The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

Time for remembering

The two Storey house on the right belonged to Walter Granville van Romondt where Irene used to stay. As coincidence would have it the same house later on came into the possession of Walter Granville Buncamper. It ran from Front Street to Backstreet and is where Old Street is now located.
On the left the two-story house is where Irene stayed when in town and there is where she experienced an earthquake.
Mr. D.C. van Romondt who owned Tintamarre island and Mary’s Fancy estate.

Time for Remembering
In doing research for my book “For The Love Of St.Martin”, I had a lively
correspondence with many people. Pack rat that I am I have held on to most of the
correspondence. Nothing is organized of course. Too busy for that and I need
professional help. Anyway Wim Hart asked me to do an article for St.Maarten’s Day.
Being pressed for time I want to share with the readers a story “Time For Remembering”
written by the late Irene Van Romondt for her granddaughter Nancy. I have three
versions of this story written at different times in her life. One of the other more
extensive ones was published years ago by The Chronicle with a photo of Irene and of
Belvedere. It is good to read how the “landed gentry” lived in former times on
St.Maarten. Next year God willing I will contribute my own story of the many wonderful
memories I have of the years I lived on St.Maarten. But let me pass on this compliment to
the people of St.Maarten first. A couple of weeks ago I was visiting the Home For the
Aged. There I had a conversation with Mr. Carlyle Granger. He said that he had told his
son recently that he had visited eleven countries in South America, also Mexico and
twenty three countries around the Caribbean. He said the most enjoyable, memorable,
and rewarding vacations he had ever spent had been right there on Sint Maarten. I agree
with what he said. Happy St.Maarten’s Day.
Time for Remembering
Dear Nancy,
Just recently there was an article in the Saturday Evening Post about St.Martin, the
little island in the Caribbean where I was born. Eleanor and I were discussing the article
and she decided that I should write for you some of the things I remember about my life
in these West Indian Islands. I am not a good story teller but I will try.
I will tell first how the Van Romondt’s came to live on St.Martin. In the early eighteen
hundreds the rulers of Holland needed a wise and distinguished man to be Governor of
their newly acquired half of the island of St.Martin. (The other half was and is still owned
by France). And so they chose Diederick Johannes van Romondt, a gentleman from the
City of Utrecht, and already in the service of his government. He was ‘Master Of The
Mint’. This post would be equivalent to the Treasurer of the United States nowadays.
When he arrived with his band of colonists and retinue of servants the island was
practically a wilderness. The Spanish had discovered and inhabited it for sometime, then
the English. But when they found out that there was no easy gold or wealth to be found
they deserted the island. And so this band of intrepid Dutchmen settled the island and
ruled wisely over the remnants of the early Spanish and English settlers.
In those days anyone with money could own slaves and so they sailed to the
neighbouring islands and traded and bought slaves. These slaves cultivated sugar cane
from which sugar, molasses and rum is made. They tilled the fields, built the sturdy
houses and in fact helped to create the vast estates which the future generations of van
Romondts were to own.
For several generations the descendants of Governor D.J. van Romondt ruled
St.Martin. In each generation there was always one who was appointed Governor, and my
daddy who would be your great grandpa was the last of the line to act as Governor.
He came from a family of eighteen sisters and brothers. All the brothers had been sent
away to school and college. Some went to Holland, some to England or Scotland and
some of them to the United States.
My Daddy attended Princeton University in New Jersey. His name was the same as the
old Governors. Diederick Johannes, but he was known to all his friends , family and
servants as “Mr. Joe.”
As the young men completed their education and returned to their island, their father
(A.A.van Romondt) who was a wealthy merchant established them in business or gave
each one of them an estate which included one on the old manor houses. My Daddy lived
at Belvedere an estate tucked away in the high hills about three miles from the town of
Philipsburg which is the only town and the seat of government of the Dutch part of the
Here I was born on June 7th, l900. I must have been a spoiled little brat, because I had
everything that anyone could desire heaped upon me; so much to eat and drink, all good
things grown on Belvedere, hundreds of acres to wander over and play in, fond parents to
love spoil and protect me; a coloured nurse whose sole responsibility I was whether
asleep or awake.
In another few years a sister Edith and a brother Dick came along, and as they were
born they each had a coloured nurse or Mammy designated to take care of them.
The first thing I remember about ‘my little girl-self’ the day that Edith had a tooth ache.
Her nurse took her on her lap and sang to her and rocked her to sleep. I was so jealous of
the attention she was getting that I faked a toothache so that I could be sung to and
rocked. I can still remember my nurse Mary Anna saying; “Now Miss Irene you ain’t got
no toothache, but I’ll sing to you anyways”, and sing she did and rock me in her arms she
did until I fell asleep.
A hurricane the next thing that stands out in my memory is the hurricane on March 8th,
l908. How the wind did blow and how it howled through the branches of the big tamarind
tree which stood outside mothers bed room. This tree is ancient. It must be 500 to 1000
years old and was much taller than the highest peak of the roof. The hurricane was so
fierce we were afraid the roof would be blown off or that the tamarind tree would be
uprooted and fell on the house. So in the middle of the night mother came to our room
gathered the three of us up and put us in bed between herself and Papa.
The house shook on its solid concrete foundation. We heard the tearing sound of a big
tree falling, but it was not the tamarind tree or I would not be here to tell you these tales,
it was the big frangipani tree in the front yard. Towards morning the winds abated and
Papa must have dozed off. He snored and snored hard. I had never heard a man snore
before and so I became even more frightened than I had been from the hurricane. I was
sure some wild animal was under the bed and was growling and ready to spring, So the
March l908 hurricane was a night to remember.
First school days. The nearest school was three miles away, over rough dirt roads up
and down mountains and down down until we reached the town of Philipsburg which was
at sea level on the ‘Great Bay’. This town was built on a sand bar, just two streets wide,
between the blue Caribbean on one side and the bluer salt lake on the other.
My step grandma and my daddy’s half-sister lived in town. Here I was sent to be
tutored by them and prepared for school. Grandma was a lady of the Victorian era. She
believed that children should be seen and not heard. That they should be punished
severely when they misbehaved. That they should have no light to see them to bed and no
nurse to sleep at the foot of the bed and be at your beck and call.
My what a change this was from the easy life and all the indulgences I had had at
Belvedere. I was lonely. I missed Edith and Dick and had to play all by myself in the
fenced in garden. How I looked forward to Friday evening when the horse and buggy
would be sent from Belvedere to take me home for the weekend.
The first evening at grandma’s dinner table she served pea soup. I did not like pea soup
and said so. She told me ‘you will eat it, or if you don’t it will be served to you again for
breakfast and every meal until you do eat it.” Well I was still full of fresh milk, home
made bread and butter all the good things that we usually had at Belvedere,so I did not
eat it. The next morning I had it and a glass of milk for breakfast. I drank the milk and
left the pea soup. At lunch the coloured cook served it again and leaned over and
whispered;”You ain’t going get nothing else, so you better eat it up.” By this time I was
so hungry I ate it and anything else that was ever served to me in that house.
In a few months Edith was sent in to grandmas to school also. Now I have never been
afraid of the dark, but poor little Edith was, and every night when we were sent to bed in
the dark bed room she had the horrors and imagined that every piece of the large old
mahogany furniture in the room was something to be feared.
I’m Free.
One wet rainy Friday afternoon I was playing all alone in the fenced in garden. I can
remember I was chopping up the think meaty leaf of a cactus plant making belive that it
was a meal. I was cooking it for my children ( four beautiful French dolls imported
especially for me). I was so lonely and I kept wondering why the horse and carriage had
not come to take me home for the weekend. When grandma called me I got the surprise
of my life.
Aunty Clem had come for me. She was mothers unmarried sister who had always
loved me as her own and spoiled me very much. She had persuaded Papa to open up his
town house again after many years. This house is called Dicky Dicks after the man who
built it and it must be hundreds of years old. It was standing long before the Dutch came
to St.Martin. It is a huge rambling house built over a poured concrete first storey. The salt
lake is at the foot of the back yard. A huge balcony runs across the front of the house and
the water cistern which supplied all of our drinking water is under the floor of the pantry
and one bedroom.
Edith, Dick and I and also my nieces Belle, Lucky and Daisy lived and grew up in this
rambling old house with Aunty Clem loving us and caring for us from Monday to Friday.
But every Friday we were off to Belvedere and Mother and Papa for the weekend.
Aunty Clem was easy going and a semi-invalid, so we did as we pleased mostly, with a
little supervision from Zilah our coloured cook and maid. (Zilah Richardson aunt of
L.B.Scot, ended up owning the house on Backstreet. My brother Freddie lived there as
well as Leo Chance, Kenneth van Putten, Max Nicholson etc.)
Every morning before going to school we would put on our funny looking home made
bathing suits run across the two streets to the ocean and swim and play in the water for an
hour or two before going to school.
School now was the Convent school run by the Dominican nuns from Holland. We
went to the upstairs school with the children of all the white government officials and
white families of the town and a few near whites who could afford the tuition. In the
downstairs schools were all the coloured children from the country districts and the
children of the white people from the lower part of town who were not as wealthy as we
were and could not afford tuition.
I went to school there until I was about 14 years old. I had covered as far as the grades
went, then I persuaded my parents to let me go to New York to school. I went with my
uncle Lewis who had property and summered in the USA every year. I attended
Wadleigh High School in New York City for two years, then the U.S.A. declared war
(World War 1) and I was ordered home in a hurry. But that is another story.
And so we will leave off here. However it is interesting to read how the landed gentry
lived one hundred years ago on St.Martin. Belevdere also included Belle Plaine at the
time where cotton was grown. This latter estate was sold to Dr. Hopkins of whom I will
write more at a later date.
Will Johnson

