The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

Dr. George Illidge van Romondt

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Dr. George Illidge van Romondt (1809-1854). This photo must have been taken before his death as photography was in its early stages back then.

Dr. George Illidge van Romondt

By; Will Johnson

Doctor van Romondt was born on St. Maarten on December 9th, 1809 and died there on July 2nd, 1854.

His parents were Diederick Johannes van Romondt born in Amsterdam on February 16th, 1781 and died on St.Maarten on April 19th, 1849. He arrived on St. Maarten in 1803. In 1804 he married Ann Hassell born on St. Maarten in 1784 and died in 1845. She was a daughter of John Hassell and Susanna Westerbrand.

Diederick Johannes served as Governor from 1820 to 1840, and was the progenitor of the powerful Van Romondt family who dominated St. Martin economically and politically until the death of Diederick Christian of Tintamarre and Mary’s Fancy fame in 1948.

At a young age George went to Holland in order to prepare for his planned academic

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This house before being sold to the Roman Catholic church was the home and perhaps clinic as well of Dr. George Illidge van Romondt.

studies. That was customary in those days as there were no secondary schools in the Dutch West Indies. His parents left him behind at the home of a certain Johannes van der Zandt, with whom he built up an excellent relationship, seeing the fact that in his dissertation George mentions him as his dearly beloved uncle. He dedicates his dissertation, written in Latin to him:

‘Tu! Carissime Avuncule! Senex plurimum venerande! J. van der Zandt, qui jam a juventute, dux, mihi vitae exstitisti cujus curis, ego, puer, a perentibus meis carissimis, committebar!’

(My beloved uncle, respectable J. Van der Zandt, who already from my youth has been a leading mentor in my life and to whose care as a young boy I was entrusted by my beloved parents.

So goes his song of praise for a number of sentences further to the figure of his foster father.

It is probably useful to stand still at this phenomenon. Only in the Second World War a Secondary School was established on Curacao which was also frequented by pupils from the other islands and from Suriname where there was also no institute for secondary education.

That meant that up until 1940 young people from the Dutch West Indies, who had ambitions for secondary education (middle school, high school, university) already at the age of  between fourteen and fifteen years left for a long period for the Netherlands. They landed in boarding schools or were turned over to foster families.

That sometimes strong ties developed between pupil and foster parents is obvious from the emotional dedication to his foster father in his dissertation.

Van Romondt studied medicine at the University of Leiden and is part of the Corps Leiden’s Freedom Fighters, and as such takes part in the military activities of 1830/1831 against the Belgians, and thus also took part in the Ten Days Campaign. Because of this he lost a year and on October 3rd, 1831, after demobilization, he continued his studies. And then followed on August 7th, 1834 his graduation in Leiden with in the meantime his famous thesis; Rationem, qua systema cutaneum, hepaticum et nervosum in regionibus tropicis affici possunt et morbos praecipuos exinde oriundos. (The reason why the skin-, liver,- and nerve system in the tropics can be attacked and the specific illnesses which are a result of this).

Why famous? Because this is probably the first Dutch dissertation which has tropical diseases as its subject. His promotor is Prof. Macquelin.

Dr. van Romondt writes in his foreword: ‘Now that I have kept myself busy for fifteen years already – with the exception, in which I because of the Belgian insurrection was involved with militias of academic’s, was involved in armed conflict – in the seat of the muses , Leiden, was busy with medical sciences, the solemn day has finally dawned in which I must bring my academic studies to an end; faster than I had thought because if they had not decided otherwise, I would have without a doubt planned to the study of surgery, of which I consider the practice no less desirable in the West Indian islands as that of medicine.

His promotion was a success. The diploma is accompanied with written tributes of rector and professors in which he is given much praise.

They write: ‘When he displayed before us and for the subject a kindness and modesty of spirit, we gladly presented him the certificate with praise and virtue, which he deserves.

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Dr. Hendrik van Rijgersma who practiced on St. Maarten from 1863 until his death in 1877.

After his graduation he returned in 1834 to his native St. Martin and until his death, in 1854, he was a general practitioner in Philipsburg. Already working there at the time was his brother-in-law Dr. Philogene Phillippe Maillard (b. St.Croix June 1st, 1806 and died St. Martin Augugust 31st 1886). His first wife was Susanna Elizabether Illidge van Romondt, sister of Dr. George).

In 1863 the Dutch Government sent out Dr. Hendrik Rijgersma to attend the needs of the liberated slaves. He worked on St. Maarten from 1863 until his death in 1877. He owned the Welgelegen plantation and is remembered as a noted scientist.

Dr. George Illidge van Romondt on his return married Angeline Petersen of St. Barth’s whose parents were Peter Petersen and Ann Maria Laporter. Angeline’s sister Susan was married to Diederick Christian van Romondt (born 1807) and a brother of Dr. George. Their children then were double first cousins.

Dr. George and his wife Angeline had 5 children, the youngest of which was Ann Sophia van Romondt born December 13th, 1849 and who was married to the Dutch engineer Cornelis J. Hudig. In an article ‘My dear Kees’ in the Saba Islander I have written about this couple already.

From his dissertation of 43 pages we quote a few fragments, translated in English from the

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Thesis in Latin of Dr. George on the diseases of the tropics.

Dutch and Latin, to illustrate for that period in time, his intimate knowledge and sharp clinical eye.

Tetanus:

Tetanus is a complete tonic convulsion of which the patient himself is no longer aware. The illness causes a general contraction and stiffness of muscles or part of the muscle system; the name of it is different depending on the part which is affected. And so one speaks of real tetanus when a general contraction and stiffness of the muscles is observed, whereby the body spreads itself out completely, and becomes stiff and cannot move. . Opisthotonus when the body is bent over, Emprosthotonus when it bends forward. Trismuss when the lower jaw because of a heavy contraction is pulled in such a way to the upper jaw and the mouth cannot open again. This spasmodic affliction is generally observed in tropical regions because of the great sensitivity and movement of the nervous system. It can develop at the slightest irritation, through a sting or bite of insects, through wounds, damage by exertion, damage of nerves and ‘aponluirosen’ etc. Often also through the cooling of a heated body or by dampness which damage the skin. In the tropics it often occurs that on the ninth day after birth babies are sensitive to this illness.

About a form of paralysis which the inhabitants call beriberi.

Beriberi is a disease which very often leads to a paralytic form; it starts with pain in the small of the back, subsequently the lower limbs and the vocal chords can no longer move, and finally the entire body becomes stiff and cannot move cf. Bontus Medicina Indiorum. This disease which affects the people is called by the inhabitants Beriberi (which resembles the noise of a sheep. I believe because those who have this disease walk like sheep with bended knees and with legs pulled up). There is also a sort which causes paralysis the movement and the feeling in hands and feet and sometimes the entire body becomes different. This disease occurs in the time in which the winds are cold and blow from the continent especially in the months of December and February.

Especially foreigners such as Europeans are very sensitive to this disease, when they are drunk, or sleep in damp places or under a rainy sky. If this disease is not cured quickly a ‘hycerops’ of the joints, swelling of the entire body, stupor and lameness occurs. Healing is not easy, because of which medical practitioners advise the sick to go and live elsewhere or to take a sea journey.

Colica Pictonum.

Colica Pictonum appears in the residents of the tropics (dry belly ache). The name comes from the region of Pictavia Galliae (Poitu) where the illness was first discovered to have originated through the use of very sour wine, and a lead solution with which the wines have been impregnated. In the West Indies this illness is endemic. The cause is principally to be found in the lead solutions which is used in the distillation of rum.

This illness is accompanied by a terrible pain of one part of the body to the other. Often accompanied by frequent green vomit. That vomit is so bitter that silver objects become black as if they had been in contact with Sulphur. This is followed by a stubborn constipation, dry tongue covered with a brown layer, and finally- if the illness persists for some time- there develops a lameness of the lower limbs which does not disappear again.

