house. The house was completed on November 3rd 1900. It was built so strategically and beautiful that it could serve as the official residence of Saba’s Lt. Governor.

Also at the inaugural reception for Lt. Governor Jonathan Johnson the large number of dignitaries from Sint Maarten, who graced this reception with their presence, were full of compliments about the building and the grounds.

In the nineteen twenties it was purchased for the government by the then ‘Onder-Gezaghebber’ (Vice Lt. Governor) W.F.M. Lampe who was married to Captain Vanterpool’s daughter Lena. The property next to it with a house on it was also purchased and turned in to the Queen Wilhelmina Park. This provides an additional green space for the residence, which in all is probably as much as two acres.

The Vanterpool family though small was one of the wealthiest families on Saba, if not the wealthiest. Three of the brothers were Captains and their homes still survive in The Bottom.

The family is of Dutch origin. In the old records it is spelled as Van der Poel, van der Poele, and van der Poelen. Eventually it became Anglicized to Vanterpool.

The family (like so many others of that period) moved from Sint Eustatius to Sint Maarten, on to the Virgin Islands and then back to Saba.

From the old records we find the following information.

1688 , Van der Poele, Willem – Saba

1696, Van der Poel, Daniel – Sint Eustatius

1699, Van der Poele, Mayken – Saba

1699, Van der Poele, Daniel – Sint Eustatius

ditto 1705, 1710 and 1715 for Daniel.

1715, Van der Poele, Willem – Sint Maarten

1728, Van der Poelen, Willem Jr. –Sint Maarten

1728, Van der Poelen, Daniel – Sint Maarten

1728, Van der Poelen, William – Sint Maarten

1781, Vanterpool, John – Sint Eustatius

John apparently came from Tortola and was just temporarily on Sint Eustatius when Admiral George Rodney took the census in the autumn of 1781.

There was also a William Edward Vanterpool who in 1784 bought 98 acres of land on the island of Jost Van Dyke. An estate map for Tortola, dated 1798, did not show any Vanterpools or similar spellings.

The earliest Vanterpool found in the British Virgin Islands is ‘Mary’ widow of the island commander who married John Park of ‘Guana Island’ on August 31st, 1754.

In 1753 a Samuel Vanderpool owned a plantation on St. Kitts.

William van der Poelen, Jr. in 1735 is listed as a new Member of Council and also in the year 1737. On May 12th, 1745 he had been living on Sint Maarten for 33 years and was listed as one of the islands oldest inhabitants. Jan van der Poelen was listed as a Member of Council on Sint Maarten on January 15th, 1748. Daniel van der Poelen died on Sint Maarten on December 21st, 1758. On October 10th, 1776 Rebecca van der Poele left as widow of Samuel Houwel.

In the records of St.Thomas William Vanterpool and family arrived there on November 12th, 1819 (wife, 3 sons and 2 daughters, Abraham, Daniel and David and Mary and Ann), and also three slaves arrived from Sint Maarten to stay as J. Hassells place.

The Wesleyan Methodist church baptismal records on Virgin Gorda for 1815 to 1919 show the following.

William and Margaret Ann Vanterpool “bottom planters” had the following children all born in Spanish Town. Ann Elizabeth was born in 1824. Alice Maria born 1826.01.07. Thomas Joseph born 1827 and Peter Theophilus born 1830.12.05.

Thomas Pitman Vanterpool and his wife Mary, planters, baptized a son Henry born 1836.

They lived on Jost van Dyke and had a son John born 1844.07.18 and William born 1845.10.01.

John Pitman and Charlotte Anne Vanterpool –schoolmaster –had a child Mary Clements born 1847 and John Pitman Jr. b. 1852.

Another interesting fact is the use of the given name ‘Pitman’ for the Vanterpool sons in the Virgin Islands and on Saba also turns up in the Vanterpools in Tennessee and Missouri in the nineteenth century.

In 1860 the death is recorded on Saba of Abraham Charleswell Simmons Vanterpool. He was married to Annie Toland who died in childbirth in Spanish town, Virgin Gorda.

He worked in the copper mines there. They had a son Thomas Charleswell Vanterpool.

Annie Tolands’ mother Ann Rodgers who was from Antigua and the wife of the Reverend John Toland of England, brought young Thomas Charleswell to Saba where he grew up. He was born in 1826. On November 19th, 1851 at the age of 25, Thomas married Johanna Simmons aged 23. She was of a prominent Saba family. They had seven children of which the following four survived.

  1. John Pitman Vanterpool born November 30th, 1857. He married Georgianna Simmons on 1-7-1881 (26).
  2. Ernest Hugh Toland Vanterpool born 1st half of 1852. He married a daughter of Governor Moses Leverock. His home is being used by The Living Water Community.
  3. Lillias Vanterpool born December 3rd 1853 and married Dr. Christian Pfanstiehl, and
  4. Thomaas Charles Vanterpool (Captain Tommy) born August 20th, 1865 on Saba.His wife was Johannah Dinzey Leverock also a daughter of Governor Moses Leverock.

These were the Vanterpools of Saba. The three boys all became Captains and owners of large schooners which traded between the West Indies and New York. Captain Tommy who owned the home which is now the residence of the Lt. Governor owned a large number of schooners in his lifetime. The largest was the ‘Mayflower’ which was 147 feet long and weighed 190.27 tons. This schooner was built in Gloucester, Mass., to compete in the “Bluenose” races. My uncle Captain Charles Reuben Simmons who was captain of the ‘Mayflower’ from 1928 to 1930, told me that in 1929 he left St. Kitts with 375 passengers, under sail, and arrived 48 hours later on Curacao. Once he carried 460 passengers from Dominica and St.Lucia with this schooner and was promptly fined on arrival for carrying too many passengers. They were being recruited by the SHELL Company as labourers.

The ‘Ina Vanterpool’, 105 feet long and 191.30 tons was lost off St. Eustatius on September 16th, 1926. Captain Tommy paid f.162.500 for this three master schooner. She was built by Captain Lovelock Hassell in Jamestown Barbados and could carry 100 tons of cargo. Besides carrying freight and passengers, Captain Tommy also had the contract to carry the mails between the Northern Dutch islands and Curacao.

His schooner the ‘Estelle’ was the subject of an interesting report by Judge Polvliet who described a twelve day passage from Curacao to Sint Maarten with 26 passengers on board. The cook was a 13 year old boy from Saba, Diederick Every, who later lived in Baltimore. I met him when he was in his late eighties and interviewed him about life as a cook on a passenger schooner.

The “Dreadnought’, with Captain Samuel Augustus Simmons, in a race under sail from Curacao to Sint Maarten made it in 48 hours. My uncle Charles Herbert Simmons was a young mess boy on that schooner. The ‘Georgetown’ was lost in a hurricane in Nevis but my uncle Herbert survived.

The schooner ‘Lena Vanterpool’ once saved the life of her master Captain Tommy. As the story goes he used to smuggle out escaped convicts from Cayenne who paid their passage in gold garnered from the rivers of French Guyana. An old black woman on shore used to signal the Captain when prisoners were ready to board. On that particular night, the old lady signaled imminent danger. Captain Tommy did not wait to pull up the anchor, but ordered it cast away when he spied a French Man-Of-War rounding the point and coming in his direction. It is claimed that the ‘Lena Vanterpool’ sailed so fast that when she reached Barbados the oakum had been washed out of her seams.

At one point when the French Man-Of-War was getting too close for comfort the captain ordered more sail and pleased with his schooner ‘Go Lena go, your master is in trouble. Spread your wings and fly like an eagle.’ He had ordered the crew if the French caught up with them to put him in a barrel and throw him overboard.

Captain Tommy’s daughter Lena married W.F.M. Lampe who merits an article of his own in future.

The Vanterpools besides the home families had many ‘by-sides’ in all the islands. I will not mention how many children they had. It was the subject of much concern among the white Vanterpool descendants in the USA when I ventured an estimate once. But believe me that the two brothers Captain Tommy and Captain Ernest took the biblical encouragement to heart and they went forth and multiplied. And multiplied, a lot!

On the subject of gold! The late Commissioner John Woods once told me that his father Ben told him the following story. Captain Ernest gave him a sealed galvanize pail to bring to his house in The Bottom. It weighed a ton and he thought he would die by the time he got there. When the wife saw the pail she said:’ I cannot believe this. Another pail of gold! What does Ernest intend to do with all this gold. The ceiling is full and under all the beds is full. I have to remind him that you cannot eat gold.’ I tell people that ‘this is the house where gold lost its value.’

Neither the Vanterpools nor the Tolands survive on Saba. Captain Tommy’s son Professor Thomas Clifford Vanterpool became a famous scientist in Canada and won many awards there and he has descendants there. Captain Tommy’s granddaughter Sheila Lampe, formerly married to Tawa Yrausquin, lives on Aruba.

The following announcement signaled the last of the Vanterpool’s of Saba. This is taken from the Virgin Islands Daily News of June 6th, 1950 on St.Thomas.

‘Mrs. Ina Simmons and the Engle Simmons family thank all friends and acquaintances for kindness and sympathy shown in the death of their beloved father and Uncle Thomas C. Simmons.’

Well not really. Captain Tommy in his old age fired a last shot. The maid who had been brought from St. Maarten to take care of Captain Tommy was the mother of his last daughter who lives on an island where people read the’ Herald ‘and is a friend of mine.

The Vanterpool families did Saba proud, and when you admire the residence of the Lt. Governor of Saba please take note that it is a replica of the house that Captain Tommy built. The original was infested with termites and the new one rebuilt in the same style in the nineteen sixties.

The old country constables

Nowadays with so much talk about law and order and the police force there has been much discussion on life in these islands in former times. Anthony Weller wrote in  ‘A childhood in Nassau’ the following: “For a writer, childhood is the treasure chest; one has the rest of life to measure out by the fistful the amazing, gleaming pirate’s hoard buried many layers deep in the imagination.”

I came across an old photo of three Johnson’s in uniform who served as country constables in the Windward Islands. My intention was to write an article based on their lives. However the more I thought about it I thought it would be better to write a short history on the country constables and those from Saba who served in that function when I was a child growing up on Saba.

In Curacao and on the other islands the maintenance of internal law and order from the beginning of the colony was a task of armed civilians.

An ordinance of Jan Gales of August 31st, 1739 decreed for Curacao in article 2, among other things, that each citizen in turn would have to do evening duty patrolling the streets of the town.

Only at the start of the 19th century can it be said that a modest police-force came in to being. In 1826 a regulation for the police force was approved by the King. After various changes in the functioning of the force, in 1873 (Publication Sheet # 6) it was determined that the armed police force for all the islands would consist of a brigade marechausssees and country constables.

The first part consisted of 1 police sergeant major, 5 police sergeants and 40 marechaussees.

The second part consisted of 30 country constables. The latter as was traditional in Holland were paid very little, but in those days a job was a job and then like now the ladies liked the men in uniform. So even though the pay was low there were advantages.

The proclamation by Publication Sheet 1910 # 19 of the Royal Decree of January 6th, 1910, # 32 established a regulation making it mandatory for the formation from the military of a detachment of marechaussees to do police duties.

By Publication Sheet 1911 # 36 the composition of the brigade was determined as follows: 1 adj. sub-officer, or sergeant major as brigade commander for the island of Curacao, 4 sergeants as police-sergeants, 10 corporals as marechaussees 1st class, 16 infantrymen 1st class and 25 fusiliers as marechaussees 2nd class.

On each of the other islands the force consisted of 1 corporal as acting police-sergeant and several fusiliers as marechaussees 2nd class. The detachment was under the military service and remained that way until the Netherlands Antilles Police force was established in the late 1940’s.

The country constables were then given the choice to join the new police force. However the requirement to know the Dutch language was a big problem for many of them. Some of them chose other work or to leave government service all together. On Saba people like Mr. Lester Peterson and Mr. Harold Johnson chose to join Public Works.

Other factors played a role. They were subject to being transferred to other islands on short notice. That meant in many cases having to leave their families behind. In those days policemen were expected to stay far from politics. Many of our policemen were transferred from one day to the next because in private they had voiced a political preference for one candidate or the other. On Saba a policeman on the night of the election reacted with a smile on his face when his party won. The Administrator who was from the other party noticed the smile and he was transferred the next day to another island.

For this article I will suffice with giving some brief information on those from Saba who served. There was a time that the entire force was from Saba and did a good job. Before that our policemen came from St. Eustatius and St. Maarten mostly and they too were held in high esteem. Among the older generation there were many stories of how those policemen conducted themselves. Mr. Timmer of St. Eustatius was known as a tough one. He arrested my father once because he refused to open his bag of fish and Timmer thought that he was smuggling liquor. Just a short while before my old friend, former constable and policeofficer, Mr. Elias Richardson died he called me. His voice was as strong as that of a young boy. He wanted to know if a certain lady was still alive. I teased him that it sounded like an old love affair. Anyway it was shortly after that when the news of his death came to me. I would have sworn that he was good for many more years. He was a good source of information on former Lt. Governors and so on.

For this article I am submitting a number of photos. They tell their own story. One of the phot’s is of Mr. Roelf Westers (born Martinshoek on October 11th, 1866) who was married to my great – aunt Sarah Ellen Johnson. She was born on October 6th, 1871. She died in Wittem (South Limburg) on April 21st, 1962. He was a marechaussee on Saba. They had three children, one born on St. Maarten, one on St. Eustatius and one on Curacao. Henry the one born on St. Maarten had twelve children so that I have a whole set of red head cousins in Groningen. If you come across a Westers and he or she is from Groningen you can tell them that their cousin Will sends greetings.

There were other marechaussees who married Saban women. The Jonkhout family on Curacao and other families trace their ancestry back to Saba via the marechaussees. Mr. Eert Sloterdijk was a country constable and also produced a large Saban family.

Some of the natives who served as country constables on Saba but also in the other Windward Islands were:

Clement Sydney Oliver Sorton , born September 2nd, 1907. In ‘Saba Silhouettes’ by Dr. Julia Crane there is a long interview with Clement on his life on Saba. His sons Sydney and Rudolph followed in his footsteps and Sydney eventually became Lt. Governor of Saba. Clement joined the police force when the old country constables were abolished.

Jeremiah Warboef Leerdam, born June 20th, 1911.

He served on Saba and then was transferred to St. Maarten. He was a wellknown photographer. He is the uncle of Mr. Max Nicholson and his sister Carmen Simmons born Nicholson. He died in a tragic accident on Cole Bay Hill. His colleagues on Saba were always upset that because of political reasons they felt he had been transferred to  St. Maarten. He was married to Amy Hassell and has a son by his marriage residing on Curacao. But being a field man in uniform and with a camera to booth a number of people in the islands will tell you that ‘Leerdam from Saba is me father.’

Osmar Ralph Simmons born October 24th, 1922 joined the Police force as a young man, and like the others worked on St. Maarten for some years. He spent most of his career on Saba though and eventually was Police Commander here. He had a large family. His wife is the well known Mrs. Carmen Simmons. His children are making a name for themselves as well. He passed away some years ago and remained active in Saban society until he took in ill and died.

Lucius Bernard Halley, was born September 30th, 1907. He was from Simpsonbay and was married to Sydney Dowling of St.John’s. They had 12 children and produced an important Antillean family. Halley owned the home in The Bottom where Philipsburg Utilities used to be. He bought it from my uncle Capt. Reuben Simmons. When he died his family moved to Curacao and the property was sold to Senator Claude Wathey whose children still own it.

Richard Austin Johnson was born October 16th, 1908 and died April 19th, 1990. As a young man he served as one of the two local councilors. He was an only child and his wife as well, something unusual for Saba at the time where large families were the norm.

Their four children are all staunch Roman Catholics and can be seen every Sunday in church. Austin was moved twice to St. Eustatius for political reasons. He loved to read. He told me that when he was on Statia the last time in the nineteen fifties he read every book in the library. The day he read the last book when he returned to the Fort the Administrator called out to him and told him the good news that a telegram had arrived giving permission for him to return to Saba and to his family.

Harry Luke Johnson was born November 19th, 1913. He had a terrible youth. His father was lost off Cape Hatteras on a four master schooner the ‘Benjamin F. Poole’ which was lost January 19th, 1914. His mother died of cancer when he was four. He and his three brothers were raised by an old aunt who was dirt poor and who died when he was eleven. At the age of 13 he went on a 100ft schooner from Saba the “Maisie Hassell” on which he sailed for 8 months between Barbados, Guyana and so on. At the age of 18 he went to Bermuda and married there to Doris Every also from Saba and his first two children were born there. He returned to Saba and became a police constable. He was an artist at heart. He built model boats, painted and wrote poetry. He started his own museum. Just before he died I promised him that I would start a museum to carry on his work. The Harry L. Johnson museum is a proud legacy of his work. Of all the things I have done for Saba I am most proud of having been able to acquire this lovely property for the people of Saba.

Arthur Harold, Johnson, was born on April 12th, 1906.

As a young man he went to New York and sailed out from there for some years. He returned to Saba, started working for the Post office and later became a constable. He did not join the Police Force as the Dutch language was required and he did not feel up to it. He was a lifelong bachelor and worked for Public Works. He died in his nineties.

Lester Peterson.

One tough Police officer. As boys we knew to clear the road when Lester was on patrol. He had a large family and when threatened with a transfer to Curacao he decided to leave the force and join Public Works. He was a good foreman and many roads were built under his supervision. His sons Eddie, George, Wayne and Ray are all active in the Windward Islands.

Many old timers remember with pride the days when the force consisted of Saba policemen. Halley the Chief Constable though from Simpsonbay, was considered by all to be a Saban. (The same goes for the merchant Joe Vlaun). Later on Major Osmar Ralph Simmons headed the force for many years. Clement Sorton was a no-nonsense constable. Whereas Lester Peterson kept the Windwardside calm, Sorton was the man of The Bottom. He was a big man and when he was on patrol the town literally trembled.

Finally, to my old aunt. Her daughter who was a Roman Catholic nun told me that her mother never spoke Dutch. She said the Dutch government had treated Saba badly. For those times she was right. Things have changed. Now we are going in to a new relationship with the Dutch. Perhaps the constables can be brought back in to play. Many of the young people who would want to join the force have a problem with the police training being all in Dutch. In any event Saba can be proud of those who served us as Constables in the past.

The Islander


The women of Saba*

The women of Saba have always played a prominent role in the development of our island. Because the men were seafarers, and fathers, husbands, brothers as well as sons were all at sea, the responsibility of raising the children and taking care of all the needs of the household rested with the women in the family. Sometimes the men in a household were off-island for years at a time. Many men were lost at sea or succumbed to yellow-fever and other diseases in countries spread around the world where their ships took them in search of trade.

Saba, with most of its men folk off to sea, became known as the Island of Women. A number of well known magazines in the United States wrote fanciful articles about Saba and its women over a hundred years ago.

A selection of comparative figures for the period 1924 through 1929 illustrates best why the island became known as the “Island of Women.” The population figures for the following years show how the women outnumbered the men.

YEAR       MEN   WOMEN

1924          604       1011

1925          611       986

1926          603       999

1927          526       968

1928          509       930

1929          492       916

Individual women who have contributed immensely to Saban society were many. I have already mentioned some of the well known midwives of the past. Among the women who worked hard were Sarah Mardenborough of Windwardside and Marie Elizabeth Johnson of Hell’s Gate, neither with much education, but who taught generations of Sabans to read and write the English language of their ancestors.

Gertrude Johnson born Hassell who in her marriage combined the two largest surnames on Saba is credited with introducing the lacework industry to Saba. This work became known as “Spanish Work” as it was taught to her by nuns on Curacao who in turn had learned it from the many Venezuelan students who at the time came to the convent schools on Curacao to further their education. Many families on Saba survival for a great deal depended on the sale of “Spanish Work” to friends in the United States.

Ann Elizabeth Johnson (Miss Shishi), who died in 1931 at the age of 93 was famous for her bush medicine and the setting of broken bones. Back in the past century when it was not always possible to get a doctor to live on Saba it was the local doctor’s both women and men who served the people.

Her niece Peter Elenor Hassell was also known for her knowledge of Bush medicines.

Someone asked me recently as to what type of health insurance I had. I told him that my health insurance was just enough to cover the witch doctor and to buy me some bush medicine. That is the insurance my ancestors survived with for over four hundred years on this little rock.

Atthelo Maude Edwards (1901 -1970) with the help of her nephews Elmer and Rufus Linzey introduced the electric lights to Saba. The Saba Electric Company it was called, long before GEBE came along. To honour her, the Saba Island Government named the hospital the “Mrs. A.M. Edwards Medical Center”, in 1980. She lost her life in the O.N.A. airline crash off St.Croix in 1970.

Cornelia R. Jones (Cutchie) was the first woman in the Windward Islands to become an Island Councilmember of the Island Territory. She served from 1952 to 1954. She also ran both the Guesthouse in The Bottom and later in Windwardside as well.

Irene Taylor born Blyden, pioneered in the establishment of the Wesleyan Holiness Church throughout the West Indies. The Taylor Memorial Wesleyan Holiness Church in Charleston on the island of Nevis, is named in her honour.

In recent years we have had people like Mrs. Carmen Simmons born Nicholson active in all fields of culture, Patsy and Janice Johnson active in their church but also as artists and writers, Mrs. Ruth Smith a volunteer spiritual and community leader and many others.

Throughout Saba’s history women have worked as porters, labourers, field workers, wood cutters and so on, yet they managed to maintain the reputation of being among the fairest maidens in the West Indies. That is why Saban women are married to men from all parts of the world and they are to be found living around the globe.

One modern day well known Saban lady living abroad is Mrs. Barbara Kassab born Every, who resides on St. Kitts. Her paintings have represented St. Kitts at Carifesta as well as at international painting exhibitions and she has won several awards for her paintings. Back here on Saba women continue to play a leading role in the daily life of the Unspoiled Queen. I had the privilege of having a hard working young woman as a Commissoner working along with me for eight years (1999 -2007) namely Ms Lisa Hassell.

I would like to share with my readers two poems written by Island Women.

The poems were written by women who had grown up here where their roots had long been established. An island, which is only a small dot and in isolation at a time when the whole world was backward and communications between peoples was scarce.

Both women had to move elsewhere in search of a better life, and they wrote these poems when they were past midlife.

In my collection of correspondence with the late Charles Borromeo Hodge, Jr., I have a letter from him in praise of the poem by Beatrice Pfaffhauser which appeared in my book “For The Love of St. Martin”. He wanted to contact her. Alas she had passed on many years already.

She was born at The Gap on Saba. Her mother Amy Simmons was married to Albert Pfaffhauser whom she had met on St. Thomas. He was from Switzerland. Beatrice grew up in The Bottom, but after her father died her mother married a white planter from Grenada named Thomas Cecil and the family moved to Barbados. They lived in the house now known as “Sam Lord’s Castle.” They also lived on St. Kitts, Grenada and Trinidad.

Beatrice moved to the U.S.A. and married there. She tried to return to Saba in 1934 but on St. Thomas she received the news that her husband was dying and she returned to the United States. She never saw Saba or any of her beloved Caribbean islands again. Her poem indicates that island people never really get islands out of their blood. Tropical islands especially seem to keep the memories warm.

She was 82 when she wrote this poem some 65 years after she was forced to leave her beloved islands. In the twilight of her years she looks back at her youthful home.

” The skies are gray, my spirits low.

I sit within the firelight glow.

My thoughts go back to other days,

To coral sands and sunlit bays.

Again I see tropic trees

As delight the eye and scent the breeze.

Poinciana, oleander, frangipani, these

And many others my mind’s eye sees.

A banyan is home to a bright macaw,

A monkey sits eating some fruit from his paw.

A land crab scuttles on his way to the cove,

A coconut falls with a thud in the grove.

Ah me! Ah me! That I could go

Where palm fronds clash and trade winds blow,

For these are the things I used to know

So far away and so long ago.

The red-roofed house, by the tall palm tree,

In the long ago, was sweet home to me.

I think of it now as a haven of rest

Where I wish I could go as a bird to its nest.

But the years that are flown have made the dream vain.

I could only return to sorrow and pain.

Beatrice Pfaffhauser loved the islands and she once said: “You never get the tropics out of your blood once you absorb them.”

I would like to end this article with a tribute to Estelle Louise Richardson born Sloterdijk ( born 16 September 1914 and died 15 December 2000). She was the daughter of a Dutch Police officer Eert Sloterdijk who came to Saba in the early part of the twentieth century and married Orie Hassell. As so many other people did back then the family moved to Aruba. There Stella met her husband Henry Richardson who is a brother of the well known Louie Richardson of French St. Martin.

Stella and Henry moved to the United States. However she never forgot the little island where she was born and visited Saba as often as she could. The following poem was written by her after one of her visits. The poem reminds me of one written by Rosalind Amelia Young (1907) entitled “Pitcairn, Lone Rock of the Sea”. My cousin Estelle Simmons has often told me that she cannot read this poem unless she breaks into tears.

ADIEU SABA

Now the time has come to leave thee,

Saba isle of fairest flowers.

Cherished land where I was born and

Where I spent my childhood hours.

Thou art fairest of the islands

In the wide Caribbean sea,

None could ever be more precious,

Than thou, Saba art to me.

When a carefree child I wandered,

Through the hills and valleys green,

Listening to the songs of bird land,

Full of joy and thoughts serene.

Oh! Those carefree days were happy,

‘Neath thy blue and cloudless sky,

Ne’er a thought of care and sorrow,

As the golden hours skipped by.

Then one day the future beckoned,

And I gaily sailed away,

Just a starry-eyed young maiden,

Setting forth on life’s great way.

But I missed thee dearest Saba,

As the years have rolled away,

And my heart I always promised,

That I would return some day.

Now once more I’ve trod thy pathways,

As I did in years gone by,

Followed trails to secret places,

Watched the mountains kiss the sky.

Drunk the dew of early morning,

Listened to the cooing dove,

Seen the moon in all her glory,

Shredding gold from heaven above.

Danced to tunes so well remembered,

Clasped the hands of friends I knew,

But too soon the time has vanished,

And I have to say adieu.

Here I sit and watch thee Saba,

As the ship puts out to sea,

All thy rugged slopes and ridges,

Etched upon my memory.

Oh, my heart is truly breaking,

And my tears fall fast and free,

For I know not if I’ll ever,

In this life return to thee.

Stella Richardson-Sloterdijk

Leaving the island by boat brought up many memories and emotions. The same does not happen when one leaves by plane. Perhaps the next great poem of Saba will be written by one of those adventuresome women who prefer to travel by boat.

The “Occasionals”*

When the newly appointed Lt. Governor Jonathan Johnson had his welcome reception it was the talk of the town for weeks. One of the big attractions at the reception was the local string band known as ‘The Occasionals’.

The many prominent St.Maarten families who were there were amazed that Saba had such a traditional string band which is not well-known outside of Saba.

On September 5th after visiting the tax doctor I took a swing past the “Henry Carlyle Every ” Home for the Aged.

Nurse Elizabeth ‘Lizzy’ Hassell was in the dining room entertaining herself while playing the harmonica which she told me she had bought in Curacao.

At the entrance was my friend Wilbourne Carlyle Granger (born December 30th 1932), better known as ‘Pops’.

Carlyle and my brother Freddie were the greatest of friends since children. Freddie was a teacher in front of the class for thirty five years, something of which he was rightfully proud. Everyone, including Carlyle, called him ‘Meneer”, a polite Dutch form of addressing a male teacher. Once I heard Carlyle telling someone that if he saw ‘Meneer’ in a fight that he would jump in and help him to throw blows. Only after the battle was won he would ask ‘Meneer’ who had started the fight.

Carlyle’s mother Nina Granger had Statia roots and lived just above us when we lived in the mountain above Windwardside. He and his sister Alicia ( now deceased but also a musical talent) were the children of Elisha Beaks Hassell ( a white man of Windwardside).

Since his father was married to the widow of Dr. Nicolas Anslijn, Carlyle was indirectly related to the Anslijns. His uncle John Herman Hassell raised him. Herman was a lifelong bachelor and a prominent businessman who was also the local Judge. When Spritzer and his partner Fuhrmann two Eastern European Jews were selling jewelry from door to door, Herman gave them a loan. The former well known firm of Spritzer & Fuhrmann Inc. got its start with that loan from Herman.

Carlyle was not a beneficiary of the small fortune which Herman left behind when he died. However he learned the principles of business from Herman and years later he started up his own successful grocery store. For over thirty years he also worked for the government as assistant to the legendary Josephus Lambert Hassell. Then when Lambert retired Carlyle took over from him as Chief of Public Works until he retired.

Meanwhile his family kept growing and growing and growing until the whole Saban community started calling him ‘Pops’.

This roundabout way of my writing serves a purpose. Carlyle is also the father of the string band known the last years as ‘The Occasionals’. The name suggests the informal nature of the band. As Carlyle told me, it was done for love. The music he played was never done for money.

Carlyle told me that he learned to play the guitar on his own when he was around twelve years old. “Lee Brothie”, “Gabo’s son” (Josephus Kock Johnson) who was here from Aruba on vacation, just after World War II, sold him an old mandolin. Carlyle learned how to tune the mandolin. It is tuned the same way as the violin and the banjo.

He said the first time they played as a band was when ‘Willie” (John William Johnson) returned from Aruba. He was a bachelor then and held a party at his home. (Willie by the way was also musically inclined and could hold his own on the accordion quite well.).

Carlyle said he still remembers that party and that the late Kenneth Peterson was like a peacock on the dance floor that night.

Before Carlyle’s band the ‘white folk’ used to hire an old black lady to pound on the wooden partition of the house accompanying someone playing the guitar and another person shaking up small stones in an old rusty can. People danced to tunes composed by “Wemely” Hassell (married to Incum. Imagine!), and her sister. They were the daughters of the well known midwife ‘Yeath” (Rosita Lynch-Hassell). Wemely composed such well known waltzes as ‘The’ Maisy’ is mine, she can sail anytime,’ and “If your daughter is cranky bring her to Lampe”. Years later people here danced to imported songs such as “What a night Wathey had to the front.” No! No! It was not Claude. It was his grandfather if I am not mistaken and the young gal from down street was the result of him being brought up-street in a sheet. Cause for making a song. The’ Occasionals’ can play that like it was made for them.

Carlyle said that the first leader of the band was actually Elmo Hughes. In the beginning Carlyle played the guitar. When Eugenius and Ronnie had the club they bought some instruments which included a banjo and he learned to play it. And play it well he did.

Later on he bought a banjo on Curacao which he named “The World”. In 1972 he ordered a banjo from Germany. Carlyle told me that he paid $500.-for that banjo. At the time he could have bought a much needed car on St.Maarten for that price, but he loved music so much that he decided to buy the banjo instead.

When the banjo arrived in a solid wooden case with KLM airfreight there was a celebration at his home on its arrival, and people after hearing the new banjo spontaneously named it “The Universe.”

When Elmo Hughes left for Curacao in the early nineteen fifties Carlyle took over the band. He told me that the late Sylvester Hughes was always there. He was the maracas man in the band. Calvin Holm, a good singer, later joined the band and played the quarto, locally made by Alvin Adonis Caines.

He was later joined by the guitarist Eric Johnson, also an excellent singer who still plays in the band and sings in the Roman Catholic Church choir in Windwardside.

Next came Dolphie Johnson, who plays the Marimba. Roy Smith (Act.Lt. Governor) joined when he came from school in Curacao. He plays the guitar and is also an excellent singer. Also for a time teacher Godfred Hassell played the guitar and Maurits Hassell played the drum. The last years others have joined the band including guitarist and singer Senator Ray Hassell and guitarist Police Office Siegfried Maria. The band went to St. Maarten a few times. I remember once when I lived at Captain Hodge’s Guesthouse the band came over in a very small boat accompanied by another small boat. The first boat arrived hours before and we started fearing the worst for the band. Finally we saw a small boat passing the bar. Great Bay Harbour was so quiet back then that from the shore we could hear them playing as they made their approach. The engine had broken down but somehow they had managed with the help of legendary mechanic Johnny Hassell, also the owner of the boat, to repair the engine at sea. From the time of arrival we all went to the Sea View Hotel and drew up the whole town who came out to enjoy the lovely music.Business was so good that Mr. Melford Hazel mistakenly decided that drinks for the band were on the house. Those boys had come to Sint Maarten with one thing in mind to play music and to drink. Not necessarily in that order.

Carlyle once told me that he had visited 23 countries in the Caribbean and 11 on the American continent. And yet, the only vacation he looked forward to was a vacation on St.Maarten. He said he never thought that he would live to see the day when one would be afraid of anything happening to them on St.Maarten.

The band also went to Santiago de Cuba in 2002 to participate in a cultural festival there.

They also accompanied the taxi-drivers on a Winair sponsored trip to St.Maarten and played at the Union Hall in Cole Bay.

After Carlyle got ill and had to have his leg amputated he moved to the Henry C.Every Home for the Aged, named after a cousin and a childhood friend.

Ronald L. Johnson (‘Ronnie’) took over the sponsorship of the band, bought new instruments and obviously enjoys what he is doing. Recently with assistance of the Prince Bernhard Fund a CD was released with music by ‘The Occasionals”, something to be treasured by our people.

Jerry Craig wrote; “We need to promote among our own citizens, a willingness to use local craft, to preserve our traditional architecture, to listen to our own songs. When this attitude to development becomes action, the rest will be rooted in an understanding and appreciation of our own culture.

For myself I must say that perhaps there are things you can only really know and appreciate in the place you are born into; the place ‘where your navel string bury,’ as we say in the West Indies.

To Carlyle we say do not despair. Find inspiration in the words of the great Robert Louis Stevenson;

“So long we love we serve;

So long as we are loved by others,

I should say that we are almost indispensable;

And no man is useless while he has a friend.”

Carlyle was always very much about education for his children. Even while enjoying his music his main goal was to help his children get a good education.

As I was leaving the home, in the meantime, his daughter Raquel had joined him and was there chatting away, keeping him company. She recently returned to the island with a Masters in clinical psychology, proving his point that there is nothing like having a good education.

Thank you Carlyle for your years of entertaining our people and providing them with a unique cultural heritage in the form of “The Occasionals” band, and thanks also to Ronny and the other long serving members of the band for carrying on the tradition.

The complete bookworm


Dr. George Hopkins

Dr. George Richard Hopkins graduated from Tufts College Medical School on June 17th, 1908. There was also a student from Barbados at Tufts and he told Doctor Hopkins that the Dutch Government was looking for doctors to serve in the West Indies colonies. Doctor Hopkins started working on Saba in 1908. Exactly one hundred years ago. He came to the island with his wife Lucy Graham Hopkins and baby daughter also named Lucy. Doctor Hopkins sister-in-law, Flossy Rayfuse visited Saba a few years later. She died at the age of 93 in California.

She wrote about Saba as it was at the time. I got a copy of what she wrote years later from Lucy who lived in Florida.

I would like to share her views on Saba which she entitled: “Dr. G.R. Hopkins on Saba.”

“About fifty years ago the Colony Curacao (six islands) was very poor and the Dutch in Holland had great trouble to find doctors to come here. Every well-educated man wanted to go to the Dutch East Indies, rich islands where a lot of money was made.

George was just a few months from the end of his studies. He was married and Lucy was already born, so he was on the lookout for a job to begin with as soon as he had his doctor’s title.

He had a class-mate a Barbadian, who had a sister, a nurse. This nurse had a love affair with an Englishman who worked for the Dutch in St.Eustatius (the love affair must have been going on during their stay in a Baltimore hospital).

One day the Barbadian nurse wrote to her brother that she had heard from her sweetheart (the British doctor) that there was a vacancy for a medical man on the Dutch island of Saba and she wanted to know if he was interested. He told George about it and said at the same time that he did not want to go to Saba. He was a Barbadian and he intended to go back to Barbados. So George asked him;”If you are not interested, why not get the information for me? Do you object to that?” The Barbadian did not, so he wrote to his sister. They received the wanted information and George applied to the Dutch Government.

Months passed, both forgot about it. George started to look around for a place to establish himself and he had already decided on some village around Rumford (Maine). He had visited an old doctor there and the old man had told him there was an opportunity for a young doctor. It would have been too expensive to start a practice around Boston, but George thought that in the backwoods he would only need a horse and carriage; in winter a sled and snowshoes and the office would have been in the front-room of his house.

“All at once there came a reply from the Dutch Government in Curacao. George had given references with his application. They had made inquiries and the job as a doctor in Saba was offered to him. The letter was in Dutch, so there was the first difficulty. He had a Belgian neighbor and went to him, and this man knowing Flemish pretty well translated the letter. The salary offered was f.2500.-yearly minus 8% for something. The Belgian could not figure out what for, so George decided that must be some kind of graft. He decided to agree to that, but the “f” was considered by the Belgian as being francs (then $0.20). George decided he could not live on that and wrote back that he was willing to come but not for fcs.2.500.-but for fcs.5.000.–, so again nobody expected that anything would come of it. Another surprise followed, the Dutch Government wrote him that the salary was really what he wanted as f.2500.-meant florins just twice the amount of fcs.2.500.-as he thought he would receive and the 8% reduction was for his pension.

“After further information George decided to accept the Dutch offer and start his career as a doctor in Saba. First he had to find out where this island was situated. He found the little spot in the Caribbean. All the preparations were made and George, wife, and baby Lucy journeyed to Saba, by British boat from New York via the Danish islands of St.Thomas, St. Croix to St. Kitts. From this last island by small sailing vessel to Saba where they landed, just when it was getting dark on Fort Bay on August 30th, 1908, eve of Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday. There was a horse for George to be transported on up the steps to The Bottom (capital of Saba in the old crater). Wife Lucy & Baby Lucy were carried up in a chair. On the way up Mrs. Hopkins heard a funny noise from her dark environment and asked one of the carriers: “What bird is that?’ Kind of astonished he replied “Ma’am that is a goat!”

Part of the information the Hopkins family received before departure was faulty, Especially one fact was very annoying, viz. they had been informed they need not bother about house furnishings etc., as you could buy all those things on Saba. On arrival they discovered that except food and a few little items nothing could be purchased in Saba and as the hurricane season had started no sailing ships were risking trips on the Caribbean, so the doctor’s family lived for months in a house wholly furnished with borrowed goods, but the population was very nice about it.

Although George did not know anything about Holland and Queen Wilhelmina, he enjoyed especially the celebration of Queens Birthday one day after arrival in Saba.

Most of the transportation was done on horseback on mountain paths and partly on steps, cut out of the side of the mountain. Mrs. Hopkins became an expert horse-woman and George had the honour of designing the first divided skirt for riding in Saba. Side-saddle was too dangerous on those trails. George’s mother was a dress-maker, so in his youth he had seen a lot of models etc. and being rather handy he understood how the shape of the horse-back riding skirt had to be, so the doctor and a few women started on this experiment and it was successful.

George had a pretty good surgical training in his last year as an intern in a hospital, so because of the hurricane season, and the only way to get out of Saba was on a sailing-ship, he was pushed into doing rather serious operations. His assistants were the schoolmaster and the shoemaker, the operating table was the kitchen table.

In the beginning George did only refractions, but as time went on, he understood he might be able to help the people there by doing cataract-operations. Even when transportation was possible most of his patients in Saba could not afford to go somewhere else to have an operation. So with the help of his medical text books for theory and sheep’s eyes as practical material, he started on his career as eye-doctor.

Life was fairly pleasant on Saba. Food was sometimes kind of monotonous, especially when you were virtually shut off from the rest of the world during hurricane season. Canned salmon and chicken was very much on the menu. Once in a while somebody came to ask you if you wanted meat, and if there were enough customers some man went out to shoot a goat. If he was successful you had a roast the next day. If not you tried to find a new method to prepare chicken or canned salmon. Fresh fish was available quite often and sometimes turtle. There was never beef, once in a great while veal.

In the course of 1910 Mrs. Hopkins left on a trip to the States. She was pregnant and expected to have the child in the States, but she changed her mind and in August decided to go back to Saba. Landing in Saba is always some kind of adventure. The ship stays off-shore. Blacks come to meet her in a rowing boat and you are launched ashore through the surf. Nearly always you are soaked through when you step on land.

When Mrs. Hopkins arrived the sea was especially rough. Landing in the Fort Bay, the most convenient one was impossible. So the ship had to go to go to the Ladder Bay and a rowboat met her there. Mrs. Hopkins was 8 months pregnant and not in the best condition to go through that kind of adventure, but she was there and had to land. The miracle was performed and a big strong black man took her upon his shoulder and carried her up the mountain to meet George there. He went out to meet her from the Fort Bay, but they could not come back the same way. Part of the way higher up a horse was available to carry her to The Bottom. There are also steps cut out of the mountain from the Ladder-Bay, but they are too steep for horses, so big husky black men do the job.

 (The baby, George Thomas Hopkins, was born on Saba on September 30th, 1909 and delivered by his father assisted by a local midwife.) Saba is one of the West Indian islands where the population is proportionally dominating white. Very few mulattos’, that shows there is hardly any mixing of races. Whites and blacks live in villages very near to each other, but very definitely apart. That was in 1910, how it is now we do not know.

Population mostly old men, women and children; younger men were mostly sailors. They had in that time their own navigation school. Young men started early to go to sea, then they came back and generally got engaged to get married. Generally stayed long enough after the marriage till they were sure that a baby was expected, then, took another trip again to make money to support the family. Then on their next stay home generally another baby was launched.

Lots of the white sailors from families of The Bottom became first mates and Captains of big ships. They generally reached better positions than those belonging to Mary’s Point, they became bosons etc. Saba sailors have a very good reputation. Only thing the island exported was white potatoes, very good quality, grown on the mountainside on terraced plots. The women make a very nice kind of needle work, which is widely appreciated.”

So far the description of life on Saba one hundred years ago written by Flossie Rayfuse

In the early 1960’s Dr. Hopkins received from Governor Cola Debrot the distinction of Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau for his services to the Netherlands Antilles. After some years on Saba where he also serviced St. Eustatius he moved to St. Maarten, on March 31st, 1911. There he bought the Belle Plaine estate from Diederick Johannes van Romondt. During his European vacation in the First World War he served as a doctor on the hospital ship “The Hope” which accompanied the fishing fleet, and then he moved to Aruba after which in 1932 he was transferred to Curacao.

Dr. G.R. Hopkins was born in Brewster Maine on June 7th, 1884. He worked as government doctor from 1908 to 1934 after which he retired from government service.

He then started his private practice as he was an eye specialist in the meantime. The practice he had on Saba on the people there and using his sheep’s eye had done wonders for him. His office was located in the “Heerenstraat”. He died on Curacao and is buried there.

I have a file with many of his documents including a copy in French of his bill-of-sale for “Belle Plaine” estate which he bought in 1912.

In ‘Saba Silhouettes” by Dr. Julia Crane, Mr. Carl Hassell tells the story of Dr. C.A. Shaw, who was on Saba from February 1899 to February 1903.

He relates; “Meantime there was no doctor on Saba then. Finally in Barbados we get talking. The man out there used to come aboard and sit and talk; and finally we found out he was a doctor, one looking for a job. Well, the captain told about Saba had no doctor, and perhaps he might be able to come here and get the job. So, all right, the captain of the schooner belonged to St.John’s. He says, “Yes, yes, I will give you free passage to Saba.” All right we came along and we introduced him to the office, but the office said he would have to go to Curacao and pass examination and so on. But then he had no money. He was just in his pants and shirt. He was from Nova Scotia. You had to travel by schooner from here to Curacao – what they call a packet that run once a month. You get there in a months’ time and back. So we took a collection here on the island. He done quite a few jobs while he was here. The government give him permission to work, you know. He remained here about a month, and finally we get together enough money to pay his way to Curacao; and exactly they accepted him. The government of Curacao accepted him, sent him back, put him in his position, and he was a splendid doctor.

“We had the office for the doctor where the post office is now. There was a room in that building. Well the building was only half the size that it is now, where the doctor used to tend. Oh, boy! There was nothing that that man couldn’t do in the line of surgery and all of that, you know! He done some wonderful jobs here. He was in Saba about three years, I guess, then they shipped him to St. Maarten, and he tended both places. Great Bay and the French side, and the Dutch side. The French side had no Doctor either, so he used to do both jobs. Well, he got up to be big, earning plenty of money, and he got to be rich. He got to be so kind of sarcastic, you know on these places – the places that had helped him, raised him to get somewhere. He got so then that he didn’t like Saba or its people. Well, they shipped him to St. Maarten and he did the same there. He didn’t use the people like they felt they should be used; and he left there and went to St. Kitts, head of the hospital -bigger job- some other doctors under him then. He remained there till he died. His name was Shaw. But he knew his business, there was no getting out of that. Wonderful operations that they performed here in this island. We had a lady up here on the mountain. I believe it was appendix or something; anyway it was so it was life or death. She either had to die or have the operation, and he did it. She came out all right. He wasn’t grateful for what the people of Saba did for him. After he got so he could handle himself, he had his own way. Why, he wanted to be head of everybody!”

Doctors were important enough in those days to warrant mention in “Memories of St. Maarten” by Josiah Charles Waymouth.

In Chapter V he mentions;” At his departure, as already detailed, the writer had left in his island home, doing duty pro temp. as government physician, in the place of Dr. Shaw, Dr. Cristensen.

“On his return to Philipsburg on 23rd May 1911, after his 4 years absence, he found Dr. Hopkins in the occupancy of that position.” In Chapter VI for the year 1913, Mr. Waymouth mentions the following; “Dr. Shaw returned to this island on 28th September and relieved Dr. Hopkins who left us on 2nd October and has since then been continuously at the other islands – his first station having been Saba.”

For those who want to read all kinds of other information on the life of a doctor on a small island I would like to recommend reading Doctor Robert Mols’ book: “Doctor on Saba.” Also for those who think it is difficult today just imagine being held down by the schoolteacher and the shoemaker while the doctor takes out your appendix on the kitchen table without the help of an anesthetic.

Saba School of Navigation


Bird Island


Saba and Barbados


Two Hell’s Gate Captains*

  In this article I would like to highlight two well known captains from the village of Hell’s Gate (also known as Zion’s Hill).

    They were the sons of Captain Charles Simmons brother of my grandfather James Horton Simmons.

    The village of Hell’s Gate was not known for producing sea captains. They were the farmers and the fishermen of Saba. They stayed close to Saba and fished the Saba Bank.

 When others left the island for good it was the Hell’s Gate people who repopulated the island and still do. With the ever declining local population I tell the young people of Hell’s Gate that they have a sacred mission to repopulate the island.

    In the beginning of the last century many men from Hell’s Gate went to Bermuda and worked there for awhile and also to the United States. Yet after a few years many of them including my father returned from Bermuda and remained here on the island.

   Captain Charles Simmons, born 1863 was the son of Charles Simmons Sr. (‘Mas’ Charlie) and his wife Alice Eliza Horton.

   Captain Charles Simmons had only two children by his wife Peter Ann Every (born 1864 died 28th February 1932). Her parents were Daniel Every and Eliza Hassell.

    The two children were Charles Reuben Simmons born 27th September 1895, and James Knight Simmons, born 26 October 1897.

    On my mother’s side they were her first cousins, but they all lived like brothers and sisters. As in so many cases on Saba formerly, Charles Reuben was married to my father’s sister, Sylvia Ottilia Johnson, and so to me he was my ‘Uncle Reuben’.

    I remember once as a young child putting off a cow for Uncle Reuben. That involved going from house to house announcing that a cow was to be butchered on such and such a date and would you want a share. There was no refrigeration back then. When enough shares were put off the cow was butchered. The meat was divided up into the number of shares ordered. You either cooked and ate it all the same day or salted (corned) it for future use. Most households had a barrel with pickle for that purpose.

    All went well so Uncle Reuben owed me one. I came home one day from my wandering around the village and found my mother all upset. Captain Frank Hassell was visiting here from Barbados with his schooner ‘Francis W. Smith’. As was the custom back then a local retired captain would be asked to carry out the schooner and ‘lay to’, which involved cruising around the islands until the visiting captain was finished vacationing. Uncle Reuben had been looking all over for me to go and spend three days on the schooner cruising around the islands. I 

tried to catch Uncle Reuben but by the time I got to St. John’s the schooner was already headed out to sea. No cell phones back then, so I lost out on that trip and up until today after having traveled the world I still lament missing out on that schooner trip. In my minds eye I can still see the schooner in the distance headed in the direction of St. Kitts.

     I remember visiting Captain Knight and his wife Helen in Hempstead, New York. They were the only white people living in the apartment building so that people in the lobby would say to me;” I guess you came to see Captain Simmons.”

   It was on one of those trips that he told me of the death of his father. He said that if he lived to be a thousand years old he would never forget what happened. He was only seventeen years of age. He had been sailing since the age of thirteen which was the custom back then. They were on a schooner called the ‘Meteor’ and sailing from Guyana to Barbados his father developed a high fever and they decided to continue on to Saba. However on June 19th, 1915 he died just outside of Saba. The sea was so calm and there was no wind so they decided to bury him at sea. As soon as the body went beneath the waves a strong breeze sprang up and within half an hour they made it into port. It was his dad duty to go home and inform his mother of his father’s death.

    Captain James Knight Simmons went to the Navigation School on Saba and then moved on to the United States. He was captain for the Grace Lines company for many years and sailed mostly between New York and South America. During World War II he took part in D-Day and his ship was scuttled at Omaha Beach in France.

    Among the Grace Line ships he was captain of were the ‘Santa Rosa’, the ‘Santa Barbara’ and the’ Santa Clara’. His last command was the ‘S.S. Margarita.’

   The Grace Lines were started by an Irish boy William Russell who went to Peru in the 1840’s, got himself a job in Lima. He saw a future in the guano trade and together with his brother Michael he got into shipping through discipline and hard work.

    The Grace Lines named after him eventually owned the Santa ships which carried passengers and cargo between North America and South America.

    Captain Knight used to call in with the ‘Santa Rosa’ to Aruba and Curacao as well. He sailed as captain with the company for over thirty years. The old ‘Santa Rosa’ carried about 50 passengers in storage and 209 in first class. She started sailing on November 26th, 1932. Late 1936 Grace Lines acquired the Red D. Line, which line also had a number of Saba captains in its day. The service was between New York, Venezuela, Curacao, Colombia, Cristobal Panama and Haiti. The ‘Santa Clara’ renamed the Susan B. Anthony was sunk in the Normandy invasion. I don’t know if he was captain of her at the time.

    After World War II the ‘Santa Rosa’ served the Caribbean calling at Curacao, La Guaira, Aruba, Kingston, Port-au-Prince and Port Everglades, sailing from New York every two weeks.

   Captain Knight was married to a German lady named Helen. They had a son and a daughter who live in the United States. He lived to be 95 and died in 1992.

    Captain Charles Reuben Simmons was born on September 27th, 1895 and died in 1993 at the ripe old age of 98. He married Sylvia Otilia Johnson on November 20th, 1917 and they had one daughter Mary Estelle who was born on November 27th, 1919. She is still alive and lives in her parent’s home on Hell’s Gate. Her house is a gathering place for the few old timers who remember fondly the days of farming and fishing.

    Uncle Reuben left Saba as a young man for the United States. There he attended navigation school at White Hall Street in New York City. He obtained his license as second mate, later on he became first mate, and then he obtained his Masters license.

He returned later on to the West Indies and the first schooner under his command was the very large schooner the ‘Mayflower’, owned by Captain Thomas C. Vanterpool.

    Before that he sailed out of the United States. While quarter master on board of the ‘Missouri’, he was torpedoed of Genoa in the Mediterranean on April 4th, 1917 and spent several days at sea before being rescued. The ship was under the command of Captain Hilton Simmons of The Bottom and which ship belonged to the American Hawaiian Lines. Menthor Hassell of  Windwardside was first mate, Earl Simmons of The Bottom was quarter master and’ Pietie’ Johnson was a sailor.

    Other ships on which he sailed were the ‘Sea Breeze’ and the ‘Steadfast.’ He was also First Mate on the five master schooner the ‘T.N.Barnsdell’, under the command of legendary Captain Ernest Alfred Johnson.

    Between 1940 and 1944 he was a pilot on the rivers in Demerara.

After his sea faring days he lived on Saba. He used to own the former Utilities building in The Bottom. He sold it to Chief Police constable the late Bernard Halley, and when he died the family sold it to Mr. Claude Wathey.

Uncle Reuben then built his house on Hell’s Gate close to the former home of his deceased parents. He had good farm land close to his house and he supported himself with farming the land in his old age. He was called out of retirement briefly to be a Mate on the government owned MV ‘Antilia’. By that time he had his cows and had gotten the sea life out of his system, so that he did not stay long on the ‘Antilia,’ and returned home.

    He was community minded and I seem to remember him always dressed in his suit going to one funeral or the other. He and his brother even though far apart were loving brothers and always kept in contact with each other. There is a plaque on the wall opposite the Roman Catholic Church on Hell’s Gate in remembrance of him. In his old age he used to sit on that same spot contemplating a life of adventure spent on the high seas.

   Uncle Reuben told me many stories of his days as a schooner captain carrying as many as 450 passengers to Curacao from the British islands to work for the Shell Company. Just a few weeks ago former Commissioner Peter Granger who is now 92 was telling me that when he was going to Aruba to work that Uncle Reuben had told his father that he had a suitcase for him. ‘Cessie’ claims he still has that suitcase from seventy five years ago.

   They are gone but not forgotten as they were the only two natives of Hell’s Gate who went on to the big league of being captain of not only large schooners but also of large cruise ships as well.

The Anslyn Brothers*

If you misplace a book in my house you can forget about looking for it. Sometimes years later it will turn up stuck between my bookshelves where there are at least 2500 books. I tell friends (and now everybody) that my bedroom resembles the Public Library. I sleep in a huge four poster bed and the room is lined with shelves of mostly books on the West Indies. And then there is my office and most of the other rooms in the house. Books and paper everywhere.

And so it happened with Saban Rascal, a self published book by Carl Anslijn when he was 75 years old. I had asked all over if anyone had a copy of this book of childhood memories written by Carl, to no avail. And just this month the book turned up stuck between another book where I least expected to find it. A hint to the believers. Saint Anthony is your boy to call on for lost items. He always comes true. If you are a believer that is. The Muslims must have an equivalent for him as well. Abu Bakhr perhaps?

Carl and his brother Arthur were the sons of Edward Anslijn whose mother was from Saba and whose father was the famous Dutch Doctor Nicholas Anslijn. He in turn was a descendant of a famous Flemmish educator who wrote one or more books on the subject of education. In an interview in Saba Silhouettes by Dr. Julia Crane ,Carl describes his ancestry as follows:

“My grandfather first came here from Curacao as a doctor. That must have been in l875.

My father (Edward) died at the age of seventy-two years. That would give him, let us say, 1880 roughly when he was born. My grandfather was a doctor on Curacao, and he had been married to a Venezuelan lady whose father was a military man, and she had died.

He came here when he must have been up around forty-five or fifty years, I imagine. Around fifty let us say. My grandmother was very young. She couldn’t have been more than sixteen or eighteen years. He fell in love with her and married her. He took her away to Curacao where they lived for some time. They came back up here then, and he died in Sint Maarten. He left her with three children. She stood here and she married a Saba man who believed that it was much easier to sit down than to work, and she had a tough life.”

Carl and Arthur were very ambitious, and hard working men. They both had an excellent education for their day on the island of Nevis. Their father Edward was captain of the Luxury yacht the “Nearra” of the Sea Island Cotton company with headquarters on Nevis.

The yacht was seldom used and in the hurricane season the yacht had to be sheltered in the Oyster Pond on St. Martin, on St. Barths or St. Thomas, but mostly at the Oyster Pond.

Carl used to tell me many stories about the isolation of the area when he was a boy with no one living there and no roads leading to it: ” In Saba Silhouettes he says: “You can imagine, two boys, my brother and I, in a place where there were practically millions of fish, lobsters, every kind of bird, wild goats, wild sheep, horses, cows, everything you could think of. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer never had the equal of what we had! It was one spree from morning until night, roaming the hills, swimming catching fish, boating, sailing, everything you could do. We were very healthy.

Of course it played hell with our schooling because in Sint Maarten living at the Oyster Pond, we could not go to school. The town was some miles away, and in those days there wasn’t cars running back and forth like now.” In between Oyster Pond, Carl and Arthur lived in Nevis. He said: “We went to a very nice school, a private school that a lady educated in England kept for the Administrator’s children and so on. It was the people who had money, that could afford to pay for good schooling and not send their children to the government school. They sent them to Miss Bridgewater’s school because she gave them a better education. In Nevis I studied not only English but French, and we had Latin classes.”

His father Edward later became the captain of the ferry between St. Kitts and Nevis. He and Carl’s mother were divorced by then and he married a lady from Nevis. Carl’s sister Dr. Brontie Gonsalves-Anslijn and his brother the second Arthur known as “brother” are prominent people on Nevis. “Brother” used to run the ferry for years after his father died.

I have occasional contact with them. “Brother’s” son Vaughn is a very talented painter and reminds me of his Uncle Carl.

Arthur and Carl were loving brothers all their life. Carl never married. Arthur had three children. Both of the brothers lived into their eighties.

As young men they bought the “Schotzenhoek Estate” on St. Eustatius for fls.5.000.—This is where the Statia Oil Terminal is now located. They bought it from the Every family of Saba/Statia origin. The first Every was Daniel James Hassell Every a brother of one of my great grandmother’s Adrianna. He married the daughter of a Zeelig who owned the plantation and moved to Statia in the mid eighteen hundreds. The Every’s branched out from Statia into St. Kitts where they owned “Brotherson’s Estate” some 900 acres the largest sugar cane plantation on St. Kitts. They also owned whaling ships, schooners, the “Pinney’s Estate” on Nevis and property on the Frontstreet in St. Maarten.

In the nineteen twenties they were struck with several misfortunes. They lost one son who shot himself accidentally while passing a gun through a barbed wire fence. Two others got lost in a hurricane on their schooner. Their only daughter married a captain of a whaling ship and moved to the U.S.A.

The Every’s spent their last years on Nevis. “Uncle” Carl Buncamper used to visit them and told me how much they missed Statia. They said that if they heard a bird it sang sweeter if they thought it had flown over from Statia to visit them.

Carl told me that Governor Johannes de Graaf was buried on the estate. He decided to dig out the grave but grave robbers had already gone with the golden sword which he supposedly was buried with. All he found was a finger bone. He placed it on the eve of the house above the front door. For two nights there was such an infernal racket on the roof that Arthur gave orders to take the bone back to the grave and bury it. The following night Governor de Graaf allowed them to sleep peacefully.

After several years Carl and Arthur sold Schotzenhoek for fls.25.000.– to a Dutch farmer Mr. van Rijswijk and they went to Curacao to manage two plantations for Dr. Maal whom they had known on Statia.

Carl said: “When you are handling a farm with about four hundred goats, two hundred sheep, a herd of cattle, and big cultivation, two men cannot run it. Arthur wanted to work twenty four hours a day and did not believe in letting a guilder stray from home through employed labour.” Carl wanted to go to church on Sundays and reflect on life, and so they decided to sell.

After Curacao they moved back to Aruba and Carl worked for the LAGO oil refinery. He was a favourite of Juancho Yrausqin of the PPA party and was also a top vote getter. He served as a Member of Parliament for Aruba for seven years. He was also five years a Commissioner and also served as a Member of the Island Council there.

When he was sick and ailing I had one hell of a time getting Aruba to pay him his pension. It seemed to me that all the leading politicians on Aruba were unaware of his career. Some even denied that he had ever been a Commissioner. In l985 they had fixed up sizeable pensions for themselves. How I was able to get through for him is too long for this article but he finally got something a few weeks before he died on Aruba.

Arthur came back to Saba in l950 after their mother had died on Aruba.He brought a jeep with him. I think it was the first privately owned vehicle and the third one on Saba. As a little boy I used to help him. My job was to jump off the jeep and place a rock under the wheel while he switched gears. He named one of his two sons that he had by Phyllis van Putten after me. At least he told me,” If its a boy I am going to name him Will.”

Arthur also has a granddaughter on St. Maarten. Patsy the wife of Joseph H. Lake, Jr.

Arthur became Commissioner and Island Council Member on Saba in l955 and served for twenty years in both jobs.

Carl returned to Saba in l968 and he and I were in opposition to one another. He was not easy with his pamphlet “The Bullseye”, but then neither was I with the “Saba Herald” After one election Carl declared Cessie Granger and myself the world’s two best eye specialists. He said that young people declaring to the voting bureau that they could not see well enough to vote, after being helped by one of us, were miraculously cured when they left the booth.

In l987 he suddenly decided to support me and stayed with me politically until he died.

In “Saba Silhouettes” Carl gave his reasons for leaving a successful political career on Aruba and coming home to Saba.

“All the years that I was away, I was looking forward to the day when I could come home and do what I am doing now., I say, well, that isn’t much of a goal for a man to look forward to, to come home and have a little garden and keep a flock of sheep and keep chickens and birds and peacocks and fish and all that. But it is a very peaceful existence,, and that is something that after so many years in politics, with all its intrigue and treachery, I learned to value the things we have here on Saba, more than a man usually does who is not involved in the rat race. So I yearned all the while for Saba and looked forward to the day I could come home and live as I’m living now.”

I thought I would share a part of Carl’s book with the readers. With certain groups in the Antilles trying to provoke Venezuela the story is timely as well.

On the eighth of June l929 Rafael Simon Urbina and some of his Venezuelan supporters took over the government on Curacao. They took Governor Ir. Leonard Fruytier and garrison commander Borren on a ship with them, which they had commandeered. They were released but the Dutch government replaced Fruytier with B.W.T. van Slobbe a trained military man, and also jailed the mnilitary commander Borren.

Rumors circulated in the meanwhile that Venezuela was going to attack over the islands and Carl in his book “Saban Rascal” gives an account of:

The Urbina Invasion

Our island was in an uproar. News had come that the rebel Venezuelan, general Urbina, had raided Curacao, and many of our simple-minded citizens thought that the other Dutch islands would be raided next.

Nobody stopped to think that our small rocky island had nothing to tempt any rebel force to raid it. Tension was high, and everybody feared the worst when a steamboat was seen approaching the island from the South.

The average islanders believed that we were about to be raided. People gathered about in groups discussing what should be done. Some of the women gathered up their most prized possessions, and were wondering where was the safest place to hide them. There was a lot of talk about hiding in caves on the island, and carrying food and water until the invaders left.

One old man, who lived close to the road which traversed the island, carried a rat trap and put it on the road, as it was the only weapon he had. He told the neighbours that he didn’t have a gun to shoot with, but at least the trap could give one of the invaders a sore toe.

People had begun to leave their homes to hide in the forests and caves, when it was noticed that the steamboat had anchored on the Saba Bank, which was some miles off the island. A sigh of relief went up from many a heart, and people once again went about their daily chores, but lookouts were still kept on several hills to keep watch on the steamboat.

A day later she pulled up her anchor and disappeared in the distance. And so ended our invasion by Urbina’s forces.”

For those who believe that President Hugo Chavez intends to invade Curacao or any of the other Dutch West Indies, the moral of the story is, be vigilant, be prepared, BUY A RATTRAP.

Advice to the Governor of the Isle of Barata

A custom of the Roman Catholic Church after confession is for the priest to put an obligation on the confessor. The last time I went to confession my priest put an obligation on me to read Don Quixote de La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. Just kidding! I myself felt obliged for whatever which reason to read Don Quixote. All 940 pages of what many Spanish language writers have described as the second greatest book ever written.

Just as the Holy Koran is best read in Arabic one is advised to read Don Quixote in the Spanish language. I chose to read the translation in English by J. M. Cohen. This is an acclaimed translation not to be matched by any other. And pray what did I learn from this book?

I don’t know if many of my readers knew Mr. Osborne Kruythoff of Cole Bay. I am certain that my friend Mike Ferrier knew him. If there ever was a Knight errant on St. Maarten it was Osborne Kruythoff. The more I read of Don Quixote’s adventures the more I remembered Osborne.

His supposedly real job was to clean up sea-weed on Great Bay Beach whenever such a need arose. This took place very seldom. So at a certain point a unique opportunity presented itself to Osborne to gain fame. St. Maarten had gone from 83 motor vehicles to some 200 or more in the early nineteen sixties. Osborne, on his own, decided that traffic on the square in front of the Court House needed someone to properly direct it. How he acquired a traffic whistle no one knows. However, Osborne’s whistle became as familiar as a train whistle must have been in former times to those living along the train tracks.

Osborne’s outfit consisted of a brown kaki uniform, a white tropical helmet and a machete used as a baton to direct traffic with. A machete on Saba is still called a cutlass, a throw back to our pirate ancestors.

If the car did not obey he would give it a good planass, which he must have learned while cutting cane back when in the Dominican Republic. A planass is the art of hitting someone with the flat part of the machete.

He started putting flowers in the helmet and in his shirt buttons, so much so that he looked like a walking flower pot and had to push aside the flowers covering his face, in order to get his traffic whistle in his mouth.

Naturally he became a spectacle for the few tourists coming to the island. Two tourist women would have him embraced for the picture taking when suddenly Osborne would spot a car coming in the distance, and he would break loose from the embrace scattering the tourists in the process, in order to carry on with his job of directing traffic.

The great mistake, which none other than Lt. Governor Japa Beaujon made was to salute Osborne one day, and to also follow his traffic directions. While there was no planass for the Governor’s car, Osborne felt emboldened and became obsessed with directing traffic. Even at night. One night late coming down the hill at Cole Bay, suddenly I heard Osborne’s whistle. He apparently had been hiding in the bushes, waiting on any car foolish enough to wander out into the night. His own transportation was not the ‘Rocinante” of Don Quixote however, but the Dapple of Sancho Panza. He rode to town on an old brown donkey, but it was not up to speed enough to get him on time to the square to direct traffic, so mostly he would walk or hitch a ride. If he was in the back of a truck he would blow the whistle incessantly at every passing car until he reached the square.

Although he could not drive himself he was full of advice on how one should handle a car. I was not the best driver and I gave him a lift once and he was shouting ‘Johnson boy don’t let she get away from you etc.’, so that I was relieved when we made it to town and he blew his whistle to get me out of the way so that he could get down to business with the other traffic.

Finally he became too enthusiastic and gave a planass to someone’s new car. Police was called and they dragged him down the alley by the Court House to the Police Station. My boss ‘Fons’ O’Connor was among other things also the local Judge. Osborne was screaming his head off for ‘Fons’ to come to his rescue. What a pathetic sight he was. His helmet lay smashed on the ground. The alley was full of flowers on the ground like after a Queens Birthday parade, but the two police officers kept dragging him towards the Police Station kicking and screaming and calling for the Judge.

In the end we all convinced ‘Fons’ to go to the rescue at the station. Don Quixote did not surrender easily however. Whether the police liked it or not he continued directing traffic until the number of cars overwhelmed him and he was lost among the crowd along with an entire host of colorful St. Maarten characters.

What else did I learn from reading Don Quixote? He advises that one should not discuss rope in the house of a man who has been hanged. I also learned that one should be careful in reading so many books as I do as it is said of Don Quixote that he so buried himself in his books that he spent the nights reading from twilight till daybreak and the days from dawn till dark; and so from little sleep and much reading, his brain dried up and he lost his wit.

Cervantes also advises: “After all these years I have been sleeping in the silence of oblivion, come out with all my years on my back, with a tale as dry as a rush, barren of invention, devoid of style, poor in wit and lacking in all learning and instruction, without quotations in the margins or notes at the end of the book; whereas I see other works, never mind how fabulous and profane, so full of sentences from Aristotle, Plato and the whole herd of philosophers, as to impress their readers, and get their authors a reputation for wide reading, erudition and eloquence? And when they quote Holy Scripture! You will be bound to say that they are so many St. Thomas’s or other doctors of the church.”

I was getting desperate as the end of the book came in sight. I was on a train between Washington and Richmond. Was there anything meaningful in the book?

I started to have my doubts. And then I came across the advice which Don Quixote gave to Sancho Panza when the Duke,as a joke, appointed him Governor of a non-existent island.

In looking back on my life I perhaps should have read Don Quixote in my youth, but I am pleased to pass on this advice to all those who have been entrusted with governing islands.

Don Quixote almost forced Sancho to sit down beside him, and addressed him with great deliberation:

‘I give infinite thanks to Heaven, Sancho my friend, that first and foremost, before I strike any good luck myself, prosperity has come out to meet and receive you. I who had staked the payment for your services on my own success find myself at the beginning of my advancement; while you find yourself rewarded with your heart’s desire before your time and contrary to all reasonable expectations. Some bribe, importune, solicit, rise early, entreat, pester, and yet fail to achieve their aims; then there comes another, and without knowing how or why he finds himself with the place and office which many others have sought for. Here the proverb comes in pat, that there is good and bad luck in petitioning’s. You are, in my opinion, most certainly a dullard. Yet without rising early or working late or putting yourself to great pains, with only the breath of knight errantry which ahs touched you, you find yourself without more ado governor of an isle, as if that were nothing. I say all this Sancho, so that you shall not attribute this favour to your own merits, but shall give thanks to God, who disposes things so kindly, and afterwards to the greatness implicit in the profession of knight errantry.

‘With your heart disposed to believe my words, be attentive, my son, to this your Cato, who will advise you and be the pole-star and guide to direct you and bring you to a safe port, out of this stormy sea in which you are likely to drown. For offices and great places are nothing but a deep gulf of confusion.

‘Firstly, my son, you must fear God; for in fearing Him is wisdom and being wise, you can make no mistake.

‘Secondly, you must consider what you are, seeking to know yourself, which is the most difficult task conceivable. From self-knowledge you will learn not to puff yourself up, like the frog who wanted to be as big as an ox. If you achieve this, the memory that you kept hogs in your own country will come to be like the peacock’s ugly feet to the tail of your folly.’

‘Therefore those who are not of noble origin must accompany the gravity of the office they exercise with a mild suavity which, guided by prudence, may save them from malicious slanders, from whom no station is free.’

‘Rejoice, Sancho, in the humbleness of your lineage, and do not think it a disgrace to say you come of peasants; for, seeing that you are not ashamed, no one will attempt to shame you. Consider it more meritorious to be virtuous and poor than noble and a sinner. Innumerable men there are, born of low stock, who have mounted to the highest dignities, pontifical and imperial; and of this truth I could weary you with examples.

‘Remember, Sancho, that if you take virtue for your means, and pride yourself on performing virtuous deeds, you will have no reason to envy those who were born princes and lords. For, blood is inherited but virtue acquired, and virtue has an intrinsic worth, which blood has not.

‘This being so, if any of your relations should chance to come and visit you when you are in your isle, do not reject them or insult them. On the contrary, you must receive them, make much of them and entertain them. In that way you will please God, who would have no one disdain His creation; and what is more, you will be complying with your duty to the order of nature.

‘If you should take your wife with you – for it is not right that those engaged in government should be for long without wives of their own – instruct her, indoctrinate her and pare her of her native rudeness; for often everything a wise governor gains is lost and wasted by an ill-mannered and foolish wife.

‘If you should chance to be widowed – a thing which may happen – and wish to make a better match to suit your office, do not choose a wife to serve you as a bait and a fishing-rod and take bribes in her hood; for I tell you truly that whatever a judge’s wife receives her husband will have to account for at the Last Judgment, where he will have to pay fourfold in death for the statutes of which he has taken no account in his lifetime.

‘Never be guided by arbitrary law, which has generally great influence with the ignorant who set up to be clever.

‘Let the poor man’s tears find more compassion in you, but not more justice, than the pleadings of the rich.

‘Try to discover the truth behind the rich man’s promises and gifts, as well as behind the poor man’s sobbings and importunities.

‘Where equity may justly temper the rigour of the law do not pile the whole force of it on to the delinquent; for the rigorous judge has no higher reputation than the merciful.

‘If you should chance to bend the rod of justice, do not let it be with the weight of a bribe, but with that of pity.

‘When you happen to judge the case of some enemy of yours, turn your mind away from your injury and apply it to the truth of the case.

‘Do not let personal passion blind you in another’s case, for most of the errors you make will be irremediable, and if you should find a remedy it will cost you your reputation, or even your fortune.

‘If a beautiful woman comes to beg you for justice, turn your eyes from her tears and your ears from her groans, and consider the substance of her plea at leisure, if you do not want your reason to be drowned in her sobs and your honour in her sighs.

‘Do not revile with words the man you must punish with deeds, since the pain of the punishment is sufficient for the wretch without adding ill-language.

‘Consider the culprit who comes before you for judgment as  a wretched man, subject to the conditions of our depraved nature, and as far as in you lies without injury to the contrary party, show yourself pitiful and lenient; for although all godlike attributes are equal, mercy is more precious and resplendent in our sight than justice.

‘The instructions I have so far given you are for the embellishment of your soul. Listen now to some which will serve you for the adornment of your body.

So far as concerns the government of your person and your house, Sancho, my first charge to you is to be clean, and to pare your nails and not them grow as do some, who are ignorantly persuaded that long nails beautify the hands; as if that excrescence and appendage which they omit to cut were merely nail, whereas it is like the claws of a lizard-catching kestrel – a foul and unsightly object.

‘Do not go unbelted and loose; for disorderly clothes are the indication of a careless mind, unless this disorderliness and negligence falls under the head of cunning, as it was judged to do in the case of Julius Caesar.

‘Do not eat garlic or onions; for their smell will reveal that you are a peasant.

‘Walk leisurely and speak with deliberation; but not so as to seem to be listening to yourself, for all affectation is bad;

‘Eat little at dinner and less at supper, for the health of the whole body is forged in the stomach’s smithy.

‘Be temperate in drinking, remembering that excess of wine keeps neither a secret nor a promise.

‘Take care, Sancho, not to chew on both sides of your mouth nor to eruct in anyone’s presence.

‘Be moderate in your sleeping, for he that does not rise with the sun does not enjoy the day; and remember Sancho, that industry is the mother of good fortune, and slothfulness, its opposite, never yet succeeded in carrying out an honest purpose.

 ‘To gain the goodwill of the people you govern you must do two things amongst others; the first is to be civil to everyone – and the other, to provide an abundance of the necessities of life, for there is nothing which distresses the hearts of the poor more than hunger and want.

‘Do not make many laws, but if you make them, try to make good ones and, particularly, see that they are kept and fulfilled; for if laws are not kept they might as well not exist. Besides, they show that though the prince had the wisdom and authority to make them, he had not the courage to see they were observed. And laws which threaten but are not carried out come to be like the log which was king of the frogs. He frightened them at first; but in time they despised him and climbed upon his back.

‘Do not show yourself greedy – or given to women or gluttony, for if the people and such as have dealings with you discover your dominant inclination they will open battery-fire on you in that quarter, until they bring you down to the depths of perdition.

Sancho concluded after this advice that he would rather go to Heaven plain Sancho than to Hell a Governor.

But Don Quixote admonished him to consider and reconsider, view and review, the counsels and instructions given to him. ‘You will see that you will find in them, if you observe them, an additional help to ease you over the troubles and difficulties which governors meet at every turn.’

At the end of the book Don Qixote decided not to go to Saragossa and his reasons were:’ Instead I went openly to Barcelona, the treasure house of courtesy, the refuge of strangers, the hospital of the poor, the country of the valiant, the avenger of the injured, and the abode of firm and reciprocal friendships, unique in its position and its beauty.

And although the adventures that befell me there occasioned me no great pleasure, but rather much grief, I bore them the better for having seen that city.’

I too am headed for Barcelona, and on November 29th, like Columbus, I will head out on a voyage of discovery to places already known and will end my cruise at St. Maarten  after having cruised the coast of Africa and visited the islands which Columbus visited before setting out into the great unknown.

Crashed eggs and tapas in Barcelona


Reflections on Father Christmas


Man of the Sea: James Anthony Simmons

In 1984 I interviewed James Anthony Simmons. He is still alive and active and will be 95 years of age this year.

He was born on Saba on August 9th, 1914. His mother was Caroline Maria Simmons born Every who died around 1956. Her parents were Mamselle Every called “Zellie” whose people originally came to Saba from St. Thomas, and her husband was named Peter Every.

James Anthony’s father was named James Arthur Simmons and he died around 1943 in Barbados at the age of 55. His parents were Sally Jones and Alexander Simmons. They were all dead before James Anthony was born.

His father James Arthur Simmons had left Saba and went to live in Barbados to work for “Redhead” Joe Simmons who had moved from Saba as many Sabans had done at the time. Red Head Joe used to own Walmar Lodge which was a plantation at the time.

James Anthony had not known his father and as so many young boys at the time he decided to go to sea and the usual age in those days was 14. And so at that young age James Anthony went to work as a mess boy on the schooner the “Ina Vanterpool”.It was a large schooner measuring 105 feet long, 26 feet wide and 218.90 tons. This two master schooner belonged to Captain Tommy Vanterpool. The Captain was Herman Simmons. They sailed between Curacao and the Windward Islands with the mail. The schooner had no motor and a trip, depending on weather conditions going and coming would take as much as ten days each way. Going down to Curacao would be faster and would usually take three to four days, but coming back could be from ten to twelve days. He also sailed on the “Georgetown” a schooner which was 81 feet long, 26 feet wide and 118.72 tons.

This schooner would carry as many as 75 passengers who had to rough it on deck mostly. They made a monthly trip to Curacao and in between would sail usually between Saba and St. Kitts. Around 1929 or 1930 the “Georgetown” went ashore on the island of Nevis and got destroyed there. James Anthony was not on board at the time, though I had an Uncle Herbert Simmons who was just a young boy himself who went ashore with her. In those days it took several weeks before my grandparents knew that he was safe and sound. James Anthony also worked on the “Three Sisters” with Capt. Will Leverock.

After that James Anthony sailed on the “Rhode Island” a two master which sailed to Curacao and which took the place of the “Three Sisters.” She also belonged to Captain William Benjamin Hassell. Her captain at the time was Aldrick Dowling. She was destroyed in a hurricane in Frederiksted, St.Croix around 1929. James Anthony and the crew had come to St.Thomas from Curacao. They went south to run from the hurricane and struck a reef just off the harbour of Frederiksted. No lives were lost. When daylight cleared the pilot boat came out and took the passengers and crew ashore. They were unable to save the boat but most of the supplies were saved. Mr. Labega (a son of Freddie Labega of St. Maarten ) who was married to a red haired girl from Saba and who lived there put them all up at his home. There were about twenty passengers on board when the accident happened. The two master schooner “Mary C. Santos” also belonging to Capt. Ben Hassell then came up from Barbados to St.Croix to pick them up. The passengers were all from the surrounding islands.

After that he went to work on the two master schooner the “Francis W.Smith” a salt fish runner from Canada which belonged to Captain Johnny Vanterpool and them.

The Captain was Aldrick Dowling. These schooners were all built in Canada. They would bring in codfish and lumber to Barbados and the Sabans would buy them there. On the “Francis W.Smith” he was an ordinary seaman and sailed to Trinidad, Demerara, Martinique and Guadeloupe carrying gasoline in drums from Trinidad. He did this for three years. The schooner was sold and then the captain went fishing off the coast of Guyana.

Around 1935 he went to Curacao where he worked for “Pletterij Nederhorst,” and then on to Aruba where he joined the “Mosquito” fleet. This was a fleet of tankers which belonged to ESSO on which a number of Sabans lost their lives in World War II.