Libraries Gained Libraries Lost

This article was written several years ago. Since then the islands have had to deal with a large number of powerful hurricanes. Hurricane Irma dealt a devastating blow to the Library on St. Maarten to the extent that while recognizing the fact that the Library was established 95 years ago in fact there is no library. A sad case. And I sincerely hope that an effort will be made to restore the library as soon as possible so that ninety five years of serving the island community will not be lost or have been in vain.

Libraries gained, Libraries lost?
By: Will Johnson
In the Catholic newspaper the ” Amigoe” of Monday, April 23rd, 1945, there is an article giving a description of the Libraries then existing in the Dutch Windward Islands and their histories.
This article was written by Dr. Johan Hartog who many years later also published a small booklet on the history of the libraries of the six Dutch Caribbean islands.
With the change in reading habits, based on all the new technologies such as the Internet, predictions are that traditional Libraries and even printed books will disappear. And so before these predictions come to pass, I thought that I should write something about how things were in the past.
There were always some private Libraries on plantations on St. Eustatius and St. Maarten starting in the seventeen hundreds. These were few and far between however and the number of books in these private Libraries was very limited. For that period a Library of 100 books would have been considered quite large. By comparison my private Library of over two thousand books would seem enormous by the standards of the time. One must also remember that, few people could read and write back then and the struggle for survival had every priority. On Saba in 1790 out of a population of some 1500 only 5 people could read and write. At the same time our closest neighbor the island of St. Eustatius had it’s own printed newspaper “the St. Eustatius Gazette”, so that there was a considerable reading public there compared to Saba. I must say though that in doing research on our Island Secretaries of the past, today only teachers like Mr. Frank Hassell and Mr. Franklin Wilsons handwriting can match the handwriting of the old Island Secretaries Mr. Charles Winfield or Mr. Hercules Hassell. The islands Commanders such as the old pirate Capt. Edward Beaks and his son-in-law Lt. Governor Moses Leverock also had excellent handwritings. In the case of Commander Beaks since the Dutch Government did not pay him a salary he assumed that he could use his schooner as a pirate ship in order to put bread on the family table. His nephew Capt. Hiram Beaks who coined the phrase ” Dead men tell no tales” took the old schooner all the way into the Mediterranean in search of loot to bring back home.
My love of books goes back to 1948 in the old library in Windward side in the upstairs of a building belonging to Mr. Stanley Johnson. Miss Marguerite Hassell was the Librarian. She ran the place like a field Marshall and was the special guardian of books not considered suitable to be read by a little boy like me. But despite her vigilance I did get to read all of Zane Grays books on the cowboys of the Western United States.Also, all of Edgar Rice Burroughs books on “Tarzan of the Apes” as well as the “Hardy Boys” by Franklin W. Dickson (a pen name used by various authors to write the series). My grandmother Agnes Simmons who could not write but who somehow had taught herself to read, loved “Nancy Drew” and “Grace Livingston Hill” romance stories. Since she believed that if anything was written in a book it had to be true, she was always heaping.
scorn on unfaithful women, and so through her I also learned a bit from the romance stories which Miss Marguerite deemed unfit for a little boy like me to be exposed to. I can still hear my grandmother referring to ” that good for nothing” or ” she got no shame” and knowing that it was not a neighbor but a character from one of her books. Too bad she died many years before “Facebook” as I would have liked to hear her take on some of the melee being posted there.
I am now reading a list of the 1001 books you should read before you die. I am amazed at how many of the recommended classical books I have already read. Today is the 200th celebration of the birth of Charles Dickens, and at a tender age I had read many of his books. Additionally, I have read many Dutch books and still do. Even when still a teenager (18) when I started working at the old Courthouse on St. Maarten in between the bull-fights and other partying I found time to read. I found a photograph of me in my room at Capt. Hodges Guesthouse reading a book with some books on a bookshelf above my bed.
In the 1945 article of Dr. Hartog he provides us with an insight into the libraries of the three islands which were established less than 100 years ago and by the way reading habits are changing may not even reach their 100th anniversary (2022).
Dr. Hartog writes; “Our Kingdom knows many languages one of which is English of our Dutch Windward Islands.(In 1945, Indonesia and Surinam were still colonies of Holland.) All three islands have their own Libraries. The library on St. Maarten the “Jubilee Library” was the worst off in 1945. It had been established in 1923 on the 25th anniversary of the ascension of Her majesty Queen Wilhelmina to the Dutch throne. The library had vegetated for some time, but got a rebirth in 1936 under the energetic Adriaan van Meteren.The library was opened in the evenings on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and according to Dr. Hartog ” Miss Rosa de Weever must be admired for giving her free time to this exceptional cultural work of a library. The subsidy from government is fls.250. –(not per month but per year). The other income is from the 25 to 30 members who each pay 1 guilder per quarter. In 1957 the subsidy to the Library on St. Maarten was f. 800. — per year. In 1959 the library had around 1150 English novels, 100 Dutch novels and 250 general knowledge books for the most part very old. In 1959 there were fifty members, who together borrowed around 900 books (18 per member). Every few years the library had to move go a new location. Dr. Hartog claims that since 1945 he had found the library in a new location each time he visited.
On St. Eustatius there is the Gertrude Judson Library. This library in 1945 was located in a spacious upper room in a building owned by the Brouwer /Lampe family. The library was established in 1922 thanks to an initiative of the then Vice Lt. Governor Benjamin Irving Mussenden who later on became Inspector of Taxes on Curacao. In 1919 already when Mr. Mussenden had Mr. C. Grand Pierre as a guest, Mr. Mussenden told him that he was looking into the possibility of starting a library. Mr. Grand Pierre knew some gentlemen from the New York public library and they sent two boxes of books. He also knew the daughter of the President of the University of Chicago, Mrs. Gertrude Schachner -Judson who donated a substantial number of books and the library was named in her honor. In 1945 Mrs. Schachner was already deceased but it was recognized with her donation that the library on St. Eustatius was not only the first in the history of the Dutch Windward Islands, but also the best. Efforts by Prof. Dr. Josselin de Jong in May of 1903 to also get Dutch books for this splendid library remained without results. In 1945 the library was a well-respected establishment under the Chairmanship of Miss Ida Pandt. The librarian was Miss Ada Southern. The government subsidy was fls. 200.– per year and the contributions per member consisted of three classes, five of ten guilders, four of five guilders and sixteen of two guilders and fifty cents.
In 1959, Dr. Hartog wrote that when one entered the library in the evenings, with it lit up by paraffin lamps, and with a collection of mostly antique books one would believe they were walking into the previous century. At that time the library had 2900 books, of which 1750 were principally English popular novels, 900 popular scientific books and 200 children’s books. Additionally, a certain quantity of weekly illustrated magazines and some popular scientific magazines were available. In 1958 some 32 members had read 1100 books or 34 per member.
Saba with the lowest subsidy had two libraries in 1957. The Queen Wilhelmina library in The Bottom was situated downstairs in the government guesthouse and the library was started in 1923. The branch in Winward side was started in 1932. The library and her branch in 1944in Windward side and the main library in The Bottom only had 2 members. Vice Lt. Governor Mr. Charles E.W. Voges after his appointment in August 1948 actively promoted the use of the library and within short The Bottom had 25 members and on October 18th 1948 a new branch was opened in Windward Side.
In 1959 The Bottom library had 1300 books among which 1100 English novels and 100 Dutch novels. From 1953 to 1958 an average of 640 books per year were loaned out. The branch in Windward side had around 1800 books among which 1300 English Novels, 400 children’s books and 100 Dutch novels as well as popular science magazines. The 40 members read yearly 2400 books or an average of 60 books per member. The total population of Saba (about 1000 persons) in 1959 read 3040 books. This at the time was a record for the Netherlands Antilles. Based on statistics at the time Sabans read ten times as many books as Bonaireans. Of course, that had to do with the fact that Sabans spoke English as a mother tongue and there are so many books available to them because of that fact.
Over the years the libraries in the three islands have expanded with the enormous growth of the population. Besides the public libraries the Medical schools and other institutions of higher learning have their own, sometimes extensive libraries. However traditional libraries, newspapers, books and magazines are expected to go into a rapid decline because of the Internet. While Facebook may have its short comings, I am happy to see how many people now write and read on Facebook. While we are not looking forward to the demise of the traditional libraries, one cannot ignore what is taking place. It is left to be seen if in the year 2022, one hundred years after the first library was established on St. Eustatius if our libraries as we have known them up to now will still be around with people still borrowing paper books and carrying them home to read.

