The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson


For twenty five years from 1968 until 1993 I had my own newspaper The Saba Herald. For reasons known to me at the time I decided to stop publishing it. Much of this had to do with the difficulty of printing, getting sponsors and so on. It was a hard hitting paper in defense of Saba and its people.

The last years I have been busy in other fields, writing books, and my popular column Under the Sea Grape Tree etc. Last year I once again saw the need to start a native owned newspaper. I have now decided that Facebook is not the proper avenue to voice my opinion on matters of interest to the indigenous people of Saba.

So now I trust you will enjoy my own voice online, my blog/newspaper “The Saba Islander“.

48 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello Will,

    Does Francis Antoinette Johnson (aka Frances A.) b. abt 1860 m. John George Every Crossley b. abt 1860 d. abt 1904 (Providence, RI) figure into your ancestry? According to my research my grandfather, Dr. M. L. Crossley, left Saba as a cabin boy in early-1890s onboard his grandfather’s (Capt. Johnson) schooner and lived for a period in City Island, NY, with his mother’s (Francis A.’s) three sisters. At the moment the names of her sisters fail me. I know my father and mother met you in late-1960s but I doubt that they were as keen on the above particulars as I.

    • I am sure we are somehow related but I am not sure who the Capt. Johnson was. If you have more details on Francis, like date of birth I could find out who he was and then tell you how the relationship is.
      P.S. Do you have any good photo’s of your grandfather that you could e-mail to me? I try here to let people know how many famous this small island has produced in the past.

      • Alan Crossley on said:

        Hi Will,

        Yes. I’ve got lots of photos but none in digital form yet. I haven’t been able to find specific dates for Francis Antionette but I believe that she may be buried in Warwick, RI. John George died shortly before M.L. entered Brown in the fall of 1904, probably sometime late-September, but I haven’t been able to locate his burial yet, either. Francis Antionette had three sisters, according to M.L.C.: (1) Helen Peterson (Capt. Ned Peterson’s wife); (2) Susan; and (3) Julia Johnson. All three lived in City Island, NY, in March 1898, at the time when M.L. first arrived from Saba. Helen Peterson’s (or “-sen”) husband (and his brother) were both lost at sea (circa unknown). With regard to M.L.’s grand-father Capt. Johnson, all that I know is that M.L. shipped with him as a cabin boy (circa 1894-95) onboard Capt. Johnson’s barkentine delivering mail and supplies between NY and the islands. I enjoyed your recent article in the Daily Herald (“Under the Sea Grape Tree”) and I would like you to know that perhaps M.L.’s greatest honor in life would have been in knowing that the former public school in Bottom was named after him. In the interest of privacy, perhaps you and I can continue our conversation through email rather than this public forum? You have my email address already. I look forward to hearing from you.


      • Roger Joslyn on said:

        Dear Mr. Johnson

        I learned of you through Renee (“Bunny”) Van Putten here in New York City, and she thinks you can help me. I am a Certified Genealogist assisting the attorney on an estate settlement here in New York. Our decedent had a half-brother, Johannes Illidge, son of Johannes Illidge and his first wife, Elcie Inez Watkins. After Elcie’s death, Johannes Sr. went to New York in 1913 and married again in 1923.

        I found an item, with picture, of Joanice Leopold “Johannes” Illidge in The Daily Herald of 23 January 2013, who had just celebrated his 103rd birthday and wonder if he was the Johannes [Jr.] in whom I am interested.

        Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide. I look forward to hearing from you.

        Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FASG

    • Jerry Casius on said:

      Hello Will,

      Here is an old voice from the past . . . ! I just realize that it is 49 years ago that we first met at Captain Hodges Guesthouse – fond memories, not of the quite “basic” accommodation I “enjoyed” there, but of the two of us, sometimes nudged on by none other than the unforgettable Bill Burcher, solving the world’s problems with a beer in our hands on the porch overlooking Great Bay!

      After a number of other projects – including doing research for the Dutch Air Force’s monument with the names of “gevallen kameraden” at Soesterberg Air Base, re-building historical airplanes for the new National Military Museum (opened last week by King Willem Alexander) and writing a book on “De Koninklijke Luchtmacht in Nederlands Nieuw Guinea 1958-1962” – I have picked up again on my research and writing on the history of aviation in the Dutch Caribbean.

      Surfing the web, I was surprised to run into your article on the Saba Islander site (January 2014) on “Aviation over our islands during WW-2”, where you quoted my earlier correspondence extensively and published some of my pictures, as well as “Fifty years of air service to Saba”.