Notes: Much of this article is translated from an article in Caraibische Cadens by Wim Statius van Eps and Robert Royer: ‘Twee Antiliaanse medische studenten en de Tiendaagse Veldtocht.

 

 

 

 

WINDS OF WAR

Winds of War

By Will Johnson

In former times the Island Administrators were obliged to keep a Journal of the important events taking place on their islands.

A pity that some of them were lazy in this regard and did not bother to mention anything in the Journals. Some of them went over to keeping the Journal in Dutch, others in English.

I have found just parts of a few of these journals. For this article I want to show events leading up to the Second World War and the number of warships cruising in this then unimportant part of the world.

Some of the schooners mentioned here may have had English registry or United States registry but they were owned by Sabans and traded throughout the West Indies. To the article I will attach some photo’s to make it more interesting to the reader.

Starting with May 22nd 1936 we will present some of that which is written in the parts of the Journals of which I have copies.

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Florence M. Douglas going down river in Guyana

22 May 1936; ‘Florence M. Douglas’ English three Master schooner left with 10 passengers to Barbados.

30 May 1936; ‘Shipped out 11 (eleven) bulls to Curacao with the S.S. ‘Baralt’.

20 June 1936; English schooner ‘Marion Belle Wolfe’ arrived from St. Maarten with 1

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Marion Belle Wolfe here with a house in tow after a tidal wave in Canada

passenger. Left on June 22nd for St. Thomas with no passengers.

November 12th 1936. Dutch schooner ‘Esther Anita’ from St. Maarten with 4 passengers.

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‘Ester Anita’ here docked up in Manhattan close to the Brooklyn bridge. This was when we had regular schooner trade with New York.

Left November 13th with 2 passengers for Barbados via St. Eustatius.

1937.

January 9th, Kenneth Bolles returns to Saba.

March 23rd 1937: Vice Lt. Governor went for a walk to Mary’s Point and became lost. He and his party were found at 11pm and arrived back in The Bottom at 3am after a search party of locals located them. He records in his diary that approximately around 8.30 pm he saw five Man-of-Wars in a line passing by in a West-South-West direction.  (Kaiser Sorton informed me that the British fleet used to pass the island regularly on their way to Jamaica).

7 May 1937. English schooner ‘Nanette’ left for Bird Island with 4 passengers and returned on the 18th. (They used to go there to fish and to catch turtles, birds etc.) The ‘Nanette’ left

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Aves or Bird Island which at one time was claimed by Holland as Sabans  used to fish there. My grandfather James Horton Simmons and a group of men would row a boat to Statia. From there they would take a course and after twelve hours of rowing they would turn back and try to make it to Statia. In 1865 or so Venezuela won a case against Holland claiming they had inherited Bird Island from Spain and they won!

on the 20th to St. Eustatius without passengers. They had completed their fishing trip.

June 10th, 1937. Arrived from Curacao H.M. Submarine 014 and left in the night for St. Martin.

August 20th, 1937.  Plus/Minus 160 mm or 6.5 inches of rain fell during the night.

November 27th. 1937. Vice Lt. Governor A.H.M. van Weel passed over to the sub Act. Lt. Governor G.P. Jansen’

December 20th, 1937 ELECTIONS.

A.R.W.G. Brouwer received 12 votes and Cl.R. Plantz 3 votes.

This election was for the colonial council. Brouwer was the son of Governor A.J.C. Brouwer and was born on Saba, but Plantz who was born on St. Thomas of a German father and a mother from St. Eustatius won on the other two islands. He was also the preferred candidate of the Roman Catholic Church at the time.

January 7th, 1938. Arriving from Barbados the U.S. registered schooner ‘Marion Belle Wolfe’ with 10 passengers and departed for Anguilla with 1 passenger.

March 5th, 1938 H.M. ship Jan van Brakel arrived with the Governor General on Board.

November 16th, 1938 A.H.M. van Weel first to St. Maarten and then transferred to Curacao. G.P. Jansen took over the office of Vice Lt. Governor.

December 24, 1938 English registered yacht ‘Roavia’ with members of the ‘Lord Moyne Commission’ and some guests on board, among which Mrs. Winston Churchill. They were received by Vice Lt. Governor G.P. Jansen. Because of the short time available they were only able to visit The Bottom.

December 30th, 1938. Arrived from Antigua the Belgian trading ship ‘Mercator’ and later in the day continued on to ‘La Guairá’.

January 18th, 1939 Mr. Xavier H.C.M. Krugers took over as Onder Gezaghebber.

JANUARY 26TH, 1939; Report of two Man-of-Wars, probably torpedo chasers as far as could be observed, with numbers D15 and D 17 and without flag sailing in the direction of St. Eustatius. Probably 2 units of the American fleet, which are now holding manoeuvers in this area.

February 26th, 1939. Sunday. ‘A report from Hell’s Gate that a plane had crashed in the sea about 8 miles away and had burnt as they saw plenty smoke. A similar incident took place during the period when I functioned here before and it turned out to be a plane of the British Marine. ‘No further particulars concerning the plane have been heard also nothing on the radio because it was probably a Marine plane.

April 19th; what seemed a Man-of-War signaling from the Spring Bay was not confirmed.

April 20th, 1939. An English Man-of-War sighted off St. Eustatius going in the direction of St. Kitts.

September 23rd, 1939. Around 12 o’clock close to the coast estimated between 2 and 300 meters from the Ladder Bay to the Fort Bay an American light cruiser marked in the 2nd smokestack “E”. With several planes on board and headed in the direction of St. Eustatius.

November 21 1939, a strange cruiser passed here about 5 miles from the coast and 2 planes circled several times over the island, could not determine the nationality.

December 6th, 1939; The vice Lt. Governor Xavier Krugers today passed over temporarily the Administration of this island to Dr. D.R. de La Fuente and left at 3pm with the S.S.

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THe S.S. Baralt at Fort Bay.

Baralt to St. Eustatius.

December 12th, 1939. At some distance from St. Eustatius saw a Man-of-War which did not seem to be moving ahead and probably was lying at anchor. In the Windward Side it is reported that around 7.45 am a large Man-of-War passed very close to Saba and headed in the direction of St. Eustatius.

December 13th 1939. Around 6.30 pm a steamship passed close to the Fort Bay headed west. Supposedly a Man-of-War. With search lights signals were given from which could be decoded was “Good night Saba.”

December 18th, 1939 at around 2pm a tanker and a Man-of-War passed along the Fort Bay in a Westerly direction, the latter was flying a British flag according to reports. From Hell’s Gate it was reported that a French Man-of-War had passed the island.

January 11th, 1940 in the morning a French airplane with the identification NEC5666 across The Bottom. Sometime later it was reported from Windward Side that around 2.5 miles from the coast a Man-of-War unknown nationality had intercepted a tanker whereby hoses had been connected to the warship from the tanker and after some time they both went their way.

January 31st 1940. Mr. Halmberg arrived here. He is the representative of the KLM. His intention was to check on a location for the eventual building of an airport. He checked out

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No room for an airport but the first helicopter did land at St. John’s.

property on St. John’s.

Additional notations;

Average rainfall on Saba 1200 mm per year.

Rainfall recorded for the year 1939 was 955 mm.

May 31st, 1949; there are almost daily flights of two French planes over Saba these past weeks.

June 28th, 1940. Although the collection from The Bottom for Dutch victims of war is not known yet the collection from the entire island is nearly fls. 1.250.—this is very special for such a small impoverished island.

Journal ends July 10th, 1940.

A great pity that these journals were not maintained on a regular basis. That is the very least which the then Vice Lt. Governors could have done. However in going through the minutes of the meetings of the Council of Policy much more can be found covering that period when there was general concern about events in Europe. Especially after the occupation of The Netherlands by the German Army Saba was cast adrift. St. Kitts and Barbados were part of the British Empire and were fighting the Germans. Curacao, and Aruba were first occupied by the British army to defend the oil refineries and then the United States took over. For trading purposes Saba could at least depend on St. Thomas but the Second World War was a period of want. A good thing that our people could farm in the mountain area and elsewhere and could depend on their livestock and fishing on the Saba

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During the war flour was a scarce commodity. Here are some donkeys with Gold Medal Flour for Miss Helena Peterson-Every’s bakery in Windward Side.