Henry Stanley Johnson’s building. Born on St. Eustatius he moved to Saba where his father hailed from and built this place. Upstairs on the left where the branch library in the Windward Side was located and Miss Marguerite Hassell was the Librarian.
Library started in 1923. One hundred years ago. It was located in the former office of the Lt. Governor.
Some of the books in the Library in 1923. I wonder where they all came from and what became of them?
Mr. W.F.M. Lampe in his offfice which became the Library in 1923

My Friend Louise van Putten

At my age when you look back on life you must admit that there have been many special people in your life. Having lived on several islands and travelled from Trinidad to Cuba and back with few islands which I have not seen. Being in politics which placed me in several important functions in the former Netherlands Antilles, added to my list of friends and acquaintances.

I was privileged to have had friends like Elmer Linzey, Kenneth van Putten, Ralph Berkel, Lassell Rouse and so many others with whom I enjoyed friendship with, better than the relationship even than that which I enjoyed with my brothers.

Since the advent of Social Media and with my enthusiasm for sharing knowledge through personal experiences and memories, as well as old photos.a number of old friends and co-workers are still in close contact with me.

Here I am visiting Louise and Kenneth. Over the years many times I have spent time there with them. Once when I was on Statia with my first two boys Teddy and Chris, and with Lynne of course, Kenneth had a bar b que dinner for us. While the bar b que was going on a lady walked off the street, grabbed a chicken leg and left telling Kenneth: ” You think you going to feed your Saba people and leave we Statia people hungry etc.” Of course, it was all done in good fun. Senator Millicent de Weever told me that once she was trying to get Kenneth on the phone. After a long set of rings someone sounding out of breath answered and said “But nobody home.” So she asked him “But what are you doing there?” And he said: ” I was passing in the street and heard the phone ringing and came in to answer it as it might be something important.” That was the kind of open house style of living these two dear friends had.

One family which I enjoyed a special relationship with was the Van Putten family on Sint Eustatius. In the persons of Senator Kenneth Van Putten and his sister teacher Louise as well as Margarite. We were closer than family. Margarite was handicapped but once Kenneth called me and said that Margarite had told him I had called. And he said “Guess what she told me. She said that your family from Saba called while you were out. And Kenneth told me he said to her: But who told you me and Will are family? ” She told him: “Machie told me once that we are related to the Johnson’s of Saba.” We both had a good laugh about that.

When Kenneth passed away I did the eulogy for him in the Methodist Church on Sint Eustatius. Right across from that church is the Old English church yard and cemetery in which some of my ancestors the Richard Horton and his mother-in-law Joanna Dinzey are buried.

In that eulogy I covered the friendship which he and I carried from when I first met him in 1956 in the schoolyard of Mgsr. Zwijzen college on Curacao where we were both going to the MULO. He was five years older than me but later on our lives crossed in the political world and we shared many years together travelling and attending meetings all over the world so that he gave me a bucket full of good memories and jokes that I share every now and then with friends. When my wife Lynne was expecting our youngest son Peter, I told Kenneth that if its a boy I will have to add Albert to his name. And so it became Peter Charles Albert Johnson. And many times, Peter has reminded me “Now don’t forget the Albert.”

Louise on the other hand became a close friend because she had been friends with my brother Freddie the teacher. Back in the nineteen forties the Nuns started a teacher training course for the three Windward Islands and a number of the students were from Saba and St. Eustatius. Some of them were even on a sloop when a hurricane caught up with them and they were nearly lost. I believe that Louise was one of those on board as well as my brother Freddie. I have written about that before.

Many of those students who did not become teachers went on in their own way to become famous. nevertheless . One of them was the famous Leo Chance who later in life became the longest serving Minister of Government of the Netherlands Antilles. My brother Freddie told me that Leo must have been eighteen years of age when he went down to the square and made a rousing speech in support of the Democratic Party. The Nuns as reverend as they might have been were not amused. They were in support of the National Party which was favoured by the Catholic church and so Mr. Chance moved on to Aruba and made his fame from that island.

Louise and I became close in 1961. Then Lt. Governor of the three Windward Islands J.J.Beaujon (Japa) decided to give Statia some publicity by calling for a celebration of the 185th celebration of the recognition of the flag of the new Republic called the United States. An event which had triggered the invasion of the island by Admiral George Rodney of England. The Post office on Statia asked for a volunteer to come over and help them with the amount of work which had to be done because of the issuance of a memorial postal stamp to highlight that event. My colleague Laurel Eybrechts/Peterson would have gone as she and Louise were good friends and she was assured of a place to stay. Laurel lives on Curacao and we are still in contact and she was the first person I contacted after Dave Levenstone informed me of Louise’s passing. It would be two months and I volunteered and was accepted. So the month of October and November of 1961 I spent on Statia. I stayed at the Government Guesthouse and my room was the now Vincent Lopes meeting room of the Island Council. I often tease the Honorable Clyde van Putten a cousin of Louise “Now have some respect when y,all quarreling there as that was once my bedroom.”

This was my view of the “Kerkstraat” from the balcony of where I stayed for the months of October and November 1961 and many times after when I used to be running for public office. The building on the right is the former Lampe residence, and on the right that building is owned by Louise and further down the street the two story building on the right and the following one belonged to Kenneth. He inherited it from one of his aunts who inherited it from the teacher and historian Arthur Valk who was well-known in his day for his knowledge of history in general and that of Sint Eustatius in particular.

Louise at the time was involved with the running of the Post Office and Mr. Carl Buncamper “Uncle Carl” who in later years was so helpful to me with books I was writing was at the time the Administrator of the island. We spent pleasant evenings together planning how to deal with an expected influx of requests from world wide stamp collectors. There was a special stamp issued for the occasion and the event was a big success with a Dutch, a US and a British war ship in attendance and the necessary fanfare. At the time I was introduced to a quality of life and cultured people which I had never realized existed on Statia. That period came in handy for me in 1969 when I ran with the party the URA for Senator of the Windward Islands. Of the 503 votes cast on Statia in that election I pulled 232 personal votes on Statia.

