The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”


Posting parts of the Government Information Service for the year 1971 when there were elections going on and also the pier was being built. Mr. Carl Anslyn was the man in charge. Because of a new political party coming in The WIPM and the financial restraints on the government at the time we let that and a number of other political jobs go. When the economy improved various times attempts were made to publish it again. But here we are dealing with 1971 as that will show the lead up to the building of the harbour


The F ort Bay as it looks now. Plans are far advanced to build a new and improved harbor further to the East which will accommodate yachts and small cruise ships.

which made a big difference in the lives of the people who lived here.Scan1244

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In 1934  and 1935 a sort of pier was built along the range of rocks and you can see from this photo that a wall was built to the other rock but the first big waves took it out and the idea was abandoned and the pier was seldom used except on an exceptionally calm day to land passengers.


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Lots of heavy equipment like never seen on the island before was a cause for much excitement by the local population who followed the developments very closely.


Fort Bay, Saba 1915.

The Fort Bay as it used to look around 1900.



This photo is from before the fisherman’s pier was built years later.


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Minister Leo Chance native of Saba was responsible to move the project which had been drowned in red tape further to completion. The pier was named in his honor. I am there in the middle with the goatee and dark glasses.



The Ladder Bay was also used especially when there was rough weather at the Fort Bay. 


This was an article showing off the new pier with the ‘Antilia” docked up to it as well as showing that the other situation had now come to an end after more than 350 years of landing this way.

Hartog Collection - Saba - dept. Arubiana/Caribiana - Biblioteca Nacional Aruba

I found this in my old photo collection. The plan is outlined how to move the harbour project of 1934 forward. Good thing it failed as that would have been all we would have gotten with the mentality towards Saba as it was before we had local elections which produced leaders who could advance the cause of the people of Saba to make life easier fr all living on Saba today.



Me , Will Johnson, age 16 next to the Sports Field in Brakkeput


Brakkeput boys 1987

On the 50th anniversary of the Boys Town some of the former Brothers visited the islands. The boys from Saba who had spent time in the Boys Town took care of them and after a church mass a reception was held for the brothers and invited guests at Scouts Place.


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One of the Brothers cleaning up the sleeping quarters for the younger group of boys. This is where I landed in 1955. Those cots were made of hard canvas and were comfortable.




This is the food truck carrying food to the various buildings. That is me running behind the truck, age 14 then, and Ronny Leverock also from Saba used to drive the truck.


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Some of the boys right to left Boysie Richardson of St. Maarten, Roy Smith of Saba and one of Heskett Wiliams brothers. Will complete the names when I get them.


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In back from right Roland Peterson, Hyacinth Halley and John Alton Johnson, in front one of the Willams’ boys and then me Will Johnson.


A Mass was held in Brakkeput  on November 1st, 1987. Among the speakers were Prime Minister Minguel Pourier and I also spoke on behalf of those from the Windward Islands. We had to leave early as I was Senator then and we were hosting one of the Presidents of Venezuela and had to attend a reception being held for him 

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There were three estates Brakkeput Abou, Brakkeput Mei Mei and Brakkeput Ariba where the Boys Town was located. All of the shore line was not developed back then and we had the entire lagoon to ourselves.















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By: Will Johnson

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Mr. Lionel Bernard Scot was a contractor on all three Dutch Windward Islands. You can see him on the pier which he built standing on the pier behind the little boy on the rocks.If you look carefully you will see a wall being built in the sea to connect the ranging rock to the rest but it was soon washed away and the project remained with the main structure until 1972.

Lionel Bernard Scot was born on St.Martin on January 28th, 1897.

He was from a large family. He was one of six brothers and ten sisters. From an early age he was very ambitious and went to the Dominican Republic in search of work as so many people from St.Martin did at the time. While there he went to vocational school.

On the anniversary of the 100th year of his birth I was privileged to give a speech in the Methodist Church about his life. For this article I will quote from that as well as personal memories of this famous man.