      Maybe we could cooperate on writing up a few more (aviation) recollections of those days. I wonder if I could impose on you to let me have good higher resolution scans of a few of the photo’s you used in the very informative “Fifty years of air service to Saba article”. In particular, your images:
      13 – Checking out De Haenen’s plane
      64 – Opening Mrs Yrausquin
      65 – Opening, guests
      126 – Flat point seen from Hells’s Gate
      454 – clearing Flat Point
      648 – first landing Apache by Georges Gréaux
      1835 – helicopters landing March 22, 1962 (incidentally, these were Sikorsky S-58’s of Vliegtuigsquadron 8).
      n.n. – Airport after construction
      n.n. – People awaiting De Haenen’s first landing
      n.n. – Freddie met José Dormoy
      n.n. – Lady standing at the end of the runway

      On your “thesabaislander” site, I read the invitation to receive your postings / articles, but could not find a link to sign up. If convenient, I’d like you to add my name to the list of recipients.

      I hope to hear some thing from you when you have a chance. In the meantime: Season’s Greetings and have a healthy 2015.

      With best regards,


      De Hoge Bomen 3
      8271 RE IJsselmuiden,
      ph (xx31) (0)38-31 0620

    • Miss Hassell-Y on said:

      Good day,
      My grandmother told me about her relative Mthilda Crossley. I would love to know more details about them.

      • There is an article on this site about Dr. Moses Crossley which includes the family. Also try Of Saban Descent on Facebook. There is much information there about Saba and its people.

  2. Patricia Johnson Stamm on said:

    My grandfather, Godfred Johnson was born in Saba in 1892. At the age of 31 he came to NYC as a merchant marine and married my grandmother. I am interested in knowing more about his history. I am coming to Saba April 22-23 for a first visit. I would love to meet any distant relatives. Thanks Patricia Johnson Stamm

    • When you come to Saba give me a call or ask your taxi driver to do so. My home number is 416-2244 at home and my celnumber is 416-588. If you call from abroad you have to use 011-599-416 etc.

  3. mikelev on said:

    Love your blog Will. My name is Mike Levenston and I was interested in your story about Captain Mathew Levenston. My ancestors are Anglo Jews who can be traced in the UK to the early 1800’s. I was wondering if perhaps there were any early Levenstons listed living on Saba and how Mathew’s surname and mine are the same. Generally anyone named Levenston on my tree is a relative.

    My email in Canada is

    Many thanks, Mike

  4. Hi Will, Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Del Tolan and Rev. John Toland was my great-great-great grandfather. I live about ten miles from St. Thomas Church in Bath, North Carolina where Rev. John pastored in 1837-38. My family has lived here since then. In my limited family research I found your writings online and have been a devoted reader ever since. Because you have allowed me to learn so much about my family heritage as well as my Saban heritage I have planned a brief visit to Saba, arriving via ferry from St. Martin on Sat. Nov. 7 and departing Tues. Nov. 10. My wife and I, along with two other friends, will be staying at the Queens Gardens Hotel. I would consider it a privilege to meet you and possibly talk for a while. We do not have a schedule. I am very interested to know if there are any Toland graves on Saba. Is the old Anglican Church at the Bottom where Rev. John preached ? Are the court records that you referenced in your article on Rev. John available ? And is there any way to obtain copies of the photos in that article ? Any other information or advice to enhance our visit would be greatly appreciated. Hoping to meet you. Yours truly…Del Tolan

  5. Hannah Strisiver on said:

    Hi, I came across your article from March ‘Before Mass Tourism’ which contained a lovely picture of Shorty’s hotel. Walter Strisiver was my great uncle. I was intrigued to see that a Mr van der Vorst had requested information and it seems that he knew Walter in Berlin. It would be wonderful if I could learn how they met etc. I don’t know if you have any further information? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks

  6. ashleesimmons on said:

    Hello, I am seeking more information about my great grandmother Pansy Camilla Simmons born in Saba in 1909 allegedly. Her father was John Elias Simmons allegedly or after much searching could be Samuel Augustus Simmons. If you have any further information please do getin touch as her daughter, my grandmother still alive would love to find out more info. Many thanks

  7. Elizabeth Ann (Weed) Maurer on said:

    I am the granddaughter of Beatrice phaffhauser
    Of Saba in the West Indies …I loved your info and still
    Can’t believe…I googled my grandmother!..
    Thank you so much!! Will, please contact me.

    • I have tried twice to send you an e.mail based on this address but no luck so far. My home number is 416-2244 here on Saba. I think the international code is either 00-599 or 011 – 599 Give me a call and I can then get your correct e.mail.