Through the years and also because of Kenneth and I being Senators for our respective islands I remained in contact with Louise. She told mutual friends that she always loved when I called, and we would have long conversations on current events and times gone by.

Louise was the backbone of the Methodist church there. She was a Sunday School teacher and one of the principal organizers of Methodist church events. And there seemed to always be something going on like a new Pastor coming in and collecting funds to sponsor church related events.

I once had to explain my wife Lynne who the little people were that were always to be found at her and Kennth’s residence. Louise was an entrepreneur and had acquired several houses of her own, but she and “Sefa” who she had raised joined Kenneth on the “Kerkstraat” where he lived, and she remained there and later moved back to her own home after he passed away.

I told her that part of our West Indian culture was that someone would drop off a child at your home for you to raise and perhaps before that child became a grandparent they would come and take a look see if the child was still alive.

I remember one night when I was visiting the little girl pictured here with Louise (I think it was her), was having a discussion. Not an argument mind you. Kenneth liked to tease and at a certain point in the back and forth she put her hands on her hips and said: Now let me inform you Mr. van Putten, I have other options you know. Just tell me and I will pack my suitcase and be gone.” Kenneth said: “Oh yeah and where to?” Se said “Well I happen to know Mr. Johnson and his wife would love to have a young girl like me in their home to lighten up their life.” And you know she would have been welcome but I knew that Kenneth was making a joke .

Time flies by so fast but the last time I went to see Louise was in 2019 and her cousin Ishmael Berkel called me to tell me she was in hospital and not well. I went up right away and stayed at the Golden Era hotel and Ishmael hosted me and carried me all around while I was there. She was so happy so see me when I was there. At a certain point in my visit a large group of relatives and friends came into the room and I sort of disappeared in the crowd. In a panicked voice she called out ” But where is Will? “and the crowd parted in a fashion like the Red Sea so that she was assured that I was still there.

The following morning before going to the airport I went to visit her and to my great surprise she was sitting there in the waiting room and looking so much better and we had a good chat. With the pandemic and as a result of an infection which affected my hearing and caused me to get Vertigo I was restricted in my travels to Statia. Since the ferry came into service Lynne often suggested that we go to Statia to see Louise. But Ishmael told me that because of the pandemic there were restrictions on visitors to the residents of the Home on Statia.

And so even now because of several factors which handicap me I will not be present when she is laid to rest in the vault which has been prepared for her and where her beloved brother Kenneth is interred.

On one of my visits Louise took me to see the vault where Kenneth is buried. I do not recall if Margriet is buried there. Only certain families are privileged to be buried in the cemetery of the Dutch Reformed church. Kenneth and Louise were always proud of their mixed heritage and via Maatchie they were descended from the Groebe family and others.

Louise’s mother had four children,.Louise,Margriet, Noel and Kenneth. Noel lived in Holand and had four children. For whatever reasons the first two children were taken away by the State and with the condition that he and his wife could have no contact with them. The second two weighed heavy on Louise’s heart and one of her cousins was in contact with the niece. Apparently, Louise did not make a last will and testament. I find that strange as Kenneth had one and Louise had property from her mother which she would have wanted me to remind everyone that Noel’s children are also heirs to.

I want to thank God for blessing me with the ability to put pen on paper and combine my tributes with the necessary photos to give a proper send off to lifelong friends like Louise. God bless her memory and may she rest in strength and peace.

This is one of Noels daughters with whom Louise had contact. I could be mistaken but I am not sure if she made it to Statia or if Louise on one of her trips to Holland got to meet her but this photo was with a number of others which she had in her house.

My Brother Eric

Eric was always a hard worker. Here he is milking his cow. He kept cattle, pigs, goats and everything else. He was a model of how to survive off the land on an isolated small island like Saba.


    My brother Thomas Eric Johnson was born on Saba on September 20th, 1934 and died on April 13th, 2011.

   Ever since he was a boy Eric was known as a hard worker. He was born and grew up in a small village above the Sulphur Mine, known as “Behind-The-Ridge.” As a young boy going through the hardships and scarcity imposed on the island by World War II, he must have been influenced to the extent that he hardly ever took a rest. He was driven by a passion and a belief that his children and the people of Saba should not have to live the hard life which he had experienced as a boy. In the family he projected himself from early on as the boss, not only of the younger siblings but he would even boss his older brother Freddie around. He felt that everyone in the family should work as hard as he did.

The Library at the University is named after my brother Freddie, and my brother Eric was very instrumental in getting the University to Saba. After Saba was not allowed to issue drivers licenses which could be used in Holland, we turned to our own resources to find a solution for the economy we have enjoyed since.

   After he finished elementary school he started working for the Public Works on the construction of the road. There was a severe flood caused by the “ALICE” hurricane in January of 1955 and he worked on the reconstruction of the road leading from Fort Bay to the Bottom. In that same year he and my brother Guy with the help of friends, took down our house at Behind-The-Ridge and brought it on their heads and rebuilt it in the English Quarter where it still stands today. While working on the construction of the road Eric had been preparing himself for an eventual upgrade by taking typing lessons. So when the call went out that there was a vacancy in the office he applied and because of the typing efficiency which he had, Mr. Walter Buncamper who was Administrator at the time hired him. The salary was fls.90.—a month of which fls.30.—went to pay for transportation to the job. Eric was so happy to get the job that he did not remind the Administrator until nearly two years later, in a moment of anger that he had not been paid as yet. Mr. Buncamper could not believe that it had taken so long to regulate Eric’s salary. Eric was such a dedicated and hard worker at the office that each and every Administrator before leaving the island would always recommend Eric for a raise in salary. He had a number of positions besides his regular job over the years. He was “Kings Attorney”, “Conservator of Mortgages”, you name it and he did it. He was compensated for these important positions, in most cases between fls. 10.—and fls. 25.—per month whereas his basic salary remained at fls. 90.—per month for many years. Eric had a strong passion to see Saba develop, and in 1971 he started the Saba Development Foundation through which the Dutch Government channeled millions of guilders in social and infrastructural projects. Eric was up late at night, working on sending in projects to get financing for the island. For this he was never compensated. If a project was approved he would supervise it until finished, he kept the books and the Dutch Government was so pleased with his work and honesty that rather than channeling projects through the Government they would channel them through the Saba Development Foundation. He bought the land in The Level to start a garden where young people could learn to love agriculture like he did. With help later on the Cuban Government over a period of years sent three experts in urban agriculture to make it the success it is today.

   Eric, together with Doctor de Braauw was also responsible for introducing the Saba School of Medicine to the island back in the nineteen eighties. Members of this Foundation and the Senator at the time got all the necessary permits from the World Health Organization. He never received any financial compensation for doing everything to make the school a success. He had a passion for Saba to develop and for people of today to enjoy a better livelihood than to suffer the hardships he had suffered as a boy. In both referendums in 1994 and in 2004 he voted for the Independence option. In his view Independence would give the people the real choice of “either you fish or you cut bait”, and that in essence if everyone took on the challenge of hard work, that Saba could survive even as an independent island.

Daniel Johnson’s house at English Quarters Aug 1964 Administrator Reinier Van Delden was living there so it was the official Governors Residence at the time. Next to it is the home of my brother Eric, his wife Wilda. In between the two is the private family cemetery. The house is now owned by Eric’s daughter Cerissa Steel/Johnson who lives with her husband and two sons in England.+

    When it came to his job, Eric would be at the office as early as 7.30 AM and would leave after five to go home and take care of his cattle and do other farming activities. He was always busy. Once when he was building a cistern his wife Wilda heard him at 3AM outside the house mixing cement. Turns out he had mistaken the clock, thinking it was 5AM and he wanted to do some work on the cistern before going to his job. Well, he concluded that since he had the cement already mixed that he would continue working on the cistern until it was time to go to the office.

    He served as an early Board member of the Saba Comprehensive School. I have received condolences from the Kadaster on St. Maarten and the Notary as well as  Mr. Kenneth Lai,from the Development  Bank reminding me of how dedicated he was in carrying out his duties on boards which he served.I had just finished speaking to Clark Gomez Casseres who sent his sympathy and to thank Eric for serving on the Small Business Promotion Fund of Saba and Statia, when his brother Ron Gomez Casseres former  President of the Maduro & Curiels Bank phoned to give his sympathy and to remind me that Eric had served for many years as the Representative of the Windward Islands Bank on Saba.