Many of the survivors who worked 15, 20 and more years and who then still lived on Saba got a big fat pension of fls.20.- and less per month (Yes, That much) for having risked their lives before during and after the war for ESSO on Aruba. James Anthony worked for about twenty years on the fleet. He mostly sailed between Aruba and Lake Maracaibo, but sometimes to Barbados, Brazil and to Mobile Alabama and Norfolk Virginia and to Cristobal Colon in Panama.

In 1945 he married Aline Hughes from which marriage three children were born. After he came back to Saba he sailed with Capt. Randolph Dunkin on the sloop the “Eden Rock.”, mostly between Saba and St. Kitts. All the trade was with St. Kitts back then. The last time he sailed on a regular basis was on the sloop “Santa Lou” also belonging to Capt. Dunkin and which carried the mails between Saba and Sint Maarten in the sixties when Saba had an empty airport and they said no plane could land here.

James Anthony was also active in the politics since the sixties and was on the WIPM list each election since 1971 with Peter Granger and myself.

He was a joiner. When Miss Carmen and they started the Women’s Organization he joined. When asked why he had joined he said “Them poor women need help.” If the Women’s Organization still exists I am sure that he is still a member in good standing. It reminds me of the time the WIPM had to send a delegate to St.Lucia for a Youth Conference. None of the younger ones could attend. Mr. Carl Anslyn then seventy five years of age volunteered to attend. The average age attending the conference was 18. You can imagine the St.Lucia press had a field day with Saba’s delegate. When he got back Mr. Anslyn was full of praise for the way he had been received by the young people. He said to me “And I told them a thing or two.” I am sure he did.

James Anthony has been one of the main servers in the Roman Catholic Church in The Bottom. He has been a pillar of his church and was a member of the Parish council and is also a Member of the Living Water Community.

For many years he was also a housepainter by profession. I remember once when he was painting my roof that my son Teddy who was a little boy back then used to think that he was “Santa Claus” because it was around Christmas time and he had learned that Santa always landed on the roof. And since old James Anthony was on the roof for a couple of days, Teddy thought that he was Santa.

When he could get around he was always to be found to help out with all kinds of social activities and was a real asset to the people of The Bottom in particular and the people of Saba in general. He retired from the sea when he was in his eighties but he still used to go fishing with his friend Elmer Linzey especially, and he has fond memories of a life spent at sea. Especially the years he spent on the old Saban owned schooners trading throughout the West Indies.

And as is often the case in small island communities such as ours we also have a family relationship. As a boy I remember a big tall brown man stopping me and asking me if I was Johnson’s boy and I said;” Yes.” He said to me “You know me and you are family.”

You bet I thought to myself. How can you be family to me? Anyway when I went home I asked my mother and described the man to her. She laughed and said;” That must be Long Charlie. Yes he and your father are first cousins.” Turns out my great uncle Henry Johnson was his father. “Long Charlie” was Charles and a brother of our friend James Anthony.

James Anthony attends every event he can make it to and is fully alert as to what is going on around him. He will be 95 this year. I made a speech for him at his 90th birthday and it seems like yesterday. He still lives at home and is surrounded by his grandchildren and great grandchildren and it is always a pleasure to see how they appreciate having him around.

We salute James Anthony Simmons and wish him many more happy years here with us on Saba and thank him for being an inspiration for us all.

Stanley Johnson*

Memory of a Father

 Stanley Johnson was born to Rebecca Elizabeth Vlaun and John George Johnson on Saba on February 6th, 1890. At the age of fourteen he first set sail on various local schooners, traveling through the various West Indian Islands. He sailed with local captains including Knight Simmons, Benjamin Hassell, Thomas Vanterpool and Augustine Johnson. On January 2nd, 1922 he married my Aunt Alice Eliza Simmons (19) daughter of James Horton Simmons and Agnes Johnson.

At the age of thirty-seven, Stanley sailed to the United States aboard the “SS Caracas” arriving at Ellis Island in New York on April 13th, 1927. Along with him on the steamship were six other men from Saba: Reuben Johnson (age 45), David O. Johnson (age 16), William Johnson (age 36), Moses Johnson (age 52), David Johnson (age 17) and Richard Johnson (age 45). The official Ellis Island Ship’s Manifest indicates that all seven men listed their destination as 27 South Street, in lower Manhattan. This was the address of the Sabans godfather for fifty years Mr. Hyman Kalisky a Jewish merchant who was of Eastern European origin. He and his wife operated a boarding house and clothing store which was primarily used by sailors from Saba during their stays in New York. People on Saba even name their children Kalisky back then. Mr. Kalisky served the sailors well, assisting them with employment on ships, collecting their pay and sending mail and money back home to the families the men had to leave on Saba. The Kalisky family embraced Stanley as if he were a member of the family.

After arriving in New York in 1927, Stanley was not to return to Saba until 1936. During those nine years he sailed for four years on the four-masted schooner the “Albert F. Paul”, with Captain Southard and his wife Ruby, who were like family to him. The “Albert F. Paul” sailed from Nova Scotia and the New England fishing grounds to the Gold Coast of Africa. The other schooners upon which Stanley sailed carried various goods and products as diverse as corned codfish from New Bedford, Massachusetts and potatoes from Long Island, to salted cowhides from Brazil. He traveled around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and the Horn of Africa while sailing for Moore-McCormack Lines and Kerr McGee. During these years he also sailed the inland waterways, particularly the Hudson, from the St. Lawrence Seaway to New York harbour. He sailed on the Georgia, the Tennessee and the Mohawk, carrying timer down the Hudson. After sailing inland for several years he returned to the sea, sailing out of Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana for the Waterman Steamship Company of Boston, Massachusetts.

During this nine year period sailing out of New York, he, like many other Saba men, decided to become an American citizen. On March 17, 1932, while still listing his residence as 27 South Street in New York he was sworn in as a United States citizen. His decision was based in large part because of the opportunities the United States had provided to him.

In 1936, he returned to Saba and sailed again on local schooners. He remained on Saba until shortly after the death of his beloved mother Rebecca, in 1938. He never had the opportunity to see his homeland again.

Not long after his return to the United States, World War II began. He sailed with the Seafarer’s International Union as a Merchant Marine. As such he sailed on unarmed cargo ships in convoys to Europe and Russia, bringing aid and much needed supplies. I stayed at his home in Richmond Hill for two months in the winter of 1967 and I remember him telling me stories about how cold it was in Murmansk, Russia. If you made the mistake and held on to the rail your hand would stick to it.

During the war he frequently sailed on the Robin Tuxford under Captain Kenneth Chamberlain. Along with him on the Robin Tuxford was Stanley’s first cousin, Edward Johnson, who served as Chief Engineer. The Robin Tuxford made numerous trips to Murmansk, Russia, one of the most northerly open water ports in Russia. Stanley also sailed on the ‘SS Graylock’, which was sunk off the coast of Murmansk in 1943. He and his shipmates were rescued by a British Corvette and brought to Glasgow, Scotland, where they remained for some months recovering from pneumonia. Stanley also had the unfortunate luck of having another ship torpedoed by a German U-boat off the New England Coast.

As a result of his service to the United States, Stanley was awarded four service medals, including two medals for service for service in the Atlantic War zone. The United States did not, however, issue these medals until decades after his service, because Merchant Marines were not traditionally recognized for their war time service, since they were considered civilian. This oversight was corrected by the U.S. Government in the 1980’s and these brave men received the honors they deserved.

Stanley Johnson also received a medal of honor from the Russian government for his service in the convoys which brought life saving necessities to the ports of Murmansk and Arch Angel during the war. He was honorably discharged from the United States Maritime Service on August 15, 1945.

During his fifty plus years at se, Stanley sailed to the ports of Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and North America and was devoted to the sea. Upon his final retirement from the sea he lived out his remaining years in Richmond Hill, New York with his wife Alice, his children Bessie, Carl Lester and Arlene and his beloved grandchildren. He died peacefully at the age of 98 on April 7, 1988.

Before he died in 2008, his son Lester wrote about his memories of his father the sailor. What he describes is the way most children saw their father’s lives on Saba when the island had more than 700 men out of a population of 2400 who listed their profession as seamen.

“The unusual thing about memory the older we are the shorter our memory becomes. However, the greatest values in the lives of humankind are the ability to remember, to change and to forgive. These three qualities hold us together as a people like the arms of a loving mother. As our ability to store new knowledge declines old age takes us back to the beginning memories of our childhood. My childhood memories of my father did not start until I was twelve. The greatest weakness of the human mind is the inability to distinguish between good and evil without experience of the senses.

We can remember what we see, what we hear, what we smell, what we taste, and what we touch. However, without involving our five senses, we cannot remember anything that was real. For the women who married our Saba men and bore them children none of the senses played a part in their lives of loneliness and longing for many years at a time. Life was no different for the children who came from these marriages. However, our continued existence as a people is testimony to the goodness, the will to survive and the self-sufficiency of the lives on the Auld Rock in the old days. We gave a good account of ourselves no matter where we went.

My father loved the sea. The wooden ship with iron men sailed into the hopes and dreams of my childhood and stayed there with the passion of a love affair. I wanted to be a sailor like my father was. However, when my time came to plant the tree of life the sea was not important because my mother’s life and that of my sisters and it caused me to choose the land. I have no regrets because being on land allowed me to have the kind of life, I wanted. That also included my parents after World War II.

The early letters came from Kalisky’s Boarding House and Restaurant at 27 South Street, New York City. There were many months between letters. My father sailed the world. Once around Cape Horn and through the straits of Magellan to the West Coast where my father was gone for a year and everyone thought he had been lost. He returned from Chile very much alive with stories. Even in the face of what other people would call abandonment most Saba women stayed true to their husbands.

When steam replaced sailed for commerce on the high seas, my father shifted to inland waters where he worked for some years. These inland ships also served as homes to many Saba men. Those were the days when their seamanship, honesty and reliability served them well. It helped them to survive the Great Depression that was still going on when World War II started.

Sabans in those days mostly put their roots down in New England and New York especially. Their family names march on into the future all over the United States.

My father saw me for the first time when I was two years old. I did not see him again until 1938 when I was thirteen. He was home with his family for almost two years. Suddenly he was alive, a husband, a father and a friend to all who knew him and those who came to know him as a friend and loved him for he was a good kind man. He saw everyone as equals. What stays with me in my old age was my father’s way when he saw someone approaching. He would wet his under lip with his tongue. He always began with a compliment and finished with a story or a joke.

When my father arrived home, it was one of the most joyful days of my life and the saddest day was the day he left in 1940 to return to the United States. The world was on the verge of World War II. I had gone to the Fort Bay to see him off and I was sitting on a rock. I could smell my father’s pipe a mile away and then his arm was around me and we were both shedding tears of goodbye, because they were part of the life of every family on Saba at one time or another. I cried for days for my father. I loved him with my entire being. He told me that day when your time comes to go to the United States you must go because that is your country. That time came at the heights of World War II and I was able to see my father sooner than I hoped. However, when we parted then I did not see him again until I came home from the Army and he quit sailing. From then until he died about fifty years later we were father and son who never exchanged a hard word in anger.

The next fifty years of my life, I devoted to my parents and my own family. However, time stops for everyone and I will never forget the morning that I received a phone call that my father had gone from the nursing home to the Hospital. He told me that morning, “Son your auld father will never leave here alive.” When I went back in the afternoon, the nurse asked me:” When did your father stop speaking?” I went in to see him and his eyes filled with tears. I placed my two fingers in his hand and said, “Pappy if you can hear me squeeze my fingers,”. As I spoke he squeezed them several times, for as hard as life can be no human being should die alone. My words of love, comfort and gratitude were those I felt in my heart for him because he had been the best father a man could be under the circumstances of our lives and time we were together.”

I too went to see Stanley at the nursing home and I remember that his nurse was a lady from French Quarter. His granddaughter Anne Richter is a partner in a law firm on Wall Street and has restored her grandfather’s house at Zion’s Hill on Saba and is a frequent visitor to Saba. She did the research on his life for me. I interviewed him in 1967 when Richmond Hill, where he lived, had as many Sabans living there as on Saba. I remember watching the first flakes of snow coming down together with him. He was pleased that he could share that moment with me as that was the first time I had ever seen snow.

As a final note, my aunt Alice Eliza Simmons also lived to be close to 100 years, so they both could tell me many stories of the Saba long before my time and which I can now pass on to another generation. Uncle Stanley was 22 when my great grandmother Alice Eliza Horton died, and he could bring her back alive for me with his stories of her life and times. He told me that she would send fried fish in an iron pot to her uncle in St. Eustatius with a schooner and that he would write to her and tell her they were still warm on arrival. Recordar es Vivir.

The Sailors Sailor

In 1910 already he was sailing through the West Indies on the schooner the Dreadnought with Capt. Knight Simmons and Captain Tommy Vanterpool. Because Capt. Tommmy was a wanted man in Cayenne for smuggling escaped prisoners from Devil’s Island, when the schooner went there Captain Tommy remained in Barbados or elsewhere.

In 1912 Stanley went to New York and sailed out on large schooners throughout the world. When I interviewed him he was 95 and could not remember any of the names of those first schooners he sailed on. He sailed with his first cousin Edward Johnson who in 1984 died at the age of 96 in New York. Edward was married to Lucille Hassell who was the aunt of Capt. Eddie Hassell of the Swinging Doors restaurant in Windwardside. On January 2nd, 1922 he married my Aunt Alice Eliza Simmons (19) daughter of James Horton Simmons and Agnes Johnson.

At the age of thirty-seven, Stanley sailed to the United States aboard the SS Caracas arriving at Ellis Island in New York on April 13th, 1927. along with him on the steamship were six other men from Saba: Reuben Johnson (age 45), David O. Johnson (age 16), William Johnson (age 36), Moses Johnson (age 52), David Johnson (age 17) and Richard Johnson (age 45).

The official Ellis Island Ship’s Manifest indicates that all seven men listed their destination as 27 South Street, in lower Manhattan. This was the address of the Sabans’ godfather for fifty years, Mr. Hyman Kalisky a Jewish merchant who was of Eastern European origin. He and his wife operated a boarding house and clothing store which was primarily used by sailors from Saba during their stays in New York. People on Saba even named their children Kalisky back then. Mr. Kalisky served the sailors well, assisting them with employment on ships, collecting their pay and sending mail and money back home to the families the men had to leave on Saba. The Kalisky family embraced Stanley as if he were a member of the family. 

AFTER ARRIVING in New York in 1927, Stanley was not to return to Saba until 1936. During those nine years he sailed for four years on the four master schooner the Albert F. Paul, with Captain Southard and his wife Ruby, who were like family to him. The Albert F. Paul sailed from Nova Scotia and the New England fishing grounds to the Gold Coast of Africa. The other schooners upon which Stanley sailed carried various goods and products as diverse as corned codfish from New Bedford, Massachusetts and potatoes from Long Island, to salted cowhides from Brazil. He traveled around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and the Horn of Africa while sailing for Moore-McCormack Lines and Kerr McGee. During these years he also sailed the inland waterways, particularly the Hudson, from the St. Lawrence Seaway to New York harbour. He sailed on the Georgia, the Tennessee and the Mohawk, carrying timber down the Hudson. ]=

After sailing inland for several years he returned to the sea, sailing out of Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana for the Waterman Steamship Company of Boston, Massachusetts. During this nine year period sailing out of New York, he, like many other Saba men, decided to become an American citizen. On March 17, 1932, while still listing his residence as 27 South Street in New York he was sworn in as a United States citizen. His decision was based in large part because of the opportunities the United States had provided to him. In 1936, he returned to Saba and sailed again on local schooners. He remained on Saba until shortly after the death of his beloved mother Rebecca, in 1938. He never had the opportunity to see his homeland again.

NOT LONG AFTER his return to the United States, World War II began. He sailed with the Seafarer’s International Union as a Merchant Marine. As such he sailed on unarmed cargo ships in convoys to Europe and Russia, bringing aid and much needed supplies. I stayed at his home in Richmond Hill for two months in the winter of 1967 and I remember him telling me stories about how cold it was in Murmansk, Russia. If you made the mistake and held on to the rail your hand would stick to it.

During the war he frequently sailed on the Robin Tuxford under Captain Kenneth Chamberlain. Along with him on the Robin Tuxford was Stanley’s first cousin, Edward Johnson, who served as Chief Engineer. The Robin Tuxford made numerous trips to Murmansk, Russia, one of the most northerly open water ports in Russia.

Stanley also sailed on the SS Graylock, which was sunk off the coast of Murmansk in 1943. He and his shipmates were rescued by a British Corvette and brought to Glasgow, Scotland, where they remained for some months recovering from pneumonia. Stanley also had the unfortunate luck of having another ship torpedoed by a German U-boat off the New England Coast.  

As a result of his service to the United States, Stanley was awarded four service medals, including two medals for service in the Atlantic War zone. The United States did not, however, issue these medals until decades after his service, because Merchant Marines were not traditionally recognized for their war time service, since they were considered civilian. This oversight was corrected by the U.S. Government in the 1980’s and these brave men received the honors they deserved.

STANLEY JOHNSON also received a medal of honor from the Russian government for his service in the convoys which brought lifesaving necessities to the ports of Murmansk and Arch Angel during the war. He was honorably discharged from the United States Maritime Service on August 15, 1945.

During his fifty plus years at sea, Stanley sailed to the ports of Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and North America and was devoted to the sea. Upon his final retirement from the sea he lived out his remaining years in Richmond Hill, New York with his wife Alice, his children Bessie, Carl Lester and Arlene and his beloved grandchildren. He died peacefully at the age of 98 on April 7, 1988.

The last Cacique*

Often when working in my yard I have found “thunder stones.” I have quite a collection of them.

We used to call them “thunder-stones” when I was a boy. The popular opinion then was that white stones fell from the skies when there was a lightning storm. What we called “thunder-stones” were actually tools made by the Amerindians from the shells of the conch.

In observing these stones and other Amerindian artifacts I have found here in my yard I am reminded of the sad lot of those who first inhabited these islands. The memory of the Kalinago (Caribs) and the Arawaks has long faded.

Here on Saba oral history has been passed down to us in the legend of “Johnny Frau and the Great Injun”, the last Cacique on Saba. I have a coral amulet in which a hole was drilled by some Amerindian long long ago. I wear it on a chain around my neck and when people ask I tell them that it belonged to the last Cacique on Saba. How I wish that it was so.

Few on Saba remember or know of the legend of the Great Injun which people in the village of Hell’s Gate used to pass on to their children.

Where I live at about two thousand feet above sea-level there is a good view of all the neighbouring islands, as far away as Montserrat. On an exceptionally clear day years ago we even saw for a few hours the hills close to English Harbour on Antigua.

From this spot any enemy canoe could be spotted long before they made landfall. The original inhabitants would have had enough time to either hide, or to make preparations to do battle if the canoe had people coming to our island with bad intentions.

At times I fancy that I hear footsteps in the rustle of the leaves. The spirits of those old warriors of yesteryear are still scanning the far horizon looking and waiting to see if there are any canoes with warriors on their way.

Once when I was off-island a visiting Simmons aunt of mine was offered my house.

When I came back I learned that she had moved out after the first night. She said she could not sleep as she was hearing people talking all night under the trees in my back yard. I reassured her that it was only the spirits of the Indians whom I had made contact with in the ghost world and who guarded my house. I had not informed them that I would be off-island. Well that reassured her all right.

On his second voyage in 1493 the fleet of Columbus passed close to Saba. The fleet consisted of 17 vessels and 1500 men. The next landfall after passing Saba was the Salt River on St.Croix. It was there that the native Kalinago took the first recorded stand against the European invader. The ones who observed that fleet from where I now live must have been truly amazed. It would be quite a sight even today. Imagine for people who had never seen a sailing craft before to suddenly see seventeen of these sailing craft passing close to Saba heading West.

Some of the Amerindians to have settled on Saba were the Ciboney whose economy depended on marine resources and on foods gathered and hunted from the land. Evidence of these “Archaic” or pre-ceramic people is strongest in islands such as Antigua, Trinidad and Martinique.

Another indigenous group of Amerindians, who came to the islands, formed a second wave of migration beginning around 500BC. They were the Arawaks of which a branch called the Igneri settled on Saba. Guillaume Coppier a Frenchman from St. Kitts visited Saba in 1629. He first discusses St. Eustatius and then has the following to say about Saba:

“We landed thereafter on the island of Saba, which is also small; there is a very large rock, where very large and palatable lizards are: several sea-turtles come to shore there; their shield is made into finger rings which are enriched with gold and also various costly combs are made of it. A group of “wild people” live there, that are named Igneris; they go with their body completely naked and they have beards, which is different from all Indians, who pull out the hair as soon as it comes. They are idolatrous and they live in cave-like places, living like wild animals.”

Our European ancestors used to tell us that on Booby Hill “The Ferrises Cave” and above Palmetto Point (Mary’s Point) there lived a small sized Indian people with beards who lived in caves. On the island of Flores in Indonesia there has been much commotion in recent years about a new branch of mankind, now extinct, found there. The “Ferrises” which we were told about seemed remarkably similar to the extinct small race of people on Flores.

The Arawaks were highly skilled navigators, mariners, and pottery makers. These early Caribbean people introduced agriculture into the islands, mainly in the form of Cassava – their staple crop.

From 150 AD and over the next 1200 years they engaged in trading and exchange with other groups in other islands and up and down the Antillean chain, bringing subtle changes to the population structure and its culture.

A final migration from South America brought the Kalinago (called Caribs by the Europeans) into the region around 1450 AD – less than fifty years before the Europeans were to set foot in the Caribbean. The pre-existing Amerindians were overrun by the Kalinago (although much of their culture, language and skills were absorbed and endured in a modified form).

More warlike than their predecessors – or perhaps simply more threatened – the Kalinago vigorously defended their new homeland against any attempt at foreign occupation.

The report of Coppier and the story of “Johnny Frau and the Great Injun”, led the University of Leiden, starting in the nineteen seveties, to do research on Saba. This was also done as a follow-up to research done on Saba by Dr. Josselin de Jongh in 1919.

Coincidentally it was also in the nineteen seventies that the Kalinago started returning to Saba. First a few from St.Vincent followed by a number from the Carib reservation in Dominica (Waitukubuli). Some have married into Saban families. One of my young cousins has a Kalinago partner from Salibia. We are already telling their lovely baby son that one day he will become the Carib Chief, like “Indian Warner.”

The Europeans changed the face of the Caribbean so much so that if the original inhabitants returned today they would only recognize parts of Dominica.

Among the plants we take for granted today, these are some of the plants introduced into the Caribbean. Sugarcane from India and the Malay peninsula. Also brought in were bamboo, breadfruit, casurinas, coconut palms, citrus, mangoes, tamarind, banana, bougainvillea, hibiscus, oleander, poinsettia, thunburgia, and even Guinea grass.

Research by the University of Leiden, aided by unmentioned locals, have located the old Indian village at Spring Bay. Escavations at Calabash Ridge have indicated that the Kalinago or Igneri were probably still living here when the first European settlers came to the island. This lends even more credence to the by the tale of “Johnny Frau and the Great Injun”.

Very little is known about their language. Columbus claimed that the language spoken by the Kalinago sounded like Italian. Historians claimed that the women spoke a different language to that of the men. The Kalinago of course captured Arawak women who continued to use their native language among themselves.

After the coming of the Spaniards and other Europeans, the native Amerindians lost ground so rapidly that philologists can find only passing similarities between the language of yesterday and today.

An interesting case in point is Aruba. It is one of the few Caribbean islands whose present inhabitants show strong traces of Amerindian blood.

Until the end of the eighteenth century the inhabitants of Aruba spoke their own patois which was partly rooted in the traditional tongue of the Amerindians who were the sole inhabitants long after European colonization began.

The 19th century explorer A.L. Penart gives a few examples of the old Amerindian Aruban language which became extinct as recently as the beginning of the nineteenth century. in the year 1882 Penart talked with some natives “far advanced in years” who, though they coulld remember several expressions their fathers and grandfathers used, were no longer able to converse in the language of their ancestors.

Other researchers leave us with some of the words used by the Kalinago which sounded to Columbus like Italian.

English Kalinago
blood nitta
hair neti-koeri
mouth nieoma
hand nockaboe
father baba
woman liani
love chisentina
It is I AO
It is you Amoro
I am hungry Lamantina
Mom Nunu (M) kati (W)
Sea Barana

Of course hurricanes and hammock are some other words of Amerindian origin. On

Saba we call the avocado a “Sabocau” the same as in Trinidad where there were also Igneri living.

We also know the name of a Kalinago Indian Princess who was in the service of the Governor of Antigua. Her name was Zulmeira.

In another article I will give some details on the Amerindian language of Aruba in former times. I will suffice with one untranslatable formula for removing fish-bones from the throat:

“Vidie pahidie, maranako tubara tehira deburro hadara karara.” These were probably good West Indian cusswords directed at Madame Squaw as to how to get that so and so bone out of the chiefs throat.

I want to conclude this article with the story of Johnny Frau and the Great Injun as recorded by the late Richard Austin Johnson who grew up on Hell’s Gate hearing this story from his ancestors.

“The early settlers on Saba, in their search for fresh water, discovered a spring on a rocky beach on the East end of the island. Because of this spring the bay became known as Spring Bay.

In order to have drinking water, the settlers would have to bring it on their heads in wooden tubs and kegs, uphill to their village, located about two miles away and fourteen hundred feet above the sea level. Near the Spring there also lived Carib Indians in makeshift huts and caves. The white settlers often had to go without water, because of fear of these fierce Indians, especially one, known as the Great Injun because of his huge size. One of the settlers named Johnny Frau, decided that they had taken enough from this Indian, and also being a giant in size, he went alone, carrying his water keg, in order to entice the Indian to fight with him.

Sure enough the Indian saw him coming down the hill, and thinking this was a fine chance to kill the white man, he hid himself on a ridge which later became known as Fair Play Ridge, and attacked Johnny Frau with a club. A fearful struggle ensued. They fought and battered each other until eventually they reached the sea at Spring Bay. Entering the sea they continued fighting until overcome with exhaustion and loss of blood, both of them drowned. The body of the Great Injun was never found, but Johnny Frau’s body was cast up into a pond near the airport, and this spot is known as Johnny Frau’s Pond to this day.

For many years afterward the superstitious settlers at Hell’s Gate declared that on the night of the anniversary of the discovery of his body, a tiny blue light could be seen moving along the sea edge near the pond. This, they explained was the ghost of Johnny Frau, still searching for the Great Injun.

Some years ago some local fishermen were scared out of their wits when they were fishing along the rocks at night and they saw a light passing along the cliffs. They were convinced it was a UFO until I told them the story of Johnny Frau and the Great Injun.

The Great Injun or the last Cacique would be proud to see that once again there are some Kalinago people, living ,working and producing offspring on Amonhana the Kalinago name for Saba. But like Cuba and Aruba, Saba is also said to be of Arawak origin meaning “The Rock.” When I was in government I had a flexible policy toward the Kalinago people and told my colleagues in Government to remember that these were the original people of these islands and they should be made to feel welcome as this was once THEIR home.

The Simmons Fleet*

The first Simmons to be recorded in the Leeward Islands was Peter and Charles Simmons in St. Thomas in 1658. This father and son were soon recorded as living on Saba. The Simmons family of Saba originated in the South of England. Some of them if not all had a Jewish background. Those with a Jewish background were usually spelled Simmonds, but many were also spelled the regular way.

The Simmons’ played an important role in the history of Saba. They were Commanders, Island Secretaries, and Harbormasters (although technically Saba had no harbor as such) and they were active in the merchant marine. I understand from a now deceased cousin in New York that in his research one of Henry Morgan’s lieutenants when he captured Panama City was a James Simmons. He probably ended up on Saba as well when pirates from Jamaica captured Saba and St. Eustatius in 1665.

On a list of creditors to the West India Company in 1686 there was a George Simmons and a John Simmons listed. In the population list of May 16th, 1699 there are two Charles Simmons’ father and son, the same for John Simmons and James Simmons as well as a Moddyford Simmons and a George Simmons.

The Simmons’ of prominence in former times mostly lived in The Bottom where they owned much of the land and houses at the time. Especially along the road leading to the Gap on both sides of the road belonged to the various Simmons captains. Through intermarriage among the other white families they were also related to the Beaks, the Vanterpool’s, and the Leverock’s and to a lesser extent the Johnsons’, the Hassell’s. Zeegers’ and so on.

For this article I will highlight the life of only two of the many Simmons’ who were well known captains. A young man from St. Eustatius recently told me that he had never known that Saba had so many captains. I told him that the Simmons family alone had provided enough captains to have commanded their own fleet if they had so wished. In World War I it was estimated that around 135 captains from Saba were serving in the United States merchant marine and on the Saban fleet of schooners at the time serving the rest of the Caribbean, out of Barbados and other ports. In a census taken in the year 1912, out of a total male population of 774, no less than 530 were listed as seamen.

For this article I will highlight the life of Captain Thomas Simmons. He was the son of Joseph Benjamin Simmons (Black Head Joe), born on Saba march 5th, 1866, died august 31st, 1934, and Margareth Jane Simmons (“Maggie Jane).

Maggie Jane was born in New York. Her mother was a Manning from Barbados and died at a young age in New York. Her father George brought her to Saba for his mother to raise her. As in so many cases back then he was lost in 1870 on a schooner in the North Atlantic. When Maggie Jane was an old woman her son Captain Tom took her back to New York where she died and is buried. She had ten children several of whom died at sea. In the back of the Anglican Church in The Bottom there is a plaque which reads as follows:

In loving memory of John Simmons, age 52 years. David W. Simmons, age 40 years, Richard R. Simmons, age 22 years, Isaac Simmons age 16 years. Lost at sea, September 1918. We cannot Lord, thy purpose see; but all is well that’s done by thee.

John Simmons was captain of a Danish registered schooner from St.Thomas. The vessel and its crew were lost coming out of Miami. Richard 22 and Isaac 16 were sons of Maggie Jane.

Captain Tom as he was fondly called worked his way up from a cabin boy on schooners plying the West Indian trade to ‘Commodore” of the Moore McCormick line. He went as far as second mate on schooners and then joined the American Hawaiian Line as Quarter Master. In 1917 he went over to the Munson Steamship Line as third officer on the passenger liner “Murio’. He later became captain and was in command on the maiden voyages of the old 32000 ton “Argentina” as well as the new 22,000 ton luxury liner by the same name. The old “Argentina”, under his command, was the first troop ship to enter the ports of Australia during World War II and to stand by for D-Day in England. He was Captain of various ocean liners such as the “Western World’, the “American Legion’, the ‘Southern Cross’, and the ‘Pan America’. He later became commodore of the Moore McCormick Line. He spent fifty-two years at sea and was awarded the highest decoration by Brazil to a foreigner.

The following article is taken from the Brazil Herald of February 24th 1963:

RETIRING COMMODORE SIMMONS RECEIVES BRAZILIAN DECORATION

Rio de Janeiro – Commodore Thomas N. Simmons, who arrives tomorrow in Rio on his last cruise aboard the Moore McCormack liner ‘Argentina’, yesterday was awarded the Cruzeiro do Sul by the Government of Brazil. He received Brazil’s highest award given to citizens of foreign countries in ceremonies during the ship’s stopover in Salvador, Bahia, from the hands of Bahia Governor Juracy Magalhaes. Commodore Simmons, friend and councilor to a myriad of international travelers, culminates 50 years on the sea on the SS.Argentina’s current “Sea Safari” cruise. This 63 day trip is Commodore Simmons’ last, as he has announced his retirement effective upon his return, April 17. And coincidentally another 50 years are celebrated in 1963 – the 50th anniversary of Moore McCormack Lines, founded in 1913 – one of America’s foremost steamship owners and operators, whose fleet includes the two new passenger liners, “Argentina” and ‘Brazil”, and 42 modern cargo liners.

The innate modesty of the Commodore camouflages a colorful career. To him all the flavor and excitement of the sea is not commonplace – far from it- but so much a part of his life that he accepts the unusual as the everyday, the crisis as the normal. The highlight of his career are people he knew and knows and loves; the Duke of Windsor, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, corporate Presidents, Cardinals, Artists, Singers. Summing up, all are Tom Simmons’ exciting moments. The Commodore was born on Saba Island in the West Indies, of Dutch forefathers of seafaring bent. Commodore Simmons’ last trip takes him amidst friends in the Caribbean ports of Barbados, in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Thence he and the “Argentina” sail to South and East Africa, through the Suez, to the Mediterranean and homeward via Italy, Spain and Portugal. These are familiar friendly places to Tom Simmons, faces of friends whom he relishes visiting. At many of the ports, officials, old cronies, visiting traveling companions and the Simmons people are planning commemorative ceremonies marking the 50th and retirement year of service of Commodore Thomas N. Simmons. A Grandfather a dozen times over, Commodore Simmons enjoys his holidays at his home on Long Island. But the sea is part of him, and anyone can see from his “Argentina” that he is a man of the sea.”

He was born in 1895. He met his wife Enid May Bruce in New York (she was born Montego Bay, Jamaica in 1902). She was a daughter of Captain Solomon “Butchy Coonks” Simmons of Saba and her mother was the daughter of the Scottish collector of Customs there. Only on his deathbed did Captain “Butchy Coonks” confess to his Saba family that he had a second family in Montego Bay. His son Captain Johnny Simmons went in search of the family and took the three girls to New York, two of which married Sabans. A son remained in Jamaica and lived to be a very old man.

The home which now belongs to Norman Winfield was the home in which the Commodore grew up in. His descendants regularly visit the island and the home known as “Maggie Jane’s House.” One of Commodore Tom’s sisters (Elsie) was married to the well-known Governor Xavier Krugers.

The other Simmons Captain I would like to highlight is Cameron Dudley Simmons.

He was born on Saba and his wife was Edna Blanche Simmons born 1904 and she also a daughter of Captain Solomon “Butchy Coonks” Simmons.

He was a son of Captain Samuel Augustus Simmons and Mrs. Eva Simmons born Johnson. Captain Sammy was born on Saba and filled many functions in the Saba government administration at the time. His wife “Miss Eva” was born in Barbados. She was descended from a branch of the Johnson family who moved back and forth between Saba and Barbados. Whereas she was born on Barbados, her father William was born on Saba, and her grandfather also William was born on Barbados and so on.

Miss Eva and Captain Sammy also lost three sons at sea. One of them Captain Harold Simmons was lost with his entire family in the Gulf of Mexico. He was captain of a molasses tanker which broke in two in a storm. They were able to get into lifeboats, one of which with a David Johnson from Saba made it safely to shore. I have the report made after the disaster happened and the lifeboat carrying the Captain and his family was lost with all on board. Earlier with Captain Ralph Holm on board as a mate Captain Harold was shipwrecked on a coal boat which sank on route from Philadelphia to Boston. On that trip all were saved. Another older brother, a third mate on a schooner was lost off Cape Hatteras.

Captain Cameron Dudley Simmons was born on July 10th, 1892 and died on January 17th, 1945. Dudley and his brother Samuel left Saba on a schooner sailing between the islands and New York. After sailing as mate on the schooner he then sailed with the American Hawaiian Line until he received his Master’s license. He sailed as Master on tankers and freighters. Some of the vessels which he commanded were the S.S. Antietam, S.S. Bulkco, SS. E.J. Nicholas (tankers) S.S. Alamar, S.S.Cubore (freighters). Just prior to World War II, Captain Dudley took the S.S. Laranaga from Boston destined for Murmansk, but just east of Iceland their convoy was wolf packed. The ship received a hit, but retained watertight integrity and went into Reykjavik for repairs. Captain Simmons went ashore but when returning to the ship on a launch he was injured. He was hospitalized for approximately three months due to a severely injured foot. When the ship returned from Murmansk it put into Reykjavik for him. In July 1942 he assumed command of the S.S. William Wirt, launched with two other Liberty Ships on the 4th of July of that same year. The ship loaded in Newport News, Virginia and the first of August set sail for the United Kingdom, arriving in Avonmouth, England. After discharging cargo the ship was sent to Newport, Wales to await loading for the North African invasion in November. The William Wirt was the first ship to enter a North African port in the invasion. On the next trip from Liverpool to Phillipeville, Algeria the ship was hit in an air attack, but made port and was able to discharge cargo. From Phillipeville the ship sailed to Gibraltar for repairs and returned to the United Kingdom where a survey found the ship not fit to continue carrying cargo, so it returned to the United States. For this he was awarded the Medal for Meritorious Service.

After a short vacation Captain Simmons commanded another Liberty ship until sometime in the spring of 1944. He then became Captain of the SS Point Loma, a seagoing tugboat. He served on this tugboat until his death of a heart attack in January of 1945. I have a copy of the logbook describing how he died at sea. He ended his career as so many from Saba did back then. He was buried at sea in the vast Pacific Ocean.

These were Saba’s glory days. These people immigrated not for welfare but to contribute to the countries where they emigrated to. In future articles I will highlight the lives of such captains of Industry as Ned Peterson who was the Chief Financial Officer of the Cargill company which employed 110.000 people. He was the only non-family member of the MacMillan clan to have held such a high position in the 150 year old company.

Also Howard Hassell of St. John’s who worked on the atomic bomb, Prof. Eric Simmons (92) from whom only this past week I received a long letter, and Dr. Mozes Crossley a chemist. If you check his name on the internet they will tell you he is a famous United States scientist, though they do admit that he was born on Saba.

Some of these people still have family on Saba who are proud to tell you of their family and what they were able to achieve with the challenges they faced and the limited resources Saba had to offer at the time. The question is, are we rising to the challenge now in our time of plenty?

Commissioner/Act. Administrator John G. Woods*

He was born on December 8th, 1909 son of Joseph Benjamin Woods (born 30.05.1877) and Anna Minta Warner (born 1879). He was a grandson of Christian Woods, Susanna Gordon, Peter James Warner and Elizabeth Horton. The latter was a daughter of David Horton and Nancy Horton. Susanna Gordon’s parents were John Gordon and Catherine Hassell.

The family headed by Joseph Benjamin Woods (“Joe Ben”) was an exceptional one.

Besides John the other children in the family were: Cresilda Melrose born 18.08.1907, Eric Milburn born 14.12.1921 Alton Watty Woods born 08.02.1919 and Henry Swinton Woods born 17.01.1912. The latter was married to Doris Rebecca Woods. Henry lost his life on Aruba the night that German submarines attacked the LAGO oil refinery there. He died at the age of 32 on September 18th, 1944.

Cresilda Melrose the only daughter of Joe Ben’s was the organist in the Anglican Christ Church for over fifty years.

Joe Ben was a skilled mason and did many jobs which can still be admired on Saba.

Among them are the public cisterns on Hell’s Gate next to the Roman Catholic Church. I remember my mother thanking God for Joe Ben as he had provided work on occasion to my grandfather James Horton Simmons. An irony indeed. Joe Ben’s wife was a daughter of David Horton (died 12.09.1896 aged 95) and his wife Jane Linzey (born 1801). David in turn was a son of James Horton and Margaret (Nancy) Horton of Middle Island.

In Dr. Julia Cranes book: “Educated to Emigrate” she refers to a James Horton a “free black man”. Here are notes which she took from the Central Archives in The Hague in The Netherlands:

“March 2nd, 1825, a bill-of-sale covering transfer of a piece of land in the area called Middle Island to James Horton a “free black man.”

“November 16th, 1829 a bill-of-sale covering transfer of a girl named Maria to “James Horton free black man” her reputed father for the sum of Sixteen Joes or One hundred and Seventy six pieces of eight.’ The former owner stated in the document that the sale was made for the girl ‘with all her future progeny and increase for their freedom, in gratitude for her ‘good and faithful services.”

Obviously James Horton was buying freedom for his daughter Maria. Free black people were property owners long before slavery was abolished as can be seen in his acquisition of land in Middle Island. Also James Horton had legally acquired his name from James Horton Esq. who had come to Saba from the island of St. Eustatius. In those days it was forbidden by law for a former slave to take the name of a white inhabitant of the colony.

There must have been a strong relationship between those two Horton’s for James Horton Esq. to give permission for the use of his name by a former slave while the country had many years to go before slavery was officially ended on July 1st. 1863.

My impoverished grandfather was a great-grandson of James Horton Esq. Obviously there had been a master/slave connection between those two James Horton’s of the early eighteen hundreds. However if those memories remained they did not apply in any negative way in the relationship between Joe Ben himself a descendant of slaves who provided work to the impoverished descendant of the master. I can still hear my mother saying “God Bless Joe Ben for giving my father work through the time or else we would have had it much harder than it already was.”

Of all of Joe Ben’s children only Henry had two children. The well known Ronnie Simmons of The Bottom is a grandson of Henry Woods and his wife Doris. She was also a Woods but from the family known as the “Red Woods” family.

Joe Ben’s brother was Peter Woods who was the father of Ms. Edna Woods who helped me to gather some of this information so that I could write this article. Edna is in her eighties but has a wonderful memory. She has a relationship with my brother Guy and his family which is much closer than some families have among themselves.

John Godfrey Woods was married to URA Margaret Dunkin born 29.09.1909 whose mother was Mary Magdeline Dunkin and her father was Captain Ernest Hugh Toland Vanterpool. John and Ura did not have any children.

John used to tell me stories about growing up on Saba, working with his father and so on. From early in life he worked hard and he learned to appreciate how to hold on to a guilder.

I remember him telling me on more than one occasion that he was raising a cow and calf with the hope of getting enough money to go to Aruba in search of work with the oil refinery. In those days everyone on Saba was headed to Aruba in search of work.

One day when he thought that he had sale for the cow and calf he went down to the Ladder Road and the cow was standing at the edge of the cliff. He said he thought everything was lost and he called out to the cow:” Now mind yourself cow, don’t go do anything stupid.” I am sure he must have heard from Joe Ben of my grandfather James Horton Simmons’ cow on Hell’s Gate. She reached for an inviting tuff of guinea grass at the edge of the cliff. The rope to which she was tied broke and she fell to her death hundreds of feet below. He is credited with saying that he would have rather lost his wife than the cow because he could have gotten another wife but where was he to get another cow. You can see thus how important a cow was back then.

As luck would have it for our friend John his cow moved away from the edge of the cliff. He was able to sell mother and calf for the grand sum of thirty guilders and he headed off to Aruba.

He worked on Aruba for perhaps thirty years. He and his wife URA worked hard and saved their money. He had a house of his own on Aruba and his wife ran her own business.

He returned to Saba in the mid nineteen sixties. In 1967 when the three Windward Islands submitted combined lists of candidates there were no elections. He was asked to join the combined list as a candidate for the Democratic Party on behalf of then former Commissioner Matthew Levenstone.

In the 1969 election when I ran against Claude Wathey for Senator of the Windward Islands, people told me that John Woods was quiet and did not divulge too much about where he would vote. In November 1970 to the surprise of Mr. Wathey and the entire Antilles I released a document signed by John Woods, Peter Granger, Calvin Holm and others announcing that they had joined the recently established WIPM party. In 1971, months before the elections, Eugenius Johnson became Administrator and Calvin Holm moved up and became a member of the Island Council. The WIPM party had a majority on the Island Council before the elections. We did not oust the DP Commissioners. The DP was not that generous to me after the elections. As party leader I was informed that I could not assume office as the Lt. Governor of  St. Maarten had been married to my sister.

Even though she was deceased and he was remarried I was kept out of office as island Council Member and Commissioner for four years and had to run my party and the Government of Saba from the bleachers. Mr. Woods who was my number two candidate became Commissioner and Acting Administrator and remained faithful to me through those years of darkness when I was exiled from the council, arrested, jailed and so on.

My father went to an early grave not knowing what was to become of me. But thanks to people like Mr. Woods and others who kept the faith we overcame without bitterness.

I used to help Mr. Woods to fill in his income tax documents. I remember sitting with him on the verandah of his Caribe Guesthouse in The Bottom. I decided to ask him to tell me the truth as to where he had voted in 1969. He laughed and replied: “Johnson, boy you hambug me. Why did you go and name your party URA?”

And then he went on to tell me the story of the love of his life. His wife was named URA.

She was a “high mulatto woman” as they would say in those days and was a good looking young woman. She had many suitors. He didn’t say who but he told me that “Some of your family had tried to get her you know.” But John won the day as she chose him over the rest of the young men. He told me that he had built Caribe Guesthouse exactly the way URA had planned it. Not that he needed such a big house as he was alone and could have lived by his sister Crissie or repaired the original house which was still on the property. He had purchased the lovely property from one of the old white Heyliger/Simmons’ families.

He went ahead and built it anyway as a tribute to her. He told me that when she took ill on Aruba, so many ants suddenly congregated in his yard that he looked on it as a bad omen as he had never had a problem with ants. After her death he said the ants disappeared as suddenly as they had shown up. Nothing was the same after his wifes death and he decided to return to Saba. So he told me that when he saw the name of my party that in good conscience he could not betray his wife’s memory by voting anywhere else but for URA. (You see how you does get vote sometime, eh?)

When we won the election in 1971 he and I as mentioned before were elected Commissioners. The late Calvin Holm entered the Island and Executive Council in my place. I returned to work at the airport post office on  St. Maarten and led my party from there. We had seven of the fifteen seats on the Windward Islands Council and then Mr. Sdney Lejuez crossed the floor and joined the WIPM giving us a majority in the Island Council. You see how God does his work at times. Despite having to work from the bleachers we were able to accomplish a lot during the period from 1971 to 1975.

As leader of the party I worked closely with Mr. Woods who was the same age as my mother. Besides being Commissioner and Member of the Island Council he also served as Act. Administrator for those four years. In the latter capacity he depended on my advice, but moreso on that of my brother Eric who was head of the Finance Department and who worked on a daily basis with him. When doubts arose about signing something controversial he had that much respect for my brother Eric and I that he would say: “If you boys say it is O.K. to sign it then I’ll do it.” Happily the advice we gave him did not get him in the least of trouble.

The Public School was forced to be closed down during his term of office. This hurt his heart as he and his family were the pillars of the Anglican Church and some people associated the public school with the Anglican Church. However local pressure on the Central Government to do something to stop the WIPM march,forced the then Minister of Education Ricardo Elhage to come to Saba. He threatened that an already scarecrow budget of Saba would be cut by the same amount it cost to keep the Public School open.

My old friend Carl Anslyn organized a large demonstration but to no avail. The Central Government in its quest to make the WIPM look bad forced the closure of the school. I only bring this up as I know that Mr. Woods would never have closed the school if it had been left to him.

In 1975 he decided not to run and to make room for Peter Granger. He was 66 at the time and he decided to return to driving his taxi, running the airport bar, and managing his Caribe Guesthouse.

Mr. Woods was a hard worker all his life. One of the sad things to happen to him in his last years was the sudden loss of his brother Eric who had just retired and had joined him in the Guesthouse.

For some time before he died he was in The Henry Every Home for the Aged. A hard working man all his life he was confused. One day when I was passing by, he had jumped the wall and was trying to go home. I jumped out of my car and helped the nurse to convince him to go back to his room. He was not the John Woods I had known. However he gave me a look of recognition and told me” Johnson boy if you say so…” and with that he willingly went back to his room. I was very sad when I left him and shortly after that he passed away after suffering from loss of memory for a while. He passed away on December 29th, 1990 at the age of 81. I went to the service but I did not do a eulogy which is surprising even to me.

He was buried in the Anglican cemetery in The Bottom. In paying tribute to him now I want to make up for the fact that I did not do the eulogy for him as I have done for so many friends and prominent people in the Windward Islands. He was not only a great Saban, great also in stature, but also great in ambition, in integrity, respect and loyalty. In short great in everything worth remembering him for.

The Posner Family*

Three important Antillean families came from humble beginnings right here on Saba. Three of Georgianna Evelina Simmons’ daughters who lived in perhaps the smallest house in Windwardside, all became mothers of important families. Their mother Georgianna was a very poor woman and suffered from depressions brought on by the stress of trying to survive back in those days.

The Posner family, prominent on both Curacao and Aruba, the family of Mr.Antoine Johannes Maduro and a Dutchman Mr. Lambert Wever who married Augusta Simmons and whose descendents on Aruba like Maggie Wever are all prominent in business there.

On December 11th, 1907 Mr. Antoine Johannes Maduro (26) married Anita Augusta Simmons (20). Their son Antoine who died some years ago is recognized as the most important expert on the Papiamentoe language. Once in Parliament when I said that his mother was a Simmons from Saba, the Curacao people had me to kill. But when he died and the newspapers mentioned the same thing you should have heard them singing his praises.

Mr. Levie Posner was born in Amsterdam of Jewish parents in 1893. His parents were Israel Posner and Grietje Elsas. He came out to Saba as a marechaussee when he was 19 years of age. On May 21st, 1919 he married Imogene Simmons when he was twenty six years of age and she was twenty seven. When they got married their parents were already deceased. Imogene was a niece of Mrs. Helen Johnson born Simmons, and so the Posners’ are related to the family of the late Edwin Johnson whose grandson is Saba’s present Lt. Governor Jonathan Johnson.

In his book “Crossroads of the Buccaneers” published in 1957 by Arco Publishers Limited, the author Hendrik de Leeuw has the following to say about Levie (or Louis) Posner.

“Today;” as Mynheer Schutte informed me, “not one Jew remains.”

The last Jew to bid this island adieu and leave it to its decay was Mynheer Louis Posner, dubbed by me “Trader Horn of the Caribbean.”

He left Statia some fifteen years ago for Aruba, a very prosperous island renowned for the large plants of the Standard Oil and the Shell, lying on a six hours’ ship’s run westward of Curacao.

“Louis Posner a most versatile trader, rotund and loquacious, hearty and keen, with a sense of humor that keeps one howling with laughter at all times of the day and night, has a most colorful career. He, like me, has roamed the seven seas and has had a perfectly grand time while doing it. When he came from the Dutch East Indies, he settled first on Saba as the island’s Chief of Police, and there took unto himself a Saba bride, later becoming established in Statia, which proved much too dead for this live wire. So that, with a true nose for business, Louis betook himself and his family and all that he possessed to Aruba.

Through hard work, courage and endurance, he attained a position in society of no mean prominence.

And while it may be said that rolling stones gather no moss, Posner has gathered around him not only his Saba vrouw (wife), “Mamma Jennie” (as everyone lovingly calls her), but also eleven little and bigger Posners – for Jennie has blessed him with six sons and five daughters, one of whom is Lientje, the eldest, a fine young lady and a great help to her dad, whose private secretary she is.

“I hope I am not betraying a confidence when I relate a rather curious incident pertaining to Louis, who almost despaired after his fifthdaughter- in-succession, had arrived on the scene. One day, while reading an American health publication, he came upon an announcement that promised precious counsel to would-be or expectant fathers. Forthwith, he wrote to the publisher-editor over here, whose name I venture to say is known far beyond the length and breadth of our land. While I do not know what health prescription was given Louis or what magazine was sent him, the fact is that since his receipt of the proffered advice, he has become the father of six additional children- ALL SONS!

“Reluctantly, I must take leave of my friend for the time being, but I hope to come back to him on another occasion, when describing the island of Aruba.”

The Posner family spread out on Aruba and Curacao and established themselves in different businesses. There is even a street on Curacao named after Posner. The famous “La Linda” store on the former Nassaustraat in Oranjestraat, belonged to Mr. Posner and his large family lived upstairs.

I was in Aruba when the son Israel (“Oikee”) Posner celebrated his 77th birthday two years ago on October 19th. My brother Guy and his wife Angela were visiting with him at the time. Orders were issued to me that if I did not come to the birthday party that he was done with me. His brother Harry was then 81. These two brothers were married to two Salas sisters from Curacao. They were the sisters of the recently deceased former FOL Minister Ricardo Salas.

The Aruba Aloe products company is owned by “Oikee’s” son Louis A. Posner. “Oikee” is a big charmer. When you meet him and listen to all his jokes and observe his rapport with the ladies, you can imagine what his father must have been like.

The various Posner off-spring visit Saba from time to time. I remember years ago that a young couple came into the Tourist Bureau looking for me. The lady said that she was from the Posner family and that they were looking for their Johnson relatives. At that time I did not know anything about the Posners. Since then of course things have changed and through research I have acquired a reputation for knowing these things.

Just the other day as I was on my verandah writing this article, I received a call from the Planning Bureau saying that two young ladies wanted to see me about their great grandfather Eric Hassell of Barbados. They were on Saba for only a few hours. Eric used to be a Captain (son of Capt.Frank Hassell of St.John’s and a lady from Barbados). Eric also owned the business Hassell Shipping which dealt with agencies and importation of cement into Barbados. By the time the young ladies left my house they were amazed at how much I knew about their great grandfather. His sister Earla is alive and in her nineties. She lives between England and Barbados and was here on Saba several years ago with her family.

The Posner’s, their late cousin Antoine Maduro, and their other cousin Maggie Wever are all well-known people on Aruba and Curacao.

They all started from humble beginnings here on Saba. When I showed Dr. Posner (son of “Oikee”) the photo of Windwardside and the house of his great grandmother all he could do was exclaim “Ay mi Dios” and remark that it was the poorest house in a village of at that time nearly all poor people.

And so now you know about the Posner family, a Jewish family, originally from Russia, then via Holland and Saba ended up on Aruba and Curacao and made a name for themselves on those islands.

Miss Cornelia Jones*

Miss Cornelia Rosina Jones was born on September 10th, 1907, at St. John’s, Saba. She was born from a nixed marriage, something not unusual in the history of the village of St. John’s. Her father was a black man, Fernandus Jones born on June 2nd, 1877 and he died on December 22nd, 1943.His parents were George Jones and Sarah Stevens. Her mother was a white woman named Mary Jane Hassell (who died on November 13th, 1954) of whom I did not find any more records, but I remember her personally as a boy.

Miss Jones had three siblings: Alfred Jones born July 18th, 1897, Eleanor born September 10th, 1901 (she lived to well over 100 years of age and died in the USA) and Leonard born February 6th, 1910 and died May 5th, 1959. As a baby he contracted polio and was handicapped. In those days of uncompromising language usage he was simply known as a hunchback. As a boy this disease as well as leprosy was discussed so often that I was worried that I might catch either one of these dreaded diseases.

Miss Jones grew up in a much different Saba than we know today. I guess her personality was shaped by her mixed parentage. Something like Barack Obama, she was comfortable and loving with both her white side of her family and heritage as well as with her roots coming from Africa.

She is best known as a hostess. Running the government guesthouse in The Bottom, and later on in the Windwardside. Because of this she was well known with visiting officials from the other islands as well as from The Netherlands. She was often featured in magazines and in newspaper articles. Not because she was famous but because she was there. There were many journalists and writers coming to the island and would always mention something about the guesthouse and Miss Jones. Everyone on Saba called her “Cutchie.”

When the Little Bay Hotel was being planned, the same Dutch group also planned a hotel on Saba at the Guesthouse in The Bottom. It was a lovely plan with new construction of ten hotel rooms and a swimming pool. The Island Council turned down the request to build. Only the late Matthew Levenstone and Arthur Anslyn were in favour, whereas David Doncher, Eugenius Johnson and John William Johnson voted against.

Many years later I asked Eugenius how was it possible that their party could have turned down this offer. He confessed that Miss Jones was a member of their party and that the investors had refused to guarantee her continued employment at the new hotel when it would be completed. That was in 1955. So looking back in time you can see how important a role Miss Jones played in the political life of Saba back then.

You will also be able to see that politics was the same then as it is now in the world.

Miss Jones’ brief stint into the political life of the island made more history than the cancelation of a much needed hotel project. I remember when Mrs. Elaine Gumbs-Vlaun was elected to the Island Council of St. Maarten in 1983. Her party members were playing the woman part up big in the island council meeting. Obviously they were unaware of Miss Jones, until Mr. Claude Wathey got up and reminded them that Miss Cornelia Jones of Saba had been the first woman member of the Island Council of the Windward Islands and indeed she was.

Miss Jones entered active politics in 1951 as a member of the Nationaal Volks Partij. On August 17th, 1953 she entered the Island Council to complete the term of Mr. Kenneth Peterson who had resigned.

In 1951 Miss Jones together with two other females Mrs. Ursula Dunkin-Hughes and Mrs. Millicent L. Wilson, born Simmons, (grandmother of present Island Councilmember the Hon. Rolando Wilson). Miss Jones got 0 votes, Ursula got 4 and Miss Millie got 4.

The 0 came about probably because she had agreed to vote for another candidate on her party.

In 1955 she contested the elections on the Democratic Party but she did not get reelected.

She did get 3 votes though, a big advance compared to the 0 in 1951. The other women threw in the towel and in 1955 Miss Jones was the only female candidate.

The Island Council meeting to which Miss Jones was admitted to the council took place on August 17th, 1953. Mr. L. Reginald Carty the Administrator at the time presided over the meeting. First to be dealt with was a letter from Mr. Kenneth Peterson dated July 25th, 1953 requesting his dismissal from the council. Then a committee to verify the credentials was appointed consisting of Mr. David Doncker, Mr. Dalick Johnson and Mr. Ulric Hassell, Commissioner, but not a member of the Island Council. Mr. Peterson was not present at the meeting.

The only one to speak at the meeting was Mr. David Doncker who threw out but a few sarcasms. He said: “I have always been kept down in the Council. No matter what I ever asked for has been turned down, but all I have to say is that there has been a shift in the wind. Where it was blowing from it is not blowing from anymore.”

The meeting ended at 2.45 pm and Miss Jones went into history.

I always experienced her as a jolly person who liked a good joke. She could see humor in any situation. Her family home was uniquely located on an outcropping of St. John’s overlooking The Bottom. On the way up from Fort Bay or The Bottom one would run up the side path to their home to beg a glass of water. It is a great pity that the house was torn down after her death and the property is still unoccupied. It would make a great location for a new home.

Miss Jones was a Roman Catholic. She never married or had any children, but several of the photo’s which I have of her she is always seen holding a child as lovingly as any grandmother could.

As is customary on Saba, when Miss Jones passed away she was buried in the family burial ground next to the home. I am certain that if anyone built a new home there that Miss Jones’ spirit would not bother them. After all she loved company. That was what she lived for. She never went anywhere to school to learn how to treat people and how to live with people of all races and creeds. That was a gift she was born with and in looking around she must have decided that all men are equal before the eyes of God and should be treated courteously and respectfully.

Before concluding this article on my way to a meeting in The Bottom I went up through the bushes past the ruins of Miss Jones’ former home.

I found her grave next to that of her parents and her brother Leonard.

I found a conch shell close by and I placed it on the grave while giving Miss Jones a talking to that her memory would not be forgotten. She died on December 23rd, 1979 at the age of 72. I later dug up the information in the “Saba Herald” and found out also that she had been given a decoration by Her Majesty the Queen for her many years of service to the island of her birth. I only hope that someone who cares for history will end up owning the property and will see to it that Miss Jones and her family will rest in peace. Amen.

A dream of return (B. Pfaffhauser)*

I am now busy reading “A History of English Literature” by William Allan Nielson and at the same time as a compliment to it I am also reading Plutarch’s Lives. It is interesting to see that in the Anglo-Saxon period (426 – 1066) as well as from the Norman Conquest to Chaucer (1066 – 1350) that England seemed to have forgotten the Roman Empire. The Romans had ruled over the British Isles for nearly four hundred years. They were the inheritors of the Greek civilization which had produced outstanding literature.

As men develop they become interested in a wider and wider range of things, and their feelings and thoughts become more varied and more individual. The expression in words of these thoughts and feelings grows accordingly; and much of this in each generation is preserved and added to the store of what men deem most worthy of remembering. Thus literature becomes an ever growing record of human life, joining the past to the present, and enabling us to share with sympathy in the best that men have thought and imagined.

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) by being exposed to Plutarchs Lives based his play on the life of Julius Caesar on that history of Julius Caesar written some fifteen hundred years earlier by Plutarch. Much later Goethe wrote: ”The observation that all greatness is transitory should not make us despair; on the contrary the realization that the past was great should stimulate us to create something of consequence ourselves.”

Besides Beowulf and Caedmon’s hymn during the whole Anglo Saxon and Norman period very little other than Christian poems written in monasteries was written in the English language.

Very little was known about the civilizations which had existed before the Christian era. The story of how Caedmon became a poet has an interest beyond the national one. It is the English version of a legend found in many lands which seeks to explain the source of the poet’s inspiration. There has always seemed to men to be something supernatural in this. Caedmon who could not sing was requested in a dream to “sing of created things.” And so even in small island societies one is always in search of some form of poetry which we can call our own.

One such poetess from Saba was Beatrice Pfaffhauser from The Gap. Regrettably all of her work was lost except one poem which Charles Borromeo Hodge was very excited about and begged me to do more research on this lady and try and find more of what she had written. He wrote: “Will, I was extremely impressed by the very beautiful and heart-rending poem by Beatrice Pfaffhauser which appeared on page 24 of “FOR THE LOVE OF ST. MAARTEN”. It is a deep, soul-stirring poem that brought haunting memories of St.Maarten washing across my consciousness like the waves on the shores of Great Bay. I felt as if the poetess was speaking directly to me: sensing every desperate, pent-up emotion. That poem is a very powerful piece of writing. I only wish I could know more about her and see more of her poetry.”

I was assisted in this search by her niece Mrs. Gladys Whittemore of Pinellas Park Florida. She lived well into her nineties and is now long deceased.

Beatrice Pfaffhauser was born on Saba on September 1st, 1880 and died August 2nd, 1962. Her father was Albert Pfaffhauser born in Zurich Switzerland on July 10th, 1839 and who at the age of 46 died on Saba on December 12th, 1885. His parents were Christopher Pfaffhauser and Ann Elizabeth Huber.

Beatrice’s mother was Rose Elvina Simmons, daughter of Phoenix Simmons (my great- great uncle) and Martha Johnson of Barbados.

They lived in a large two story house at the Gap where the home of Eric and Patsy Linzey is now located. In former times many of the famous captains lived on that street. Their schooners would be anchored at The Ladder Bay and it is easy to run down the path when weather was coming and take off for a safer haven to weather the storm.

Aunt Glad in a letter of October 19th, 1987 informed me as follows:” Answer to yours, so welcome, is delayed. I had to wait for an answer from Elisa at Satellite Beach first. She found another little poem, which Bea called a “blurb,” about her Northern garden. She always had a garden.

When our mother died in 1905, we children had no one to question about Saba or relatives. Did not know Aunt Bea’s married name. I was about 18 when I began to question my father (in stolen moments!).”

Aunt Glad’s father was a Captain from Prince Edward Island and had met her mother on Barbados when the family lived there. He did not know Saba. Aunt Glad continues: “He had kept in touch with Rosalvina (his mother-in-law) but the correspondence stopped when she remarried, and when I wrote to Mrs. Rosa Cecil my letter was returned, marked deceased. She died in 1914.

 “Aunt Bea’s father Albert Pfaffhauser was sent by the Swiss doctors to the West Indies for his health. He and his brother Hans Theodore came to St.Thomas. Their retail store carried silks from their factory in Zurich.

The little Saba lady Rosalina Simmons was visiting there and took refuge in their store from a rain storm. The romance that followed ended in marriage.

Albert took Rosalina to Switzerland. Their first child Martha was born there in 1868. When Albert’s health deteriorated again the Swiss doctors recommended the climate of the West Indies. Rosalina longing for Saba readily agreed. Her people the Simmons family furnished land and the young couple built a home and raised quite a family. The father Albert died in 1885 at the age of 46. He was well educated and spoke several languages. Aunt Bea remembers him in white suit and pith helmet, sitting on balcony, with preacher and governor discussing news of the day. The people in Zurich were to take care of this family group and assure their education providing Rosalina did not remarry. But Rosalina did. Her  second husband was from Grenada and was a veteran of the civil war in the United States. The family began to scatter. Two sons went to New York City, one daughter to Canada and another to Curacao and Beatrice to the United States. She graduated from Frats Hospital in Chelsea, Mass. around 1902 or 1903. My father told us she visited her sister Elizabeth, (my mother) in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

There were no cars there then, so Dad hired a double seated carriage and off they all went for a picnic at a beach on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They thought it was great fun then, but Dad thinks a fifteen miles ride now would be punishment (he lived to be 103).

When her step-father Cecil died it was Beatrice who got the U.S. government to send his Civil War pension to her mother on Saba. At one time I remember all claims to the property were signed away legally in favour of the Curacao branch of the family. But neglect finally caused the place to be torn down as I understood it.

After graduation she became nurse to an invalid gentleman. The daughter of this family was educated at the Sorbonne, Paris and later in Hollywood became a writer for the Cecil de Mille studios. She also has books in the public libraries.

Beulah Marie Dix and Beatrice were close friends for many years, no matter how separated by circumstances, Bea felt quite at home in this literary environment.

She married Laring Weed a reporter for a Boston newspaper. When his studies were completed and he became Dr. Laring Weed, Osteopath, they lived in Newburyport, Mass. The Dr. was also a member of the Library board.

So began a new and always heedful life for Beatrice, but always she kept in touch with her beloved West Indies.

The house they lived in was three storied and an older one. Later, when it was demolished, the beautiful marble mantle and fireplace were taken to a museum in New York, so I am told. In the thirties, my husband and I were involved in the courts over his father’s will. A stepmother was involved. Before it was heard by the Supreme Court – she (and others) had run the business into bankruptcy. When we decided to go to Florida we gave up our home in Wellesley, loaded all household possessions and sent them to Aunt Bea.

It was about 1934 when her plans matured to go see Saba again. My eight year old niece went with her. They sailed from New York City for St.Thomas. It was in the fall and some rough weather kept her in her stateroom a lot.

At St. Thomas the harbor-master was a Simmons (a cousin) and they were well taken care of, while waiting for a steamer to Saba. While waiting this was when Pams comb caught fire near a candle. Panicking she threw it on a bed. Smoke soon brought Beatrice and the damaged bed things were thrown from the balcony to the garden below. Then came disappointing news. Husband Laring sent a telegram saying he had fallen, broken his right wrist and “do come home.”

Saba and Curacao had been alerted about her coming. So now there was disappointment all around. No wonder her poem was so nostalgic.

I regret we saw so little of her, busy working people as we were. She was a quiet person, with a special dignity and a great sense of service to others.

She had one son – married and with a family. Lost track of him. She died of a heart attack at Wheelwright House in Newburyport, Mass.They wrote me a letter, Quote: “Mrs.Weed was greatly liked at Wheelwright House and all were saddened by her sudden death of heart failure. I personally feel we have lost a good friend and a real lady. She fitted into the life so well and was always so gentle, kind and thoughtful of others. We miss her very much. Her service was conducted by the son of former Bishop Sherrill of Mass. The letter was from Margaret B. Little, President of the Board.”

The following poem reflects her longing for the islands. She had lived on Saba but also on the other islands as well. The family lived for awhile in Sam Lords Castle in Barbados. Another curiosity in the Pfaffhauser family is that with the exception of the poetess most of the children died at the age of 27 including Elizabeth the mother of Aunt Gladys Whittemore. After a long search for Saba relatives, she contacted me in the nineteen sixties. We became great friends and she gave me the gold medal which she received when she graduated with honours from her high school on Prince Edward Island in Canada.

The skies are gray, my spirits low.

I sit within the firelight glow.

My thoughts go back to other days,

To coral sands and sunlit bays.

Again I see tropic trees

As delight the eye and scent the breeze.

Poinciana, oleander, frangipani, these

And many others my mind’s eye sees.

A banyan is home to a bright macaw,

A monkey sits eating some fruit from his paw,

A land crab scuttles on his way to the cove,

A coconut falls with a thud in the grove.

Ah me! Ah me! That I could go

Where palm fronds clash and trade winds blow,

For these are the things I used to know

So far away and so long ago.

The red-roofed house, by the tall palm tree,

In the long ago, was sweet home to me.

I think of it now as a haven of rest

Where I wish I could go as a bird to its nest.

But the years that are flown have made the wish vain,

I could only return to sorrow and pain.

The letter from Charles Borromeo was written from New York in 1987. He returned to St.Maarten and it is ironic that he suffered the fate as predicted in the poem he admired. He returned only to sorrow and pain.

In ending this tribute to Beatrice Pfaffhauser I quote from H.W. Longfellow’s:

THE DAY IS DONE.

“Come, read to me some poem,

Some simple and heartfelt lay,

That shall soothe this restless feeling,

And banish the thoughts of day.

Read from some humbler poet,

Whose songs gushed from his heart,

As showers from the clouds of summer,

Or tears from the eyelids start;

And the night shall be filled with music,

And the cares that infest the day

Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,

And as silently steal away.”

Miss Helena’s son*

One of the houses I lived in as a boy growing up was located just above the home and grocery store of Mrs. Helena Peterson born Every. As a form of politeness a married woman or a widow for some unknown reason was addressed as “Miss.” She was the most enterprising woman of her day. She had a bakery as well as the grocery store and employed part time some sixteen people. She was the agent for Gold Medal Flour. Her employees consisted of wood gatherers for the bakery, donkey conductors for transporting goods from the Fort Bay, bakers and housemaids. She was mostly in the grocery assisted by her daughter Florence or “Titta”.

I used to hang around her house after school and would run an errand or two for her. She took a liking to me as when she offered me a sweet as we called candy, I did not show much interest. I remember Allan Busby telling me once that Mr. Diederick Gibbs from Statia had promised to send him one of those big jars with those large striped candies. He told me “Never promise a child anything if you do not intend to comply.” Allan told me that for months he would be looking at every sailboat, cargo ship or tanker passing Saba and in his mind’s eye he saw his large jar of candies coming his way, but he is my age and still no candies from Statia. And mind you his mother Daphne Busby was from Statia. Miss Helena did not make me any promises. However once when she went to St. Kitts on one of her banking trips she brought me back a small pocket knife with a handle full of flowers. If she had brought me the whole of St. Kitts it would have meant less to me than that small pocket knife which we called a pen knife. I was the envy of all the boys in the village including Busby who from English Quarter was on a constant look out in the hope that his shipload of candies would come in one day. They never did.

I never knew that Miss Helena had a son. She never discussed him. I also did not hear anyone else in the village ever saying that she had a son. It was only years later when the late Henry Every was studying in Holland for lawyer, that I heard that his cousin Miss Helena’s rich son was helping to finance his studies. Also I heard that the Anglican Church in Windwardside had received a substantial donation from him to fix the church roof or buy an organ for the church and so on. Being so close to Miss Helena I started to wonder how come she had never mentioned a word to me about this son in the United States.

I later learned that when he was around fourteen years old that she and him had a major confrontation over a private family matter. This is not relevant to this story. He took leave of his mother never to return to Saba and never to reconcile.

He went to stay by an aunt in Rhode Island and went to Brown University from which he graduated.

He then started to work for the Chase Bank owned by the Rockefeller family and worked himself up to Vice President in charge of loans. It is there that he came in contact with the owners of the Cargill company who took a liking to him.

The New York Times in its edition of April 6th 1982 carried the following obituary:

John G. Peterson 91; Ex-Chairman of Cargill Inc.

John G. Peterson, retired chairman of the board of Cargill Inc., died Sunday at his home here. He was 91 years old. Mr. Peterson was chairman of Cargill from 1953 to 1956 when he resigned to become Chairman of Tradax, the Geneva-based overseas trading affiliate of Cargill. He retired from Tradax in 1961. He played a major role in expanding the company’s domestic and international grain merchandising services. Mr. Peterson was born in the West Indies and was graduated from Brown University. His survivors include his wife, Gladys; a son, John Jr., of Norfolk, England, and a daughter, Betty Peterson, of Minnetonka.”

In Executive Intelligence Review of December 8th, 1995 there is an article entitled “Control by the Food Cartel Companies: Profiles and Histories. It includes information on Cargill which has its headquarters in Minnetonka. In 1994 Cargill had sales of $ 51 billion. It is the # 1 U.S. grain exporter (25% of the market, which is equivalent to Cargill exporting 25.1 million tons or 1.0 billion bushels of grain); #1 world grain trader/exporter (25% of market, which is equivalent to Cargill exporting 52.9 million tons, or 2.11 billion bushels of grain) #1 U.S. owner of grain elevators (340 elevators). #1 world cotton trader;#1 U.S. manufacturer of corn-based high protein animal feeds (through subsidiary Nutrena Mills); # 2 U.S. wet corn miller; # 2 U.S. soybean crusher; #2 Argentine grain exporter (10% of market) #3 U.S. flour miller (18% of market) # 3 U.S. pork packer/slaughterer #34 U.S. commercial animal feeder; #3 French grain exporter (15-18%) of the market and #6 U.S. turkey producer.

Cargill raises 350,000 hogs, 12 million turkeys, and 312 million broiler chickens. In the United States, it owns 420 barges, 11 towboats, 2 huge vessels that sail the Great Lakes, 12 ocean-going ships, 2000 railroad hopper cars, and 2,000 tank cars.

Cargill and its subsidiaries operate 800 plants. It has 500 U.S. offices, 300 foreign offices. It operates in 60 countries. It has over one hundred thousand people working for the company. It also owns the salt industry on Bonaire. And to think, that a little boy from Saba used to run all of that. The company is the second largest privately owned company in the world, owned by the Cargill and MacMillan families. In its 140 years of existence Mr. Peterson was the only non family member to run Cargill.

Here is how it happened: “Cargill also nearly went under following the 1929 U.S. stock market crash, and ensuing Great Depression. There is not a word of what happened to Cargill Co. during the depression in the History of Cargill, 1865-1945. But two forces came to the rescue: John D. Rockefeller’s Chase National Bank, which sent its officer John Peterson to help run Cargill. Peterson became Cargill’s top officer. The other force was a Byelorussian Jewish grain merchant, Julius Hendel, who joined the company in the late 1920’s. It would seem odd that a European, and a Jew at that, would be admitted into the inner councils of rock-ribbed Scottish-American firm, but this indicates the international scope of forces that shape the grain trade.

Some years ago I received a call from his son John Jr. who came to Saba in search of family history and to find out about his grandmother. I told him to meet me at Scout’s Place. When he walked in I could immediately see the resemblance between him and the Every family. I told him about his cousin Mrs. Barbara Kassab Every on St. Kitts. He visited her as well and they still have contact. He was interested in buying or building a house in Oyster Pond on  St. Maarten. I told him to look up Allan Busby which he did and he had a house built there. I have not heard from him the last years, but I assume that he is still in the land of the living.

I also own a small plot of land once owned by Miss Helena and the late Carl Anslijn her nephew gave me the correspondence between him and Mr. Peterson concerning land transactions. It was during the time that Mr. John G. Peterson was in Geneva setting up Tradax. Here is what Executive Intelligence Review had to say about Tradax. “In 1953, Cargill established Tradax International in Panama to run its global grain trade. In 1956, it set up Tradax Geneve in Geneva, Switzerland, as the coordinating arm of Tradax. Tradax subsidiaries were set up in Germany (Deutsche Tradax, GmbH), England (Tradax Limited), Japan (Tradax Limited), Australia (Tradax Limited), France (Compagnie Cargill S.A.) and so forth. Thirty percent of ownership of Tradax is help by old-line Venetian-Burgundian-Lombard banking families, principally the Swiss-based Lombard, Odier, and Pictet banks.”

And to think that a boy who ran away from Saba did all of that. My uncle Stanley Johnson (husband of my aunt Alice Simmons) told me that Commodore Tom Simmons of Saba who was Captain of the ship the “Argentina” swears that he saw him once and had the following exchange. They were passing Saba.

It was customary that when a Saba captain would pass the island he would blow the ships horn a few times. The man leaning over the rail on seeing the captain said to him:” Which island is that?” The Captain answered: “Saba.” And then the Captain said to him: “Don’t you think it’s time that you went home and saw your mother?” According to Uncle Stanley, the man gave the captain a startled look and walked off mumbling something under his breath. John G. Peterson never did return to Saba but recognized his island through contributions to his Anglican church and his family.

He never knew his father as his father William Simmons Peterson was lost at off Cape Hatteras when John better known as “Ned” was a little boy. And so we salute this great son of the soil.

Remember the Maine*

The battle cry for the Spanish American War which started in 1898 was “Remember the Maine”.

The United States warship by that name had entered Havana harbor on January 25th, 1898. On February 15th, at 9.40 pm an explosion ripped the Maine apart. Only 88 men out of a complement of 26 officers and 328 sailors and marines had survived. All 22 black sailors on board died among them the star pitcher, William Lambert.

This incident led to the Spanish American War in which the United States ended up with Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines as conquests of war and lingering doubts as to whether the Maine had been sacrificed for political purposes to gain more territory for the United States. The newspapers of the day questioned the official report from the Navy about the sinking of the battleship.

The victims were later buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.

The Mast of the Maine forms the centerpiece of the monument to the victims of the Maine. On a visit to that former plantation of General Robert E. Lee, I saw the monument. On the monument I saw the name of Charles F. Hassell and took a photo of the section of the monument with that name on it.

Interestingly enough the thought crossed my mind: “I wonder if he has any Saba connection?” On my return to Saba I wrote about the trip in my newspaper the “Saba Herald”. Some old timers came forward, and told me that he was a brother of Isaac Hassell from “Over-the-Peak” and that he was an uncle of Fred Hassell and Ferius Hassell. Some years later Mr. Lenny Hassell who was married to Nan (Joanna Johnson) sent me documents which he had obtained from the Navy Department. All of these documents were relating to the death of Charles F. Hassell, as well as to the subsequent pension of $12.- per month which his mother Johannah used to receive from the United States government. The House Over-the-Peak, known as “Isaac’s House” was actually built from the money Johannah received when her pension was regulated. In those days a carpenter would build a good size house for $30.—and for a large wooden house $120.—Not per day mind you. He built the entire house for that price with his handsaw and hammer, and delivered the house in six weeks.

The report of death contains the following information, which should be of interest to our readers.

Name of deceased: Charles Ferius Hassell.

Born on Saba, July 1st, 1863 (the same day as the emancipation of the slaves. A freedom child, he later lost his life in an event which caused the Spanish-American war). Rank: Gunners Mate, 3rd class. Date of death February 15th, 1898. Place of death: Havana. Cause of death: Asphyxia ex submersion. The document states further: “I hereby certify that Charles F. Hasell, Gunners Mate 3rd class, U.S. Navy, died while attached to the U.S.S. “Maine”. Death occurred in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, on the night of February 15th, 1898, as the result of an explosion and the sinking of the U.S.S. “Maine”. Record of deceased: Naïve of Saba, West Indies, Age 34 years, 7 months, Height 5 feet 10 inches.Complexion:Negro.Where enlisted: New York. When enlisted; April 25th, 1895. Previous service, about 5 years and 2 months. First enlisted January 21st, 1889.

His mother Johannah, was 70 at the time of his death. That same year an application was made on her behalf by the local Kings Council and Notary, Engle Heyliger Simmons for a pension. Also the Government schoolmaster Mr. R.L.Hassell, wrote a letter on her behalf to the Commissioner of Pensions. A general affidavit had the following information: Moses Johnson and Lovelock Hassell had appeared before the Notary and declared the following: “that they had been personally acquainted with the person Charles F.Hassell, native of this island, son of Johannah Hassell, late Gunners Mate on the U.S. ship “Maine”, from his earliest youth, that he never married on this island, and that to the best of their knowledge and belief was never married in any other place, and that at his death he left no widow nor minor child.”

Mrs. Johannah Hassell, was taken care of by Henry Johnson Hassell (“Henny Plunkie”) a Captain and owner of the house which used to be the main building of the Captain Quarters Hotel. She died on April 30th, 1913 and was around 85 years of age.

Also taking part in the Spanish American War from Saba was Capt. Lawrence Johnson, who was in the United States Navy and Waldron E.R.O.P. Simmons as well.