Bank and on the rocks and in the cliffs around the island.

Interesting from these tidbits gleaned from the Governor’s Journals is that Mrs. Winston Churchill and the Moyne Commission visited Saba. Also that the KLM representative Mr. Halmberg had inspected St. John’s for the possibility of building an airport there. St. John’s??? A good thing that Mr. Remy de Haenen saw the possibility of Flat Point or else we would still be taking the boat to the surrounding islands.

Now that there is so much instability in the world anything can happen so it is good to know how things were in the years leading up to the second World War.

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A DOG CALLED MIKE

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Ambrose Johnson here with Mike behind him.

A DOG CALLED MIKE

By; Will Johnson

I recently came across a photo of preparations in the Windward Side for Ronny Johnson’s newly built boat to be launched at the Fort Bay. It was taken by Father Bruno Boradori in the early nineteen sixties.

Among the photos of the launching of the boat there was one with Benjamin Ambrose Johnson (Gilly) with a black dog by his side. I realized that the dog had to be the famous dog called Mike. I went back in my old Saba Herald’s and in the edition of Monday October 28th 1968 I found what I was looking for.

The article was written by William Carl Anslyn. He was from Saba and had served on Aruba as a Senator for seven years and also as a Commissioner for five years as well. He returned to Saba when he was in his fifties. Here his brother John Arthur Anslyn had also served this island for sixteen years as a Commissioner and a Member of the Island Council.

Carl helped me for a while as the Editor of The Saba Herald but we fell out after a short while as his politics and mine, to say it mildly, were different. In the end after many battles and verbal abuse he somehow decided to support me and did so until he died. He returned to Aruba when he had passed eighty and died there and is buried there as well.

 

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Carl Anslyn here feeding his chickens on the Scjotsenhoek plantation on Statia which he and his brother Arthur used to own.

He was a talented writer, especially of political pamphlets, of which I bore the brunt of the blows in his political pamphlet called ‘The Bull’s Eye’. He also wrote a small book of his years as a teenager growing up in the Windward Side.

To give you a sample of his skills to properly alarm people on Saba as to my ambitions in the 1969 elections, he would warn the people of Saba to beware of me and my intentions towards the hard working people of Saba. Although I was running with the U.R.A. party at the time he aligned me in his propaganda with the Frente Obrero the party of Wilson ‘Papa” Godet and Stanley Brown. The latter party was formed after the uprising on Curacao on May 30th 1969 which resulted in the burning of much of the city of Willemstad.

Carl would warn people that I did not have a house nor lived on Saba that my only intention was to burn the place down. With some 80% of the houses on the island being built from wood the threat of fire was one way to get voters’ attention. He even listed a number of young people who had built houses to fear the worst as I envied them and wanted to burn down their newly built homes. Even though these modern homes were built from cement there seemed to still be reason for fear. One of these young people even approached me and asked me what he had done to me to warrant me to want to burn down his newly built home. Carl was not easy believe me.

Then the rebel himself, ‘Arsonist in Chief’ Sanely Brown during the campaign showed up on Saba to support me. I was from another political party and living on St. Maarten. No matter. I was not a threat to Stanley’s ‘Frente Obrero’ on Curacao and so he thought it would be of some help to me to visit Saba and support me. Too bad in the night it was claimed that he was shouting out ‘Burn Baby Burn!’

 

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Ambrose Johnson here with teacher Gladys Hassell.

Carl’s stencil machine went into overdrive the night of Stanley’s visit. A pamphlet came out giving instructions to people to purchase fire buckets, extra rope, ladders and so on once again informing people that I had gone into politics with the sole intention to burn the place down. That kind of writer he was. An alarmist of the first order and a political opponent to be reckoned with.

But in his story about Gilly’s dog Mike he shows a different kind of skill and is a pleasure to read.

I experienced Mike once on a visit to Saba with friends from St. Maarten. He had just come down from the Mountain with a group of tourists. He was lying in front of the Police Station where ‘Gilly’ worked as a telephone operator. When he heard us talking about going up the mountain he promptly revved up and accompanied us the way up to the top and back down.

And now to Carl’s interesting story of the remarkable dog Mike who once graced the streets of Windward Side giving visitors to the island a tour whether they wanted one or not.

“Mike is a part-breed Labrador Retriever which to the casual observer shows no more distinguishing features than those shown by any big and friendly dog. Looking at Mike one would hardly think that he’s an intellectual, a prince among dogs! For Mike, besides being a gentleman, is Saba’s unofficial tourist guide!

From the porch of the Post office building where his master works in the Telephone Exchange, Mike regards the passing world with seemingly sleepy eyes. Let a vehicle disgorge Saban passengers in front the building, Mike, as far as interest is concerned, could be blissfully asleep on Mars. Let a Jeep arrive with tourists, and Mike is in their midst before their feet touch the pavement. After properly introducing himself in a gentlemanly manner by quietly sniffing each of the arrivals, he will turn his attention to the business of the day, accompanying his guests around the town, and leading them to the main points of interest.

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Algernon Hassell, Carl Hassell and Mr Harold Johnson here cooling out where Mike had his headquarters.

Once his job is done and the usual rounds have been made he will take off and attach himself to another group, and repeat the procedure. At the end of a busy day, and a job well done, he returns to his home and begins his wait for another day and another group of arrivals.

Often a solitary visitor to the island, drifting around and wondering where to go and what to do, will feel his leg nudged and will look down to see a black dog loping along at his side, and leading the way with occasional backward glances to assure himself that the visitor has got the point! One such visitor, a young Hungarian, decided on a fine morning that he was going to walk from the Windward Side to the airport. This is a walk which any Saban would hesitate before attempting, but our friend left the Guesthouse in fine spirits. By the Post Office he was joined by Mike, who duly inspected and accepted him, and proceeded him to the airport. In due time Mike delivered him back to the Guesthouse, nudged his leg as a farewell salute to a job well done, and returned to the Post Office porch. As the visitor afterwards remarked, ‘How is it possible? He went before me all the way. I didn’t show him where to go, and I couldn’t tell him. How does he do it, is what more than one person asked themselves, and the answer is still a big question mark.

On a bright and sunny day two elderly American ladies were walking around the Windward Side, accompanied by Mike. One of them, being a bit talkative, stopped several persons and asked questions about the island. In the beginning Mike was very tolerant but as time went by there were too many stops and too much talking. Mike who must have had a pretty tight work schedule that day, decided to put a stop to the dalliance once and for all. The lady was once more deep in talk when she felt her hand practically being swallowed by Mike, his face the picture of disgust, dragging her from the scene. As the lady remarked later;” It was an experience I wouldn’t have missed for anything.”

Mike’s exploits are legendary in Saba, and already some of our good citizens have suggested that he be given the official title “Ambassador of Goodwill and Unofficial Tourist Guide.”

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The old Post Office, Police Station and Telephone Exchange where Mike used to hang out. This photo is from the collection of Dr. Julia Crane of young people picking up packages on a day which the mail boat was in. 1964

He is one of the simple things, the unique things, which makes Saba an interesting place to visit. He is only a dog, yet he has caused more pleasure, and done more to make Saba interesting to its visitors, than many a well-meaning citizen. We would not be surprised some day to see a statue of Mike in our town, adorned with the inscription: “He was only a dog, but he did his part.”