The four brothers Walter Frederick Martinus, Thomas Eric, Samuel Guy and William Stanley Johnson.

   Eric also liked to give his opinion. When the Saba Herald was started in 1968, Eric would write half of the paper until 25 years later when I had to put a stop to the paper. He was very vocal on things which he felt were not right. The same he carried on in the Daily herald for many years until he got too ill to write. He was not appreciated by some for his candid views on many issues, and some people would have like to wish him away with his many opinions on a variety of subjects. However he was persistent in writing his “Thoughts from Saba” regardless as to who liked his views or not.

    In his personal life he suffered a great tragedy in 1968 when he lost his first three young children in a swimming accident, something which haunted him for the rest of his life. Even though he and Wilda had four more children, the eldest his daughter Anna Marie who was born the very same week of the tragedy. Eric became even more concentrated in his work to forget the pain of his great loss. There were those who did not appreciate him, as he thought that everyone should work as hard and dedicated as he did.

    He also served on the board of Windward Islands Airways N.V. Hardly anyone can recall him ever calling in sick for the many years he worked for the government of Saba. He was adamant that he wanted no recognition for his work, and so the Government respected his wishes and never recommended him for any kind of Royal Distinction, which in his case would have certainly been merited.

   Eric did not permit himself many luxuries. Even vacations were mostly spent on St.Maarten where he would go to the same Chinese restaurant, and sit at the same table as the time before and then take a drive to the French side to take photos of the cattle in those lush green pastures. Eric was so concentrated on his farming and cattle raising that I remember once his uncle in law Aldrick quarreling that Eric had gone to Curacao leaving his wife and a cow both sick and had called from Curacao to find out how the cow was doing. But that is how he grew up.

    The last years of his life he suffered much and was in and out of hospitals. However in between he would still try and do what he could and when you passed his house in English Quarter you would see him at night behind his computer doing what he thought he had to do, still sending out his views to the Daily Herald. He also represented the Windward Islands Bank and you could go to his home and apply for a loan and make payments to the bank.

Family photo taken by Freddie. In back a friend from Aruba Lucy Hassell/Croes daughter of “Fan Fan” Croes who owned the Victoria Hotel on Aruba. Next to her is my sister Sadie Beatrix Van Delden born Johnson. In front me just about ready to go to the Boys Town on Curacao, then my brother Thomas Eric Johnson, our mother Alma Blanche Johnson born Simmons and then Samuel Guy Johnson.

   He leaves to mourn his wife Wilda who he married in 1960, his daughters Anna Marie Obermaier who lives in Germany, his daughter Cerissa, and his sons Dan and Nicky. His children have followed in his footsteps when it comes to hard work.

   In ending let me just say, that no matter how old or how ill the person is death still comes as a shock. I would also like to thank the staff of the hospital who took such good care of him in his last months. I went straight from the airport to the hospital to see him. When the nurses were finished preparing him for the long journey before him, I looked at him lying there so composed with both arms stretched out. His fingers which had typed out so many requests for projects which had helped our people looked better than the hands of any King and not like the hands of a man who had been both farmer and King in his lifetime and I said my last farewell to my brother in silence. I would like to quote from Psalm 139 in ending this eulogy and to wish my brother who lost much and who suffered much, to have a safe passage to his eternal rest: “Wither shall I go from thy spirit? Or wither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea: Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” Farewell, Eric may you rest in peace and may the hand of the great Almighty be at the gates of paradise to lead you in.

* * *

My brother Eric loved the land. He was always planting up in the Mountain and close to his home at the Spout. This is the Rendez Vous when it was planted out. He later owned a sizeable tract of this land in the Center. I do not remember him planting there but it is passed down to his grandchildren on the Obermaier part of the family.

My niece Anna Marie Obermaier born Johnson

                                    E U L O G Y

    My niece Anna Marie Obermaier born Johnson was born on April 26th, 1967. On April 26th, 2011 on her 44th birthday she was struck down by a massive heart attack at her home in Germany. After every effort to save her, she was pronounced dead the following day.

 Anna Marie’s birth preceded a family tragedy of such a magnitude that even today 44 years later it could still grab major headline news in a much bigger country. These devastating events could have left a permanent mark for the worst on her outlook on life. But still somehow she went through life with a naturally positive view on life. She wasn’t too much for letting obstacles wear her down and could systematically and quite stubbornly remove these from her path. This was very much in contrast to her very soft spoken and quiet way that she had about her. Behind that sweet voice and soft mannerism Anna Marie also had much strength of character.

    I believe that from really early on she must have been aware that something devastating beyond words had taken place in her father Eric and her mother Wilda’s lives and from very small she was always trying to compensate for their loss by being very responsible, trying never to disappoint or do something that could cause them to worry. As she got older, this attitude influenced her academically and in all other aspects of life.

    When Anna Marie left Saba at the age of 12 she first lived in Aruba and attended the VWO. At that time there were a good many students from Saba attending school in Aruba. My niece Carolyn who contributed a great deal to this eulogy remembers that she and Anna Marie lived with the same family on Aruba together with Gary Dean and Mark and my niece Anastacia Solagnier born Van Delden, daughter of my deceased sister Sadie, as well as with Diana van Delden. They lived next to the ambulance station in Oranjestad and across from the old hospital. Many nights they would be woken up at least twice or so when the ambulance lights reflected in their rooms and the sirens would start as they left on emergency calls. Carolyn remembers that the house was a good size but it was filled to the brim with people as their caretaker had three daughters and two sons of her own living there, a few little nephews and occasional family visitors from Venezuela. They later took in a student from Bonaire who did not last very long as the situation was too overwhelming for her.

    It was not always easy for Anna Marie, being the youngest of the students from Saba. She and Carolyn moved twice more with the same caretaker to overcrowded homes in various parts of Aruba before they finally left. Anna Marie moved to St.Maarten where she lived once more with students from Saba until she left for the United States to attend Hofstra University. Anna Marie really enjoyed her College Years at Hofstra and met a collection of new friends from all over the world. She studied Business Administration and graduated in 1989.

   It was here that Anna Marie would meet her future husband and father of her three children. Ernie visited Saba for the first time in 1990. He was an only child from such a different country. What kind of impression would Saba make on him; too much family living on too small and island? As it turned out Ernie was the type of person who was open to all kinds of unfamiliar people and experiences. Decades after that first visit he was still returning to Saba with Anna Marie, now his wife. I remember one night in the lobby of the Mariott Hotel on Curacao I was surrounded by a group of people. One of them was the agent for the BMW. He said he was waiting on the big man from the company in Germany. When Ernie approached us I said to myself “I know this man from somewhere”. Then he said;”Uncle Will, surprised to see you here.”  They all thought it quite cool that I was the uncle of a big shot from the BMW Company. The next night we travelled together to St. Maarten. He said he wanted me to carry a suitcase to Wilda. While waiting on him in the lobby, Mr. David Vlaun said to me that he was waiting on the big man from the BMW Company. I did not say anything to him. When Ernie came with the suitcase greeting me as “Uncle Will” I thought Vlaun would have fainted.

   Upon returning from College, Anna Marie lived on St. Maarten and worked for the Windward Islands Bank. Carolyn, Gary, Mark, Anastacia and Eva were already living and working there and her brother Dan with whom she lived when he was attending school there. She later decided together with Ernie that they would move to Germany. After moving there she not only got to travel quite a bit but she also lived in different places giving her a rich and full life experience for her age. She loved the time they lived in Mexico and they both had a passion for Mexican food. Years after leaving Mexico they still enjoyed cooking Mexican food for friends and family both in Germany and on their visits to Saba. On December 6th, 1996 Anna Marie and Ernie had a quiet wedding in Germany. Her cousins remember that he had proposed to her on a previous visit to Saba on the Well’s Bay.