In Havana once in the museum which used to be the Governor’s mansion I saw there, part of the wreckage of the “Maine”. I told the guide that I hoped she did not mind that I touch that cold hard steel, but I needed to do so to communicate with a fellow islander who had lost his life on that man-of-war.

The National Geographic Magazine in February 1998, one hundred years after the disaster carried an article on the sinking of the “Maine”. With this article is included a photo of part of the crew. There are two black men in the middle of the photograph on the right of the photo. The one with the round hand resembles some of the family of former days here on Saba. The photo is in the Library of Congress and was taken by the Detroit Publishing Company.

In a time when Sabans were dependent on the sea many were lost on foreign shores and we end with a stanza from the Recessional of Rudyard Kipling: Lest we Forget.

God of our fathers, known of old –

Lord of the far-flung battle line –

Beneath whose awful hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine –

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget, lest we forget!

Simon Bolivar on Saba

On January 2nd, 1816 General Simon Bolivar then residing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, wrote a letter to his friend Luis Brion, Admiral of the Venezuelan Navy.

Luis Brion was born on the island of Curacao on July 26th 1782 of a well to do Jewish family of Belgian origin. He spent his fortune to help Bolivar liberate the South American mainland from Spanish colonialism. He started the Navy of Gran Colombia consisting principally of vessels owned by him. The Cayes expeditions were made possible by Brion who also had business interests in Haiti at the time. It was also his business relations with Venezuela which put him in contact with Bolivar in the first place.

The letter from Bolivar among other things states: Quote:” I am writing to our friends under this date, telling them much the same that I am telling you concerning our common cause. If anything of importance I shall send word to you by a personal messenger. Meantime, I expect that you will do the same for me. I beg you in passing to get your forces together so that we may affect some useful enterprise on the Costa Firme. I have asked that the schooner intended for you be sent to the port where our refugees are, as you suggested.”

Because of their pirate heritage and love of the sea, Sabans were known throughout the West Indies as fine sailors. Brion would have known of Saba and perhaps he had met Saban captains. Some of them could have even been captains of some of his schooners. In later years there were several Sabans who were captains of schooners owned by the Maduro’s on Curacao and the Van Romondt’s on  St. Maarten.

What is known as Los Cayes (Aux Cayes) expedition started from Haiti on March 31st 1816 in an Easterly direction. Bolivar’s route took him directly from Haiti to Saba. For unknown reasons the fleet stopped at Saba. Local folklore formerly had it that a number of Sabans joined the fleet and went to the battle of Los Frailes with the Venezuelan Navy. Could it be that Brion had an agreement with Bolivar to meet him on the little known island of Saba?

Hearst’s International Cosmopolitan Magazine of April 1937 carried an article entitled: “Saba Isle of Women.”

Of the history of the island the article has the following to say: “The founders of the community kept no records, so its early history is obscure. Some say they were pirates marooned with their women by Sir Henry Morgan. (The proved to be correct as in 1665 pirates from Port Royal, Jamaica, under Thomas and Edward Morgan, uncles to Henry, captured Saba and St. Eustatius and left a garrison behind.), others believe they were refugees from the Monmouth rebellion in England. Even the origin of the name which is pronounced “Say-bah”, is unknown. It may be the Old Dutch word for the Biblical land of Sheba. Or it may be a corruption of the French Sabot (Shoe), for throughout the early years of the community Sabans made most of the work shoes for the West Indies. (The Catholic Priest Labat who visited Saba in 1701 travelling with a pirate ship bought several pair of shoes made on Saba.) Then came a couple of centuries when Saban sloops and schooners were famed for their stout qualities, and for the hairy-chested Saban men who used them to smuggle contraband to the rebellious American colonies of George III and who later carried forbidden arms to Bolivar. Now the boat builders are all gone.”

(Cosmopolitan April 1937).

So in 1937 folklore had it that arms were smuggled to Bolivar by Sabans. In the First World War a Guyanese newspaper quoted Winston Churchill of accusing Saba captains of supplying U-2 boats with food and other supplies.

In 1929 shortly after Urbina invaded Curacao there appeared a steamer on the Saba Bank which seemed headed towards Saba. The people panicked and some started packing whatever little jewelry they had and headed into the mountains. One mentally disturbed old man set some rat traps along the road in Windward Side. He said that even if the Venezuelans captured Saba that at the very least he would give one of them a sore toe to carry back to Venezuela with him. The invasion did not come and after a few days the steamer pulled up anchor and disappeared.

Simon Jose Antonio de la Santisima Trinidad Bolivar was born on July 24th, 1783, in Caracas Venezuela.

In 1983 when Venezuela was commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Liberators birth, Roberto Palacios (a historian whose ancestor was a relative of Bolivar’s.), brought to the attention of Mr. Edsel “Papy” Jesurun the fact that Bolivar had once visited Saba.

In my library I have a two volume book in English, given out by the Banco de Venezuela in 1951. The book is entitled “Selected Writings of Bolivar.” On page 130 there is a supplemental map which shows the route of the Aux Cayes expedition at which time Bolivar stopped at Saba. At the time in interviewing older people about this matter Peter Anthony “Brother” Hassell, told me that when he was a boy he knew an old mentally unbalanced man who used to admonish all who wanted to listen that they should hide, or else the Venezuelans would come and get them. We speculate that his fear could have stemmed from the fact that the Sabans who had joined the Venezuelan fleet never returned and were lost to history. Captain Randolph Dunkin also said that he had been told as a boy that when Simon Bolivar had left Saba he had looked back, raised his hand, and shouted out “Adios Saba.” Venezuelan historians also came across letters from Bolivar written from Saba to the governors of the surrounding islands.

In 1983 to mark this event and the 200th anniversary of Bolivar’s birth, the Venezuelan government donated a bust of the Liberator to be placed at the discretion of the Saban Government. It was decided to place the bust on the grounds of the museum in Windwardside with Bolivar looking out to sea in the direction of Venezuela. The Venezuelan government at the time honoured me with a medal in the Order of Francisco de Miranda. Dr. Francois Moanac Ambassador for the Caribbean Region for the Republic of Venezuela was present as well as Dr. Luis Ochoa Teran, Consul General for the Republic of Venezuela in the Netherlands Antilles. Also Prime Minister Maria Liberia Peters and many other dignitaries of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles were present on Saba for the occasion. Here follows the speech which I made for the occasion: “I am deeply moved and profoundly grateful to the Government of Venezuela for the honour of receiving the ornaments and badge belonging to the Order of Francisco de Miranda, from the Ambassador Dr. Francois Moanack on behalf of Dr. Jaime Lusinchi, President of the Republic of Venezuela. My sincerest gratitude is also extended to His Excellency Ambassador Dr. Luis Ochoa Teran, Venezuela’s distinguished representative in Curacao as well as to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Isidro Morales Paul, for their roles in my attaining this high distinction.

The decoration in the Order of Francisco de Miranda was instituted in 1943 by the Republic of Venezuela to honour the memory of Franscisco de Miranda, one of the Founding fathers and closest collaborators along with the Liberator Simon Bolivar, whose bust we have unveiled today, thus paying tribute and homage in this way to one of the greatest men the Latin American Continent has produced.

I would like to request the Ambassador for the Caribbean Region, Dr. Francois Moanack, as well as Ambassador Dr. Luis Ochoa Teran, Consul General in our sister island of Curacao to transmit the deepest appreciation of the Saban people, who are honoured and recognized by this extraordinary honour which has been bestowed upon me and which is treasured highly, also by my family who participate with me in this recognition.

I sincerely wish that the Almighty’s abundant blessings will continue to shine on the Republic of Venezuela, its officials and its inhabitants and that the bonds of friendship, which have been accentuated today, will last forever.

May Saba and Venezuela always remain connected through our mutual admiration for Simon Bolivar, whose glorious memory we honour today.”

At the time I was friends with Margarita Palacios who was the Executive Assistant of President Lusinchi. I was visiting Caracas at his invitation once and I took Peter Granger along. The protocol officer who received us at the airport dropped us off in a small dumpy hotel whereas I was supposed to stay at the Anauco Hilton. I decided to remain the night and even managed to round up a fellow Saban/Venezuelan Edward Hassell who came and visited me. In the morning via the  St. Maarten tourism representative whom I had once befriended on Saba, Margarita was contacted and within the hour I was fetched by security personnel and taken to the Hilton. At the independence ceremonies of St. Kitts/Nevis, I was standing on the pier in Nevis with Mr. Ralph Berkel of St. Eustatius. In the distance I saw the high Venezuelan naval officers standing. Ralph said to me,” Will I think that woman with the Navy people is trying to get your attention”. It was Margarita who after greeting us insisted that the very large Venezuelan Naval vessel take us back down to St. Kitts. By the time Prime Minister Don Martina came on board Ralph and I were having coffee with the Commander and playing dominoes. Don was surprised and I told him “Connections, Don, connections.” And so it was at that time indeed. The last time I was in Chile to attend an ODCA meeting I asked Eduardo Fernandez “El Tigre” about her and he informed me that she is still around. I sent her a note of appreciation with “El Tigre.” But of course the traditional parties in Venezuela in the era of Chavez no longer rate very high with the people. So the once all powerful Christian Democratic Party there is now only a shadow of its former self. I hope that the freedom I enjoyed as a local politician to meet and make friends with regional leaders will not be denied to the younger generation of politicians. I conducted my own foreign affairs, but under the Dutch it will be a different matter and we will have to adjust a bit. I keep telling the Dutch though that there must be room for the small islands to deal with their neighbours. The contact with Chavez is different of course. Shortly after he became President, the Lt. Governor called me and told me that there were people downstairs who had come to see me and that he would send them up to the Court Hall. When I entered the room it was full of military brass from Venezuela. They informed me that President Chavez had sent them on a mission throughout the Caribbean to pay his respects to friends of Venezuela and that I was one of those friends. They parked up the big Man-O-War in the Fort Bay as if it was a rental car. They spent a few days here. Only when they played a football game and lost to a local team and it appeared in the papers all hell broke loose. Everyone in Holland and Curacao wanted to know how that Man-O-War had ended up on Saba without permission. The Lt. Governor was happy to inform them that they were here visiting Will. So what! And when Curacao could not find money to help us with medical care the following incident took place. I was on St. Eustatius enjoying my breakfast when Commissioner Lisa Hassell called me and informed me that we had no money in the chest and that we owed the St. Maarten Medical Center a whole pile of money and we had three emergencies to send to the hospital over there. I told her let me finish my breakfast and I will think up something. She said “I would like to see what you are going to think up this time.” Long story short I went up to Oranjestad and called the radio stations on St. Maarten and suggested they ask me a question. I informed them that via Errol Cova on Curacao I would approach the Venezuelan Government to help me with funds to cover medical costs.

I followed up with the official letter the same day I returned from Statia. In two days’ time the Venezuelan Consul on Curacao was headed to Saba. That is the time he had problems at the St. Maarten airport with the immigration. The Dutch realized that Venezuela was going to embarrass them, and it did not take long to get funding to pay off the hospital on St. Maarten. And so, when you see the bust of Simon Bolivar on the museum grounds in Windwardside you will know how it all came about.

Albertine’s girl*


My brother Freddie*


Eulogy for Thomas Eric Johnson*

Thomas Eric Johnson was born on Saba on September 20th, 1934 and died on April 13th, 2011.

From a boy Eric was known as a hard worker. He was born and grew up in a small village above the old sulphur mine, known as “Behind-the-Ridge”. As a young boy going through the hardships and scarcity imposed on the island by World War II, he must have been influenced to the extent that he hardly ever took a rest. He was driven by a passion and a belief that his children should not have to live the hard life he lived as a boy.

After he finished elementary school he started working for the Public Works on the construction of the road. There was a severe flood caused by the “Alice” hurricane in January of 1955 and he was working on the reconstruction of the road leading from Fort Bay to The Bottom.

Eric had been preparing himself for an eventual upgrade by taking typing lessons. So when the call came that there was a vacancy in the office he applied and because of the typing efficiency which he had, Mr. Walter Buncamper who was Administrator at the time hired him. The salary was fls.90.– a month. Eric was so happy to get the job that he did not remind the Administrator until nearly two years later, in a moment of anger that he had not been paid as yet. Mr. Buncamper could not believe that it had taken so long to regulate Eric’s salary.

Eric was such a hard and dedicated office worker that each and every Administrator when leaving the island would always recommend Eric for a raise. He had a number of positions besides his regular job over the years. He was “Kings Attorney”, you name it, and he did it. He was compensated for these extra positions, in most cases between fls. 10.– and fls. 25.– per month whereas his regular salary stayed at fls.90.– per month for many years.

Eric had a strong passion to see Saba Develop, and in 1971 he started the Saba Development Foundation through which the Dutch Government channeled millions of guilders in social and infrastructural projects. Eric was up late at night, working on sending in projects to get financing for the island. For this he was never compensated. If a project was approved he would supervise it until finished, he kept the books and the Dutch Government was so pleased with his work and honesty that rather than channeling projects through the Government they would channel them through the Saba Development Foundation.

Eric together with Doctor de Braauw was also responsible for introducing the Saba School of Medicine to the Island back in the nineteen eighties. He and Doctor de Braauw were the Founding Members of this Foundation and his brother who was Senator at the time got all the necessary permits from the World Health Organization. He never received any financial compensation for doing everything to make the school a success. He had a passion for Saba to develop and for the people of today to enjoy a better livelihood than the hardships he had gone through as a boy.

When it came to his job, Eric would be at the office as early as 7.30 Am and would leave after five to go home and take care of his cattle and do other farming activities. He was always busy. Once when he was building a cistern his wife Wilda heard him at 3AM outside the house mixing cement. Turns out he had mistaken the clock, thinking it was 5AM and wanted to do some work on the cistern before going to his job. Well he concluded that since he had the cement mixed anyway that he would continue working until it was time to go to the office.

He also liked to give his opinion. When the Saba Herald was started in 1968, he would write half the paper and was very vocal on what he saw as things which he felt were not right. The same he carried on in The Daily Herald for many years until he got too ill to write. He was not appreciated by many for his candid views on many issues, and many people would have liked to wish him with his many opinions away. However he was persistent in writing his “Thoughts From Saba” regardless as to who liked those views or not.

In his personal life he suffered a great tragedy in 1968 when he lost his first three young children in a swimming accident, something which haunted him all his life, even though he and his wife Wilda, had four more children, the eldest his daughter Anne Marie who was born the very same week of the tragedy. Eric became even more concentrated in his work and those who did not appreciate him were because he thought everyone should work as hard as he did.

He also served on the board of Windward islands Airways N.V. Hardly anyone can recall him ever calling in sick for the many years he worked for the government of Saba. He was adamant that he wanted no recognition for his work, and so the Government respected his wishes and never recommended him for any kind of Royal Distinction which in his case would have certainly be merited.

The last years of his life he suffered much and was in and out of hospitals . However in between he would still try and do what he could and when you passed his house in English Quarter you would see him at night behind his typewriter doing what he had to do,  still sending out his views to the Daily Herald.

He leaves to mourn his wife Wilda who he married in 1960, his daughters Anne Marie Obermaier who lives in Germany, his daughter Cerissa, his sons Dan and Nicky. His children followed in his footsteps when it comes to hard work.

The Daily Herald wishes to express their deep sympathy to his widow and children and other members of his family.

Harry L. Johnson*

For some time now I have promised myself to do a small booklet on the life of the man for whom the museum was named after. However I take on so many projects that I must put off a booklet for now. Instead the readers of “Under the Sea Grape Tree” which is a wide audience will now get to know who he was.

Harry was born on Saba on November 19th, 1913. His parents were John William Johnson and Alida Johnson born Johnson. He was first baptized as an Anglican and on July 20th 1919 he was baptized as a Roman Catholic.

Harry had a real tough time as a boy. His father was lost off Cape Hatteras on January 29th, 1914 on the “Benjamin F. Poole” which four master schooner was lost while bound from Wilmington Delaware to Baltimore with eight in crew. It was a large schooner 202 feet in length, and built in Bath Maine in 1886. Many Sabans lost their lives at sea in former times. Harry never knew his father as he was just a baby when his father died.

Cape Hatteras especially took a lot of Saban lives. On December 21st 1902 the “Maggie M. Hart” was lost there with Edward C. Hassell and Alois Hassell being lost. In 1890 or thereabouts Capt. Peter Simmons and others from Saba were lost there, and in 1898 William Simmons Peterson was also lost there on a schooner.

Harry’s mother died when he was only four years old. I remember him telling me that he thought it was all a big joke until he actually saw his mother being lowered into the grave. He describes his loss in the following poem.

IN LOVING MEMORY

At a Cross I often gaze,

Out amidst the evergreen;

Marking dear ones I’ve lost

In brilliant white can be seen.

In the old Church yard

Beneath the sod so hard,

A loving Mother and Friend,

Was placed in the end.

At the age of only four,

As bearers carried her through the door

Oblivious was I then

That I would never see her again.

Beneath this cross an epitaph is seen,

For ones who lived a life so clean,

Bearing eleven impressive words,

Who are now in peace with the Lord.

There was one who had no cross.

In a raging storm my father was lost,

Whose ending days was on the ocean,

Never a word from his lips to hear spoken.

Harry had three other brothers who all immigrated to the UnitedStates and remained there. I have an old postcard dated July 11th, 1921and sent from Brooklyn New York by Harry’s older brother Colbert. It reads:

“Dear Little Harry,

“Just a few lines to say your dear brother arrived in New York the 9th and the damn old ship is tied up again so I don’t know what we will do now. Write another little letter for your dear brother. Signed; Colbert Johnson.” The postcard had a scene of Hamburg so he must have been there with the ship. I guess Colbert figured that Harry at age eight must have been exposed to bad words by then so that he could use the damn word without consideration as to who would be reading the postcard.

Little Harry was then raised by an old aunt until he was twelve and then she too died. When his aunt died he went to live with an uncle and he helped his uncle to do the farming. At the age of 13 he went to sea with Captain William Benjamin Hasssell and sailed on the “Three Sisters”. He sailed with Clarence Every and Johnny Hassall (one of Capt. Ben’s sons). He was paid three dollars per month. He sailed to Barbados, also to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and also to South Africa. He sailed for four years and then he went to Bermuda. There he met Doris Every whom he married on September 2nd, 1931 when he was still only seventeen. The poor guy had been knocked about so much in his early years that he needed someone permanent in his life. She worked for Mrs. Frith. Back then Saban women also emigrated in search of work to Bermuda and other places. Doris’ sister Winnie had immigrated to Bermuda before her. Harry’s first children Aileen and Milton were born on Bermuda. There in Bermuda he started painting as a hobby and also doing research into the navigational history of Saba. In 1937 he came down to St. Kitts with his family on the “Lady Drake”. After a short while on Saba he went to Aruba to work for the LAGO OIL REFINERY. In Bermuda he had worked as a house painter and in a stone quarry. In Aruba he worked as a fireman for five or six years. Doris took in boarders from Saba. People like Jospehus Lambert Hassell and his brother Peter Anthony Hassell. In those days everyone was going to Aruba in search of work. Harry came back to Saba and did some farming. He joined the Police Force at the age of 31. His daughter Aileen remembers that Harry was going down to The Bottom on a horse to sign up for the police force when he met Osmar Ralph Simmons, also on a horse going down to The Bottom for the same purpose. They worked together in the police force on Saba and St. Maarten and remained lifelong friends. Harry worked for twenty years as a Policeman before retiring on April 1st, 1964. He was not only a policeman but at the same time served as Postmaster, and checked the rainfall for about eight years. At the age of fifty he retired and started to paint. He never went to art school. His first real painting he made at the age of 17. He gave the painting to Lady Grace Barnes on Bermuda. During his twenty years of service in the police force he made five paintings. After he retired he started to paint again. Two of his paintings appeared in the Chicago Daily News. One was of a wedding procession, the other of a church. Yet another of his paintings was published in Clipper Magazine. He painted on hardboard and tiles with oil paint. He liked primitive art, as you will recognize in his paintings. He didn’t like modern art because as he said “if I buy something and I have to ask what it is all about, it’s no good. That’s why I like primitive art.”

After he retired he started a small museum in his yard in an old house which had belonged to Miss Hester Peterson who died in 1970 at the age of 104. Harry collected quite a number of artifacts and old photo’s of Saba. He was an avid collector of sea stories. Saba is an island of a thousand sea stories. Harry contributed many columns to the local newspaper the “Saba Herald.” Stories, about Saban captains and their association with the sea. He inspired me to carry on and to later publish “Tales from My Grandmother’s Pipe”, which was an accumulation of stories about Sabans and their association with the sea.

Before he died he expressed the wish to me on several occasions that he hoped one day there would be a museum on Saba. We fulfilled that part of his dream when the Harry L. Johnson Memorial Museum opened its doors on Sunday March 5th, 1978. The house and five thousand five hundred and fifty square meters of land belonged to the Peterson family. The house was built by Captain Allan Atlesthon

Peterson around the year 1850. His family is said to have come to Saba from St. Barths. The Peterson family sold the house and extensive property in 1969 to two citizens of the United States, Robert Beebe and William H. Johnson for thirteen thousand dollars. On Wednesday June 1st, 1977 they in turn sold the property to a foundation which I had hurriedly established and named the Harry L. Johnson Memorial Foundation. I was able to buy the property for seventy five thousand dollars of which twenty thousand had been donated to me by Mr. John Goodwin while the balance came from the Dutch Government with the approval of then Minister W.F. de Gaay Fortman who visited the property before it was purchased and agreed to give the necessary supplementary funds to the foundation so that they could purchase the property and establish a museum there.

Harry died of lung cancer in 1972 after suffering for quite a long time. He was a lifelong smoker as most people were back then and unaware of the danger smoking poses to one’s health. Harry loved a good party and is remembered by friends for his love of music and his fascination with the weather. When a hurricane was just starting out from Africa, Harry would be out in hurricane gear and we would have hurricane parties when there were no prospects even of a small squall. I can hear him even now; “Boys let us fire one as that hurricane is sure going to hit us.”

On the occasion of the opening of the museum his youngest daughter

Mrs. Claire Hassell born Johnson made a speech from which we quote the following:” Every one of us at one time or another dreams of the things we would like to accomplish and my father’s greatest dream, as you all know, was that Saba too would have a museum of its own. He did not have the facilities or the wealth to bring this about, but he did have the determination to make a beginning in one little room with all the old things from Saba’s past which he could collect. Perhaps he never thought that his little beginning would grow into what we have today but he knew that mighty trees grow from tiny seeds, and if the seed is never planted, the tree will never grow.

“Since death must come to all of us, my father is not present today to see the tree which the seed he planted has produced, yet I feel that though he cannot be present with us today in body, he is here in spirit, and that his spirit rejoices even as I rejoice to see his dream come true.

In his name today I want to thank the Island Government, the board of the Foundation, and all others who have made it possible for his dream to become a reality. Today the thanks of his children go to all of you in his name. May the museum become something we all will be proud of, and may it always be a tribute to his name and a benefit to our island.”

Many important people have visited the museum over the years and it has been a struggle to keep it staffed and maintained. Mrs. Sherry Peterson born Hassell has been the person in charge for many years and will be going into retirement soon and we thank her and all those foundation members who over the years have kept the dream alive of Saba having its own museum. Mr. Glen Holm continues to run the Foundation and to solicit funds for the cause. We honor the memory of Harry Johnson and thank all of those who have kept the museum going over the years.

Two Tales of One Hassell Family*

   Sometime back Ms. Lynn Costenaro of “Sea Saba” called me and said that she had two interesting stories for me. They had been sent to her by a Mr. Brian Mark of Mar Vista, California. He must have found her website on the internet and sent the following letter: To whom it concerns. “I was a friend of Richard Hassell (who passed away some years ago) and I heard many of his stories about growing up on Saba. I encouraged him to write about Saba and the stories he knew, and before he passed he was able to write two pieces. I’ve included them here, as I think they may interest Saban Islanders, as well as visitors interested in your island.”

  As there were so many Richard Hassell’s on Saba it was not easy to figure out his background. One of the stories which he wrote was about his grandfather Capt. Richard Hassell. I contacted several “old timers”, but it was teacher Frank Hassell who helped me to put the puzzle together. His grandfather was also Richard Hassell married to Ann Rebecca Hassell. They owned the house in Windwardside which belonged to the R.C. nuns and which was torn down to build the Kindergarten there. His aunt Lilly May was the organist in the Anglican Church both in Windwardside and The Bottom. The family bought a home at The Gap which they sold later on to Mr. Ignatius Zagers. He had a sister named Carrie who spent her last years on St.Maarten and who has a surviving daughter Leonora Hassell who is in the “Sweet Repose” at the St. John’s Ranch. I put that name to it as my fond memories go back to the “Sweet Repose” on the Backstreet. These folks are related to Captain Eddie Hassell of the “Swinging Doors “restaurant in the Windwardside.

   I will first give the story of Richard Hassell (Dick) the friend of Mr. Brian Mark (and  we also thank Ms. Lynn of Sea Saba) whom we thank for bringing  these stories to our attention so that we can share them with a larger audience to once again show how people from this little island moved around in former times.

He starts his own story with a Foreword.

“The story entitled “The Saga of Captain Richard Hassell”, has been written by me his (Grandson) Richard S. Hassell, mainly because of its being unique by nature of its contents and is somewhat abrupt in some circumstances, but is nevertheless a true story as told to me by my mother and she in turn was told by her mother, which is really considered to be a part of my family’s history.”

    “Since I am the grandson of Captain Richard Hassell I am now compelled to write something about my own life with a view that it will be construed as a story of some interest to anyone who may read it.

    Like all my forbears I too, was born on Saba even though my brother who was the eldest of three children was born in Providence Rhode Island and lived there until he was two years of age when my mother took him back to Saba to see the family, planning to come back to Providence in the near future, but she never did return and chose to live in Saba where the weather was like summer year round. In the meantime my father kept on going to sea and would come home for a vacation every two years or so, but worked doing painting or other needed repairs on our home if required, and would even put in a vegetable garden if the weather was good.

    “According to the records that were located in the archives in Holland, there were 3 families of Hassells that were found to be residing on Saba and who had settled therein 1640 and in 1695 one of them was listed as a Richard Hassell and so the name Richard has come down through the ages from family to family all having the name Richard in each family till my Grandfather who had 4 children, 2 girls and 2 boys, had the notion that he too should name one of his sons Richard who also went to sea, and was a Naval Officer in World War 1, but finally became a landlubber after getting married to a girl in Providence, and my mother in turn named me Richard. In 1695 there were only around 500 people living on Saba and so that is the reason practically everyone had to go to sea in order to earn a livelihood, while all the women were home makers.

    I was born on December 13th 1913 on Saba and enjoyed a very happy and peaceful life there until I was 21 years of age. Since there were no cars there everyone had to walk wherever they went because the only mode of transportation were horses which numbered about 6 or so and were owned by the Doctor, the Governor and the others by merchants on the island. We had no movies or telephones or any ice cream stores, but I would not change one day of it. Now that our little island boasts over 100 cars and 2 movie houses, everyone now possesses flush toilets and showers, T.V. sets and Telephones including supermarkets with ice cream available. However I would not change life as it was while growing up there, and I will always cherish the memories of my childhood.

    I had a loving kind and gentle mother who was the epitome of a first class lady who never smoked or drank alcoholic beverages of any kind and the word “damn” was not in her vocabulary. My father was also a good man who never cursed or used profane or foul language of any kind but he did like his little schnapps now and again to which my mother found it hard to accept the idea that he did, but he never overdid it.

    He came home on vacation December 1920 and upon returning to the United States brought my brother with him and found my brother a job with a manufacturing concern in Brooklyn New York. He then went back to sea, sailing around the East Coast of Canada and the United States. In November 1922 he came down with chronic bronchitis and asthma and his doctor in Providence, Rhode Island suggested that he should retire back to Saba where the tropical weather would at least give him better health there. So he made up his mind that he would do just that and came back to Brooklyn, New York to make sure that my brother was doing O.K. and being satisfied that he was took passage on a steamboat that sailed between New York and the Caribbean, with St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands being the first stop. While on the way he came down with double pneumonia and bronchitis and when the ship reached St. Thomas he had to be placed in the hospital there and passed away a couple of days later. This was a great sorrow and shock for the family but my mother was a very religious person and although suffering great sorrow, she nevertheless accepted my father’s death as God’s will. She was highly concerned about how well we would be able to live and fortunately found a job as a school teacher in one of the schools where we lived and along with dress making jobs we were able to live fairly comfortably.

    I was only 9 years of age when my father passed away and found it hard to cope with, but my mother would sit me down and tell me that this was God’s will and that we had to accept it as such. As time went on I finally reached age 17 when I graduated from the local school that I attended with the equivalent of a High School education in the United States. On many occasions I would talk to my mother about coming to the United States after I graduated, but soon thereafter, the great depression came about and that scuttled everything that my mother and I had planned. As luck would have it I found out that the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey had built an oil refinery on the Dutch island of Aruba and that the possibility existed that I might find a job there. So I talked it over with my mother and she agreed that it was worth a try and so off I went to Aruba and as luck would have it I was hired as an apprentice in the electrical department. However electricity at the time was all Greek to me and it was suggested by the electrician with whom I worked, that I should take a course in electricity from the International Correspondence Schools in the United States, and so I did and after 4 years with on the job training and the course in electricity the company promoted me to a first class electrician. This was the terminology used by the company, but I can assure you that it did not hurt my feelings any, because it was not a fallacy. During my four years tenure I had switched to the electrical shop, where I worked on repairing electrical motors and also rebuilding them. After spending 10 years in Aruba I wanted to come to the United States, and so I did in May 1944 but I had to be released from the oil company because they were considered to be a highly essential industry who was supplying two thirds of all the aviation gas for the allies in England and North Africa and because of that 7 oil tankers were torpedoed by German while waiting to be docked and loaded with aviation gas. It occurred in 1943 and the refinery had been in a state of total blackout, but some of the submarines had surfaced and was shelling the refinery and in doing so were first firing tracer bullets of all colors and some of them were going over my head and hitting the bachelor quarters where I lived. Some passed only 10 feet over my head where I was standing watching the whole scenario and as in the rest of the health turmoil of mine the Good Lord was with me. We were shelled twice more after that but luckily I was a mile or so from where the shells hit. After arriving in the United States in May 1944 I went immediately to the draft board in Brooklyn, New York and at that time they were not accepting anyone over age 30 and they suggested that I go to the Naval supply depot and they would employ me as a maintenance electrician and so I was hired immediately and worked there until the war was over. To all intents and purposes the war ended in 1945 and although the naval supply officer wanted to find me a job in the naval shipyard in Brooklyn, I chose to resign and seek a job in private industry which I did by taking a job as an electrician with a marine electrical contractor. Soon after I met a girl who eventually became my wife and we had 3 children, and the first born who was a boy, “yep you guessed it”, I named him Richard and that is where the name Richard ended because eventually my son Richard who did have 4 sons chose not to name either one of them “Richard.” And so that is a history that ended after several hundred years, and is the sign of the modern times we live in, but I accepted it with some degree of reticence. I had 3 children of my own, Richard the eldest, then my daughter Patricia, and finally a son David. Richard lives in a little town called Bennet about 40 miles from Denver, Colorado. My eldest daughter Patricia lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and my youngest son David is working in Northern New Guinea as a business administrator along with his wife and they have no children. Back to my own private life, I got divorced after 17 years of marriage and have lived alone since 1969, but I have some good friends with whom I come in contact fairly often, and apart from that I manage to keep my mind occupied with taking care of myself health wise. I thoroughly enjoyed working for the Marine electrical industry because anything to do with shipping was something that I grew up with and the fact that it was never dull, considering that overtime was always a possibility and very often a fact, when I had to work 7 days a week for as long as 6 months with going 12 hours a day Monday to Friday, 10 hours on Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday, and very often worked 24 hours around the clock and twice that I worked 2 days and 2 nights without stopping except for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. So you can see that working on ships was never dull, and very often in fact humorous because of things occurring that invariably had spontaneous humor in them.

    I lived in Brooklyn and Long Island for close to 20 years, and then I got the bright idea to move to Tampa Florida, because of the cold winters in New York but soon changed my mind because the wage scale was about half of what it was in New York. So back I came to New York and settled down in Wantagh, Long Island and remained there for 10 years when my doctor advised me to move to a warmer climate and so I came to California and have lived there for 35 years in Santa Monica which is large enough in size to equal the 5 square miles of Saba Island, and the only difference between the two is the geographical location and mode of living, but are the two places where I have spent the most of my life, and have enjoyed living in both immensely. Just about 18 years ago I was lucky enough to get an apartment in Santa Monica and when I went there the board of Directors asked me if I would be the entertainment chairman which I accepted and once every month would hold a “dinner dance” for all the seniors in the building who were observing their birthdays for the particular month and we would have special entertainment for them with a little band for dancing, which was enjoyed by all. After doing that for 10 years with my age creeping up on me I retired and a good thing that I did because of my having serious setbacks with my health. I enjoy living in Santa Monica because of my being in close proximity to the beach and the ocean and will always be happy here, but nothing will EVER, EVER surpass that little island of Saba where I was born and grew up having two of the best loving parents in the world in a very happy and peaceful environment, all of which could persuade me to call it “fantasy island”, and for all that I offer my praise and thanks to our everlasting Almighty God for his love and care of me. END.

If you have enjoyed this just wait till I bring you the story of his grandfather Captain Richard Hassell.

My friend Elmer Linzey*

Finally this month the tree made good on Elmer’s promise. I called his wife Edwina Linzey (born Illidge) and informed her that Elmer’s tree had finally flowered. He had brought the seed from Hawaii where he had been attending a conference of his beloved Lions Club. The small seed which he brought back produced a large tree in less than no time. I had planted the slip in the same spot where a flamboyant tree had been. The flamboyant was from seed which I had brought back from the grounds of the Governor’s residence in Kingston Jamaica in 1976. However the tree never bore any flowers as Elmer had guaranteed that he had seen in Hawaii. When Elmer enquired about the status of the tree I informed him that it was already that big that he could bring a hammock and sling it in the tree and take a siesta anytime he wanted to. After all it was his tree.

Every hand while when I am travelling I dream something or the other about Elmer. We take the dreams of the place where we live and the people we know with us. Wherever I am my dreams are from the islands. I have this recurrent dream that I am walking up the old Front Street of my youth with no cars around and I get lost in between the former old mansions. In that dream there is never a person in sight and it is always at night.

I did not know Elmer when I was growing up. He was some years older than I. By the time I went to The Bottom to school in 1953 and 1954, Elmer had been living in New York by his Aunt Mrs. Othella Maude Edwards born Jackson. He had even served in the United States army in the war of the Korean Peninsula. He did not get there but served in Germany. He went to South Korea to attend a Lions Convention many years after the war.

The poet tells us that “Man does not live by bread alone, but by the lyrics of poets, the wisdom of sages, the holiness of saints, the biographies of great souls. “ My friend Elmer was a great soul and I will attempt at paying tribute to him in this short biography.

Elmer Wycliffe Linzey was born on Saba on August 28th, 1933 and died in New Jersey on January 1st 2007. I not only did the eulogy when he was buried but also a speech on January 11th, 2002 when the GEBE power plant at the Fort Bay was named in his honour. I will quote from those and other speeches and times when I spoke in honour of my friend Elmer.

The first time that I had a confrontation with Elmer was also the last time as we became fast friends after that. It was 1973. I had won the elections in 1971 convincingly but not allowed to hold office because the “powers” that be kept me out of office by a false interpretation of the Islands Regulations.

I wanted to be involved. I wrote a letter to the Saba Artisans Foundation to join the board. I was rejected. I wrote a letter to them insinuating that perhaps it was because of my colour that I was not wanted on the board. The next day coming up from the Bottom, Elmer stopped me and shouted me down. He said my letter was unacceptable and that he wanted to meet with me. He said whether you are in office or not the people elected you as their leader. I will not accept this kind of behavior from you. The next day Elmer and I met and he gave me a proper dressing down as to what he considered unacceptable behavior coming from a leader. From then until he died we lived as brothers and I listened to his advice.

Balthasar Gracian a Jesuit priest and philosopher in “The Art of Worldly Wisdom”, back in 1637 wrote:

“Cultivate relationships with those who can teach you. Let friendly intercourse be a school of knowledge, and let culture be taught through conversation. Thus you make your friends your teachers and mingle the pleasures of conversation with the advantages of instruction. Sensible people enjoy alternating pleasures: you are rewarded with applause for what you say and you gain instruction from what you hear. We are always attracted to others by our own interests, but in this case it is of a higher kind. Wise people frequent the houses of great nobility as theatres of heroism not temples of vanity. They are renowned for their worldly wisdom, not only for being oracles of all nobleness by their example and their behavior, but because those who surround them form a courtly academy of worldly wisdom of the best and noblest kind.”

For about fifteen years a group of us used to gather at Scout’s Place for fresh coffee and good conversation. The group included besides me, Elmer Linzey, George Seaman, Harry Nietzman, Carl Anslyn, Walter Campbell, Carlyle Granger and others who from time to time would join our table. I remember once that from another table with tourists from the United States, a young lady walked over and spoke to us. She said that her table was fascinated by our conversation. She said that that type of group would be hard to find anywhere in her country. Not only from the familiarity with each other of different races and nationalities, but in general just the way we communicated with each other and were so knowledgeable on world affairs. I am the only one left from that group. They were all older than me. When I think of all the friends here and elsewhere that have gone and left me I am reminded of a poem by the Curacao poet Pierre Lauffer. He wrote:

“Sing me a song of yesteryears

 So that I may brighten up my old age;

 Tell me a tender story of times gone by,

 So that I may close my eyes and remember;

 Lie to me and tell me I’m still young

 So that wide awake, I can sit and dream,

 Tell me without flinching,

 That my beard is not gray

 So that I may indulge in the illusion

Of many days to come

Before I go.”

Pieter-Dirk Uys wrote: “My home is here. I feel just as at home overseas, but think my roots are here and my language is here and my rage is here and my hope is here. You know all the peculiarities of the people around you, because you are one of them. And naturally, memories are the most important. Your home is where your favourite memories are.”

When we dedicated the power plant in Elmer’s name in my speech I made some statements which are still relevant today.

“It is remarkable how life has changed in one or two generations. My grandfather James Horton Simmons used to be called on by the government, along with the rest of the able bodied men on Saba, once a year, to clean the Kings Highway. That grand name was given to a road little more than a goat path. For this he received two cents in cash money or the equivalent in rum or tobacco. The rest of the year he had to struggle to survive from the land and the sea along with 2500 other people who lived here at the time. My father Daniel Thomas Johnson was a government foreman. When he could find work he was paid fls. 2.50 a day. He would leave his home at Behind-The-Ridge at 5am, after first having fed his livestock, and he would come with his oil lantern down to the Fort Bay road to put in a full eight hours of work. When he died at the age of 64 in 1972 he did not have an old age pension and had never made more than f. 99.—a quincenna with government. Most people make as much in a day now as my father made in a month. The hard labour of our forefathers has repeatedly been under attack. Not only attacks from the elements, but also from human destructive forces, which are always breaking down while others are trying to build up. We are still being confronted with those of parasitic tendencies whose sole mission are to break down in words and deeds, the work of others while not being able to demonstrate anything tangible which they have done.

 For the short period I have left in government, I thought that we should honour people who have contributed to the welfare of Saba and its people. People who have demonstrated that life can be rewarding when we dedicate our lives to the welfare of others. Without a doubt Mr. Elmer Linzey is preeminent among those who have made their mark on the slow march forward by our people. By introducing electricity to Saba, he abolished slavery in its second form, and made it possible for Saba to enter the 20th century. We were living two centuries behind the rest of the world when Elmer and his aunt Mrs. Maude Othella Edwards founded the Saba Electric Company. Elmer grew up on Saba in humble circumstances. Raised by his mother Nurse Laura Linzey he went on to New York to study and live at his aunt’s place in Harlem. There he also met his future wife Edwina Illidge (sister of Ramona Illidge). He told me many stories of his stay in New York. The years of struggle, to get funds together to realize his dream. His army years. His doubts as to whether he would survive the army. His thankfulness in later years as to the good medical coverage he received from the army. When I visited him at the Veterans cancer hospital in Brooklyn he told me once again of his time in the army.

I recall one day sitting with a friend of mine at Scout’s Place. She was a cousin of the Rockefeller family.

When Elmer came to join us he spoke so familiar to the lady that I remarked. “It seems that I don’t have to introduce you two.” She laughed and said: “I know Elmer when he was a young man coming down from New York with his first engine. She and her deceased husband had been on the same ship as they loved freighter travel. And then Elmer went on to tell the story of how when he got to Saba after going via Trinidad and Aruba and so on, that the engine fell overboard while being landed at the Fort Bay here on Saba. It did not stay in the water for too long. The people of Saba got together, lashed the engine with ropes at the bottom of the sea and towed it in to shore. The engine was overhauled and worked for the next thirty years. Elmer was more or less forced to sell the Saba Electric Company so that the Federal Government could form the GEBE Company to serve the three Windward Islands. He served as Manager of GEBE Saba until he retired. After that he was appointed as a Member of the Board of GEBE. During that time he made sure that Saba was upgraded. He also felt strongly that the company should never be split up. He also had a long career in the Lions Club. He was District Governor for the Caribbean region and received many awards. His years of service to the Saba Artisans Foundation and the Saba Conservation Foundation, I will speak to his years as a pioneer and a patriot. He served with me on the Island Council for eight years. I remember when we lost the election in 1987. I was at Scout’s Place and he came in all enthusiastic and excited. I reminded him that we had lost the election. He said: “Will where have you been? We have won all five seats on the Island Council. You are good for four and with me on board the two of us count for five.” And with that upbeat assessment the mood changed around and we set out to govern the island from the opposition benches. At least we made so much noise that in later years newspapers on other islands wrote that one never got the feeling that I was in opposition but rather running the government all the time.

Elmer Linzey was indeed a pioneer.” But the work of the pioneer is always costly. He builds the road and he suffers the travails of road building; but very often he does not reap the full reward of his work.

 V.H. Friedlander writes the following about our pioneers like Elmer Linzey:

“We shall not travel by the road we make,

Ere day by day the sound of many feet,

Is heard upon the stones that now we break,

We shall come to where the cross-roads meet.

For us the heat by day, the cold by night,

The inch slow progress and the heavy load,

And death at last to close the long grim fight

With man and beast and stone;

FOR THEM THE ROAD.

For them the shade of trees that now we plant,

The safe smooth journey and the ultimate goal,

Yeah, birthright in the land of covenant.

 For us a day labour travail of the soul.

And yet the road is ours, as never theirs;

 Is not one thing on us alone bestowed?

For us the master-joy, oh pioneers-

We shall not travel, but we make the road.”

So Elmer Wycliffe Linzey, pioneer and patriot; Man of wisdom and integrity; Man of dedication and achievement; Man of destiny. National Hero. We salute you and we shall always remember you, great hearted friend and comrade of the way, valiant and courageous soul, we commend you to God’s keeping until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.

The Chimneys of Saba


The Saga of Capt. Richard Hassell*

This story was written by Richard Stuart Hassell on May 26th, 2000 when he was 87 years of age and living in Santa Monica California. He did this at the urging of Brian Mark a friend. Brian had heard Richard telling so many stories about when he grew up on Saba as a boy that he felt these stories should be written down and sent to the island for people here to enjoy. After Richard’s death Brian sent the stories to Sea Saba whose site he found on the internet. Lynn Costenaro passed them on to me. I first introduced Richard’s (Dick) own life story which was very interesting and now what he informs us of his grandfather the captain. He lived in the house in Windwardside which was torn down to make way for the new Kindergarten and he was related among others to Captain Eddie Hassell of “Swinging Doors” restaurant.

In the foreword the writer tells us: “This story has been written with the knowledge that it is a true story as related to me by my mother who experienced a great deal of it herself and as a youngster and teenager had a lot of it related to her by her mother. There are many seamen who may have had similar experiences, but since I can only write about those of my grandfather, it then becomes a partial history of my family, and is written with a humble pride. Therefore, this story is dedicated to my grandfather for being a man of great courage and that he had the determination to do what he thought was best for him and his family when the odds were against him.”

My grandfather Captain Richard Hassell was born on the tiny Dutch island of Saba (only 5 miles square in size) in the year 1856 and whose forbearers settled on Saba in the year 1640.

Since seafaring was the way of life in those days, and the island being so small, the male population by necessity had to go to sea in order to earn a living and support their families. The very young teenagers had to start out going to sea at 13 years of age to follow in their father’s footsteps, and were always signed on the ship as the “cabin boy.” It was standard practice that the captain had the responsibility of teaching the cabin boy all the rest of the schooling he would be missing by starting out at sea at such an early age. In addition he had to teach him all the rudiments of navigation and seamanship, along with the aid of books on the subject.

As it turned out, my grandfather was a very ambitious man, and so at 16 years of age he decided that he wanted to get married and so he married a Saban girl who happened also to be 16, after receiving the blessings of her parents. One year later my mother was born. Being a father gave my grandfather the impetus to learn more about navigation and seamanship. He studied so hard that at age 21 he had taken the examination for a Captain’s license and passed it, whereupon the shipping company for whom he was sailing gave him command of a ship, and so he kept going to sea. It was a customary thing for a shipping company not to allow the prospective captain to take command of a ship without being a part owner which was 25% of what the ship was worth. The shipping company’s idea was that the captain of the vessel would be more interested in keeping it in good shape and would look out more for the company’s interest if he was a part owner. My grandfather turned out to be a man of good judgment and thrifty with his money because he had built his own home on the island of Saba by the time my mother was three years old. After having sailed to New York many times my grandfather decided to take his family to live there in the year 1877. After his first son Richard was born my grandmother started to get a little more apprehensive about my grandfather going to sea, particularly after having weathered three hurricanes at sea. He finally relented and found a grocery store in New York City that was for sale and bought it almost immediately. But being a born seaman at heart he put the grocery store up for sale after only two years and eventually sold it to another merchant. He found a small schooner of 46 tons in size and bought it, putting it in seaworthy shape. He began trading up and down the East Coast of the United States and the Caribbean area. He called the vessel the R.H.

My mother having been born in 1872 was about 8 years of age and interested in whatever my grandfather did because my grandmother had gotten in the habit of keeping her informed even at such a young age, particularly about the dangers of going to sea. Although Captain Hassell had some dangerous adventures, one where he was the only survivor, he always returned successfully. But my grandmother was more convinced than ever that she would try to persuade him to give it up. Finally in about 1886 on a particular trip to Jacksonville, Florida, he was approached by a representative of a local shipping company who was interested in buying the R.H. at a price satisfactory to my grandfather. By the following day he found out that an orange grove was for sale located on the St. John’s River, not too far from Jacksonville. The price of the orange grove was much less than what he had been offered for the R.H. and so he made up his mind to sell his beloved ship and buy the orange grove.

So he put down a down payment on the orange grove and signed an agreement to sell the R.H. to the shipping company, advising them that he would have to go back to New York City and conclude all business there before returning to Jacksonville and finalizing the sale of the R.H. and purchasing the orange grove. Captain Hassell finally got all the business taken care of in New York and took enough supplies including food and water for 26 days to take him and his family to Jacksonville. After about 3 days at sea, when he was approximately off the coast of Cape Hatteras, the vessel’s barometer started to fall rapidly. From his experience with other hurricanes he knew that the telltale signs pointed to trouble – running headlong into another hurricane. He immediately called the crew together and told them that from his past experience with hurricanes he felt it imperative that they prepare. He decided to ride it out. He then ordered the crew to take in all sails except for the jib which he needed to help keep the vessel’s bow into the wind. He battened down the hatches. He further asked several crew members to lash him to the helm so that he would not get washed overboard and since his family was on board, he wanted to make sure he and he alone was responsible for bringing the vessel through the hurricane. Many of the crew had asked him to let them spell him at the helm but he would not hear of it. The ship’s cook, knowing that he would have to at least have some hot coffee, did manage to hold the coffee pot on the stove long enough to boil the water for the coffee. That was all Captain Hassell had for three days and three nights while the hurricane lasted. But he did bring the R.H. successfully through.

After the hurricane was over they found themselves becalmed which lasted for 25 days and my grandfather had supplies for only that period of time. On the 26th day he was down to one tin of salmon and some “hard tack,” which he chose to give to the crew and sugar water and crackers which he gave to his family. That afternoon, around 3 P.M., a United States warship was seen approaching within a close distance and Captain Hassell put up a distress signal. The warship gave them enough supplies to get to Jacksonville, which they reached after six days. He then proceeded in finalizing the sale of the R.H. and the purchase of the orange grove, and immediately started to put the orange grove home in better shape, after which he started the trimming of the orange trees. Blossoms sprouted in a month or so, and soon tiny oranges began to appear. My mother said she had never seen him in a better frame of mind.

As the oranges started to reach maturity my grandfather envisioned a bumper crop and had by this time decided that being a “landlubber” was not so bad after all. However, his luck was about to run out because the area was hit with one of the heaviest frosts in years and the whole crop was lost. He went bankrupt. Wasting no time, he checked in Jacksonville about possible other jobs and as luck would have it; he found out that the Jacksonville lumber company had a three master schooner that needed a captain. He applied for the job and got it. The lumber company gave him all the information that was necessary including the fact that he would have to run the vessel on shares of the profits, which he readily agreed to. After taking command of the vessel his first trip was to Trinidad with a load of lumber.

He took his family and dropped them off at the island of Saba where he still owned his own home, and he continued on to Trinidad. My mother, now having reached the age of 17, had started to teach a small kindergarten class of children to help out as much as she could until her father had received his first share of the profit. Soon my Uncle Richard had reached the age of 13 and immediately went to sea as a cabin boy with an uncle of his who was captain of a 4 master square rigged ship. In the meantime, my grandfather continued to carry lumber to Trinidad and on one particular trip, after he had taken his first sight of shooting the sun, in the morning around 10 o’clock he laid down to rest. In the afternoon, just before he shot the sun again (around 3 o’clock) he called the mate and told him he was not feeling well and that he felt like he was going to die. He said if he did, he did not want his body buried at sea, but to take tar and tar his body, wrap it in canvas, folding it over and over, and put it in the ship’s hold. He gave the mate the course to steer after having taken his second shot of the sun, and found his position according to his calculation of the latitude and longitude, and that if they stayed on course as he told them they would come to Barbados where he wished to be buried, and so he was.

The crew then sailed the vessel to the island of Saba where they related all the details of what had occurred. When my grandmother, Rebecca, heard it, she told my mother that six months from that date she would not be alive and let herself grieve to death. My mother then had to take over the responsibility for her younger brother Camille who was only five years of age at the time (+_1892). After my mother reached 20 years of age (1896) she felt that she could better provide for her brother and herself by going back to New York City and with her uncle being captain of a sailing ship he stopped at the island of Saba, packed them up, and sailed for New York. Since she knew no one in New York City, she decided after a year to go to Providence, Rhode Island, where she had relatives.

My father had fallen in love with my mother after her mother died, but she did not get to see him too often because of his going to sea. When his ship stopped at Providence, he heard from other relatives that my mother was now living there and he went to see her. They decided to marry and did so in January of the year 1902. My brother was born in December 1902. Soon after, my mother decided to go back to Saba for a short time but that never happened, as she stayed much longer. My sister Caroline (Carry) and I were born on Saba which is a place I can never forget, as small as it was.

As this story has been written primarily about my grandfather I deem it to be my duty that it is centered on him. I wish to add that nothing has given me greater pleasure than to try to recall all of the information that comprises the Saga of Captain Richard Hassell.”  END.

As I was typing out this article I thought of the hundreds of Saban captains and other men of the sea who would have had similar stories which went unrecorded and that Saba can truly be called “Isle of a thousand sea tales.”

Capt. Hubert Loveless Hassell*

In “Sketches of the Coast”, Gabriel Garcia Marquez makes a distinction between cities with ships and cities without ships. Cities where ships arrive and leave are cause for a certain melancholy. Everyone who lives in such a place realizes that life consists principally of farewells. That does not necessarily lead to gloominess.

Someone who at the hour of sunset is surprised by melancholy, who as the Curacao poet Joseph Sick Corsen, fears that he will go under at the same time as the sun, can party enthusiastically two hours later, for the exact reason that he is deeply convinced of the approaching departure. Of course Mr. Marquez preferred cities with ships. A city without ships is Bogota the city where he studied, where he felt locked up, where he nearly suffocated.

Growing up hearing the old folks telling their adventures at sea and seeing ships passing the island and wondering what the rest of the world looked like instilled in me a lifelong fascination with stories of how our people survived from sailing the world’s oceans. We are a people of the sea and we renew our association with her each time we venture out upon her vast expanse. The ocean keeps you alive and alert. Even when sleeping on a ship, you are aware that you are riding on the back of a live companion, the sea.

I have stated before that Saba is an island of a thousand sea tales. The following one concerns a native of the village of St. John’s, Capt. Hubert Loveless Hassell. The second name is also spelled Lovelace. Why anyone would name their child Loveless is beyond me, but stranger things happen. People here also named their girl children Peter Ann. Anyway having said that Captain Hassell’s family owned the house on St. John’s where the late Miss Pauline Paul lived at one time. His parents were William Lovelace Hassell and Emmeline Every. He was born on Saba on November 2nd, 1896. Around 1921 he married Evelyn Leverock also of St.John’s village.  His brothers were James Hassell, born 07.11.1889, captain of freighters who retired in 1968 to Florida, John William “Whippy” Hassell, captain of steamers, and Peter John Hassell born 17.05.1883. Capt. Peter was married to Mathilde Every, who later, after Peter died, married Joseph E. Vlaun. Peter died at the age of 50 in 1934 just a few years after he mastered his own ship. Hubert was the father of Howard Hassell a well-known scientist who worked with Oppenheimer on the atomic bomb. They had a sister Clemencia “Miss Clemmy” Hassell born 1878. I always thought that she was an old spinster. However I found out from Mrs. Peggy Johnson-Barnes that Miss Clemmie had been married to a great uncle of Peggy’s. His name was Abraham Warneford Hassell and he died in an Old Age Home in Barbados. They even had a child named Elton who died shortly after birth in 1904. For whatever reason Miss Clemmie did not follow her husband to Barbados and she and her brother “Whippy” lived in the house until they died. I heard from someone that he was a “lee stumpy feller” so perhaps Miss Clemmy decided for that reason to remain put on St. John’s and not to follow her “lee stumpy feller” into the unknown. Of that whole family there are no survivors as Howard was the only offspring and he never married. One house produced four captains.

Captain Hubert Hassell’s tanker the S.S. “E.M. Clark “on March 18th, 1942 during an early spring thunderstorm was struck by two torpedoes at approximately 8:30 pm by the German U-boat, U-124. Captain Hubert L. Hassell entered the Company’s employ as a third mate on April 11, 1924 and was continuously Captain since June 8, 1936. He was a Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Reserve from January 22, 1941 and was granted leave of absence on August 2nd, 1943, for active service in the Navy.

The tanker was launched in 1921 and first known as the “Victolite” and renamed E. M. Clark in 1926. It had steam turbine engines, was 9647 tons and had a length of 516 feet. It was owned by the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey.

The Clark was attacked 200 miles southwest of Diamond shoals. On the morning of March 11, 1942, the E.M. Clark, commanded by Captain Hubert L. Hassell, with her engine department in charge of Chief engineer Lafo, left Baton Rouge, La., with a cargo of 118,725 barrels of heating oil, bound for New York.  We quote from Captain Hassell’s report:

“On March 17th, at 8 p.m., the weather became squally with lightning and rainfalls and wind south-west- Force 4 – sea mode-rather rough. At about 12.35 a.m. March 18, I had retired to my stateroom. Second mate Richard F. Ludden was in charge of the bridge. An A.B. was at the wheel Lynn Bartee, O.S., was on lookout at the foc’sle head; and an A.B. was on standby. “Immediately after the explosion I proceeded to the bridge where I took charge from the second mate, who had already sounded the alarm and ordered the engines “Full astern” and then “Stop”. These orders were promptly complied with. I then went to the radio operator’s room and assisted him in the attempt to rig the emergency antenna in order to send an SOS, as the regular antenna had been destroyed.”

Radio operator Earle J. Schlarb, in his statement described his experience during the emergency – when seconds seemed like minutes and minutes like hours.”

   “At midnight,” he said, “I threw in the switch for the automatic alarm and glanced about the radio room, making a general check-up before going off watch. My life jacket was hanging on the door knob. Taking my radio operator license out of the frame and placing it where I could get it quickly if need arose. I went below to get some sleep. The alarm bell was ringing madly when I awoke, finding myself halfway out of my bunk. I hurried into my clothes and snatched up a flashlight. As I opened the door I breathed in the sharp, acrid odor of burnt powder in the companion-way. Rushing up into the radio-room, I turned on my flashlight and found the whole place in chaos. Parts of the apparatus, the filing cabinet, spare-parts, locker, table, and racks were in a tangled heap on the floor. The typewriter had been flung across the operating chair and table and had crashed into the receiver-battery charger. The door leading to the boat deck had been blown off and part of the bulkhead was gone. Feeling lucky to be alive, I pulled the auto alarm switch and stopped the clamor of the bells. Then I heard the captain saying, “Sparks, get on the air!” There was no ship voltage as the power lines were broken; that was why the alarm bells rang. I threw in the battery switch for the emergency transmitter power supply. It worked! Then I connected the antenna transfer and telegraph key switches and ‘sat on the key’, sending and repeating SSSS-SOS. But there was no radiation on the dial. Had the main antenna been broken? Going outside to the main deck, I stumbled in the darkness over more wreckage. A flash of lightning showed the damage done, the lifeboat was a blasted heap of torn and twisted metal and splinters; a jagged hole yawned in the sagging deck. Awning and stanchion bars were smashed off or hanging loosely. When the lightning passed, inky blackness shut in tightly. I could not see whether the main mast was still standing. Feeling my way by flashlight, I crossed to the starboard side and bumped into the first assistant engineer, who was coming up from aft. I asked him if the mainmast was down. “Damned if I know,’ he said, ‘but the deck is full of wires. Your antenna must be broken. Another flash of lightning revealed the starboard lifeboat being prepared for launching. Some of the men were in it, others on deck. I returned to the radio room, put on my life jacket, and grabbed the coil of spare antenna, tangled by the explosion, but intact. As I backed out on deck trying to straighten out the wires, it was a matter of great urgency to find a place to attach the emergency antenna. I thought of the small runway atop the radio room, with a ladder leading up to the wing of the monkey bridge. Somehow I grasped the top of the sheer bulkhead, pulled myself up, and bent one end of the tangled antenna wire around the iron railing. Suddenly off the port side of the ship, distant about 300 yards, a submarine’s yellow searchlight was turned on and played about the “E.M. Clark”, apparently to inspect the damage caused by the torpedo.

Someone approaching me called out “Sparks”. I answered with a shout and up came Captain Hassell and second mate Ludden. “The antenna is down,” I said. “Here is the spare coil of wire. It’s badly messed up. Can you give me a hand?” I scaled the bulkhead again and unhooked the wire. All three of us started pulling and twisting. A considerable length came free and I climbed with it up the ladder to the bridge wing. Part of the awning bar was still up. To get the spare antenna as far out from the ship’s house as possible, I inched along in the murky dark, holding the rail with one hand, the wire with the other. As if by instinct, I halted where I found the railing gone. At the same time a bolt of lightning showed that the outer wing of the bridge had been torn off. Black water and wreckage gleamed up from far below. One step further… I could feel my heart beating as I made one end of the insulator fast to the swaying, broken awning bar. When I went back on deck, the captain told me the lead-in was free. We ignored the rest of the tangle, pulled taut what we had, and hooked up the lead-in to the bulkhead insulator. I had hardly started for the radio room to send distress calls when the ship leaped and shuddered. The lead-in was torn from my hands. Captain Hassell, thrown off balance, stumbled and dropped his flashlight as the sound of a dull, heavy explosion reached our ears. Hit again! This time it was up forward, in way of No. 1 tank and the dry cargo hold. The torpedo had apparently gone deep inside before detonating. The ship’s whistle jammed and sent forth a steady roar. Broken steam lines hissed loudly. The captain found his light and turned it on. The glass was broken but the bulb still worked. The second mate ran to starboard to see if No. 1 lifeboat was still intact. I thought it had started to rain but what I felt on my face was not raindrops but oil. Cargo heating oil had been blown high and was falling in a fine spray! It seemed a miracle that the ship had not caught fire. The explosion had ripped down the spare antenna we were working on and part of it could not be seen. The second mate came back, holding the rail as the ship took a list to port. ‘Captain,’ he shouted,’ she’s going down fast.’ Captain Hassell looked at me.”How long will it take to repair this and send an SOS?’ he asked. “At least 15 minutes. Captain Hassell said calmly, “I doubt if we have 15 minutes.”

Captain Hassell in his report said:” I gave orders to launch the life boats and abandon the ship. No 2 boat had been destroyed; 14 men got into No. 1 boat and 26 in No. 4. Thomas J. Larkin, utility man was the only crew member missing when I made the count and I presumed that he was killed by the first explosion while asleep in the hospital room, about where the torpedo struck. Before going into No. 1 boat myself, I collected the ship’s documents and secret wartime codes. Taking the former along with me, I threw the codes overboard in a weighted canvas bag.

The radio operator said the following: “When we went over to No.1, the captain and I handled the after fall while the second mate and others took care of the gear forward. Captain Hassell, believing all hands were accounted for, was the last man to enter the life boat. Although we were on the windward side, the boat was safely launched, but once it was in the water the trouble started, as the wind and waves slammed us against the ship’s side with great force. All hands worked hard trying to shove off, using the heavy oars and boat hooks. Finally we got the boat clear and all the oars in the water. Rowing was difficult because of the choppy waves and the rolling of the lifeboat.

Suddenly a seaman yelled and pointed to a man standing at the ship’s rail. Captain Hassell directed us to pull back part way and shouted to the man to jump. His orders were muffled by the din of the ship’s whistle. The man on the deck, Wiper Glen Barnhart, slid down a boat fall and dropped into the sea. He wore a life jacket but weighed about 240 pounds and floated low in the water. A wave picked him up and tossed him within a few yards of the lifeboat. He was soon hauled aboard and covered with a blanket. The captain told us to row around the stern of the vessel to see if anyone else could be picked up. We had just started when the loom of a light showed, creeping around the ship’s stern. “It’s the sub!” someone called out.”Let’s get the hell out of here!” The Captain gave orders to pull away and wait until the enemy U-boat submerged. We saw the submarine heading for the stern of the ship as its yellow light silhouetted the torpedoed tanker in the darkness. The “E.M. Clark “was then deep down by the head and filling rapidly. The sea was covered with oil, which kept the waves from breaking over our lifeboat, but the fumes were sickening. Several of the men, I was one of them, became violently ill.

The lifeboat drifted until dawn when the compass was broken out to determine the direction of the nearest land. As the wind was blowing toward shore, a sail was hoisted and we moved along at a good clip before a stiff breeze. As the first gray streaks of dawn crept over the sea, several ships were sighted far off. At about 7am a destroyer appeared over the horizon. We shot two red flares and she changed course. A few minutes later another flare was fired and before long the destroyer neared us, maneuvered to windward, and carefully came alongside. After five hours in the lifeboat, we were soaking wet with rain and spray and chilled by the cold wind. When we were picked up, it felt mighty good to be safely aboard a United States man-o-war the “USS Dickerson”. No definite word of No. 4 boat was received for some hours. Finally it was found empty but it was later learned that it had been rescued by a Venezuelan tanker and the crew landed at Norfolk.

Captain Hassell concluded his report by stating that they were transferred to a Coast Guard cutter and landed at a nearby station. From there we proceeded to Atlantic, N.C., thence to Morehead City and finally to New York where we arrived March 20th.Of the” E.M.Clark’s “41 officers and men, 40 survived the disaster.

It was not only the Germans who were out to get Captain Hassell, but the Japanese as well. Capt. Hassell was immediately transferred to another tanker and on May 28th 1942, a week before the battle of Midway, the ESSO tanker “E.TBedford”, (sister ship of the” E.M. Clark” and 516.6 feet long) arrived at Sydney, Australia, with 95,195 barrels of 100 octane aviation gasoline and 20, 646 barrels of Pool vaporizing oil or a total cargo of one hundred and fifteen thousand and forty one barrels of refined petroleum products. This cargo was delivered to the Commonwealth of Australia during the most serious crisis in her history, when she was threatened by the onrushing land, sea, and air forces of Japan. The tanker was commanded by Captain Hubert L. Hassell and her engine room was in charge of Chief Engineer Ervin C. Haatveldt. The vitally important cargo was discharged at five terminals. Four midget Japanese submarines entered Sydney Harbour and attempted to blow up the” E.T. Bedford” but they were detected by the cruiser “USSS Chicago”. General MacArthur’s headquarters announced that all four subs were destroyed, but that 19 Australian sailors were killed and 10 injured on the ferryboat- the only Allied vessel lost.

On the night of May 31, during the enemy submarine raid, the “E.T. Bedford” was shaken and damaged by the concussion of depth charges which were dropped near the ship and she afterwards showed signs of leaks in her hull plates. At first the leaks were not considered important, but later the damage was found to be serious. After loading a small cargo, 20, 146 barrels of 73-octane gasoline at Sydney and discharging at Towns-Ville, Australia, the “E.T. Bedford” sailed across the Pacific to San Francisco, where she arrived on June 27. Repairs to hull and engines took considerable time; it was 5 months and 26 days before she re-entered service on December 22nd.

Captain Hubert Loveless Hassell retired from Standard Oil in 1966 and passed away in 1969. In 1970 the ancestral home on St. John’s of this particular Hassell family was sold and the family passed into history.

Henry Vaughn (1622-1695) wrote: “Oh how I long to travel back and thread that ancient track.” I love the sea and from time to time when the weather is good I take the boat. It brings back to my mind my roots anchored deep in sea life, of island life in former times. We are an island people, a seafaring people still. Even though we are mostly land based now, each time we go down to the sea, it brings back  echoes from a distant past, when as seafarers we rode upon the oceans back to distant lands and back home again.

Our Time of Glory


The Portland Sail Maker*

   The following story is taken from a newspaper in Portland Maine from the year 1952. It is followed with a short history of Thomas Hassell the sail maker and his family who were originally from the village of St. John’s on Saba.

   “Most everyone, it seems knows about the Great Blizzard of 1898. It has been given much publicity because of the steamer Portland. Forgotten by man, however, was the big snowstorm of 1902. It also blanketed and screeched death along the New England Coast. Mrs. Harold S. Elder, 16 Homestead Avenue, well remembers it. On the wall of her home is a picture of the four-masted schooner,” John F. Randall”. Hanging from the picture is a miniature anchor. “Whenever you look at this anchor, think of me,” her father had said 50 years and two weeks ago— just before his final trip to sea. She has never forgotten.

    “Her father, Capt. Edward H. Crocker, who then lived on Waterville Street, was Master of the “Randall”, largest schooner of her time. The “John F. Randall” had been built in Bath Maine in 1891. The schooner had a length of 228.9 feet and a gross tonnage of 1.643.5 tons. She foundered off Fire Island on February 3rd, 1902. Captain Crocker’s son Harley was also on board along with ten other crewmen from Portland and Machiasport. Harley had only two more trips to qualify for an engineer’s license. He was in charge of the schooner’s power plant used in hoisting sail, anchor etc. They were last seen the night of February 1st, 1902 off Fire Island, New York, en route from Norfolk Virginia to Portland with a cargo of hard coal for Randall & McAllister. No trace of crew or ship was ever found. And among the last to see them was Thomas Hassell, 82, of Fallbrook Street, who still recollects the episode with anguish. He was Mate on the schooner “Alice E. Clark” of the Winslow Fleet. The “Alice E. Clark”, also a four master schooner, had been built in 1898 in Bath Maine by Percy & Small. Gross Tonnage was 1.621 and a length of 227.4 feet. She was lost on July 1st, 1909 off Coombs Point, Isleboro, Maine. The vessels had left Virginia together. Mr. Hassells craft was behind. He was on watch at the time. Occasionally, he could catch a glimpse of the lights of the Randall. But gradually the lights “just faded out.” “That storm,” he declared ‘It was terrible.”

 Could it be that Sabans were frustrated with life on our little island? So many of them took to the sea that one is reminded of a passage from Herman Melville’s book “Moby Dick” quoted after this.

   “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, it requires a strong moral principal to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.”

I recently received a letter from Thomas Hassells grandson Mr. Clifford James Hassell, who lives in Michigan.

He wrote: “Dear Sir.” Could you put me in touch with someone who might help me find out more of my family history? My grandfather Thomas Hassell was born to John and Mary Hassell in 1874. They had at least two other children, John and William. My grandmother was Alantina Kelly. I think that she must have been born on the island also. I think she had a brother Moses. I am not sure of that. All that I ever heard him referred to is “Uncle Modie”. My uncle, son of Thomas and Alantina, Thomas McDol Hassell was also born on Saba. The family left for Portland, Maine USA around 1900. Grandfather left the sea and became a very successful sail and awning maker in Portland. They had four more children, Frank, Leslie, James and Alice. James was my father. My mother and father were on Saba on vacation in the nineteen sixties. I wish they had done more research on the family beginnings. I don’t have any picture of my grandfather and I only have one of my grandmothers. My Uncle Tom had some but they were destroyed in a fire.”

   The information I found for him was that on April 17th, 1895 were married Thomas Hassell (24) and

Allantine Kelly (19). His parents were; Thomas Simmons Hassell and Elizabeth William Simmons, both of whom were already deceased at the time of the marriage of their son. The parents of the bride were John Thomas Kelly (deceased) and Robertina Simmons. The young couple had a son Thomas Macdol Hassell born September 9th, 1895. They had been working a little ahead of schedule if my count is correct for a nine month baby. John Thomas Kelly and Robertina Simmons had other children. A daughter, Rosilla Kelly (22), who on December 21st, 1892 married Amadis Lubencio Barnes (28), and Mozes Kelly born May 1st 1879, and also a son Richard Thomas Kelly born January 7th, 1877. Robertina Simmons died January 28th, 1938 on Saba aged 89. Her parents were Richard Simmons and Ann Rebecca Beaks. Thomas Simmons Hassell and Elizabeth William Simmons also had another son Benajamin Hassell (21) who on March 28th, 1906 married to Rebecca Johnson (21) born on January 8th, 1886. Her mother only is listed and her name was Robertina Johnson.

I regularly get requests for this sort of research and it is interesting to discover who is related to whom and where our Saban people ended up in the world.

Thomas Hassell sailed for the Winslow Lines until he came ashore and worked for Leavitt and Paris Company as a sail maker. When he was refused a raise in pay he left and with credit from the Singer Sewing Machine Company he started his own sail making and awning company.

The Winslow Company had a fleet of 34 schooners, 12 of the Palmer fleet none of which were less than 1200 tons. Winslow already had 22 schooners including 5 six master schooners, several five master and a number of 3 masters. A number of other Sabans sailed for this company. In one of the photo’s accompanying this article the schooner to the right in Thomas Hassells sail loft is the “ALICE E. CLARK” of the Winslow Line on which Thomas sailed before string his sail making business. His sons Thomas McDol Hassell and Frank Oliver Hassell went into business with him and formed Thomas Hassell and Sons at 39 Portland Pier, Portland , Maine. Thomas Hassell never learned to read or write much more than his own name but with the help of the boys ran a very successful business. Common sense and hard work were the reasons behind his success. In 1942 the boys left and went to work for the South Portland Shipbuilding Company building Liberty ships for the war effort. Thomas Hassell decided to retire at that time. His son Leslie Clark Hassell contracted infantile paralysis as a child and was handicapped the rest of his life. That did not stop him from becoming a successful jeweler and watchmaker. He owned his own store. He also had the first car in Maine equipped with hand controls. It was a 1936 Packard with standard shift. He was born in Portland in 1904 and died in 1970. James Clifford Hassell (born Portland 1915 died 1980) was a grocer, married and had two children Clifford James and William John. After the shipyard closed Thomas McDol (born Saba 1895 died Portland 1972) and Frank, went to work in the printing business. Thomas McDol was a compositor and Frank was a bindery man. They also made and installed awnings as a part-time business. Thomas McDol, Frank, and Leslie married but had no children. Their sister Alice married Albert Hanson whose parents came from Norway. They had one child, Ronald Leroy Hanson.

When Thomas Hassell died in 1953 the Portland Press Herald carried the following obituary.

“Thomas Hassell, 79, widely known along the local waterfront, died yesterday afternoon at his residence, 48 Fallbrook Street, after a short illness. Hassell was a sail maker here from the start of World War 1 until 1928, when he opened his own sail making business. He retired in 1942. He was born at Saba, Dutch West Indies, January 20th, 1874, son of John Robert and Mary Hassell and was educated in schools there. He came to this country as a small boy and as a young man worked with the J.S.Winslow schooner fleet. He was a member of the English Church of the Dutch West Indies. Surviving are four sons. Thomas M, Leslie C. and James C. all of this city and Frank O. Hassell of North Windham; a daughter Mrs. Alice C. Hanson, of this city; a sister, Mrs. Constance Robinson of Hamilton Bermuda; three grandchildren, Ronald Hanson, and Clifford and William Hassell, and several nieces and nephews. Funeral services will be at 2pm Friday at 749 Congress Street with interment in Forest City Cemetery. The Reverend Edward Nelson will officiate.”

  There are a couple of mistakes in the death announcement as he was born in 1871 and was 82 when he died. Also he did not go to the United States as a little boy. He was already married with a son. But those are minor details. Point is that as his grandson wrote to me is that even though he could not read and write that he became a successful businessman after doing his time at sea as so many Sabans did at the time.

    “Great are the folk of the land; Greater still are the folk of the sea.”

Capt. Cameron Simmons at war*

My former old neighbor Capt. George Irvin Holm (1891-1984) was one of my sources for indentifying our Saba captains and their exploits. Once, when interviewing him, I asked if any of his ships had ever been in trouble during either of the World Wars. He made light of it and said he did not think so. The next day I passed his house. He was 91 then and out working in his vegetable garden. He shouted out to me that he had not remembered to tell me that he had been torpedoed twice and shot at by German warplanes many times during the war.

Sometime back Ms. Ashley Cordi, a great granddaughter of Capt. Samuel Augustus Simmons visited me and brought me Confidential and Secret documents from the U.S. Navy Department. No. No. That was before Wikileaks if that is what you are thinking. Anyway the documents are from the Second World War and I assume that it is safe to use them now.

Every hand while I try to file documents away. My house is like the Augean stables, and like Hercules it would take me twenty years to put all the paperwork in some kind of order. When filing the documents from Ms. Cordi I decided to read up on the life of Capt. Cameron Dudley Simmons. He was born on February 10th, 1892 in the home near the Roman Catholic Church in The Bottom. Mrs. Carmen Simmons born Nicholson now owns this home. Cameron’s parents were Capt. Samuel Augustus Simmons of Saba (1848-1930) and Eva Johnson Simmons born St. Thomas Parish, Barbados February 8th, 1860 and died on Saba February 20th, 1942.

After sailing on schooners around the West Indies, Cameron went to the United States. There he met and married Blanche Bruce from Montego Bay, Jamaica (daughter of Capt. Solomon Simmons “Butchy Coonks”.) They had 7 children.

Cameron’s parents had a number of tragedies in their lifetime. A son Solomon aged 16 fell out of a tree in the hillside of Parish Hill landed on a rock and died.

Another son Capt. Harold Christopher, his wife Belle Williams from New Orleans and their two children were lost in the Gulf of Mexico. They abandoned ship and only one lifeboat made it to shore. Their life raft never made it to shore. This happened on the molasses tanker “Melero” on January 20th, 1920 (Lat.31.45 N Long. 78-48W.)

The following report of the Navy Department concerns the Liberty cargo ship “William Wirt”, Capt. Cameron Dudley Simmons and 1st Mate George Irvin Holm. The report was compiled by the Commander of U.S. Naval Armed Guard S/S William Wirt, from Gibraltar, directed to the chief of Naval Operations and dated February 2nd, 1943. There were 21 armed guards on board under the command of Lieut. R.H. Mcilwaine. The merchant personnel consisted of 13 merchant men assigned to gun posts, among them Samuel Augustus Simmons Jr. (brother of the Captain) and listed as 3rd Mate. There was also a Jones, M.L., Peterson, M.C., Green, J.H. and Collins, J.P. (3rd cook). These are all Saba names and they could have been from here as our people liked to sail together even into war. The report is of the Voyage of the S/S William Wirt from December 28th, 1943 to January 10th, 1944.

On 7 January 1943, approximately seventy miles West of Philippeville Algeria, we encountered the enemy. With no warning whatsoever from escorts, an attack by air was launched against the convoy at 1810. Planes painted dark grey, with no insignias visible, came in from the North, North East and North West. Flying low, about 50 to 100 feet above the water, the first assault was launched by torpedo carrying planes. The ship on our port side was the first to go up with a great explosion, which destroyed the attacking plane that was caught and sucked into the flame. Simultaneously, torpedo planes came in on our port bow and quarter. 3”/50 and 20MM Oerlikon barrage drove these planes off their course causing their torpedoes to go astray. Another followed close, coming in on the port quarter and was hit by 20MM fire. He dropped two torpedoes, one going astray and the other hitting a small Norwegian ship astern sinking her, then burst into flames and fell to our starboard side aft. The next wave, followed closely and were dive bombers coming in high from North or seaside. One diving on us on the port beam was hit by 20MM fire and his port motor burst into flames, causing him to bank sharply to port and the two bombs released to fall twenty yards from the portside of the ship. He appeared to try and gain altitude, then released another bomb which entered No. 1 hold (Loaded with 100 octane gas); and fell into drink just forward of our starboard bow. The explosion of the two near misses jammed the breech and training arc of the 3”/50 and we had to carry on with 20MM alone. The last wave of planes approached from forward and crossed our bow. One was hit by 20MM from flying bridge starboard and rapidly lost altitude with heavy black smoke pouring from his motors. He fell into the drink about one mile astern.

  1. The actual attack ended at 1850 and approximately twenty or more planes were used by the enemy. These consisted, to the best of our ability to recognize them, of Heinkles, Folke-Wulf, Stuka and Junkers bombers. Also some planes resembling Savia SM’s.
  2. The attack, we feel, was the result of a reconnaissance plane which appeared over the convoy at 1605. Escorting Hurricanes opened fire and the plane disappeared into a cloud with no pursuit attempted. Two hours and five minutes later the actual attack occurred, at which time no warning and very little support was given the convoy by sea escorts.
  3. Shrapnel and some unexploded shells fell on deck and hatch covers but no injuries except minor ones were received. The bomb entering No.1 hold did not set off the gasoline; it was removed in pieces after arrival at Philipeville.

Our next encounter took place on the return, westerly course, on 19 January 1943; planes approached low over the water from North and seaside. All batteries ordered to open fire and barrage diverted the planes from their course. The next wave of attacking planes came in on the port bow. 3’/50 and 20MM barrage hit one plane and dispersed the others who retreated flying to northward. The last attack came from high level bombers, but no hits on the ships were scored.

At 1305 escort hoisted his black pennant and began dropping depth charges on our starboard side abaft the beam. At about 1320 an enemy sub surfaced and was fired on and sank immediately by escort. Escort put over life raft and the convoy steamed on, proceeding west.