We must thank Mr. Anslyn for this wonderful story about Mike.  And we cannot end the story without mentioning how Anslyn’s pamphleteering was not as successful of that of Thomas Paine in the revolution of the North American colonies. Mr. Carl Hassell (‘Sheddy’) came to my rescue in the end. A bunch of people were drinking in his shop and crying shame on me for wanting to burn down the place. Mr. Carl asked them ‘Pray tell me where is Anslyn’s home?’ Fact is that he did not have one and was living with an old cousin of his. And so the constant reference to the fact that I did not have a house did not have much effect anymore and that was the end of the story. Good memories though and I have those pamphlets still on file somewhere. But you must admit that Carl did a good job on preserving the story of Mike the unusual dog which lived among us on Saba. Enjoy the story of Mike the dog!

The Church of England On Saba

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Christ Church in The Bottom is the oldest building on Saba. It was built in 1780 and is also in need of repairs. When I get the chance I will go over this article and add more to it with some interesting photo’s as well.

The Church of England in Saba

By: Will Johnson

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.

Helena Peterson (nee Every) COPY - had a bakery

My old friend Mrs. Helena Peterson-Every. Her father Peter Every known as ‘Peter War’ as he was always at war over the Pope was the one responsible to encourage the building of the Holy Trinity Church in Windward Side. I have a letter from Father David Hope to him from 1892. The Roman Catholics had built their church in Windward Side in 1860 which was enough reason for Peter ‘War’ to go into action and try and get an Anglican Church for the Windward Side.

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”.

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The Holy Trinity Church now under repairs and needs your financial help.

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.”

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This photo was taken in 1875 or so but before the Holy Trinity church was built as where the church is now was an open lot at the time.

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.

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Here as Administrator a.i. in 1977 I handed out a Royal Distinction to Mr. Thomas Frank Hassell. He ans his sisters Norma and Bertha were the upkeep and the pillars of the Holy Trinity Church for as long as I knew them. In the picture you can also see Norma and teacher Gladys Hassell.

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 in Ireland. 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.Since this article was first written I found a lot more information on John Toland and there is a seperate article about him and since then one of his descendants has visited Saba.

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.”

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Father John Rohim a Trinidad National but born in Guyana knows a bit about construction himself. If you hear what quotations he got to repair the building and what he and some volunteers like Percy Ten Holt and Eric Cornet and some others you will not believe how he has stretched the few dollars he had available. He will need more as all the pews in the church were destroyed by wood ants and those have to be replaced.

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.

CIMG4781.JPGThe 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

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Capt. Ben Hassell who owned many schooners was from Windward Side. He and his family were ‘rank’ Anglicans as they would say and contributed financially to the maintenance of this church. We call on all to help the church in its hour of need.

All earthly joy excels.”

Will Johnson

Will Johnson’s contribution!

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Here giving an interview for researchers on Saba’s History.

Will Johnson’s contribution to History and Culture in the Eastern Caribbean.

Sir Winston Churchill said: “History will be kind to me. I intend to write my own.” Another great figure of the 20th century Fidel Castro also advised:’ you have to write your own History.”

I have witnessed already that there are some who want to deny my history and others who would not want to give me any credit for what I have done in either the political field or in the field of letters and in the preservation of our past history in these our beloved islands of the Eastern Caribbean.

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My column in this paper was entitled ‘News and Views’. I did not get in trouble with the ‘News’ part, but definitely my ‘Views’ were not acceptable to the political establishment of the day.

I was asked to submit a document to an organization which wants to honour me. In complying with this request I thought it was time and important to give a summary of what I have done and what I think important for my children and grandchildren to know and if need be to defend my legacy.

Not that I have been ignored. My name is so well known in the Eastern Caribbean and beyond first and foremost because of my political career.

I will give just a few examples. I remember once Mrs. Dinda Hassell-Dunlock telling me that she had been listening to the Saturday morning radio program of Mrs. Josianne Fleming-Artsen for children. When she asked the class who was the President of the United States one little boy said he knew the answer and before anyone else he shouted out: “The President is Will Johnson. I hear him every day on the radio.”

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Menno and Corine Hofman here on my verandah discussing artifacts which were found at The Plum piece by Mr. Carl Zagers. It turned out to be a settlement from the days of the Arawaks and Kalingo.

On Saturdays we usually have a West Indian meat or fish soup for lunch. Just as we sat down to eat the phone rang. I advised my wife not to answer the phone. But having children abroad going to school you always answer every phone call which my wife did. The call was from Mr. Erasmus William on St. Kitts. He was the former Editor of The Chronicle newspaper on St. Martin, and after that assistant to the then Prime Minister of St. Kitts/Nevis the Hon Denzill Douglas.

After exchanging greetings he said to me. “I am calling on behalf of our Prime Minister. We have some people here at his office and they have a question. I told the Prime Minister that the one person in the Eastern Caribbean who would know the answer to their question is our friend Will Johnson.’

saba-herald  I told him ‘Man you have a lot of confidence in me. I hope I do not disappoint.’

The folks in the Prime Minister’s Office were looking for the Somers Islands where their ancestors once lived. Erasmus said we cannot find them anywhere on the map.

I told him;” The Somers islands are the old English name for Governor Somers who was shipwrecked there and went on to colonize Bermuda.’

I heard the Prime Minister in the background asking; ‘What did he say? ‘And then:’ But I was there just last week and nobody told me that.’ When ending the phone conversation I said to Erasmus:’ Man you nearly put me on the spot! Suppose I did not know?’ Erasmus said: ‘Will I had every confidence that you would know the answer.”

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My first book on St. Maarten.

Daniella Jeffrey, teacher/writer of French St. Martin also had high praise for my approach to history in a lecture which she gave when my book ‘Tales from My Grandmother’s Pipe’ first came out. She thought it great that I had approached history from the perspective of the contributions made by the native population, rather than highlighting the role played by colonial officials.

Because of my knowledge of history I have been asked a number of times to contribute to speeches to be made by officials.

I remember getting a call to prepare a speech for then Prime Minister Maria Liberia Peters when she was invited to speak at a convention of the People’s Action Movement (P.A.M.) on St. Kitts. She called afterwards from Curacao to thank me and to tell me how enthusiastically it had been received. Many young people had come forward to tell her that they had no idea how important a role St. Kitts had played in the Eastern Caribbean in former times.

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I am the third from the left and Ray Hassell was the first Chairman of the Harry L. Johnson Memorial Foundation. Opening of the Museum.

I was asked to contribute articles to the ‘Libre Amicorum’ for three former Prime Ministers:’Juancho Evertsz, Don Martina, and Maria Liberia-Peters, and contributed in the research of the book on the life of Prime Minister Minguel Pourier. Many people young and old have been to my home for help in their research on any number of topics relating to these islands and I have always willing gave my time freely for their projects, from simple home work to a University thesis.

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Comments on my blog.

One of the many services to the community has been doing eulogies for prominent as well as ordinary citizens of the three Dutch Windward Islands. I may have done at least seventy five eulogies. Well appreciated. I remember once after having given a eulogy at the St. Martin of Tours Church in Philipsburg upon leaving the church a friend twenty years younger than me shouted out saying;” Will Johnson, when I dead I want you to do the talk for me.”

I thought this would be a good opportunity to publish a small history of my work and contributions to the Literature and culture of Saba, and the islands of the Eastern Caribbean. Since I am at it I will illustrate it with some appropriate photos as well because photos tell their own story.

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Presenting the Saba Flag for the first time on Saba Day 1985 to the people of Saba. I was the Chairman of the Committee given the task in May 1985 and succeeded in a matter of months even though there was a very heated election in between.

While working in the Old Courthouse on St. Maarten I had a column in the ‘Windward Island’s Opinion’ at the insistence of its founder Mr. Joseph H. Lake Sr. This was in the early nineteen sixties already. From 1966 through 1968 I used to prepare and broadcast the Local News on the Voice of St. Maarten Radio station. I used to walk down to Fort Amsterdam under all kinds of weather conditions. Later Alcile Lake used to pick me up and bring me back to town after the newscast was over. I became well-known through that local news program and these many years later I  still have the files from that period with Saba Day Awardthe news items.