    When their first child Alexander was born in 2000 Anna Marie set about motherhood with the same seriousness and dedication that was her custom. Ernie and Anna Marie vacationed in New York City to take part in the famed millennium celebrations that were held and televised around the world, and they called Alexander their millennium baby. Not to be outdone by the significance of Alexander’s birth year, Laura and Sarah took everyone by complete surprise when they announced themselves as not one but two babies and were born in 2003.

    Even though Anna Marie made her life so far away from Saba she was devoutly proud of her Saban heritage and tried to instill this in her children. Their family vacations on Saba were always filled with hiking and stories about Saba and Saban heritage.

    Anna Marie has been a very energetic and devoted mother. Always very conscious of the health of herself and her family she was uncompromising in that she tried to only serve her family with the freshest and healthiest of foods. She made sure that her children’s life experiences have been full and meaningful, trying always to give them balance in school and play. Throughout the years she has carefully chronicled their lives in pictures. Their home in Windach is a sanctuary full of testimony that the children were the focus of Anna Marie and Ernie’s lives. The very day before she died, On Easter Monday, they spent time making many family photos. Hopefully these along with the many other photo’s and wonderful memories will be of some small consolation to Ernie and the children in the difficult days and years ahead, helping them to always cherish great memories of a most wonderful wife and mother.

    Anna Marie was a very professional woman in her own right. She was fluent in seven languages and worked for several international companies. She even studied Mandarin Chinese at one time. If I remember correctly one of the companies she worked for was the Michelin Tire Company. She lived besides Mexico and Germany, also In Italy when she worked for the tire company. She was well known in the town of Windach where she lived for doing so much for the children there and the community in general.

   This latest tragedy in the family of my recently deceased brother Eric and his wife Wilda, is one which shocked the community and one which we cannot easily comprehend. Life it seems doles out to some people much harsher blows than others.

    When I hear the rendition of a beautiful hymn I like to find out who wrote the hymn and under which circumstances. The same day when Anna Marie was struck down I came across the history of the hymn:”It is well with my soul;” The Chicago lawyer Horatio G. Spafford invested heavily in the real estate business along the shores of Lake Michigan. In the Chicago fire of 1871 he lost nearly all of his fortune. Later on his only son died. Then in 1873 he arranged for his family to go to Europe. At the last minute due to his legal activities he could not go along and promised to follow in a couple of weeks. On November 22nd, 1873 the “Ville du Havre” the ship on which his family was travelling was struck by an English iron hulled ship the “Lockhearn”. Within a short time she sunk and of the 273 people on board only 47 survived. His four daughters were lost. Later his wife was found clinging to some wreckage. When she reached the shore she sent him a telegram: “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Grief stricken he rushed to Europe. On the way there the Captain of the ship pointed out to him the spot where his daughters had been lost. He rushed to his cabin and wrote a note to himself: “It is well, the will of God be done.” He later composed the hymn: It is well with my soul” based on the note he had written. This hymn has brought much consolation to those who believe in God and in an afterlife. Despite their tragedies he and his wife went to live in Jerusalem and helped both Muslims and Jews while they lived there.

   I only tell this story as a consolation message, that sometimes tragedies like these instead of bringing us down elevate us to a higher plain in life. No matter how hard life is we must always strive to rise above these tragedies and to carry on for those who are still around and depend on us for support and guidance. The hymn “It is well with my soul” came about under similar circumstances as those which have been experienced by my brother Eric, his wife Wilda, and their children.

   Today we remember the life of Anna Marie who despite many obstacles was able to always move forward, never looking backward, and in doing so she will be remembered with love and gratitude foremost by her husband and children and by her extended family.

    Anna Marie on this sad occasion we commend your soul to God Almighty and I am certain that you have already reached that special place in paradise which through your life and dedication to your family has been reserved for you.

     May you rest in peace.

Thomas Eric Johnson here with his daughter Anna Marie Obermaier born Johnson



Governor Moses Leverock and family 1870?




Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Today is a proud moment for our beloved Saba and for the Saba Day celebrations which were established in 1975 on the proposal of then Commissioner Will Johnson.

   Over the years Saba Day and the Saba flag have become beloved symbols of our identity as a small island in the West Indies, even though we are part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands.

    This year especially our people have shown their maturity and their pride in the fact that WE are proving that small is beautiful and also sustainable. With two major hurricanes hitting our island our people worked hard to bring the island back as much as possible after each hurricane. The Dutch marines who were sent here to help were amazed to see how our local people pitched in from the first hours after the winds abated to do what had to be done. This has not been from this year alone but with all the natural disasters which have afflicted us in the years past.

  To quote from Renan a French philosopher: “ To have common glories in the past, a common will in the present; to have done great things together; to wish to do greater; these are the essential conditions which make up a people…. And as small as Saba is we are a distinct people, with a glorious history and a unique culture. SABA PROUD was and is the slogan among the people.

    Saba has been highly praised over the years not only for its natural beauty, but for the way in which our people have kept the island clean and our buildings well maintained.

   All the way back in 1702 when the French pirate priest Father Labat visited Saba he reported how well kept the houses were and were all well painted. He described a way of life which still exists today where for example when an animal is to be butchered shares are sold in the animal for the distribution of the meat after it is slaughtered.

     The island for most of its history of pirates and slaves has been governed by local people. Governor Thomas Dinzey back two hundred years ago was not only Governor during Dutch rule but was asked to stay on and govern during both French and British occupation. There are those on Saba who still can claim descent from Governor Dinzey.

   Even today Saba enjoys being governed by its own people.

    Saba has a good reputation of balancing its books and managing its resources. A local historian claims that it is passed down from the days of piracy. The money stolen from the Spanish and other victims when brought home had to be carefully managed as there might not be another opportunity. When the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles was established Saba was the only island which turned in a horde of golden doubloons to be converted into guilders. And so it is with Dutch funds given to us in holy trust. Sabans realize that these funds have to be managed carefully as they could come to an end.

   Today Saba is extremely proud to have with us for the first time on Saba Day our beloved King and Queen. While praising our English language heritage it would be remiss of us if we did not express our enormous gratitude for the past and present help given to us by the people of Holland. We do have our differences of course in a relationship where we do not have equal rights to social benefits and we constantly remind Dutch politicians that they should do something to help those who have to live off their old age pension. But that and other matters are for local politicians to settle with the politicians on the far away continent of Europe.

    Let us all celebrate this Saba Day with a special sense of history and pride. Let us enjoy the fact that we have our beloved King and Queen in our midst. His mother, grandmother and other members of the House of Orange have always been beloved by our people. I can think of many Sabans of the past generation who would have been so proud to be here today to witness and be a part of our own island celebrations and remembrance of things past. We wish all of those present and our people at large, but especially our King and Queen a Happy Saba Day and May God continue to bless you and the rest of the Royal family.

     Thanks again for being here with us, and HAPPY SABA DAY TO ALL.



‘My dear Kees’

Introduced by: Will Johnson

A letter in Dutch to me from Arnhem dated March 9th, 1995 reads as follows:

My dear Mr. Johnson,

My wife and I both retain good memories of our meeting a week ago. In the meantime we have in our possession a few copies of “For the Love”, and I have read it with growing interest and agreement.

As we promised you hereby enclosed are a few texts which concern the married couple Hudig-van Romondt: letters from Kees to his sister in Amsterdam, the piece “To my children” which Kees wrote at the age of 80, the memories of St. Maarten, which Bessie Soeters-Hudig – daughter of Kees Hudig and Annie Hudig-van Romondt and mother of my wife – put on paper in 1945, and letters from two people who had worked under Kees and at his departure in 1893 asked for letters of reference.

Much evil has been done to Sint Maarten, we can only hope that it will not get worse. A lot will depend on the counterforces, and we wish those who want to do this all the energy and strength which will be necessary.

And what we further hope is that your following visit (your 23rd) to the Netherlands will take place within a short time and that we will have the opportunity to meet with you (and yours).

With our best wishes to you and friendly greetings

Barthold Hengeveld

The booklet “My dear Kees” contains letters from St. Martin written in 1892 by Ann Sophia van Romondt to her husband Cornelis J. Hudig during his journey to Rotterdam.

Who was Kees Hudig?