Another attack was encountered on January 20th. And a second attack about six hours out of Algiers on that same date. At 2045, and again with no warning and very little support from our sea escort, the attack was launched against the convoy. This action lasted for one hour and five minutes and was our last encounter before anchoring at Gibraltar.

Every man in the crew, including signalman H.F. Wilson, stayed by his station throughout the night, each night of the attacks. All were calm, determined and relentless in their persecution of the enemy. Even after a bomb had entered No.1 hold (containing 100 octane gas) and none knew when an explosion might mean the ship’s destruction, all hands remained at the gun stations throughout the night. Every man asked only the chance to further protect his ship and help her make port and deliver the cargo. Further commendation is due to the merchant personnel assisting in servicing the guns. Nothing but the highest praise can be offered for them too. Like gunners, they too, exhibited a calm determination to eradicate any and all enemy within sight, no matter what cost. The Master, C.D. Simmons, and Chief Mate G.I. Holm, did their utmost in navigating safely and presenting the best fighting point of vantage for the ship. Too, Chief mate G.I. Holm did more than anyone to prevent panic. With no thought of himself he jollied and kidded his men and by doing so preserved order and discipline so necessary in such times of crisis.” The office of the chief of naval operations also made a report which stated that the SS William Wirt was damaged as the result of a series of air attacks. She had sailed from Liverpool in a convoy which consisted of 13 merchant ships and 5 escort vessels. Although damaged, the ship made port safely and returned to the USA where it underwent repairs.

  Before that Capt. C.D. Simmons when in command of the SS Laranga from Boston to Murmansk Russia was attacked and the ship went into Raykjavik Iceland for repairs. Captain Simmons had a severely injured foot and was hospitalized in Iceland for three months, and his ship after repairs and proceeding to Russia, returned and picked him up. For the Algiers mission Capt. Simmons was awarded the Medal for Meritorious Service. He later commanded another Liberty ship until sometime in the spring of 1944 when he became captain of the Point Loma, a seagoing tugboat. He served on the “Point Loma” in the War of the Pacific until his death in January 1945. Here is the log report on his death at sea, a fate suffered by so many Sabans in former times.

January 15th, 1945, Monday; Purser was called to Captains cabin. He was complaining of dizziness. At once he passed out. Artificial respiration was begun. Signalman called for Doctor who was brought alongside by Navy tug. At about 1525 doctor pronounced captain dead of heart attack which occurred at 1350.

January 16th, Tuesday 1815: Gun crew formed guard of Honor for sea burial. 1st Mate Kelly read short services. He [the Captain] slipped from under flag and was confined to the sea at 1830. And so Captain Cameron Dudley Simmons found a watery grave in that vast Pacific Ocean. He and Capt. Holm are some of the many men of former times who did Saba proud and we are pleased to honor their memory.  

Boat building on Saba

 So much has been written on the subject of boat building on Saba over the centuries and so we decided to do our own research to determine as to whether or not these reports are based on myth or reality.

Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote; “I should like to rise and go where the golden apples grow; where below another sky, Parrot islands anchored lie, and watched by cockatoos and goats, Lonely Crusoe’s building boats.” Perhaps he had the Saban boat builders in mind when he wrote this.

In former times Saba acquired quite a reputation among travel writers especially in the United States. Although many of these writers had never stepped foot on Saba they managed to fabricate all kinds of stories about our island and its people.

One of the articles which prompted me to do this article was written by the author Douglas C. Pyle in his book “Clean Sweet Wind (1998)”. His research was based on a half day trip to the island in March 1970 and in talking to some people here and there. He writes: “Charles Stoddard, writing in 1895 in “Cruising among the Caribees,” represents the earliest reference I could locate of Saban vessels being built and lowered into the sea. However, neither Stoddard nor the others did anything more exacting than view the island from the deck of a passing cruise ship; their accounts merely establish that the hearsay evidence of boatbuilding in Saba is of greater antiquity than I had come to suppose.

‘As a matter of fact, the sole hard evidence ever found for the legend was Professor Doran’s discovery of a single entry in the Tortola shipping registers, mentioning that in 1859 the schooner “Augusta” of sixty-six-foot length overall and forty- nine tons was built in Saba by Benjamin Horton and brought to Tortola to be registered. There were other vessels registered to a Saban owner and built elsewhere, but of all the entries I surveyed throughout the islands, no other vessel was actually attributed to construction in Saba.

“I surmise that the folk history of boatbuilding in Saba developed in the following manner. Benjamin Horton, an unusually determined individual, against all advice and common sense built a schooner in The Bottom and lowered it, not over the cliffs but down the steep valley now followed by the roadway. With the passage of time and frequent retelling, this singular event became pluralized until finally whole fleets of vessels were popularly supposed to have been built and lowered over Saba’s cliffs into the foaming sea below. This, at least, is the version I favor.”

Sir Algernon Aspinall in his “Pocket Guide to the West Indies (1907)”, writes the following;

“Little more than a rock rising sheer out of the sea and very inaccessible, Saba was the last stronghold of the buccaneers. The men of the island are almost without exception sailors. They are also great – boat builders. The boats – are built in the high lands and slid into the sea when they are ready for launching.”

William Agnew Paton in “Down the Islands – (1887)”, wrote that; “The people of Saba are celebrated throughout the Caribbean Islands for the fishing boats they build in a crater – the oddest of places imaginable for a ship-yard. When the boats are ready to be launched, they are lowered down the overhanging precipice into the sea. There is no timber growing on the island, no beach from which to launch a boat when it is built, no harbor to shelter one when launched and yet these Dutch West Indians profit by their trade of boat-building, and cruise all about the Caribbean Archipelago in the staunch sea-worthy craft they construct in the hallow of the crater on the top of their mountain colony.”

Sir Frederick Treves in “The Cradle of The Deep” (May 1908) tells us:

“Living aloft in their volcano, in a summit city called Bottom, these simple Dutch people who speak English reach the extreme of the improbable in the nature of their staple industry. They do not make balloons or kites. They are not astronomers, nor are they engaged in extracting nitrogen from the atmosphere. They are of all things in the world, shipbuilders, and shipbuilders of such merit that their boats and small craft are famous all over the Windward Islands. Let it be noted that fishing smacks are not only built in a crater, but on an island which has neither beach, harbor, landing stage, nor safe anchoring ground, where no timber is produced, where no iron is found, and where cordage is not made. The island has indeed, except in the matter of size, no more facilities for the development of the shipbuilding trade than has a rock lighthouse. The production of ships from craters is hardly less wonderful than the gathering of grapes from thorns or figs from thistles.

“When the Saba ship is finished it is lowered down the side of the cliff, and then has apparently to shift for itself. The women, no doubt, wave handkerchiefs from the rim of the crater as the craft takes to the sea, while the boys are told not to play with stones lest they should fall upon their father’s heads. After all the excitement of the launch is over, one can imagine the master-builder climbing up the Ladder to his crater home, as full of pride as his shortness of breath will allow.”

John W. Vandercook, in his book “Caribbee Cruise (1924) writes; “Happily for ones peace of mind, a Saba industry of the past has ceased. Saba used to export ships! Timbers in the dead crater, a thousand feet or more above sea level, were carpentered into fine, efficient little schooners. They were then hoisted to the edge of the precipice and lowered down by ropes.”

In the November 1940 issue of the National Geographic Magazine there is a long article on Saba written by Charles W. Herbert. He had visited Saba some years earlier and had made a film about the island. He writes: ‘Anyone who has heard of Saba remembers tales of early Sabans most widely broadcast is that fantastic story of shipbuilding. Almost without exception, when Saba is mentioned, they will say, “Oh yes! That is the place where they build schooners on top of the mountain and lower them over the cliff by ropes, down into the sea. If schooners were ever built in Saba, they were built on one of the narrow strips of shore close to the sea.

“Fortunately one had just been completed at Windward Side. We arranged to film the launching. The boat was built by a Johnson. He was just painting “Blue Bell” on her stern as we started shooting. From then on we had action aplenty as 20 strong men gripped the gunwale and headed for the sea two miles away and 1500 feet down. From Johnson’s yard they clambered over the rock wall into the street and started through the settlement. The news spread, and by the time they reached the center of the village both sides of the way were lined with onlookers. With a burst of strength, the men carried the boat for a few hundred yards and then took a breather. As they progressed, the crowd enlarged and followed. A half mile out of town, they left the road and crossed a field strewn with rocks. Not far away they came to the top of a cliff which dropped down into a deep ravine, a short cut to the sea. Almost the whole village was on the sidelines now. Four stout hands raised a large flat rock, forming a human pile driver as a heavy anchoring post was set for rigging. A heavy rope was fastened to the stern of the boat and around the boat with two hitches. Easily the little craft slid over the top, down the cliff safely to the bottom 200 feet below. The men scrambled down the hillside, took hold again, and continued to the sea. By the time she was touching the beach below, the extra hands were down there waiting with shoes off and trousers rolled up to their thighs. With superhuman force they slid the boat into the water, manned the oars, and pulled for the open sea. No champagne was broken to send this craft on its way, but childish joy burst forth from these hardened men as they watched her take the swells.”

And there was so much more written about the myth of boatbuilding on Saba that we can only quote from a very few writers on this subject. However in doing research for my book “Tales from My Grandmother’s Pipe”, I was able to determine that large schooners were indeed built on Saba. They were built on the Tent Bay as well as at the Well’s Bay. Some were as big as 60 tons. There was a large quantity of white cedar and mahogany trees on the island. Even people from Anguilla would come here to get white cedar to build boats with. In order to launch the schooners and sloops the rollers would be greased with the juices of cactus and aloes. Some of the schooners and sloops built here were named the “White Wing”, the “Talent”, the “Surprise,” the “Ethel” owned by Joe Simmons and the “Muriel” owned by John Simmons. One of the famous shipwrights of his day was Capt. Solomon (or Samuel) Simmons. The following declaration dated September 22nd, 1871, gives more information on one of the schooners built on Saba.

“We the undersigned John Simmons and Phoenix Simmons, ship-carpenters in this island of Saba, do hereby certify and declare that we were employed by His Honour Moses Leverock to assist at the building of the schooner “HARBINGER’ in this island in the year 1861, and we further certify and declare that the Master carpenter who conducted the building of said schooner is now dead.”

“We, the undersigned Moses Leverock, John William Leverock, and Moses Leverock Simmons, residing in this island of Saba, do hereby certify and declare: that the schooner named “Harbinger,” having one deck and two masts, measuring forty-eight sea tons and commanded by John William Leverock belongs partly to us in the following proportions; viz. Moses Leverock one half; John William Leverock one eight; Moses Leverock Simmons one eight; that the other two eights belong to James Simmons and Ann Simmons; that we are Dutch burghers, natives of this island of Saba; that the administration of all that concerns said schooner “Harbinger”, is conducted in this island of Saba; and that neither by our free will nor consent shall our vessel ever be put on a war footing in opposition to the authorities of the State or of the Colonies. Saba 23rd December 1871.”

The “Harbinger” was sold in 1890 in Colombia and renamed the “Segunda Maria”. As late as 1930 she was seen in Curacao by Capt. Randolph Duncan, loading goods for Colombia.  For a schooner to last that long it is a Grand testimony to the shipbuilding skills of Sabans back in the day.

Up until recent time’s boats were still being built in Windward Side and Hell’s Gate. Arthur Anslyn built one and sent it to Curacao. Leslie Johnson built several large fishing boats at Hell’s Gate one of which is pictured in a National Geographic Magazine with him and his family. In recent years the fishermen who go down to the sea to brave the rough waters do so in modern fishing craft which they purchase in the United States and Canada at prices their forefathers would never have imagined possible.

Let me suffice with ending this story by quoting from Frederick A. Ober who spent some ten days here on Saba around 1890.It is taken from his book “In the wake of Columbus”.

“The people who inhabit this half-submerged mountain take their lives in their hands oftener, I presume, than those of any other island in these seas. They dare the sirens of the sea, tempt fate, and run the risk of a watery grave, nearly every time they leave or return to their island home.”

On the other hand some became more cautious. Carlton Mitchell in “Caribbean Cruise” got the following answer when he asked a young man why he had left the sea to work in the Post office. The young man in return asked him:’ did you ever hear of anyone drowning in the Post Office?” And so I guess after the captains left the island for Barbados, Bermuda, and the United States and so on, most people who remained here decided that a government job was safer and so our shipbuilding of the past would seem like a myth to the mindset of today.

One of our writers (Carl Anslyn)*


One of a Kind (Bobby Every)*

Man does not live by bread alone, but by the lyrics of poets, the wisdom of sages, the holiness of saints, the biographies of great souls.

I was in Florida, experiencing the fury of the mighty tornadoes in Kissimmee, when Bobby died. I had accompanied the group though who had brought him out from “Drunkards Haven” the afternoon I was leaving and the day before he died.

Consequently I did not attend his funeral. There was no need for me to be there. I had buried him once before in a private ceremony and I have the photographs to prove it. He said to me one day: “When you get a chance come over to the house and bring your camera. I want to show you my coffin.” The grave lined with whiskey bottles I had seen many times before. He had built the grave himself and also the coffin.

When I arrived at the “Drunkards Haven”, sometimes renamed to “Paradise Point” when Bobby was on the wagon, he and his dog “Sweet Pea” were there waiting on me. “Now you don’t go pee in the grave yet,” Bobby said, “as I will also want you to take my picture in the grave after we have finished inside.” After viewing the simple pine coffin, Bobby laid himself down in it and played dead. He also asked to take a photo taken of him sitting up in the coffin. “No need to fart or belch for this one, “Bobby said, “as that cheap camera of yours can’t record a fart or a belch.”

“You know my great niece from California was here a few weeks ago, and I told her to bring her camera that makes movies. After setting up the movie camera, and I laid down in the coffin, she, all dressed in black, hanged on to the coffin and pretended to be crying. I asked her if it was O.K. to fart and belch in the coffin, and she said, “Go ahead. Me boy, that was some fun!”

Bobby was a man who looked at death as just another phase of life. He even seemed to look forward to it.  When he died at 82 and his friends laid him to rest in his whiskey lined grave at the Drunkard’s Haven, they all went to Scout’s Place for a cocktail party. These arrangements he had made before he died, including a tape of hymns that he wanted them to sing at the grave. He said he wanted an Irish funeral and he got his wish.

Bobby was Saba’s best known taxi driver. He grew up on Saba at a time when people here were dirt poor. I remember him telling me once that Harry Johnson and he as boys had found an old rusty can with three cents in it. Since Harry was an orphan, Bobby told him: “You are worse off than me, you take two cents, and I will take one.” That way of sharing he continued through all his life with friends and family. Like most people at the time he went to Aruba and worked there for some years and he married Ivy Skerritt, also from Saba, while he lived on Aruba. All of his children were born there. In the nineteen fifties he returned to Saba with his family and he brought a Jeep along. He knew something about mechanic work as well as other trades which he had picked up on Aruba, and he kept himself busy with that as well as with farming and fishing. All his life he loved to farm and at the time of his death he left a crop of “quesunchies” (pigeon peas) and other crops and so his family could reap even after he had passed on.

When tourists started coming to Saba, Bobby found his true calling in life. A born comedian, he was a “natural” as a taxi-driver and a tourist guide. A number of articles have been written about him in newspapers and magazines in the United States and Europe. He knew how to treat people, and they appreciated it. I personally have witnessed in the past, someone paying him $15.—for an all-day island tour and Bobby thanking him profusely. A moment later the visitor returned and said: “That was for the tour.” He handed Bobby a $100.—bill and said: “And this is for the jokes and the hospitality.” Bobby’s tour would include a visit to his home where he would give his guests a bouquet of flowers and a taste of Saba Spice liqueur. “Good only to throw on your doorstep to keep the witches away,” Bobby would tell them. He usually would only get one tour and stay with his people for the rest of the day. The jokes he would tell were sometimes so off-color as not to be repeated. Guests would send him new jokes by mail and a number of joke books so that he would be up to date. He told me once that he was telling jokes about priests, and that one of his guests was very silent, so he switched to another subject. The man in the back told him: “Bobby, don’t stop the jokes. I want to know what the rest of the world thinks about us priests. I am the Bishop of Chicago.”

People would forever be sending him T-shirts and among his large collection, the one he wore most and which I liked best, read: Sex Instructor. First Lesson Free.”

Bobby owned a large property in The Level. When there was no road there he built a small house which he enlarged over the years. There he used to farm and entertain friends. He named his farm “Drunkards Haven” even though he was on the wagon more often than he was on the booze. I used to spend weekends there sometimes when I would come over from St. Maarten. One morning I thought I heard a phone ringing and out of an old pile of firewood, Bobby picked up an antique phone and listened attentively. “Miss Jones, you mean you heard the noise all the way on St. John’s? I apologize, I had Will Johnson and Alan Busby visiting for the weekend and they had a party. I never thought that you would have heard it all the way over there.” After apologizing once again to Miss Jones he put the old phone back in the woodpile. I was between sleep and wake. Two minutes later, the phone rings again, and Bobby goes through the same exercise. This time it was the Priest phoning to complain. I thought to myself, “We are in trouble.” Of course there was no phone connection to the Drunkards Haven. Bobby had somehow managed to set two alarm clocks to go off about ten minute’s apart. Being half asleep I really thought it was a phone ringing.

At the farm Bobby’s donkey and faithful assistant was named Jezebel. When I lived on St. Maarten and first started publishing the “Saba Herald”, Bobby, Jezebel and Sweet Pea was a source of news, enough to cover at least one page in the newspaper. Long before Sesame Street, I would use Bobby Every as a source to teach my children. For example, in teaching them the alphabet, at each stage I would use him. Bobby in the letter P would be the Pirate, raiding People’s Pots, eating their Pigeon Peas and so on.

As he advanced in years the little boy in Bobby came out more and more. People just his age or a little older, Bobby talked of as if they were old people. If he visited one of his “old” friends and they had left and alarm clock where Bobby could get his hands on it undetected, he would set the alarm to go off at 2 or 3 AM. He would call on them the next day to find out how they had slept.

Bobby never grew old. He just passed from one phase of life into another. To me it seemed comical that Bobby had a long beard, was stooped, and walked with a stick. It seemed to me that he was just up to one of his jokes.

Drunkards Haven became to Bobby the mythic Land of the Lotus Eaters, where Odysseus’ men debarked on their way back to Ithaca and ate the magical fruit that made them forget they had a home to return to. Bobby chose to live at the Haven, perhaps to meditate, to work, to rest and to prepare for the long journey sure to come. Even when he was being brought out from Drunkards Haven on a stretcher after having suffered a heart attack, I could not help thinking that perhaps he was up to another of his jokes. He even gave me a mischievous smile as they put him in the ambulance. But this time he was entering the final phase of that long journey he had been so diligently preparing himself for.

A week after his sister Mabel died, he had stopped me on the road in Windward Side to announce: “You know,” he said;” Mabel reached. She called last night. It took her a whole week to get there. But “Bungie” and they were happy to see her. They even cooked up a pot of Saba food, pig’s tails and all of that.” That was his view of life beyond those pearly gates.

I have not heard from Bobby as yet. He did not call. He had asked me though if I was off island when he died that when I got a chance I could pass by and pee on the grave. I could not be as irreverent as that. I did promise though that I would throw a glass of rum on the grave and tell him the latest joke.

What I do know though is that Saba lost a great soul in the passing of Bobby Every. Man does not live by bread alone, but by beauty and harmony, truth and goodness, work and recreation, affection and friendship, aspiration and worship. Not by bread alone, but by comradeship and high adventure, seeking and finding and being loved.

Rachel Carson once wrote: “If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

Bobby used to regale me with stories of the fairies who had formerly lived in the “Faeroese’s Cave” below Booby Hill. Carl Zagers also told me that his grandmother used to tell him stories of a small race of Indians who lived above Palmetto Point and who were called “Faeroese’s”.  Perhaps it was one of those fairies who presided over the christening of Bobby Every and gave him the gift of a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, and served him as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years. And I am sure that beyond those pearly gates he is still telling his off color jokes and pulling tricks on the “old people”. And who knows. If Taxi services are required up there he is I am sure the best taxi driver up there that one can find. Fare thee well Bobby my friend. Fare thee well.

A Mystery Solved for the good folks of Liscomb

As a boy I used to hear my mother telling how four first cousins of my father had been lost in the First World War on a schooner off the coast of Brazil. In my book “Tales from My Grandmother’s Pipe”, I mentioned the following: “…Quite a few Sabans lost their lives on schooners torpedoed by the German U-boats in World War I. In one case alone my great-grandparents on father’s side namely George Rodney Johnson and Sarah Elizabeth Vlaun lost four grandsons at one time on a schooner called the “Bessie A. Crooks”, which was lost on January 26, 1917 in the Gulf of Pernambuco, Brazil.”

After the advent of the internet someone from Caribbean Consulting posted the entire book on the internet. They never asked my permission of course but that is the way it went.

Last year I received a letter from Mrs. Ruth M. (Rumley) Legge from Liscomb Canada who is doing a history of her town. I will quote parts of what she wrote to me as her book is not published yet but the story of the “Bessie A. Crooks” is of interest to Sabans as well and to the readers of “Under the Sea Grape Tree.”

Mrs. Legge writes: “One of the enduring mysteries amongst Liscomb folk was the disappearance of the “Bessie A. Crooks”. The late Allison Pye recalled that often, after church, people would stand and discuss whatever might have become of the Liscomb-owned vessel that disappeared without a trace during W.W.1.

Built at the D.C. Mulhall shipyard in Liverpool, Nova Scotia in 1913, the “Bessie A. Crooks” was a three master (“tern”) schooner, a popular vessel at the time. With an official # of 131,203, she measured 112.6 x 28.6 x 10.4 ft. and her registered tonnage was 198.62. Her master, Capt. Arthur Crooks, was also her Managing Owner, holding sixteen of her 64 shares. He was also part owner of a number of other schooners during his lifetime.

The “Bessie A. Crooks” began a career in the West Indies & Brazilian trade. It was very common for Nova Scotian vessels to transport principally dried fish and/or lumber to the Caribbean islands or South America and bring rum, molasses, sugar and other goods back north. While specific cargoes for this ship are largely unknown, it is likely that many of them fell into these categories. Her first port of call was St.John’s, New Foundland, and from there she sailed to Bahia, a state in Brazil, where she arrived on 26 February 1914, and on to Barbados, arriving 10 April, thence to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and Newcastle, New Brunswick and on to New York. For three years she plied a similar route, between the Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland, Brazil and the Caribbean, occasionally calling into northeastern U.S. ports.

Capt. Arthur Crooks was listed as her master on every trip she made until the beginning of November of 1916. According to oral history passed down through the Crooks family, his wife, Elizabeth A. “Bessie” (Redmond), for whom the vessel was named, had a dream or premonition that frightened her, and she forbade her husband to go on the next voyage. Be that as it may, while in Halifax, the vessel took on a new master, Capt. Frederick Lorenzo Walley, of Hantsport, Nova Scotia. She left Halifax in late October for St. John’s, arriving there on the 31st and loaded a cargo for Brazil. Sometime prior to 5 December, she set sail once again for southern waters and was never heard from again … at least not back home in Spanish Ship Bay and Liscomb.

Although Capt. Crooks was not on board on that trip, two Liscomb men were and both were related to him: his younger brother, Seth “Murphy” Crooks and his nephew Kenneth Hartling, both of Spanish Ship Bay. Descendants of Seth Crooks, Sr., who for many years was the lighthouse keeper on Liscomb Island, and his wife Sarah (Robinson), all of the Crooks family were very well aware of the dangers of going to sea, but to have two of their loved ones disappear such mysterious and unsettling circumstances undoubtedly plunged the entire community into turmoil.

The world was at war and, as time wore on, the assumption was that the “Bessie A. Crooks” had been sunk by the Germans. After the war, when there was still no word, and they were not among the prisoners who were returned, hopes faded.

And there it stood …gradually talked of less and less, but never forgotten around Liscomb: “What ever happened to the “Bessie A. Crooks?”. It was one of those enduring mysteries.

With the advent of the internet, research capabilities that would have been totally unimaginable to those directly affect ted by this 1917 tragedy opened new windows of opportunity. Descendants of the Crooks family and of Capt. Frederick Walley, by then spread far and wide, connected by e-mail through on-line interest groups, and shared the sparse stories told to them of this family tragedy. The posting of a history of a tiny Caribbean island called Saba provided an important breakthrough. The posting is the one referred to earlier.

Pernambuco had been a frequent port of call for the “Bessie A. Crooks” throughout her career. That is the name used by foreigners for the seaport Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco; this city is located near the extreme eastern point of South America. In 1917 it was a city of approximately 190,000 and a regional commerce center with exports that included sugar, rum, cotton, hides, skins, was, fibers, dyewoods, pineapples and other fruit. The schooner had arrived in Pernambuco by January 1917 and was reported departing on 21 January, bound for Barbados …then as overdue for Barbados … then as missing.

When contacted by e-mail, Will Johnson, the author of the historical work on Saba, was able to provide further information. No one in Saba knew where the “Bessie A. Crooks” was from or anything more about her, but somehow word had filtered back to the tiny Caribbean island as to what happened to her and when… more than had made it’s way back to Spanish Ship Bay. A mere five sq. mi. in area, Saba had a navigation school at that time and a strong maritime tradition.

According to Johnson, Sabans also bought schooners for trading in the West Indies from Gloucester Mass., from Maine and from Nova Scotia. Of the Sabans lost on the Bessie A. Crooks he is sure of four names, Norman Zagers, James Hubert Every, John Henry Johnson, and Lorenzo Johnson (sons of Henry Johnson) and perhaps John Simmons who disappeared around the same time  and who is also suspected to have been on board and one or two other Saban sailors.

Johnson goes on: “I also have a remarkable story from Madge and Agnes Johnson, born Zagers. They told me that their brother Norman Elmore Zagers was torpedoed on his way from Brazil. After World War 1 their brother Ralph received a letter from Germany stating that it was from his brother Norman. The Roman Catholic priest at the time, Father Mulder, advised him not to answer the letter as it must be an impostor. Some years ago I saw a documentary on World War 1 submarine operations and understood that the Germans in that war would take crews back to Germany. The family never heard from him again. Perhaps he thought they were not interested and death which escaped him in the first World War took him in the second world war. That is a mystery which hopefully can still be solved if by any miracle records from the First World War survived in Germany.”

At last finally there is an answer for the folks of Licomb “What ever happened to the “Bessie A. Crooks?”. Sadly, it has come much too late for the old Liscomb residents who used to pause after services at St. Luke’s church to ponder her fate.”

It is important to record events of the past. Just this past week, I received an e-mail from a descendant of the Vaucrosson family of Statia who ended up in St.Barths. He had read my article on the internet. He informed me that the Vaucrosson gravesite is an elaborate one on St.Barths and that he will be coming to Saba soon to get more information from me on his great-great-grandfather whose property I now own on the historic Lower Town “The Bay” on St. Eustatius.

With this article I have included a photo of the “Bessie A. Crooks” so that our people on Saba can at least see one of the schooners on which so many Saban young men in the past lost their lives. I wrote this article more than a year ago. At the request of Mrs. Legge I delayed publishing it until her book would be ready. I just received word from her that her book  is now published so that I can go ahead and share this remarkable story with my readers. Her book “… Shreds & Nooks of Land” by Ruth M. (Rumley) Legge will be presented on Saturday June 25th, at 2.30 pm at St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Liscomb, Nova Scotia. This book presentation should finally lay to rest for the people of Liscomb the nearly one century old question as to “Whatever happened to the schooner the “Bessie A. Crooks”?”

The Bermuda Files

Sometime back my nephew-in-law Ernest Obermaier called me all excited from Bermuda. He was visiting the old dockyard museum. There he had seen a chart on the wall claiming that Saba of all little places in the world had supplied one third of the immigrants to Bermuda. I told him that I did not realize it was that many but I knew there had been a lot. This past week the Sinclair/Johnson clan was here from Bermuda celebrating their roots, and from the size of this one group alone, it is believable.

Back when St. Eustatius was the Golden Rock there was much commercial activity between that island and Bermuda. The stones in the walls of the Old Dutch Reformed Church come from Bermuda. There were also marriages between families from that island and Bermuda. As back then, Saba and St. Eustatius functioned as one community I am sure that Sabans were aware of Bermuda. The Gosling family which still exists on Bermuda was intermarried with the Simmons family of Saba as far back as the late eighteen hundreds.

As a boy I was told that a man from Hell’s Gate with the nickname of “Crawlight”, working on a schooner, put in at Bermudas in the 1870’s. He found out that there was work to be had there. On returning to Saba he informed people here about it. At the time Saba had close to two thousand people living here, all dependent on the sea and native soil. A schooner load of men decided to go and check it out. Thus is supposed to have started the opening of the route to Bermuda.

However in the marriage registers here I found evidence of earlier connections. In Russell White’s book: “Our Heritage’, he provides lots of information on his family, including the branch of the Simmons’ from Saba.

Already in 1857 there is a Captain Abram Simmons marrying an Elizabeth Sarah Pitt of Bermuda. They lived in Victoria Cottage, where they raised their family. How they met, or when Abram first came to Bermuda is unknown. In the 1860’s Abram was Captain of the schooner “Thrasher”, which made regular trips between Bermuda and Demarara, British Guyana with cargo of Bermuda produce. It probably can be assumed that Abram visited Saba during these trips between Bermuda and Demarara as well as other Caribbean Islands to pick up and discharge cargo and passengers. We do not know if his father was still alive. We do know his mother was on Saba along with sisters Joanna and Mary Ann and his brother Joseph prior to his removal to Barbados. The husband of Mary Ann (John Joseph Heyliger) of Saba was also a sea captain and planter – in 1859 he was master of the Netherlands schooner “Thetis”. Johanna’s husband Thomas Charleswell Vanterpool was also a sea captain. By about 1870 Capt. Abram Simmons was in command of a vessel named the “Jabez”. Another sea captain writes from “Berbice”, a port further up the coast.” Captain Simmons was at Demarara in a small vessel called the “Jabez” going to Bermuda. Your mother, thinking she had enough of sea-going for a time thought she would go home and I took her and the children to Demerara to go in her.

Capt. Peniston and his wife Lily were also going in her…We went down the coast in a small steamer running there. I put them on board the “Jabez” for Bermuda.”

We next read of Abram Simmons in the 12 December 1871 issue of the Bermuda newspaper the “Royal Gazette” where the following article appeared; LOSS OF THE BRIGANTINE ‘JABEZ’.

“It becomes our extremely painful duty to announce the loss on the 25 November last, at Cape Canso, Nova Scotia of the Brigantine “Jabez”, Capt. Simmons of these islands, with all her passengers and crew, with the exception of one of the latter….we have received the following:

Cape Canser, Nova Scotia 28th Nov. 1871

…..of the loss of the Brigantine “Jabez”, Capt. Abram Simmons from Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), bound to Bermuda, on the night of the 25th Nov. At Fox Island, about six miles from here… there were ten on board eight men and two passengers…whom we have buried in our Protestant burying ground (cape Canso, Nova Scotia) at two this afternoon (28 Nov. 1871).

“The ‘Jabez’ was anchored at Port Mulgrove in the Straits of Canser,and during a very severe gale (one of the worst we have had for many years, and bitterly cold), she dragged out of the Strait on the evening of the 25th – the foremast was cut away which took with it the bow sprit; they did this in hopes that the vessel could ride out the gale, but she continued to drag clear across the bay – a distance of perhaps twenty miles..until she struck the Bar…the mainmast was then cut away, the vessel then drove over the Bar, when the anchors brought her up a few hundred yards from shore…a heavy sea swept away the house forward…taking with it six men, all of whom drowned. All died except the crewman Manuel. The Captain died only half an hour previous to Manuel’s rescue. Among those who died was a young man named Stanford Linzey, about 19, from the Island of Saba.” Our captains always had sailors from Saba wherever they went.

At the time of Abram’s death in 1871 his widow was then 36 years old and had five children ranging in age from four to thirteen. She never remarried and continued to live at Victoria until her death in 1895. It is remarkable that four of her children married Saba people, three on Saba and one on Barbados. One of the sons Abram Wynford or “Braw” married Roseita Davis of Saba. He was a Captain of a government owned boat on Grenada for many years which traded between Grenada and Demerara, Trinidad and so on. His children were all born on Grenada but came to live on Saba between 1902 and 1918 and then went to the United States. Another daughter of Capt. Abram, named Anita married a John W. Johnson from Saba who lived on Barbados. Capt. Abram Simmons was born on Saba on September 17th, 1832 and his parents were Abraham “Braw” Simmons and Elizabeth “Mam” Horton. Believe it or not their house is still standing in The Bottom, the former home of Walter and Ernestine Sluicer.

In Captain Ernest Alfred Johnson’s manuscript “Life and Adventures”, he writes about leaving Saba two months short of making sixteen. He left Saba for St. Kitts on May 1st, 1900 on a Saban schooner the “Lillie” and on arrival at St. Kitts and stayed at the Montesaires Hotel waiting on the steamship “Tiber” to go to Bermuda and left on May 15th with two other Saba young men, Tommy Hassell and Bloomfield Hassell. He described life on board the ship as terrible. So much so that when the immigration officer at Bermuda asked him if he had ever been to jail he answered: “Yes, Sir,” On the next question as to where, he answered, “On the Tiber, sir!” He arrived at Bermuda on May 23rd. There he met a friend from Saba William Barnes who told him; “I am going to take you home with me, and I have a job for you, to work with me on Mrs. Mary Master’s farm.” He also describes the Boer war and the fact that Sabans worked among the prison guards. The British thought that the Sabans being Dutch would be able to communicate with the Boers. I remember someone telling me once how he became friends with one of the famous Boer generals, a Melaan. Freddie left Bermuda shortly after on a three master windjammer the “Nellie T. Morris” of Bath, Maine. He met a cousin and a friend on board who were sailors. The friend was Johnnie Ben Hassell who was quartermaster on the “Tiber” in which he had come to Bermuda.

There was much work to be had on the dry docks. Not only people from Saba but also from St. Eustatius went to Bermuda to work. My father was among the many from the village of Hell’s Gate who went to work in the dry docks. Many men from the village of Palmetto Point, Cow Pasture, Middle Island and St. John’s went to work on Bermuda. Austin Johnson used to tell me how my father became Boxing Champion of Bermuda. Being a young sturdily built man, the Sabans placed their bets on him. My father knew nothing about ring fighting but enough of a street brawl to walk up to his opponent and hit him one lick and knock him to the ground.

Although not exactly according to the rules of boxing, being supported by a large crowd of enthusiastic Sabans the Bermuda Judges had no choice but to declare him champion. When my father came back from Bermuda he brought with him some oleander plants which he planted at our home at “Behind-the-Ridge”. They were the first oleander plants introduced into Saba.

Up until recent times several people from Saba with family living on Bermuda went to Bermuda to live. Among them, former Commissioner Lenny Hassell, went to live there in the nineties.

In 1967 I went there for a week to spend time with my aunt Mrs. Vera Every-Simmons who lived at Spanish Point and had ten children, and they all remained there. There is still a coming and a going of families between Saba and Bermuda especially in the summer vacation months.

Some of the Sabans living there did well with real estate, owning hotels and so on. My brother Guy on a trip to Bermuda met a Woods from the Bottom who owned a small hotel there. Because many of the Sabans were into farming when they first went there, the farmland they acquired became extremely valuable as Bermuda’s tourism continued to grow. I have asked several people with connections to Bermuda to try and compile a list for me of people they knew who went to live on Bermuda and their descendants there. Some of the Sabans mixed with immigrants who came into Bermuda from Madeira and the Azores. On Saba we have a couple of people who are of Saban Descent but who were born on Bermuda. The well-known Harry L. Johnson’s first two children were born there when he lived on Bermuda, where he made his first paintings. Wayne and Elsie Johnson, who have a home on Saba, come regularly from Bermuda and stay here, Wayne’s parents both went from Saba to Bermuda to live. When I went to Bermuda in 1967 the first thing I did was to go to the Dutch consul to get an” Attestatie de Vita”. The consul was Sir John Cox who I later understood owned half of Bermuda. Neither he nor his Secretary had ever heard of such a document. Later I understood that his Secretary was a distant relative of mine. I needed the document so that a friend on St. Maarten could collect my $125.—a month salary. As I walked out of the building a pickup truck was passing by and it turned out was a cousin of mine Vernon Every. His mother had told him where I had gone so he concluded it must be me. As I walked down through Hamilton past a shoe store someone called out to me: “Will, what are you doing here?” Turns out it was Sheila Johnson a cousin of mine and in the store working with her was a Holm from Booby Hill. Bermuda is not a big place.

Any speck of dirt is added to the claim of how many islands Bermuda has. The island is only twenty one square miles. Yet the island has built up such a reputation as a unique tourist resort for more than one hundred years that it is hard to equal. On my arrival from Antigua on a BOAC airplane in the middle of the night, the immigration officer welcomed me as if I was his grandson, brother, and all of his family combined that he had not seen in years. The only difference of opinion we had is when I told him I was only staying for a week. Well he could not get over the fact that I would do that to the many Bermuda people who would want to entertain me in their homes, take me fishing, golfing and so on. Turns out on that point he was right. I never did get around to seeing all my family even though I tried to even out the rounds of visiting the hotel bars and visiting family. I believe that Mark Twain was among those who loved Bermuda and after my visit there and reading so many books about the island I came to see why he would have loved the island of Bermuda.

Living off the Land


Going to work for LAGO


Heroes in another country


Clementina Hassell, Saba’s first correspondent*

In former times lace work or “Spanish Work” kept many Saba families in hard cash. Women who were spinsters (and there were many back then) were especially dependent on the sale of this lace work. When a contact was made with someone in the United States, this contact lasted for many years. It was a lifeline for many a poor spinster here on Saba. The contact in the United States would become good friends and would sell lacework to friends, family and co-workers on behalf of the spinster on Saba. Also packages of clothing, shoes, thread, needles, and even canned foodstuff would be sent from time to time to the spinster on Saba. This was a most welcome relief for someone back then with no means of income.

I remember when working in the Post office on St. Maarten, around the year 1962. There were very few tourists back then and hardly any cruise ships. However one of the few tourists came to the Post Office to see me. She had been corresponding with my mother’s neighbor in the English Quarter on Saba for more than thirty years. The neighbor was “Kiby” (Malachi Britannia Switzerland Hassell). The tourist lady wanted to know all about “Kiby” whom she had never seen or spoken to in all those years. And when I did get the opportunity to go by boat to Saba, “Kiby” was at my mother’s house waiting to get all the details about her friend and benefactor from the United States.

In Dr. Julia Crane’s book “Saba Silhouettes” there is a long interview with “Kiby”. She informs us; “Well, this [that I’m working on now] a friend send to me for from the United States. An American friend sent to order a pair of pillow cases. I haven’t met her. I just write her just so, you know. I came in contact with her by simply writing. We used to write to a company and ask them if they could help us by selling some drawn thread work, and that’s been so for many years. She used to sell a lot of work, but now it’s come she’s retired. [I’ve had] no other job. I have never done anything else but drawn thread work, and that’s been so for many years. And “Kiby” did well. She even built her own home solely from what she earned from her drawn thread work. She willed her house to her Anglican church before she died.

I use” Kiby’s” story to introduce Clementina Hassell better known as “Clemmie” who lived with her sister Vera in a small house on Booby Hill.. She too was a spinster and had a friend, Miss Lorene Baker. I have a very bad photo copy from someone in Bermuda from many years ago of an article written about Saba by Miss Baker. I have a note that she had corresponded with Miss Clementina Hassell of Saba for eighteen years and that the newspaper was from Burlington close to Denver, Colorado. However the internet has brought me no further and I cannot find a newspaper (yet) which would have carried that article between 1932 and 1935. The article was entitled “Saba a village in a volcano”. The article was introduced as follows by the paper of which the photo copy has no name;” The following interesting article about Saba, a volcanic island in the Caribbean Sea was written by Miss Lorene Baker and was given by her at a recent P.E.O. Miss Baker obtained most of her information from Miss Clementina Hassell, a native of the island, with whom she has corresponded for the past eighteen years. Miss Baker has befriended her in many ways, sent her money, gifts and has helped her sell many pieces of handwork to Burlington folks. Beautiful drawn work (Spanish lace they call it) in handkerchiefs, towels, luncheon sets, etc., bring in pin money for the Saban women. After Miss Baker had written her article she sent it to Clementina to see if it was correct. We will print Clementina’s answer next week. In my research I would dare say that this letter from Clementina was the first published article written by a Saban in a foreign newspaper. From different clues in her letter the article was published in the early nineteen thirties.

Miss Baker’s article starts out as follows: “Pirates –with a few women captives, were marooned years ago on an island in the West Indies by that master buccaneer Henry Morgan. They founded a village in the protected bowl of a volcano and formed a settlement that lives and thrives there today.

 Some people choose queer places to live in, but about the strangest of all is the town of about eighteen hundred souls, high up in the crater of an extinct volcano on the island of Saba in the Dutch West Indies. Saba is a bare, black precipitous rock rising sheer 3000 feet above sea level. The center of the cone is to all appearances solid within 300 feet of the top, where there is a bowl or depression; and here occurs the first paradox of this amusing island, a town swung up in the air like a nest in a tree. And the inhabitants call their town Bottom! The island is quite barren on its slopes as it rises out of the ocean. Almost the entire white population consists of two families the Simmondses and the Hassells. The Simmondses are inhabitants of the capital; they are long limbed with dark hair and eyes, and of English stock, descendants of some of Morgan’s men who captured the island in 1665.”

Miss Baker’s article continues with a lot more, but of more interest to us is what” Miss Clemmie” wrote to her. However the part by Miss Clemmie is not completely legible but we will try and quote as much as possible from it.Also we have not changed any mistakes in her grammar as that is the way the newspaper in Burlington carried her article as well.

“In the house a lamp is lit with oil. Now the way they cook. Some has little stoves and some has big stoves with three burners. The poorest people has a fire heart and burns wood under the “pat”, to cook their food. Now the things they eat – tin stuff, corn beef, salt fish – I mean cod fish, fresh fish from the banks in the sea. They has some fresh meat, beef, veal, mutton, goat meat, chickens, eggs and sometimes they bake a pig – that’s the small ones, they kill big hogs. Ha. Now I think I hear you laughing at the part of those things I am laughing at myself.

They has loaf bread, fine cakes, oats, sagoe, milk, butter, green peas – there are plenty more but it will sound so funny, ha! I forgot cabbage, turnips, and onions. Their dresses and hats and shoes all look like them in the magazines. You know what I mean, the styles from the book. Titles of all kinds as Hassells, Johnsons, Simmons, Leverocks and Petersons are all white people; most of the other kind is colored folks bearing every other kind of title. In former years they had owners and when the English Queen freed them every owner got $100 for each one, then they called them slaves. Now they are free and one third of Saba is black people. Some washes clothes, some scrubs, bakes the bread, gets the wood, goes to the bank and catches fish along with the white men and goes to the bay (Ladder) and (Fort). Not so much to the Ladder that is on the condemned side. The floods washed it out so bad you are pretty near going over a large cliff. Once I was to that place and no more. I never been to the Fort as I really never had any call to.

There are two churches and two schools in The Bottom, catholic and protestant. The Sisters teaches one and another teacher teaches the other. The government pays for the one public school and the Catholic bishop pays for the other one, but the Dutch governor gives the priests and sisters and the minister a grant every month, the same for the windward side. There are 70 scholars in the catholic school at Windwardside School, but only a few in the other one. I can’t tell how many, but I don’t think there are more than 14 altogether. The church in Hell’s Gate is not quite as bad as they say only a large walk on foot and not so near Heaven as they think. I should think it is furder off. Ha! What a joke. The school children is going to have some little play for the sisters jubilee. It is 25 years since she has been a sister. I guess it will be some fun for the children they are to dress in such a funny way. (Part of the article missing). Continuing Clementina writes: “The last time I went there it took me two hours to get home all on foot and my I was tired out. You could never imagine the foolish looking place Saba is – only a solid rock surrounded by high seas, plenty high winds, and plenty warm weather. Only around Christmas it gets quite chilly then we like to wrap up. When we go indoors it is not so bad. I know it would be like I landed in another world if I was in U.S.A. Those things would seem like one from the dead. I have never seen anything burn here except wood and oil all my life.

Now about the radio. Yes there is three here; the government has a station that works from here to St. Martins and the power house is there; (communications established November 2nd, 1931)the priest has one in his house and the postmaster has one. I heard the speaking one day. I like to hear them it would be nice to have one.

The teacher in the Protestant School is from here; the other lady is from St. Martins, but the sisters in the catholic school is from Holland. We do not have to go to the bottom for our mails. We has to send down to the bottom for our packages, but they send the letters over on a donkey.

I think I hear you laughing about it and then the worst of that a white man with one hand follows behind them. It got shot badly and the doctor took it off. Government gave him the mails in charge to help him as he could not work. The steamer comes in at six o’clock and we get the letters at 1, it is not so bad for such a long way.

You must try and correct my mistakes for you will see I am not very well qualified in spelling but you may manage to make it out. There was something I wanted to mention, that is the little place called Mary Point that was a queer place for people to live in and waiting to go over a large cliff at any time. The government thot it such a pity they got permission to move them to the bottom and now they are comfortable in good little homes, the place where they live is called the promise land for it was a promise for them. I always had a wish to visit the place but I never did and never will for no one will go there again.

There are also plenty of tanks in Saba. We use rain water and no other kind so we can thank God for that blessing always. Now I guess you will be tired reading about Saba and all its belongings so put all the odds and ends together and let it be OK Saba – rock is a hard rock for true that is the end of Saba.

Your faraway friend.

Clementina Hassell

I doubt very much if Clementina ever did leave Saba. As so many people, especially women, back then stayed on Saba until they died Clemmie did the same thing. She was born in 1875. Her parents were Abram Hassell and Albertina Hassell. She died at the age of 86 on May 16th, 1962. She never married. Before finishing this article, via Milton and his wife Erla Johnson in Port St. Lucy I was able to get a copy of the article from Ora Johnson born Hassell who is a niece of Miss Clemmie, however the letter from Miss Clemmie is still not legible in its entirety, but given the fact that her article was published in the newspaper I would describe her as Saba’s first correspondent. Her assessment of Saba as a foolish looking place, I would dare say was sincere at the time. If Miss Clemmie could come back she would be amazed to see the changes on Saba now. Even on Booby Hill where she lived all her life in a very small house, now has two hotels and many lovely homes. But then who knows, she may still prefer the noiseless society in which she grew up in and lived so all her life. People would come here and write all kinds of foolishness about us with no one to correct them. At least Miss Baker gave her friend Clemmie the opportunity to review her story before it was published. Miss Baker also made a correction in her article by stating the following: “The myth of ships being built on the top of the island and lowered over the steep sides to the water is regarded there with mingled ridicule and resentment. Schooners have been built on Saba, but only on the narrow rocky beaches at the foot of the cliffs. The white men leave the (dear old rock) while still in their teens and go to sea. Strange that an island, where boat building can be done only on a beach, about the size of a handkerchief, should produce such marvelous navigators.”

Miss Baker’s approach to letting Miss Clemmie do her own people’s history was obviously a correct one. Saba is still burdened with people coming here and pretending they know more about our past than we do. Not so! And after a while they leave our “foolish little Saba” as Clemmie referred to it, and those who belong here are once again left to their own devices and continue to make their own history! Enough said!!

Lovelock Holm*

The Holm families of St. Eustatius, and Saba, have no problem in tracing where their ancestor came from. There have been those who went to the USA and Bermuda, who through lack of knowledge changed their name to Holmes. Some even came up with fanciful stories as to who their ancestors were. One even claimed that his ancestor was Eldad Holmes who had built the aqueduct leading to New York City. No need to try and tell him differently, so I let well enough alone.

The ancestor from whom the Holm family of Statia (and later Saba) is descended was, Lawrens Jurgensen Holm born in Copenhagen, Denmark on January 10th, 1756. On the Rodney roll of 1781 he is listed as living on Statia. He married Rebecca Darcey of Saba. He died on Statia on July 5th, 1833. His wife had already died. He was 77 years, five months and 25 days old when he died. All of the Holm’s born on Statia and Saba after that descended from this Danish man. So if you went ahead and changed your name to please other people, too bad for you.

One of the great-great grandson’s of Lawrens was Lovelock Holm  son of Act. Governor of Saba Thomas Holm.

His obituary of August 1978 has the following information about him.

“Manchester – Lovelock Holm, 91, a veteran of World War 1 and chief engineer at Federal Paperboard for 43 years, died Friday at the Meadows Convalescent Home in Manchester.

He was born April 22, 1887, in Saba, Dutch West Indies, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Holm. He was married in Norwich on September 21, 1920, to Helen L. Holm, who survives him.

Holm, a graduate of the Howley School of Engineering in Boston, Mass., served as master engineer in the U.S. Army and was machinist mate in the naval battalion. Serving on the executive committee as secretary-treasurer of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, he organized the Norwich chapter of the engineering society.

Holm was active in the Boy Scouts and Junior Midshipmen Sea Scouts for many years, served on the Norwich Republican Town Committee, and was the second vice commander of Robert Fletcher Post 4, of Norwich American Legion. Until his death he was the oldest living member of the Haverhill Merrimac Masonic Lodge in Haverhill, Mass.

Surviving besides his widow are one son, George Holm of Canterbury; two daughters, Ethel Paton of Pasadena, Cal., and Virginia Butterfield of Bolton; one sister Ida Holm of Saba, Dutch West Indies; 13 grandchildren, several great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.”

Someone wrote below the announcement “Also a son, Roland of Cove Junction, Oregon.”  Lovelock left Saba for the USA around 1907 to live but had been sailing on large schooners from there for a number of years already. He was one of seven siblings of the couple Thomas James Benjamin Holm (1850-1913) and Ann Catherine Hassell (1853 -1927). Lovelock was married twice. His first wife was Ruth Evangeline Hunt whose parents were from Derbyshire England by whom he had two children, Ethel and Roland. His first wife died young and later he married Helen Little Corriguex and had two children by her, Helen Virginia (1925-1998) and George B. Holm.

In his younger days, like so many of our Saba men back then, he sailed on a number of the old four master schooners. An article written in the Yankee of March 1963 prompted him to write a letter to the author. (I cannot find that particular Magazine issue on e-Bay. If anyone can get me a copy would appreciate it).The most intriguing thing is that he sailed on a schooner with Lizzie Borden. Remember her? “Lizzie Borden, took an axe, and gave her mother 40 whacks, when her mother hit the floor she gave her father 40 more.”

The letter is dated March 15, 1963 and is from Lovelock Holm living in Norwich, Connecticut to Mr. Loren E. Haskell of Yankee Magazine in Dublin, New Hampshire.

“Dear Sir:

Your write-up in the YANKEE of March, 1963, “Ladies of the Sea”, was a fine description of those beautiful ships. I, too, spent several years on the Palmer fleet.

I left the ocean in 1908. We took a load of coal to San Juan, Puerto Rico under Capt. Sumpter from Tennents Harbor, Maine. I was on the “Elizabeth Palmer” under Capt. Smith, of Norwood, Mass. He was a fine captain! I also was with Capt. Potter on the “Rebecca Palmer” which was built in Rockland, Maine. Capt. Potter was from Connecticut.

Most of my sailing was on the “Fred A. Davenport” with Capt. Freemont Kimball of Booth Bay Harbor. I am sure your dad used to know our captain. I remember the “Cora F. Cressy”. She was a beautiful ship! Did you know Capt. Kimball, or Elery MacCauley, who was first mate? MacCauley’s brother was steward on the “Fred A. Davenport”. Was the “Cora F. Cressy” owned by the Winslow’s from Portland, Maine?

I was also on the “Edith Folwell” under a captain from Connecticut.

Did you know a Mr. Steer from Deer Island? He was first mate with Capt. Sumner on the “Singleton Palmer”. Did you know Capt. Tullock? I made a trip with him. I believe the ship’s name was “Lizzie Borden.” On board was the Borden girl who killed her step-mother. She was a beautiful girl and very polite. There was no mention in the trial of her taking the trip with Capt. Tulleck and his wife.

The Kimball’s had a jewelry store in Bath, Maine. There were two children, a boy and a girl. The boy had a limp in one leg. They were wonderful folks. Check and see if you can remember some of the names which I have listed. We used to haul coal to the Maine central yard in Portland; also to the Bangor and Roosti terminal at Searsport, Maine, as well as, to the Mystic docks in Boston. I wonder how many of these brave men are still living. Is your father still living? Did you know the foreman of the sail loft at Portland? It was operated by the Winslow’s. Many times I visited at their works for sails.

It was nice for you to write the article on those ships. Hoping to hear from you, I remain. Yours truly … Lovelock Holm

P.S. Did you know any Capt. Simmons* of New York; or Blakes from Pleasantville, N.J.? They were connected with the “Bull Line” from Baltimore Maryland. L.H.

*The Capt. Simmons referred to was Capt. Thomas Simmons of Saba who was a captain on several of the “Bull Line” ships. Also the “Rebecca Palmer” had at least one Saba captain which was Capt. Lockland Heyliger. Many men from Saba, sailed on this great five master.

Mr. Holm received a reply to his letter on March 22nd, 1963 from Mr. Haskell;

“Dear Sir,

I was delighted to receive your letter of the 15th, which was forwarded to me by YANKEE. Your letter was very interesting and you have quite a background in connection with the great schooners. You have sailed on some fine vessels.

    As you suggested I have checked some of the names you mentioned in your letter and I certainly do remember them. Such as, Capt. Dan Smith of the “Elizabeth Palmer”, and Capt. Dave Sumner of the “Rebecca Palmer”. Also, Capt. William Totter of the “Singleton Palmer”. I realize of course that these captains changed around and were on different vessels as you and I came in contact with them I have heard my father mention the name of Captain Freemont Kimball of Boothbay Harbor, when he was captain of the “Fred A. Davenport”. My father was captain of the “Alice May Davenport” at one time or another. Yes I recall making trips to those ports you mentioned. Yes the “Sara Cressy” was owned by the J.S. Winslow’s of Portland at one time. She was originally owned by Percy and Small of Bath, Maine. My father was a large owner during her early career. She went under in 1917. He had taken the 5 master “Mary W. Bowen” to Buenos Aires, Argentina with a load of coal and on the return passage north to New York a cargo of quebracho wood, which is used for medicinal purposes. He was 60 years old at the time and it was a hazardous trip and he was a sick man and died about two months later in a hospital in Boston.

You must have had many anxious moments in various storms at sea. There were the hurricane, snow storms, and fog to contend with. I guess we are both luck to be alive today. My last trip was with my father on the 5 master “Governor Brooks” in 1913. I do not think there are many of us left today. One had to be courageous, skillful, and daring, and reliable.

    I thank you again for your splendid letter. We may run across each other some way in the future. We would have a lot to talk about. Write again when you have time. Cordially Yours. Loren E. Haskell.

P.S. Yes I remember the sail loft of Winslow’s at Portland, and their ship chandler’s store.” Mr. Haskell avoided the question about Lizzie Borden for whatever reason.

   Lovelock Holm also had a brother Benjamin who was a chemist of note in the United States as well. The correspondence between these two gentlemen confirm much of what I have written about Sabans working on the large four and five master schooners of the Palmer fleet and many other lovely four master schooners built in Bath Maine, Gloucester, Mass., And in Nova Scotia.

   Lovelock lived an interesting life and never forgot Saba. I have other interesting documents relating to him but cannot put my hand on them to contribute to this article. May his memory be blessed.

Hyman Kaliski

Here on Saba he was known to all as Herman Kaliski. Everyone knew him or had heard stories about him and his clothing store at 27 South Street. This is where the Seaport Museum is now located on Manhattan.

In former times when a boy graduated from the Saba School of Navigation he was sent to Mr. Kaliski. If he was from well to do parents he would continue his navigation studies in New York. In all other cases Kaliski would suit him out with a year’s worth of clothing and other seaman’s gear, find him a schooner and get him shipped out to China or wherever the ship would be bound to. Kaliski served not only as a clothier, but as a banker, a post office, a social gathering place where the Saban sailors could meet and relax. He did not allow any drinking in his place but next door was Mr. Baum’s rum shop which was quite convenient. He was so popular with the Saba people for almost 40 years that some people on Saba added the name to their children. I know of at least one Kaliski Jackson who died young, but there were also one or two others born in New York of Saba background.

During his many years of his honest dealings with Saba people there are a number of transactions recorded in the registers here on Saba mentioning his role of which I will only mention two.

Power-of-Attorney to Herman Kaliski residing New York City from Henrietta Johnson residing Windwardside to collect $1.000.—due to her by the order of the Macabees. Saba, March 7th, 1919.

Power-of-Attorney; Annie Peterson born Hassell residing Windwardside empowers Herman Kaliski resident of twenty seven South Street N.Y.C. to collect monies left her by her deceased husband Edward Beaks Peterson (lost at sea).

Saba, May 7th, 1920.

Back then many sailors and captains from Saba were lost at sea had savings in the Seaman’s Bank in New York or life insurance, back wages and so on and Mr. Kaliski took care of all these matters for the families here on Saba. And he did this free of charge.

He got to know the Saba people and Saba so well that even though he had never been here he seemed to know every inch of the island. He was a big joker as well. Captain Irvin Holm told me that once he was in the store talking to Mr. Kaliski who had noticed Ainslee Peterson walking into the store. Kaliski had overheard both Ainslee and Wilson Johnson having heated arguments about sheep in the past. So he said to Capt. Holm: “It’s a crying shame what Wilson has done.” That got Ainslee’s attention right away. Kaliski went on to say that Wilson had gone down behind Old Booby Hill and shot all of the sheep that were there. Well Ainslee was immediately ready to quit his job and to head down to Saba to deal with Wilson. Capt. Holm said it took a long time to convince Ainslee that Kaliski was only pulling his leg.

Another story I heard was that those sailors who could not read or write would entrust Kaliski to read their letters to them from their wives back on Saba. One day he was reading a letter to Phena Holm from his wife. She was telling how the fog had just moved in and it was getting cold. Kaliski decided to add some romantic relish to the story, when Phena jumped up and grabbed the letter from him saying: “Now look here Kaliski, this is private. I will read the rest of the letter myself.” I think Norman Hassell told me that one.

Helen Peterson/Johnson was telling me sometime back how her grandfather Henry Hassell Johnson, of St. Eustatius fame, had left his money belt on the floor of the bathroom at Kaliski’s and lucky for him Richard “Rich” Hassell the next customer had found it lying on the floor and returned it to him. In those days when you went to do business in New York it was all cash transactions. The Money belt contained twenty thousand dollars an enormous sum of money one hundred years ago. Henry Johnson and other merchants from Saba would use Kaliski’s place to meet with suppliers and load up the Saba schooners at Pier 17 or at Greenpoint.

We were told that Mr. Kaliski was from Russia. However some years ago a gentleman from the South Street Seaport Museum visited me and later sent some information on Mr. Kaliski. I do not have the information on the name of the gentleman who sent me the information. This is what he wrote to me:

“Hyman Kaliski was born in Germany around 1866. I have been unable to obtain a record of his death. He had apparently moved out of New York City before he died.

There is no record of his applying for U.S. citizenship. He may have become a citizen when he married and American-born woman. In the 1905 New York census he stated that he had been in the country twenty-five years. This would mean he arrived in 1880. The 1915 New York census, which misspells his name “Harris Kaliski,” states that he had been in the country only twenty-eight years.

He has been described as a “Russian Jew,” but I found no evidence of a Russian background. His father’s name on his marriage certificate is Henry Kaliski, and his mother’s maiden name is given as Tilman. Both were born in Germany.

Prior to establishing his own business, Hyman Kaliski was apparently associated with a Jospeh Kaliski in a store at 72 Greenwich Street on the west side of lower Manhattan, and later with a Gustav Kaliski in a store located at 26 Greenwich Street. A  Joseph Kaliski who died in the Bronx in 1938 at the age of eighty-five could have been a brother. So far I haven’t been able to confirm this. He would have been thirteen years older than Hyman. A  Gustav Kaliski born in Germany who died in Manhattan in 1925 at the age of seventy-one could have been a brother twelve years older than Hyman. Gustav’s death certificate lists his father as Hyman Kaliski, and his mother as Marie “Tinbman,” both born in Germany. The Gustav Kaliski who had a clothing store at 26 Greenwich Street applied for citizenship on June 30, 1880.

Hyman Kaliski was married on April 20, 1890 to Nettie Frankel. He was twenty-three and she was nineteen. He gave his address as 26 Greenwich Street, and hers was 123 Henry Street in lower Manhattan. She had been born in the United States, and her father’s name was Samuel D. Frankel. One witness to the wedding was a Joseph Kaliski. Hyman Kaliski and Nettie Frankel Kaliski had five children:

A daughter named Alma born around 1892

A daughter named Sadie born around 1893

A daughter named Henrietta born around 1896

A son named Harry born October 10, 1894

A son named Leonard born around 1907.

Alma and Sadie (I must be part Jewish, my mother and sister had those names) were married in 1912, in a double ceremony at 80 West 126th Street in Manhattan. Alma married David H. Wachsman of 563 Amsterdam Avenue, the son of Samuel Wachsman and the former Ethel Feldman. He was twenty-four, born in Hungary, and his profession is given as salesman. Sadie married Reuben A. Popkins of 108 West 115th Street, the son of Israel and Sarah Popkins. (Her maiden name is illegible.) He was thirty, born in New York City, and his profession is given as clerk.

Henrietta Kaliski was married on June 22, 1924 to Leonard Leon of 470 West 146th Street. He was 30, born in Warsaw, Poland; and his father’s name was Lazarus Leon.

Harry Kaliski was married on December 3, 1923 to Grace Skinner of 31 Arden Street. Harry Kaliski died September 4, 1946 at 1781 Riverside Drive at the age of fifty-one. His profession was listed as liquor salesman and he was a veteran of World War 1.

Hyman Kaliski undoubtedly has surviving descendents. The remaining son Leonard may also have married, but I have not located that information yet. I could not find the two oldest daughters in the 1915 or 1925 New York State censuses under their married names. They had apparently moved out of the city soon after their double wedding. Records of births in New York City after 1909 are more difficult to research as they are still held by the Health Department.

The fact that the seamen from Saba remembered Hyman Kaliski having three daughters suggests that they were still in the New York area, and may have been helping out with the business.

When I have time I will look for Leonard’s marriage, and see if I can find children of Harry, Henrietta, or Leonard born in New York City in the Health Department records. Tracing Alma and Sadie, and Hyman himself, after they left the City, is going to be more difficult.

City Directory entries: 1891-92 Hyman Kaliski – 72 Greenwich St. –men’s furnishings home 100 Henry St.

1910 -11 Hyman Kaliski – 27 South Stret –men’s furnishings. Home 108 West 115th Street. 1933-1934 Hyman Kaliski -27 South Street- clothier wife Nettie. Home 66 Fort Washington Ave. A  Leonard Kaliski at same address. This was the last business directory published.”

Capt. Irvin Holm told me that when Mr. Kaliski was doing business on Greenwich Street that some sailors from Saba had made friends with him. This friendship intensified once Mr. Kaliski moved his business to 27 South Street close to pier 17 where the Saba schooners would dock up. So it is safe to say that from around 1890 or so until 1940 thereabouts he was doing business with the Saban sailors. No wonder he knew the “Back of Old Booby Hill” and how to irritate Ainslee about his sheep there. Capt. Holm told me that as the Sabans moved to Barbados and later to Richmond Hill with their families, they got land based jobs especially in the United States. No more sailors were coming from Saba. Capt. Holm said that when he went to visit Mr. Kaliski he was lamenting the fact that he no longer saw his Saba friends whose interests he had been serving for at least fifty years. When I was a boy you could hear the old sailors telling all kinds of stories about Mr. Kaliski and his Saba headquarters at 27 South Street. The entire area is now the South Street Seaport Museum. I have been there several times. A worthwhile visit for anyone from Saba to make contact with the past when here was swarming with sailors from a small Caribbean island. As I was typing this article, in between, I was also busy scanning some of my photos. When the article was almost finished the next photo to be scanned was of James Jackson with my son Peter at the South Street Seaport Museum in 1996. James had a brother named Kaliski Jackson. What a coincidence I thought to myself, so I scanned it right away and it will form part of the story.

If you ever visit the Seaport Museum in New York, while there, say a prayer for the sweet repose of Mr. Hyman Kaliski a true friend of the Saban sailors of the past and Saba’s former ambassador to the great City of New York.

The Cuban Garden


Vice Commander Richard Johnson*

I have noticed that Mr. Walter Hillenbrand admires the historian M.D. Teenstra. And so do I. Perhaps for different reasons though, than I do. The thing that I admire most about his book “De Nederlandsch West Indische Eilanden” is that he actually visited the islands which he wrote about.

Several Dutch historians of the twentieth century, while doing good work, based their research on documents either found in the archives in The Hague or in Willemstad. Some of them even brought forward theories which are not based on any fact whatsoever. And yet we look at them as the experts.

Dr. J. Hartog especially tried to square us out in a nice Dutch way as if all the people had descended from Dutch burghers. He also believed that all the place names had originally been Dutch.

In the nineteen sixties Mr. Sydney Lejuez and I used to write for the Windward Islands Opinion. Not much news back then, so we had to make news. In a foolish moment I said to Sydney once, “Man I could write a book just like anyone else.” The next weeks headline in The Opinion was “Will Johnson to write book.” No such intention, mind you. A few weeks later I received a registered letter from a Dr. Hartog on Aruba. Scared me to death. He wrote to tell me that he had copyright on his books and that if I quoted from his books that he would take me to court. Never mind that he had copied from everybody and his sister, and that his use of the Doctor title had been widely questioned. One of the things which I am sorry about is that I did not keep that letter, but believe me this is not a story which I made up.

Anyway Mr. M.D. Teenstra visited Saba on Friday the 13th, 1829 with a chartered sloop from St. Maarten owned by Captain Vlaun. All the way back then Friday fell on the 13th. You just can’t get rid of those Fridays the 13th can you?

Teenstra wrote that the person in authority on Saba had the title of Vice Commander and was responsible to the Commander on Sint Eustatius. (Locally though,t he person was referred to as the Governor). The present (1829) Vice Commander of Saba, Edward Beaks Jr., a native of the island, was recently suspended from his post. Mr. Beaks had been suspended on suspicion that he had owned and had put on a “war footing” a schooner involved in acts of piracy. He was an uncle of the notorious pirate Hiram Beaks who is credited with coining the phrase: “Dead men tell no tales.” Mr. Beaks was replaced by Mr. Richard Johnson, an old man of 72 years, who had never stepped on a boat, much less visited a foreign place, and had not even visited one of the neighbouring islands.

The Court of Policy (Raad van Policie) at that time consisted of: Mr. Richard Johnson, President, Mr. Thomas Dinzey Winfield, Schoolteacher ,and Merchant Henry Johnson Hassell, Member, Henry Hassell, Member, Charles Simmons, Secretary, John Davis Marshall and Mozes Leverock vendue master.

The language of Saba was English and not one inhabitant could be found who could speak a word of Dutch. Teenstra also confirms that the first settlers consisted of emigrants from St. Eustatius and St. Kitts.

Dutch, Scots and Irish some of who settled here in 1665. The latter would have been the ninety pirates who remained back in 1665. They had been part of the expedition by Edward and Thomas Morgan out of Port Royal Jamaica. They captured Saba and Sint Eustatius. On his visit to Saba Teenstra was accompanied by Mr. A.D. Du Cloux, Commander of a detachment of soldiers stationed on Sint Maarten.

Teenstra describes his arrival at the Ladder Bay, the torturous climb up to The Bottom and the warm reception he received at the home of former Commander Edward Beaks.

After a night of heavy drinking and cigar smoking, the next morning he had to make the long climb up to the Windwardside to visit Vice Commander Richard Johnson. The party was welcomed outside the village by the Vice Commander and members of the Council Hassell and Winfield, and they first proceeded to the home of Mr. Hassell. Here they met the old Commander Edward Beaks Jr. father of the one by the same name accompanying them. Although he was 75 years of age and Matthew Winfield 64, both of them had left The Bottom on foot three hours ahead of Teenstra. They had not visited Windwardside in three years.

After visiting Hell’s Gate they went to the home of Vice Commander Johnson whose wife was dressed like a Frisian farm wife, but two of their daughters present were dressed more plainly. Not one person in the entire household had ever visited any of the neighbouring islands, and receiving strangers was a novelty for them. The house is the one now owned by Mr. Peter Granger and Richard Johnson is buried in a private cemetery above the house now owned by Dennis Dowling.

Even though their residence was smaller and less luxurious than that of Mr. Beaks, the reception was most generous and Teenstra wrote that everyone tried to treat his party to the best. The table comprised twelve places but the food would have been sufficient for three times that amount of people.

Teenstra describes the meat and fish dishes as well as the vegetables better tasting than anything similar in Europe. In the evening Teenstra writes that he left the generous and hospitable family and headed to The Bottom.

On Sunday Teenstra went to the top of the mountain with Henry Johnson Hassell. On Monday February the 16th accompanied by the prominent people of the island he went to the Ladder Bay where Vlaun’s sloop was waiting to take him back to St. Maarten.

Teenstra was generous to us with his measurements. He described the island as having a circumference of fifteen English miles with 18.000 acres of land, while the mountain was 3330 feet high.

Crispeen was 2480 feet and The Valley (The Bottom) 1680 feet. In1829 there were 1200 people living on Saba; and the livestock consisted of 3 horses, five mules, 150 head of cattle, 300 sheep, 800 goats and 600 pigs (of which some of the pigs weighed more than 300 pounds each.)

In 1828 Richard Johnson then aged 71 was the oldest member of the Council. He was appointed as Vice Commander on December 20th, 1828 and started functioning on January 20th, 1829. He stepped down on May 5th, 1830. In his letter of resignation he stated that “due to advanced age and consequent debility and being far removed from his place of office, he was forced to resign. Henry Johnson Hassell was the second oldest member of the council and briefly succeeded Mr. Richard Johnson. On May 5th 1830 news was received on Saba that Mr. Thomas Dinzey Winfield, Member of the Council, had been appointed to the post of Vice Commander. The title was changed after November 20th 1833 to Commander. Mr. Winfield died on June 10th 1836 and Mr. Edward Beaks was reappointed.

My ancestor Richard Johnson had obviously not read the poem by Locksley Hall, as I did, or else he might have at least ventured on a boat to Statia.

“To wander far away,

On from island unto island, to the gateways of the day.

Larger constellations burning, mellow moons and happy skies,

Breadth of tropic shade and palms to cluster, knots of paradise.

‘Droops the heavy blossomed bower, hangs the heavy fruited tree,

Summer isles of Eden lying in dark purple spheres of sea.’

Oh my. “Yes, to wander far away on from island unto island, to the gateways of the day.”

In doing research on my great-great-grandfather to my surprise I found a document signed on January 1st 1850 by the very same Richard Johnson who in 1830 had declared himself “of advanced age and consequent debility.” He would have been 93 years old in 1850. Who knows when he actually died? He may be still around somewhere signing documents.

The document reads as follows: “We the undersigned natives and residents, Burghers of this island Saba. Do hereby certify and declare that the land situated in Gallops Quarter called the Company’s Land was left by the proprietors 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 and Henry J. Hassell former Commander and present Senior Member of the Court. Signed in the presence of me Hercules Hassell, provisional secretary. Saba, 31 January 1850.

Richard Johnson’s son Thomas, my great grandfather at the age of 64 (on April 27th, 1868), married Ann Louisa Hassell aged 28 and fathered my grandmother Marie Elizabeth born May 1869, when he was 65 years old. His first wife Elenanor Markoe died in 1858. Thomas died on August 12th 1879 leaving three small children behind.

Because of that he laid out a shortened path of descent for me from Richard Johnson who was born on Saba in 1747. Richard is also the great-great-great-grandfather of the present Lt. Governor Jonathan Johnson and Commissioner Chris Johnson.

Though Saba has changed, if Richard could come back, the family could entertain him in similar fashion as he did for Teenstra back on February 14th, 1829. The more things change the more they remain the same. And by the way, nowadays I quoting Dr. J. Hartog straight without fear that he will take me to Court.

Under the Seagrape Tree

Saba Histories

Will Johnson

Introduction

It seems like yesterday when I would be sitting under the sea grape tree reflecting on my future.

A young teenager just finished with high school on Curacao and holding down a job in the Post office.

It was not quiet meditation mind you. The future looked bleak and it required a lot of imagination to think positive.

How the world has changed since then. Just like Jean Rhys on her only return to her native Dominica in “I lived here once”, I too have the same feeling when I try to retrieve that once secluded and quiet spot on the Great Bay.

The Daily Herald seems to think that I am back under the sea grape tree and that I now have enough time for a column.

When I sat under the sea grape tree I used to write a column “News & Views” for the Windwards Islands Opinion of my friend the late Joseph H. Lake Sr. My calling card which proclaimed that I was a columnist was ridiculed by all as a misspelling. Of course being always dressed like Fidel one had to wonder indeed if I had misspelled the word. The wording of this card was used against me by the Democrat Party in the l969 elections when I was opposing them for the Senators seat of the Windward Islands. Various speakers on the Democrat party podium got very emotional about the various services offered on my card. Among them “uprisings quelled, governments overthrown, governments run, revolutions organized and even orgies organized. And me! Well I did not even know what an orgy was. And still don’t.

Anyway the Democrat Party obviously felt that I was offering services which had led to the May 30th, l969 uprising on Curacao which was cause for the election in the first place.

Some people still question whether or not I have strayed from my orginal beliefs and especially get upset when I give a list of my third world heroes. Ayatollah Khomeni and Fidel are not easy to digest for some folks.

Anyway The Herald has asked me (at least Wim Hart has done so) to contribute a column to people I have known in my long political career.

I have been considering it. I am sure there are people who would like to read about the time I crashed the Lt. Governor’s car into a wall on St.John’s while serving as a host for Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her two children, or how I introduced Forbes Burnham to Le Pirate, or when Benny Goodman gave Busby the wrong tip and so on.

Coming from a small island like Saba and growing up in a time which seems world’s away, I have been privileged to meet many celebrities as well as many “small people” who also deserve to be highlighted.

I have always felt the need for a literary magazine for these islands. Not a BIM of course. There are only so many Frank Collymore’s to go around. But I applaud the effort of the Daily Herald’s Weekender to try and combine journalism with literature. Charles Borromeo Hodge told me once that he had a lively correspondence with Frank from New York. To his dismay he found out as he said to me “That Frank turned out to be a Caucasian”.Anyway since he liked me too he must have had a soft spot for Caucasians.

The Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramirez was Vice President under the Sandanistas. He claimed that a revolution had crossed his path and that politics had interrupted his career as a writer.

Ramirez had the following to say about literature and journalism. To the question by the OAS Magazine, AMERICAS, “You’re a political scientist and analyst who writes for many publications. What do you think is the connection between journalism and literature?’, he answers;

“The kind of journalism that I prefer and that I like to see practiced – the journalism that I teach my students in the journalism workshops at the Ibero American Foundation for new journalism in Cartagena – is what is called literary journalism. It’s journalism with the gripping style of literary writing, the kind of writing where you reel in the reader little by little – where you set out the bait, create suspense, and keep the reader connected to the story. Literary journalism is storytelling, stories written with literary language. It’s a big challenge, especially when the written newspapers no longer have the capacity to inform, to really give the news.

These days before you open the newspaper you already know everything that has occurred, so for newspapers to be able to compete, they are going to have to get into descriptive articles, a more in-depth recounting of the event. And they should go back to the kind of old journalism practiced in the early twentieth century, when LA NACION in Buenos Aires used to devote an entire article to Reuben Dario that started on the front page. That’s the journalism I aspire to.”

I will refrain from my old style journalism though. A New York newspaper after reading the Saba Herald questioned the authorities as to how I could be walking around free. That sort of style is reserved for other papers, not for literary journalism which I now advocate and aspire to. That syle of journalism will be dealt with in Saba News Agency TWO.

People I would like to inform readers about vary from Stella Sloterdijk-Richardson, who wrote the most wonderful poem ever written about Saba,to the famous and infamous people I have met. From Fidel Castro to David Frederick, and from the fisherman on his lonely craft to the preacher on his high pulpit.

I will try from time to time to educate our people to look out so they can move up. I want to share the joys of reading and pass on information to our young people and hope that something I write can serve to educate them to look at life from a different perspective. To be realistic and as Sergio Ramirez says: “Societies don’t change because of a single administration during a period of five or six years. They change little by little in a process of accumulation. Change happens when society decides to take ownership of a single project and move it forward with various nuances until it’s consolidated.”

The single most important project of our times is that the youth, the custodians of our future, need real life examples of local pioneers who did what seemed the impossible. I want to highlight some of those native peoples so that our young people can look to their lives for guidance.

Life has changed. I am no longer under the sea grape tree looking out to the future.

High on the hill looking back on the past is where I am at now. Pablo Neruda, (whose former home, now a museum, I have visited in Valparaiso, Chile) in “A Dream of Trains”, best describes where I am at now, in my final stage of reflection and contemplation:

“I was alone in the solitary train,

but not only was I alone –

a host of solitudes were gathered

around the hope of the journey,

like peasants on the platforms.

And I, in the train, like stale smoke,

with so many shiftless souls,

burdened by so many deaths,

felt myself on a journey

in which nothing was moving

but my exhausted heart.”

Letter to myself

I

It must have been from my mother that I inherited the love of politics. From a very early age it certainly seemed to interest me. My mother was an ambitious woman who saw the political process as a means of advancement for her children. She was a Simmons. I later traced her ancestry to Commander Peter Simmons and his wife Rebecca Correa. The latter was the daughter of Moses Correa the only local person of the Jewish faith. Only daughters he had and they all married gentiles and lost the faith but not the genes. From my mother’s line of the family, I am the son of Alma Simmons, who was the daughter of James Horton Simmons, the son of Charles Simmons, the son of Peter Simmons, the son of Solomon Simmons, the son of Commander Peter Simmons and Rebecca Correa, the daughter of Moses Correa.

Isolated on this small rock her ambition must have been implanted in those old genes going back to the Middle East.

At the age of nine I remember following the march between Windwardside and Hells Gate which was organized in support of Saba’s first Senator Charles Ernest Voges. I found it all very exicting as well as the elections of l95l.

During my years in Brakkeput on Curacao (l955-l960) the brothers of the boystown made sure that we were politically involved. Angel Salsback on the 50th anniversary celebration of the existence of the boystown reminded all present how we were introduced to democracy. The Executive Council of the Institute at one time or another had people such as Minguel Pourier and others who served as well. Chief of Police in Brakkeput for a while was my friend Victor Monsanto but the boys rebelled beacuse he took the job serious and was too strict. Mervin and Aurelius Scott, Max Pandt, Ben Vlaun, Lou Halley, Louis Van Heyningen and others come to mind who were leaders in Brakkeputs Executive Council.

My first real participation in direct politics was in l962.I had started working at the Postofice on St. Maarten in l960. I took over the stampwindow from the late Jimmy Halley. Since it was the only place on the island which sold stamps and also used by the French side, before Christmas I knew all of the then 3500 people living on the island. By the way I also remember when St.Martin had 83 cars half of which were never on the road because of a lack of parts.