      • Gerrit van der Vorst on said:

        I had sent an email to Mr. Johnson, in order to get in contact with Hannah Strisiver, but I will try again.

      • I really do not know this lady. The information I got on ‘Shorty’ was via via and all of these people died a long time ago. Sorry I cannot help.

    • I have been trying and trying but your e.mail does not work.You have not responded to my message on this site which I sent to you. Let me know.

  8. gea hindriks on said:

    hello my name is gea hindriks i,m married to chris hindriks he is de son of ellen westers and she lived in groningen i think we are familie heren grandmother was sarrah ellen johnson

  9. gea hindriks on said:

    hello my husband chris hindriks is the son of ellie westers she lived in groningen here grandmother was Sarah ellen johnson

  10. Mary M. Gray on said:

    Hello: I am currently exploring family roots on Sint Maarten/Saint Martin and finding your work so helpful. Thank you! Involved are 2 ancestors from the UK: George Illidge (1773-1854) of the Brick House in Philipsburg and his uncle Richard Bayley (1741-1794) of Loterie plantation. As I explore their marriages and their descendants and marriages I find the Waymouths, the Heyligers, D’Ormoy family; du Cloux family, the Jarvis family of Antigua; the Gibbes which took me to St Eustatius; van Rygersma family and others. Very fascinating. I have a family tree on Ancestry and I include write-ups of the facts as I know them. George Illidge had a brother John who was my husband’s 2nd great grandfather. Would you be interested in receiving the write-ups of these 2 men and their families? Looking forward to a reply. Thanks very much. Mary Gray

    • Yes I would like that very much and it will be very helpful to me. Thanks for the offer. Sincerely Will. P.S. I am also very interested in photo’s of these people and/or old photo’s of the three Dutch Windward Islands if you have any you would like to share with me. They always go well with the articles which I write.

      • Mary M. Gray on said:

        Wonderful! How do we connect? I assume you know my email now – or do you?
        Not sure about how blog posts like this work. Mary

  11. Hello,
    The American William “Bill” Johnson is my grandfather. It was neat to stumble across his photo in one of your posts from February 2016. He passed away last year and I know he very much valued the time he spent in Saba. If you happen to find any other photos of him, I would love to be able to pass them along to my family. Thank you for your fascinating and detailed historical notes about the island.

  12. Jacqueline Rovers on said:

    Dear mr. Wil Johnson,
    Thank you so much for the warmhearted, sympathetic and beautiful memorial article you wrote in the Saba Islander on the occasion of the passing away of my most beloved brother-in-law mr. Ralph A . Berkel.
    As you will probably remember, my daughter and me stayed at Saba in 1995 during a visit at my sisters and Ralphs place at Statia. You and your wife gave us the hospitality I will never forget! Whenever I hear or read about Saba I remember you .
    Your son Chris made a beautiful speech on behalf of you. I am sorry we could not meet.
    Thank you for your friendship with Ralph!

    • Sorry that I could not make it in person. Had the gout for some weeks and the airline is a mess when one wants to fly between Saba and Statia. Thanks for the compliments both to me and to Chris. Ralph as you know was a wonderful friend and as soon as I heard the sad news of his death I started writing the tribute in my head. Sad that both Lisbeth and Ralph are no longer with us. Hope to see you in future.

  13. vanessa on said:

    Lovely to see a picture of my grandfather, Bluesy Simmons of Bequia, on your blog! We all grew up hearing about Saba from Uncle Nolly. Would love to visit Saba some day.

  14. Frank Baptie on said:

    Just a quick note to let you know how much I enjoyed your story of Spritzer and Fuhrmann. I restored a wristwatch with their names on the dial and I was curious about them. Very well written and informative. Thank You.

  15. Can we have permission to use an image of the Florence M Douglas that appears on:

    Your image appears to be the original photo to one that appears on:

    We are writing a piece on the sinking of the Florence M Douglas by U-162 on 4 May 1942 and wanted to use an image of the Florence M Douglas

    many thanks

  16. Hello,

    My name is Elisabeth. I am the great neice of Bertha and Austin Hodge and also the great niece of Angele and Gaston Cagan. My great grandfather was Jimmy Lawrence who owned the store on Grand Case and my grandmother is his daughter Gloria. My grandfather is Leonard (Hubert) Cagan who was the grandson of Susan Cagan I believe. He was actually born on Curacao as well. They have told me many stories about Angele, Gaston, Bertha, etc. I’ve been searching for more information on my family’s history and found some articles on Austin and Bertha Hodge and Angele Cagan on your page. I would love to connect to get some more info about my family! My email is Thank you!