Between Front Street and Backstreet in Philipsburg, Saint Maarten, there are short connecting roads. At one time local authorities named these small streets after men who, in 19th century public life of the island, played an interesting role. One of the streets bore the name C.J. Hudig.

Cornelis Johannes (Kees) Hudig, 1846 -1930, was born in Rotterdam. He was the youngest of seven children, visited the gymnasium in Rotterdam and went to Delft to study engineering. Before he had finished his studies he was invited by the ‘Exploitation Company of Salt lakes of St. Martin’ in The Hague to go to St. Martin to assist Monsieur Berne, who at that time was the director. Soon after he arrived, in 1869, Berne retired and Hudig was appointed director.

During 24 years he served the Company with all his energy and engineering skills. He improved the quality of the salt and after years of effort even attained a modest profit for the Company.

But the salt works did not yield the results expected by the Company. Johan Hartog, in his book ‘De Bovenwindse Eilanden’, published in 1964 by De Wit, Aruba, gives some reasons:

-the abundance of rain (as compared with the Leeward Islands);

-the frequency of typhoons in this region;

– the difficulty of getting schooners loaded: the ships had to be anchored in the Great Bay for days, during which the salt was picked from the heaps, headed to barges lying ashore and thus brought to the schooner;

-the increasing competition and the import restrictions in the USA.

In the weekly journal ‘De Ingenieur” 1905 nr 25 p 402 -412 Hudig, who was in the editorial staff of the journal since 1901, described ‘De Zout-industrie op het eiland St. Martin’ and, from personal experience, gave additional reasons:

  • The unfavorable situation of the Great Pond, at the base of the Cul-de-Sac and other hills, from which rainwater poured into the pond;
  • The composition of the bottom of the pan: silt, mud from the surrounding hills, with the effect that salt could not be shoveled with spades but had to be lifted by hand and washed in the brine before it was loaded in rafts, a labour-demanding job. After the abolition of slavery labour had become expensive.

From St. Martin Hudig corresponded with his family in Rotterdam. His youngest sister, Maartje Hudig (1845-1941), had married an Amsterdam, Jean Francois van der Waarden. Four of Kees’ letters to Maartje have been saved.

In a letter of May 9, 1871 he writes: you inquire after my acquaintances; almost all are van Romondts, like Diederik, his wife, his daughter Susan and his sister Albertine.’

This Diederik was Diederik Charles, then 36 years of age, resident of the van Romondt’s country house “Mary’s Fancy’ in Cul de Sac.

Between the many Van Romondts Kees further mentions, there appears: ‘Robert van Romondt, his mother and his sister Ann Sophia’. Ann Sophia was then 21 years old.

In 1872 he writes; ‘This day we are going to sail in the pan with a company of ladies and gentlemen, I hope this time no misses will fall into the pan.’

And in the same letter:’ did you ever imagine your little brother to be a jurist? Neither did I but other folks took a different view and appointed me member of the ‘Court of Justice’!’

Kees Hudig married Ann Sophia van Romondt January 18th, 1877.


Ann Sophia van Romondt (1849-1926) was born in St. Martin. She was one of the third generation of Van Romondts on the island: her grandfather Diederik Johannes (1781-1849) came to the West in 1801. In 1804 he married Ann Hassell (1784-1845), daughter of a planter. They had eight children, five of them produced their forty-eight grandchildren. In 1820 Diederik Johannes was appointed ‘gezaghebber’ (governor) of St. Martin.

Diederik’s second son Diederik Christiaan (1807-1865) married Susann Pietersen from St. Barth’s. His younger brother George Illidge (1809 -1854) married Angelina Petersen, sister of Susann. Thus the (twelve) children of Diederik Christiaan and the four of George Illidge were first cousins in the double sense.

Diederik Christiaan’s first son was Diederik Charles (1835 – 1904), owner of ‘Mary’s Fancy’; he married Ann Mary du Cloux (1834-1893); he married Ann Mary du Cloux (1834-1893); their fourth child was Diederik Christiaan (1871-1948), who in his later years had some fame as ‘Mr.D.C.’


George Illidge died at the age of 44. His wife, ‘Miss Gina’, was left with four children. In a few years the oldest son, Charles (1841-1913) left Saint Maarten for Martinique, where he raised a family. The youngest son died at the age of sixteen. Only Robert (1843-1878) and Ann Sophia remained.

There was, however a big ‘extended family’: most of the gentleman’ in Saint Maarten were relatives, and social intercourse was flourishing.


Apart from visits to the neighboring islands Ann Sophia before her marriage had never been abroad. The honeymoon In January 1877 brought her to a wintery Rotterdam and a big family-in-law.

Head of the family in Rotterdam was Kees’ oldest brother, Jan (1838-1924), ship broker and ship owner, member of the city council, patron of the arts, widower with five daughters and one son. One of his sisters, Marie, took care of the children.

Ann Sophia (Annie), though cherishing a keen interest in all her husband’s family, suffered from the cold and bustle of the big city and was happy to be back in Saint Martin.

In the ensuing eleven years their seven children were born: Lina (1878), Nellie (1879) Bessie (1881), Jan (1882), Annie (1884), Frans (1886) and Gaston (1888).

The Hudig family lived in upper Front Street until their departure for Holland: all these years the nanny Ellen Nadoll was with the children.

1892 was a crucial year: the salt ponds did not yield enough. The Exploitation Company sent Adriaan (Ad) ter lag, twenty years of age, to assist Kees Hudig. Moreover: the daughters were in need of further education and epileptic Jan had to be taken care of. It was decided that Kees would make the long journey to Holland.

Six times during his absence Anne had the opportunity to send letters. The older children in turn added their messages. Kees preserved these letters.


Kees Hudig arrived back in Saint Maarten mid July 1892. Clearly he had prepared the departure of the whole family. One day, early in 1893 the’ Caribee ‘ anchored near Point Blanche, took the family on board and brought them to the States, from where after some time they embarked for Rotterdam.

For six weeks the family was accommodated at Kees’ sisters’ and brothers’ in Rotterdam; after that they lived in The Hague.

After several other jobs Kees in 1901 was appointed deputy-editor of the weekly journal ‘De ingenieur’. At this post he remained until 1926: at the age of 80 he took leave.

For many years Annie and Kees lived with three of their children. Ann Sophia never really got used to Holland, she missed Sin Maarten. She died at the age of 76, early in 1926.

Engelina (Lina), 1878-1931, lived with her parents until their death.

Cornelia Johanna (Nellie), 1879-1960, studied history of art and eventually was appointed conservator of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; in the family ‘aunt Nellie’ was renowned as a narrator, she was great in oral history.

Elisabeth (Bessie), 1881- 1955, attended the art academy in The Hague; in Indonesia she married D.H. Soeters in 1907 and there her three children were born.

Jan, 1882-1934, stayed with his parents until he was admitted to the Institution of epileptics in December 1927.

Ann Sophia (Annie), 1884-1967, married S.H. Stoffel, factory manager, and lived with him in Delft where her four children were born.

Frans, 1886-1928 studied for the office of notary, stayed with his parents. He acquired a renal disease, stayed with his sister Bessie in Woerden from 1927 and died young.

Gaston, 1888-1965 was a deputy manager in Indonesia. He married twice and had a daughter and two sons.

While typing this in the booklet I found a handwritten note dated March 2, 1995 which reads:

Senator William S. Johnson

“To the historian and lover of Saint Maarten my wife and I present the document “My dear Kees’, containing the letter, written in 1892, by lovable Ann Sophia Hudig –van Romondt to her husband Cornelis Johannes Hudig, longtime manager of the Salt lakes of St. Martin.

Yours Sincerely

Berthold Hengeveld, medecin.

The letters are very interesting as it gives an interesting look on life in St. Martin in 1892 and also one of the daughters wrote an interesting story of life growing up back in St. Martin at the time. I will ask the family for permission before proceeding with those letters. I have had no contact with them in years and for all I know they may have published the information they shared with me in book form.

What I will do for this article though is to add two interesting letters written in the same handwriting and both dated St. Martin, March 15th, 1893 and addressed to Mr. C.J. Hudig Esq.