In 1968 at the request of Mr. Alrett Peters I started the newspaper ‘The Labour Spokesman’ for the General Workers Union. At the same time James Maduro and I started the ‘Emporium Review of St. Eustatius’ and I was its first Editor.

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In the left corner. I was Commissioner of Culture and started Saba Day. Mr. Ray Hassell functioned as Chairman and was assisted by people like Mr. Eugenius  Johnson.

I also started the ‘Saba Herald’ which lasted for the next twenty five years. In the beginning I had Mr. Eddy Peterson and Mr. Alan Busby as Editors as I was already under pressure and stood to lose my job. However when pressure was applied to them I said everyone knows it is my newspaper anyhow so I took on the responsibility of being the Editor. These newspapers were all stenciled at the Union Headquarters in Cole Bay. I remember Alrett’s old father coming sometimes and sitting with me and I would read him articles which I had written. He would look at me in disbelief and say;” Johnson boy you put that in the paper in truth? “It was that kind of newspaper. Not one to please the

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Annual account Windward Islands Bank Ltd. 2015

establishment but to oppose it.

In 1971 I started a column: ‘The Exile Speaks’ in the St. Maarten newspaper ‘The New Age’ of Mervin F. Scot. The column was hard hitting and became such a hit that the circulation of the paper increased by tenfold.

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The first edition of the Emporium Review of which I was the Editor after which I passed it over to my friend James E. Maduro one of my friends from the Boys Town on Curacao.

In one of the first editions of the Saba Herald in 1968 I advocated for Saba to have a National Day of its own. One of the first decisions I made as Commissioner in 1975 was to make a Government resolution to have the National Day organized for December 6th, 1975. As Commissioner of Culture I had a Committee put in place headed by Mr. Ray Hassell (later Senator Etc.), Mr. Frank Hassell and others. The first Saba Day was carried out as scheduled and very much appreciated by the people of Saba. The Government of Saba assisted by Committees were responsible for carrying on Saba Day and they still are. It is still enthusiastically received and appreciated by the people of Saba.

Saba Herald, December 2nd, 1968: “Did you know that December 6th is San Saba Day? We hope that if not this year that December next year, December 6th will be celebrated as a National Holiday.

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A tapestry in the Hall of Knights in The Hague of a speech which I made as Chairman of the Island Council in 1999.

In an article in 1970 I emphasized on how important it was for Saba to have its own National Day as was the case with the surrounding islands. A day in which to remember our hard working ancestors of the past. A day in which to showcase our culture and our handicrafts and so on. A day in which to encourage sports and in general to let the world know that we did exist as a people though small yet proud of what we had achieved and were still capable of achieving.

In 1971 in a thirteen page memo to my W.I.P.M. party colleagues, among the many suggestions one was: ‘December 6th, is San Saba Day. Provisions should be made for this to be a day of festivities and could be developed into something nice with folkloric plays

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Homework of Nikita Johnson.

etc.

In the month of May 1985 I was asked to be Chairman of a Committee for Saba to have its own flag, coat of arms and national song. This had to be done on short notice and I personally prepared all the legislation for the flag, coat-of-arms and national song. This was not an easy task and as Chairman I had to do a lot of arm twisting to get the final design of the flag and coat-of arms approved by the Island Council of which I was a Member. The Lt. Governor Mr. Wycliffe Smith, the Commissioners Vernon Hassell and Peter Granger helped to push the initiative and even though politically we were not on good terms and in the middle of an election they were full of praise for the end results. It was a glorious moment on December 5th, 1985 when the people of Saba witnessed for the first time the unfurling of the Saba Flag. I appreciate very much to see how young people especially going abroad to school appreciate their flag.

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Here I am running behind the food truck in the Boystown on Curacao where I spent some of my boyhood years.

In 1977 I was able to purchase the house and property in Windward Side and to start the Harry L. Johnson Memorial Foundation and Museum as a tribute to the work which he had done before he died to preserve the Maritime History of Saba.

In those years I would also prepare and give out the Local News on the Voice of Saba when Miss Pauline Paul was off island.

As a result of my research I decided to publish a book of my own. Not only of oral history. But backed up by research in the archives of Willemstad, Curacao and The Hague Holland.

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This one is a political history of the island.

My first book was.

  1. Tales From My Grandmothers Pipe, followed by
  2. For the Love of St. Maarten
  3. The Diary of a St. Maarten Salt Checker
  4. Dreaming Big
  5. Co-author of Caribbean Interlude.
  6. I was also one of the contributing editors of ‘De Encyclopedie van de Nederlandse Antillen.’
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One of the many times I have been invited to give speeches on the history of our islands.

Even before 2007 I used to contribute articles of historical interest to The Daily Herald newspaper. At the suggestion of Wim Hart in 2007 I started a regular column for which he suggested the title: ‘Under The Sea Grape Tree’. I have now enough material to publish five books based on that column alone. I would even say that more than my political career this column has made me well-known in the Eastern Caribbean islands.

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This is the fifth edition of my first book.

2013 I started a blog ‘The Saba Islander’ which in the first two years had more than one hundred thousand visitors from countries from all over the world. I include in my blog articles from all the islands, and not only of Saba. A little bit of politics but I try to resist that as much as possible as I have an International audience who would not be interested in local politics.

Over the years I have encouraged and assisted others with their books. I encouraged Dr. Johan Hartog to translate his book ‘De Bovenwindse Eilanden’ into English and Mr. Frank Hassell did the translation. We also pointed out to him that several claims he had made in his Dutch version were not based on fact. Saba has always been an English speaking island.

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Dr. Julia Crane is one of many who were grateful for my assistance with their research.

Also I have letters from Dr. Julia Crane thanking me for my help with her books ‘Saba Silhouettes” and ‘Statia Silhouettes’.

As I write this I am about to review a book for a University in the United States at their request. It is about Saba and I am flattered that I a poor island self-educated boy get regular requests like this one.

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Technically Mr. Alrett Peters was the Editor but everyone knew that the newspaper was mine.

With my interest in history and genealogy for many years I did research on the history of the Sulphur mines and located a possible claimant to the lands. After getting an agreement from her that she would transfer the lands to the people of Saba I passed over my dossier to the Saba Conservation Foundation for completion.

In 1999 as Acting Lt. Governor and Chairman of the Island Council I included in the ordinance a clause that no buildings were allowed in the Mountain above the five hundred meter line. It is my hope that government will not be tempted under any circumstances to change that and deface our mountain.

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What the article does not say is that my advisory capacity to government has been ‘pro-bono’ and still is.

aba Lace. I have written a number of articles on Saba Lace which were carried in newspapers and Magazines in the USA and for a period of time I was a correspondent for the New York Times when they would produce articles on the Caribbean.

Raymond Simmons asked me to be a board member of the Facebook site ‘Of Saban Descent’ which has become very popular and a source of preservation of histories and old photos of Saban families of yore.

My own Facebook page is very popular because of the old photo’s I post of the Islands.

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Photo by Roger Snow. Someone said once that I had a dark and brooding personality.

Most of my activities are self-financed. The Prins Bernhard Fonds has helped me with donations to help with the publishing of my various books and the Saba Government has purchased some copies for distribution to dignitaries coming to the island.

At my age I still spend several hours each day on the computer doing research, and also reading books of interest to Saba’s history and I always seem to find things which I believe would be of interest to the people of these islands. I continue to be involved with researchers and students in answering questions pertaining to their field of interest. Over the years I have also been helping people with their family research and with property title research. This takes up lots of my time.

In 1999 a speech which I made to the Island Council of Saba as Chairman at the time to celebrate fifty years of Universal suffrage, was later used on a tapestry in the Hall of Knights in The Hague.

In 2014 I received an award from the St. Martin book week group organized by Mr. Lasana Sekou and Mr. Suga Reiph in recognition of my contribution to the literature of the Windward Islands.

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Part of the interior of the Harry L. Johnson memorial musueum.