One of my regular customers was Mr. Joseph Lake Sr., who on July lst, l959 had started the weekly mimeographed paper The Windward Islands Opinion. It was through his encouragement that I started submitting articles to the paper. This immediately got me in trouble with the political establishment. Nevertheless Claude saw potential benefits to himself to use me as one of his field men.

In l962 he faced a very difficult election when he decided to run for Senator.

I remember as if yesterday Claude pulling up around dusk in front of Capt. Hodge’s Guesthouse under his cups and telling me to get my so and so ready as I had been transferred to Saba for four months. I did not question his word, threw my suitcase together and went down to the pier got on board the Antilia and went to Saba.

The Democrat Party on Saba was in trouble at the time. The popular young Administrator Henry Every had been transferred and was one of the candidates against Claude. He was expected to sweep Saba.

I had been given no instructions. I made the decision to support my own Thomas Van Hugh Hassell. He was the first man of colour from Sabato have succeeded in the Antillean Civil Service. He was also the godfather of my brother Freddie. Something in itself remarkable for Saba in the early l930’s when Freddie was baptized. Van Hugh’s white sister was married to Wim Lampe then Lt. Governor and this must have initially had something to do with Van Hugh getting a government job. His climb to the top though was his own.

Anyway I took off enthusiastically campaigning for Van Hugh. Who told me to do that? Those who were paying lip service to Van Hugh were at the same time complaining me to Claude that I was campaigning against him.

My father was not with me though. He was a friend of Henry and there was no changing his mind. It is from him that I learned to respect the land. I did not plant when I was young. I did read once that a tablet had been found in the city of UR and was dated 3500 BC and which read: “He brings disaster upon his nation who never sows a seed, or lays a brick, or weaves a garment, but makes politics his occupation.” Now you know why I do my planting. From early on I realized that politics was a questionable occupation more than five thousand years ago already. To compensate I try and sow a seed from time to time.

The l962 election results speak for themselves. At the beginning of the campaign Claude did not stand a ghost of a chance against the combination of Voges, Lopes and Every.

The end results were as follows: DP 893 WIPP 747. A win of l46 votes for DP.

The totals were one thing. The individual results were another story. For Claude individual votes under him could spell trouble later on. I did not know all of this at the time. I started to discover that something was wrong when upon return to St. Maarten. I had to lug my suitcase up the beach to where I lived whereas Claude and Clem were there at their usual Lido bar headquarters and were well aware of me passing by. Reconsider here. The party won by l46 votes and Van Hugh Hassell got l52 votes on Saba. Who brought in those votes for him? Also Van Hugh was going back to Aruba. Empty handed by the way. The Ministers job promised to him was not forthcoming. For four years (l962-l966) Claude supported a government with minimal support of l2 parliament members. You telling me that Claude could not get a Minister?

Just for the record here are the l962 election results:

WIPP        St. Maarten        Saba     St. Eustatius       Total

Lopes, Hugh I        113       7          212       332

Voges, Ch.E.W.      75         21         6          102

Every, Henry C.      22         231       2          255

Donker, A.T.          2          11         0          l3

Schmidt, Albert      0          0          5          5

Hazel,Cyril J.          35         0          5          40

Total         247       270       230       747

DP            St. Maarten        Saba     St. Eustatius       Total

Wathey, A.C.          457       11         28         496

Hassell, T.V.H.       11         152       8          171

Woodley, C.A.        4          4          133       141

Halley, G.B.           50         4          1          55

Peterson, C.C         1          1          0          2

Anslyn, W.C.          7          21         0          28

Total         530       193       170       893

Claude was more interested in the upcoming Island Council elections for l963 and worrisome to him was the fact that the party had lost both on St. Eustatius as well as on Saba.

In l962 I could not vote I was not yet 21. In l963 I could vote but could not run as one had to be 23 back then to run for office. In l963 I continued to support the Democrat party and learned a great deal from Claude and Clem in that election on St. Maarten. By l966 the voting population on St. Maarten had increased a great deal. While the WIPP headed by Hugh Lopes still won on Saba on his native St. Eustatius he lost to the DP with 379 for the DP and only 8l for the WIPP.

In that election I supported my then brother-in-law Reinier van Delden who was the number three candidate in that election for the DP. The top five vote getters in l966 were:

Claude Wathey       945       DP

Austin Woodley      317       DP

Hugh Lopes           208       WIPP

Eugenius Johnson  103       WIPP

Reinier van Delden 93         DP

In l967 there were no Island Council elections. I travelled to Saba and St. Eustatius with Claude wand helped to engineer a non-election. I felt guilty afterwards and told Mr. Lake that if another election came around that I personally would oppose the Democrat Party if no one else had the guts.

And with that bit of “old time story” the letter to myself will continue and culminate before March lst 2007. Sometime in the future I would like to try my hand at some serious writing. This is not literature. The Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk defined literature. I hope to arrive there some day. He wrote:

“The writer who shuts himself up in a room and goes on a journey inside himself, will over the years discover literature’s eternal rule; he must have the artistry to tell his own stories as if they were other people’s stories, and to tell other people’s stories as if they were his own, for that is what literature is.”

This is my story but that of others as well.

II

Had I read Naipual’s book “The Suffrage of Elvira” earlier I might have decided not to make politics my occupation. As it was it was some thirty years after I had been in politics that I had occasion to read that classic on West Indian politics.

I have learned many things from reading Naipaul. In the latest one which I read “Literary Occasions Essays” he describes the relationship which he had with his father. In his book a House For Mr. Biswas he tells the story of his father in more detail. In the Essays he describes his fathers last years. IN an interview with his mother he asks her:” What form did my father’s madness take?”

“He looked in the mirror one day and couldn’t see himself. And he began to scream.”

Sometime before I read that something similar happened to me. I was shaving and always thinking I am still sweet sixteen I called out to the wife:” I see an old man in the mirror looking at me.” She called out;” You better take a closer look, that person might even be you.”

Before that two Statia girls fixed me on Winair’s plane. I heard the two of them arguing and then one said to the other;”Why you don’t go up and sit next to the old man nuh.” I looked around for the old man and then I realized it was me they were talking about.

Time for reflection. We tend to glorify the things which seem important to us. We often forget that our time and place here is of very little importance in the whole scheme of things.

We are brought back to reality when we indulge in good literature which puts us to think about life and our time and place in this troubled world.

The native Americans were known for their eloquence of speech. The famous Chief Seattle after whom the great city of Seattle was named described man’s place in the universe as follows:

“We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.”

In contemplating on why and how I became involved in politics and made it my life’s work, I often turn to great thinkers for guidance and for peace of mind in a turbulent and thankless profession. Why did I not become a teacher, a horse whisperer or a well poisoner, but instead take up a profession which is a combination of the three (or any three for that matter).

As a child growing up on Saba life was not easy. No electricity, roads, cars, airport, harbour. No nothing of all that.

I remember going to the store to buy two cents worth of fat for an old lady to put in a vegetarian pot of wild mustard. The fat was to give the soup a bit of flavour. The problems we have on Saba the last years are those brought on by plenty and not those of having too little. From early on I felt the need to bring change. When I was growing up there was much despair. As an altarboy I was forever going to funerals to bury people. Women seemed to be always dressed in black. A black and white dress seemed to liven up the place. People were going to the U.S.A. and other places. Houses remained unpainted, others were falling down. As a child I worried constantly as to what was to become of me. I realized that I certainly could not get educated and make it on Saba.

Today those who want can plan a college education and even plan to return to Saba and make a living here. People from all over the world come here now .When I was a boy nearly all of the people living here had not only been born on Saba but their ancestors had been here for hundreds of years. One day flowed in to the next and decay crept in like a mudslide. By the time I entered politics there certainly had been some changes. But old timers will tell you that WIPM brought meaningful change to the lives of working people on Saba.

In l969 there was a mini revolution on Curacao. The Government resigned and called for new elections. On St. Maarten in l968 I became friendly with the late Mr. Alrett Peters who had returned from Aruba and had started the General Workers Union. I helped him with the newspaper “The Labour Spokesman”. This was a monthly paper under his name but even the roosters knew that it was my paper. The “Spokesman” was not government friendly. In fact it was downright hostile. In addition I also had the “Saba Herald” and together with my boyhood friend from the boystown James Maduro we also had “The Emporium Review.” on St. Eustatius .

In l965 through l968 I was also the newsprovider and announcer for PJD-2. I had replaced Sydney Lejuez. Brother Mayer used to pick me up and take me down to Fort Amsterdam twice a week. He refused to take me in the car with a beer in my hand. Once on the airport returning broke from Santo Domingo he loaned me ten dollars on condition that I could not buy a drink with it. Boy did those rum and cokes that I boiught with Brother Mayer’s ten dollars seem like visions of paradise.

Anyway by l969 I had built up enough bad points for major warfare with the Democrat Party. Alrett and I had also caused problems when we submitted a request for the Union to hold a peaceful demonstration in sympathy with the workers on Curacao. Clem brokered a compromise at the beach bar at Passangrahan Hotel (my second office). We settled the matter by having an afternoon off for the workers on St. Maarten . The invincible Democrat Party had been caught off guard and had shown its first sign of weakness. That too was not taken well.

Jose Lake then called me and reminded me that I had told him that if there was a threat of another non-election that I personally would oppose Claude. In what must have been a reckless suicidal moment I said yes that I still thought that way. Thinking it was a private joke among friends. The next day the Windward Island’s Opinion came out with the headline: “Will Johnson to oppose Claude Wathey”, and boy the fight was on. I had no money and a friend (from Nicaragua let’s say) loaned me the thousand guilders with which to pay my deposit to enter my list. Clem is still wondering where I got that money from. If anyone knew how broke I was it was Clem. As a matter of fact I must still owe Clem. And then came the hard part. Besides my good friend Alec “The Butcher” who was one of the first to sign me up I still needed 44 more signatures and only St. Maarten could provide them. The next day a scholarship granted to one of Alec’s 48 (forty eight, yes) children was cancelled. To get signatures after that was like pulling one tooth at a time the way my uncle Reuben Simmons used to do it. Tie the tooth with a piece of fishing line to a nail in the door and wait for a strong wind to blow the door shut and hopefully take out the tooth.

Miracle upon miracle and with help from the Union the signatures came in one by one. One of the last to sign me up was Alrett’s father. He used to come and sit with me at the Union Hall in Cole Bay when I was turning out the newspapers. I did it on an old mimeograph machine that the Teamsters Union had provided us (Jimmy Hoffa them).Old Mr. Peters used to get a kick out of seeing all of the stuff I would put on paper. Things like “Rumors that Wathey plans to buy the Caribbean are totally false. Your reporter interviewed him and he confirmed that at this time it was only Puerto Rico that he was thinking of buying, and that he did not know where people got their news from.”

Anyway at the last minute I got the signatures and the heat was on. St. Eustatius backed me strongly in that election. I would have won but Wallace Peterson after being dispatched to St. Eustatius told Claude, “That boy is going to embarres you there if you don’t spend heavy on the elections.” People who come to mind who helped me were the late Mrs. Laura Rouse, Mrs. Christine Flanders and her husband William, John and Max Suarez, Bengie Schmidt, Orlando Berkel and many more. They even organized a rally on my behalf on Saba and I did not even know it until a week later.

The first political rally which I held on St. Eustatius I was welcomed at the airport by my friend Mr. Vincent Astor Lopes with a pamphlet. Welcome to the United Russian Alliance.

My party was the URA a branch of a party on Curacao.

The day before the election bets were being placed by the Democrats on St. Maarten that I could not get 40 votes on the three islands. Jocelyn who went so far as to say that I would get 75 was laughed out of town by the pundits.

The results of the l969 election was as follows:

U.R.A.       St. Maarten        Saba     St. Eustatius       Total

Johnson, W.S.        138       222       232       592

Pietersz, E.M.         2          5          3          10

Jesurun, E.A.V       3          7          1          11

Johnson, J.B..         0          2          0          2

Total         143       236       236       615

DP            St. Maarten        Saba     St. Eustatius       Total

Wathey, A.C.          1172     163       66         1401

Rogers, S.N.           14         9          159       182

Anslyn, W.C.          7          91         1          99

Arndell, A.J.           124       8          5          137

Lake, J.H.   33         0          5          38

Woodley, C.A.        6          2          31         39

Total         l356      273       267       1896

Considering the odds against me when the election started up, the following day I was greeted on the streets of Philipsburg as if I had won the election.

Several things must be mentioned from that election. Brother Stanley Rogers who is still alive on Curacao came to find me on St. Maarten . He said he could not return to Curacao before shaking the hand of the little white boy who had beat him on his native Statia. Also it was so that I could not find shelter on St. Maarten . Finally Mr. Melford Hazel sent Sam to pick me up. I used to live out of a suitcase anyway. Melford put me to live in the Sea View Hotel for nearly two years rent free and challenged the world to dare and take me out of his hotel. From there in the then Taj Mahal upstairs I found refuge, except when I spent time in Her Majesty’s goal on backstreet. I owe you more than one Sam. When I heard that Melford was not doing well I went to see him. We spent a long time in his garden reminiscing on those days.Wherever he is in heaven he will smile when he reads this.

After that showing all sorts of offers came in. I remember in the Zanzibar on Backstreet being offered a position in the Antillenhuis in Holland where I could have used the occasion to study law. I declined and hanged in there. In November l970 a group of us started the WIPM party. People like Camille Bailey, Edgar Lynch, Jocelyn Arndell, Ralph Berkel. In l97l we took 8 of the l5 seats on the Island Council of the Windward Islands. But that part of the story will have to wait until next time.

III

The nights were softer back then. Our music was the gentle sound of the wind rustling through the leaves of the sea grape trees below my grandmother’s house.

From that location, next to the church on Hells Gate, you could see St. Maarten and all the islands around. At night there was hardly a light to be seen on any of the islands except on St. Kitts at Sandy Point.

I can still smell my grandfather’s supper. He loved roasted sweet potatoes and smoked herring done on the old coal pot. That was also the last meal he requested the day before he died.

My grandmother used to take a puff or two on an old corn cob pipe, while telling me stories of our ancestors.

This was just after the second world war.

It was a great treat for me to spend a weekend at the home of my grandparents. They were the parents of my mother Alma Simmons.

I am the son of Alma Simmons, the daughter of James Horton Simmons, the son of Alice Eliza Horton and Charles Simmons, the daughter of James Horton III of St. Eustatius and Catherine Elizabeth Hassell, the son of James Horton II and Peter Ann “Tanner” Simmons, the son of James Horton I and ALice Eliza Hamilton, the son of Mark Horton and Martha Adriaansen, the daughter of Jacob Adriaansen the son of Isaac Adriaansen the son of Peter Adriaansen, the son of Abraham Adriaansen from Vlissingen who landed on St. Eustatius on April 25th, l636 and claimed it for the Dutch. I own the property on St. Eustatius close to where he landed.

My grandfather’s brother Peter George “Unc” Simmons born l858 used to tell the family that Alice Eliza his mother had been named after her great grandmother who was a close relative of Alexander Hamilton. I have not been able to prove that (yet) but I reserve bragging rights as long as the research continues.

I am related through the blood to the Johnson, Hassell, Beale, Horton, Hill, Vanterpool, Vlaun, Kelly, Correa, “Coonks”, Pierce, Molinieux, Adriaansen and Hamilton families.

Back in those quiet days and gentle nights I would be regaled with stories handed down through the generations to my grandmother and on to me. And so I am now the memory priest of the family.

It was at this spot when my mother was six weeks old in September l909 that a bolt of lightning came crashing down from the skies. It killed her sister Loura (l2 years old), destroyed the old house, nearly killed Alice Eliza Horton, badly burned my mother’s cousin Violet and scared Uncle Reuben Simmons into a statue. Alice Eliza was a “rank” Anglican and refused prayers from the Roman Catholic priest, Father Mulder ,stating that no one should come close to her till her “Minister” arrived. She lived to tell the story for three more years. These are the stories I remember. These memories are the ones I drew on when I was homesick like a dog in the boystown on the then isolated and beautiful lagoon “Spaansche Water” on Curacao.

By now you will have already read that for the first time sine l97l I am not a candidate for the Island Council elections.

Although the URA party in l969 was established by Edsel “Papy” Jesurun on Curacao, it was more convenient for the Democrat party to link me to the FOL party in their campaign.

It did not help my cause when Stanley Brown came up during the elections to lend some support. Freddy Lejuez was my campaign manager on St. Maarten .

Carl Anslyn (DP candidate) issued a pamphlet against me on Saba in which he appealed to the population to get their firebuckets ready and to make all necessary preparations as “Will Johnson is on a mission which includes burning down your house.”

It did not help either that all those years I was always dressed like Fidel.

I remember once causing an uproar on St. Maarten ‘s airport when five friends of mine and I were going to St. Eustatius . Chester Wathey was at the airport. He was not amused and confronted me about my intentions. In later years I realized that there is fear in numbers.

One nut dressed like Fidel was bad enough, but six people travelling together dressed like communist gueriallas was downright menacing. After doing so well in the l969 elections on Statia I used to go there as often as I could. I have wonderful memories of those trips. My bedroom was the room in the old guesthouse which is now the Vincent A. Lopes Island Council Hall. I like to tease Clyde van Putten and them that I used to sleep in the room where they now debate.

I have climbed into the Quill at least l2 times, probably more than anyone from Saba ever did. When I am in Statia I am at peace among friends and I pay a ritual visit to the graves of Richard Horton born l731 and his mother-in-law Joanna Dinzey.

Richard was the brother of James Horton 1 and they were sons of Mark Horton and Martha Adriaansen. He (Richard) was the Church Warden for the Old English church. I have held in my hands the Record Book which he kept for the church. It is more than 250 years and in perfect condition. Safely located in the National Archives behind the Central Train Station in The Hague. When I visit The Hague I make a regular pilgrimage to the archives to do research.

In November l970 a group of us formed the WIPM party. In l97l we won on Saba and St. Eustatius and struck a mighty blow to the Democrats on St. Maarten where we first got two seats out of five, then one was taken away, but later returned when Sydney Lejuez crossed the floor and joined the WIPM party.

Since l97l I have been a candidate in every island election. On March lst 2007 for the first time in 36 years I am not running for office. I hope to now take on other challenges. To return to the memories of my youth and to share these memories with my many friends. I am proud that in all the elections in which I took part that in every polling station on all three Windward Islands that I got votes at each polling station.

Proud also that if given any length of years and if my peace is disturbed by any chickenleg and johnny cake politicians, that I will pull a Compton on them and return to the field of battle I am so accustomed to.

This is not a farewell to arms, just the sound of the bugle calling me to pick up my tent and move on to other challenges.

And so I say THANK YOU to the loyal friends and supporters on all the islands of my youth and my dreams.

Paths of Origin

For a number of years I have been intrigued by a story told to me by a cousin (Carl L. Johnson) who lives in New York and who is nearly twenty years my senior.

According to him our great uncle Peter George Simmons nicknamed “Unc” used to tell him that we were related through the Horton’s to Alexander Hamilton of Nevis. “Unc” is also the great- grandfather of Commissioner Bruce Zagers.

My search thus far has been directed to the Hamilton’s with no firm results. The relationship could have been via the Simmons’ to the Fawcett’s, his mother’s side of the family and I am still looking at that.

You must take oral history seriously and many times I have solved questions of local history through listening to old timers telling stories they had heard from grandparents. Peter George Simmons was born on October 1st 1858 and died April 30th 1946. His mother Alice Eliza Simmons born Horton was born in 1831. He would have known his great-grandfather James Horton Sr. who died in 1869 at the age of 94 (born on St. Eustatius 1775). He would have also known his grandfather James Horton Esq. born 1801. He was the “Kings Attorney” and died February 6th 1877 and his wife Catharine Hassell died on March 3rd, 1873.

Thus growing up between 1858 and 1877 he would have heard stories around the old coal pot or oil lamp about his mother’s people. She (Alice Eliza Horton) born 1831 would in turn have heard stories from her mother, grandparents and other family members about their people on St. Eustatius and why they had moved to Saba.

They are descended from Mark Horton and Martha Adriaansen (see population list 1728). Sometime before 1750 the family moved to St. Eustatius and was prominent there in the old English church and as business people. They were married into some of the prominent families there, the Hills, Clarancieux, Mussendens and so on. There is still a building on the Bay in Statia known as the” Horton Building” (See Steve Kruythoff’s history of the Windward Islands.)

The Horton family being a small one is well documented through my research. I have not yet been able to verify with any degree of certainty the relationship between the Horton’s and Alexander Hamilton. However I have found a lot of interesting things along the way. Alexander Hamilton did have an important connection to Saba via his mentor the Reverend Hugh Knox.

In Ron Chernow’s book,” Alexander Hamilton”, he has the following to say about the Reverend Hugh Knox and Alexander Hamilton.

“The next year, Hamilton published two more poems in the paper, now recreating himself as a somber religious poet. The change in heart can almost certainly be attributed to the advent in St. Croix of a Presbyterian minister named Hugh Knox. Born in Northern Ireland of Scottish ancestry, the handsome young Knox migrated to America and became a schoolteacher in Delaware. As a raffish young man, he exhibited a lukewarm piety until a strange incident transformed his life. One Saturday at a local tavern where he was a regular, Knox amused his tipsy companions with a mocking imitation of a sermon delivered by his patron, the Reverend John Rodgers. Afterward, Knox sat down, shaken by his own impiety but also moved by the sermon that still reverberated in his mind. He decided to study divinity at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) under its president, Aaron Burr, an eminent divine and father of the man who became Hamilton’s nemesis. It was almost certainly from Knox’s lips that Alexander Hamilton first heard the name of Aaron Burr.

Ordained by Burr in 1755, Knox decided to propagate the gospel and was sent to Saba in the Dutch West Indies. This tiny island near Nevis measured five square miles, had no beaches, and was solitary enough to try the fortitude of the most determined missionary. Rough seas girded Saba’s rocky shores, making it hazardous for ships to land there. As the sole clergyman, Knox resided in a settlement known as the Bottom, sunk in the elevated crater of an extinct volcano; it could be reached only by climbing up a stony path. Knox left a bleak picture of the heedless sinners he was assigned to save. “Young fellows and married men, without any symptoms of serious religion but keepers of negro wenches rakes, night rioters, drunkards, gamesters, Sabbath breakers, church neglecters, common swearers, unjust dealers etc.” After all of that one can only guess as to what more could have been included in that etc.!

An erudite man with a classical education, Knox was starved for both intellectual companionship and money. In 1771, he visited St. Croix and was received warmly by the local Presbyterians, who enticed him to move there. In May 1772, he became pastor at the Scotch Presbyterian church at a salary considerably beyond what he had earned inside his old crater.

After the lonely years in Saba, the forty-five-year-old Knox felt rejuvenated in St. Croix. It is there that Alexander Hamilton became his student and protégé.

Much has been written about the Reverend Hugh Knox and his stay on Saba. Dr. Johan Hartog mentions that after 16 years on Saba he moved to St. Croix, due to some accusation by some inhabitants of Saba, probably of a moral nature.

However Governor Peter Simmons and prominent Burghers as well as members of the congregation, provided him with a letter of introduction, which expressed their confidence in him.

There is also confusion as to who was his wife. One historian claimed that he was married to Christina Love daughter of the Governor of St. Lucia. Another claimed that he was married to the daughter of the Governor of St. Croix. However the author Henry B. Hoff in and article in National Genealogical Society Quarterly (March 1986:31) entitled “Some Americans in the Danish West Indies” confirms that he was married to Mary Simmons, daughter of Governor Simmons of Saba. He had a daughter Rebecca who died on December 29th, 1773. She would have been named after Rebecca Correa, her grandmother who was the wife of Governor Peter Simmons. Even if he had taken up the lifestyle of the Sabans and taken on a wench as a result of a mid- life crisis, his father-in-law would have given him a letter of recommendation.

Mary his wife died on St. Croix on January 24th, 1778. Hugh died on St. Croix at the age of 63 on October 9th, 1790. After his wife Mary died he may have taken on a new wife.

Whereas Nicholas Cruger exposed Alexander Hamilton to material realities, the Reverend Hugh Knox provided him with a strong spiritual and intellectual grounding. Knox who took Hamilton under his wing shortly after Rachel’s death. Was a Scottish Presbyterian Minister at odds with the mainstream of his faith because of his firm belief in free will over the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. For someone like Hamilton who was otherwise predestined to a life of obscurity, we can see how Knox’s philosophy would have appealed to him. The Reverend’s encouragement and influence undoubtedly led Hamilton to dream big dreams. Knox a brilliant sermon-writer and occasional doctor, took the young orphan under his wing and tutored him in the humanities and sciences.

When he was able to get away from the office, Hamilton further expanded his intellect in Knox’s library, where he read voluminously in the classics, literature, and history. Hamilton, who had early fancied himself a writer, published an occasional poem in the local paper, and impressed the residents of the island with a particularly vivid and florid account of the great hurricane of 1772.

On August 5th, 1779 Governor Thomas Dinzey of Saba in a letter to His Excellency General Clausen of St. Croix concerning runaway slaves refers to the reverend Hugh Knox as attorney to himself and Isaac Simmons, so that the reverend remained in contact with Saba even after he had moved to St. Croix.

In 1790 when the Reverend Dr. Thomas Coke of Methodist fame visited Saba he wrote that there was a church but no preacher. The last preacher Dr. Hugh Knox had left the island in 1771 (Knappert p.115)

Mention is also made of the English Presbyterian Church on Saba and the Rev .Hugh Knox in 1755 and 1758. In a letter from G.van Essen dated 26 February 1756 and 18 January 1758, which is to be found in the old classical archives in Amsterdam section St. Eustatius p.20 -2l, he refers to Rev. Hugh Knox on Saba.

Hamilton’s grandmother, Mary Fawcett was already married in 1718 and had a daughter Ann. In all she had seven children including Rachel(born 1729). Only Ann and Rachel survived. In 1740 Mary divorced and moved first to St. Kitts and then to St. Eustatius. Her husband John died in 1745. In Ron Chernow’s book page 17 he states: ” In 1756, one year after Hamilton was born, his grandmother, Mary Faucette, now residing on the Dutch island of St. Eustatius, made out her final will and left “my three dear slaves, Rebecca, Flora and Esther”, to her daughter Rachel.” The Horton’s and the Faucette’s would have been on St. Eustatius at the same time and would certainly have known each other.

I was helping two young archaeologists recently. They found in the archives of the Roman Catholic Church a printed sermon from 1792 dedicated to the people of Saba. It was a eulogy for the 29 year old Reverend John Elsworth delivered at Ellington, Connecticut, parts of which I will quote from.

Not long after he finished his studies at Yale College and commenced a preacher, he was invited to the Church of Christ in the Island of Saba, formerly the charge of the great and good Doctor Hugh Knox.

Warmed with love to Christ and zeal to promote the salvation of men, he received solemn ordination to the work of the gospel ministry, as the pastor of the church of Christ, in that distant region.*

*The island of Saba, contains about 120 European families – is in the vicinity of St. Eustatius and belongs to the United States of Holland. It enjoys a salubrious air, and is esteemed the healthiest of the islands.

That eminent divine, the Rev. Doctor Knox, member of the Presbytery of New York, was minister of the church there many years. He removed from thence to the island St. Croix, where, lately by death, he finished the labors of a long and useful life.

In consequence of application from the church in Saba, for one to succeed him, Mr. Ellsworth was ordained in September 1789, at East-Windsor, by the Ministers of the Church in the Vicinity. Letters from respectable characters on the island, with which the writer has been honored, express the highest and most affectionate esteem of him, during his ministry there.

To the Church and Congregation in the Island of SABA Honorable and Christian Friends

When, at your request the late Mr. Elsworth received ordination, with a view to his settlement with you as your spiritual pastor, it was the hope of the friends of religion that his life and usefulness would be prolonged, and that you might long rejoice in his light. But the sovereign arbiter of life, is sometimes pleased to call from their labors, those who appear to be best qualified, by natural and gracious endowments for extensive usefulness; perhaps to teach us that he is not confined to means, to us apparently best fitted to carry on the purposes of his grace, and also, to raise them to sublimer scenes, and more exalted employments in heaven.

The church of Christ sustains a loss by the death of so good and promising a Minister of Jesus. We sincerely sympathize with you in this bereaving providence. May a double portion of the spirit of this ascended servant of Christ, rest on his successor, who is now with you; and may his faithful labours for your spiritual interests, be crowned with abundant success.

After his return to the continent, he frequently expressed a cordial regard for you, as a people whom he sincerely loved, and whose salvation he ardently desired; and with whom had his health permitted, he would have chosen to have spent his days; and a grateful sense of those respectful attentions shewn to him, and kindnesses received from you, and particularly from His Honor Governor Dinzey, and his worthy family, in whose family he lived, during his residence in the island.

Accept, honorable and Christian brethren, the following discourse, as a tribute of respectful remembrance from the afflicted parents of the deceased, and from your sincere friend and servant, in our common Lord,

David M’Clure

East-Windsor

Connecticut,

Nov. 30, 1791

The sermon of 31 pages I will not serve up for your benefit, however it is interesting to read of the great interest in the salvation of the group of night rioters as described by Doctor Knox in 1772. By the way I passed this along to some of the younger folks and they had a good laugh and one said ;”My God, it is true, the more things change the more they remain the same.”

A sermon made at the funeral of Governor Peter Simmons by the Rev. Dr. Hugh Knox is supposed to be in the Library of Congress. To any of you computer experts who can find that sermon for me I would be deeply grateful.

And the search for the relationship with Alexander Hamilton goes on. To those who do not know him I will end with the following quotation: “I consider Napoleon, Fox and Hamilton the three greatest of men of our epoch, and if I were forced to decide between the three, I would give without hesitation – the first place to Hamilton. He divined Europe.”

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand.

So far for now this bit on information on Dr. Hugh Knox and John Elsworth.

Mail Service in former times

I

When we talk about mail service we should include passenger service as well. In former times when there were no planes flying between the Dutch islands schooners had a contract with the colonial government to transport mail and passengers.

We have a letter dated 25 April 1853, circular No. 57 in which the Governor of the Colony “Curacao and dependencies”, invites a number of merchants on Curacao to make a monthly contribution to the maintenance of bi-monthly mail service to St. Thomas from Curacao by schooner. Monthly pledges were made by several merchants to a total of fls.319.-per month. The Windward Islands at that time sent their mail by the Captains of privately owned schooners to be processed on St. Kitts. The government mail was taken care of in the same fashion.

From St. Kitts it then went on to St. Thomas, and the mail coming to these islands from Curacao went via St. Thomas and St. Kitts in the same manner. This was mostly government mail as there was hardly any contact between people from the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands back then. This was long before the oil refineries had started up and people from these islands started moving to the ABC islands. There was the occasional schooner which government chartered between the islands. I have correspondence from Curacao dated September 18th, 1845 where the Governor is sending correspondence to Saba with the schooner ‘Mary Francis’ owned by Capt. William Simmons. Also correspondence of October 7th 1845 ,whereby the Governor is sending two soldiers J.S. Kok and F.L. Flores, with the Government schooner ‘De Wesp’ to St. Eustatius . Also the newly appointed Lt. Governor of St. Eustatius Mr. W.H.J. van Idsinga was transported to St. Eustatius with the Dutch schooner “Esser” with Captain C.M. de Haseth.

After the Post offices had been established, so that on March 1st 1884 all three islands in the Windward Islands had a Post office, it became necessary to arrange for more direct transportation between Curacao and the Windward Islands. The Post Offices were opened on the following dates: On St. Maarten on January 1st, 1882, St. Eustatius, March 1st, 1884, The Bottom Saba March 1st 1884 and Windwardside, Saba on March 1st, 1944.

In 1886 an officer and philatelist on board H.M.S. “Atjeh” visited Curacao and wrote the following to a Dutch stamp Journal; “The forwarding of letters between the West-Indian islands Curacao, Bonaire, St. Maarten , St. Eustatius and Saba takes place free of charge and is transported by the Government schooner “Gouverneur van den Brandhoff.” From the colonial report of 1875 we can read that mail traffic from Curacao to the three Dutch Windward Islands was routed through the Dutch consul at St. Thomas, and thence to the Dutch consul at St. Kitts, from which island small vessels transported the mail to the three Dutch islands, and vice versa.

On January 30th 1886, a contract was signed with Mr. J.J. Scopean. This contract with the Government of the Colony called for the monthly services of the schooner named the “Gouverneur van den Brandhof” to all three Windward Islands for the yearly sum of fls.4.800.–. The schooner measured 219.46M3 or 76.73 gross tons.

In 1901 this contract was renewed with his widow Mrs. E.P. Laglois and was increased to fls.6.000.-per year. There were rates for first class passengers of fls.60.-to Curacao and for 2nd class passengers and children below the age of 12 the fare was half that of a 1st class passage. The freight on furniture and baggage for a family coming from Curacao was fls.125.-and between the Windward Islands it was fls.50.-Rates by the way which we consider quite high for a schooner back in 1886. There was even a rate of fls.50.-to transport someone who was insane and who was not accompanied.

A new contract was entered in to on December 28th, 1903. The rates for passengers remained unchanged to those applied in 1886 by Mr. Scopean, until the new contract was signed in 1903, and the rates decreased. A first class passage became fls.50.-second class passengers and children f.25.-whereas furniture and baggage for a family was reduced to fls. 100.-from Curacao and fls.40.-between the Windward Islands.

In a letter dated 4th August 1903 to the Governor, the Administrator of Finance reports with satisfaction that he was able to convince Mrs. E. P. Laglois to reduce the tariff for passengers traveling on her schooner between the islands. We should not forget that there were private schooners from Saba trading between the Windward Islands, New York, Bermuda, St. Kitts, St.Thomas and Barbados back then. People were not exactly jumping to get an expensive ride on Mrs. Scopeans schooner either; they had other choices, especially between the Windward Islands.

His Excellency the Governor was taking no chances however, as on August 19th of that same year he wrote to the Lt. Governors of all three Windward Islands enquiring from them if they had received any complaints concerning the rates for passengers or freight on the mail schooner, to please inform him of same.

The Lt. Governor of St. Eustatius Mr. G.J. van Grol, who was always interested in agriculture, stated in a letter to the Governor dated September 28th, 1903, that he had complaints concerning the freight charges on yams and potatoes. He stated that six barrels of yams at fls.5.-was fls.30.–. Then there was a 20% freight charge of fls.6.–. Import duties on Curacao were f.0.90 and transport in Curacao f.0.75 bringing charges to f. 7.65 so that in effect the farmer on St. Eustatius only received fls. 22.35 for 6 barrels of yams.

He said that if freight charges could be decreased then it would stimulate more exports of agricultural products from St. Eustatius to Curacao. He also thought that the costs of a passage were rather high.

The Lt. Governor of Saba, Mr. H.J. Beaujon (grandfather of Jan Beaujon of Windward Islands Bank Ltd.), in a letter of 4th October 1903, stated that although he had not received any complaints that the general opinion was that the cost of a passage to Curacao was high especially in view of in his own words the “impoverished table” (meager rations as we would say), offered on board. No French cuisine on those old schooners.

The Lt. Governor of St. Maarten , Mr. A. J. C. Brouwer answered the Governor on 6th January 1904.

He said that he had received no specific complaints but that there was general discontent as to the high costs of passages and freight. He said that even though a trip to Curacao could take from four to eight days or more, the high cost of the passages was inexcusable.

He said that before 1886, that there were about 5 or 6 occasions per year when one could get to Curacao by schooner and a first class passage varied from fls.25.-to fls.40.-and in many cases if the person was traveling with freight or to pick up same, then they did not have to pay any passage at all.

The Lt. Governor in addition wrote to His Excellency on 1st February 1904 that upon enquiry from the merchants the last 4 months of 1903 a total of f.45.-had been paid out in freight charges, but that this was on the low side as there had not been any export of potatoes to Curacao during the period mentioned. He also quoted some freight charges on items to Curacao:

Flour and potatoes, per barrel          fls. 1.-

Petroleum per box  0.37, 50

Genever per box of 19.50 liters        0.50

Smaller boxes         0.25

Corn and peas per bag        0.50

General merchandise per M3           7.-

Medium sized boxes contents unknown        0.50

In 1984 some of the old timers whom I interviewed could remember those days. According to Ralph Hassell, then ninety, his grandfather Capt. Henry Johnson had a two-master schooner called the “Spring Bird.” He went on a drunk in Curacao took in with pneumonia and died there. Ralph’s father “Old Claw” (John Benjamin Hassell) was a mate on board and brought up the schooner from Curacao after which she was sold. A year later his grandfathers’ remains were brought here in the schooner the “Gouverneur van den Brandhof” which ran the mail at the turn of the century and he was buried here on Saba in the family cemetery.

In February 1904 a vessel named the “Prince Hendrik” took over the service of the schooner from the “Gouverneur van den Brandhof” temporarily and on the same conditions.

On St. Maarten, D.C. van Romondt & Co., were agents for the schooner as is apparent from a letter from that firm of February 1st 1904 to Mr. A.B. Mussenden on St. Eustatius .

On October 10th, 1908 a new agreement was made between the owner and the government, this time for f.645.-per month, and in an appendix to this agreement dated February 16th 1909, the rent was increased to fls.800.-per month.

On June 21st, 1911, the first of the Saba owned mail boats entered the scene, namely the schooner “Priscilla”, as is apparent from the following agreement:

1st. Albert Land, temporary Administrator of Finances as appointed by Government, and

2nd. Capt. Samuel Augustus Simmons, captain of the Dutch schooner “Priscilla” with 69 registered tons and belonging to Saba, do hereby declare to have made the following contract with regard to a voyage to the Islands St. Maarten , St. Eustatius and Saba and return, under the following conditions:

1st. That the schooner be perfectly seaworthy properly crewed and in every respect equipped to leave on this voyage on the 23rd instant with destination to the aforementioned islands.

2nd. that the schooner must call twice at each of these islands, once to land the mails and once to take the mails.

3rd. that the government will pay to the contracting party Simmons on his arrival at Curacao, the sum of three hundred and seventy five guilders for the transport of mails and other government goods.

4th. that for government passengers of Curacao to one of the islands aforementioned shall be paid to the contracting party Simmons: for each first class passenger, with luggage the sum of forty guilders and for each second class passenger, with luggage, the sum of twenty guilders. 5th. that feeding of the government passengers, shall be at the expense of the contracting party Simmons.

The ‘S.S. Christiansted” a steamship owned by the German Company the Hamburg America Line maintained the services from 1st July 1905 through September 1908 and published a regular schedule. The ship was registered under the Danish flag and the captain was Capt. Hansen. At that time Denmark owned St.Thomas, St.Croix and St. John. The agents for the ship were: On Saba Mr. Joseph Benjamin Simmons, on St. Eustatius Mr. Henry Hassell Johnson and on St. Maarten Mr. Wilfred E. van Romondt.

The S.S. “Christiansted” was built in 1904. It was 321 gross tons or 167 net tons. It had a length of 140′, width 24′ and a depth or draft of 11′. It had an average speed of 9 knots and an engine of 310 horsepower and used 4 tons of coal every twenty four hours.

The passenger’s accommodations were not large. Besides a first class saloon, two 3 persons’ cabins, there was a “smoking room”, in which some passengers could be accommodated. Furthermore there was room for 60 deck passengers and for 360 tons of freight. A monthly service was organized from Curacao to the Windward Islands, whereby St. Thomas and St. Kitts were called at, and a bi-weekly service to Aruba and Bonaire. A subsidy of fls.20.000.-a year was granted to the Hamburg Line. The first year of operation the company claimed to have a deficit of fls.10.000. Obviously the Colonial Government was unwilling to finance at such a heavy cost the incidental transportation needs between the islands.

II

As was mentioned in part one of this story, before the Governor of the colony of Curacao made a contract in 1883 for regular service between the islands, there had existed private connections by Saban owned schooners.

In correspondence between the Windward Islands and the Governor there are many references of money being sent back and forth between the islands and Curacao and carried by Saba Captains. Just to mention a few: Capt. E. B. Hassell of the schooner ‘Mathila”, Capt. Engle Heyliger Simmons of the Swedish registered schooner ‘Sir Carl’; Capt. H.Johnson of the schooner ‘Isabel’ and Capt. P.J. Every of the British registered barkentine the ‘Nimble’. They were paid on a case by case basis. This took place before 1880.

After the ‘Christiansted’ a government owned schooner named “Gouverneur van Hurdt” took care of the mail service from October 1st, 1908 until it was lost in the night of 12th to 13th June 1910. This schooner which had been built prior to 1902 mostly served between the ABC islands.

Shortly thereafter a government owned steamship was taken into service. In a letter from the Minister of Colonies Mr. de Waal Malefyt, dated The Hague April 3rd 1913, he speculates about starting a steamship service to these islands to replace the “Princess Juliana”.

Curacao had steamship service to St.Thomas by a German Company the Hamburg America Line and was connected to Trinidad by the Royal West India Mail Service Line, forerunner of the K.N.S.M. (Royal Dutch Steamship Company.). The Minister wondered whether it would not be possible for the Royal West India Mail service Line to connect the Windward Islands via St. Thomas to Curacao and via Trinidad to Paramaribo, Surinam.

The Dutch Naval Commander in the Caribbean gave as his advice to His Excellency the Governor that the only reason why a boat service between Curacao and the Dutch Windwards was really necessary was for administrative purposes. As he correctly stated in his letter of 12th July 1913, if these islands did not belong to the colony Curacao, then no one would give themselves any kind of headaches over inter-island communications.

In order to give a clearer picture of the trade between the islands let us look at the following; The value of imports into Curacao during the year 1912 were; from St. Eustatius f.239.-from Sint Maarten f.106.-and from Saba f.2657,–. Exports from Curacao to the islands were as follows: to St. Maarten f.10.858.-to St. Eustatius f. 1.953.-and to Saba f. 15.601.–. At the same time imports to the Windward Islands from abroad were: to St. Maarten f.152.074.-to St. Eustatius f. 52.532.-and to Saba f. 78.498.–, while exports abroad were: from St. Eustatius f.60.374.-St. Maarten f. 43.313.-and Saba f. 5.276.-These figures stand to prove that the trade between the Windward and the Leeward Islands was insignificant when compared with trade from abroad. This hold true even more so today.

Passenger traffic was not much either. In 1912 departures from Curacao to St. Maarten were 69 (mostly colonial officials and members of the clergy )to St. Eustatius 4 and to Saba 11.

The government owned steamship the “Princess Juliana” had been built in Holland at a cost of f.160.000.-and it arrived in Curacao on 20th November 1910. However due to a faulty design and top-heavy superstructure, which for more accommodations had been recommended by Governor de Jong van Beek en Donk, the ship was not seaworthy. It was 443 gross tons and 229 net tons and had a length of 50, 30 meters, a width of 7,63 meters and a depth of 2,87 meters, fully loaded. There were four, 2-passenger cabins, 1 luxury cabin, a smoking salon, which could be used as reserve accommodations, and a large dining room in the first-class amidships. Also, one 4-passengers cabin, four 2-passengers cabins, and a dining room in the second-class section to the back of the ship. Besides, there were the necessary service-rooms and also facilities for deck-passengers. The ship had a motor capacity of 327 horsepower, and used 25kg of coal per mile.

Due to engine trouble which could not be taken care of at either St. Kitts or St. Thomas the ship had to make it’s first to the Windward Islands via Trinidad. Already on this trip the ship proved unsatisfactory for the crossing of the Caribbean in the path of the trade winds. Since the ship had been built for the coastal trade, it was sold to Surinam for f. 100.000.-where in 1921 it was still reported as doing duty there. After this steamer episode, the trade between the islands went back to schooner trade with Saban owned and operated schooners.

The Administrator of Finance in a lengthy report to his Excellency the Governor dated 16th September 1913 suggested that instead of a steamship service between Curacao and the Windwards it would be better and cheaper to make a contract with the owner of the schooner ‘Estelle” (Capt. T.C. Vanterpool of Saba). He also owned the ‘Pretoria”. The suggestion was to let both schooners run a regular service to St.Thomas, and then the passengers could go from there with the Hamburg America Line on to Curacao.

Whereas it had cost the government formerly around f.62.700.-to maintain the mail service with the steamship the ‘Princess Juliana’, the Administrator of Finance stated that the two-schooner service would cost the government no more than f.16.000,– per year. (In 1913, it cost the government f.13.500, — to operate the schooner ‘Estelle’.).

In a petition to His Excellency the Governor, the merchants of Bonaire complained that the ‘Estelle’ only called there once a month and although larger than the ‘Gouverneur van den Brandhof” was more uncomfortable, and that they had enjoyed the steamship service provided by the ‘Christiansted’ and the ‘Princess Juliana’ even though they had found it regrettable that the latter proved not to have been built correctly and was unsatisfactory for use in Caribbean waters.

Also the Court of Policy on Bonaire in a separate petition informed the Governor of their preference for a steamship company. According to a report from His Excellency the Governor dated November 5th, 1913, the ‘Estelle’ although a good sailor took from 7 to 8 days to travel to the Windward Islands, and that “first class passengers” actually meant sleeping in the dining hut and second class passengers had to sleep on deck, and that especially for the ladies in these “modern times” (1913 mind you), this type of transportation between the islands was not yet up to date.

Around 1914-1915 His Excellency the Governor started a lengthy correspondence with representatives of the “Ostasiatiske Kompagni” at Copenhagen regarding a service between the islands. The following is quoted from a letter to Mr. Berg at St. Thomas, representative of this company from H.E. the Governor dated 11 December 1915.

“Sir, On the third of July last Mr. Mikelson representative of the “Ostasistische Kompagni” at Copenhagen, called on me, introduced by Mr. Edwin Senior, agent of the Hamburg-Amerika Line. He informed me, that his said company had o.a. the intention to start a steamship communications between Denmark and St.Thomas and, in connection therewith, to cause a smaller steamer to run between the different West Indian islands and, if possible, also Maracaibo. As he had learned that the Government of this colony wished to have a steamship communication between the different islands of the colony, he asked me whether the Government would be willing to grant a subsidy if the islands were included in the itinerary.

I answered him, that if no steamer was bought in Holland for the navigation between the islands of this colony, his proposal might probably be accepted. I then asked him to make his conditions known to H.E. the Minister of Colonies at The Hague, to which he replied, that he ought first to consult the Management of his company in Europe.

H.E. the Minister, whom I had made acquainted with the matter, requested me lately, to enter into negotiations with you.” The agent at St. Thomas, Mr. H. Berg, responded to H.E. the Governor on 13th January 1916 as follows: “Sir,

We are in receipt of your highly esteemed letter of 11th December 1915, and have noted the contents with great interest. The East Asiatic Company, Copenhagen, for which we have the honour of being General Agents for the West Indies, have for many years maintained a regular service between Europe and St. Thomas with comparatively large passenger and cargo steamers, and lately also with Motor ships.

We are now placing before the East Asiatic Company your much honoured proposal, and shall take the liberty of reverting to the question in due course.

We beg, however to mention that, at the present time, it would be very difficult to secure suitable steamers for the service indicated, and owing to the scarcity of tonnage and high freights paid in the open market we would have to look for a big subsidy to keep up the regular service between the islands of your colony.

We beg to kindly state how large a subsidy you eventually could offer if we succeeded in providing suitable ships to do the service.” The steamship service referred to earlier was quite costly. For the period October 1905/1906 the government paid the Hamburg Amerika Line fls.20.000.-for the services of the “S.S. Christiansted.”

The”S.S. Princess Juliana” had cost the government fls. 160.000.-Due to poor construction it proved unsatisfactory for use in the Caribbean Sea and was shipped to Surinam for the river trade. It served a total of 26 months, from November 20th, 1910 until the end of 1912, and the operating costs to the government were fls.60.000.-per year.

After having been accustomed to some years of steamship service with the “S.S.Christiansted” and the “S.S. Princess Juliana” it was back to schooner services for the islands after 1912.

III

After 1912 the islands were back to schooner service. Shortly thereafter World War I started.

Although the Dutch Government was neutral the islanders were perceived to be sympathetic to the Germans. The owners of the schooners were mostly from Saba and were accused of trading with the German submarines. A newspaper from Guyana quoted Sir Winston Churchill of making that accusation. According to my old friend Elias Richardson, then a police officer on Saba, after the war one of the famous submarine captains Count Felix Graf von Luckner b. Dresden 9 June 1881, died Malmo Sweden, 13 April 1966 on July 7th, 193t, visited Saba to thank some of the old captains. I have a copy of an autographed photo of him which he left behind when he visited here in the nineteen thirties. He was known as the Sea-Devil and his crew ‘The Emperor’s Pirates’. He commanded a large three master schooner the SMS ‘Sea Eagle’ (1916-1917). He sunk many ships and caused no casualties.

Despite the war the Governor on Curacao continued to search for a solution to the transportation problem between the islands. In a letter to His Excellency the Governor dated 22 January 1916, the Administrator of Finance suggested that a subsidy of fls.30.000,– per year and at most forty thousand, should be sufficient to cover the costs of the mail service by steamship, as it now costs the government fls.15.000 per years for the schooner service.

In a letter dated 19th May 1917 from the Lt. Governor of St. Eustatius to His Excellency the Governor of the colony Curacao he indicated that they were becoming worried over the total dependency on St. Kitts and the fact that some of the ships calling there, among them the “Corona”, and one of the Canadian ships may be taken out of service. The Quebec Lines sailed between St. Kitts and New York with stops at Bermuda. This line was very convenient for Windward Islanders back then. Among those ships were the “Corona”, the “Perema” and the “Guyana.” In the Ellis Island records in New York harbour one can find records of many of the people from these islands who entered the United States through that port. Just as a curiosity. In doing research between the twenty odd million people who entered through that port in a fifty year period 99.9% of the Lejuez’ were from St. Maarten and the same goes for the Leverock’s of Saba.

The Lt. Governor of St. Eustatius quotes the “St. Kitts-Nevis Daily Bulletin” of Friday May 18th, 1917 as stating:

“The small islands of Anguilla, St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius all depend on St. Kitts for food supplies as steamers do not call at their ports. When our food stuff cargoes are short for want of grace, these islands also suffer by reason of this port being the distribution center.

The food question is becoming a very serious matter and if one of the United Steamships is taken off this route, the situation will become still more acute. We can quite realize the difficulties, which exist in the distribution of vessels of the merchant service but, we hope, that the claims of the West Indian Islands for protection from starvation will be given some consideration by the British or American governments.” In 1917 the Johnson Line from Sweden offered to do the mail service but nothing came out of that as well as several other offers including the Philadelphia Shipping Company.

In a letter dated 24th October 1917 from the Lt. Governor of St. Eustatius he informed His Excellency the Governor that the situation was getting worse. Captain Ben Hassell of Saba who had brought him shingles from Demarara had informed him that that country would no longer be exporting to these islands. Also, that the export of sugar (Sugar Prohibition Order 1917) had come into effect lately in St. Kitts and Nevis. Especially the muscavado sugar is sorely missed.

In a report from His Excellency the Governor dated November 5th, 1917 he stated that the Lt. Governor of Saba had recently been to Curacao on the schooner “Estelle” and that Saba and St. Maarten were not having any difficulties with imports from the British islands. He stated that Mr. Henry Hassell Johnson, one of the largest importers on St. Eustatius , was being refused goods from the British islands because he was known as being hostile to the entente powers. In other words he was a German sympathizer in World War I. On November 21st, 1917, the Lt. Governor of St. Eustatius denied that Mr. Henry H. Johnson was having any difficulties with imports because of his sympathy towards the Germans and that he, Johnson, had proven this to him. The problem was that St. Kitts itself was short on imports, but that small quantities of sugar were again being exported to St. Eustatius.

After much correspondence back and forth and proposals to have steamers of the Royal Mail Service do the run, the Minister of colonies decided in 1918 to have two schooners built for the purpose.

The Governor did not feel much for the proposal. Also there was a report from Mr. Jansen of the Curacao Petroleum Company (SHELL) which in 1915 had started a complex on Curacao which was to become the largest oil refinery in the world. Mr. Jansen said that the schooner “Estelle” which was a fast sailer had been giving excellent service to these islands. He suggested to continue with the “Estelle” until the war was over and then to build a steamer of 150 to 200 tons capacity with accommodations for 15 passengers.

His Excellency the Governor in a detailed report on March 16th, 1918, informed the Minister of Colonies in The Hague of the problems connected with the building of two schooners, and said that we could wait for better communications between the islands until the war was over. He further stated:” For the service to the Windward Islands we have an excellent schooner chartered the “Estelle” for fls.24.000.-per year. Although this is a privately owned schooner, in my opinion it is far better doing it this way and less costly than if the schooner was owned by the government. This service can suffice until after the war that a steamer can be built.”

The Minister of Colonies Mr. Pleyte did not give up that easy. In a lengthy report to Governor Nuyens of 2 April 1918 he complained about the high costs of hiring the schooner “Estelle” which had gone from f.1000.-to f.1.250.-and then to f.2.000.-per month in less than two years. He said that his offices could get the American government to release quality lumber for the purpose of building two large schooners. He also suggested that government officials visit the islands more often and that the two schooners, one servicing the Leewards and one the Windwards would also provide good inter-island communications, and that these two schooners could alternate in the once a month across the Caribbean trade between the two island groups.

On August 2nd, 1918 the Governor wrote back to the Minister of Colonies that indeed in normal times the price being paid to the owner of the “Estelle” would be considered high but he must remember the world was at war. He stated that the “Dreadnought” a sister ship of the “Estelle” and also belonging to Capt. Thomas Charles Vanterpool of Saba was being hired out to a Cuban for fls. 4.000.-per month.

He further stated: “I recently was requested by telegram to hire a schooner to transport corn from La Guaira. I could get two schooners about 200 tons each for f.10.000.- each for the trip, but the owners insisted that they should use the ships for themselves on the return. The “Estelle” nowadays could earn a lot more money than it is receiving as a subsidy from the government. However the owner lives on Saba and therefore prefers this run above other runs, whereby he would lose the opportunity to be often at home. In addition he is hoping to be able to keep his vessel on this run for as long as possible. If the government started to build its own schooners, then he would probably try to profit as much as possible from the opportunities now available and cancel the contract. This would bring us into great difficulties. At the moment we cannot do without the services of a ship which makes the trip between Curacao and the Windward Islands. Any moment Curacao can be the only place from which St. Maarten , Saba and St. Eustatius get their supplies. St. Kitts and St.Thomas on more than one occasion have prohibited exports whereby our Windward Islands found themselves in great difficulties.

“On January 18th, 1918 the Governor of the British Leeward Islands cabled me as follows: “Governor Dutch St. Maarten asks me to inform you that owing to prohibition of exports, foodstuffs from St. Kitts, situation in St. Maarten is very grave and famine is threatened. He asks you to send him immediately from Curacao a special vessel with food supplies. I deeply regret that owing to shortage of foodstuffs in these islands I cannot come to his assistance.”

“Fortunately the “Estelle” which returned here from the Windward Islands, could carry food supplies back, because there was no other vessel available at the time. For a period of several months Curacao supplied the Windward Islands with the most important food supplies, which worry us a lot because many times supplies here were also very scant. It was therefore of incalculable value that we had a vessel that could transport the required amounts each month.” So far His Excellency the Governor.

In the continuation of this article we will cover the period just after World War I when the schooner trade continued between the islands.

IV

On November 18th, 1918 the Governor of the colony Curacao wrote to the Lt. Governor of Saba in connection with plans to buy the schooner “Estelle” to enquire if there were any mortgages on the vessel. There were none. The “Estelle” had been purchased for Capt. T.C. Vanterpool by Capt. Engle Heyliger in Gloucester Massachussets. For tax purposes the sales price in 1906 was listed as being f.100.–. When Capt. Vanterpool sold the “Estelle” in 1919 to the government he did so for the sum of f.50.000.-.That was the going price in those days. About that same time in the old property registers we have a record of the purchase of the schooner the “Buena” of Providence Rhode Island. Capt. William Benjamin Hassell residing in Barbados acting as Attorney for his brother Abraham Hassell residing in Rhode Island, sold it to their brother John Clarence Hassell, on Saba. The sale took place on November 29th, 1920 for fls.40.000.-.The schooner was renamed the “Maisie Hassell”.

The Minister of Colonies authorized the purchase of the “Estelle” in a letter dated October 4th, 1918. The Minister again expressed his preference to have two schooners instead of a steamer.

On January 10th, 1919, the Administrator of Finance stated in a letter to His Excellency the Governor that, the day before, the notarial deed had been passed in which the “Estelle” had been purchased by government.

The Governor on January 29th, 1919, informed the Minister of Colonies of the purchase. He said that the deed of transfer would be sent up later, as it had been sent to Saba to be inscribed in the register of mortgages. He also stated that the former owner Mr. T.C. Vanterpool would continue on as Captain.

In 1918 the 2nd chamber of Holland of Holland bought a second schooner named the “Gladys”, which went ashore on a rock. The following schooner the “Anna” proved to be too slow. The “Estelle” which had been rented for fls.24.000.-per year, after purchase cost the government f. 50.000.-to operate, and after three years the schooner was sold for f.8.000.-

In January 1920, Governor Helfrick purchased the schooner the “Virginia” for the trade between the Windward Islands and St.Thomas. The Governor had said that it would cost between 75 and 80 thousand guilders to build a new schooner. The “Virginia” was sold to the government for f.40.000.-by Captain Abraham Mardenborough, who remained on as Captain. He was married to Ms. Ohney Wathey and they were the owners of the former lovely old wooden home opposite the Orange School on the Front Street of Philipsburg.

The “Virginia” had been built in 1917 in Curacao. It was 70 feet long, was 55 net tons and could carry 83 tons of freight. The “Estelle” was 105 net tons.

During the year 1919 and again in 1920 there was a lively correspondence between the Governor, the Minister of Colonies and the owners of the Royal Netherlands West India Mail Company, concerning the possibility of a steamship stopping at St. Maarten on the way to and from Europe, and a connecting service from there on to Curacao, while maintaining a schooner service between the Windward Islands and St. Kitts.

At the request of His Excellency the Governor, the Honourable Canton Judge Mr. F.G. Schalkwijk in a report dated January 6th, 1921, described his trip with the government owned schooner the “Estelle” from Curacao to St. Maarten . We include it, so that our readers of today will have some idea of what a journey from Curacao or vice versa meant back then.

“Your Excellency requested me to give a written report of my experiences and observations of my journey to the Windward Islands, where I had traveled to, in order to assume my post as Canton Judge.

I gladly comply with this invitation. Hopefully that in this manner I can assist to bring about improvements in a situation which a concerned administration can no longer allow to remain as it now exists.

We started our journey from Curacao in the afternoon of December 20th, 1920 and the 28th of December following we reached our destination St. Maarten around 12 noon. The weather during the crossing as a rule was rough, the last days in the evenings even stormy. The number of first class passengers was originally 14 of which one got off in Bonaire. These persons consisted of two families, each of three persons, four religious sisters (nuns), one female teacher, the writer of this article and his housekeeper.

Because of this large number, both huts, aft and stern, the cabin and the captains hut were all taken up for sleeping. As for the material care on board, the food in general was of good quality and not badly prepared. But it is served in the cabin which also serves as sleeping quarters. The bunks are hard, the sheets dirty; for the hand baggage there is no other place than the already packed cabin. The W.C. is in the immediate vicinity of the huts, but the sewerage system proved to be inadequate; the dirt is removed with difficulty and often the sea returns what has been given her gladly and with much trouble.

The lavatory is in the W.C. It consists of a washbasin with a fawcett and a bucket underneath.

A voyage with the “Estelle” need not be uncomfortable under all conditions. With several experienced passengers, and with good weather, a sailing voyage across the Caribbean can be an enjoyable experience. But the voyage is a painful experience when the schooner is filled to capacity with passengers of which all, myself the exception – are seasick and of which a great many have to spend the night in the same room – the cabin where the meals are also served.

I will spare Your Excellency the gory details of the filth, in the morning in the cabin, when the buckets of vomit were still not cleared and a high sea made the breakfast fly off the table, turned over the buckets and all of that swimming around the floor with the clothes and the handbags. I yoke when I think back on those scenes. (I too while translating and typing the Honourable Judges account).

One should also remember, that on a simple schooner as this, seasickness even with good weather is unavoidable, at least for ladies. Nearly all female passengers stayed the entire length of the voyage in their cabins.

There is also a factor which helps to dirty the “Estelle” quicker on a voyage, and which also causes this to be an unpleasant memory for all. I mean the facts that people of different sexes are forced to sleep in the same place; I shared the cabin with our housemaid, a religious sister and a young girl.

There is no question of prudishness. Seasick people do not have thoughts about sins. But the looseness of morals, which generally is the result of being together for a long time in surroundings without comfort, did not go so far, that in this case one could dress and wash up in the company of one another. Besides taking this out of consideration, with the continuous swinging and rocking of the vessel it is only possible for a born seaman, to go to the W.C. and to wash up properly.

One has to be contented with the inevitable, does not bathe, does not clean up oneself and eventually reaches his destination, tired because of sleepless nights, with dirty and soiled clothing, feeling in poor health because of constipation, which occurred to several of the passengers, as a result of the obstacles to do quietly that which nature calls on us to do daily.

Is it any wonder then, that in the hearts of many first class passengers eventually bitterness and resentment occurred against the Government, which in the matter of travel facilities show so little concern towards its servants?

How much damage do they suffer to their clothing and other goods, for which they are never compensated?

And yet we had no complaints, when we compare our fate to that of the second-class passengers. They consisted of several families of the masses (proletariat), in addition to three government passengers. They lacked everything. Accommodations for sleeping practically did not exist; the hold was such a cramped affair and dirty, so that nearly all preferred to spend the night on board in between the deck cargo. A W.C. did not exist, and the use of the one of the first class was prohibited to those of the second class.

In the first days the food here also left much to be desired; it appears that the government only compensates the captain with a certain amount of money for each passenger, but according to him, the amount granted is far from enough. Quality and quantity of the food improved though, after complaints were lodged from that quarter.

It appears to me that the Government cannot remain indifferent to the situation as outlined herein. I know from experience that an ocean voyage has its inconveniences. But from the moment that one knows, that with modern means of transportation the distance between Curacao and the Windwards can be covered in a few days’ time, a journey of nine days, in a schooner beating up against the wind, is felt as a personal injustice.

The Hon. Judge went on to give recommendations as to how the accommodations on the “Estelle” could be improved in the event the government could find no other means of transportation. He emphasized also the need and the importance to improve communications between Curacao and the Windward Islands.

The cook on board the “Estelle” was Fifteen (15) year old Diederick Every, great uncle of Lt. Governor Jonathan Johnson. I interviewed him sixty-five years later and will give his story sometime in future.

Lt. Governor Van der Zee, of the Windward Islands, also made a report on a voyage with the schooner “Estelle” and had the same complaints as His Honour the Judge. He concluded his report on conditions on board the “Estelle” by stating that: “I must mention that a pig is still walking around on the deck of the vessel.”

Both gentlemen though had nothing but praise for the crew who under these circumstances nevertheless managed to be extraordinarily helpful to the distressed passengers.

V

Voices were once again raised to the Colonial Authorities in The Hague as a result of the reports made by Judge Mr. F.G. Schalkwijk and Lt. Governor van der Zee.

People were once again calling for better transportation between the Leeward and the Windward Islands. Bear in mind there were neither airports nor airplanes flying in those days.

In 1920, the Government owned the two schooners the “Estelle”, 105 net tons and the “Virginia”, 55 net tons. The “Estelle” made a monthly trip to Curacao, while the “Virginia” made a weekly trip through the Windward Islands to St. Kitts and back. My cousin Carl Lester Johnson who lived on St. Maarten in the nineteen thirties used to tell me stories about Captain Abraham Mardenborough who used to own the Virginia. After he retired on St. Maarten he used to take a stroll up to the square in the afternoons. Lester told me that he had a gold pocket watch on a long gold chain. The boys would ask him “Captain Mardenborough can you tell us what time it is?” He then would go through an elaborate ritual to take out the watch and in an authoritative voice announce the time of the day and allow the boys to see his precious gold watch.

The Minister of Colonies in 1921 proposed to the Governor to allow first class passengers to travel via Trinidad and St. Kitts with steam service so as to make the trip more comfortable for them and to make more room available on the schooners for second-class government travelers such as policemen, military personnel and so on.

In 1922, the government was again looking at schooners, as in a letter dated August 2nd, 1922, a Mr. Lampe on Curacao on behalf of the firm D.C. van Romondt & Co., at St. Maarten was offering the Dutch schooner the “Cyril” for rent to government at the rate of fls. 1.250.-per trip. In a telegram to His Excellency the Governor, the Lt. Governor on St. Maarten Mr. Vander Zee, recommended the schooner “Champion” (97 tons) which was three years old belonging to Mr. David Nesbeth, for eleven hundred and twenty guilders per month. The “Estelle” had been removed from service, according to a letter from ‘Herrera Hermanos’, Bonaire, dated August 14th, 1922. They offered their schooner of 160 tons, the “Reliance” for f.1.000.-per month. This was a new vessel built on Bonaire which had made its maiden voyage in July 1920 and was describer as a fast sailer.

Also a Mr. Theodore F. van der Linde Schotborgh, owner of the 85 foot schooner “Carlota” offered his schooner for sale to the government for fls.40.000.-The schooner had been built on Curacao in 1912 by his father-in-law Rene Hellmund and was built from Indjo (Cohi) and Vera wood which according to him was far superior than vessels built in the United States of Nova Scotia. He said that he was also willing to rent it to the government for fls.2.000.-per month.

To give an idea of the number of offers available, there was also a letter dated Curacao July 13th 1922; Mr. C.B. de Gorter offered the Dutch schooner “Meteor” of 143.56 gross tons for sale for a sum of seventy three thousand guilders or fls. 1.900.-rent for a once a month trip to the Windward Islands. Also Mr. Netherwood on St. Maarten offered his schooner “Cyril” at fls. 1.250.-per month. The Lt. Governor of St. Maarten however thought that the schooner was too old and unreliable. Also a Mr. Arends on Aruba offered his schooner the “Aoemoria” at fls. 2.000.-per trip, and a Mr. Boom offered the schooner “Frieda” for fls. 1.300.-per month.

The “Ina Vanterpool” belonging to Capt. T.C. Vanterpool of Saba was the successful competitor in the tender for the mail transportation. This schooner remained in service until she was wrecked in a gale in the harbour of St. Eustatius on Wednesday, September 15th, 1926. The “Ina Vanterpool” was a three master built in Barbados by Capt. Lovelock Hassell of Saba and was sold to Captain Tommy for fls. 162.500.–. In 1927 we read in J.C. Waymouths book “Memories of St.Martin N.P.” the following; “News reached us on December 30th of the loss of two of our Island crafts – the schooners “Georgetown” and the “Express”.

The owner of the first was Captain Tommy Vanterpool of Saba who had already last year sustained the loss of the “Ina” on September 15th, while performing the same services as that of the “Georgetown”. The “Georgetown” went ashore at Nevis and the “Express” went ashore at Martinique.

My uncle Charles Herbert Simmons who was only 16 at the time was a sailor on the “Georgetown” went it went ashore on Nevis. The captain at that time was Capt. Herman Simmons. None of the crew was lost but it took several anxious days before news of his safety reached my grandparents on Saba.

The “Georgetown” was known as a fast schooner. In a race to St. Maarten from Curacao, Captain Samuel Augustus Simmons took the schooner there in forty eight hours. The schooner did not have an engine. This schooner was a 2 master Canadian schooner, around 60 to 70 tons. Capt. Randolph Dunkin told me that he had made one trip on the “Georgetown” which his uncle Capt. T.C. Vanterpool had purchased from Capt. Lovelock Hassell.

A schooner called the “Alice” which belonged to Mr. Hilivere Lawrence of Grand Case was chartered by Capt. T.C. Vanterpool to take the place of the “Georgetown” and left on January 9th, 1928 for Curacao. She made several trips but was not big enough for the trade, and then Capt. Tommy went to the United States to buy the “Mayflower.”

The schooner “Virginia” in the gale of 1928 broke her moorage and was never heard of again. She was anchored in St. Kitts and did not have anyone on board.

The “Mayflower” arrived in 1929 and was also equipped with an engine. She had two masts, was 190.27 tons and was 147 feet long. She had been built in Gloucester, Massachusetts to compete in the “Bluenose” races, but was not allowed to compete because she was built in the style of a yacht. She broke her bowsprit and both masts in 1931, to the North-East of Bonaire and was later sold to a group in Jamaica.

My uncle Captain Charles Reuben Simmons who commanded the “Mayflower” for Captain Vanterpool between 1928 and 1930 used to tell me that in 1929 he left St. Kitts with 375 passengers and 48 hours later landed them at Curacao. Once he managed to carry 460 passengers with the “Mayflower” on a trip from the Windward Islands to Curacao. He also took some cattle on board at St. Eustatius in case the schooner got becalmed he would then butcher the animals to feed the passengers. On return trips to the Windward Islands he carried as many as 100 people. The least amount of passengers he ever carried to Curacao was 110 from Dominica. Every fifteen days he would make the run to carry workers for the oil refinery there.

The “Three Sisters” a three master schooner which had been purchased by Capt. William Benjamin Hassell, in 1927, and was 190.76 tons and 115 feet long, took over the mailservice in 1929 and was the last of the Saba owned mail schooners to ply the trade between the Dutch islands.

The captain was Will Leverock of Windwardside. In Dr. Julia Crane’s book “Statia Silhouettes” my old friend Ralph Milburn Simmons had the following to say about his time on those schooners: “Then I got a job on the schooner that used to transport passengers to Curacao, what we call “moose boy” to attend to the passengers. Five dollars a month in those days. But five dollars was plenty money those days. There were no real tourists, just immigrants, immigrants. The schooner used to carry immigrants down to Curacao to find work, you see. So in between you might find a couple -’cause there was no steamers those days. In between then you would find a big shot then would be traveling’. Those schooners would belong to Tommy Vanterpool. I don’t know if you heard about him. He died in St. Thomas. He died in St. Thomas.”

“And then after that I learned how to steer a ship. And then there was another schooner named the “Three Sisters”, three masts. A ship came in one day while I was down there, in Curacao and they said they wanted some men. And I asked the captain – the captain was named Will Johnson, from St. Johns -and I asked the captain to let me stay off, and he told me all right.” Ralph had been dealing with me for so long in the politics that he gave the captain my name. It should be Will Leverock.

The “Three Sisters” ran an independent service and then was followed by the K.N.S.M. steamship service with the ‘Atlas.” The “Three Sisters” was lst off St.Croix in 1932 when she struck a reef. I remember being told by one of her owners, the late Mr. Carl Hassell, that they earned back her purchase price on her first run to Curacao with passengers and freight.

After the “Virginia” was lost, the “Diamond M. Ruby” a 2 master schooner belonging to Capt. R.T. Barnes of St.John’s village came up from Barbados and ran the mails between the Dutch Windward Islands. In the 1920’s the schooner “Johanna” belonging to Mr. David Nesbith of St. Maarten ran the mailservice for awhile. The Captain was first William “Paget” Simmons of Saba and after that Captain Bremer of St. Maarten . We have a copy of a petition dated St. Maarten , 9th July 1931, and signed by the leading citizens of that time addressed to the Honourable President and Members of the Court of Policy on St.Martin N.P. which reads as follows:

“We the undersigned long suffering islanders hereby express our hope that the Government will be convinced of the necessity of providing a subsidy to enable a line of steamers to call here fortnightly on their way from and to New York.

“We know that in the past we have been grievously neglected and our wishes disregarded; but we trust that the Government will on this occasion grant us our sincere desire.

“Steamship communication is now being maintained between Curacao and this island at great cost to the colony. This service so far as we can see could very well be dispensed with. Its tangible results consist in the transportation of a few passengers, packages and mails. The bulk of this business goes with the mail schooner “Three Sisters” and could be dealt with entirely by that vessel.

In presenting our plea for the subsidizing of a direct steamship service between New York and this place, we can confidently state that such a service would shorten by half the time now required for the transport of mails and cargo from the United States to the Netherlands Part of this island, while also serving to remove the great handicaps under which business is carried on here as compared with the French division. In fact the benefits derived would extend directly and indirectly to all sections of the community. The monthly service from New York now in operation only on a trial basis, and will doubtless in the event of a subsidy not being granted, be eventually withdrawn. We beg that the request embodied in this document be submitted to His Excellency the Governor with a plea for his favourable consideration. This petition was signed by about 75 influential citizens, many of them merchants from the Dutch side of the island.

We will continue next time with the service after 1931 and in which the K.N.S.M. played a big role and Capt. Gittens worked on some of those ships. He has promised to share his experiences with our readers on this interesting part of our history which the few old-timers would like to hear about one more time before they start their journey to the great beyond.

World War I and the Islands


Education on Saba in bygone years

The educational system as we know it today is quite different from what was available in former times. For a great part of its history since the island was settled by Europeans in the early part of the seventeenth century there were no schools at all.

In the year 1816 there was no public school on Saba when the Dutch took over the island from the English who had occupied it for some years. There were however some individuals who gave lessons to their own children and to the children of other family members and friends. When the historian M.D. Teenstra visited Saba in 1829 he observed that in the Anglican Church in The Bottom, that one of the members of the Council of Policy was also functioning as a schoolteacher and was giving lessons in the English language to about fifteen children. On June 1st 1836 the R.C. Priest Martinus Joannes Niewindt (born Amsterdam 17 May 1796- died Curacao 12 January 1860), who later became Bishop, visited Saba and said that few of the 1800 inhabitants could read or write. Niewindt could not communicate with the people as he was unable to speak English. In 1863 the Reverend Warneford of the Anglican community, reports that a Sunday and Day school would be established shortly. In 1857 in a letter we read that nearly all persons of Windwardside and The Valley (The Bottom) could read. In 1864 he writes;” I have much cause to be thankful for the good spirit evinced in this Island, and for the efforts which have been made to obtain from the Dutch Government an annual grant for the support of a resident minister and schoolmaster. Schools are all important here now, for the laboring class have newly received their freedom, and require to be instructed in the very first rudiments of Christianity. In 1867 he writes that the population of Saba was 1411 and that the attendance at the Anglican Church School was 30 boys and 25 girls. In 1948, the Rev’d. Francis W. Jenson, the then Rector saw the need for an Anglican Kindergarten. He at once contacted the Government, and was given immediate support. On January 5th 1948 the school opened with teacher Mrs. Ursula Dunkin who taught until 1968 and then had to leave to care for her sick mother and was replaced by Miss Esseline R. Simmons.

In a letter from Father J.C. Gast in 1854, a visiting Roman Catholic priest, he mentions that nearly all the white inhabitants in The Bottom and in the Windwardside could read and write. This sounds rather strange as in 1790 out of a population of 1400 there were only five (5) people on the island who themselves could barely read and write.

In Windwardside after 1844, Sarah Mardenborough gave religious lessons until 1873. She had converted to Catholicism. She taught the youth, took care of the church, helped the priests and took care of the ill. As a result she contracted leprosy but kept on giving instructions to the youth of Windwardside. She died on December 19th, 1903 at the age of 79 and is buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery in Windwardside. Much later in the village of Hell’s Gate, Mary Jane Johnson also taught children there. According to research done by R.C. Priest, father G.J.M. Dahlhaus, in a chronological history of education on Saba, he stated that Father Gast wanted to start a Roman Catholic School in The Bottom. The Anglican Church of course had their own school there which was a continuation of the school which Mr. Teenstra had observed in 1829 already.

In 1890 there was no public school on Saba. However a teacher residing on Saba was given a grant by the colonial government to give free education to the poor. At that time he had some thirty pupils. In 1878 there was a school in The Bottom with 41 pupils and two schools in Windwardside with respectively 33 and 54 pupils. These were the Anglican schools and a private school affiliated with the Roman Catholic church and led by Mrs. Gertrude Johnson born Hassell. Of course instruction was limited and was conducted in the English language the native tongue of all the inhabitants of the island back then.

There was a school in Palmetto Point (Mary’s Point) from 1919 to 1923. John H. Skerrit of Montserrat was the government teacher. Lt. Governor Van der Zee who visited the school in 1921 wrote that the school had 18 pupils, Because of costs the school was closed in February 1923.

Education back then was more geared to survival. The Navigation School of Capt. Freddie Simmons which existed from 1909 to 1922 provided lessons for teenage young men who aspired to a career at sea. The results of this school did Saba proud as close to 200 young men passed through this school and many of them went on to become famous captains especially in the merchant marine of the United States. The making of socks and gloves was an old home industry on Saba and was still being done in 1829. Socks were sold for fls.6.—per dozen and gloves for fls.8.—a dozen. These were made from cotton grown and spun on Saba. After the demise of this home industry, the people went over to the making of hats including high quality Panama hats. In 1857 the earliest mention of this was by the R.C. Priest Father J.C. Gast. He wrote that the plaiting of hats was the only general branch of home industry which is practiced here. The straw came from Cuba. As a result of the Spanish-American war in 1898 there was stagnation in the import of straw from that country. People then tried to import straw from Puerto Rico.

After 1890 the Dominican nuns propagated the making of straw hats in Simpson bay on St. Martin and on Hell’s Gate on Saba, and courses were given to all interested parties.

The late Mr. Volney Hassell who was blind from birth, in Saba Silhouettes gives us an idea of the importance of plaiting hats back then and the switch over to the drawn thread work. He lost his father in the eruption of Mt. Pelee in 1902. His father was mate on a schooner which was in the harbor at the time of the eruption. Volney describes two important home industries on Saba when he was a young orphan in a poverty stricken society.

“Ye see our hats? We got a nice press out there [Mammy] plait ‘em, she never sewed ‘em, only just plait it, ye see, with a pen knife. I don’t know in them times how the people got through, ye know, how ever they could ever get them entire strips as fine as that. She plait and she save up her money till she got to twenty – five dollars (Dutch dollars), and she drawed it and bought the press out of it, ye see. You know there used to be a woman here to learn ‘em how to plait ‘em from Holland. The Panama hat ,that is. We hired her our house there. She was there six months. We hired it for six dollars a month. Look, our old grandmother she would sit up at night. They’d strip the tire, you see. Well, I don’t know how they ever got them stripped, but they’d do it with a pen knife, you see, and strip ‘em fine. They’d make you a fine hat and a course one; one for we to have to wear on Sundays and then one, well, for the weekdays, for the working to carry the burdens on, you see. And she could sit there at night, and plait that without light, with eleven strands, we’ll say. And then she’d make we a fine one. You know anything about Panama hats? Well, that was almost next to them, what they called the fine hats. And she could set there to the end of the table and sew ‘em. And then you know what we’d do? We’d take ‘em and put the plait on the table and take a cup or a glass or anything and rub it down like that, you see, till it come smooth, and then they’d take the sulphur and put it into a barrel, and skein up the plait just like you skeins up rope, and put it on a piece of tin inside the barrel like that. And now don’t ask how white they’d come, but that would clearly take your breath, the sulphur. We never soaked it, we just put it o’er the barrel in the sulphur for it to draw it white you se. To draw it white, white, white, and they couldn’t be no whiter, you see. And then you had to light the sulphur, don’t you know, down in the barrel. The barrel never got burned. And after they was smoked, then they turned to sew them, you see.

“Well, then after then, well [Mammy] beginned with the Spanish work. And then in the late years she done plenty of the Spanish work, when she could get the chance, ye know, after she was done with all the work, and set up at night till ever so late and do the Spanish Work. Mammy was pretty old then. They’d send my sister Ruby in the States, the Spanish work, the drawn-thread work, and she’d sell it o’er there, and she’d send we the money like that. In them days that kept we up here, ye know.”