  17. Ward A Scott on said:

    My name is Ward Scott and I live in Arizona but I am originally from Barbados. My maternal grandfather Joseph Chapman was a fisherman and had related to his good friend that his family came from Saba. I researched his Chapman family tree back to his grandfather Richard Edward Chapman, who was married in Barbados in 1817 but I could not find a birth record of him in Barbados, so I assume his birth record would be from Saba based on my grandfather’s communication to his friend.
    My brother was on a cruise and while in Curacao, related this to someone there who gave him your name and phone number, and my brother passed this on to me.
    I could not get you at that phone number, that was 2 years ago. Now reading your blog and some of the details like the Hassell family in Barbados originally from Saba, I would be interested in any information you may have on Chapmans from Saba or point me in the direction to pursue this.
    On another note, you mentioned Ortyn (spelling?) King from Bequia. I met Ortyn when I sailed with his father Rawle King on his schooner the Alwood. That was 52 years ago when I was 12 years lod.
    Thank you in advance for any information you can share.

  18. do I email you about a picture of a young lady who was the maid of Mrs. Annie Parmenter-Simmons and her brother. My name is Ronnie Smith and that picture we believe is my mom. Picture is located at the end of The Wesleyan Holiness Church on Saba by Will Johnson

    You can email at the email address listed

  19. Barry L Gibson on said:

    I am researching the Van Dervoort family of Phelp, Ontario Co., NY. When Ellen (Horton) Van Dervoort dies in the late 1800’s her obit states that her father Israel Horton was a 1st cousin to Alexander Hamilton. I notice in one of your articles that you have a Horton – Hamilton connection you are working on. Have you ever come across this Israel Horton. I have been unable to confirm this claim.

  20. Eleanor Fulton on said:

    Hello Will Johnson,

    I am writing to you from Canada. I found your post on the cisterns of Saba quite timely, as I was recently commissioned to research water collection for an off grid community starting up in Northern Ontario. I immediately thought of Saba, I visited the Island only once but I fell in love with her, and I remembered the cisterns that seemed to be so important on Saba.
    I looked for an email to contact you for more information on the design of the cisterns of Saba, but I could not find one.
    If you would be pleased to share whatever information you have with me on water collection and water cisterns, I would be most grateful.
    Eleanor Fulton

    • I was away on St. Maarten. To be honest I am not an expert on design. All I can tell you is that the old tiem cisterns mostly were stand alone and had a cistern plain to catch the water. The modern ones are built under the houses, under the verandah usually and can run from 20 to 45 thousand gallons. While this adds a big amount of money to the total costs of the house, it gives you a certain amount of water independence. When a hurricane is coming the down spouts which bring the water from the roof to the cistern is disconnected so that the water is not contaminated. When the hurricane passes thye are hooked up right away so that water can be caught, WE also ave two small water desalinization plants which are privately owned. The government which I led for most of the past fifty years has built many cisterns to catch grey water along the roads and also under the government buildings/ In the past years pipes have been laid to bring up water from the desalinization plants to the villages. Howver I for one keep urging government and people to build more cisterns. Right now we are going through a drought and the cisterns are our salvation/. Hope this helps. Sincerely Will

  21. Patti on said:

    Hi Will, In 2014 I visited Saba with my daughter Emily. We met you and your son Teddy. I am returning to Saba 7/26-29 with my cousin Peter , whom we share our grandfather, Godfred Johnson. This will be Peter’s first time on Saba, and I am happy to return. I hope we can meet up with you during our stay. Patti Stamm

  22. I sent you a reply but it must have taken off with Jeff Besos to outer space. My computer closed down on my.. I will be on island until August 4th. I suggest you take taxi driver Peddy Johnson. He is your close cousin. His father W illiam James Johnson and Godfred were brothers. When you are on the island give me a call and we can get together. I had some viruses in my ear and lost my hearing but I am coping with my hearing aids, but still get infections from tme to time. Looking forward to seeing you. Sincerely Will

  23. Cristina Maduro on said:

    Hi Will-I am great-granddaughter of Salomon Maduro and grabd-neice of George Maduro of Madurodam. Can we communicate privately?

  24. Hello, I found this site very interesting. George Hopkins was my great-grandfather (through Lucy Hopkins and Henri Kies to my father, Anthony Kies). My father was born in Curacao in 1939 and had an older brother (Ronald) and two sisters (Patricia and Barbara). I’ll need to plan a visit sometime soon (after the pandemic settles down)

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