In ending this first draft I would like to give a small story from my brother Walter Frederick Martinus Johnson, a lifelong teacher and in his spare time agent for Windward Island’s Airways. He said something in a public setting which I thought he should not have said and I told him so. His answer was ‘At my age if I cannot say what’s on my mind and what I want to say, when will I ever say it?’ A few months later he was no longer in the land of the living. The very least I can do for my descendants is to defend my legacy.

And finally my great-great-great- grandfather Governor Richard Johnson stepped down at the age of seventy in 1831 with the reason: At my advanced age and disability I want to respectfully tender my resignation.’ I later discovered that at the age of ninety one he was still signing old documents for later Governors as to what he knew about property

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I was asked to be one of the Editors of this encyclopedia of the Netherlands Antilles.

transactions all the way back to the West India Company lands.

Whatever time is left to me I only wish for good health so that I can continue doing those things I love most and I wish to thank the many thousands of people who still give me

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Sometimes I flatter myself by comparing my message as bringing light to those in need of it like the lamplighters of old.

encouragement to continue writing and speaking out!

Will Johnson

The Saga of Captain Richard Hassell

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Schooner ‘Margareth Truph’ of Capt. Wallce Simmons. Capt. Richard Hassell in his lifetime was Captain of many schooners.

The Saga of Captain Richard Hassell

Introduced by Will Johnson

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 b 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

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The schooner ‘Priscilla ‘ of Capt. T. C. Vanterpool anchored in Fort Bay at Saba. Transported mail and passengers between the Dutch Windward and Leeward Islands.

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.

 

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Schooner ‘Mona Marie’ of Capt. Ben Hassell of Saba.

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.

 

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Saba island as it looked from the air in the nineteen thirties.

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.

 

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The lady in black Victoria Hassell was I think a daughter in law of Capt. Richard Hassell.

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.”

Will Johnson

Two Tales of One HASSELL FAMILY

Two Tales of One Hassell Family

By: Will Johnson

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.”

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A painting of the schooner ‘The Three Sisters’ by Richard Hassell who wrote this story.

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 it’s being unique by nature of it’s 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.

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In the past Saban schooners traded regularly with New York carrying salt, sugar and passengers from the Eastern Caribbean and bringing back passengers, lumber, and dry goods from New York to the island. This schooner the ‘Esther Anita’  belonged to Capt. Ben Hassell of Saba.

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.

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The entrance to the LAGO oil refinery on Aruba where Richard worked.

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.

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The LAGO oil refinery as seen from a distance.

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.

A view of Windwarside nineteen seventies

Village of Windward Side where Richard was born

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.

Dorothy Palmer

An ordinary day at sea in the life of Sabans in the past. Lest we forget!

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.

Annals of Anguilla

Looking back at Annals of Anguilla

By; Will Johnson

I was busy looking back at the book Anguilla’s Battle for Freedom 1967 – 1969 and also the book Annals of Anguilla. Something kept them right in front of my computer and I had just scanned a couple of photo’s to go with the article when I learned of the death of Mr. Ronald Webster the leader of the Anguilla revolution.

I was friends with him back in the sixties and have written about him before. The last time I was on Anguilla Sir Emile Gumbs another good friend and former Chief Minister called his home but his wife said he was not feeling well and was resting so I did not get to see him.

 

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Anguilla’s Leader Ronald Webster being carried on the shoulders of his supporters with the Anguilla Constitution in his hand

I have had the good fortune to know and be friends with every Chief Minister since Anguilla got its special status with Great Britain.

Looking at Anguilla today one is hard pressed to imagine how difficult life was in former times. I remember going with the ‘M.S.Antilia’ with Lt. Governor Japa Beaujon after hurricane Donna in 1960 to carry some relief supplies for the suffering population. We anchored in Sandy Ground and the Chief Warden came down to carry Mr. Beaujon to The Valley. The roads were so bad that  the Governors son Jan and I opted to stay and swim in Sandy Ground and then go back on board the steamer and play cards.

As time went by and with self-rule Anguilla moved forward in the economic sense. All of the islands have suffered a decline in local populations, an influx of ‘non-belongers’ as non-native people are referred to in Anguilla and an unprecedented increase in crime. I just learned a few days ago that Nevis had 32 murders in 2016 and the year is not finished yet. Nevis, I thought in disbelief? Nevis? So I called a friend and he confirmed it with: ‘Will where have you been?’ If the truth be known I try to keep myself occupied with pleasant thoughts and not necessarily murder rates in our once unspoiled islands, so this came as a total surprise to me.

anguilla-revolution But back to Anguilla, where thank God it has not reached the level of crime as some of the other islands.

In 1976 the Annals of Anguilla, first published in 1936 was republished. The foreword of the original book reads as follows:

“These brief notes were compiled by the writer while serving as Medical Officer and Magistrate on Anguilla (August 9th, 1918 – May 31st 1923).

During this time the inhabitants experienced four consecutive years of drought; great scarcity of food, so that young children showed signs of commencing famine oedema and night blindness affected older persons; a hurricane; and, most trying of all a quarantine period of several months due to the presence in their midst of over four hundred contacts and nineteen cases of small pox imported from the Dominican Republic..

Admiration for the sterling qualities displayed by all classes of the inhabitants, – qualities of honesty, courage and determination in the face of overwhelming odds, sincere loyalty to the British Throne, obedience to lawful authority and willingness to follow wise leadership, – has prompted this small tribute to a gallant and grateful people. ‘

S.B. Jones, Basseterre, St. Kitts 1936.

For this article I will just quote a few small chapters and recommend that all lovers of the islands’ histories read this small booklet.

Chapter VI. Emigration.

Mariners all, the Anguillans in times of plenty had taken their surplus stock of peas, sheep, goats and cattle to the neighboring islands, and even to Trinidad. In times of scarcity emigration naturally followed the trade routes. Some went to Antigua, some to St. Kitts, some to Trinidad and some to the Spanish Main. For all that, the greater portion clung tenaciously to Anguilla, their home, their fatherland.

Then came the Sombrero days in the middle sixties (1860, s), when a field of emigration more adapted to the mode of life of the Anguillian labourer was opened. For a part of the time he might cultivate his land and in good seasons have an abundant crop of provisions, then he could go to dig and dive for phosphate rock in Sombrero; thus acquiring a sum of ready money to purchase clothing for the family. This led to the foundation of a higher standard of living in many an Anguillian home. Three good meals a day, a liberal ration of rum and molasses, and seven or eight dollars a month constituted good pay for the Sombrero labourer. But eventually even this failed, and similar drought and distress in the early seventies forced Anguillians to become indentured labourers on the sugar plantations of St. Croix.

VII. Famine of 1890.

Forty six years ago came the first great famine in Anguilla. Prolonged drought; repeated failure of the crops; lack of seed; death of cattle, sheep and goats for want of food and water, – such was the fate of the wretched people. Starving, they crept into the woods and gathered berries and herbs for food. Their cry went out to the sister islands which at first hardly realized the extent of the necessitous condition of Anguilla. When they did, a Relief Committee in St. Kitts worked with one in Anguilla. “The actual number receiving relief was 2070”. Barrels of beef and flour, casks of fish, medicines were rushed in for the relief of the starving people.

The Government of Antigua offered work to thirty men at once, while the responsible official in the island at that time urged the establishment of ‘cultural industries’ to avert another calamity like that through which the island was passing.