The so called “Spanish Work” or Saban Lace was introduced to the island by Mrs. Gertrude Johnson born Hassell (1854-1939) a young lady who had been sent to a convent on Curacao to study to become a teacher. It became the leading home industry in the 20th century. In the First World War as many as 250 women were involved in the making of drawn thread work. The population then was just over two thousand. Continuous lessons were given through the generations to keep Saba lacework alive. Mr. Eric A. Eliason wrote a wonderful account of the history of Saba Lace in his book “The Fruit of Her Hands”.

Dominican Nuns from Voorschoten on August 28th, 1905 opened a school in the “Upper town” in The Bottom in a small house belonging to Lovelet Hassell who had formerly given private lessons in this house. On October 1st, 1907 the school was recognized by the government and was eligible for a small subsidy. There were 40 students from The Bottom and 23 from elsewhere. In 1906 a new school was built at a cost of fls.5.000.—and inaugurated on August 16th, 1906. The two first nuns to come to Saba from St.Eustatius where they had been stationed were Sister Bertranda Geene and Sister Euphrosine van den Brink. In 1911 a new school was built in Windwardside. This building still exists. In 1905 there was a R.C. school run privately by Gertrude Johnson born Hassell (the one who had introduced the Spanish Work to the island) and her niece Peter Elenor Hassell. This school In Windwardside was taken over by sister Bertranda on October 1st, 1907. On January 1st, 1908 two more nuns were assigned to Saba. One of these nuns was Sister Winefrieda Graig. She was British by birth. She was born on 22 June 1869, in Birmingham, England. She died on March 6th, 1959. Her father was a merchant in Birmingham who sent his children to the continent to get a French education.

At the beginning of the twentieth century there was also public school education in Windwardside. Where Captain Quarter’s hotel was later established there was first a school and later a hospital. Later on in the building behind the Post office, there was a schoolroom. This later became the Public Library.

In 1910 the St.Joseph School was built and the “old school” in The Mountain was sold to Capt. Thomas Hassell. The new school was dedicated on June 22nd, 1911. Sister Euphrosine van den Brink was a pioneer in the building of schools. Because of the bad economic situation on the island there was some year’s as much as 62% absenteeism.

The Dominican nuns did much to further education on Saba. The last ones to leave the island in the mid nineteen seventies were Sister Agatha Jansen, Sister Bendicta Bisschop, and Sister Arcadia O’Connor and Sister Waltruda Jeurissen, the last two mentioned left already in 1974 and the first two mentioned left in 1977.

In Windwardside in 1935 a new school was built and in 1957 a new school was also built in The Bottom. I went to both of the old schools, which were wooden buildings, the old school in Windwardside, still standing, above the Rectory and the old school in The Bottom, former church, which was torn down to build the new concrete building. The building now used by the Department of Works, was used as a public school from around 1920 until 1973 when it was closed down because of the then small attendance. It was then decided to move the hospital on St. John’s to The Bottom and to start a secondary school there. In 1983 work was started at the same location and the primary school was transferred to that location as well. The schools in The Bottom and in the Windwardside were closed down. The children are now carried by busses from all over the island to the schools on St. John’s. The Bottom is now dominated by the Saba School of Medicine which was set up by Sabans, the Saba Government and Dr. David Frederick in 1988. It started out on a small scale in the old Roman Catholic school building. This building is now leased out by government and used as a hardware store and the one in Windwardside, built in 1955, is used as the Eugenius Johnson Center.

Of all the nuns I remember sister Arcadia the best. For the licks I got from her of course. She must have learned disciplinary tactics from the schools in Trinidad. V.S. Naipaul in “Miguel Street” in the account of his ram goat describes how the teacher soaked the tamarind stick used as a whip in water so that the lash would have more effect. Sister Arcadia would send one to cut a tamarind stick and then whipped you with it. She used as her threat “I am going to hit you a Peter Selie.” Once she threw her shoe at me from behind the desk. I ducked and Alton Johnson took the torpedo full smack in the face. She was a native of St. Maarten. Her brother, William O’Connor’s son Joseph Alphonse Constantine O’Connor was later my boss on St. Maarten. Those were the days and I think back on them fondly as I am writing this, even fondly of the “Peter Selie’s” Sister Arcadia doled out. Her shoe did not always miss its mark I can assure you.

The Church of
England in Saba

In June 2001, Ms. Ingeborg M. uit de Bos-van der Naaten, who was doing research on my ancestors in the National Archives in Holland, sent me a list of information which she had found. Among the list of documents she had consulted was one which stated that a meeting of “the English Church on Saba was held on July 23rd, 1763 to secure a salary to the Reverend Richard Davis for 3 years to be “Our Pastor”. A pledge was made to pay him 1250 pieces of 8 per annum.” In another note it states that “On October 5th of the same year, present at Vestry: Richard Davies.”

In 1777 the Rev. Kirkpatrick requested permission of Commander Johannes de Graaf to officially establish an Anglican Church on Saba. Permission was granted and thus the Anglican Church came into official existence, though from the aforementioned record, it was already in existence in 1763. Research indicates that the present Christ Church building in The Bottom was restored in 1777, after having been severely damaged by the great hurricane of 1772. Folklore has it that the doors of the Dutch Reformed Church on St. Eustatius were found close to my home in The Level on Saba in that ‘category five’ hurricane.

Although Dutch historians claimed that Saba was settled by the Dutch from St. Eustatius in 1640, there is reason to believe that the villages of Palmetto Point and Middle Island were already settled soon after 1629 by refugees from similar named villages in St. Kitts, after a large Spanish fleet captured that island. The Irish indentured servants, being Catholic, and allied to the Spanish, were allowed to leave and settle on other nearby islands. In 1665 a pirate fleet from Jamaica led by Edward and Thomas Morgan (uncles of Sir Henry Morgan) captured St. Eustatius and Saba. They dispersed the 57 Dutch settlers and their families to plantations in the English islands and took the African slaves back to Jamaica as booty. There were over 200 Irish, Scots, English and French left, besides two Dutch families of ten people, who remained on Saba as well as 70 or 90 pirates who had mutinied. From 1672 to 1679 the English again occupied Saba. Already in 1659 in a petition to the Dutch West India Company, the inhabitants had requested a clergyman who had knowledge of the English language.

The few Dutch colonists who came from St. Eustatius around 1640 built themselves a small settlement on the South side of the island above Fort Bay. This settlement was destroyed by a landslide in 1651. After this the surviving colonists came to live in the area which they had previously farmed. This area known as “The Valley” later became known as the town of “The Bottom” as the English thought it was the bottom of the crater. At the entrance to The Bottom there was a small church, behind the present World War II monument. The hill we call “Paris Hill” is referred to in old property records as “Parish Hill”.

In a bill-of-sale of January 21st, 1829 in the property bounds reference is made “to East old church place and the High Road.” We have reason to believe that here was located the “Church of Christ” of the Presbyterians started by the renowned Reverend Hugh Knox. He was born in Northern Ireland of Scottish ancestry and migrated to the American colonies. Ordained in 1755 Knox decided to propagate the gospel and was sent to Saba. On Saba he married Mary Simmons daughter of Governor Peter Simmons and his wife Rebecca Correa. He moved to St. Croix in 1771 where he became the teacher of the great Alexander Hamilton and inspired him to go to the colonies in the North which later became the United States of America. On March 19th, 1765 Reverend Knox made a now famous eulogy at his mother-in-laws funeral, a copy of which I have in my collection, and is probably one of the few great sermons preserved from that period in our West Indian history. Remarkably in 1792 a eulogy conducted for his young successor John Elsworth who died on November 22, 1791 at the age of 29 also survives and I also have a copy in my collection. The latter eulogy conducted in East Windsor Connecticut was dedicated to the people of Saba. It states that ;” After his return to the continent, he frequently expressed a cordial regard for you, as a people whom he sincerely loved, and whose salvation he ardently desired; and with whom had his health permitted, he would have chosen to have spent his days; and a grateful sense of those respectful attentions shown to him, and kindnesses received from you, and particularly from his Honor Governor(Thomas) DINZEY, and his worthy family, in whose family he lived, during his residence in the island.”

I mention this as although the Presbyterian Church did not survive they left an impressive record for such a small island and their members flowed into the growing community of the Church of England.

In 1791 when Dr. Thomas Coke of Methodist church fame visited Saba he wrote that there was a church but no preacher. Indeed during the first century of the Church’s life on Saba, it was unable to provide a resident pastor for the island, but the population remained actively Anglican.

When the Dutch historian M.D. Teenstra visited Saba on February 13th, 1829 he wrote that the only religious instructor on the island was John Toland a “Presbyterian”. In that Teenstra was mistaken. He states also that; “The Church building after the hurricane of 1772 has been completely rebuilt. In 1821 it was re-shingled. It is a square building, not very large, of which the solid walls are built of cut stone. The same building serves as Council Hall and school.”

John Toland was born on Saba. Dr. Thomas Coke in his history of the Methodist Church in the West Indies refers to a Toland as a Methodist missionary preacher in Tortola around 1790 to 1800. That could have been the father of our John Toland, as the Methodists were briefly active on Saba around that time and the name Toland is only related to John and his family on Saba.  The Reverend John Toland was married to Ann Louisa Rodgers of Antigua. They had four daughters and a son James Osborne Toland. James died May 12th, 1870 on Saba.  One of the daughters, Susan Rebecca, married Richard Robinson Richardson of St. Martin on July 22nd, 1835 and another daughter Annie married Abraham Charleswell Simmons Vanterpool and died in childbirth in Virgin Gorda.

I have a record of passengers arriving in the United States at the port of Washington, North Carolina, on the schooner “Eli Hoyt” in 1837 stating that the Reverend John Toland and Mrs. Mary L. Toland both age 57 were passengers. He had been to North Carolina in 1836 and served for one year as pastor of the Episcopal Church in Bath. Their children (should be grandchildren) accompanying them in 1837 were, Master James Toland age 14, Miss Rachel L. Toland age 12 and Master Hugh Toland age 8 and travelling with them was Master Thomas C. Vanterpool, age 8 a son of their deceased daughter Annie. The Vanterpools had been resident in Tortola before Saba so that Dr. Coke’s Toland could have been Hugh Toland, father of the Rev. John Toland. The Reverend died on Saba on December 4th, 1863.  We don’t know much about the North Carolina connection but we do know that Rachel died there in 1838 and that Hugh remained in the United States and married there and ended up on Staten Island and has descendants in the United States.

The church was served by a visiting Anglican priest from Anguilla from 1861 to 1878. As he kept good records much is known from him about his service to Saba. In 1867 he writes that the population of Saba was 1411. The attendance at the Anglican Church School was 30 boys and 25 girls. In a letter of 31 December 1867 he says: “I have also to express my great satisfaction at the Congregations in the Islands of St. Barths and Saba. I spent the last Sunday in the year on the latter island, on which occasion I had a full assembly at both Morning and Evening services. Indeed I may say I had a Congregation all Sunday night, far into Monday morning – for on that night at 9 we experienced a fearful shock of earthquake and in a few minutes the Governor’s House (Moses Leverock) was filled by a terrified crowd, for whom, after some order was restored, I prayed, and implored God’s merciful protection, and administered from time to time words of consolation to those ready to faint with fear, imploring them to put their trust in God. On Monday morning, I proceeded to the Windwardside, and held service as usual in Capt. John Hassell’s hospitable house, to a large assembly of attentive and fear-stricken people (for the Mountains still quake). I made my discourse applicable to the occasion and received 6 new communicants.”

On February 25th, 1878 the Holy Trinity Church in Windwardside was consecrated by the Right Reverend. William Waldrond Jackson, Bishop of Antigua. According to cannon law the Anglican community here falls under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Antigua.

In course of time, five Sabans have become Anglican clergy. These are: John W. Leverock, nephew of Governor Moses Leverock, Alvin Edward Simmons, both of the Bottom, Frank Hassell of St. Johns, Aldric Steeling Hassell of Windwardside, and Ivan Heyliger of The Bottom.

Saban Anglicans were also active in spreading the faith to other islands. The Anglican Church on Curacao was for a large part financed and built by Sabans, and also the church on St. Eustatus. Sabans would go there on weekends to help with the building and the priest on Saba still serves the Anglican community on that island. In 1977 the church issued a booklet with interesting historical facts which was written by Mr. Frank Hassell  who along with his sisters Norma and Bertha are the pillars of Holy Trinity Church.

The Church of England had 1500 members on Saba in 1874. However, with the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church on Saba in 1860 the numbers declined. In 1877 there were 1458 Anglicans on Saba out of a total population of 2072.The Anglican Church has lost its dominant position over the years since then, however the church still carries on and the remaining members of the church are as dedicated to their church as those who in 1763 got together to pay a salary to the Reverend Richard Davis, and may God continue to bless their work on Saba.

    “We love the place O god

      Wherein Thine Honour dwells

      The joy of Thine abode

      All earthly joy excels.”

The Church of
Rome in Saba

The Roman Catholic Church arrived rather late on Saba. In the Spanish period from 1511 until 1648 Saba fell under the bishopric of Puerto Rico. There is no evidence of the Spanish doing anything here as far as settlement of the island and with no settlers it goes without saying that there were no religious activities. In 1665 when the Jamaican pirates from Port Royal captured the island and left many of their men behind, we doubt if they had religion in mind as a safe haven but rather their piratical activities from this new base. The islands’ religions were the Presbyterians under the famous Dr. Hugh Knox (1755 – 1772), and then later on the Church of England which got permission in 1777 to build a church in The Bottom Saba. Before that Sabans had been making use of the Dutch Reformed Church on St. Eustatius. The Rev. Anthony Kowan baptized many Sabans between 1709 and 1736, and the Rev. Josias Jacques was stationed on Saba starting on November 18th, 1736 and remained here for three years. The Dutch Reformed Church never did take hold among English descended people. The Presbyterian Church of Christ building was located on the grounds of the cemetery behind the World War II monument in The Bottom. The great hurricane of 1772 destroyed it. Also the hill which people call Paris Hill was named Parish Hill after the Presbyterian Parish church at the foot of the hill. That name of the hill can be found in the old property registers. When the new Anglican Church also “Christ Church” was built the Presbyterian Church members joined the Anglican Church.

The first famous Roman Catholic priest Labat and companion of pirates visited Saba on Sunday April 27th and landed at 10 AM. He was received by the Commander Jacob Leverock who invited him for lunch at his home. Father Labat gave a good description of life on the island back then. He was also invited in to the homes of several French refugees. He describes as the main industry that of making shoes. He said he purchased no less than six pair of finely crafted shoes. His schooner also sold some hides to the islanders which Labat had purchased on Cow Island. Father Labat left on Monday afternoon April 18th, 1701.

In 1836 Msgr. Martinus Niewindt, the apostolic prefect of the Roman Catholic Church of the Dutch West Indian colony called “Curacao and dependencies”, visited the Windward Islands. Having been on Sint Maarten and St. Eustatius earlier, he now also wished to visit Saba. On none of these three islands was there a priest in 1836.

The advent of Roman Catholicism on Saba reads like an adventure novel. When Father Labat was on Saba in 1701 he did not have missionary intentions. Niewindt most certainly did. At the end of May, 1836, he arrived at Ladder Bay accompanied by Manuel Romero, a Venezuelan priest who had come to Curacao a year earlier as a political refugee. Niewindt spoke French and Dutch; Romero spoke only Spanish. The climb to the top led over piles of stone and between steep chasms. Having arrived at The Gap the pair was stared at perplexedly by the Sabans. Communication was not possible. Neither of the two priests spoke English, and the Sabans spoke no French, Spanish or Dutch. Finally a woman from Guadeloupe came forward with whom Niewindt could communicate in French. She led the two priests to the deserted home of an earlier departed Anglican clergyman.

On the following day, June 1st, 1836, the first Holy Mass by a Roman Catholic clergyman was said on Saba. Were there people then on Saba who considered themselves Roman Catholic? For more than a century no priest of that religion had been to Saba. Could those present have had the faintest notion of a difference in religion any more than the woman who took Niewindt to the home of the Anglican priest? Niewindt could explain nothing, and the woman from Guadeloupe was not sophisticated enough to understand. Niewindt had brought English catechism books along, and these he liberally distributed. Except for a few, the 1800 inhabitants were illiterate. After the celebration of the Holy Mass the people presented five children to be baptized. Niewindt happily obliged. The first recorded baptism is on June 1st, 1836 and the child was named Simon Peter a natural child of Peggy Dinzey.

After this the two priests set out, supposedly with a guide, along the Western flank of the mountain to Behind The Ridge and to Hell’s Gate which would undoubtedly have been a difficult but fascinating journey. Who could have suggested such a strange route to them? Late in the day Niewindt and Romero arrived at Windwardside where they received shelter in the home of Peter Hassell, an Anglican. Peter was the husband of my great aunt Esther Leverock Johnson. In his home another Holy Mass was celebrated the following day.

Niewindt writes that, “Curious girls peeped through the shutters when the ‘new priest’ put on his vestments”. From this one can again conclude that the people simply regarded Niewindt as the successor of the departed Anglican priest. Niedwindt could interpret nothing; there was not a single person who understood him.

Five years later in 1841 Niewindt succeeded in finding a pastor for St. Eustatius, at that time the most important of the three islands. Just as Saba was partly colonized by the Dutch from St. Eustatius in the 17th century, so it was from there that it received the Roman Catholic Church in the 19th century. Father Joannes F.A. Kistemaker from St. Eustatius visited Saba in 1843 and appointed Miss Sarah Mardenborough to give some religious instruction. Sarah became in fact the founder of this church on Saba and the Ecclesiastical Chronicle also refers to her as Apostola Sabae. She was born on Saba on February 19th 1824 as Sarah Catherine and baptized by Father Kistemaker on June 22nd, 1850. Her parents were Christopher and Maria Mardenborough-Hassell.  For 29 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 the 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 where she spent the night and remained until the ceremonies of Good Friday. In 1903 on December 19th at the age of 79 this remarkable woman died and was buried in Windwardside. In 1873 her work was taken over by Gertrude Johnson-Hassell who was a trained teacher. She taught in a private house. In 1898 a house was bought and used as school.

Saba had other dedicated women to the Catholic faith. Mary Jane Johnson worked in Hell’s Gate and Ann Elizabeth Johnson (Miss Sheshe) did ecclesiastical work from 1858 until her death at the age of 93. She was my great aunt and I sleep in one of her four poster beds. On a small island history has its personal side as well and is therefore interesting to me.

In 1850 the Catholic Mission (Prefecture of Curacao) bought a house at Windwardside to be used as a rest house and oratory. At that time the Anglican community had realized that Niewindt and his successors were not of their church. In those days with no politics the churches were at each other’s throats like differing political parties of modern times. A house that had been used by the church and which belonged to a converted Anglican, on his death, was inherited by a “Protestant” who after a barrage of rocks had been thrown at the house while Mass was being held, gave the Priest Father Gast a few hours to vacate the house as who knows it may have been torched. Families were torn apart with all the conversions going on. The Roman Catholic priest is claimed to have gotten no less than 90 converts in the week after the great earthquake of 1857 by telling the people that more would follow if they did not come back to the “true faith”. I heard this story from John William “Willie” Johnson who had heard it most probably from our great aunt Miss Sheshe. So I decided to check the baptismal records for 1857 and came up with 103 baptisms for that year. The largest number for those years, and so once again you cannot discount oral history.  This earthquake caused rifts in the earth and gasses escaped. Saba was no stranger to earthquakes back then. On February 8th, 1843 there was a serious earthquake with aftershocks the following days. I have an article from the New York Times of 1867 describing an earthquake on Saba and its consequences but that and other stories of natural disasters will have to wait for now.

Father Gast belonged to the Order of the Crusaders. He was reluctant to come to Saba where there were no Catholics and the population was hostile to the new religion. He was appointed in April 1853, came to Statia in January of 1854 and finally to Saba on March 6th and conducted his first baptism on June 2nd, 1854. The child John was born in the village of St. John’s on November 15th, 1853 and his parents were William and Sarah Hassell.  Father Gast wanted to build a church but was instructed to build an altar in his own house. In his first two months he got 32 converts.  After the Catholic children were not allowed into the existing private schools and pamphlets were spread against Father Gast, in August of that same year he started his own school and had 20 children and on July 2nd, 1854 he also started baptisms on Hell’s Gate. It wasn’t him. I am most sure it was Father Mulder. Rumor has it that my grandfather James Horton Simmons was the last Anglican holdout on Hell’s Gate. He was also fond of salted cod fish. Father Mulder supposedly asked him if a case of salt fish would do the conversion. Horton told him:”That will do it.” Horton had a set of daughters considered a liability back then. They could not catch a goat or fish on the rocks so Horton decided that the case of salt fish was a good enough offer and could keep his family going for awhile. That is the rumor mind you. I knew Horton but was too small to ask him such a delicate question.

In 1860 the Church of the Conversion of St. Paul was built in Windwardside. The plot of land had been the quarantine station for new arrivals to the island. The stones for the church were brought up by slaves from the Spring Bay, where they had been part of the building of a sugar plantation. Lime was used in those days in building up the walls, and because of that the salt in the lime is still a reason for having to paint the church quite often. In 1877 the Church of the Sacred Heart was built in The Bottom. Its present building in The Bottom is the third one and dates from 1934. In 1911 the Church of the Holy Rosary was established in Hell’s Gate, and its first wooden structure was replaced by the present one in 1962.

The work of the Roman Catholics was not without success. In 1878, 35 years after Sarah Mardenborough had begun; Saba had about 600 Roman Catholics.

Some of the well-known priests on Saba in the early history of the church were; Father Josephus Philip Thomas Kock born 29 August 1823 and died 19 August 1890. He served here 24 years and is buried in the vault next to the church in Windwardside, as well as Father Laurentius Mulder (b. 28 August 1843 died 3 August 1916). He served 25 years. Father Niewenhuis also served for 28 years, and Father Norbertus Matthias Joannes Petrus de Groen (b. 16 Aug. 1879 and died 1944) served on Saba for 21 years. The first church in Hell’s Gate was the work of Father de Groen. He was an old salt with wrinkled brow and rough hands. He was equally at home handling the rudder of the vessel he sailed from island to island as that of the vessel of St. Peter, or the reins of the horse on which he climbed the steep roads of Saba.

There are four priests buried on Saba. In The Bottom, Father Anton Jansen who died earlier this year, and in Windwardside, Fathers Kock, Mulder and Boradori. The latter was felled by a massive heart attack while giving Mass in the church at Windwardside and died on the altar with a full church praying in attendance.

The first Saban Roman Catholic priest to be ordained is the well-known Father Simon Wilson who became a priest on July 4th, 1976.

The church was also involved with our schools. In 1907 the Reverend Sisters of the Dominican Order arrived here from Holland. On October 1st 1907 the school was recognized by the Government. In 1908 a small convent was built behind the Rectory at Windwardside which building still exists. In 1911 the new school was opened in Windwardside which building is still in use as a Parish-Hall. In 1925 the present Rectory in Windwardside was completed and in 1955 the new school opened in Windwardside which is now used as the Eugenius Johnson community center.

The period of Dominican Nuns and Priests came to an end in the nineteen seventies. The only interest the Dutch seem to have in religion nowadays is to wage a Don Quixote style war against other religions like the devout Muslims.  The last years the church on Saba is being served by priests from the Philippines, the present priest being Father Dan Pastor. And a wish expressed in 1848 by the later Bishop Father Niewindt to the papal nuncio in Trinidad was realized in the nineteen seventies. Niewindt had asked to send some religious English speaking nuns to Saba. Nothing came of it. However when the Dominican Nuns left Saba in the nineteen seventies, Father Jansen was able to convince the Living Water Community of Trinidad later on to send people to Saba for the same purpose and they have been serving Saba and St. Eustatius these past years. And it would seem that the old antagonisms between the different faiths have been healed and there are harmonious relations between the different faiths.

May it continue to be so!

A history of a small West Indian Town


Two Eulogies (Rebecca Simmons-Correa and……..*


Donkey on wheels

Few people realize today what a sea change it meant for Saba when the first motor vehicle arrived on the island. Saba was at least 30 years behind the rest of the islands as St. Maarten already had two cars in 1914.The first car on St. Maarten was a Ford belonging to Louis A. van Romondt; some months later a second car arrived, a Chevrolet for Mr. A.C.Wathey, (Claude’s grandfather).

 On Saba in 1923 when a merchant imported a donkey from St. Eustatius to bring up his cargo from the Fort Bay to The Bottom the porters went on strike as they considered this modern form of transportation to be harmful to their ages long profession of bringing from a barrel of beef to a grand piano up on their heads from Fort Bay to all parts of the island.

 One aspect associated with bringing a motor vehicle to Saba which we seldom think about is the planning which went into how to bring the vehicle safely to shore. One has to remember that Saba at the time had no such thing as a harbor. On a calm day the Fort Bay was very rough in comparison to the Great Bay on St. Maarten. Also the road network only extended from Fort Bay to The Bottom and had only been completed on October 16th, 1943. Photo’s accompanying this story will serve to demonstrate the difficulty in unloading a vehicle in rough waters in the open sea and bringing it safely to shore. We do not even know who came up with the idea to lash two lighter-boats together and to place on top of these boats a wooden platform to hold the vehicle. Then the two boats on arrival in the heavy surf and rocky shore would have to be turned around to take the pounding of the waves. Two hastily placed wooden ramps would be placed against the boats and the vehicle with driver already in place would make its descent into the rocks and assisted by boatmen and other volunteers would be hauled up through the rocks to a dry spot under the cliff. Miracle of miracles, between 1947 and 1974, after which motor vehicles were landed on the pier, a couple of hundred motor vehicles were landed without major incident in this fashion.

 Many stories have been told about the first JEEP’s arrival and the impact it had on the population. In 1947 Saba had a population of 1150. The islands maritime tradition was long behind us. The Captains and their families from The Bottom, St. John’s and Windwardside had migrated to Barbados, Bermuda and the United States in the first thirty years of the twentieth century. Shortly after that people started going to Curacao and especially Aruba. A good number of those who lived here in 1947 had never even been off-island and had certainly never seen such a thing as a motor-vehicle a so called “donkey on wheels.”

 Formerly the Lt. Governors kept a sort of daily journal. The arrival of the Jeep was of such importance that then Vice Lt. Governor Max Huith (the title of the job back then “Onder Gezaghebber), carefully noted down enough of the event that we can enjoy reading about it today. The event was that important that the Lt. Governor of the Windward Islands came along with the M.S. “Kralendijk” to obviously be a part of Saba’s history. He must have realized that Saba would no longer be the same in the future.

We quote from Vice Lt. Governor Max Huith’s Journal:

Monday 17 March 1947;

 This afternoon at around 5.15 pm, arrived with the M.S. “Kralendijk” from St. Maarten Mr. P.H. van Leeuwen, Lt. Governor of the Windward islands, R.J.Beaujon Jr., Director L.V.V., Drs. J.H. van Boven, Director of the Department of Social and Economic Affairs; Mother Vicar of the Dominican Nuns; Mother Prioress Sebastina Fay, Mother Vicaria Candida, and Prioress Amalia.

 On that same occasion a JEEP, coming from the Department of Public Works on Curacao and destined for this island arrived. In the afternoon the necessary preparations were made in connection with the unloading of this means of transportation.

 After having welcomed the Lt. Governor, those who had arrived went to The Bottom, where, at the home of the undersigned, refreshments were served.

Tuesday March 18th 1947;

 At 6.30 AM went to the Fort Bay, to try to get the “JEEP” rolling. In the beginning the motor refused to start, so that the undersigned went back to The Bottom by horse for discussions with the Lt.Governor of the Windward Islands. In the meantime the Captain and the Engineer of the M.S. “Kralendijk” had worked on the JEEP, and finally for the first time in the history of Saba, a motor vehicle was driven via the Fort bay road over the roads of The Bottom. The enthusiasm of the people, especially the children, was great. It is a pity that mentioned JEEP before being shipped had not been thoroughly checked by Public Works. It became apparent that the gasoline line was blocked; gasoline pump did not function; the lights did not work; battery empty and handbrake not working. All of this, according to the Captain and Engineer of the M.S. “Kralendijk”. Also Mr.R.J. Beaujon Jr., Director of L.V.V. who in connection with the “refusal” of the JEEP had made a special trip from The Bottom to the Fort bay, has also observed these defects.

 In the course of the morning the Governments special breed chickens were visited. In the afternoon discussions were held with the Lt. Governor of the Windward Island and the Director of Social and Economic Affairs and Director of Agriculture, Stock raising and Fisheries on a number of subjects. In the late afternoon the new road between The Bottom and St. John’s was inspected by the Lt. Governor and the undersigned. The Lt. Governor expressed his satisfaction with this road.

Wednesday March 19th, 1947:

This morning at around 8 o’clock Lt. Governor of the Windward Islands and entourage left with the M.S. “Kralendijk” to St. Eustatius. They were accompanied by the undersigned to the Fort bay. At 9 o’clock back to The Bottom and carried out office work. In the afternoon the schoolboys from The Bottom were given the opportunity to take a ride in the JEEP through The Bottom. These children were overjoyed when for the first time in their life they were privileged to experience something like this. “Look how fast the trees are passing us,” one of the children shouted. “Who would have thought this”, said an old lady, who begged to be taken for a ride also. The boys were given turns in groups of five or six. This is the extent of what the “onder Gezaghebber” had to tell on the arrival of the first JEEP on Saba. Mr. Oliver “Ally” Zagers of Hell’s Gate who had learned to drive while working in Bermuda had the privilege to bring the first motor vehicle on shore. In 1938 when the road to The Bottom from the Fort Bay was started, the three labourers who broke out the first steps were my grandfather James Horton Simmons, “Lee Thomas” Hassell (Senator Ray Hassell’s grandfather) and Norman Hassell the latter who is yet among the living. Today there are nearly 900 motor vehicles of all kinds on Saba. The motor vehicles made a great change in the life of the people of this island, which in many ways has been a blessing and in others a curse.

 In my book “Tales from My Grandmother’s Pipe” I tell the story of my first experience with the JEEP. I had heard the bigger boys’ talking about what I thought was a new SHEEP that the Government had ordered. As can be seen from Mr. Huith’s Journal the highlight of the Lt. Governor’s visit was to pay a courtesy visit to the Governments new chickens, so that a new sheep would have not been unusual.

Anyway on arrival in The Bottom I saw at the Government Wireless Radio Station some sheep grazing which was not unusual. The Bottom still has issues with goats grazing. I was not at all impressed with the sheep. We had bigger ones than that at home. That is until we got down by the Anglican Church and Mr. Huith had decided to inspect the new road being built in the direction of St. John’s. Well you can imagine the terror of hearing the motor and seeing this “donkey on wheels” headed in my direction. Jet plane could not overtake my flight to the nearest mango tree and in between my tears I saw Mr. Huith and his machine which I had mistaken for a sheep flying around the corner.

 People from other islands made fun of us of course. They said that people had brought packs of grass for the JEEP to eat and so on. For people in the other villages like Windwardside it took some years before they saw the JEEP. Old people who could not get around and had never been off-island and in some cases had never even visited another village, had to wait until Calvin Holm broke down the Governments barrier and rode the first Jeep into Windwardside in 1952, and so there was no official ceremony. Calvin made it as far as where the Big Rock market is now and had to back up all the way to Over-the-Peak before the alarm was sounded to the Police Station in The Bottom that Calvin had broken the barricade and had driven into Windwardside illegally. For the Government a problem but for us young boys Calvin had made our day. In the beginning we used to think that the only motor vehicles in the world were JEEPS. Following that one of the Governments, Arthur Anslyn brought in one from Aruba, and also Alvin “Bobby” Every, followed by a JEEP pickup for the Government to help bring materials for the road and then Mrs. Elaine Hassell (wife of road builder Lambert Hassell) brought in a NASH car. In 1953 until 1955 when I left the island for school on Curacao I still had to walk to and from school in The Bottom. It was only in the last few months of school in 1955 that we could catch a lift with the Government’s pickup. Some years ago when I was Commissioner I had much trouble getting money out of State Secretary De Vries to buy some new school busses. Every day it seemed that more forms had to be filled in and questions to be answered. Finally as to why we needed new school busses, I informed the State Secretary that the donkey which transported the children to school had died of old age and that we wanted to go over to a more modern form of transportation. Well it was not too long after that, five brand new Toyota “Donkey-on-Wheels” arrived on Saba to transport the schoolchildren. And so now you know.

Rebecca Levenston-Jones,*


Hosting Jackie Kennedy

My diary of March 22nd 1978 has only one entry, but one entry of that kind is enough. It reads as follows:

“Mrs. Jackie Kennedy-Onassis, accompanied by her son John Kennedy, her daughter Caroline Kennedy and nephew Mr. A. Radziwill visited Saba. The Kennedy children stayed overnight at Captain’s Quarters Hotel.

Mrs. Kennedy went back in the afternoon. I drove her around. She came to my home in The Level and had iced-tea and a chat with Lynne. Mrs. Kennedy is a nice lady and we had a very nice day with her, and the people of Saba were very happy to see her.”

As there was a lot more to the story than just that, let me share the experiences of that day with my readers.

I received a call late in the evening of March 21, 1978, from Mr. Robbert Volgers of Windward Islands Airways asking if I could host an important guest the next day. I was Commissioner but had also been Acting Administrator for nearly a year.

As there was no Administrator, I was pretty busy. It was a difficult year for me, but a rewarding one.

I got a lot done for the island and was able to submit many projects for financing which are now monuments on the island. I had also just completed my new home some months before and my family was expanding.

The guest was Jackie O, better known to us on Saba as Mrs. John F. Kennedy, former wife of the late President, one of the few United States Presidents who enjoyed great respect in most countries. She was accompanied by her children John Kennedy Jr., Caroline Kennedy and her nephew, A. Radziwill. Mr. Volgers came along too, of course, and Police Chief Osmar Ralph Simmons accompanied us for the day.

Old timers say that “Tell-a-Sabie” is faster than using the telephone. I guess Mr. Volgers had made a few other calls besides the one he made to me, as there were loads of cars on the way to the airport, when I went to pick her up.

When she arrived I could see by the look on her face that she was not expecting a crowd of people to be on hand to welcome her. I therefore tried to spirit her away as quickly as possible.

Since I had just moved into my new home at The Level, I had arranged for her to have tea there and plan the rest of the day.

I remember her admiring the cabinets in the kitchen which were locally made. My wife Lynne recalls that Mrs. Kennedy commented on how blue the Caribbean Sea was and she compared it to the Greek islands of the Mediterranean sea.

The children went diving so we decided to go first to Captain’s Quarters Hotel and have lunch there. At the hotel it was pure chaos. The ferry “Martini Bianco” was in port with 150 Venezuelan tourists on board.

They all descended on the hotel upon hearing that Mrs. Kennedy was there. They just stood around our table gaping at her and taking pictures.

They were shouting out to her how to pose, and wanting to have a photo taken with her. I tried to give her some privacy, but it was impossible.

Restaurants were scarce at that time, so we had to stick around and suffer through it. Had I known I could have asked her to lunch at my place, but my children were small, Teddy was three and Chris only six weeks.

When lunch finally was served a local man in his cups rushed our table and, in his enthusiasm to show the crowd that he could kiss Mrs. Kennedy, nearly overturned the table. Now you done know. At that point I suggested to her that I would take her for a drive.

On our way to The Bottom, I decided to take her to a house on St. John’s belonging to Lindsay and Claire de Mambey. From their swimming pool there is a spectacular view of The Bottom. The late Eugenius Johnson was tailgating me. I had to make a sharp turn on the road leading up to Crispeen.

My indicator lights were not working. Eugenius, God rest and bless him, is lovingly remembered for his many skills and contributions. Driving was not one of them. Eugenius’ philosophy about bumpers and fenders was that they were only attached to the car to protect the engine. In his way of thinking it was only natural to use bumpers and fenders as much as possible on the walls of Saba to protect the engine. The consequence of this was that I crashed the Administrator’s car into the wall. It shook up Mrs. Kennedy, but I reversed the car out of the wall and continued on up the hill.

In the meantime Eugenius continued on to The Bottom unaware of what had happened. The Administrator’s car was not in the best of conditions anyway. It was an old white Toyota Corolla and had seen better days. When we arrived at the house, I assured Mrs. Kennedy that there was no need to worry.

I tried to let her remain there for a while, so that she could enjoy the great view and the privacy as well. In the meantime we were running out of time. We had to get back and check on the young folks. They had returned from diving and had decided to go up the mountain. I took her up the mountain road as far as she could go and for her to have some privacy. We sat there talking while waiting for the children to come down the mountain. I think she enjoyed that part of the day. I had instructed Major Simmons to ask people to stay at Banana Gut and not to come up the steps so that she could have some time to herself.

Time dragged on and I could see that she was concerned. I assured her that the children would be fine and that they were accompanied by the dive masters and a policeman. She, however, was concerned about getting back to St. Maarten as she was staying at La Samanna Hotel and had an important dinner date there. She asked me if I would take care of them and send them over the next morning. I told her she could trust me with that one.

Everywhere we went crowds of people were there to see her off. I apologized to her and told her that since the island only had 1200 people, they had all seen her. I also told her that people loved her husband. By that time, having been in an accident together we had become familiar to each other. I detected a hint of mischievousness in her eyes when she smiled and said to me;” You mean Mr. Onassis? I wanted to say, “Of course.” But as a good host I acted embarrassed and said, “No Madam, I meant President Kennedy.” At the airport there were crowds of people there to see her off. She got the same reaction from our people as Her Majesty the Queen gets when visiting the island.

After saying goodbye, and as she was about to enter the plane, she came back to me and put some money in my pocket and said; “I hope that will be enough to take care of the hotel.” Later when I checked my pocket after the plane had taken off I felt like the customs officer in Paris. He had once paid a ten dollar fine for Mr. Aristotle Onassis who did not carry cash money with him and needed to pay for something or the other. The customs officer told the press that he wanted to tell his grandchildren that he had paid a bill for Mr. Onassis.

Well, now that I have grandchildren of my own, I can safely tell them that the sixty dollars in my pocket could not go far. Lucky that I had complete charge of the government back then. My salary was only NAf. 600 per month, and then as still now, the Windward Islands Bank had my house mortgaged, I could not afford to take on any extra bills for the rich and famous.

Mr. David Harden was the operator of Captain’s Quarters at the time. He claimed, by the way, to be 63rd cousin to Queen Elizabeth II, twice removed. Despite those impressive credentials, he too was in a financial bind. So he and I decided that the Government of Saba, perennially cash strapped, would host the Kennedy children, for the difference. I asked the police to keep an eye on the hotel that night and got them off safely the next morning. I remember having had a very interesting conversation with Mrs. Kennedy’s nephew. He was quite mature in his thinking and asked intelligent questions about the island and its history.

People claimed that John Kennedy Jr. had returned to Saba some years later to dive. I have no proof of that and Glen Holm of the Tourist Bureau also is not certain if as people claim that he did return. When John Kennedy Jr. was lost in the plane accident in 1999, to be honest I was very upset. I had been responsible for him and his sister. I had great hopes for him when he started his career.

Regrettably he was all too young when he died. I only have a photo of that day in which you can only see my elbow. There were so many taken that day, but

I was too busy taking care of the lady. Considering everything surrounding the Kennedy family, I thought my readers would be interested to hear about my day with Jackie Kennedy.

And boy, I am relieved that I have been able to unload the story of the accident on my readers. All these years I have been embarrassed to have been the cause of that accident. Now that it is out in the open I feel relieved. I balanced out the accident in my mind though, with the good discussions I had with the lady on the step road leading up the mountain.

When I was a boy on St. Maarten there was a lady on Backstreet who used to sell peanuts. She advertised them as useful to “crack and converse” and that became her nickname. We did not have any peanuts, but Jackie and I “cracked and conversed” to our hearts’ content. So much so that she could tease me on the way to the airport about the accident and that, perhaps, I had meant to tell her that Saba people admired Onassis. At that time I had not yet read “Het Teken van Jonah” by Boeli van Leeuwen who did not have any flattering comments about her marriage to Onassis.I would have never drawn that to her attention, though.

And so life on a small island does have its benefits at times when a simple island boy like myself can “crack and converse” with the rich and famous and have fond memories of it as well.

Capt. Matthew Levenston*


Capt. Randolph Duncan*

Captain Randolph Dunkin, known to all his friends as ‘Rannie’, was born on Saba on December 27th, 1907. His mother was Mary Dunkin from Below-The-Gap. He was born in old Capt. Will Simmons’ home, which coincidentally now belongs to his nephew former Lt. Governor Wycliffe Smith.

Randolph’s father was Captain Ernest Vanterpool, a member of the family which produced several captains and owners of schooners.

Randolph went to school in the building where the Housing Foundation is now located.

His teachers were Sister Euphresine and Sister Georgine. Randolph also had four sisters on his mother’s side of the family. One of those sisters was the well-known Mrs. Ruth Smith a great Christian, volunteer social worker and so on. He started sailing in 1923. He left here with “Gardy” Hassell on the “Cyril” a 60 tons schooner which belonged to Mr W.H. Netherwood of St. Maarten. This schooner was lost on a reef, after a hurricane season, coming out of the Oyster Pond.

He then started sailing on the schooner the ‘Virginia’. This schooner was owned by Captain Abraham Mardenborough and later sold to the government with Captain Abraham still in command. Captain Abraham was married to Miss Ohnie Wathey and they had a lovely old time mansion on the Front Street in St. Maarten. It was located on the beach across the street from the ‘Oranje School’.

Later on Randolph went to sail on the “Ina Vanterpool’ a large three master schooner which belonged to his uncle Captain Thomas Charles Vanterpool. After that he went to sail on the ‘Thelma’ a schooner owned by Captain Aldrick Dowling of St. John’s. That schooner used to trade with Barbados and St.Thomas but also went to other places in the Caribbean. He later sailed on the large schooner the “Three Sisters” owned by Captain William Benjamin Hassell and his brothers.

When he started sailing he started out as a cabin boy and went to the islands around Saba like St. Kitts and St. Thomas. He went to Barbados on a trip with Capt. Will Leverock on the “Three Sisters” to put her on dry-dock and remained there for 15 days. They left here on a Monday and arrived there on a Friday morning. All the boats mentioned so far were strictly sailboats.

The motors only came with the large 145 foot schooner the “Mayflower” in 1929. This vessel was a large 2 master and belonged to Captain Thomas Charles Vanterpool. Her captain was Reuben Simmons of Hell’s Gate. The schooner broke her bowsprit and both masts in 1931, to the North-East of Bonaire. She went to Bonaire, towed there by the Dutch Man-O-War the “B.K.” There she underwent the necessary repairs and then sailed to Curacao. Captain Tommy sold her to someone in Jamaica and that’s the last anyone heard of her. The “Thelma” went ashore in Tortola in the thirties. The “Virginia” in the gale of 1928, broke her moorage and was never heard of again. She was anchored in St. Kitts and did not have anyone on board. Captain Mardenborough was not on that trip. Captain Conrad Richardson was captain at the time. Randolph used to sail once a month to Curacao with the “Ina Vanterpool” and the “Three Sisters”. The “Mayflower” made the trip every two weeks. He sailed with Capt. T.C. Vanterpool and Capt. Reuben Simmons mostly. Captain Reuben was not there the time she broke her masts, Luke Vlaun was the captain.

Later on he went to Curacao to work for the SHELL oil company, on boats bringing crude oil from Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. This he did for about one year. Then he went to Aruba where he worked for ESSO for two years on Lago’s oil fleet. He came back home to Saba in 1939.

Before that time, in 1932, he owned a sloop named the “Nautilus” which he bought from Granville van Romondt for fls.1.250.—.She got lost between St. Kitts and Statia in 1934. The wind just came up strong and rolled her over. They had a flat bottom 9 ft boat on board. He and his brother Garnet Hughes rowed into Statia to get help. They left William James Linzey and Hilton Whitfield on the upturned wreck.

This accident happened at 10.30 pm, they arrived in Statia at 1 am at the Police Station. They picked up two boats and accompanied by police officer Van Zanten they headed back to the wreck. They had lights with them. Randolph was in one boat and Garnet in the other. Hilton saw the light and gave a whoop. According to Captain Randolph, Hilton and Jamesy looked like two wet rats. They got back safely into Statia on a Saturday morning.

In 1939 on his return to Saba he bought the “Energy” a “cobalt” Tortola boat, one mast. He bought it from J.A.W.Georges, a Tortola merchant for US $300.—He had that sloop until the war was declared and then he sold her to the government for fls.900.–. He then went back to Aruba and worked there until he returned to Saba in 1946.

He bought another “cobalt” named the “Eden” in 1946 from Edward Tutt in Tortola. He paid U.S. $1,300.—for her and owned her until 1959, then he bought the much larger “Santa Lou” from Blanche Potter in Tortola for US $ 4,600.—

Capt. Randolph was also shipwrecked on the sloop the “Bertha Johnson” which belonged to the Magras family on St. Barths. He went to St. Kitts and loaded with 120 sheets of asbestos for St.Barths. He left the “Eden” in St. Barths and took the “Bertha Johnson” and was on his second trip to St. Kitts when he got lost. The sloop had been built by Stanley Johnson in St. Eustatius.

This accident happened on the night of June 21st, 1949. All of his crew was lost. They were William Wilson, married to Rosalie Wilson, they had 7 or 8 children. Peter Linzey, brother of Maude Linzey. He was married to Christine a sister of Capt. Randolphs, and they lived at The Gap, and Desmond Levenstone, a bachelor.

William Wilson and Peter Linzey were the grandfathers of our present State Secretary Mrs. Amelia Nicholson, born Linzey. Only Randolph survived. According to him it was a squally night ,and then suddenly a thick squall loomed up out of nowhere. He decided to put in at Sandy Point. While going in, rain came in to the land. He put the helm into the wind, and she turned right over, about one and a half miles from the shore and within 2 or 3 minutes she sank. Desmond, Peter and Page got out from between the rigging. Randolph and Page were swimming on oars. He called out to the others. They continued to swim and call out to one another. After a while Desmond and they did not respond. Page was fully clothed, and then all at once he said he couldn’t hold out any longer, and just took in water like a bottle and sank away to his death in the depths.

After awhile Randolph’s foot touched the sand. He continued swimming in the dark until he felt his belly touch the sand. He had landed around Belle Tape Point, North of Sandy Point. He started swimming from around 10.30 pm and arrived at the Police station at 1 am. He walked along the beach and into Sandy Point by the bakery in front of the Police station. Right away Sergeant Bridgewater called on the telephone to town, but not until the next day at 10 am did the police boat leave Basseterre to look for survivors, but nobody was found. The police sent a cable to Saba to inform the families.

I was only a boy then, but I can still recall how upset people were over this calamity. Then people here had compassion for one another, more so than today.

Randolph sold the “Eden” to Capt. Charles Barnes who lived in St. Barths for US $2,000.—plus he got $1,000.- to buy the motor for the “Santa Lou.” He owned the “Santa Lou” from 1959 to 1966, and then lost her in Anguilla. She was a total loss. This happened on the 2nd day of January 1966. James Anthony Simmons was with him. She brought up to shore with engine, sail and everything. This happened in the night and as the beach was so white it was difficult to estimate the distance to shore. The vessel was a total loss and he had no insurance.

He then bought the ‘Roselle’ another sloop in Dominica from MacLawrence. He paid $13,500.—BWI for her. In 1973 he sold her to Max Nicholson who later sold her in the Virgin Islands.

Randolph’s main run used to be between Saba and St. Kitts, but he made three trips to Puerto Rico for cement, 500 bags a trip which took all of 8 to 9 days in going and coming. He was a banker, a mailman, and used to withdraw money from the banks for people here and make deposits as well. Sabans then used to bank their money with the Royal Bank of Canada and Barclays Bank on St. Kitts. Saba merchants used to deal with John Gumbs (married to three Leverock sisters from Saba. Yes all three, not together, but in some form of succession.), Sahelie and other general merchants such as S.E.L. Horsford and company which was a lumber company.

One of the boats built on Saba which Randolph remembers was the ‘Augusta” built here by Horton and registered in Tortola.

He also remembers making a trip on the ‘Georgetown’ a 2 master Canadian built schooner around 60 to 70 tons which belonged to T.C. Vanterpool. She was first named the ‘Olympic’ and belonged to Capt. Lovelock Hassell who had moved to Barbados. She went ashore in Nevis in 1928, the Captain was Herman Simmons who had moved to St. Maarten and lived on the Front Street. The ‘Alice’ belonged to Hilvere Lawrence of Grand Case St.Martin. She was a two master schooner and was rented by the Vanterpools. She made several trips to Curacao but was not big enough for the trade.

Then Captain Tommy went to Maine to buy the ‘Mayflower’. I did this interview back in 1984 and it seems like yesterday and I wrote then: “Captain Randolph still likes to sail and he goes up and down with Al and Eddie Hassell on their cargo boat the ‘Brianne C.’ I recently made a trip with them to St. Eustatius to attend the funeral of Mr. Vincent Astor Lopes. Randolph was in the Captains Chair and at 76 he is still quite active.”

During his many years as Captain between Saba and St. Kitts he proved to be of great service to our people here on Saba. In 1976 he was decorated by H.M. the Queen for his outstanding services. A small isolated place like ours needs heroes of our own that our young people can look up to. Randolph, in our opinion, is a hero worth looking up to.

His son Willis recently passed away on Curacao. His daughter Paulette is alive and has lived all her life on St. Eustatius. He has a number of grandchildren and great grandchildren on Statia. One of his grandsons was former Commissioner Neuman Pompier. He also has a niece Mrs. Marie Senior-Hughes living in Windwardside and of course his nieces Shirley and Yvonne Smith as well as Act. Lt. Governor Roy Smith ,all living on Saba still.

Randolph was married to Ms. Ursula Dunkin for whom the former Anglican Kindergarten was named. The street leading past his former home in The Bottom is named in his honour. I remember once some folks coming down from the USA looking up their family tree. One of the grandsons of Estelle Simmons-Vanterpool told me that his grandmother, who lived in St. Thomas, told him that if any brown skinned people claimed to be an uncle or aunt to listen to them as her father had roamed around the town quite a bit. Some days later I passed the young man on a wall sitting with Randolph with a tape recorder interviewing him. Just a few months ago the same person was back on Saba and telling me stories he had heard from his’ uncle Randolph’. Many of the people whom Captain Randolph used to help are all gone now but they always talked highly of him in appreciation of his many years of dedicated service. It would be difficult to image nowadays any number of merchants from especially the Windwardside giving Randolph money to deposit in their bank accounts on St. Kitts where he also had authority to withdraw monies from their accounts and pay bills on their behalf.

It was another world back then and that is not so long ago when you come to think of it. Saba remembers you Captain ‘Rannie’ and pride fully so.

Island Council Member David L.H. Donker*


Tribute to the Road Builders of Saba

The smallest island (five square miles) in the Netherlands Antilles, Saba is primarily a dormant volcano covered in rain forest. Saba is actually the tip of a submerged, extinct volcano, with steep underwater cliffs that are famous for extraordinary, unspoiled scuba diving.

Saba can best be summarized as a volcanic rock, full of steep climbs, four colorful small villages, a permanent population of about 1,500 people, world class diving, great hiking, and tranquility. After that, the only thing left for anyone to talk about is The Road, a true monument to creative engineering. The Road and the David & Goliath effort involved in its construction is the conversational diamond around which every taxi driver builds his tour.

This single winding road that gets you around to most all. The Road was laid by hand, and runs from the airport at Hell’s Gate to the harbor at Fort Bay. There are no names at all for any of the narrow, windy tributary streets in the tiny hamlets of The Bottom (Saba’s capital), St. John’s, Hell’s Gate or Windwardside, the second largest of Saba’s four villages. The Road is one of the best maintained highways on the planet…the entire nine-mile length of The Road is swept every day – by hand.

Building a road straight up the steep mountain face defied not only gravity, but most men’s imaginations. Professional consulting engineers and road builders all declared it an impossible feat. And indeed, try driving the twisted swivel stick that winds its way from 131 feet above sea level up and around to 1,968 feet–to see the high, perfectly flat stone work retaining walls holding back the steep, rocky inclines-and one quickly grasps the enormity of this engineering feat.

From the 1650s on into the middle of the 20th century, the Sabans made do with 900 steps rising from the sea that the hardy Dutch settlers had carved into the steep rock. These steps were the only way to get anything – from a hatpin to a grand piano — up to the settlements.

Then, in the early 1940s a stubbornly optimistic Saban carpenter named Josephus Lambert Hassell took a correspondence course in engineering, gathered a team of 20 locals and began to build “The Road That Couldn’t Be Built.” They used only wheelbarrows; it took them 25 years to complete.

Mr. Hassell began in 1943 with the design and supervision of this engineering marvel building the portion from Fort Bay to The Bottom first. Over the next 20 years, 14 km of road was painstakingly laid by hand and wheelbarrow by locals.

The Road is the perfect national legend for this isolated community of individualists and although stories have been written about its construction, noted Saban historian Will Johnson’s tribute is a time honored favorite.

Saba was first settled by pirates from St. Kitts, after the Spanish attacked that island in 1629. They named the villages they established on Saba Middle Island and Palmetto Point after the area where they had lived on St. Kitts.

Three hundred years later, goat paths and step roads were all they had to show for their having lived here.

They, as some of the best navigators in the West Indies, had roamed the great oceans of the world and traded throughout the West Indies with their large barquentines and schooners.

Yet the complaint on Saba was that they brought little change to their own island, when they returned. They admired the things they saw on their travels though.

We have an interesting account of a journey by the schooner the Alice to New York in 1890 by Edward Beaks Hassell (Baker). The schooner, Alice, belonged to Capt. Solomon Simmons (Butchie Coonks). After picking up passengers and salt on St. Maarten and Anguilla they headed North to New York.

There, Baker, dodging the horse and buggy traffic on fifth Avenue in his bare feet was pursued by gangs of shoe blacks. offering him a free polish for that unique pair of West Indian shoes.

 It was his son, Errol Hassell, who thirty years later as a local Councilor was to propose a proper budget to start a real road from The Fort Bay to The Bottom to make life easier for the islands people.

Lee. Thomas Hassell, Norman Hassell and my grandfather James Horton Simmons broke ground in 1939 to start the road from the Fort Bay. They were laborers and were being paid Fls. 0,65 cent per day.

The road was a community effort but it is generally recognized that it was the men of Hell’s Gate who worked the hardest to get the road built. It could have been the fact that their village was the last on the line from the Fort Bay. Many years later the airport changed things around.

Josephus Lambert Hassell, was the legendary engineer who built the road. As a local councilor he also advocated putting money on the budget to continue building the road to reach all the villages.

Matthew Levenstone and other Commissioners continued the trend and Administrator Henry Every made the final push to get the road to the airport and Cove Bay in 1961.

 After WWII on March 17th 1947, the first motor vehicle, a jeep, arrived on Saba for the Lt. Governor. Sabans devised a way how to get it ashore by strapping two lighter boats together with a platform on top, and a ramp, which would be put up against the boat when they rammed into the rocks at Fort Bay.

The driver Mr. Oliver Sagers was aboard the JEEP, engine already running and ready to make the mad dash over the side, and into the surf, and assisted by the porters rushed through the boulders onto the shore.

Mr. Max Huith then Vice Lt. Governor, claimed that some old timers thought the Jeep was a living being and offered to cut the grass needed for it to eat. Saba has gone a long way since the road was built. We now have over 700 motor vehicles on the island.

Recently government decided to restore a section of the old road between St. John’s and Over-the-Peak. This section of the road was known as The Dancing Place! Someone crossing there in the night claimed he had seen six men on a moonlight night, dancing around an open coffin and seemingly having a good time.

As a young boy I used to keep a flock of goats over in that area. I would never let dark catch me there, and even high day if I could not see an yone coming or going I would make a mad dash to get safely past The Dancing Place. That story is so entrenched in my being that an offer of a million guilders to spend the night there would have to be declined with thanks.

Sometime back my boyhood friend Allan Busby came to see me to congratulate me on restoring the road. When asked if he would spend the night there (at Dancing Place), he looked at me and said, “Boy you crazy?” “I thought you were my friend but you want me dead.” All kinds of questions come up about that place. Who was in the coffin? What tune were they dancing to? And last but not least, Why, Why, Why.?

While restoring the road we decided to improve on a monument started by Mr. Dick van den Berg as a tribute to Josephus Lambert Hassell some years ago. A bench has been built around the rock. One will be able to sit there and enjoy the view towards St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis (and at times Montserrat). At the same time we encourage all joggers and exercise enthusiasts to use this section of the old road instead of the main road. And while using it to reflect on the hardships of the past.

 Just imagine what it must have been like for a female porter with a 100 lb bag of flour on her head, delivering her own baby, putting it in the basket at her side and continuing on her mission before going to the doctor to check on herself and the baby.

The past is important. By restoring this section of the road and putting it to a practical use we want to honor Josephus Lambert Hassell, the engineer, as well as all the local workers who built ‘the road which could not be built.’

My father Daniel Thomas Johnson, was earning Fls. 2.50 per day as a foreman for most of the time it took to build the road. For those who knew him, he can be seen working among his men in one of the photographs accompanying this article.

Saba was built stone by stone, wall by wall, building by building, village by village by a hardworking people in the hope that their children would enjoy a better life. We do have it easier now but most people doubt seriously that we are happier than our hard working ancestors.

Death of the “Mona Marie”


The Vanterpool Family*

Some years ago members of the Lions club visiting here from Trinidad were being hosted at the Lt. Governor’s residence by Lt. Governor Sydney Sorton.

In his speech he commented on how visionary old Captain Thomas Charles Vanterpool was when he built that house. The house was completed on November 3rd 1900. It was built so strategically and beautiful that it could serve as the official residence of Saba’s Lt. Governor.

Also at the inaugural reception for Lt. Governor Jonathan Johnson the large number of dignitaries from Sint Maarten, who graced this reception with their presence, were full of compliments about the building and the grounds.

In the nineteen twenties it was purchased for the government by the then ‘Onder-Gezaghebber’ (Vice Lt. Governor) W.F.M. Lampe who was married to Captain Vanterpool’s daughter Lena. The property next to it with a house on it was also purchased and turned in to the Queen Wilhelmina Park. This provides an additional green space for the residence, which in all is probably as much as two acres.

The Vanterpool family though small was one of the wealthiest families on Saba, if not the wealthiest. Three of the brothers were Captains and their homes still survive in The Bottom.

The family is of Dutch origin. In the old records it is spelled as Van der Poel, van der Poele, and van der Poelen. Eventually it became Anglicized to Vanterpool.

The family (like so many others of that period) moved from Sint Eustatius to Sint Maarten, on to the Virgin Islands and then back to Saba.

From the old records we find the following information.

1688 , Van der Poele, Willem – Saba

1696, Van der Poel, Daniel – Sint Eustatius

1699, Van der Poele, Mayken – Saba

1699, Van der Poele, Daniel – Sint Eustatius

ditto 1705, 1710 and 1715 for Daniel.

1715, Van der Poele, Willem – Sint Maarten

1728, Van der Poelen, Willem Jr. –Sint Maarten

1728, Van der Poelen, Daniel – Sint Maarten

1728, Van der Poelen, William – Sint Maarten

1781, Vanterpool, John – Sint Eustatius

John apparently came from Tortola and was just temporarily on Sint Eustatius when Admiral George Rodney took the census in the autumn of 1781.

There was also a William Edward Vanterpool who in 1784 bought 98 acres of land on the island of Jost Van Dyke. An estate map for Tortola, dated 1798, did not show any Vanterpools or similar spellings.

The earliest Vanterpool found in the British Virgin Islands is ‘Mary’ widow of the island commander who married John Park of ‘Guana Island’ on August 31st, 1754.

In 1753 a Samuel Vanderpool owned a plantation on St. Kitts.

William van der Poelen, Jr. in 1735 is listed as a new Member of Council and also in the year 1737. On May 12th, 1745 he had been living on Sint Maarten for 33 years and was listed as one of the islands oldest inhabitants. Jan van der Poelen was listed as a Member of Council on Sint Maarten on January 15th, 1748. Daniel van der Poelen died on Sint Maarten on December 21st, 1758. On October 10th, 1776 Rebecca van der Poele left as widow of Samuel Houwel.

In the records of St.Thomas William Vanterpool and family arrived there on November 12th, 1819 (wife, 3 sons and 2 daughters, Abraham, Daniel and David and Mary and Ann), and also three slaves arrived from Sint Maarten to stay as J. Hassells place.

The Wesleyan Methodist church baptismal records on Virgin Gorda for 1815 to 1919 show the following.

William and Margaret Ann Vanterpool “bottom planters” had the following children all born in Spanish Town. Ann Elizabeth was born in 1824. Alice Maria born 1826.01.07. Thomas Joseph born 1827 and Peter Theophilus born 1830.12.05.

Thomas Pitman Vanterpool and his wife Mary, planters, baptized a son Henry born 1836.

They lived on Jost van Dyke and had a son John born 1844.07.18 and William born 1845.10.01.

John Pitman and Charlotte Anne Vanterpool –schoolmaster –had a child Mary Clements born 1847 and John Pitman Jr. b. 1852.

Another interesting fact is the use of the given name ‘Pitman’ for the Vanterpool sons in the Virgin Islands and on Saba also turns up in the Vanterpools in Tennessee and Missouri in the nineteenth century.

In 1860 the death is recorded on Saba of Abraham Charleswell Simmons Vanterpool. He was married to Annie Toland who died in childbirth in Spanish town, Virgin Gorda.

He worked in the copper mines there. They had a son Thomas Charleswell Vanterpool.

Annie Tolands’ mother Ann Rodgers who was from Antigua and the wife of the Reverend John Toland of England, brought young Thomas Charleswell to Saba where he grew up. He was born in 1826. On November 19th, 1851 at the age of 25, Thomas married Johanna Simmons aged 23. She was of a prominent Saba family. They had seven children of which the following four survived.

  1. John Pitman Vanterpool born November 30th, 1857. He married Georgianna Simmons on 1-7-1881 (26).
  2. Ernest Hugh Toland Vanterpool born 1st half of 1852. He married a daughter of Governor Moses Leverock. His home is being used by The Living Water Community.
  3. Lillias Vanterpool born December 3rd 1853 and married Dr. Christian Pfanstiehl, and
  4. Thomaas Charles Vanterpool (Captain Tommy) born August 20th, 1865 on Saba.His wife was Johannah Dinzey Leverock also a daughter of Governor Moses Leverock.

These were the Vanterpools of Saba. The three boys all became Captains and owners of large schooners which traded between the West Indies and New York. Captain Tommy who owned the home which is now the residence of the Lt. Governor owned a large number of schooners in his lifetime. The largest was the ‘Mayflower’ which was 147 feet long and weighed 190.27 tons. This schooner was built in Gloucester, Mass., to compete in the “Bluenose” races. My uncle Captain Charles Reuben Simmons who was captain of the ‘Mayflower’ from 1928 to 1930, told me that in 1929 he left St. Kitts with 375 passengers, under sail, and arrived 48 hours later on Curacao. Once he carried 460 passengers from Dominica and St.Lucia with this schooner and was promptly fined on arrival for carrying too many passengers. They were being recruited by the SHELL Company as labourers.

The ‘Ina Vanterpool’, 105 feet long and 191.30 tons was lost off St. Eustatius on September 16th, 1926. Captain Tommy paid f.162.500 for this three master schooner. She was built by Captain Lovelock Hassell in Jamestown Barbados and could carry 100 tons of cargo. Besides carrying freight and passengers, Captain Tommy also had the contract to carry the mails between the Northern Dutch islands and Curacao.

His schooner the ‘Estelle’ was the subject of an interesting report by Judge Polvliet who described a twelve day passage from Curacao to Sint Maarten with 26 passengers on board. The cook was a 13 year old boy from Saba, Diederick Every, who later lived in Baltimore. I met him when he was in his late eighties and interviewed him about life as a cook on a passenger schooner.

The “Dreadnought’, with Captain Samuel Augustus Simmons, in a race under sail from Curacao to Sint Maarten made it in 48 hours. My uncle Charles Herbert Simmons was a young mess boy on that schooner. The ‘Georgetown’ was lost in a hurricane in Nevis but my uncle Herbert survived.

The schooner ‘Lena Vanterpool’ once saved the life of her master Captain Tommy. As the story goes he used to smuggle out escaped convicts from Cayenne who paid their passage in gold garnered from the rivers of French Guyana. An old black woman on shore used to signal the Captain when prisoners were ready to board. On that particular night, the old lady signaled imminent danger. Captain Tommy did not wait to pull up the anchor, but ordered it cast away when he spied a French Man-Of-War rounding the point and coming in his direction. It is claimed that the ‘Lena Vanterpool’ sailed so fast that when she reached Barbados the oakum had been washed out of her seams.

At one point when the French Man-Of-War was getting too close for comfort the captain ordered more sail and pleased with his schooner ‘Go Lena go, your master is in trouble. Spread your wings and fly like an eagle.’ He had ordered the crew if the French caught up with them to put him in a barrel and throw him overboard.

Captain Tommy’s daughter Lena married W.F.M. Lampe who merits an article of his own in future.

The Vanterpools besides the home families had many ‘by-sides’ in all the islands. I will not mention how many children they had. It was the subject of much concern among the white Vanterpool descendants in the USA when I ventured an estimate once. But believe me that the two brothers Captain Tommy and Captain Ernest took the biblical encouragement to heart and they went forth and multiplied. And multiplied, a lot!

On the subject of gold! The late Commissioner John Woods once told me that his father Ben told him the following story. Captain Ernest gave him a sealed galvanize pail to bring to his house in The Bottom. It weighed a ton and he thought he would die by the time he got there. When the wife saw the pail she said:’ I cannot believe this. Another pail of gold! What does Ernest intend to do with all this gold. The ceiling is full and under all the beds is full. I have to remind him that you cannot eat gold.’ I tell people that ‘this is the house where gold lost its value.’

Neither the Vanterpools nor the Tolands survive on Saba. Captain Tommy’s son Professor Thomas Clifford Vanterpool became a famous scientist in Canada and won many awards there and he has descendants there. Captain Tommy’s granddaughter Sheila Lampe, formerly married to Tawa Yrausquin, lives on Aruba.

The following announcement signaled the last of the Vanterpool’s of Saba. This is taken from the Virgin Islands Daily News of June 6th, 1950 on St.Thomas.

‘Mrs. Ina Simmons and the Engle Simmons family thank all friends and acquaintances for kindness and sympathy shown in the death of their beloved father and Uncle Thomas C. Simmons.’

Well not really. Captain Tommy in his old age fired a last shot. The maid who had been brought from St. Maarten to take care of Captain Tommy was the mother of his last daughter who lives on an island where people read the’ Herald ‘and is a friend of mine.

The Vanterpool families did Saba proud, and when you admire the residence of the Lt. Governor of Saba please take note that it is a replica of the house that Captain Tommy built. The original was infested with termites and the new one rebuilt in the same style in the nineteen sixties.

The old country constables

Nowadays with so much talk about law and order and the police force there has been much discussion on life in these islands in former times. Anthony Weller wrote in  ‘A childhood in Nassau’ the following: “For a writer, childhood is the treasure chest; one has the rest of life to measure out by the fistful the amazing, gleaming pirate’s hoard buried many layers deep in the imagination.”

I came across an old photo of three Johnson’s in uniform who served as country constables in the Windward Islands. My intention was to write an article based on their lives. However the more I thought about it I thought it would be better to write a short history on the country constables and those from Saba who served in that function when I was a child growing up on Saba.

In Curacao and on the other islands the maintenance of internal law and order from the beginning of the colony was a task of armed civilians.

An ordinance of Jan Gales of August 31st, 1739 decreed for Curacao in article 2, among other things, that each citizen in turn would have to do evening duty patrolling the streets of the town.

Only at the start of the 19th century can it be said that a modest police-force came in to being. In 1826 a regulation for the police force was approved by the King. After various changes in the functioning of the force, in 1873 (Publication Sheet # 6) it was determined that the armed police force for all the islands would consist of a brigade marechausssees and country constables.

The first part consisted of 1 police sergeant major, 5 police sergeants and 40 marechaussees.

The second part consisted of 30 country constables. The latter as was traditional in Holland were paid very little, but in those days a job was a job and then like now the ladies liked the men in uniform. So even though the pay was low there were advantages.

The proclamation by Publication Sheet 1910 # 19 of the Royal Decree of January 6th, 1910, # 32 established a regulation making it mandatory for the formation from the military of a detachment of marechaussees to do police duties.

By Publication Sheet 1911 # 36 the composition of the brigade was determined as follows: 1 adj. sub-officer, or sergeant major as brigade commander for the island of Curacao, 4 sergeants as police-sergeants, 10 corporals as marechaussees 1st class, 16 infantrymen 1st class and 25 fusiliers as marechaussees 2nd class.

On each of the other islands the force consisted of 1 corporal as acting police-sergeant and several fusiliers as marechaussees 2nd class. The detachment was under the military service and remained that way until the Netherlands Antilles Police force was established in the late 1940’s.

The country constables were then given the choice to join the new police force. However the requirement to know the Dutch language was a big problem for many of them. Some of them chose other work or to leave government service all together. On Saba people like Mr. Lester Peterson and Mr. Harold Johnson chose to join Public Works.

Other factors played a role. They were subject to being transferred to other islands on short notice. That meant in many cases having to leave their families behind. In those days policemen were expected to stay far from politics. Many of our policemen were transferred from one day to the next because in private they had voiced a political preference for one candidate or the other. On Saba a policeman on the night of the election reacted with a smile on his face when his party won. The Administrator who was from the other party noticed the smile and he was transferred the next day to another island.

For this article I will suffice with giving some brief information on those from Saba who served. There was a time that the entire force was from Saba and did a good job. Before that our policemen came from St. Eustatius and St. Maarten mostly and they too were held in high esteem. Among the older generation there were many stories of how those policemen conducted themselves. Mr. Timmer of St. Eustatius was known as a tough one. He arrested my father once because he refused to open his bag of fish and Timmer thought that he was smuggling liquor. Just a short while before my old friend, former constable and policeofficer, Mr. Elias Richardson died he called me. His voice was as strong as that of a young boy. He wanted to know if a certain lady was still alive. I teased him that it sounded like an old love affair. Anyway it was shortly after that when the news of his death came to me. I would have sworn that he was good for many more years. He was a good source of information on former Lt. Governors and so on.

For this article I am submitting a number of photos. They tell their own story. One of the phot’s is of Mr. Roelf Westers (born Martinshoek on October 11th, 1866) who was married to my great – aunt Sarah Ellen Johnson. She was born on October 6th, 1871. She died in Wittem (South Limburg) on April 21st, 1962. He was a marechaussee on Saba. They had three children, one born on St. Maarten, one on St. Eustatius and one on Curacao. Henry the one born on St. Maarten had twelve children so that I have a whole set of red head cousins in Groningen. If you come across a Westers and he or she is from Groningen you can tell them that their cousin Will sends greetings.

There were other marechaussees who married Saban women. The Jonkhout family on Curacao and other families trace their ancestry back to Saba via the marechaussees. Mr. Eert Sloterdijk was a country constable and also produced a large Saban family.

Some of the natives who served as country constables on Saba but also in the other Windward Islands were:

Clement Sydney Oliver Sorton , born September 2nd, 1907. In ‘Saba Silhouettes’ by Dr. Julia Crane there is a long interview with Clement on his life on Saba. His sons Sydney and Rudolph followed in his footsteps and Sydney eventually became Lt. Governor of Saba. Clement joined the police force when the old country constables were abolished.

Jeremiah Warboef Leerdam, born June 20th, 1911.

He served on Saba and then was transferred to St. Maarten. He was a wellknown photographer. He is the uncle of Mr. Max Nicholson and his sister Carmen Simmons born Nicholson. He died in a tragic accident on Cole Bay Hill. His colleagues on Saba were always upset that because of political reasons they felt he had been transferred to  St. Maarten. He was married to Amy Hassell and has a son by his marriage residing on Curacao. But being a field man in uniform and with a camera to booth a number of people in the islands will tell you that ‘Leerdam from Saba is me father.’

Osmar Ralph Simmons born October 24th, 1922 joined the Police force as a young man, and like the others worked on St. Maarten for some years. He spent most of his career on Saba though and eventually was Police Commander here. He had a large family. His wife is the well known Mrs. Carmen Simmons. His children are making a name for themselves as well. He passed away some years ago and remained active in Saban society until he took in ill and died.

Lucius Bernard Halley, was born September 30th, 1907. He was from Simpsonbay and was married to Sydney Dowling of St.John’s. They had 12 children and produced an important Antillean family. Halley owned the home in The Bottom where Philipsburg Utilities used to be. He bought it from my uncle Capt. Reuben Simmons. When he died his family moved to Curacao and the property was sold to Senator Claude Wathey whose children still own it.

Richard Austin Johnson was born October 16th, 1908 and died April 19th, 1990. As a young man he served as one of the two local councilors. He was an only child and his wife as well, something unusual for Saba at the time where large families were the norm.

Their four children are all staunch Roman Catholics and can be seen every Sunday in church. Austin was moved twice to St. Eustatius for political reasons. He loved to read. He told me that when he was on Statia the last time in the nineteen fifties he read every book in the library. The day he read the last book when he returned to the Fort the Administrator called out to him and told him the good news that a telegram had arrived giving permission for him to return to Saba and to his family.

Harry Luke Johnson was born November 19th, 1913. He had a terrible youth. His father was lost off Cape Hatteras on a four master schooner the ‘Benjamin F. Poole’ which was lost January 19th, 1914. His mother died of cancer when he was four. He and his three brothers were raised by an old aunt who was dirt poor and who died when he was eleven. At the age of 13 he went on a 100ft schooner from Saba the “Maisie Hassell” on which he sailed for 8 months between Barbados, Guyana and so on. At the age of 18 he went to Bermuda and married there to Doris Every also from Saba and his first two children were born there. He returned to Saba and became a police constable. He was an artist at heart. He built model boats, painted and wrote poetry. He started his own museum. Just before he died I promised him that I would start a museum to carry on his work. The Harry L. Johnson museum is a proud legacy of his work. Of all the things I have done for Saba I am most proud of having been able to acquire this lovely property for the people of Saba.

Arthur Harold, Johnson, was born on April 12th, 1906.

As a young man he went to New York and sailed out from there for some years. He returned to Saba, started working for the Post office and later became a constable. He did not join the Police Force as the Dutch language was required and he did not feel up to it. He was a lifelong bachelor and worked for Public Works. He died in his nineties.

Lester Peterson.

One tough Police officer. As boys we knew to clear the road when Lester was on patrol. He had a large family and when threatened with a transfer to Curacao he decided to leave the force and join Public Works. He was a good foreman and many roads were built under his supervision. His sons Eddie, George, Wayne and Ray are all active in the Windward Islands.

Many old timers remember with pride the days when the force consisted of Saba policemen. Halley the Chief Constable though from Simpsonbay, was considered by all to be a Saban. (The same goes for the merchant Joe Vlaun). Later on Major Osmar Ralph Simmons headed the force for many years. Clement Sorton was a no-nonsense constable. Whereas Lester Peterson kept the Windwardside calm, Sorton was the man of The Bottom. He was a big man and when he was on patrol the town literally trembled.

Finally, to my old aunt. Her daughter who was a Roman Catholic nun told me that her mother never spoke Dutch. She said the Dutch government had treated Saba badly. For those times she was right. Things have changed. Now we are going in to a new relationship with the Dutch. Perhaps the constables can be brought back in to play. Many of the young people who would want to join the force have a problem with the police training being all in Dutch. In any event Saba can be proud of those who served us as Constables in the past.

The Islander


The women of Saba*

The women of Saba have always played a prominent role in the development of our island. Because the men were seafarers, and fathers, husbands, brothers as well as sons were all at sea, the responsibility of raising the children and taking care of all the needs of the household rested with the women in the family. Sometimes the men in a household were off-island for years at a time. Many men were lost at sea or succumbed to yellow-fever and other diseases in countries spread around the world where their ships took them in search of trade.

Saba, with most of its men folk off to sea, became known as the Island of Women. A number of well known magazines in the United States wrote fanciful articles about Saba and its women over a hundred years ago.

A selection of comparative figures for the period 1924 through 1929 illustrates best why the island became known as the “Island of Women.” The population figures for the following years show how the women outnumbered the men.

YEAR       MEN   WOMEN

1924          604       1011

1925          611       986

1926          603       999

1927          526       968

1928          509       930

1929          492       916

Individual women who have contributed immensely to Saban society were many. I have already mentioned some of the well known midwives of the past. Among the women who worked hard were Sarah Mardenborough of Windwardside and Marie Elizabeth Johnson of Hell’s Gate, neither with much education, but who taught generations of Sabans to read and write the English language of their ancestors.

Gertrude Johnson born Hassell who in her marriage combined the two largest surnames on Saba is credited with introducing the lacework industry to Saba. This work became known as “Spanish Work” as it was taught to her by nuns on Curacao who in turn had learned it from the many Venezuelan students who at the time came to the convent schools on Curacao to further their education. Many families on Saba survival for a great deal depended on the sale of “Spanish Work” to friends in the United States.

Ann Elizabeth Johnson (Miss Shishi), who died in 1931 at the age of 93 was famous for her bush medicine and the setting of broken bones. Back in the past century when it was not always possible to get a doctor to live on Saba it was the local doctor’s both women and men who served the people.

Her niece Peter Elenor Hassell was also known for her knowledge of Bush medicines.

Someone asked me recently as to what type of health insurance I had. I told him that my health insurance was just enough to cover the witch doctor and to buy me some bush medicine. That is the insurance my ancestors survived with for over four hundred years on this little rock.

Atthelo Maude Edwards (1901 -1970) with the help of her nephews Elmer and Rufus Linzey introduced the electric lights to Saba. The Saba Electric Company it was called, long before GEBE came along. To honour her, the Saba Island Government named the hospital the “Mrs. A.M. Edwards Medical Center”, in 1980. She lost her life in the O.N.A. airline crash off St.Croix in 1970.

Cornelia R. Jones (Cutchie) was the first woman in the Windward Islands to become an Island Councilmember of the Island Territory. She served from 1952 to 1954. She also ran both the Guesthouse in The Bottom and later in Windwardside as well.

Irene Taylor born Blyden, pioneered in the establishment of the Wesleyan Holiness Church throughout the West Indies. The Taylor Memorial Wesleyan Holiness Church in Charleston on the island of Nevis, is named in her honour.

In recent years we have had people like Mrs. Carmen Simmons born Nicholson active in all fields of culture, Patsy and Janice Johnson active in their church but also as artists and writers, Mrs. Ruth Smith a volunteer spiritual and community leader and many others.

Throughout Saba’s history women have worked as porters, labourers, field workers, wood cutters and so on, yet they managed to maintain the reputation of being among the fairest maidens in the West Indies. That is why Saban women are married to men from all parts of the world and they are to be found living around the globe.

One modern day well known Saban lady living abroad is Mrs. Barbara Kassab born Every, who resides on St. Kitts. Her paintings have represented St. Kitts at Carifesta as well as at international painting exhibitions and she has won several awards for her paintings. Back here on Saba women continue to play a leading role in the daily life of the Unspoiled Queen. I had the privilege of having a hard working young woman as a Commissoner working along with me for eight years (1999 -2007) namely Ms Lisa Hassell.