Respected Sir,

I have heard with much regret and heart felt sorrow that you intends leaving us for your native country. Yet I cherished the hope that it would not be in a time like this when we so much needs you. But I have now seen that it is the fact, and so shortly permit me then, Sir, to turn you thanks for the many benefits which I have derived daily from work given me by your generous hands. Sir, I feels grateful & thankful for the many dollars which I have made in your service. I have always took pleasure in serving you and I feel morally convinced that I will never serve under a better. My grandest wishes is that when on your voyage home, yourself and family may have one of the pleasantest shortest and best of passages, and that in your own land or whosesoever you may travel; may God’s blessings, health, wealth and long life attend you and your family. Such Sir is the heart felt wishes of your obedient R (obert) A Cannegieter

Now Sir I have served you long and I believe honestly and I know not what change may take place, or where I may travel and I feel a recommendation from you would worth me much. It is therefore Sir that I ask you please to confer that last favor on yours Adrianus Cannegieter. The other letter in the same tone but somewhat different wording is from James Henry Labega.

In 1994 Maarten J. Stoffel found the letters from his grandmother Annie van Romondt to her husband Kees Hudig, written in 1892, between old papers. He handed them to his cousin Joy Hengeveld-Soeters, their granddaughter, and her husband. The latter is responsible for copying, introducing and annotating the letters.

An interesting final note is that Mr. Adriaan (Ad) ter Laag, who at the age of twenty, was sent in 1892 by the company to assist Kees Hudig also found himself a wife among the Van Romondt family.


Sint Eustatius in 1819

 Sint Eustatius in 1819

By; Will Johnson

    On August 27th, 1819 the Governor-General of St. Eustatius, St. Martin and Saba made a report over the general situation on St. Eustatius which was sent to the Ministry of Colonies. It affords the efforts to look back which differences the St. Eustatius of 130 years ago shows with that of today.

    The small Statia is situated nearly one thousand kilometers to the North-East of Curacao. The report describes it as elongated round, with a circumference of five hours, extending from: North to South 9000 feet and from the East to the West 15.000 feet. According to recent information the surface area if about 21 square kilometers.

    The description goes on to read: “The South-East and North-West points of this island are formed by two high mountains, which because of their very steep descent to the sea at some places cannot be circumvented. The South-East point consists of only one round mountain, which in former centuries must have had fiery eruptions. Its crown and crater as well as the deep valley within it gives this impression. Also the name of the Quill which the inhabitants have given to it, is derived from this. The North-Westerly point has many tops, of which some are inaccessible ravines.

    The high plain which lies between these two mountains on the South Westerly side of it, the Upper Town Village or the Upper Town and the principal fort are situated. It is the only one on the island and slopes gently on the North-East and East sides to the sea where on some locations some boats and canoes can land. On the South-West side of the aforementioned plain, as far as the coast extends, artificially cut out perpendicular to the sea, the height there is in excess of one hundred feet above sea level.

    The small strip which because of this has been formed between the aforementioned high plain and the sea and is called The Bay. Being that the widest part is around one hundred steps and a length of around one quarter going is occupied with a double row of houses and warehouses, comprising the Lower village of Lower town. From there one can climb up on three separate wide paths which have been carved out in perpendicular style and partially paved over. The middle or oldest path which leads to the Fort Hollandia or ‘Oranje” , and the new path of about eight hundred steps situated on the South-East side are very steep and tiresome to climb up; less steep and easier to climb up is the North-Westerly path which leads to the battery ‘Amsterdam’.

   This descriptive peace contained in the last alinea, would today [1949)] sound a little bit otherwise. The long road formerly leading through the Lower village is now only partially existing and difficult to recognize. The long row of houses and warehouses has disappeared. However not without a trace, because he who stands on the edge of the plus-minus 40 meters high plain above the Bay path, can see clearly (when it is calm and there is clear weather at any rate) the foundations of the once enormous mansions and warehouses which were once the pride and wealth of St. Eustatius.

    Houses which fetched a crazy high rent. Houses of which the lower floor were so full with merchandise , that through a trap door in the top floor bales and crates were pushed up to the ceilings. Sometimes the merchandise had to be heaped up in the streets, with no other cover than a gigantic piece of canvas. The former Lower Town of St. Eustatius in the second half of the eighteenth century experienced sometimes two thousand (2000) to three thousand (3000) merchant ships per year anchored in the roadstead.

    The former ‘Fort Hollandia’ or ‘Oranje’ is presently called ‘Fort Oranje’, although it is no longer a fort. The walls since a long time have been demolished, and the canons only have meaning as historical curiosities. . (*Translator, I do not know what the author means by this. Was the Fort much larger and extended further into the town in past times? The walls of the fort are still in place).

    The middle section has a small public garden with a Memorial to Admiral de Ruyter; besides that one side has several small public buildings.

    The three paths leading to the Upper Town still exist. In 1930 on the middle one or the Old Bay Path was still in use, because then there were no motor vehicles on the island. These do appear at the present time to be there and then the North-Westerly light sloping path will again be used.

    That the foundations of the former Lower Town, about one and a half kilometers, at present lie in the water, has absolutely nothing to do with the digging of the Panama canal, as a Statian with all necessary force wanted me to believe, but is more a result of the sinking of the middle section of St. Eustatius . This consists of a more loose material, volcanic sand and small stones. One heavy rainfall of grinding a gully in the ground of a meter and a half. According to my personal conviction this island in long gone days must have consisted of two small islands with a narrow and shallow sea strait in between them. This small strait throughout the ages was filled in because of the volcanic ash and other materials from the explosions of the crater. On the West side of the island, where the town lies, exactly half way between the Quill and the Little Mountains, along the coast the sinking of the land is more pronounced. It appears to me that in the last 150 years the land has been sinking at a rate of around one decimeter per year and that is very much.

    Concerning the water supply of the island [in 1819] the report notes;

   “There are no springs and the water is obtained by catching the rain in cement cisterns of which each home is provided with one. On some plantations there are also wells of 120 to 140 feet depth, but the water of these wells is mostly brackish and only suitable for the cattle to drink. “

    The cisterns of St. Eustatius have for a good part gone the way of the rest of the island which means that most of them are in an extremely bad condition. There are however still many good and useful cisterns. These are mostly very elongated, carved out of the ground [and not cemented on top of the ground as most of them are on Curacao] and provided with a roof in the form of a barrel. They catch the water off the gutters of the roof, but because they are dug in the ground, a stand-alone cistern can also catch water from a piece of land cemented over on an incline towards the cistern where the water flows into the cistern via a hole at the end of the cistern plain.

    The population of St. Eustatius according to a census taken in 1817 consisted of:

507 Whites

336 Free colored’s

1748 Slaves

This makes for a total residents of 2591 people.

For the year 1818 these figures amounted to;

501 Whites

302 Free Colored’s

1865 Slaves

Which gives a total of 2668 souls.

   What concerns religion, there are 218 Protestants of which the greater part consists of Calvinists and Episcopalians 5 Lutherans, 6 Methodists, 30 Roman Catholics, one Quaker and 5 Jews.

   In earlier years there must have been a lot more Jews on St. Eustatius. They had a Synagogue of which the walls are still standing to this day.

    Thirty Catholics on St. Eustatius was by far not the lowest figure. In later years it would fall to under ten, only to increase after the arrival of Missionaries. In 1930 the amount of Catholics was around 250. In 1935 it was still the same.

   In 1819 St. Eustatius had two medical doctors of which one was appointed as officer of health at the garrison and served there. We know an island with a population twice the size of that which St. Eustatius had in 1819, and which has a much larger garrison and which has to make do with only one doctor. [* Translator: I don’t know which island the good priest is referring to here. It could not be Sint Eustatius as in 1935 the population had dropped to 1198 inhabitants, in 1948 this was 921 inhabitants and in 1960 the population rose to 1014 inhabitants and there was no garrison on the island in those years].This chapter of the book was written in 1949 and the book was published in 1951.

From the book: “Onze Bovenwindse Eilanden” by Father M.D. Latour O.P. (Curacao 1951). Translated from the Dutch by Will Johnson.

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