VIII. The New Emigration

Somewhere about 1895 a batch of Anguillians went to labour on the great sugar estates of the American capitalists in the Republic of Santo Domingo. Emigration of this sort was eminently suited to the home-loving habits of the Anguillians. They were able to cut canes and then when the crop was over to return home. During the intervening period they prepared their own land for sweet potatoes, peas and corn; they caught fish to supply the household, curing with the salt and so easily procured the surplus to serve for times of scarcity. With the one hundred or so dollar saved they tried to build better homes, to pay off debts incurred for clothing for wife and children and to keep their Church cards straight. When, as during the Great War, there was a demand for Sea Island cotton, another ready source of ready money was at hand. The cotton crop could be easily taken care of when the men were in Santo Domingo and the returns aided to supplement the family budget. The result was that, though a period of prolonged drought overtook the island in 1918 and food prices were tremendously high because of the war, the people were able to carry on, and did so, without appeal for outside assistance, even contributing liberally, as their circumstances permitted, to the Red Cross Fund. They had money from their labour in Macoris and from the prices paid for their cotton, – the only difficulty was the inability to procure foodstuffs at the time when they had ready money. Here and there appeared swelling of the bodies of children, apparently a form of deficiency disease when too much sugar and bread is sued; here and there cases of obstinate constipation necessitating heroic measures for relief in those who ate the local cherries along with the seed; but there was no such widespread suffering as in 1890.

Again there was a prolonged drought in 1920. Cotton prices fell. But with the opening of the cane cutting season in Santo Domingo the men and boys crowded the sailing vessels and started off for the “fist relief” of their families to Macoris, the port in Santo Domingo, for which the vessels sail. They had hardly worked a month before there came back for their families clothing, sugar, rice, cocoa, coffee and later on, money to pay off debts contracted on the strength of the cotton crop which seemed ruined by insect pests and bottom prices.

The younger and bolder spirits had ventured on emigration to the United States of America where a sort of colony had been formed at Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and where they worked in the munitions factories during the war. Some of these built good homes in Anguilla with the money thus earned, often sending their wives and children back to take care while they worked on, hoping someday to return and set up in business in their island home. The separation of families, however, for years at a time, the children scarcely knowing the fathers by sight, is a serious problem, likely to be solved by total severance of all connection, save a sentimental one, with the old colony.

At the present time (1922) a fresh tide of emigration, in this case of young women, is drifting with increasing force towards the American Virgin Islands, the full effect of which it is difficult as yet to estimate.

Far different is it with the labourer who goes to Santo Domingo. Entering the port of San Pedro de Macoris for the first time, he sees the dream of his boyish vision realized – the land where he can earn a little more than bare food and clothing. Leaving it when the cane cutting season is over, he sits on his box on the deck of sloop or schooner for seven or eight days, not daring to move lest he forfeit it, until at sight of the barren rocks of Anguilla his heart warms with the glow of pleasure which home-returning men alone experience, for mother, wife, brother, sister, child are looking out for him there on the white sands of Road Harbour; or on the shore of “Ensign Rumney’s Blown Poynt”, or under the manchineal trees of James Rohane’s forest Bay. But he never forgets Macoris, and when asked about the life in that country will reply with strange fervor, as if addressing some good friend who has aided him in times of dire need: “Macoris! Macoris! God bless Macoris!”

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Headline of the Windward Islands Opinion on St. Maarten.

In recent years a wonderful film of the history of Anguilla was made by David Carty and which contained interviews as well with his uncle Sir Emile Gumbs. I loaned my copy to someone and never got it back. I was pleasantly surprised how well it was put together.

In these times of plenty it is worth-while at times to look back on the hungry days on our islands in the Eastern Caribbean. May Anguilla and its people continue to give substance to the words of S.B. Jones who expressed:

“Admiration for the sterling qualities displayed by all classes of the inhabitants- qualities of honesty, courage, and determination in the face of overwhelming odds!”

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Carl Zagers. A Eulogy.

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Carl Zagers on his visit to my office to show me some of the things which he was finding on his farm at the Plum Piece.

E U L O G Y.

by: Will Johnson

 

Today we mourn the loss of James Carl Zagers who was born on February 23rd 1927 and died on November 26th, 2016.

Carl was born in the former village of Palmetto Point known in the last years of its existence as Mary’s Point. In the year 1927 when he was born there were a total of 41 children born on Saba. This goes to show the difference on Saba between then and the last thirty years.

His wife was Rose Margarete Collins and she died young leaving Carl with three young children to raise, Lillian, Stephen and Cleve.

 

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Carl with his apron on where he farmed at The Plum Piece.

In 1934 the people of Palmetto Point were more or less forcefully removed by Governor Krugers to an area here in the Bottom, part of a larger property called the Man-O-War ground.

Carl did as everyone back then tried to do in order to survive. He farmed the land and fished the seas. He also built his own fishing boats when the need was there. As so many young men did at the time he also went to Aruba where he worked in the kitchen of the dining room for the Lago oil refinery there. After some years he came back to Saba and was able to find work here with the government. In those days it was not much of a salary but you grasped at any opportunity you could get.

 

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Palmetto Point a.k a. “Mary’s Point’ around 1910.

For many years he was the linesman for the telephone service. Mr. Chester Zagers his former boss will tell you more about that period in his life.

As time moved on and Carl wanted to start a family he found his wife just a stone’s throw from where he lived in the “Promised Land’. He married Rose Margarete Collins at St. Kitts and together they not only started a family but built a house where he lived until he passed away at the age of 89.

Carl and his brother Jimmy were people who retained many memories of past life here on Saba and the people who lived and worked here. I could always ask them to clarify for me some of the families and who was related to whom from Palmetto Point and Middle Island. They would tell me things and when I researched them further they were right on nearly all my questions. I told his son Stephen that I was always promising myself to interview Carl on certain matters thinking perhaps that he would live forever.

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Menno and Corinne here at my home examining some of Carl’s findings on his farm.

He loved to farm and most of his life he farmed, planted the land, kept cattle and pigs and so on in order to provide for his family. The last years of his life he was farming over in a piece called the ‘Plum Piece” situated on a small plateau around 750 feet above Sea Level and on the road around the mountain and just above Palmetto Point where he was born.

This farming of his, led to a major discovery in the history of our island. When I was Acting Governor and Commissioner he called me one day and said he would like to speak to me, so I told him when to come. I thought it was something personal. However he said to me; “I know how much you are interested in the history of our island. I come to you with the following story which might be of interest to you’. And then he went on to tell me that where he was farming at the Plum Piece he was finding all kinds of strange rocks which looked like they had been worked on. ‘Must be Indians, I guess,’ he said.

And he went on to say: “I have some of them at home if you are interested.’ So we made another appointment and he brought a batch of old stones and a talisman made of coral stone with a hole in it which I wear from time to time. I took photos of his visit and offered to pay him for his trouble. He reluctantly accepted payment though he said ‘Mind I did not come for that.’ But I told him, “I suspect there is more to this story,’ and so I am only rewarding you for your labour and for your interest. I had just returned from Holland where I had undergone heart surgery and was still feeling weak. About three months later I thought I was feeling well enough and got my young son Peter to go along with me.

When we got to the Plum Piece there was Carl wearing an apron as if he was working in a gourmet kitchen. He gave me a tour of his farming area and I took a series of photo’s, which I still have and which I will add to this eulogy for posting on my blog The Saba Islander. I gathered what turned out to be some seventy pounds of stone which the Kalinago or Arawak people had left behind. Only when I got to the Queens Garden Hotel and realized that it was only three to four months since my surgery did I get panicky when I was trying to get the bag in my car.

 

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My son Peter with Carl Zagers on the farm

Anyway I discussed it with the then Governor Antoine Solagnier and agreed that we contact Corrine and Menno at Leiden University. They had already been involved for several years in doing research on the Native American past on Saba. They were quite interested of course, though they had doubts if Native Americans would live that far up from the sea.

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Looking down from the Plum Piece you can see the ‘Diamond Rock’.

Menno and Corine decided to come and bring some students with them and to see what was there. This study resulted in a book entitled The Real Saba History. I sent my copy to a friend and fellow historian Lennox Honeychurch on Dominica and I cannot remember the exact title now. The book did give credit to Mr. Zagers for his keen observations and conclusions that there had to be a larger story to the stones and other materials he was finding on his farm.

AS a father it was a struggle to raise his children especially after the death of his wife. However he never gave up and he went on to become a loving grandfather and before his death he was to become a great-grandfather.