I would like to share with my readers two poems written by Island Women.

The poems were written by women who had grown up here where their roots had long been established. An island, which is only a small dot and in isolation at a time when the whole world was backward and communications between peoples was scarce.

Both women had to move elsewhere in search of a better life, and they wrote these poems when they were past midlife.

In my collection of correspondence with the late Charles Borromeo Hodge, Jr., I have a letter from him in praise of the poem by Beatrice Pfaffhauser which appeared in my book “For The Love of St. Martin”. He wanted to contact her. Alas she had passed on many years already.

She was born at The Gap on Saba. Her mother Amy Simmons was married to Albert Pfaffhauser whom she had met on St. Thomas. He was from Switzerland. Beatrice grew up in The Bottom, but after her father died her mother married a white planter from Grenada named Thomas Cecil and the family moved to Barbados. They lived in the house now known as “Sam Lord’s Castle.” They also lived on St. Kitts, Grenada and Trinidad.

Beatrice moved to the U.S.A. and married there. She tried to return to Saba in 1934 but on St. Thomas she received the news that her husband was dying and she returned to the United States. She never saw Saba or any of her beloved Caribbean islands again. Her poem indicates that island people never really get islands out of their blood. Tropical islands especially seem to keep the memories warm.

She was 82 when she wrote this poem some 65 years after she was forced to leave her beloved islands. In the twilight of her years she looks back at her youthful home.

” The skies are gray, my spirits low.

I sit within the firelight glow.

My thoughts go back to other days,

To coral sands and sunlit bays.

Again I see tropic trees

As delight the eye and scent the breeze.

Poinciana, oleander, frangipani, these

And many others my mind’s eye sees.

A banyan is home to a bright macaw,

A monkey sits eating some fruit from his paw.

A land crab scuttles on his way to the cove,

A coconut falls with a thud in the grove.

Ah me! Ah me! That I could go

Where palm fronds clash and trade winds blow,

For these are the things I used to know

So far away and so long ago.

The red-roofed house, by the tall palm tree,

In the long ago, was sweet home to me.

I think of it now as a haven of rest

Where I wish I could go as a bird to its nest.

But the years that are flown have made the dream vain.

I could only return to sorrow and pain.

Beatrice Pfaffhauser loved the islands and she once said: “You never get the tropics out of your blood once you absorb them.”

I would like to end this article with a tribute to Estelle Louise Richardson born Sloterdijk ( born 16 September 1914 and died 15 December 2000). She was the daughter of a Dutch Police officer Eert Sloterdijk who came to Saba in the early part of the twentieth century and married Orie Hassell. As so many other people did back then the family moved to Aruba. There Stella met her husband Henry Richardson who is a brother of the well known Louie Richardson of French St. Martin.

Stella and Henry moved to the United States. However she never forgot the little island where she was born and visited Saba as often as she could. The following poem was written by her after one of her visits. The poem reminds me of one written by Rosalind Amelia Young (1907) entitled “Pitcairn, Lone Rock of the Sea”. My cousin Estelle Simmons has often told me that she cannot read this poem unless she breaks into tears.

ADIEU SABA

Now the time has come to leave thee,

Saba isle of fairest flowers.

Cherished land where I was born and

Where I spent my childhood hours.

Thou art fairest of the islands

In the wide Caribbean sea,

None could ever be more precious,

Than thou, Saba art to me.

When a carefree child I wandered,

Through the hills and valleys green,

Listening to the songs of bird land,

Full of joy and thoughts serene.

Oh! Those carefree days were happy,

‘Neath thy blue and cloudless sky,

Ne’er a thought of care and sorrow,

As the golden hours skipped by.

Then one day the future beckoned,

And I gaily sailed away,

Just a starry-eyed young maiden,

Setting forth on life’s great way.

But I missed thee dearest Saba,

As the years have rolled away,

And my heart I always promised,

That I would return some day.

Now once more I’ve trod thy pathways,

As I did in years gone by,

Followed trails to secret places,

Watched the mountains kiss the sky.

Drunk the dew of early morning,

Listened to the cooing dove,

Seen the moon in all her glory,

Shredding gold from heaven above.

Danced to tunes so well remembered,

Clasped the hands of friends I knew,

But too soon the time has vanished,

And I have to say adieu.

Here I sit and watch thee Saba,

As the ship puts out to sea,

All thy rugged slopes and ridges,

Etched upon my memory.

Oh, my heart is truly breaking,

And my tears fall fast and free,

For I know not if I’ll ever,

In this life return to thee.

Stella Richardson-Sloterdijk

Leaving the island by boat brought up many memories and emotions. The same does not happen when one leaves by plane. Perhaps the next great poem of Saba will be written by one of those adventuresome women who prefer to travel by boat.

The “Occasionals”*

When the newly appointed Lt. Governor Jonathan Johnson had his welcome reception it was the talk of the town for weeks. One of the big attractions at the reception was the local string band known as ‘The Occasionals’.

The many prominent St.Maarten families who were there were amazed that Saba had such a traditional string band which is not well-known outside of Saba.

On September 5th after visiting the tax doctor I took a swing past the “Henry Carlyle Every ” Home for the Aged.

Nurse Elizabeth ‘Lizzy’ Hassell was in the dining room entertaining herself while playing the harmonica which she told me she had bought in Curacao.

At the entrance was my friend Wilbourne Carlyle Granger (born December 30th 1932), better known as ‘Pops’.

Carlyle and my brother Freddie were the greatest of friends since children. Freddie was a teacher in front of the class for thirty five years, something of which he was rightfully proud. Everyone, including Carlyle, called him ‘Meneer”, a polite Dutch form of addressing a male teacher. Once I heard Carlyle telling someone that if he saw ‘Meneer’ in a fight that he would jump in and help him to throw blows. Only after the battle was won he would ask ‘Meneer’ who had started the fight.

Carlyle’s mother Nina Granger had Statia roots and lived just above us when we lived in the mountain above Windwardside. He and his sister Alicia ( now deceased but also a musical talent) were the children of Elisha Beaks Hassell ( a white man of Windwardside).

Since his father was married to the widow of Dr. Nicolas Anslijn, Carlyle was indirectly related to the Anslijns. His uncle John Herman Hassell raised him. Herman was a lifelong bachelor and a prominent businessman who was also the local Judge. When Spritzer and his partner Fuhrmann two Eastern European Jews were selling jewelry from door to door, Herman gave them a loan. The former well known firm of Spritzer & Fuhrmann Inc. got its start with that loan from Herman.

Carlyle was not a beneficiary of the small fortune which Herman left behind when he died. However he learned the principles of business from Herman and years later he started up his own successful grocery store. For over thirty years he also worked for the government as assistant to the legendary Josephus Lambert Hassell. Then when Lambert retired Carlyle took over from him as Chief of Public Works until he retired.

Meanwhile his family kept growing and growing and growing until the whole Saban community started calling him ‘Pops’.

This roundabout way of my writing serves a purpose. Carlyle is also the father of the string band known the last years as ‘The Occasionals’. The name suggests the informal nature of the band. As Carlyle told me, it was done for love. The music he played was never done for money.

Carlyle told me that he learned to play the guitar on his own when he was around twelve years old. “Lee Brothie”, “Gabo’s son” (Josephus Kock Johnson) who was here from Aruba on vacation, just after World War II, sold him an old mandolin. Carlyle learned how to tune the mandolin. It is tuned the same way as the violin and the banjo.

He said the first time they played as a band was when ‘Willie” (John William Johnson) returned from Aruba. He was a bachelor then and held a party at his home. (Willie by the way was also musically inclined and could hold his own on the accordion quite well.).

Carlyle said he still remembers that party and that the late Kenneth Peterson was like a peacock on the dance floor that night.

Before Carlyle’s band the ‘white folk’ used to hire an old black lady to pound on the wooden partition of the house accompanying someone playing the guitar and another person shaking up small stones in an old rusty can. People danced to tunes composed by “Wemely” Hassell (married to Incum. Imagine!), and her sister. They were the daughters of the well known midwife ‘Yeath” (Rosita Lynch-Hassell). Wemely composed such well known waltzes as ‘The’ Maisy’ is mine, she can sail anytime,’ and “If your daughter is cranky bring her to Lampe”. Years later people here danced to imported songs such as “What a night Wathey had to the front.” No! No! It was not Claude. It was his grandfather if I am not mistaken and the young gal from down street was the result of him being brought up-street in a sheet. Cause for making a song. The’ Occasionals’ can play that like it was made for them.

Carlyle said that the first leader of the band was actually Elmo Hughes. In the beginning Carlyle played the guitar. When Eugenius and Ronnie had the club they bought some instruments which included a banjo and he learned to play it. And play it well he did.

Later on he bought a banjo on Curacao which he named “The World”. In 1972 he ordered a banjo from Germany. Carlyle told me that he paid $500.-for that banjo. At the time he could have bought a much needed car on St.Maarten for that price, but he loved music so much that he decided to buy the banjo instead.

When the banjo arrived in a solid wooden case with KLM airfreight there was a celebration at his home on its arrival, and people after hearing the new banjo spontaneously named it “The Universe.”

When Elmo Hughes left for Curacao in the early nineteen fifties Carlyle took over the band. He told me that the late Sylvester Hughes was always there. He was the maracas man in the band. Calvin Holm, a good singer, later joined the band and played the quarto, locally made by Alvin Adonis Caines.

He was later joined by the guitarist Eric Johnson, also an excellent singer who still plays in the band and sings in the Roman Catholic Church choir in Windwardside.

Next came Dolphie Johnson, who plays the Marimba. Roy Smith (Act.Lt. Governor) joined when he came from school in Curacao. He plays the guitar and is also an excellent singer. Also for a time teacher Godfred Hassell played the guitar and Maurits Hassell played the drum. The last years others have joined the band including guitarist and singer Senator Ray Hassell and guitarist Police Office Siegfried Maria. The band went to St. Maarten a few times. I remember once when I lived at Captain Hodge’s Guesthouse the band came over in a very small boat accompanied by another small boat. The first boat arrived hours before and we started fearing the worst for the band. Finally we saw a small boat passing the bar. Great Bay Harbour was so quiet back then that from the shore we could hear them playing as they made their approach. The engine had broken down but somehow they had managed with the help of legendary mechanic Johnny Hassell, also the owner of the boat, to repair the engine at sea. From the time of arrival we all went to the Sea View Hotel and drew up the whole town who came out to enjoy the lovely music.Business was so good that Mr. Melford Hazel mistakenly decided that drinks for the band were on the house. Those boys had come to Sint Maarten with one thing in mind to play music and to drink. Not necessarily in that order.

Carlyle once told me that he had visited 23 countries in the Caribbean and 11 on the American continent. And yet, the only vacation he looked forward to was a vacation on St.Maarten. He said he never thought that he would live to see the day when one would be afraid of anything happening to them on St.Maarten.

The band also went to Santiago de Cuba in 2002 to participate in a cultural festival there.

They also accompanied the taxi-drivers on a Winair sponsored trip to St.Maarten and played at the Union Hall in Cole Bay.

After Carlyle got ill and had to have his leg amputated he moved to the Henry C.Every Home for the Aged, named after a cousin and a childhood friend.

Ronald L. Johnson (‘Ronnie’) took over the sponsorship of the band, bought new instruments and obviously enjoys what he is doing. Recently with assistance of the Prince Bernhard Fund a CD was released with music by ‘The Occasionals”, something to be treasured by our people.

Jerry Craig wrote; “We need to promote among our own citizens, a willingness to use local craft, to preserve our traditional architecture, to listen to our own songs. When this attitude to development becomes action, the rest will be rooted in an understanding and appreciation of our own culture.

For myself I must say that perhaps there are things you can only really know and appreciate in the place you are born into; the place ‘where your navel string bury,’ as we say in the West Indies.

To Carlyle we say do not despair. Find inspiration in the words of the great Robert Louis Stevenson;

“So long we love we serve;

So long as we are loved by others,

I should say that we are almost indispensable;

And no man is useless while he has a friend.”

Carlyle was always very much about education for his children. Even while enjoying his music his main goal was to help his children get a good education.

As I was leaving the home, in the meantime, his daughter Raquel had joined him and was there chatting away, keeping him company. She recently returned to the island with a Masters in clinical psychology, proving his point that there is nothing like having a good education.

Thank you Carlyle for your years of entertaining our people and providing them with a unique cultural heritage in the form of “The Occasionals” band, and thanks also to Ronny and the other long serving members of the band for carrying on the tradition.

The complete bookworm


Dr. George Hopkins

Dr. George Richard Hopkins graduated from Tufts College Medical School on June 17th, 1908. There was also a student from Barbados at Tufts and he told Doctor Hopkins that the Dutch Government was looking for doctors to serve in the West Indies colonies. Doctor Hopkins started working on Saba in 1908. Exactly one hundred years ago. He came to the island with his wife Lucy Graham Hopkins and baby daughter also named Lucy. Doctor Hopkins sister-in-law, Flossy Rayfuse visited Saba a few years later. She died at the age of 93 in California.

She wrote about Saba as it was at the time. I got a copy of what she wrote years later from Lucy who lived in Florida.

I would like to share her views on Saba which she entitled: “Dr. G.R. Hopkins on Saba.”

“About fifty years ago the Colony Curacao (six islands) was very poor and the Dutch in Holland had great trouble to find doctors to come here. Every well-educated man wanted to go to the Dutch East Indies, rich islands where a lot of money was made.

George was just a few months from the end of his studies. He was married and Lucy was already born, so he was on the lookout for a job to begin with as soon as he had his doctor’s title.

He had a class-mate a Barbadian, who had a sister, a nurse. This nurse had a love affair with an Englishman who worked for the Dutch in St.Eustatius (the love affair must have been going on during their stay in a Baltimore hospital).

One day the Barbadian nurse wrote to her brother that she had heard from her sweetheart (the British doctor) that there was a vacancy for a medical man on the Dutch island of Saba and she wanted to know if he was interested. He told George about it and said at the same time that he did not want to go to Saba. He was a Barbadian and he intended to go back to Barbados. So George asked him;”If you are not interested, why not get the information for me? Do you object to that?” The Barbadian did not, so he wrote to his sister. They received the wanted information and George applied to the Dutch Government.

Months passed, both forgot about it. George started to look around for a place to establish himself and he had already decided on some village around Rumford (Maine). He had visited an old doctor there and the old man had told him there was an opportunity for a young doctor. It would have been too expensive to start a practice around Boston, but George thought that in the backwoods he would only need a horse and carriage; in winter a sled and snowshoes and the office would have been in the front-room of his house.

“All at once there came a reply from the Dutch Government in Curacao. George had given references with his application. They had made inquiries and the job as a doctor in Saba was offered to him. The letter was in Dutch, so there was the first difficulty. He had a Belgian neighbor and went to him, and this man knowing Flemish pretty well translated the letter. The salary offered was f.2500.-yearly minus 8% for something. The Belgian could not figure out what for, so George decided that must be some kind of graft. He decided to agree to that, but the “f” was considered by the Belgian as being francs (then $0.20). George decided he could not live on that and wrote back that he was willing to come but not for fcs.2.500.-but for fcs.5.000.–, so again nobody expected that anything would come of it. Another surprise followed, the Dutch Government wrote him that the salary was really what he wanted as f.2500.-meant florins just twice the amount of fcs.2.500.-as he thought he would receive and the 8% reduction was for his pension.

“After further information George decided to accept the Dutch offer and start his career as a doctor in Saba. First he had to find out where this island was situated. He found the little spot in the Caribbean. All the preparations were made and George, wife, and baby Lucy journeyed to Saba, by British boat from New York via the Danish islands of St.Thomas, St. Croix to St. Kitts. From this last island by small sailing vessel to Saba where they landed, just when it was getting dark on Fort Bay on August 30th, 1908, eve of Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday. There was a horse for George to be transported on up the steps to The Bottom (capital of Saba in the old crater). Wife Lucy & Baby Lucy were carried up in a chair. On the way up Mrs. Hopkins heard a funny noise from her dark environment and asked one of the carriers: “What bird is that?’ Kind of astonished he replied “Ma’am that is a goat!”

Part of the information the Hopkins family received before departure was faulty, Especially one fact was very annoying, viz. they had been informed they need not bother about house furnishings etc., as you could buy all those things on Saba. On arrival they discovered that except food and a few little items nothing could be purchased in Saba and as the hurricane season had started no sailing ships were risking trips on the Caribbean, so the doctor’s family lived for months in a house wholly furnished with borrowed goods, but the population was very nice about it.

Although George did not know anything about Holland and Queen Wilhelmina, he enjoyed especially the celebration of Queens Birthday one day after arrival in Saba.

Most of the transportation was done on horseback on mountain paths and partly on steps, cut out of the side of the mountain. Mrs. Hopkins became an expert horse-woman and George had the honour of designing the first divided skirt for riding in Saba. Side-saddle was too dangerous on those trails. George’s mother was a dress-maker, so in his youth he had seen a lot of models etc. and being rather handy he understood how the shape of the horse-back riding skirt had to be, so the doctor and a few women started on this experiment and it was successful.

George had a pretty good surgical training in his last year as an intern in a hospital, so because of the hurricane season, and the only way to get out of Saba was on a sailing-ship, he was pushed into doing rather serious operations. His assistants were the schoolmaster and the shoemaker, the operating table was the kitchen table.

In the beginning George did only refractions, but as time went on, he understood he might be able to help the people there by doing cataract-operations. Even when transportation was possible most of his patients in Saba could not afford to go somewhere else to have an operation. So with the help of his medical text books for theory and sheep’s eyes as practical material, he started on his career as eye-doctor.

Life was fairly pleasant on Saba. Food was sometimes kind of monotonous, especially when you were virtually shut off from the rest of the world during hurricane season. Canned salmon and chicken was very much on the menu. Once in a while somebody came to ask you if you wanted meat, and if there were enough customers some man went out to shoot a goat. If he was successful you had a roast the next day. If not you tried to find a new method to prepare chicken or canned salmon. Fresh fish was available quite often and sometimes turtle. There was never beef, once in a great while veal.

In the course of 1910 Mrs. Hopkins left on a trip to the States. She was pregnant and expected to have the child in the States, but she changed her mind and in August decided to go back to Saba. Landing in Saba is always some kind of adventure. The ship stays off-shore. Blacks come to meet her in a rowing boat and you are launched ashore through the surf. Nearly always you are soaked through when you step on land.

When Mrs. Hopkins arrived the sea was especially rough. Landing in the Fort Bay, the most convenient one was impossible. So the ship had to go to go to the Ladder Bay and a rowboat met her there. Mrs. Hopkins was 8 months pregnant and not in the best condition to go through that kind of adventure, but she was there and had to land. The miracle was performed and a big strong black man took her upon his shoulder and carried her up the mountain to meet George there. He went out to meet her from the Fort Bay, but they could not come back the same way. Part of the way higher up a horse was available to carry her to The Bottom. There are also steps cut out of the mountain from the Ladder-Bay, but they are too steep for horses, so big husky black men do the job.

 (The baby, George Thomas Hopkins, was born on Saba on September 30th, 1909 and delivered by his father assisted by a local midwife.) Saba is one of the West Indian islands where the population is proportionally dominating white. Very few mulattos’, that shows there is hardly any mixing of races. Whites and blacks live in villages very near to each other, but very definitely apart. That was in 1910, how it is now we do not know.

Population mostly old men, women and children; younger men were mostly sailors. They had in that time their own navigation school. Young men started early to go to sea, then they came back and generally got engaged to get married. Generally stayed long enough after the marriage till they were sure that a baby was expected, then, took another trip again to make money to support the family. Then on their next stay home generally another baby was launched.

Lots of the white sailors from families of The Bottom became first mates and Captains of big ships. They generally reached better positions than those belonging to Mary’s Point, they became bosons etc. Saba sailors have a very good reputation. Only thing the island exported was white potatoes, very good quality, grown on the mountainside on terraced plots. The women make a very nice kind of needle work, which is widely appreciated.”

So far the description of life on Saba one hundred years ago written by Flossie Rayfuse

In the early 1960’s Dr. Hopkins received from Governor Cola Debrot the distinction of Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau for his services to the Netherlands Antilles. After some years on Saba where he also serviced St. Eustatius he moved to St. Maarten, on March 31st, 1911. There he bought the Belle Plaine estate from Diederick Johannes van Romondt. During his European vacation in the First World War he served as a doctor on the hospital ship “The Hope” which accompanied the fishing fleet, and then he moved to Aruba after which in 1932 he was transferred to Curacao.

Dr. G.R. Hopkins was born in Brewster Maine on June 7th, 1884. He worked as government doctor from 1908 to 1934 after which he retired from government service.

He then started his private practice as he was an eye specialist in the meantime. The practice he had on Saba on the people there and using his sheep’s eye had done wonders for him. His office was located in the “Heerenstraat”. He died on Curacao and is buried there.

I have a file with many of his documents including a copy in French of his bill-of-sale for “Belle Plaine” estate which he bought in 1912.

In ‘Saba Silhouettes” by Dr. Julia Crane, Mr. Carl Hassell tells the story of Dr. C.A. Shaw, who was on Saba from February 1899 to February 1903.

He relates; “Meantime there was no doctor on Saba then. Finally in Barbados we get talking. The man out there used to come aboard and sit and talk; and finally we found out he was a doctor, one looking for a job. Well, the captain told about Saba had no doctor, and perhaps he might be able to come here and get the job. So, all right, the captain of the schooner belonged to St.John’s. He says, “Yes, yes, I will give you free passage to Saba.” All right we came along and we introduced him to the office, but the office said he would have to go to Curacao and pass examination and so on. But then he had no money. He was just in his pants and shirt. He was from Nova Scotia. You had to travel by schooner from here to Curacao – what they call a packet that run once a month. You get there in a months’ time and back. So we took a collection here on the island. He done quite a few jobs while he was here. The government give him permission to work, you know. He remained here about a month, and finally we get together enough money to pay his way to Curacao; and exactly they accepted him. The government of Curacao accepted him, sent him back, put him in his position, and he was a splendid doctor.

“We had the office for the doctor where the post office is now. There was a room in that building. Well the building was only half the size that it is now, where the doctor used to tend. Oh, boy! There was nothing that that man couldn’t do in the line of surgery and all of that, you know! He done some wonderful jobs here. He was in Saba about three years, I guess, then they shipped him to St. Maarten, and he tended both places. Great Bay and the French side, and the Dutch side. The French side had no Doctor either, so he used to do both jobs. Well, he got up to be big, earning plenty of money, and he got to be rich. He got to be so kind of sarcastic, you know on these places – the places that had helped him, raised him to get somewhere. He got so then that he didn’t like Saba or its people. Well, they shipped him to St. Maarten and he did the same there. He didn’t use the people like they felt they should be used; and he left there and went to St. Kitts, head of the hospital -bigger job- some other doctors under him then. He remained there till he died. His name was Shaw. But he knew his business, there was no getting out of that. Wonderful operations that they performed here in this island. We had a lady up here on the mountain. I believe it was appendix or something; anyway it was so it was life or death. She either had to die or have the operation, and he did it. She came out all right. He wasn’t grateful for what the people of Saba did for him. After he got so he could handle himself, he had his own way. Why, he wanted to be head of everybody!”

Doctors were important enough in those days to warrant mention in “Memories of St. Maarten” by Josiah Charles Waymouth.

In Chapter V he mentions;” At his departure, as already detailed, the writer had left in his island home, doing duty pro temp. as government physician, in the place of Dr. Shaw, Dr. Cristensen.

“On his return to Philipsburg on 23rd May 1911, after his 4 years absence, he found Dr. Hopkins in the occupancy of that position.” In Chapter VI for the year 1913, Mr. Waymouth mentions the following; “Dr. Shaw returned to this island on 28th September and relieved Dr. Hopkins who left us on 2nd October and has since then been continuously at the other islands – his first station having been Saba.”

For those who want to read all kinds of other information on the life of a doctor on a small island I would like to recommend reading Doctor Robert Mols’ book: “Doctor on Saba.” Also for those who think it is difficult today just imagine being held down by the schoolteacher and the shoemaker while the doctor takes out your appendix on the kitchen table without the help of an anesthetic.

Saba School of Navigation


Bird Island


Saba and Barbados


Two Hell’s Gate Captains*

  In this article I would like to highlight two well known captains from the village of Hell’s Gate (also known as Zion’s Hill).

    They were the sons of Captain Charles Simmons brother of my grandfather James Horton Simmons.

    The village of Hell’s Gate was not known for producing sea captains. They were the farmers and the fishermen of Saba. They stayed close to Saba and fished the Saba Bank.

 When others left the island for good it was the Hell’s Gate people who repopulated the island and still do. With the ever declining local population I tell the young people of Hell’s Gate that they have a sacred mission to repopulate the island.

    In the beginning of the last century many men from Hell’s Gate went to Bermuda and worked there for awhile and also to the United States. Yet after a few years many of them including my father returned from Bermuda and remained here on the island.

   Captain Charles Simmons, born 1863 was the son of Charles Simmons Sr. (‘Mas’ Charlie) and his wife Alice Eliza Horton.

   Captain Charles Simmons had only two children by his wife Peter Ann Every (born 1864 died 28th February 1932). Her parents were Daniel Every and Eliza Hassell.

    The two children were Charles Reuben Simmons born 27th September 1895, and James Knight Simmons, born 26 October 1897.

    On my mother’s side they were her first cousins, but they all lived like brothers and sisters. As in so many cases on Saba formerly, Charles Reuben was married to my father’s sister, Sylvia Ottilia Johnson, and so to me he was my ‘Uncle Reuben’.

    I remember once as a young child putting off a cow for Uncle Reuben. That involved going from house to house announcing that a cow was to be butchered on such and such a date and would you want a share. There was no refrigeration back then. When enough shares were put off the cow was butchered. The meat was divided up into the number of shares ordered. You either cooked and ate it all the same day or salted (corned) it for future use. Most households had a barrel with pickle for that purpose.

    All went well so Uncle Reuben owed me one. I came home one day from my wandering around the village and found my mother all upset. Captain Frank Hassell was visiting here from Barbados with his schooner ‘Francis W. Smith’. As was the custom back then a local retired captain would be asked to carry out the schooner and ‘lay to’, which involved cruising around the islands until the visiting captain was finished vacationing. Uncle Reuben had been looking all over for me to go and spend three days on the schooner cruising around the islands. I 

tried to catch Uncle Reuben but by the time I got to St. John’s the schooner was already headed out to sea. No cell phones back then, so I lost out on that trip and up until today after having traveled the world I still lament missing out on that schooner trip. In my minds eye I can still see the schooner in the distance headed in the direction of St. Kitts.

     I remember visiting Captain Knight and his wife Helen in Hempstead, New York. They were the only white people living in the apartment building so that people in the lobby would say to me;” I guess you came to see Captain Simmons.”

   It was on one of those trips that he told me of the death of his father. He said that if he lived to be a thousand years old he would never forget what happened. He was only seventeen years of age. He had been sailing since the age of thirteen which was the custom back then. They were on a schooner called the ‘Meteor’ and sailing from Guyana to Barbados his father developed a high fever and they decided to continue on to Saba. However on June 19th, 1915 he died just outside of Saba. The sea was so calm and there was no wind so they decided to bury him at sea. As soon as the body went beneath the waves a strong breeze sprang up and within half an hour they made it into port. It was his dad duty to go home and inform his mother of his father’s death.

    Captain James Knight Simmons went to the Navigation School on Saba and then moved on to the United States. He was captain for the Grace Lines company for many years and sailed mostly between New York and South America. During World War II he took part in D-Day and his ship was scuttled at Omaha Beach in France.

    Among the Grace Line ships he was captain of were the ‘Santa Rosa’, the ‘Santa Barbara’ and the’ Santa Clara’. His last command was the ‘S.S. Margarita.’

   The Grace Lines were started by an Irish boy William Russell who went to Peru in the 1840’s, got himself a job in Lima. He saw a future in the guano trade and together with his brother Michael he got into shipping through discipline and hard work.

    The Grace Lines named after him eventually owned the Santa ships which carried passengers and cargo between North America and South America.

    Captain Knight used to call in with the ‘Santa Rosa’ to Aruba and Curacao as well. He sailed as captain with the company for over thirty years. The old ‘Santa Rosa’ carried about 50 passengers in storage and 209 in first class. She started sailing on November 26th, 1932. Late 1936 Grace Lines acquired the Red D. Line, which line also had a number of Saba captains in its day. The service was between New York, Venezuela, Curacao, Colombia, Cristobal Panama and Haiti. The ‘Santa Clara’ renamed the Susan B. Anthony was sunk in the Normandy invasion. I don’t know if he was captain of her at the time.

    After World War II the ‘Santa Rosa’ served the Caribbean calling at Curacao, La Guaira, Aruba, Kingston, Port-au-Prince and Port Everglades, sailing from New York every two weeks.

   Captain Knight was married to a German lady named Helen. They had a son and a daughter who live in the United States. He lived to be 95 and died in 1992.

    Captain Charles Reuben Simmons was born on September 27th, 1895 and died in 1993 at the ripe old age of 98. He married Sylvia Otilia Johnson on November 20th, 1917 and they had one daughter Mary Estelle who was born on November 27th, 1919. She is still alive and lives in her parent’s home on Hell’s Gate. Her house is a gathering place for the few old timers who remember fondly the days of farming and fishing.

    Uncle Reuben left Saba as a young man for the United States. There he attended navigation school at White Hall Street in New York City. He obtained his license as second mate, later on he became first mate, and then he obtained his Masters license.

He returned later on to the West Indies and the first schooner under his command was the very large schooner the ‘Mayflower’, owned by Captain Thomas C. Vanterpool.

    Before that he sailed out of the United States. While quarter master on board of the ‘Missouri’, he was torpedoed of Genoa in the Mediterranean on April 4th, 1917 and spent several days at sea before being rescued. The ship was under the command of Captain Hilton Simmons of The Bottom and which ship belonged to the American Hawaiian Lines. Menthor Hassell of  Windwardside was first mate, Earl Simmons of The Bottom was quarter master and’ Pietie’ Johnson was a sailor.

    Other ships on which he sailed were the ‘Sea Breeze’ and the ‘Steadfast.’ He was also First Mate on the five master schooner the ‘T.N.Barnsdell’, under the command of legendary Captain Ernest Alfred Johnson.

    Between 1940 and 1944 he was a pilot on the rivers in Demerara.

After his sea faring days he lived on Saba. He used to own the former Utilities building in The Bottom. He sold it to Chief Police constable the late Bernard Halley, and when he died the family sold it to Mr. Claude Wathey.

Uncle Reuben then built his house on Hell’s Gate close to the former home of his deceased parents. He had good farm land close to his house and he supported himself with farming the land in his old age. He was called out of retirement briefly to be a Mate on the government owned MV ‘Antilia’. By that time he had his cows and had gotten the sea life out of his system, so that he did not stay long on the ‘Antilia,’ and returned home.

    He was community minded and I seem to remember him always dressed in his suit going to one funeral or the other. He and his brother even though far apart were loving brothers and always kept in contact with each other. There is a plaque on the wall opposite the Roman Catholic Church on Hell’s Gate in remembrance of him. In his old age he used to sit on that same spot contemplating a life of adventure spent on the high seas.

   Uncle Reuben told me many stories of his days as a schooner captain carrying as many as 450 passengers to Curacao from the British islands to work for the Shell Company. Just a few weeks ago former Commissioner Peter Granger who is now 92 was telling me that when he was going to Aruba to work that Uncle Reuben had told his father that he had a suitcase for him. ‘Cessie’ claims he still has that suitcase from seventy five years ago.

   They are gone but not forgotten as they were the only two natives of Hell’s Gate who went on to the big league of being captain of not only large schooners but also of large cruise ships as well.

The Anslyn Brothers*

If you misplace a book in my house you can forget about looking for it. Sometimes years later it will turn up stuck between my bookshelves where there are at least 2500 books. I tell friends (and now everybody) that my bedroom resembles the Public Library. I sleep in a huge four poster bed and the room is lined with shelves of mostly books on the West Indies. And then there is my office and most of the other rooms in the house. Books and paper everywhere.

And so it happened with Saban Rascal, a self published book by Carl Anslijn when he was 75 years old. I had asked all over if anyone had a copy of this book of childhood memories written by Carl, to no avail. And just this month the book turned up stuck between another book where I least expected to find it. A hint to the believers. Saint Anthony is your boy to call on for lost items. He always comes true. If you are a believer that is. The Muslims must have an equivalent for him as well. Abu Bakhr perhaps?

Carl and his brother Arthur were the sons of Edward Anslijn whose mother was from Saba and whose father was the famous Dutch Doctor Nicholas Anslijn. He in turn was a descendant of a famous Flemmish educator who wrote one or more books on the subject of education. In an interview in Saba Silhouettes by Dr. Julia Crane ,Carl describes his ancestry as follows:

“My grandfather first came here from Curacao as a doctor. That must have been in l875.

My father (Edward) died at the age of seventy-two years. That would give him, let us say, 1880 roughly when he was born. My grandfather was a doctor on Curacao, and he had been married to a Venezuelan lady whose father was a military man, and she had died.

He came here when he must have been up around forty-five or fifty years, I imagine. Around fifty let us say. My grandmother was very young. She couldn’t have been more than sixteen or eighteen years. He fell in love with her and married her. He took her away to Curacao where they lived for some time. They came back up here then, and he died in Sint Maarten. He left her with three children. She stood here and she married a Saba man who believed that it was much easier to sit down than to work, and she had a tough life.”

Carl and Arthur were very ambitious, and hard working men. They both had an excellent education for their day on the island of Nevis. Their father Edward was captain of the Luxury yacht the “Nearra” of the Sea Island Cotton company with headquarters on Nevis.

The yacht was seldom used and in the hurricane season the yacht had to be sheltered in the Oyster Pond on St. Martin, on St. Barths or St. Thomas, but mostly at the Oyster Pond.

Carl used to tell me many stories about the isolation of the area when he was a boy with no one living there and no roads leading to it: ” In Saba Silhouettes he says: “You can imagine, two boys, my brother and I, in a place where there were practically millions of fish, lobsters, every kind of bird, wild goats, wild sheep, horses, cows, everything you could think of. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer never had the equal of what we had! It was one spree from morning until night, roaming the hills, swimming catching fish, boating, sailing, everything you could do. We were very healthy.

Of course it played hell with our schooling because in Sint Maarten living at the Oyster Pond, we could not go to school. The town was some miles away, and in those days there wasn’t cars running back and forth like now.” In between Oyster Pond, Carl and Arthur lived in Nevis. He said: “We went to a very nice school, a private school that a lady educated in England kept for the Administrator’s children and so on. It was the people who had money, that could afford to pay for good schooling and not send their children to the government school. They sent them to Miss Bridgewater’s school because she gave them a better education. In Nevis I studied not only English but French, and we had Latin classes.”

His father Edward later became the captain of the ferry between St. Kitts and Nevis. He and Carl’s mother were divorced by then and he married a lady from Nevis. Carl’s sister Dr. Brontie Gonsalves-Anslijn and his brother the second Arthur known as “brother” are prominent people on Nevis. “Brother” used to run the ferry for years after his father died.

I have occasional contact with them. “Brother’s” son Vaughn is a very talented painter and reminds me of his Uncle Carl.

Arthur and Carl were loving brothers all their life. Carl never married. Arthur had three children. Both of the brothers lived into their eighties.

As young men they bought the “Schotzenhoek Estate” on St. Eustatius for fls.5.000.—This is where the Statia Oil Terminal is now located. They bought it from the Every family of Saba/Statia origin. The first Every was Daniel James Hassell Every a brother of one of my great grandmother’s Adrianna. He married the daughter of a Zeelig who owned the plantation and moved to Statia in the mid eighteen hundreds. The Every’s branched out from Statia into St. Kitts where they owned “Brotherson’s Estate” some 900 acres the largest sugar cane plantation on St. Kitts. They also owned whaling ships, schooners, the “Pinney’s Estate” on Nevis and property on the Frontstreet in St. Maarten.

In the nineteen twenties they were struck with several misfortunes. They lost one son who shot himself accidentally while passing a gun through a barbed wire fence. Two others got lost in a hurricane on their schooner. Their only daughter married a captain of a whaling ship and moved to the U.S.A.

The Every’s spent their last years on Nevis. “Uncle” Carl Buncamper used to visit them and told me how much they missed Statia. They said that if they heard a bird it sang sweeter if they thought it had flown over from Statia to visit them.

Carl told me that Governor Johannes de Graaf was buried on the estate. He decided to dig out the grave but grave robbers had already gone with the golden sword which he supposedly was buried with. All he found was a finger bone. He placed it on the eve of the house above the front door. For two nights there was such an infernal racket on the roof that Arthur gave orders to take the bone back to the grave and bury it. The following night Governor de Graaf allowed them to sleep peacefully.

After several years Carl and Arthur sold Schotzenhoek for fls.25.000.– to a Dutch farmer Mr. van Rijswijk and they went to Curacao to manage two plantations for Dr. Maal whom they had known on Statia.

Carl said: “When you are handling a farm with about four hundred goats, two hundred sheep, a herd of cattle, and big cultivation, two men cannot run it. Arthur wanted to work twenty four hours a day and did not believe in letting a guilder stray from home through employed labour.” Carl wanted to go to church on Sundays and reflect on life, and so they decided to sell.

After Curacao they moved back to Aruba and Carl worked for the LAGO oil refinery. He was a favourite of Juancho Yrausqin of the PPA party and was also a top vote getter. He served as a Member of Parliament for Aruba for seven years. He was also five years a Commissioner and also served as a Member of the Island Council there.

When he was sick and ailing I had one hell of a time getting Aruba to pay him his pension. It seemed to me that all the leading politicians on Aruba were unaware of his career. Some even denied that he had ever been a Commissioner. In l985 they had fixed up sizeable pensions for themselves. How I was able to get through for him is too long for this article but he finally got something a few weeks before he died on Aruba.

Arthur came back to Saba in l950 after their mother had died on Aruba.He brought a jeep with him. I think it was the first privately owned vehicle and the third one on Saba. As a little boy I used to help him. My job was to jump off the jeep and place a rock under the wheel while he switched gears. He named one of his two sons that he had by Phyllis van Putten after me. At least he told me,” If its a boy I am going to name him Will.”

Arthur also has a granddaughter on St. Maarten. Patsy the wife of Joseph H. Lake, Jr.

Arthur became Commissioner and Island Council Member on Saba in l955 and served for twenty years in both jobs.

Carl returned to Saba in l968 and he and I were in opposition to one another. He was not easy with his pamphlet “The Bullseye”, but then neither was I with the “Saba Herald” After one election Carl declared Cessie Granger and myself the world’s two best eye specialists. He said that young people declaring to the voting bureau that they could not see well enough to vote, after being helped by one of us, were miraculously cured when they left the booth.

In l987 he suddenly decided to support me and stayed with me politically until he died.

In “Saba Silhouettes” Carl gave his reasons for leaving a successful political career on Aruba and coming home to Saba.

“All the years that I was away, I was looking forward to the day when I could come home and do what I am doing now., I say, well, that isn’t much of a goal for a man to look forward to, to come home and have a little garden and keep a flock of sheep and keep chickens and birds and peacocks and fish and all that. But it is a very peaceful existence,, and that is something that after so many years in politics, with all its intrigue and treachery, I learned to value the things we have here on Saba, more than a man usually does who is not involved in the rat race. So I yearned all the while for Saba and looked forward to the day I could come home and live as I’m living now.”

I thought I would share a part of Carl’s book with the readers. With certain groups in the Antilles trying to provoke Venezuela the story is timely as well.

On the eighth of June l929 Rafael Simon Urbina and some of his Venezuelan supporters took over the government on Curacao. They took Governor Ir. Leonard Fruytier and garrison commander Borren on a ship with them, which they had commandeered. They were released but the Dutch government replaced Fruytier with B.W.T. van Slobbe a trained military man, and also jailed the mnilitary commander Borren.

Rumors circulated in the meanwhile that Venezuela was going to attack over the islands and Carl in his book “Saban Rascal” gives an account of:

The Urbina Invasion

Our island was in an uproar. News had come that the rebel Venezuelan, general Urbina, had raided Curacao, and many of our simple-minded citizens thought that the other Dutch islands would be raided next.

Nobody stopped to think that our small rocky island had nothing to tempt any rebel force to raid it. Tension was high, and everybody feared the worst when a steamboat was seen approaching the island from the South.

The average islanders believed that we were about to be raided. People gathered about in groups discussing what should be done. Some of the women gathered up their most prized possessions, and were wondering where was the safest place to hide them. There was a lot of talk about hiding in caves on the island, and carrying food and water until the invaders left.

One old man, who lived close to the road which traversed the island, carried a rat trap and put it on the road, as it was the only weapon he had. He told the neighbours that he didn’t have a gun to shoot with, but at least the trap could give one of the invaders a sore toe.

People had begun to leave their homes to hide in the forests and caves, when it was noticed that the steamboat had anchored on the Saba Bank, which was some miles off the island. A sigh of relief went up from many a heart, and people once again went about their daily chores, but lookouts were still kept on several hills to keep watch on the steamboat.

A day later she pulled up her anchor and disappeared in the distance. And so ended our invasion by Urbina’s forces.”

For those who believe that President Hugo Chavez intends to invade Curacao or any of the other Dutch West Indies, the moral of the story is, be vigilant, be prepared, BUY A RATTRAP.

Advice to the Governor of the Isle of Barata

A custom of the Roman Catholic Church after confession is for the priest to put an obligation on the confessor. The last time I went to confession my priest put an obligation on me to read Don Quixote de La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. Just kidding! I myself felt obliged for whatever which reason to read Don Quixote. All 940 pages of what many Spanish language writers have described as the second greatest book ever written.

Just as the Holy Koran is best read in Arabic one is advised to read Don Quixote in the Spanish language. I chose to read the translation in English by J. M. Cohen. This is an acclaimed translation not to be matched by any other. And pray what did I learn from this book?

I don’t know if many of my readers knew Mr. Osborne Kruythoff of Cole Bay. I am certain that my friend Mike Ferrier knew him. If there ever was a Knight errant on St. Maarten it was Osborne Kruythoff. The more I read of Don Quixote’s adventures the more I remembered Osborne.

His supposedly real job was to clean up sea-weed on Great Bay Beach whenever such a need arose. This took place very seldom. So at a certain point a unique opportunity presented itself to Osborne to gain fame. St. Maarten had gone from 83 motor vehicles to some 200 or more in the early nineteen sixties. Osborne, on his own, decided that traffic on the square in front of the Court House needed someone to properly direct it. How he acquired a traffic whistle no one knows. However, Osborne’s whistle became as familiar as a train whistle must have been in former times to those living along the train tracks.

Osborne’s outfit consisted of a brown kaki uniform, a white tropical helmet and a machete used as a baton to direct traffic with. A machete on Saba is still called a cutlass, a throw back to our pirate ancestors.

If the car did not obey he would give it a good planass, which he must have learned while cutting cane back when in the Dominican Republic. A planass is the art of hitting someone with the flat part of the machete.

He started putting flowers in the helmet and in his shirt buttons, so much so that he looked like a walking flower pot and had to push aside the flowers covering his face, in order to get his traffic whistle in his mouth.

Naturally he became a spectacle for the few tourists coming to the island. Two tourist women would have him embraced for the picture taking when suddenly Osborne would spot a car coming in the distance, and he would break loose from the embrace scattering the tourists in the process, in order to carry on with his job of directing traffic.

The great mistake, which none other than Lt. Governor Japa Beaujon made was to salute Osborne one day, and to also follow his traffic directions. While there was no planass for the Governor’s car, Osborne felt emboldened and became obsessed with directing traffic. Even at night. One night late coming down the hill at Cole Bay, suddenly I heard Osborne’s whistle. He apparently had been hiding in the bushes, waiting on any car foolish enough to wander out into the night. His own transportation was not the ‘Rocinante” of Don Quixote however, but the Dapple of Sancho Panza. He rode to town on an old brown donkey, but it was not up to speed enough to get him on time to the square to direct traffic, so mostly he would walk or hitch a ride. If he was in the back of a truck he would blow the whistle incessantly at every passing car until he reached the square.

Although he could not drive himself he was full of advice on how one should handle a car. I was not the best driver and I gave him a lift once and he was shouting ‘Johnson boy don’t let she get away from you etc.’, so that I was relieved when we made it to town and he blew his whistle to get me out of the way so that he could get down to business with the other traffic.

Finally he became too enthusiastic and gave a planass to someone’s new car. Police was called and they dragged him down the alley by the Court House to the Police Station. My boss ‘Fons’ O’Connor was among other things also the local Judge. Osborne was screaming his head off for ‘Fons’ to come to his rescue. What a pathetic sight he was. His helmet lay smashed on the ground. The alley was full of flowers on the ground like after a Queens Birthday parade, but the two police officers kept dragging him towards the Police Station kicking and screaming and calling for the Judge.

In the end we all convinced ‘Fons’ to go to the rescue at the station. Don Quixote did not surrender easily however. Whether the police liked it or not he continued directing traffic until the number of cars overwhelmed him and he was lost among the crowd along with an entire host of colorful St. Maarten characters.

What else did I learn from reading Don Quixote? He advises that one should not discuss rope in the house of a man who has been hanged. I also learned that one should be careful in reading so many books as I do as it is said of Don Quixote that he so buried himself in his books that he spent the nights reading from twilight till daybreak and the days from dawn till dark; and so from little sleep and much reading, his brain dried up and he lost his wit.

Cervantes also advises: “After all these years I have been sleeping in the silence of oblivion, come out with all my years on my back, with a tale as dry as a rush, barren of invention, devoid of style, poor in wit and lacking in all learning and instruction, without quotations in the margins or notes at the end of the book; whereas I see other works, never mind how fabulous and profane, so full of sentences from Aristotle, Plato and the whole herd of philosophers, as to impress their readers, and get their authors a reputation for wide reading, erudition and eloquence? And when they quote Holy Scripture! You will be bound to say that they are so many St. Thomas’s or other doctors of the church.”

I was getting desperate as the end of the book came in sight. I was on a train between Washington and Richmond. Was there anything meaningful in the book?

I started to have my doubts. And then I came across the advice which Don Quixote gave to Sancho Panza when the Duke,as a joke, appointed him Governor of a non-existent island.

In looking back on my life I perhaps should have read Don Quixote in my youth, but I am pleased to pass on this advice to all those who have been entrusted with governing islands.

Don Quixote almost forced Sancho to sit down beside him, and addressed him with great deliberation:

‘I give infinite thanks to Heaven, Sancho my friend, that first and foremost, before I strike any good luck myself, prosperity has come out to meet and receive you. I who had staked the payment for your services on my own success find myself at the beginning of my advancement; while you find yourself rewarded with your heart’s desire before your time and contrary to all reasonable expectations. Some bribe, importune, solicit, rise early, entreat, pester, and yet fail to achieve their aims; then there comes another, and without knowing how or why he finds himself with the place and office which many others have sought for. Here the proverb comes in pat, that there is good and bad luck in petitioning’s. You are, in my opinion, most certainly a dullard. Yet without rising early or working late or putting yourself to great pains, with only the breath of knight errantry which ahs touched you, you find yourself without more ado governor of an isle, as if that were nothing. I say all this Sancho, so that you shall not attribute this favour to your own merits, but shall give thanks to God, who disposes things so kindly, and afterwards to the greatness implicit in the profession of knight errantry.

‘With your heart disposed to believe my words, be attentive, my son, to this your Cato, who will advise you and be the pole-star and guide to direct you and bring you to a safe port, out of this stormy sea in which you are likely to drown. For offices and great places are nothing but a deep gulf of confusion.

‘Firstly, my son, you must fear God; for in fearing Him is wisdom and being wise, you can make no mistake.

‘Secondly, you must consider what you are, seeking to know yourself, which is the most difficult task conceivable. From self-knowledge you will learn not to puff yourself up, like the frog who wanted to be as big as an ox. If you achieve this, the memory that you kept hogs in your own country will come to be like the peacock’s ugly feet to the tail of your folly.’

‘Therefore those who are not of noble origin must accompany the gravity of the office they exercise with a mild suavity which, guided by prudence, may save them from malicious slanders, from whom no station is free.’

‘Rejoice, Sancho, in the humbleness of your lineage, and do not think it a disgrace to say you come of peasants; for, seeing that you are not ashamed, no one will attempt to shame you. Consider it more meritorious to be virtuous and poor than noble and a sinner. Innumerable men there are, born of low stock, who have mounted to the highest dignities, pontifical and imperial; and of this truth I could weary you with examples.

‘Remember, Sancho, that if you take virtue for your means, and pride yourself on performing virtuous deeds, you will have no reason to envy those who were born princes and lords. For, blood is inherited but virtue acquired, and virtue has an intrinsic worth, which blood has not.

‘This being so, if any of your relations should chance to come and visit you when you are in your isle, do not reject them or insult them. On the contrary, you must receive them, make much of them and entertain them. In that way you will please God, who would have no one disdain His creation; and what is more, you will be complying with your duty to the order of nature.

‘If you should take your wife with you – for it is not right that those engaged in government should be for long without wives of their own – instruct her, indoctrinate her and pare her of her native rudeness; for often everything a wise governor gains is lost and wasted by an ill-mannered and foolish wife.

‘If you should chance to be widowed – a thing which may happen – and wish to make a better match to suit your office, do not choose a wife to serve you as a bait and a fishing-rod and take bribes in her hood; for I tell you truly that whatever a judge’s wife receives her husband will have to account for at the Last Judgment, where he will have to pay fourfold in death for the statutes of which he has taken no account in his lifetime.

‘Never be guided by arbitrary law, which has generally great influence with the ignorant who set up to be clever.

‘Let the poor man’s tears find more compassion in you, but not more justice, than the pleadings of the rich.

‘Try to discover the truth behind the rich man’s promises and gifts, as well as behind the poor man’s sobbings and importunities.

‘Where equity may justly temper the rigour of the law do not pile the whole force of it on to the delinquent; for the rigorous judge has no higher reputation than the merciful.

‘If you should chance to bend the rod of justice, do not let it be with the weight of a bribe, but with that of pity.

‘When you happen to judge the case of some enemy of yours, turn your mind away from your injury and apply it to the truth of the case.

‘Do not let personal passion blind you in another’s case, for most of the errors you make will be irremediable, and if you should find a remedy it will cost you your reputation, or even your fortune.

‘If a beautiful woman comes to beg you for justice, turn your eyes from her tears and your ears from her groans, and consider the substance of her plea at leisure, if you do not want your reason to be drowned in her sobs and your honour in her sighs.

‘Do not revile with words the man you must punish with deeds, since the pain of the punishment is sufficient for the wretch without adding ill-language.

‘Consider the culprit who comes before you for judgment as  a wretched man, subject to the conditions of our depraved nature, and as far as in you lies without injury to the contrary party, show yourself pitiful and lenient; for although all godlike attributes are equal, mercy is more precious and resplendent in our sight than justice.

‘The instructions I have so far given you are for the embellishment of your soul. Listen now to some which will serve you for the adornment of your body.

So far as concerns the government of your person and your house, Sancho, my first charge to you is to be clean, and to pare your nails and not them grow as do some, who are ignorantly persuaded that long nails beautify the hands; as if that excrescence and appendage which they omit to cut were merely nail, whereas it is like the claws of a lizard-catching kestrel – a foul and unsightly object.

‘Do not go unbelted and loose; for disorderly clothes are the indication of a careless mind, unless this disorderliness and negligence falls under the head of cunning, as it was judged to do in the case of Julius Caesar.

‘Do not eat garlic or onions; for their smell will reveal that you are a peasant.

‘Walk leisurely and speak with deliberation; but not so as to seem to be listening to yourself, for all affectation is bad;

‘Eat little at dinner and less at supper, for the health of the whole body is forged in the stomach’s smithy.

‘Be temperate in drinking, remembering that excess of wine keeps neither a secret nor a promise.

‘Take care, Sancho, not to chew on both sides of your mouth nor to eruct in anyone’s presence.

‘Be moderate in your sleeping, for he that does not rise with the sun does not enjoy the day; and remember Sancho, that industry is the mother of good fortune, and slothfulness, its opposite, never yet succeeded in carrying out an honest purpose.

 ‘To gain the goodwill of the people you govern you must do two things amongst others; the first is to be civil to everyone – and the other, to provide an abundance of the necessities of life, for there is nothing which distresses the hearts of the poor more than hunger and want.

‘Do not make many laws, but if you make them, try to make good ones and, particularly, see that they are kept and fulfilled; for if laws are not kept they might as well not exist. Besides, they show that though the prince had the wisdom and authority to make them, he had not the courage to see they were observed. And laws which threaten but are not carried out come to be like the log which was king of the frogs. He frightened them at first; but in time they despised him and climbed upon his back.

‘Do not show yourself greedy – or given to women or gluttony, for if the people and such as have dealings with you discover your dominant inclination they will open battery-fire on you in that quarter, until they bring you down to the depths of perdition.

Sancho concluded after this advice that he would rather go to Heaven plain Sancho than to Hell a Governor.

But Don Quixote admonished him to consider and reconsider, view and review, the counsels and instructions given to him. ‘You will see that you will find in them, if you observe them, an additional help to ease you over the troubles and difficulties which governors meet at every turn.’

At the end of the book Don Qixote decided not to go to Saragossa and his reasons were:’ Instead I went openly to Barcelona, the treasure house of courtesy, the refuge of strangers, the hospital of the poor, the country of the valiant, the avenger of the injured, and the abode of firm and reciprocal friendships, unique in its position and its beauty.

And although the adventures that befell me there occasioned me no great pleasure, but rather much grief, I bore them the better for having seen that city.’

I too am headed for Barcelona, and on November 29th, like Columbus, I will head out on a voyage of discovery to places already known and will end my cruise at St. Maarten  after having cruised the coast of Africa and visited the islands which Columbus visited before setting out into the great unknown.

Crashed eggs and tapas in Barcelona


Reflections on Father Christmas


Man of the Sea: James Anthony Simmons

In 1984 I interviewed James Anthony Simmons. He is still alive and active and will be 95 years of age this year.

He was born on Saba on August 9th, 1914. His mother was Caroline Maria Simmons born Every who died around 1956. Her parents were Mamselle Every called “Zellie” whose people originally came to Saba from St. Thomas, and her husband was named Peter Every.

James Anthony’s father was named James Arthur Simmons and he died around 1943 in Barbados at the age of 55. His parents were Sally Jones and Alexander Simmons. They were all dead before James Anthony was born.

His father James Arthur Simmons had left Saba and went to live in Barbados to work for “Redhead” Joe Simmons who had moved from Saba as many Sabans had done at the time. Red Head Joe used to own Walmar Lodge which was a plantation at the time.

James Anthony had not known his father and as so many young boys at the time he decided to go to sea and the usual age in those days was 14. And so at that young age James Anthony went to work as a mess boy on the schooner the “Ina Vanterpool”.It was a large schooner measuring 105 feet long, 26 feet wide and 218.90 tons. This two master schooner belonged to Captain Tommy Vanterpool. The Captain was Herman Simmons. They sailed between Curacao and the Windward Islands with the mail. The schooner had no motor and a trip, depending on weather conditions going and coming would take as much as ten days each way. Going down to Curacao would be faster and would usually take three to four days, but coming back could be from ten to twelve days. He also sailed on the “Georgetown” a schooner which was 81 feet long, 26 feet wide and 118.72 tons.

This schooner would carry as many as 75 passengers who had to rough it on deck mostly. They made a monthly trip to Curacao and in between would sail usually between Saba and St. Kitts. Around 1929 or 1930 the “Georgetown” went ashore on the island of Nevis and got destroyed there. James Anthony was not on board at the time, though I had an Uncle Herbert Simmons who was just a young boy himself who went ashore with her. In those days it took several weeks before my grandparents knew that he was safe and sound. James Anthony also worked on the “Three Sisters” with Capt. Will Leverock.

After that James Anthony sailed on the “Rhode Island” a two master which sailed to Curacao and which took the place of the “Three Sisters.” She also belonged to Captain William Benjamin Hassell. Her captain at the time was Aldrick Dowling. She was destroyed in a hurricane in Frederiksted, St.Croix around 1929. James Anthony and the crew had come to St.Thomas from Curacao. They went south to run from the hurricane and struck a reef just off the harbour of Frederiksted. No lives were lost. When daylight cleared the pilot boat came out and took the passengers and crew ashore. They were unable to save the boat but most of the supplies were saved. Mr. Labega (a son of Freddie Labega of St. Maarten ) who was married to a red haired girl from Saba and who lived there put them all up at his home. There were about twenty passengers on board when the accident happened. The two master schooner “Mary C. Santos” also belonging to Capt. Ben Hassell then came up from Barbados to St.Croix to pick them up. The passengers were all from the surrounding islands.

After that he went to work on the two master schooner the “Francis W.Smith” a salt fish runner from Canada which belonged to Captain Johnny Vanterpool and them.

The Captain was Aldrick Dowling. These schooners were all built in Canada. They would bring in codfish and lumber to Barbados and the Sabans would buy them there. On the “Francis W.Smith” he was an ordinary seaman and sailed to Trinidad, Demerara, Martinique and Guadeloupe carrying gasoline in drums from Trinidad. He did this for three years. The schooner was sold and then the captain went fishing off the coast of Guyana.

Around 1935 he went to Curacao where he worked for “Pletterij Nederhorst,” and then on to Aruba where he joined the “Mosquito” fleet. This was a fleet of tankers which belonged to ESSO on which a number of Sabans lost their lives in World War II.

Many of the survivors who worked 15, 20 and more years and who then still lived on Saba got a big fat pension of fls.20.- and less per month (Yes, That much) for having risked their lives before during and after the war for ESSO on Aruba. James Anthony worked for about twenty years on the fleet. He mostly sailed between Aruba and Lake Maracaibo, but sometimes to Barbados, Brazil and to Mobile Alabama and Norfolk Virginia and to Cristobal Colon in Panama.

In 1945 he married Aline Hughes from which marriage three children were born. After he came back to Saba he sailed with Capt. Randolph Dunkin on the sloop the “Eden Rock.”, mostly between Saba and St. Kitts. All the trade was with St. Kitts back then. The last time he sailed on a regular basis was on the sloop “Santa Lou” also belonging to Capt. Dunkin and which carried the mails between Saba and Sint Maarten in the sixties when Saba had an empty airport and they said no plane could land here.

James Anthony was also active in the politics since the sixties and was on the WIPM list each election since 1971 with Peter Granger and myself.

He was a joiner. When Miss Carmen and they started the Women’s Organization he joined. When asked why he had joined he said “Them poor women need help.” If the Women’s Organization still exists I am sure that he is still a member in good standing. It reminds me of the time the WIPM had to send a delegate to St.Lucia for a Youth Conference. None of the younger ones could attend. Mr. Carl Anslyn then seventy five years of age volunteered to attend. The average age attending the conference was 18. You can imagine the St.Lucia press had a field day with Saba’s delegate. When he got back Mr. Anslyn was full of praise for the way he had been received by the young people. He said to me “And I told them a thing or two.” I am sure he did.

James Anthony has been one of the main servers in the Roman Catholic Church in The Bottom. He has been a pillar of his church and was a member of the Parish council and is also a Member of the Living Water Community.

For many years he was also a housepainter by profession. I remember once when he was painting my roof that my son Teddy who was a little boy back then used to think that he was “Santa Claus” because it was around Christmas time and he had learned that Santa always landed on the roof. And since old James Anthony was on the roof for a couple of days, Teddy thought that he was Santa.

When he could get around he was always to be found to help out with all kinds of social activities and was a real asset to the people of The Bottom in particular and the people of Saba in general. He retired from the sea when he was in his eighties but he still used to go fishing with his friend Elmer Linzey especially, and he has fond memories of a life spent at sea. Especially the years he spent on the old Saban owned schooners trading throughout the West Indies.

And as is often the case in small island communities such as ours we also have a family relationship. As a boy I remember a big tall brown man stopping me and asking me if I was Johnson’s boy and I said;” Yes.” He said to me “You know me and you are family.”

You bet I thought to myself. How can you be family to me? Anyway when I went home I asked my mother and described the man to her. She laughed and said;” That must be Long Charlie. Yes he and your father are first cousins.” Turns out my great uncle Henry Johnson was his father. “Long Charlie” was Charles and a brother of our friend James Anthony.

James Anthony attends every event he can make it to and is fully alert as to what is going on around him. He will be 95 this year. I made a speech for him at his 90th birthday and it seems like yesterday. He still lives at home and is surrounded by his grandchildren and great grandchildren and it is always a pleasure to see how they appreciate having him around.

We salute James Anthony Simmons and wish him many more happy years here with us on Saba and thank him for being an inspiration for us all.

Stanley Johnson*

Memory of a Father

 Stanley Johnson was born to Rebecca Elizabeth Vlaun and John George Johnson on Saba on February 6th, 1890. At the age of fourteen he first set sail on various local schooners, traveling through the various West Indian Islands. He sailed with local captains including Knight Simmons, Benjamin Hassell, Thomas Vanterpool and Augustine Johnson. On January 2nd, 1922 he married my Aunt Alice Eliza Simmons (19) daughter of James Horton Simmons and Agnes Johnson.

At the age of thirty-seven, Stanley sailed to the United States aboard the “SS Caracas” arriving at Ellis Island in New York on April 13th, 1927. Along with him on the steamship were six other men from Saba: Reuben Johnson (age 45), David O. Johnson (age 16), William Johnson (age 36), Moses Johnson (age 52), David Johnson (age 17) and Richard Johnson (age 45). The official Ellis Island Ship’s Manifest indicates that all seven men listed their destination as 27 South Street, in lower Manhattan. This was the address of the Sabans godfather for fifty years Mr. Hyman Kalisky a Jewish merchant who was of Eastern European origin. He and his wife operated a boarding house and clothing store which was primarily used by sailors from Saba during their stays in New York. People on Saba even name their children Kalisky back then. Mr. Kalisky served the sailors well, assisting them with employment on ships, collecting their pay and sending mail and money back home to the families the men had to leave on Saba. The Kalisky family embraced Stanley as if he were a member of the family.

After arriving in New York in 1927, Stanley was not to return to Saba until 1936. During those nine years he sailed for four years on the four-masted schooner the “Albert F. Paul”, with Captain Southard and his wife Ruby, who were like family to him. The “Albert F. Paul” sailed from Nova Scotia and the New England fishing grounds to the Gold Coast of Africa. The other schooners upon which Stanley sailed carried various goods and products as diverse as corned codfish from New Bedford, Massachusetts and potatoes from Long Island, to salted cowhides from Brazil. He traveled around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and the Horn of Africa while sailing for Moore-McCormack Lines and Kerr McGee. During these years he also sailed the inland waterways, particularly the Hudson, from the St. Lawrence Seaway to New York harbour. He sailed on the Georgia, the Tennessee and the Mohawk, carrying timer down the Hudson. After sailing inland for several years he returned to the sea, sailing out of Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana for the Waterman Steamship Company of Boston, Massachusetts.

During this nine year period sailing out of New York, he, like many other Saba men, decided to become an American citizen. On March 17, 1932, while still listing his residence as 27 South Street in New York he was sworn in as a United States citizen. His decision was based in large part because of the opportunities the United States had provided to him.

In 1936, he returned to Saba and sailed again on local schooners. He remained on Saba until shortly after the death of his beloved mother Rebecca, in 1938. He never had the opportunity to see his homeland again.

Not long after his return to the United States, World War II began. He sailed with the Seafarer’s International Union as a Merchant Marine. As such he sailed on unarmed cargo ships in convoys to Europe and Russia, bringing aid and much needed supplies. I stayed at his home in Richmond Hill for two months in the winter of 1967 and I remember him telling me stories about how cold it was in Murmansk, Russia. If you made the mistake and held on to the rail your hand would stick to it.

During the war he frequently sailed on the Robin Tuxford under Captain Kenneth Chamberlain. Along with him on the Robin Tuxford was Stanley’s first cousin, Edward Johnson, who served as Chief Engineer. The Robin Tuxford made numerous trips to Murmansk, Russia, one of the most northerly open water ports in Russia. Stanley also sailed on the ‘SS Graylock’, which was sunk off the coast of Murmansk in 1943. He and his shipmates were rescued by a British Corvette and brought to Glasgow, Scotland, where they remained for some months recovering from pneumonia. Stanley also had the unfortunate luck of having another ship torpedoed by a German U-boat off the New England Coast.

As a result of his service to the United States, Stanley was awarded four service medals, including two medals for service for service in the Atlantic War zone. The United States did not, however, issue these medals until decades after his service, because Merchant Marines were not traditionally recognized for their war time service, since they were considered civilian. This oversight was corrected by the U.S. Government in the 1980’s and these brave men received the honors they deserved.

Stanley Johnson also received a medal of honor from the Russian government for his service in the convoys which brought life saving necessities to the ports of Murmansk and Arch Angel during the war. He was honorably discharged from the United States Maritime Service on August 15, 1945.

During his fifty plus years at se, Stanley sailed to the ports of Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and North America and was devoted to the sea. Upon his final retirement from the sea he lived out his remaining years in Richmond Hill, New York with his wife Alice, his children Bessie, Carl Lester and Arlene and his beloved grandchildren. He died peacefully at the age of 98 on April 7, 1988.

Before he died in 2008, his son Lester wrote about his memories of his father the sailor. What he describes is the way most children saw their father’s lives on Saba when the island had more than 700 men out of a population of 2400 who listed their profession as seamen.

“The unusual thing about memory the older we are the shorter our memory becomes. However, the greatest values in the lives of humankind are the ability to remember, to change and to forgive. These three qualities hold us together as a people like the arms of a loving mother. As our ability to store new knowledge declines old age takes us back to the beginning memories of our childhood. My childhood memories of my father did not start until I was twelve. The greatest weakness of the human mind is the inability to distinguish between good and evil without experience of the senses.

We can remember what we see, what we hear, what we smell, what we taste, and what we touch. However, without involving our five senses, we cannot remember anything that was real. For the women who married our Saba men and bore them children none of the senses played a part in their lives of loneliness and longing for many years at a time. Life was no different for the children who came from these marriages. However, our continued existence as a people is testimony to the goodness, the will to survive and the self-sufficiency of the lives on the Auld Rock in the old days. We gave a good account of ourselves no matter where we went.

My father loved the sea. The wooden ship with iron men sailed into the hopes and dreams of my childhood and stayed there with the passion of a love affair. I wanted to be a sailor like my father was. However, when my time came to plant the tree of life the sea was not important because my mother’s life and that of my sisters and it caused me to choose the land. I have no regrets because being on land allowed me to have the kind of life, I wanted. That also included my parents after World War II.

The early letters came from Kalisky’s Boarding House and Restaurant at 27 South Street, New York City. There were many months between letters. My father sailed the world. Once around Cape Horn and through the straits of Magellan to the West Coast where my father was gone for a year and everyone thought he had been lost. He returned from Chile very much alive with stories. Even in the face of what other people would call abandonment most Saba women stayed true to their husbands.

When steam replaced sailed for commerce on the high seas, my father shifted to inland waters where he worked for some years. These inland ships also served as homes to many Saba men. Those were the days when their seamanship, honesty and reliability served them well. It helped them to survive the Great Depression that was still going on when World War II started.

Sabans in those days mostly put their roots down in New England and New York especially. Their family names march on into the future all over the United States.

My father saw me for the first time when I was two years old. I did not see him again until 1938 when I was thirteen. He was home with his family for almost two years. Suddenly he was alive, a husband, a father and a friend to all who knew him and those who came to know him as a friend and loved him for he was a good kind man. He saw everyone as equals. What stays with me in my old age was my father’s way when he saw someone approaching. He would wet his under lip with his tongue. He always began with a compliment and finished with a story or a joke.

When my father arrived home, it was one of the most joyful days of my life and the saddest day was the day he left in 1940 to return to the United States. The world was on the verge of World War II. I had gone to the Fort Bay to see him off and I was sitting on a rock. I could smell my father’s pipe a mile away and then his arm was around me and we were both shedding tears of goodbye, because they were part of the life of every family on Saba at one time or another. I cried for days for my father. I loved him with my entire being. He told me that day when your time comes to go to the United States you must go because that is your country. That time came at the heights of World War II and I was able to see my father sooner than I hoped. However, when we parted then I did not see him again until I came home from the Army and he quit sailing. From then until he died about fifty years later we were father and son who never exchanged a hard word in anger.

The next fifty years of my life, I devoted to my parents and my own family. However, time stops for everyone and I will never forget the morning that I received a phone call that my father had gone from the nursing home to the Hospital. He told me that morning, “Son your auld father will never leave here alive.” When I went back in the afternoon, the nurse asked me:” When did your father stop speaking?” I went in to see him and his eyes filled with tears. I placed my two fingers in his hand and said, “Pappy if you can hear me squeeze my fingers,”. As I spoke he squeezed them several times, for as hard as life can be no human being should die alone. My words of love, comfort and gratitude were those I felt in my heart for him because he had been the best father a man could be under the circumstances of our lives and time we were together.”

I too went to see Stanley at the nursing home and I remember that his nurse was a lady from French Quarter. His granddaughter Anne Richter is a partner in a law firm on Wall Street and has restored her grandfather’s house at Zion’s Hill on Saba and is a frequent visitor to Saba. She did the research on his life for me. I interviewed him in 1967 when Richmond Hill, where he lived, had as many Sabans living there as on Saba. I remember watching the first flakes of snow coming down together with him. He was pleased that he could share that moment with me as that was the first time I had ever seen snow.

As a final note, my aunt Alice Eliza Simmons also lived to be close to 100 years, so they both could tell me many stories of the Saba long before my time and which I can now pass on to another generation. Uncle Stanley was 22 when my great grandmother Alice Eliza Horton died, and he could bring her back alive for me with his stories of her life and times. He told me that she would send fried fish in an iron pot to her uncle in St. Eustatius with a schooner and that he would write to her and tell her they were still warm on arrival. Recordar es Vivir.

The Sailors Sailor

In 1910 already he was sailing through the West Indies on the schooner the Dreadnought with Capt. Knight Simmons and Captain Tommy Vanterpool. Because Capt. Tommmy was a wanted man in Cayenne for smuggling escaped prisoners from Devil’s Island, when the schooner went there Captain Tommy remained in Barbados or elsewhere.

In 1912 Stanley went to New York and sailed out on large schooners throughout the world. When I interviewed him he was 95 and could not remember any of the names of those first schooners he sailed on. He sailed with his first cousin Edward Johnson who in 1984 died at the age of 96 in New York. Edward was married to Lucille Hassell who was the aunt of Capt. Eddie Hassell of the Swinging Doors restaurant in Windwardside. On January 2nd, 1922 he married my Aunt Alice Eliza Simmons (19) daughter of James Horton Simmons and Agnes Johnson.

At the age of thirty-seven, Stanley sailed to the United States aboard the SS Caracas arriving at Ellis Island in New York on April 13th, 1927. along with him on the steamship were six other men from Saba: Reuben Johnson (age 45), David O. Johnson (age 16), William Johnson (age 36), Moses Johnson (age 52), David Johnson (age 17) and Richard Johnson (age 45).

The official Ellis Island Ship’s Manifest indicates that all seven men listed their destination as 27 South Street, in lower Manhattan. This was the address of the Sabans’ godfather for fifty years, Mr. Hyman Kalisky a Jewish merchant who was of Eastern European origin. He and his wife operated a boarding house and clothing store which was primarily used by sailors from Saba during their stays in New York. People on Saba even named their children Kalisky back then. Mr. Kalisky served the sailors well, assisting them with employment on ships, collecting their pay and sending mail and money back home to the families the men had to leave on Saba. The Kalisky family embraced Stanley as if he were a member of the family. 

AFTER ARRIVING in New York in 1927, Stanley was not to return to Saba until 1936. During those nine years he sailed for four years on the four master schooner the Albert F. Paul, with Captain Southard and his wife Ruby, who were like family to him. The Albert F. Paul sailed from Nova Scotia and the New England fishing grounds to the Gold Coast of Africa. The other schooners upon which Stanley sailed carried various goods and products as diverse as corned codfish from New Bedford, Massachusetts and potatoes from Long Island, to salted cowhides from Brazil. He traveled around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and the Horn of Africa while sailing for Moore-McCormack Lines and Kerr McGee. During these years he also sailed the inland waterways, particularly the Hudson, from the St. Lawrence Seaway to New York harbour. He sailed on the Georgia, the Tennessee and the Mohawk, carrying timber down the Hudson. ]=

After sailing inland for several years he returned to the sea, sailing out of Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana for the Waterman Steamship Company of Boston, Massachusetts. During this nine year period sailing out of New York, he, like many other Saba men, decided to become an American citizen. On March 17, 1932, while still listing his residence as 27 South Street in New York he was sworn in as a United States citizen. His decision was based in large part because of the opportunities the United States had provided to him. In 1936, he returned to Saba and sailed again on local schooners. He remained on Saba until shortly after the death of his beloved mother Rebecca, in 1938. He never had the opportunity to see his homeland again.

NOT LONG AFTER his return to the United States, World War II began. He sailed with the Seafarer’s International Union as a Merchant Marine. As such he sailed on unarmed cargo ships in convoys to Europe and Russia, bringing aid and much needed supplies. I stayed at his home in Richmond Hill for two months in the winter of 1967 and I remember him telling me stories about how cold it was in Murmansk, Russia. If you made the mistake and held on to the rail your hand would stick to it.

During the war he frequently sailed on the Robin Tuxford under Captain Kenneth Chamberlain. Along with him on the Robin Tuxford was Stanley’s first cousin, Edward Johnson, who served as Chief Engineer. The Robin Tuxford made numerous trips to Murmansk, Russia, one of the most northerly open water ports in Russia.

Stanley also sailed on the SS Graylock, which was sunk off the coast of Murmansk in 1943. He and his shipmates were rescued by a British Corvette and brought to Glasgow, Scotland, where they remained for some months recovering from pneumonia. Stanley also had the unfortunate luck of having another ship torpedoed by a German U-boat off the New England Coast.  

As a result of his service to the United States, Stanley was awarded four service medals, including two medals for service in the Atlantic War zone. The United States did not, however, issue these medals until decades after his service, because Merchant Marines were not traditionally recognized for their war time service, since they were considered civilian. This oversight was corrected by the U.S. Government in the 1980’s and these brave men received the honors they deserved.

STANLEY JOHNSON also received a medal of honor from the Russian government for his service in the convoys which brought lifesaving necessities to the ports of Murmansk and Arch Angel during the war. He was honorably discharged from the United States Maritime Service on August 15, 1945.

During his fifty plus years at sea, Stanley sailed to the ports of Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and North America and was devoted to the sea. Upon his final retirement from the sea he lived out his remaining years in Richmond Hill, New York with his wife Alice, his children Bessie, Carl Lester and Arlene and his beloved grandchildren. He died peacefully at the age of 98 on April 7, 1988.

The last Cacique*

Often when working in my yard I have found “thunder stones.” I have quite a collection of them.

We used to call them “thunder-stones” when I was a boy. The popular opinion then was that white stones fell from the skies when there was a lightning storm. What we called “thunder-stones” were actually tools made by the Amerindians from the shells of the conch.

In observing these stones and other Amerindian artifacts I have found here in my yard I am reminded of the sad lot of those who first inhabited these islands. The memory of the Kalinago (Caribs) and the Arawaks has long faded.

Here on Saba oral history has been passed down to us in the legend of “Johnny Frau and the Great Injun”, the last Cacique on Saba. I have a coral amulet in which a hole was drilled by some Amerindian long long ago. I wear it on a chain around my neck and when people ask I tell them that it belonged to the last Cacique on Saba. How I wish that it was so.

Few on Saba remember or know of the legend of the Great Injun which people in the village of Hell’s Gate used to pass on to their children.

Where I live at about two thousand feet above sea-level there is a good view of all the neighbouring islands, as far away as Montserrat. On an exceptionally clear day years ago we even saw for a few hours the hills close to English Harbour on Antigua.

From this spot any enemy canoe could be spotted long before they made landfall. The original inhabitants would have had enough time to either hide, or to make preparations to do battle if the canoe had people coming to our island with bad intentions.

At times I fancy that I hear footsteps in the rustle of the leaves. The spirits of those old warriors of yesteryear are still scanning the far horizon looking and waiting to see if there are any canoes with warriors on their way.

Once when I was off-island a visiting Simmons aunt of mine was offered my house.

When I came back I learned that she had moved out after the first night. She said she could not sleep as she was hearing people talking all night under the trees in my back yard. I reassured her that it was only the spirits of the Indians whom I had made contact with in the ghost world and who guarded my house. I had not informed them that I would be off-island. Well that reassured her all right.

On his second voyage in 1493 the fleet of Columbus passed close to Saba. The fleet consisted of 17 vessels and 1500 men. The next landfall after passing Saba was the Salt River on St.Croix. It was there that the native Kalinago took the first recorded stand against the European invader. The ones who observed that fleet from where I now live must have been truly amazed. It would be quite a sight even today. Imagine for people who had never seen a sailing craft before to suddenly see seventeen of these sailing craft passing close to Saba heading West.

Some of the Amerindians to have settled on Saba were the Ciboney whose economy depended on marine resources and on foods gathered and hunted from the land. Evidence of these “Archaic” or pre-ceramic people is strongest in islands such as Antigua, Trinidad and Martinique.

Another indigenous group of Amerindians, who came to the islands, formed a second wave of migration beginning around 500BC. They were the Arawaks of which a branch called the Igneri settled on Saba. Guillaume Coppier a Frenchman from St. Kitts visited Saba in 1629. He first discusses St. Eustatius and then has the following to say about Saba:

“We landed thereafter on the island of Saba, which is also small; there is a very large rock, where very large and palatable lizards are: several sea-turtles come to shore there; their shield is made into finger rings which are enriched with gold and also various costly combs are made of it. A group of “wild people” live there, that are named Igneris; they go with their body completely naked and they have beards, which is different from all Indians, who pull out the hair as soon as it comes. They are idolatrous and they live in cave-like places, living like wild animals.”

Our European ancestors used to tell us that on Booby Hill “The Ferrises Cave” and above Palmetto Point (Mary’s Point) there lived a small sized Indian people with beards who lived in caves. On the island of Flores in Indonesia there has been much commotion in recent years about a new branch of mankind, now extinct, found there. The “Ferrises” which we were told about seemed remarkably similar to the extinct small race of people on Flores.

The Arawaks were highly skilled navigators, mariners, and pottery makers. These early Caribbean people introduced agriculture into the islands, mainly in the form of Cassava – their staple crop.

From 150 AD and over the next 1200 years they engaged in trading and exchange with other groups in other islands and up and down the Antillean chain, bringing subtle changes to the population structure and its culture.

A final migration from South America brought the Kalinago (called Caribs by the Europeans) into the region around 1450 AD – less than fifty years before the Europeans were to set foot in the Caribbean. The pre-existing Amerindians were overrun by the Kalinago (although much of their culture, language and skills were absorbed and endured in a modified form).

More warlike than their predecessors – or perhaps simply more threatened – the Kalinago vigorously defended their new homeland against any attempt at foreign occupation.