He was suffering with skin cancer and had to go to Colombia for medical attention and while there he developed other ailments. After he returned home he steadily got worse and this led to his demise.

In family circles he will be remembered as a hardworking and loving man. I will close by reading a poem entitled The Old Farmers Prayer. I could not find out who the author was but I thought it fitting to remember the life and times of Carl with this poem.

I could not find the name of the person who wrote this poem but I will quote it anyway.

THE OLD FARMERS PRAYER

Time just keeps moving on

Many years have come and gone

But I grow older without regret

My hopes are in what may come yet.

On the farm I work each day

this is where I wish to stay

I watch the seeds each season sprout

From the soil as the plants rise out.

I study Nature and I learn

To know the earth and feel her turn

I love her dearly and all the seasons

For I have learned her secret reasons

All that will live is in the bosom of Earth

She is the loving mother of all birth

But all that lives must pass away

And go back again to her someday.

My life too will pass from earth

But do not grieve, I say, there will be other birth

When my body is old and all spent

And my soul to Heaven has went.

Please compost and spread me on this plain

So my Mother Earth can claim

That is where I wish to be

Then Nature can nourish new life with me.

So do not for me grieve and weep

I did not leave, I only sleep

I am with the soil here below

Where I can nourish life of beauty and glow

Here I can help the falling rain

Grow golden fields of ripening grain

From here I can join the winds that blow

And meet the softly falling snow.

Here I can help the sun’s warming ligth

Grow food for birds of gliding flight

I can be in the beautiful flowers of spring

And in every other lovely thing.

So do not for me weep and cry

I am here, I did not die.

***

May he rest in peace.

 

 

Nurse Angele Cagan

NURSE ANGELE CAGAN

BY; Will Johnson

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Nurse Angele here with her brother Gaston Cagan who used to be a taxi driver and before that worked for the oil refinery on Aruba.

Nurse Angele Cagan was an icon in the Philipsburg in which I knew in the fifties and sixties. She was a native of the village of Grand Case. Where I lived at Captain Hodge’s Guesthouse both Captain Hodge and his wife Mrs. Bertha Hodge-Lawrence were also natives of that village.

The hospital was just a stone’s throw away from the guesthouse. What little spare time Nurse Angele got she would walk up to the Guesthouse in her white uniform to visit with the Hodge’s. She took a liking to me and started calling me ‘Kennedy’. This came about when we were following the election results on radio and when President Kennedy beat Nixon. Everyone but me that night was for Nixon for whatever reason. But I stuck it out and Nurse Angele would buckle up with the laugh when comments were made. She would look in my direction and I had a feeling afterwards that she secretly supported Kennedy but did not want to get in a clash with Capt. Hodge and Miss Bertha.

When Kennedy won she only called me by that name. I remember [don’t all of us] the day he died. I was walking up the Front Street from the office. When I passed the St. Rose Hospital where she worked she was out on the gallery facing the street and called out to me;’ Lord Kennedy, Kennedy dead.’ So I had to go in and sit and talk about the day’s events with her.

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Mrs. Olga Buncamper-Hassell signing the registry, with Jewel Levendag-Wathey watching on as well as Dr. Carl Levendag behind her and Mr. Walter G. Buncamper standing next to Mrs. Lionel Conner-Kruythoff.

I have an article from Saturday October 5th, 1963 from the Windward Island’s Opinion which for this article I would like to share in its entirety. I happen to have in my collection photos of the event from the album of Jewel Levendag-Wathey and I can match the article with the photos. Nurse Angele was important to a lot of people as she delivered a lot of babies in her day as a Nurse.

The article is as follows: TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF NURSING.

On Sunday September 29th, Miss Angele Cagan, celebrated her Silver Jubilee, 25 years as a nurse in the St. Rose Hospital at Philipsburg.

The occasion was marked by a solemn High Mass at 8 a.m. in the Roman Catholic Church at Philipsburg. The church was crowded with many of her friends, relatives and former patients (some of them had come from as far as Marigot and even Grand Case). The Rev. Father Boradori, Parish Priest; in his remarks about Nurse Angele after the Gospel, pointed out that, in the 25 years that she had been a nurse in the St. Rose Hospital, she had always been a very dedicated nurse and he was sure that she did not work for the money, but instead for the love of bringing relief and comfort to suffering humanity. He compared her dedicated service to the Inn-keeper; in a parable of Jesus (A certain traveler had found a sick man by the wayside, given him assistance and taken him to an Inn. In the morning when the traveler was leaving, the sick man had not fully recovered, so the traveler paid the Inn-Keeper for the night and asked that the sick man be taken care of until he (the traveler) returned, promising that he would pay all the costs on his return. The Inn-Keeper did not ask the traveler to pay in advance – but took care of the sick man with the hope that someday the traveler would return.

 

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Father Bruno Boradori then Parish priest giving Nurse Angele the Holy Sacrament while friends look on.

“Our dear Nurse Angele,” he said: “Has been taking care of the sick entrusted to her tender care, by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and one day, I am sure, that at the end of her journey, He will return and repay her for all she has done.’

A reception was given in her honour at the St. Rose Hospital, from 11 a.m. to 12 noon, and among the many persons present were: Lt. Governor, J.J. Beaujon, Dr. Levendag, Ex. Lt. Governor and Mrs. W. Buncamper, Mrs. L.C. Fleming, Mr. Cagan (her brother), Mr. Th.A. Illidge, Mr. and Mrs. R. Carty and Mr. and Mrs. L.B. Scott. Most noteworthy among those present were; Mr. Anthony Buncamper (Nurse Angele ‘brought’ his mother to be with him) and his little son (Nurse Angele ‘brought’ his wife to bed with his son)-

Speeches congratulating Nurse Angele were made by the Revered Father Boradori, L.B.Scott, Th.A. Illidge, J.H. Lake, R. Carty and Dr. Levendag – And all the speakers praised her for her unselfish and dedicated service to the sick of this community during the past 25 years – She was also the recipient of many useful and valuable gifts.

The Windward Islands Opinion joins the rest of the community in congratulating our beloved Nurse Angele and prays that the good Lord, may bless and keep her for many more years.

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Nurse Angele assisted in the delivery of many children on St. Maarten.

Before she retired she built a house on the Back Street. She would go there during the day but would spend most of her time living with Miss Bertha and the Captain over in Sucker Garden. They had sold the Guest House and built a home over there. Catherine Hodge would drop her off at her home on Back Street in the morning and pick her back up at 5 pm and bring her to sleep at the home of the Hodge family. Catherine told me that being a young woman then that Nurse Angele would sometimes have to wait on her and would let Catherine have it when she was late in picking her up. Later on when they all got older she spent her last years in the St. Martin’s Home.

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St. Rose Hospital 1947. Nurse Angele worked here for the better part of her life.

Elsje from the St. Maarten Heritage Foundation said that she would see Nurse Angele coming down the Secretarissteeg (Secretary Alley) to go to work at the St. Rose Hospital. Elsje said she would visit her when she was in the Home. She was in a room that used to be part of the hospital where she had worked most of her life. ‘I always found it a little sad that she worked there and died there. She died on October 17th, 2003 and was buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery. She had no children but lots of nieces and nephews.’

Many of our old timers were true St. Martin islanders and worked where they could. I know of a number of people from the village of Grand Case who found work on the Dutch side and remained working and living there for the rest of their lives. When especially the ESSO refinery called the Lago was recruiting employees who could speak English any number of people from the French side and Anguilla found a way to register via the Dutch side and went on to Aruba. Some of them stayed there and have descendants there still.

Not only Nurse Angele has gone and left us but the hospital as well and the memories of  the buildings and the people who worked in them as well.In my own way I am trying to make a contribution to the past when we lived carefree lives far removed from the wealth of nations which were to consume us as time went on.

May Nurse Angele and her friends rest in peace and not be forgotten.

 

 

 

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