The report of Coppier and the story of “Johnny Frau and the Great Injun”, led the University of Leiden, starting in the nineteen seveties, to do research on Saba. This was also done as a follow-up to research done on Saba by Dr. Josselin de Jongh in 1919.

Coincidentally it was also in the nineteen seventies that the Kalinago started returning to Saba. First a few from St.Vincent followed by a number from the Carib reservation in Dominica (Waitukubuli). Some have married into Saban families. One of my young cousins has a Kalinago partner from Salibia. We are already telling their lovely baby son that one day he will become the Carib Chief, like “Indian Warner.”

The Europeans changed the face of the Caribbean so much so that if the original inhabitants returned today they would only recognize parts of Dominica.

Among the plants we take for granted today, these are some of the plants introduced into the Caribbean. Sugarcane from India and the Malay peninsula. Also brought in were bamboo, breadfruit, casurinas, coconut palms, citrus, mangoes, tamarind, banana, bougainvillea, hibiscus, oleander, poinsettia, thunburgia, and even Guinea grass.

Research by the University of Leiden, aided by unmentioned locals, have located the old Indian village at Spring Bay. Escavations at Calabash Ridge have indicated that the Kalinago or Igneri were probably still living here when the first European settlers came to the island. This lends even more credence to the by the tale of “Johnny Frau and the Great Injun”.

Very little is known about their language. Columbus claimed that the language spoken by the Kalinago sounded like Italian. Historians claimed that the women spoke a different language to that of the men. The Kalinago of course captured Arawak women who continued to use their native language among themselves.

After the coming of the Spaniards and other Europeans, the native Amerindians lost ground so rapidly that philologists can find only passing similarities between the language of yesterday and today.

An interesting case in point is Aruba. It is one of the few Caribbean islands whose present inhabitants show strong traces of Amerindian blood.

Until the end of the eighteenth century the inhabitants of Aruba spoke their own patois which was partly rooted in the traditional tongue of the Amerindians who were the sole inhabitants long after European colonization began.

The 19th century explorer A.L. Penart gives a few examples of the old Amerindian Aruban language which became extinct as recently as the beginning of the nineteenth century. in the year 1882 Penart talked with some natives “far advanced in years” who, though they coulld remember several expressions their fathers and grandfathers used, were no longer able to converse in the language of their ancestors.

Other researchers leave us with some of the words used by the Kalinago which sounded to Columbus like Italian.

English Kalinago
blood nitta
hair neti-koeri
mouth nieoma
hand nockaboe
father baba
woman liani
love chisentina
It is I AO
It is you Amoro
I am hungry Lamantina
Mom Nunu (M) kati (W)
Sea Barana

Of course hurricanes and hammock are some other words of Amerindian origin. On

Saba we call the avocado a “Sabocau” the same as in Trinidad where there were also Igneri living.

We also know the name of a Kalinago Indian Princess who was in the service of the Governor of Antigua. Her name was Zulmeira.

In another article I will give some details on the Amerindian language of Aruba in former times. I will suffice with one untranslatable formula for removing fish-bones from the throat:

“Vidie pahidie, maranako tubara tehira deburro hadara karara.” These were probably good West Indian cusswords directed at Madame Squaw as to how to get that so and so bone out of the chiefs throat.

I want to conclude this article with the story of Johnny Frau and the Great Injun as recorded by the late Richard Austin Johnson who grew up on Hell’s Gate hearing this story from his ancestors.

“The early settlers on Saba, in their search for fresh water, discovered a spring on a rocky beach on the East end of the island. Because of this spring the bay became known as Spring Bay.

In order to have drinking water, the settlers would have to bring it on their heads in wooden tubs and kegs, uphill to their village, located about two miles away and fourteen hundred feet above the sea level. Near the Spring there also lived Carib Indians in makeshift huts and caves. The white settlers often had to go without water, because of fear of these fierce Indians, especially one, known as the Great Injun because of his huge size. One of the settlers named Johnny Frau, decided that they had taken enough from this Indian, and also being a giant in size, he went alone, carrying his water keg, in order to entice the Indian to fight with him.

Sure enough the Indian saw him coming down the hill, and thinking this was a fine chance to kill the white man, he hid himself on a ridge which later became known as Fair Play Ridge, and attacked Johnny Frau with a club. A fearful struggle ensued. They fought and battered each other until eventually they reached the sea at Spring Bay. Entering the sea they continued fighting until overcome with exhaustion and loss of blood, both of them drowned. The body of the Great Injun was never found, but Johnny Frau’s body was cast up into a pond near the airport, and this spot is known as Johnny Frau’s Pond to this day.

For many years afterward the superstitious settlers at Hell’s Gate declared that on the night of the anniversary of the discovery of his body, a tiny blue light could be seen moving along the sea edge near the pond. This, they explained was the ghost of Johnny Frau, still searching for the Great Injun.

Some years ago some local fishermen were scared out of their wits when they were fishing along the rocks at night and they saw a light passing along the cliffs. They were convinced it was a UFO until I told them the story of Johnny Frau and the Great Injun.

The Great Injun or the last Cacique would be proud to see that once again there are some Kalinago people, living ,working and producing offspring on Amonhana the Kalinago name for Saba. But like Cuba and Aruba, Saba is also said to be of Arawak origin meaning “The Rock.” When I was in government I had a flexible policy toward the Kalinago people and told my colleagues in Government to remember that these were the original people of these islands and they should be made to feel welcome as this was once THEIR home.

The Simmons Fleet*

The first Simmons to be recorded in the Leeward Islands was Peter and Charles Simmons in St. Thomas in 1658. This father and son were soon recorded as living on Saba. The Simmons family of Saba originated in the South of England. Some of them if not all had a Jewish background. Those with a Jewish background were usually spelled Simmonds, but many were also spelled the regular way.

The Simmons’ played an important role in the history of Saba. They were Commanders, Island Secretaries, and Harbormasters (although technically Saba had no harbor as such) and they were active in the merchant marine. I understand from a now deceased cousin in New York that in his research one of Henry Morgan’s lieutenants when he captured Panama City was a James Simmons. He probably ended up on Saba as well when pirates from Jamaica captured Saba and St. Eustatius in 1665.

On a list of creditors to the West India Company in 1686 there was a George Simmons and a John Simmons listed. In the population list of May 16th, 1699 there are two Charles Simmons’ father and son, the same for John Simmons and James Simmons as well as a Moddyford Simmons and a George Simmons.

The Simmons’ of prominence in former times mostly lived in The Bottom where they owned much of the land and houses at the time. Especially along the road leading to the Gap on both sides of the road belonged to the various Simmons captains. Through intermarriage among the other white families they were also related to the Beaks, the Vanterpool’s, and the Leverock’s and to a lesser extent the Johnsons’, the Hassell’s. Zeegers’ and so on.

For this article I will highlight the life of only two of the many Simmons’ who were well known captains. A young man from St. Eustatius recently told me that he had never known that Saba had so many captains. I told him that the Simmons family alone had provided enough captains to have commanded their own fleet if they had so wished. In World War I it was estimated that around 135 captains from Saba were serving in the United States merchant marine and on the Saban fleet of schooners at the time serving the rest of the Caribbean, out of Barbados and other ports. In a census taken in the year 1912, out of a total male population of 774, no less than 530 were listed as seamen.

For this article I will highlight the life of Captain Thomas Simmons. He was the son of Joseph Benjamin Simmons (Black Head Joe), born on Saba march 5th, 1866, died august 31st, 1934, and Margareth Jane Simmons (“Maggie Jane).

Maggie Jane was born in New York. Her mother was a Manning from Barbados and died at a young age in New York. Her father George brought her to Saba for his mother to raise her. As in so many cases back then he was lost in 1870 on a schooner in the North Atlantic. When Maggie Jane was an old woman her son Captain Tom took her back to New York where she died and is buried. She had ten children several of whom died at sea. In the back of the Anglican Church in The Bottom there is a plaque which reads as follows:

In loving memory of John Simmons, age 52 years. David W. Simmons, age 40 years, Richard R. Simmons, age 22 years, Isaac Simmons age 16 years. Lost at sea, September 1918. We cannot Lord, thy purpose see; but all is well that’s done by thee.

John Simmons was captain of a Danish registered schooner from St.Thomas. The vessel and its crew were lost coming out of Miami. Richard 22 and Isaac 16 were sons of Maggie Jane.

Captain Tom as he was fondly called worked his way up from a cabin boy on schooners plying the West Indian trade to ‘Commodore” of the Moore McCormick line. He went as far as second mate on schooners and then joined the American Hawaiian Line as Quarter Master. In 1917 he went over to the Munson Steamship Line as third officer on the passenger liner “Murio’. He later became captain and was in command on the maiden voyages of the old 32000 ton “Argentina” as well as the new 22,000 ton luxury liner by the same name. The old “Argentina”, under his command, was the first troop ship to enter the ports of Australia during World War II and to stand by for D-Day in England. He was Captain of various ocean liners such as the “Western World’, the “American Legion’, the ‘Southern Cross’, and the ‘Pan America’. He later became commodore of the Moore McCormick Line. He spent fifty-two years at sea and was awarded the highest decoration by Brazil to a foreigner.

The following article is taken from the Brazil Herald of February 24th 1963:

RETIRING COMMODORE SIMMONS RECEIVES BRAZILIAN DECORATION

Rio de Janeiro – Commodore Thomas N. Simmons, who arrives tomorrow in Rio on his last cruise aboard the Moore McCormack liner ‘Argentina’, yesterday was awarded the Cruzeiro do Sul by the Government of Brazil. He received Brazil’s highest award given to citizens of foreign countries in ceremonies during the ship’s stopover in Salvador, Bahia, from the hands of Bahia Governor Juracy Magalhaes. Commodore Simmons, friend and councilor to a myriad of international travelers, culminates 50 years on the sea on the SS.Argentina’s current “Sea Safari” cruise. This 63 day trip is Commodore Simmons’ last, as he has announced his retirement effective upon his return, April 17. And coincidentally another 50 years are celebrated in 1963 – the 50th anniversary of Moore McCormack Lines, founded in 1913 – one of America’s foremost steamship owners and operators, whose fleet includes the two new passenger liners, “Argentina” and ‘Brazil”, and 42 modern cargo liners.

The innate modesty of the Commodore camouflages a colorful career. To him all the flavor and excitement of the sea is not commonplace – far from it- but so much a part of his life that he accepts the unusual as the everyday, the crisis as the normal. The highlight of his career are people he knew and knows and loves; the Duke of Windsor, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, corporate Presidents, Cardinals, Artists, Singers. Summing up, all are Tom Simmons’ exciting moments. The Commodore was born on Saba Island in the West Indies, of Dutch forefathers of seafaring bent. Commodore Simmons’ last trip takes him amidst friends in the Caribbean ports of Barbados, in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Thence he and the “Argentina” sail to South and East Africa, through the Suez, to the Mediterranean and homeward via Italy, Spain and Portugal. These are familiar friendly places to Tom Simmons, faces of friends whom he relishes visiting. At many of the ports, officials, old cronies, visiting traveling companions and the Simmons people are planning commemorative ceremonies marking the 50th and retirement year of service of Commodore Thomas N. Simmons. A Grandfather a dozen times over, Commodore Simmons enjoys his holidays at his home on Long Island. But the sea is part of him, and anyone can see from his “Argentina” that he is a man of the sea.”

He was born in 1895. He met his wife Enid May Bruce in New York (she was born Montego Bay, Jamaica in 1902). She was a daughter of Captain Solomon “Butchy Coonks” Simmons of Saba and her mother was the daughter of the Scottish collector of Customs there. Only on his deathbed did Captain “Butchy Coonks” confess to his Saba family that he had a second family in Montego Bay. His son Captain Johnny Simmons went in search of the family and took the three girls to New York, two of which married Sabans. A son remained in Jamaica and lived to be a very old man.

The home which now belongs to Norman Winfield was the home in which the Commodore grew up in. His descendants regularly visit the island and the home known as “Maggie Jane’s House.” One of Commodore Tom’s sisters (Elsie) was married to the well-known Governor Xavier Krugers.

The other Simmons Captain I would like to highlight is Cameron Dudley Simmons.

He was born on Saba and his wife was Edna Blanche Simmons born 1904 and she also a daughter of Captain Solomon “Butchy Coonks” Simmons.

He was a son of Captain Samuel Augustus Simmons and Mrs. Eva Simmons born Johnson. Captain Sammy was born on Saba and filled many functions in the Saba government administration at the time. His wife “Miss Eva” was born in Barbados. She was descended from a branch of the Johnson family who moved back and forth between Saba and Barbados. Whereas she was born on Barbados, her father William was born on Saba, and her grandfather also William was born on Barbados and so on.

Miss Eva and Captain Sammy also lost three sons at sea. One of them Captain Harold Simmons was lost with his entire family in the Gulf of Mexico. He was captain of a molasses tanker which broke in two in a storm. They were able to get into lifeboats, one of which with a David Johnson from Saba made it safely to shore. I have the report made after the disaster happened and the lifeboat carrying the Captain and his family was lost with all on board. Earlier with Captain Ralph Holm on board as a mate Captain Harold was shipwrecked on a coal boat which sank on route from Philadelphia to Boston. On that trip all were saved. Another older brother, a third mate on a schooner was lost off Cape Hatteras.

Captain Cameron Dudley Simmons was born on July 10th, 1892 and died on January 17th, 1945. Dudley and his brother Samuel left Saba on a schooner sailing between the islands and New York. After sailing as mate on the schooner he then sailed with the American Hawaiian Line until he received his Master’s license. He sailed as Master on tankers and freighters. Some of the vessels which he commanded were the S.S. Antietam, S.S. Bulkco, SS. E.J. Nicholas (tankers) S.S. Alamar, S.S.Cubore (freighters). Just prior to World War II, Captain Dudley took the S.S. Laranaga from Boston destined for Murmansk, but just east of Iceland their convoy was wolf packed. The ship received a hit, but retained watertight integrity and went into Reykjavik for repairs. Captain Simmons went ashore but when returning to the ship on a launch he was injured. He was hospitalized for approximately three months due to a severely injured foot. When the ship returned from Murmansk it put into Reykjavik for him. In July 1942 he assumed command of the S.S. William Wirt, launched with two other Liberty Ships on the 4th of July of that same year. The ship loaded in Newport News, Virginia and the first of August set sail for the United Kingdom, arriving in Avonmouth, England. After discharging cargo the ship was sent to Newport, Wales to await loading for the North African invasion in November. The William Wirt was the first ship to enter a North African port in the invasion. On the next trip from Liverpool to Phillipeville, Algeria the ship was hit in an air attack, but made port and was able to discharge cargo. From Phillipeville the ship sailed to Gibraltar for repairs and returned to the United Kingdom where a survey found the ship not fit to continue carrying cargo, so it returned to the United States. For this he was awarded the Medal for Meritorious Service.

After a short vacation Captain Simmons commanded another Liberty ship until sometime in the spring of 1944. He then became Captain of the SS Point Loma, a seagoing tugboat. He served on this tugboat until his death of a heart attack in January of 1945. I have a copy of the logbook describing how he died at sea. He ended his career as so many from Saba did back then. He was buried at sea in the vast Pacific Ocean.

These were Saba’s glory days. These people immigrated not for welfare but to contribute to the countries where they emigrated to. In future articles I will highlight the lives of such captains of Industry as Ned Peterson who was the Chief Financial Officer of the Cargill company which employed 110.000 people. He was the only non-family member of the MacMillan clan to have held such a high position in the 150 year old company.

Also Howard Hassell of St. John’s who worked on the atomic bomb, Prof. Eric Simmons (92) from whom only this past week I received a long letter, and Dr. Mozes Crossley a chemist. If you check his name on the internet they will tell you he is a famous United States scientist, though they do admit that he was born on Saba.

Some of these people still have family on Saba who are proud to tell you of their family and what they were able to achieve with the challenges they faced and the limited resources Saba had to offer at the time. The question is, are we rising to the challenge now in our time of plenty?

Commissioner/Act. Administrator John G. Woods*

He was born on December 8th, 1909 son of Joseph Benjamin Woods (born 30.05.1877) and Anna Minta Warner (born 1879). He was a grandson of Christian Woods, Susanna Gordon, Peter James Warner and Elizabeth Horton. The latter was a daughter of David Horton and Nancy Horton. Susanna Gordon’s parents were John Gordon and Catherine Hassell.

The family headed by Joseph Benjamin Woods (“Joe Ben”) was an exceptional one.

Besides John the other children in the family were: Cresilda Melrose born 18.08.1907, Eric Milburn born 14.12.1921 Alton Watty Woods born 08.02.1919 and Henry Swinton Woods born 17.01.1912. The latter was married to Doris Rebecca Woods. Henry lost his life on Aruba the night that German submarines attacked the LAGO oil refinery there. He died at the age of 32 on September 18th, 1944.

Cresilda Melrose the only daughter of Joe Ben’s was the organist in the Anglican Christ Church for over fifty years.

Joe Ben was a skilled mason and did many jobs which can still be admired on Saba.

Among them are the public cisterns on Hell’s Gate next to the Roman Catholic Church. I remember my mother thanking God for Joe Ben as he had provided work on occasion to my grandfather James Horton Simmons. An irony indeed. Joe Ben’s wife was a daughter of David Horton (died 12.09.1896 aged 95) and his wife Jane Linzey (born 1801). David in turn was a son of James Horton and Margaret (Nancy) Horton of Middle Island.

In Dr. Julia Cranes book: “Educated to Emigrate” she refers to a James Horton a “free black man”. Here are notes which she took from the Central Archives in The Hague in The Netherlands:

“March 2nd, 1825, a bill-of-sale covering transfer of a piece of land in the area called Middle Island to James Horton a “free black man.”

“November 16th, 1829 a bill-of-sale covering transfer of a girl named Maria to “James Horton free black man” her reputed father for the sum of Sixteen Joes or One hundred and Seventy six pieces of eight.’ The former owner stated in the document that the sale was made for the girl ‘with all her future progeny and increase for their freedom, in gratitude for her ‘good and faithful services.”

Obviously James Horton was buying freedom for his daughter Maria. Free black people were property owners long before slavery was abolished as can be seen in his acquisition of land in Middle Island. Also James Horton had legally acquired his name from James Horton Esq. who had come to Saba from the island of St. Eustatius. In those days it was forbidden by law for a former slave to take the name of a white inhabitant of the colony.

There must have been a strong relationship between those two Horton’s for James Horton Esq. to give permission for the use of his name by a former slave while the country had many years to go before slavery was officially ended on July 1st. 1863.

My impoverished grandfather was a great-grandson of James Horton Esq. Obviously there had been a master/slave connection between those two James Horton’s of the early eighteen hundreds. However if those memories remained they did not apply in any negative way in the relationship between Joe Ben himself a descendant of slaves who provided work to the impoverished descendant of the master. I can still hear my mother saying “God Bless Joe Ben for giving my father work through the time or else we would have had it much harder than it already was.”

Of all of Joe Ben’s children only Henry had two children. The well known Ronnie Simmons of The Bottom is a grandson of Henry Woods and his wife Doris. She was also a Woods but from the family known as the “Red Woods” family.

Joe Ben’s brother was Peter Woods who was the father of Ms. Edna Woods who helped me to gather some of this information so that I could write this article. Edna is in her eighties but has a wonderful memory. She has a relationship with my brother Guy and his family which is much closer than some families have among themselves.

John Godfrey Woods was married to URA Margaret Dunkin born 29.09.1909 whose mother was Mary Magdeline Dunkin and her father was Captain Ernest Hugh Toland Vanterpool. John and Ura did not have any children.

John used to tell me stories about growing up on Saba, working with his father and so on. From early in life he worked hard and he learned to appreciate how to hold on to a guilder.

I remember him telling me on more than one occasion that he was raising a cow and calf with the hope of getting enough money to go to Aruba in search of work with the oil refinery. In those days everyone on Saba was headed to Aruba in search of work.

One day when he thought that he had sale for the cow and calf he went down to the Ladder Road and the cow was standing at the edge of the cliff. He said he thought everything was lost and he called out to the cow:” Now mind yourself cow, don’t go do anything stupid.” I am sure he must have heard from Joe Ben of my grandfather James Horton Simmons’ cow on Hell’s Gate. She reached for an inviting tuff of guinea grass at the edge of the cliff. The rope to which she was tied broke and she fell to her death hundreds of feet below. He is credited with saying that he would have rather lost his wife than the cow because he could have gotten another wife but where was he to get another cow. You can see thus how important a cow was back then.

As luck would have it for our friend John his cow moved away from the edge of the cliff. He was able to sell mother and calf for the grand sum of thirty guilders and he headed off to Aruba.

He worked on Aruba for perhaps thirty years. He and his wife URA worked hard and saved their money. He had a house of his own on Aruba and his wife ran her own business.

He returned to Saba in the mid nineteen sixties. In 1967 when the three Windward Islands submitted combined lists of candidates there were no elections. He was asked to join the combined list as a candidate for the Democratic Party on behalf of then former Commissioner Matthew Levenstone.

In the 1969 election when I ran against Claude Wathey for Senator of the Windward Islands, people told me that John Woods was quiet and did not divulge too much about where he would vote. In November 1970 to the surprise of Mr. Wathey and the entire Antilles I released a document signed by John Woods, Peter Granger, Calvin Holm and others announcing that they had joined the recently established WIPM party. In 1971, months before the elections, Eugenius Johnson became Administrator and Calvin Holm moved up and became a member of the Island Council. The WIPM party had a majority on the Island Council before the elections. We did not oust the DP Commissioners. The DP was not that generous to me after the elections. As party leader I was informed that I could not assume office as the Lt. Governor of  St. Maarten had been married to my sister.

Even though she was deceased and he was remarried I was kept out of office as island Council Member and Commissioner for four years and had to run my party and the Government of Saba from the bleachers. Mr. Woods who was my number two candidate became Commissioner and Acting Administrator and remained faithful to me through those years of darkness when I was exiled from the council, arrested, jailed and so on.

My father went to an early grave not knowing what was to become of me. But thanks to people like Mr. Woods and others who kept the faith we overcame without bitterness.

I used to help Mr. Woods to fill in his income tax documents. I remember sitting with him on the verandah of his Caribe Guesthouse in The Bottom. I decided to ask him to tell me the truth as to where he had voted in 1969. He laughed and replied: “Johnson, boy you hambug me. Why did you go and name your party URA?”

And then he went on to tell me the story of the love of his life. His wife was named URA.

She was a “high mulatto woman” as they would say in those days and was a good looking young woman. She had many suitors. He didn’t say who but he told me that “Some of your family had tried to get her you know.” But John won the day as she chose him over the rest of the young men. He told me that he had built Caribe Guesthouse exactly the way URA had planned it. Not that he needed such a big house as he was alone and could have lived by his sister Crissie or repaired the original house which was still on the property. He had purchased the lovely property from one of the old white Heyliger/Simmons’ families.

He went ahead and built it anyway as a tribute to her. He told me that when she took ill on Aruba, so many ants suddenly congregated in his yard that he looked on it as a bad omen as he had never had a problem with ants. After her death he said the ants disappeared as suddenly as they had shown up. Nothing was the same after his wifes death and he decided to return to Saba. So he told me that when he saw the name of my party that in good conscience he could not betray his wife’s memory by voting anywhere else but for URA. (You see how you does get vote sometime, eh?)

When we won the election in 1971 he and I as mentioned before were elected Commissioners. The late Calvin Holm entered the Island and Executive Council in my place. I returned to work at the airport post office on  St. Maarten and led my party from there. We had seven of the fifteen seats on the Windward Islands Council and then Mr. Sdney Lejuez crossed the floor and joined the WIPM giving us a majority in the Island Council. You see how God does his work at times. Despite having to work from the bleachers we were able to accomplish a lot during the period from 1971 to 1975.

As leader of the party I worked closely with Mr. Woods who was the same age as my mother. Besides being Commissioner and Member of the Island Council he also served as Act. Administrator for those four years. In the latter capacity he depended on my advice, but moreso on that of my brother Eric who was head of the Finance Department and who worked on a daily basis with him. When doubts arose about signing something controversial he had that much respect for my brother Eric and I that he would say: “If you boys say it is O.K. to sign it then I’ll do it.” Happily the advice we gave him did not get him in the least of trouble.

The Public School was forced to be closed down during his term of office. This hurt his heart as he and his family were the pillars of the Anglican Church and some people associated the public school with the Anglican Church. However local pressure on the Central Government to do something to stop the WIPM march,forced the then Minister of Education Ricardo Elhage to come to Saba. He threatened that an already scarecrow budget of Saba would be cut by the same amount it cost to keep the Public School open.

My old friend Carl Anslyn organized a large demonstration but to no avail. The Central Government in its quest to make the WIPM look bad forced the closure of the school. I only bring this up as I know that Mr. Woods would never have closed the school if it had been left to him.

In 1975 he decided not to run and to make room for Peter Granger. He was 66 at the time and he decided to return to driving his taxi, running the airport bar, and managing his Caribe Guesthouse.

Mr. Woods was a hard worker all his life. One of the sad things to happen to him in his last years was the sudden loss of his brother Eric who had just retired and had joined him in the Guesthouse.

For some time before he died he was in The Henry Every Home for the Aged. A hard working man all his life he was confused. One day when I was passing by, he had jumped the wall and was trying to go home. I jumped out of my car and helped the nurse to convince him to go back to his room. He was not the John Woods I had known. However he gave me a look of recognition and told me” Johnson boy if you say so…” and with that he willingly went back to his room. I was very sad when I left him and shortly after that he passed away after suffering from loss of memory for a while. He passed away on December 29th, 1990 at the age of 81. I went to the service but I did not do a eulogy which is surprising even to me.

He was buried in the Anglican cemetery in The Bottom. In paying tribute to him now I want to make up for the fact that I did not do the eulogy for him as I have done for so many friends and prominent people in the Windward Islands. He was not only a great Saban, great also in stature, but also great in ambition, in integrity, respect and loyalty. In short great in everything worth remembering him for.

The Posner Family*

Three important Antillean families came from humble beginnings right here on Saba. Three of Georgianna Evelina Simmons’ daughters who lived in perhaps the smallest house in Windwardside, all became mothers of important families. Their mother Georgianna was a very poor woman and suffered from depressions brought on by the stress of trying to survive back in those days.

The Posner family, prominent on both Curacao and Aruba, the family of Mr.Antoine Johannes Maduro and a Dutchman Mr. Lambert Wever who married Augusta Simmons and whose descendents on Aruba like Maggie Wever are all prominent in business there.

On December 11th, 1907 Mr. Antoine Johannes Maduro (26) married Anita Augusta Simmons (20). Their son Antoine who died some years ago is recognized as the most important expert on the Papiamentoe language. Once in Parliament when I said that his mother was a Simmons from Saba, the Curacao people had me to kill. But when he died and the newspapers mentioned the same thing you should have heard them singing his praises.

Mr. Levie Posner was born in Amsterdam of Jewish parents in 1893. His parents were Israel Posner and Grietje Elsas. He came out to Saba as a marechaussee when he was 19 years of age. On May 21st, 1919 he married Imogene Simmons when he was twenty six years of age and she was twenty seven. When they got married their parents were already deceased. Imogene was a niece of Mrs. Helen Johnson born Simmons, and so the Posners’ are related to the family of the late Edwin Johnson whose grandson is Saba’s present Lt. Governor Jonathan Johnson.

In his book “Crossroads of the Buccaneers” published in 1957 by Arco Publishers Limited, the author Hendrik de Leeuw has the following to say about Levie (or Louis) Posner.

“Today;” as Mynheer Schutte informed me, “not one Jew remains.”

The last Jew to bid this island adieu and leave it to its decay was Mynheer Louis Posner, dubbed by me “Trader Horn of the Caribbean.”

He left Statia some fifteen years ago for Aruba, a very prosperous island renowned for the large plants of the Standard Oil and the Shell, lying on a six hours’ ship’s run westward of Curacao.

“Louis Posner a most versatile trader, rotund and loquacious, hearty and keen, with a sense of humor that keeps one howling with laughter at all times of the day and night, has a most colorful career. He, like me, has roamed the seven seas and has had a perfectly grand time while doing it. When he came from the Dutch East Indies, he settled first on Saba as the island’s Chief of Police, and there took unto himself a Saba bride, later becoming established in Statia, which proved much too dead for this live wire. So that, with a true nose for business, Louis betook himself and his family and all that he possessed to Aruba.

Through hard work, courage and endurance, he attained a position in society of no mean prominence.

And while it may be said that rolling stones gather no moss, Posner has gathered around him not only his Saba vrouw (wife), “Mamma Jennie” (as everyone lovingly calls her), but also eleven little and bigger Posners – for Jennie has blessed him with six sons and five daughters, one of whom is Lientje, the eldest, a fine young lady and a great help to her dad, whose private secretary she is.

“I hope I am not betraying a confidence when I relate a rather curious incident pertaining to Louis, who almost despaired after his fifthdaughter- in-succession, had arrived on the scene. One day, while reading an American health publication, he came upon an announcement that promised precious counsel to would-be or expectant fathers. Forthwith, he wrote to the publisher-editor over here, whose name I venture to say is known far beyond the length and breadth of our land. While I do not know what health prescription was given Louis or what magazine was sent him, the fact is that since his receipt of the proffered advice, he has become the father of six additional children- ALL SONS!

“Reluctantly, I must take leave of my friend for the time being, but I hope to come back to him on another occasion, when describing the island of Aruba.”

The Posner family spread out on Aruba and Curacao and established themselves in different businesses. There is even a street on Curacao named after Posner. The famous “La Linda” store on the former Nassaustraat in Oranjestraat, belonged to Mr. Posner and his large family lived upstairs.

I was in Aruba when the son Israel (“Oikee”) Posner celebrated his 77th birthday two years ago on October 19th. My brother Guy and his wife Angela were visiting with him at the time. Orders were issued to me that if I did not come to the birthday party that he was done with me. His brother Harry was then 81. These two brothers were married to two Salas sisters from Curacao. They were the sisters of the recently deceased former FOL Minister Ricardo Salas.

The Aruba Aloe products company is owned by “Oikee’s” son Louis A. Posner. “Oikee” is a big charmer. When you meet him and listen to all his jokes and observe his rapport with the ladies, you can imagine what his father must have been like.

The various Posner off-spring visit Saba from time to time. I remember years ago that a young couple came into the Tourist Bureau looking for me. The lady said that she was from the Posner family and that they were looking for their Johnson relatives. At that time I did not know anything about the Posners. Since then of course things have changed and through research I have acquired a reputation for knowing these things.

Just the other day as I was on my verandah writing this article, I received a call from the Planning Bureau saying that two young ladies wanted to see me about their great grandfather Eric Hassell of Barbados. They were on Saba for only a few hours. Eric used to be a Captain (son of Capt.Frank Hassell of St.John’s and a lady from Barbados). Eric also owned the business Hassell Shipping which dealt with agencies and importation of cement into Barbados. By the time the young ladies left my house they were amazed at how much I knew about their great grandfather. His sister Earla is alive and in her nineties. She lives between England and Barbados and was here on Saba several years ago with her family.

The Posner’s, their late cousin Antoine Maduro, and their other cousin Maggie Wever are all well-known people on Aruba and Curacao.

They all started from humble beginnings here on Saba. When I showed Dr. Posner (son of “Oikee”) the photo of Windwardside and the house of his great grandmother all he could do was exclaim “Ay mi Dios” and remark that it was the poorest house in a village of at that time nearly all poor people.

And so now you know about the Posner family, a Jewish family, originally from Russia, then via Holland and Saba ended up on Aruba and Curacao and made a name for themselves on those islands.

Miss Cornelia Jones*

Miss Cornelia Rosina Jones was born on September 10th, 1907, at St. John’s, Saba. She was born from a nixed marriage, something not unusual in the history of the village of St. John’s. Her father was a black man, Fernandus Jones born on June 2nd, 1877 and he died on December 22nd, 1943.His parents were George Jones and Sarah Stevens. Her mother was a white woman named Mary Jane Hassell (who died on November 13th, 1954) of whom I did not find any more records, but I remember her personally as a boy.

Miss Jones had three siblings: Alfred Jones born July 18th, 1897, Eleanor born September 10th, 1901 (she lived to well over 100 years of age and died in the USA) and Leonard born February 6th, 1910 and died May 5th, 1959. As a baby he contracted polio and was handicapped. In those days of uncompromising language usage he was simply known as a hunchback. As a boy this disease as well as leprosy was discussed so often that I was worried that I might catch either one of these dreaded diseases.

Miss Jones grew up in a much different Saba than we know today. I guess her personality was shaped by her mixed parentage. Something like Barack Obama, she was comfortable and loving with both her white side of her family and heritage as well as with her roots coming from Africa.

She is best known as a hostess. Running the government guesthouse in The Bottom, and later on in the Windwardside. Because of this she was well known with visiting officials from the other islands as well as from The Netherlands. She was often featured in magazines and in newspaper articles. Not because she was famous but because she was there. There were many journalists and writers coming to the island and would always mention something about the guesthouse and Miss Jones. Everyone on Saba called her “Cutchie.”

When the Little Bay Hotel was being planned, the same Dutch group also planned a hotel on Saba at the Guesthouse in The Bottom. It was a lovely plan with new construction of ten hotel rooms and a swimming pool. The Island Council turned down the request to build. Only the late Matthew Levenstone and Arthur Anslyn were in favour, whereas David Doncher, Eugenius Johnson and John William Johnson voted against.

Many years later I asked Eugenius how was it possible that their party could have turned down this offer. He confessed that Miss Jones was a member of their party and that the investors had refused to guarantee her continued employment at the new hotel when it would be completed. That was in 1955. So looking back in time you can see how important a role Miss Jones played in the political life of Saba back then.

You will also be able to see that politics was the same then as it is now in the world.

Miss Jones’ brief stint into the political life of the island made more history than the cancelation of a much needed hotel project. I remember when Mrs. Elaine Gumbs-Vlaun was elected to the Island Council of St. Maarten in 1983. Her party members were playing the woman part up big in the island council meeting. Obviously they were unaware of Miss Jones, until Mr. Claude Wathey got up and reminded them that Miss Cornelia Jones of Saba had been the first woman member of the Island Council of the Windward Islands and indeed she was.

Miss Jones entered active politics in 1951 as a member of the Nationaal Volks Partij. On August 17th, 1953 she entered the Island Council to complete the term of Mr. Kenneth Peterson who had resigned.

In 1951 Miss Jones together with two other females Mrs. Ursula Dunkin-Hughes and Mrs. Millicent L. Wilson, born Simmons, (grandmother of present Island Councilmember the Hon. Rolando Wilson). Miss Jones got 0 votes, Ursula got 4 and Miss Millie got 4.

The 0 came about probably because she had agreed to vote for another candidate on her party.

In 1955 she contested the elections on the Democratic Party but she did not get reelected.

She did get 3 votes though, a big advance compared to the 0 in 1951. The other women threw in the towel and in 1955 Miss Jones was the only female candidate.

The Island Council meeting to which Miss Jones was admitted to the council took place on August 17th, 1953. Mr. L. Reginald Carty the Administrator at the time presided over the meeting. First to be dealt with was a letter from Mr. Kenneth Peterson dated July 25th, 1953 requesting his dismissal from the council. Then a committee to verify the credentials was appointed consisting of Mr. David Doncker, Mr. Dalick Johnson and Mr. Ulric Hassell, Commissioner, but not a member of the Island Council. Mr. Peterson was not present at the meeting.

The only one to speak at the meeting was Mr. David Doncker who threw out but a few sarcasms. He said: “I have always been kept down in the Council. No matter what I ever asked for has been turned down, but all I have to say is that there has been a shift in the wind. Where it was blowing from it is not blowing from anymore.”

The meeting ended at 2.45 pm and Miss Jones went into history.

I always experienced her as a jolly person who liked a good joke. She could see humor in any situation. Her family home was uniquely located on an outcropping of St. John’s overlooking The Bottom. On the way up from Fort Bay or The Bottom one would run up the side path to their home to beg a glass of water. It is a great pity that the house was torn down after her death and the property is still unoccupied. It would make a great location for a new home.

Miss Jones was a Roman Catholic. She never married or had any children, but several of the photo’s which I have of her she is always seen holding a child as lovingly as any grandmother could.

As is customary on Saba, when Miss Jones passed away she was buried in the family burial ground next to the home. I am certain that if anyone built a new home there that Miss Jones’ spirit would not bother them. After all she loved company. That was what she lived for. She never went anywhere to school to learn how to treat people and how to live with people of all races and creeds. That was a gift she was born with and in looking around she must have decided that all men are equal before the eyes of God and should be treated courteously and respectfully.

Before concluding this article on my way to a meeting in The Bottom I went up through the bushes past the ruins of Miss Jones’ former home.

I found her grave next to that of her parents and her brother Leonard.

I found a conch shell close by and I placed it on the grave while giving Miss Jones a talking to that her memory would not be forgotten. She died on December 23rd, 1979 at the age of 72. I later dug up the information in the “Saba Herald” and found out also that she had been given a decoration by Her Majesty the Queen for her many years of service to the island of her birth. I only hope that someone who cares for history will end up owning the property and will see to it that Miss Jones and her family will rest in peace. Amen.

A dream of return (B. Pfaffhauser)*

I am now busy reading “A History of English Literature” by William Allan Nielson and at the same time as a compliment to it I am also reading Plutarch’s Lives. It is interesting to see that in the Anglo-Saxon period (426 – 1066) as well as from the Norman Conquest to Chaucer (1066 – 1350) that England seemed to have forgotten the Roman Empire. The Romans had ruled over the British Isles for nearly four hundred years. They were the inheritors of the Greek civilization which had produced outstanding literature.

As men develop they become interested in a wider and wider range of things, and their feelings and thoughts become more varied and more individual. The expression in words of these thoughts and feelings grows accordingly; and much of this in each generation is preserved and added to the store of what men deem most worthy of remembering. Thus literature becomes an ever growing record of human life, joining the past to the present, and enabling us to share with sympathy in the best that men have thought and imagined.

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) by being exposed to Plutarchs Lives based his play on the life of Julius Caesar on that history of Julius Caesar written some fifteen hundred years earlier by Plutarch. Much later Goethe wrote: ”The observation that all greatness is transitory should not make us despair; on the contrary the realization that the past was great should stimulate us to create something of consequence ourselves.”

Besides Beowulf and Caedmon’s hymn during the whole Anglo Saxon and Norman period very little other than Christian poems written in monasteries was written in the English language.

Very little was known about the civilizations which had existed before the Christian era. The story of how Caedmon became a poet has an interest beyond the national one. It is the English version of a legend found in many lands which seeks to explain the source of the poet’s inspiration. There has always seemed to men to be something supernatural in this. Caedmon who could not sing was requested in a dream to “sing of created things.” And so even in small island societies one is always in search of some form of poetry which we can call our own.

One such poetess from Saba was Beatrice Pfaffhauser from The Gap. Regrettably all of her work was lost except one poem which Charles Borromeo Hodge was very excited about and begged me to do more research on this lady and try and find more of what she had written. He wrote: “Will, I was extremely impressed by the very beautiful and heart-rending poem by Beatrice Pfaffhauser which appeared on page 24 of “FOR THE LOVE OF ST. MAARTEN”. It is a deep, soul-stirring poem that brought haunting memories of St.Maarten washing across my consciousness like the waves on the shores of Great Bay. I felt as if the poetess was speaking directly to me: sensing every desperate, pent-up emotion. That poem is a very powerful piece of writing. I only wish I could know more about her and see more of her poetry.”

I was assisted in this search by her niece Mrs. Gladys Whittemore of Pinellas Park Florida. She lived well into her nineties and is now long deceased.

Beatrice Pfaffhauser was born on Saba on September 1st, 1880 and died August 2nd, 1962. Her father was Albert Pfaffhauser born in Zurich Switzerland on July 10th, 1839 and who at the age of 46 died on Saba on December 12th, 1885. His parents were Christopher Pfaffhauser and Ann Elizabeth Huber.

Beatrice’s mother was Rose Elvina Simmons, daughter of Phoenix Simmons (my great- great uncle) and Martha Johnson of Barbados.

They lived in a large two story house at the Gap where the home of Eric and Patsy Linzey is now located. In former times many of the famous captains lived on that street. Their schooners would be anchored at The Ladder Bay and it is easy to run down the path when weather was coming and take off for a safer haven to weather the storm.

Aunt Glad in a letter of October 19th, 1987 informed me as follows:” Answer to yours, so welcome, is delayed. I had to wait for an answer from Elisa at Satellite Beach first. She found another little poem, which Bea called a “blurb,” about her Northern garden. She always had a garden.

When our mother died in 1905, we children had no one to question about Saba or relatives. Did not know Aunt Bea’s married name. I was about 18 when I began to question my father (in stolen moments!).”

Aunt Glad’s father was a Captain from Prince Edward Island and had met her mother on Barbados when the family lived there. He did not know Saba. Aunt Glad continues: “He had kept in touch with Rosalvina (his mother-in-law) but the correspondence stopped when she remarried, and when I wrote to Mrs. Rosa Cecil my letter was returned, marked deceased. She died in 1914.

 “Aunt Bea’s father Albert Pfaffhauser was sent by the Swiss doctors to the West Indies for his health. He and his brother Hans Theodore came to St.Thomas. Their retail store carried silks from their factory in Zurich.

The little Saba lady Rosalina Simmons was visiting there and took refuge in their store from a rain storm. The romance that followed ended in marriage.

Albert took Rosalina to Switzerland. Their first child Martha was born there in 1868. When Albert’s health deteriorated again the Swiss doctors recommended the climate of the West Indies. Rosalina longing for Saba readily agreed. Her people the Simmons family furnished land and the young couple built a home and raised quite a family. The father Albert died in 1885 at the age of 46. He was well educated and spoke several languages. Aunt Bea remembers him in white suit and pith helmet, sitting on balcony, with preacher and governor discussing news of the day. The people in Zurich were to take care of this family group and assure their education providing Rosalina did not remarry. But Rosalina did. Her  second husband was from Grenada and was a veteran of the civil war in the United States. The family began to scatter. Two sons went to New York City, one daughter to Canada and another to Curacao and Beatrice to the United States. She graduated from Frats Hospital in Chelsea, Mass. around 1902 or 1903. My father told us she visited her sister Elizabeth, (my mother) in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

There were no cars there then, so Dad hired a double seated carriage and off they all went for a picnic at a beach on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They thought it was great fun then, but Dad thinks a fifteen miles ride now would be punishment (he lived to be 103).

When her step-father Cecil died it was Beatrice who got the U.S. government to send his Civil War pension to her mother on Saba. At one time I remember all claims to the property were signed away legally in favour of the Curacao branch of the family. But neglect finally caused the place to be torn down as I understood it.

After graduation she became nurse to an invalid gentleman. The daughter of this family was educated at the Sorbonne, Paris and later in Hollywood became a writer for the Cecil de Mille studios. She also has books in the public libraries.

Beulah Marie Dix and Beatrice were close friends for many years, no matter how separated by circumstances, Bea felt quite at home in this literary environment.

She married Laring Weed a reporter for a Boston newspaper. When his studies were completed and he became Dr. Laring Weed, Osteopath, they lived in Newburyport, Mass. The Dr. was also a member of the Library board.

So began a new and always heedful life for Beatrice, but always she kept in touch with her beloved West Indies.

The house they lived in was three storied and an older one. Later, when it was demolished, the beautiful marble mantle and fireplace were taken to a museum in New York, so I am told. In the thirties, my husband and I were involved in the courts over his father’s will. A stepmother was involved. Before it was heard by the Supreme Court – she (and others) had run the business into bankruptcy. When we decided to go to Florida we gave up our home in Wellesley, loaded all household possessions and sent them to Aunt Bea.

It was about 1934 when her plans matured to go see Saba again. My eight year old niece went with her. They sailed from New York City for St.Thomas. It was in the fall and some rough weather kept her in her stateroom a lot.

At St. Thomas the harbor-master was a Simmons (a cousin) and they were well taken care of, while waiting for a steamer to Saba. While waiting this was when Pams comb caught fire near a candle. Panicking she threw it on a bed. Smoke soon brought Beatrice and the damaged bed things were thrown from the balcony to the garden below. Then came disappointing news. Husband Laring sent a telegram saying he had fallen, broken his right wrist and “do come home.”

Saba and Curacao had been alerted about her coming. So now there was disappointment all around. No wonder her poem was so nostalgic.

I regret we saw so little of her, busy working people as we were. She was a quiet person, with a special dignity and a great sense of service to others.

She had one son – married and with a family. Lost track of him. She died of a heart attack at Wheelwright House in Newburyport, Mass.They wrote me a letter, Quote: “Mrs.Weed was greatly liked at Wheelwright House and all were saddened by her sudden death of heart failure. I personally feel we have lost a good friend and a real lady. She fitted into the life so well and was always so gentle, kind and thoughtful of others. We miss her very much. Her service was conducted by the son of former Bishop Sherrill of Mass. The letter was from Margaret B. Little, President of the Board.”

The following poem reflects her longing for the islands. She had lived on Saba but also on the other islands as well. The family lived for awhile in Sam Lords Castle in Barbados. Another curiosity in the Pfaffhauser family is that with the exception of the poetess most of the children died at the age of 27 including Elizabeth the mother of Aunt Gladys Whittemore. After a long search for Saba relatives, she contacted me in the nineteen sixties. We became great friends and she gave me the gold medal which she received when she graduated with honours from her high school on Prince Edward Island in Canada.

The skies are gray, my spirits low.

I sit within the firelight glow.

My thoughts go back to other days,

To coral sands and sunlit bays.

Again I see tropic trees

As delight the eye and scent the breeze.

Poinciana, oleander, frangipani, these

And many others my mind’s eye sees.

A banyan is home to a bright macaw,

A monkey sits eating some fruit from his paw,

A land crab scuttles on his way to the cove,

A coconut falls with a thud in the grove.

Ah me! Ah me! That I could go

Where palm fronds clash and trade winds blow,

For these are the things I used to know

So far away and so long ago.

The red-roofed house, by the tall palm tree,

In the long ago, was sweet home to me.

I think of it now as a haven of rest

Where I wish I could go as a bird to its nest.

But the years that are flown have made the wish vain,

I could only return to sorrow and pain.

The letter from Charles Borromeo was written from New York in 1987. He returned to St.Maarten and it is ironic that he suffered the fate as predicted in the poem he admired. He returned only to sorrow and pain.

In ending this tribute to Beatrice Pfaffhauser I quote from H.W. Longfellow’s:

THE DAY IS DONE.

“Come, read to me some poem,

Some simple and heartfelt lay,

That shall soothe this restless feeling,

And banish the thoughts of day.

Read from some humbler poet,

Whose songs gushed from his heart,

As showers from the clouds of summer,

Or tears from the eyelids start;

And the night shall be filled with music,

And the cares that infest the day

Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,

And as silently steal away.”

Miss Helena’s son*

One of the houses I lived in as a boy growing up was located just above the home and grocery store of Mrs. Helena Peterson born Every. As a form of politeness a married woman or a widow for some unknown reason was addressed as “Miss.” She was the most enterprising woman of her day. She had a bakery as well as the grocery store and employed part time some sixteen people. She was the agent for Gold Medal Flour. Her employees consisted of wood gatherers for the bakery, donkey conductors for transporting goods from the Fort Bay, bakers and housemaids. She was mostly in the grocery assisted by her daughter Florence or “Titta”.

I used to hang around her house after school and would run an errand or two for her. She took a liking to me as when she offered me a sweet as we called candy, I did not show much interest. I remember Allan Busby telling me once that Mr. Diederick Gibbs from Statia had promised to send him one of those big jars with those large striped candies. He told me “Never promise a child anything if you do not intend to comply.” Allan told me that for months he would be looking at every sailboat, cargo ship or tanker passing Saba and in his mind’s eye he saw his large jar of candies coming his way, but he is my age and still no candies from Statia. And mind you his mother Daphne Busby was from Statia. Miss Helena did not make me any promises. However once when she went to St. Kitts on one of her banking trips she brought me back a small pocket knife with a handle full of flowers. If she had brought me the whole of St. Kitts it would have meant less to me than that small pocket knife which we called a pen knife. I was the envy of all the boys in the village including Busby who from English Quarter was on a constant look out in the hope that his shipload of candies would come in one day. They never did.

I never knew that Miss Helena had a son. She never discussed him. I also did not hear anyone else in the village ever saying that she had a son. It was only years later when the late Henry Every was studying in Holland for lawyer, that I heard that his cousin Miss Helena’s rich son was helping to finance his studies. Also I heard that the Anglican Church in Windwardside had received a substantial donation from him to fix the church roof or buy an organ for the church and so on. Being so close to Miss Helena I started to wonder how come she had never mentioned a word to me about this son in the United States.

I later learned that when he was around fourteen years old that she and him had a major confrontation over a private family matter. This is not relevant to this story. He took leave of his mother never to return to Saba and never to reconcile.

He went to stay by an aunt in Rhode Island and went to Brown University from which he graduated.

He then started to work for the Chase Bank owned by the Rockefeller family and worked himself up to Vice President in charge of loans. It is there that he came in contact with the owners of the Cargill company who took a liking to him.

The New York Times in its edition of April 6th 1982 carried the following obituary:

John G. Peterson 91; Ex-Chairman of Cargill Inc.

John G. Peterson, retired chairman of the board of Cargill Inc., died Sunday at his home here. He was 91 years old. Mr. Peterson was chairman of Cargill from 1953 to 1956 when he resigned to become Chairman of Tradax, the Geneva-based overseas trading affiliate of Cargill. He retired from Tradax in 1961. He played a major role in expanding the company’s domestic and international grain merchandising services. Mr. Peterson was born in the West Indies and was graduated from Brown University. His survivors include his wife, Gladys; a son, John Jr., of Norfolk, England, and a daughter, Betty Peterson, of Minnetonka.”

In Executive Intelligence Review of December 8th, 1995 there is an article entitled “Control by the Food Cartel Companies: Profiles and Histories. It includes information on Cargill which has its headquarters in Minnetonka. In 1994 Cargill had sales of $ 51 billion. It is the # 1 U.S. grain exporter (25% of the market, which is equivalent to Cargill exporting 25.1 million tons or 1.0 billion bushels of grain); #1 world grain trader/exporter (25% of market, which is equivalent to Cargill exporting 52.9 million tons, or 2.11 billion bushels of grain) #1 U.S. owner of grain elevators (340 elevators). #1 world cotton trader;#1 U.S. manufacturer of corn-based high protein animal feeds (through subsidiary Nutrena Mills); # 2 U.S. wet corn miller; # 2 U.S. soybean crusher; #2 Argentine grain exporter (10% of market) #3 U.S. flour miller (18% of market) # 3 U.S. pork packer/slaughterer #34 U.S. commercial animal feeder; #3 French grain exporter (15-18%) of the market and #6 U.S. turkey producer.

Cargill raises 350,000 hogs, 12 million turkeys, and 312 million broiler chickens. In the United States, it owns 420 barges, 11 towboats, 2 huge vessels that sail the Great Lakes, 12 ocean-going ships, 2000 railroad hopper cars, and 2,000 tank cars.

Cargill and its subsidiaries operate 800 plants. It has 500 U.S. offices, 300 foreign offices. It operates in 60 countries. It has over one hundred thousand people working for the company. It also owns the salt industry on Bonaire. And to think, that a little boy from Saba used to run all of that. The company is the second largest privately owned company in the world, owned by the Cargill and MacMillan families. In its 140 years of existence Mr. Peterson was the only non family member to run Cargill.

Here is how it happened: “Cargill also nearly went under following the 1929 U.S. stock market crash, and ensuing Great Depression. There is not a word of what happened to Cargill Co. during the depression in the History of Cargill, 1865-1945. But two forces came to the rescue: John D. Rockefeller’s Chase National Bank, which sent its officer John Peterson to help run Cargill. Peterson became Cargill’s top officer. The other force was a Byelorussian Jewish grain merchant, Julius Hendel, who joined the company in the late 1920’s. It would seem odd that a European, and a Jew at that, would be admitted into the inner councils of rock-ribbed Scottish-American firm, but this indicates the international scope of forces that shape the grain trade.

Some years ago I received a call from his son John Jr. who came to Saba in search of family history and to find out about his grandmother. I told him to meet me at Scout’s Place. When he walked in I could immediately see the resemblance between him and the Every family. I told him about his cousin Mrs. Barbara Kassab Every on St. Kitts. He visited her as well and they still have contact. He was interested in buying or building a house in Oyster Pond on  St. Maarten. I told him to look up Allan Busby which he did and he had a house built there. I have not heard from him the last years, but I assume that he is still in the land of the living.

I also own a small plot of land once owned by Miss Helena and the late Carl Anslijn her nephew gave me the correspondence between him and Mr. Peterson concerning land transactions. It was during the time that Mr. John G. Peterson was in Geneva setting up Tradax. Here is what Executive Intelligence Review had to say about Tradax. “In 1953, Cargill established Tradax International in Panama to run its global grain trade. In 1956, it set up Tradax Geneve in Geneva, Switzerland, as the coordinating arm of Tradax. Tradax subsidiaries were set up in Germany (Deutsche Tradax, GmbH), England (Tradax Limited), Japan (Tradax Limited), Australia (Tradax Limited), France (Compagnie Cargill S.A.) and so forth. Thirty percent of ownership of Tradax is help by old-line Venetian-Burgundian-Lombard banking families, principally the Swiss-based Lombard, Odier, and Pictet banks.”

And to think that a boy who ran away from Saba did all of that. My uncle Stanley Johnson (husband of my aunt Alice Simmons) told me that Commodore Tom Simmons of Saba who was Captain of the ship the “Argentina” swears that he saw him once and had the following exchange. They were passing Saba.

It was customary that when a Saba captain would pass the island he would blow the ships horn a few times. The man leaning over the rail on seeing the captain said to him:” Which island is that?” The Captain answered: “Saba.” And then the Captain said to him: “Don’t you think it’s time that you went home and saw your mother?” According to Uncle Stanley, the man gave the captain a startled look and walked off mumbling something under his breath. John G. Peterson never did return to Saba but recognized his island through contributions to his Anglican church and his family.

He never knew his father as his father William Simmons Peterson was lost at off Cape Hatteras when John better known as “Ned” was a little boy. And so we salute this great son of the soil.

Remember the Maine*

The battle cry for the Spanish American War which started in 1898 was “Remember the Maine”.

The United States warship by that name had entered Havana harbor on January 25th, 1898. On February 15th, at 9.40 pm an explosion ripped the Maine apart. Only 88 men out of a complement of 26 officers and 328 sailors and marines had survived. All 22 black sailors on board died among them the star pitcher, William Lambert.

This incident led to the Spanish American War in which the United States ended up with Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines as conquests of war and lingering doubts as to whether the Maine had been sacrificed for political purposes to gain more territory for the United States. The newspapers of the day questioned the official report from the Navy about the sinking of the battleship.

The victims were later buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.

The Mast of the Maine forms the centerpiece of the monument to the victims of the Maine. On a visit to that former plantation of General Robert E. Lee, I saw the monument. On the monument I saw the name of Charles F. Hassell and took a photo of the section of the monument with that name on it.

Interestingly enough the thought crossed my mind: “I wonder if he has any Saba connection?” On my return to Saba I wrote about the trip in my newspaper the “Saba Herald”. Some old timers came forward, and told me that he was a brother of Isaac Hassell from “Over-the-Peak” and that he was an uncle of Fred Hassell and Ferius Hassell. Some years later Mr. Lenny Hassell who was married to Nan (Joanna Johnson) sent me documents which he had obtained from the Navy Department. All of these documents were relating to the death of Charles F. Hassell, as well as to the subsequent pension of $12.- per month which his mother Johannah used to receive from the United States government. The House Over-the-Peak, known as “Isaac’s House” was actually built from the money Johannah received when her pension was regulated. In those days a carpenter would build a good size house for $30.—and for a large wooden house $120.—Not per day mind you. He built the entire house for that price with his handsaw and hammer, and delivered the house in six weeks.

The report of death contains the following information, which should be of interest to our readers.

Name of deceased: Charles Ferius Hassell.

Born on Saba, July 1st, 1863 (the same day as the emancipation of the slaves. A freedom child, he later lost his life in an event which caused the Spanish-American war). Rank: Gunners Mate, 3rd class. Date of death February 15th, 1898. Place of death: Havana. Cause of death: Asphyxia ex submersion. The document states further: “I hereby certify that Charles F. Hasell, Gunners Mate 3rd class, U.S. Navy, died while attached to the U.S.S. “Maine”. Death occurred in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, on the night of February 15th, 1898, as the result of an explosion and the sinking of the U.S.S. “Maine”. Record of deceased: Naïve of Saba, West Indies, Age 34 years, 7 months, Height 5 feet 10 inches.Complexion:Negro.Where enlisted: New York. When enlisted; April 25th, 1895. Previous service, about 5 years and 2 months. First enlisted January 21st, 1889.

His mother Johannah, was 70 at the time of his death. That same year an application was made on her behalf by the local Kings Council and Notary, Engle Heyliger Simmons for a pension. Also the Government schoolmaster Mr. R.L.Hassell, wrote a letter on her behalf to the Commissioner of Pensions. A general affidavit had the following information: Moses Johnson and Lovelock Hassell had appeared before the Notary and declared the following: “that they had been personally acquainted with the person Charles F.Hassell, native of this island, son of Johannah Hassell, late Gunners Mate on the U.S. ship “Maine”, from his earliest youth, that he never married on this island, and that to the best of their knowledge and belief was never married in any other place, and that at his death he left no widow nor minor child.”

Mrs. Johannah Hassell, was taken care of by Henry Johnson Hassell (“Henny Plunkie”) a Captain and owner of the house which used to be the main building of the Captain Quarters Hotel. She died on April 30th, 1913 and was around 85 years of age.

Also taking part in the Spanish American War from Saba was Capt. Lawrence Johnson, who was in the United States Navy and Waldron E.R.O.P. Simmons as well.

In Havana once in the museum which used to be the Governor’s mansion I saw there, part of the wreckage of the “Maine”. I told the guide that I hoped she did not mind that I touch that cold hard steel, but I needed to do so to communicate with a fellow islander who had lost his life on that man-of-war.

The National Geographic Magazine in February 1998, one hundred years after the disaster carried an article on the sinking of the “Maine”. With this article is included a photo of part of the crew. There are two black men in the middle of the photograph on the right of the photo. The one with the round hand resembles some of the family of former days here on Saba. The photo is in the Library of Congress and was taken by the Detroit Publishing Company.

In a time when Sabans were dependent on the sea many were lost on foreign shores and we end with a stanza from the Recessional of Rudyard Kipling: Lest we Forget.

God of our fathers, known of old –

Lord of the far-flung battle line –

Beneath whose awful hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine –

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget, lest we forget!

Simon Bolivar on Saba

On January 2nd, 1816 General Simon Bolivar then residing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, wrote a letter to his friend Luis Brion, Admiral of the Venezuelan Navy.

Luis Brion was born on the island of Curacao on July 26th 1782 of a well to do Jewish family of Belgian origin. He spent his fortune to help Bolivar liberate the South American mainland from Spanish colonialism. He started the Navy of Gran Colombia consisting principally of vessels owned by him. The Cayes expeditions were made possible by Brion who also had business interests in Haiti at the time. It was also his business relations with Venezuela which put him in contact with Bolivar in the first place.

The letter from Bolivar among other things states: Quote:” I am writing to our friends under this date, telling them much the same that I am telling you concerning our common cause. If anything of importance I shall send word to you by a personal messenger. Meantime, I expect that you will do the same for me. I beg you in passing to get your forces together so that we may affect some useful enterprise on the Costa Firme. I have asked that the schooner intended for you be sent to the port where our refugees are, as you suggested.”

Because of their pirate heritage and love of the sea, Sabans were known throughout the West Indies as fine sailors. Brion would have known of Saba and perhaps he had met Saban captains. Some of them could have even been captains of some of his schooners. In later years there were several Sabans who were captains of schooners owned by the Maduro’s on Curacao and the Van Romondt’s on  St. Maarten.

What is known as Los Cayes (Aux Cayes) expedition started from Haiti on March 31st 1816 in an Easterly direction. Bolivar’s route took him directly from Haiti to Saba. For unknown reasons the fleet stopped at Saba. Local folklore formerly had it that a number of Sabans joined the fleet and went to the battle of Los Frailes with the Venezuelan Navy. Could it be that Brion had an agreement with Bolivar to meet him on the little known island of Saba?

Hearst’s International Cosmopolitan Magazine of April 1937 carried an article entitled: “Saba Isle of Women.”

Of the history of the island the article has the following to say: “The founders of the community kept no records, so its early history is obscure. Some say they were pirates marooned with their women by Sir Henry Morgan. (The proved to be correct as in 1665 pirates from Port Royal, Jamaica, under Thomas and Edward Morgan, uncles to Henry, captured Saba and St. Eustatius and left a garrison behind.), others believe they were refugees from the Monmouth rebellion in England. Even the origin of the name which is pronounced “Say-bah”, is unknown. It may be the Old Dutch word for the Biblical land of Sheba. Or it may be a corruption of the French Sabot (Shoe), for throughout the early years of the community Sabans made most of the work shoes for the West Indies. (The Catholic Priest Labat who visited Saba in 1701 travelling with a pirate ship bought several pair of shoes made on Saba.) Then came a couple of centuries when Saban sloops and schooners were famed for their stout qualities, and for the hairy-chested Saban men who used them to smuggle contraband to the rebellious American colonies of George III and who later carried forbidden arms to Bolivar. Now the boat builders are all gone.”

(Cosmopolitan April 1937).

So in 1937 folklore had it that arms were smuggled to Bolivar by Sabans. In the First World War a Guyanese newspaper quoted Winston Churchill of accusing Saba captains of supplying U-2 boats with food and other supplies.

In 1929 shortly after Urbina invaded Curacao there appeared a steamer on the Saba Bank which seemed headed towards Saba. The people panicked and some started packing whatever little jewelry they had and headed into the mountains. One mentally disturbed old man set some rat traps along the road in Windward Side. He said that even if the Venezuelans captured Saba that at the very least he would give one of them a sore toe to carry back to Venezuela with him. The invasion did not come and after a few days the steamer pulled up anchor and disappeared.

Simon Jose Antonio de la Santisima Trinidad Bolivar was born on July 24th, 1783, in Caracas Venezuela.

In 1983 when Venezuela was commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Liberators birth, Roberto Palacios (a historian whose ancestor was a relative of Bolivar’s.), brought to the attention of Mr. Edsel “Papy” Jesurun the fact that Bolivar had once visited Saba.

In my library I have a two volume book in English, given out by the Banco de Venezuela in 1951. The book is entitled “Selected Writings of Bolivar.” On page 130 there is a supplemental map which shows the route of the Aux Cayes expedition at which time Bolivar stopped at Saba. At the time in interviewing older people about this matter Peter Anthony “Brother” Hassell, told me that when he was a boy he knew an old mentally unbalanced man who used to admonish all who wanted to listen that they should hide, or else the Venezuelans would come and get them. We speculate that his fear could have stemmed from the fact that the Sabans who had joined the Venezuelan fleet never returned and were lost to history. Captain Randolph Dunkin also said that he had been told as a boy that when Simon Bolivar had left Saba he had looked back, raised his hand, and shouted out “Adios Saba.” Venezuelan historians also came across letters from Bolivar written from Saba to the governors of the surrounding islands.

In 1983 to mark this event and the 200th anniversary of Bolivar’s birth, the Venezuelan government donated a bust of the Liberator to be placed at the discretion of the Saban Government. It was decided to place the bust on the grounds of the museum in Windwardside with Bolivar looking out to sea in the direction of Venezuela. The Venezuelan government at the time honoured me with a medal in the Order of Francisco de Miranda. Dr. Francois Moanac Ambassador for the Caribbean Region for the Republic of Venezuela was present as well as Dr. Luis Ochoa Teran, Consul General for the Republic of Venezuela in the Netherlands Antilles. Also Prime Minister Maria Liberia Peters and many other dignitaries of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles were present on Saba for the occasion. Here follows the speech which I made for the occasion: “I am deeply moved and profoundly grateful to the Government of Venezuela for the honour of receiving the ornaments and badge belonging to the Order of Francisco de Miranda, from the Ambassador Dr. Francois Moanack on behalf of Dr. Jaime Lusinchi, President of the Republic of Venezuela. My sincerest gratitude is also extended to His Excellency Ambassador Dr. Luis Ochoa Teran, Venezuela’s distinguished representative in Curacao as well as to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Isidro Morales Paul, for their roles in my attaining this high distinction.

The decoration in the Order of Francisco de Miranda was instituted in 1943 by the Republic of Venezuela to honour the memory of Franscisco de Miranda, one of the Founding fathers and closest collaborators along with the Liberator Simon Bolivar, whose bust we have unveiled today, thus paying tribute and homage in this way to one of the greatest men the Latin American Continent has produced.

I would like to request the Ambassador for the Caribbean Region, Dr. Francois Moanack, as well as Ambassador Dr. Luis Ochoa Teran, Consul General in our sister island of Curacao to transmit the deepest appreciation of the Saban people, who are honoured and recognized by this extraordinary honour which has been bestowed upon me and which is treasured highly, also by my family who participate with me in this recognition.

I sincerely wish that the Almighty’s abundant blessings will continue to shine on the Republic of Venezuela, its officials and its inhabitants and that the bonds of friendship, which have been accentuated today, will last forever.

May Saba and Venezuela always remain connected through our mutual admiration for Simon Bolivar, whose glorious memory we honour today.”

At the time I was friends with Margarita Palacios who was the Executive Assistant of President Lusinchi. I was visiting Caracas at his invitation once and I took Peter Granger along. The protocol officer who received us at the airport dropped us off in a small dumpy hotel whereas I was supposed to stay at the Anauco Hilton. I decided to remain the night and even managed to round up a fellow Saban/Venezuelan Edward Hassell who came and visited me. In the morning via the  St. Maarten tourism representative whom I had once befriended on Saba, Margarita was contacted and within the hour I was fetched by security personnel and taken to the Hilton. At the independence ceremonies of St. Kitts/Nevis, I was standing on the pier in Nevis with Mr. Ralph Berkel of St. Eustatius. In the distance I saw the high Venezuelan naval officers standing. Ralph said to me,” Will I think that woman with the Navy people is trying to get your attention”. It was Margarita who after greeting us insisted that the very large Venezuelan Naval vessel take us back down to St. Kitts. By the time Prime Minister Don Martina came on board Ralph and I were having coffee with the Commander and playing dominoes. Don was surprised and I told him “Connections, Don, connections.” And so it was at that time indeed. The last time I was in Chile to attend an ODCA meeting I asked Eduardo Fernandez “El Tigre” about her and he informed me that she is still around. I sent her a note of appreciation with “El Tigre.” But of course the traditional parties in Venezuela in the era of Chavez no longer rate very high with the people. So the once all powerful Christian Democratic Party there is now only a shadow of its former self. I hope that the freedom I enjoyed as a local politician to meet and make friends with regional leaders will not be denied to the younger generation of politicians. I conducted my own foreign affairs, but under the Dutch it will be a different matter and we will have to adjust a bit. I keep telling the Dutch though that there must be room for the small islands to deal with their neighbours. The contact with Chavez is different of course. Shortly after he became President, the Lt. Governor called me and told me that there were people downstairs who had come to see me and that he would send them up to the Court Hall. When I entered the room it was full of military brass from Venezuela. They informed me that President Chavez had sent them on a mission throughout the Caribbean to pay his respects to friends of Venezuela and that I was one of those friends. They parked up the big Man-O-War in the Fort Bay as if it was a rental car. They spent a few days here. Only when they played a football game and lost to a local team and it appeared in the papers all hell broke loose. Everyone in Holland and Curacao wanted to know how that Man-O-War had ended up on Saba without permission. The Lt. Governor was happy to inform them that they were here visiting Will. So what! And when Curacao could not find money to help us with medical care the following incident took place. I was on St. Eustatius enjoying my breakfast when Commissioner Lisa Hassell called me and informed me that we had no money in the chest and that we owed the St. Maarten Medical Center a whole pile of money and we had three emergencies to send to the hospital over there. I told her let me finish my breakfast and I will think up something. She said “I would like to see what you are going to think up this time.” Long story short I went up to Oranjestad and called the radio stations on St. Maarten and suggested they ask me a question. I informed them that via Errol Cova on Curacao I would approach the Venezuelan Government to help me with funds to cover medical costs.

I followed up with the official letter the same day I returned from Statia. In two days’ time the Venezuelan Consul on Curacao was headed to Saba. That is the time he had problems at the St. Maarten airport with the immigration. The Dutch realized that Venezuela was going to embarrass them, and it did not take long to get funding to pay off the hospital on St. Maarten. And so, when you see the bust of Simon Bolivar on the museum grounds in Windwardside you will know how it all came about.

Albertine’s girl*


My brother Freddie*


Eulogy for Thomas Eric Johnson*

Thomas Eric Johnson was born on Saba on September 20th, 1934 and died on April 13th, 2011.

From a boy Eric was known as a hard worker. He was born and grew up in a small village above the old sulphur mine, known as “Behind-the-Ridge”. As a young boy going through the hardships and scarcity imposed on the island by World War II, he must have been influenced to the extent that he hardly ever took a rest. He was driven by a passion and a belief that his children should not have to live the hard life he lived as a boy.

After he finished elementary school he started working for the Public Works on the construction of the road. There was a severe flood caused by the “Alice” hurricane in January of 1955 and he was working on the reconstruction of the road leading from Fort Bay to The Bottom.

Eric had been preparing himself for an eventual upgrade by taking typing lessons. So when the call came that there was a vacancy in the office he applied and because of the typing efficiency which he had, Mr. Walter Buncamper who was Administrator at the time hired him. The salary was fls.90.– a month. Eric was so happy to get the job that he did not remind the Administrator until nearly two years later, in a moment of anger that he had not been paid as yet. Mr. Buncamper could not believe that it had taken so long to regulate Eric’s salary.

Eric was such a hard and dedicated office worker that each and every Administrator when leaving the island would always recommend Eric for a raise. He had a number of positions besides his regular job over the years. He was “Kings Attorney”, you name it, and he did it. He was compensated for these extra positions, in most cases between fls. 10.– and fls. 25.– per month whereas his regular salary stayed at fls.90.– per month for many years.

Eric had a strong passion to see Saba Develop, and in 1971 he started the Saba Development Foundation through which the Dutch Government channeled millions of guilders in social and infrastructural projects. Eric was up late at night, working on sending in projects to get financing for the island. For this he was never compensated. If a project was approved he would supervise it until finished, he kept the books and the Dutch Government was so pleased with his work and honesty that rather than channeling projects through the Government they would channel them through the Saba Development Foundation.

Eric together with Doctor de Braauw was also responsible for introducing the Saba School of Medicine to the Island back in the nineteen eighties. He and Doctor de Braauw were the Founding Members of this Foundation and his brother who was Senator at the time got all the necessary permits from the World Health Organization. He never received any financial compensation for doing everything to make the school a success. He had a passion for Saba to develop and for the people of today to enjoy a better livelihood than the hardships he had gone through as a boy.

When it came to his job, Eric would be at the office as early as 7.30 Am and would leave after five to go home and take care of his cattle and do other farming activities. He was always busy. Once when he was building a cistern his wife Wilda heard him at 3AM outside the house mixing cement. Turns out he had mistaken the clock, thinking it was 5AM and wanted to do some work on the cistern before going to his job. Well he concluded that since he had the cement mixed anyway that he would continue working until it was time to go to the office.

He also liked to give his opinion. When the Saba Herald was started in 1968, he would write half the paper and was very vocal on what he saw as things which he felt were not right. The same he carried on in The Daily Herald for many years until he got too ill to write. He was not appreciated by many for his candid views on many issues, and many people would have liked to wish him with his many opinions away. However he was persistent in writing his “Thoughts From Saba” regardless as to who liked those views or not.

In his personal life he suffered a great tragedy in 1968 when he lost his first three young children in a swimming accident, something which haunted him all his life, even though he and his wife Wilda, had four more children, the eldest his daughter Anne Marie who was born the very same week of the tragedy. Eric became even more concentrated in his work and those who did not appreciate him were because he thought everyone should work as hard as he did.

He also served on the board of Windward islands Airways N.V. Hardly anyone can recall him ever calling in sick for the many years he worked for the government of Saba. He was adamant that he wanted no recognition for his work, and so the Government respected his wishes and never recommended him for any kind of Royal Distinction which in his case would have certainly be merited.

The last years of his life he suffered much and was in and out of hospitals . However in between he would still try and do what he could and when you passed his house in English Quarter you would see him at night behind his typewriter doing what he had to do,  still sending out his views to the Daily Herald.

He leaves to mourn his wife Wilda who he married in 1960, his daughters Anne Marie Obermaier who lives in Germany, his daughter Cerissa, his sons Dan and Nicky. His children followed in his footsteps when it comes to hard work.

The Daily Herald wishes to express their deep sympathy to his widow and children and other members of his family.

Harry L. Johnson*

For some time now I have promised myself to do a small booklet on the life of the man for whom the museum was named after. However I take on so many projects that I must put off a booklet for now. Instead the readers of “Under the Sea Grape Tree” which is a wide audience will now get to know who he was.

Harry was born on Saba on November 19th, 1913. His parents were John William Johnson and Alida Johnson born Johnson. He was first baptized as an Anglican and on July 20th 1919 he was baptized as a Roman Catholic.

Harry had a real tough time as a boy. His father was lost off Cape Hatteras on January 29th, 1914 on the “Benjamin F. Poole” which four master schooner was lost while bound from Wilmington Delaware to Baltimore with eight in crew. It was a large schooner 202 feet in length, and built in Bath Maine in 1886. Many Sabans lost their lives at sea in former times. Harry never knew his father as he was just a baby when his father died.

Cape Hatteras especially took a lot of Saban lives. On December 21st 1902 the “Maggie M. Hart” was lost there with Edward C. Hassell and Alois Hassell being lost. In 1890 or thereabouts Capt. Peter Simmons and others from Saba were lost there, and in 1898 William Simmons Peterson was also lost there on a schooner.

Harry’s mother died when he was only four years old. I remember him telling me that he thought it was all a big joke until he actually saw his mother being lowered into the grave. He describes his loss in the following poem.

IN LOVING MEMORY

At a Cross I often gaze,

Out amidst the evergreen;

Marking dear ones I’ve lost

In brilliant white can be seen.

In the old Church yard

Beneath the sod so hard,

A loving Mother and Friend,

Was placed in the end.

At the age of only four,

As bearers carried her through the door

Oblivious was I then

That I would never see her again.

Beneath this cross an epitaph is seen,

For ones who lived a life so clean,

Bearing eleven impressive words,

Who are now in peace with the Lord.

There was one who had no cross.

In a raging storm my father was lost,

Whose ending days was on the ocean,

Never a word from his lips to hear spoken.

Harry had three other brothers who all immigrated to the UnitedStates and remained there. I have an old postcard dated July 11th, 1921and sent from Brooklyn New York by Harry’s older brother Colbert. It reads:

“Dear Little Harry,

“Just a few lines to say your dear brother arrived in New York the 9th and the damn old ship is tied up again so I don’t know what we will do now. Write another little letter for your dear brother. Signed; Colbert Johnson.” The postcard had a scene of Hamburg so he must have been there with the ship. I guess Colbert figured that Harry at age eight must have been exposed to bad words by then so that he could use the damn word without consideration as to who would be reading the postcard.

Little Harry was then raised by an old aunt until he was twelve and then she too died. When his aunt died he went to live with an uncle and he helped his uncle to do the farming. At the age of 13 he went to sea with Captain William Benjamin Hasssell and sailed on the “Three Sisters”. He sailed with Clarence Every and Johnny Hassall (one of Capt. Ben’s sons). He was paid three dollars per month. He sailed to Barbados, also to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and also to South Africa. He sailed for four years and then he went to Bermuda. There he met Doris Every whom he married on September 2nd, 1931 when he was still only seventeen. The poor guy had been knocked about so much in his early years that he needed someone permanent in his life. She worked for Mrs. Frith. Back then Saban women also emigrated in search of work to Bermuda and other places. Doris’ sister Winnie had immigrated to Bermuda before her. Harry’s first children Aileen and Milton were born on Bermuda. There in Bermuda he started painting as a hobby and also doing research into the navigational history of Saba. In 1937 he came down to St. Kitts with his family on the “Lady Drake”. After a short while on Saba he went to Aruba to work for the LAGO OIL REFINERY. In Bermuda he had worked as a house painter and in a stone quarry. In Aruba he worked as a fireman for five or six years. Doris took in boarders from Saba. People like Jospehus Lambert Hassell and his brother Peter Anthony Hassell. In those days everyone was going to Aruba in search of work. Harry came back to Saba and did some farming. He joined the Police Force at the age of 31. His daughter Aileen remembers that Harry was going down to The Bottom on a horse to sign up for the police force when he met Osmar Ralph Simmons, also on a horse going down to The Bottom for the same purpose. They worked together in the police force on Saba and St. Maarten and remained lifelong friends. Harry worked for twenty years as a Policeman before retiring on April 1st, 1964. He was not only a policeman but at the same time served as Postmaster, and checked the rainfall for about eight years. At the age of fifty he retired and started to paint. He never went to art school. His first real painting he made at the age of 17. He gave the painting to Lady Grace Barnes on Bermuda. During his twenty years of service in the police force he made five paintings. After he retired he started to paint again. Two of his paintings appeared in the Chicago Daily News. One was of a wedding procession, the other of a church. Yet another of his paintings was published in Clipper Magazine. He painted on hardboard and tiles with oil paint. He liked primitive art, as you will recognize in his paintings. He didn’t like modern art because as he said “if I buy something and I have to ask what it is all about, it’s no good. That’s why I like primitive art.”

After he retired he started a small museum in his yard in an old house which had belonged to Miss Hester Peterson who died in 1970 at the age of 104. Harry collected quite a number of artifacts and old photo’s of Saba. He was an avid collector of sea stories. Saba is an island of a thousand sea stories. Harry contributed many columns to the local newspaper the “Saba Herald.” Stories, about Saban captains and their association with the sea. He inspired me to carry on and to later publish “Tales from My Grandmother’s Pipe”, which was an accumulation of stories about Sabans and their association with the sea.

Before he died he expressed the wish to me on several occasions that he hoped one day there would be a museum on Saba. We fulfilled that part of his dream when the Harry L. Johnson Memorial Museum opened its doors on Sunday March 5th, 1978. The house and five thousand five hundred and fifty square meters of land belonged to the Peterson family. The house was built by Captain Allan Atlesthon

Peterson around the year 1850. His family is said to have come to Saba from St. Barths. The Peterson family sold the house and extensive property in 1969 to two citizens of the United States, Robert Beebe and William H. Johnson for thirteen thousand dollars. On Wednesday June 1st, 1977 they in turn sold the property to a foundation which I had hurriedly established and named the Harry L. Johnson Memorial Foundation. I was able to buy the property for seventy five thousand dollars of which twenty thousand had been donated to me by Mr. John Goodwin while the balance came from the Dutch Government with the approval of then Minister W.F. de Gaay Fortman who visited the property before it was purchased and agreed to give the necessary supplementary funds to the foundation so that they could purchase the property and establish a museum there.

Harry died of lung cancer in 1972 after suffering for quite a long time. He was a lifelong smoker as most people were back then and un