After I had made the speech my brother Freddie told me the following story. Our father Daniel was a foreman for Mr. Scot when he did construction on Saba in the nineteen thirties. When Freddie went to school in St.Martin in 1947, our mother wrote a letter to Mr. Scot to keep an eye on him. The well known Mrs. Zilah Richardson who had a guesthouse on the backstreet was Mr. Scot’s aunt. On Sunday evenings Mr. Scot would pick her up and take her to church. Freddie was standing on Front street next to the Methodist church at the Davis home where he lived. He was smoking a cigarette. When Freddie saw Mr. Scot passing he quickly threw the cigarette over the wall. At the same time Mr. Scot slammed the brake and reversed the car and called out;” That wouldn’t be Johnson’s boy smoking a cigarette, would it?” Freddie said that he was so frightened that he was very careful after that with cigarette smoking thinking that Mr. Scot would have spies checking on him.


Queens Birthday 1959 with Island Council Member Mr. Scot standing next to Mrs. Hertha Beaujon-Pietersz wife of Lt. Governor J.J. Beaujon.

Of all the people I knew as a young boy on St.Martin, Mr. Scot was one of those who left the greatest impression on me. As I recall the first time I met him, the poet Longfellow’s words come to mind: “Noble by birth, yet nobler by great deeds.” I was not the only one impressed with Mr. Scot .Former Minister Leo Chance told me once that “Scot was such an imposing figure, I was scared of him.” I never thought I would hear him say that he was afraid of anybody. At the time Mr. Chance was Minister and he was such a tough one that other politicians used to use his name as a BOO BOO man to scare their children into good behavior.

Yes somehow when one met Mr. Scot one immediately got the impression of being in the presence of a man of noble birth. His strength was in quietness and in confidence.

The Scot family was very poor with few opportunities available to them to improve their financial status. However by the time he passed away on January 3rd 1966 Mr. Scot was considered the first black aristocrat on St.Martin. He was owner of an estate of the former masters and had been so successful in business that he could live in more comfort and with fewer financial worries than the estate owners of old. His financial success also gave him time to dedicate himself to public life.


Seated from front to right. Then Commissioner Albert Claudius  Wathey and his wife Mrs. Eva Wathey, then Commissioner Milton Josiah Peters, then Island Council Member Lionel Bernard Scot, then Mrs. Hertha Beaujon and her husband Lt. Governor Jan Jacob Beaujon 1959.

In the Dominican Republic Mr. Scott was also active in the Marcus Garvey Movement (Universal Negro Improvement Association). After acquiring a certain amount of knowledge, and still in his early thirties, he returned to his beloved St.Martin and its people with a burning desire to serve them both. Mr. Scot co-founded the Philipsburg Mutual Improvement Association in 1932. This was the first benevolent Association ever established on St.Martin and Mr. Scot was its president for many years. He remained a faithful member until his death.

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Mr. Scot as a young man showing ambition and he started out early on as a building contractor and then went into other businesses .

“De Slag om Slag” newspaper in its edition of August 7th, 1937 reports on a meeting to commemorate the Associations 5th anniversary as follows: “The President Mr. L. Bernard Scot’s address exhorted his people to stick to, and practice the principles of the Association: Unity, Love and Friendship. He endeavored to convince them that without unity nothing can be achieved. That ,whatever has ever been achieved by the individual or by nations and peoples, it was as a result of the aforementioned virtues. “The society,” he said, “can only live and flourish through the efforts of real men and women who with their backs to the wall are willing to fight adversity with bull-dog grip determination.”

Besides looking after the welfare of their members the PMIA and other organizations, in former times, also held parades to draw attention to their activities.  “De Slag om Slag” (Blow for Blow) of September 17th, 1938, reports on such a parade.

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Mr. A. R. Brouwers newspaper carried various article about the activities Mr. Scot was involved in. The Methodist Church, his interest in social activities and his love of horses and so on.

“On Tuesday the 6th instant, at about 4 o’clock p.m. the Philipsburg Mutual Improvement Association staged a parade which went around the town. First came the National flag, which was followed by the band. Then, followed a banner of Orange cloth with ‘LONG LIVE THE SOVEREIGN HOUSE OF ORANGE” painted on it. Then followed the members of the P.M.I.A. all dressed in their uniforms with ORANGE sashes from shoulder to waist. This parade stopped for a few minutes in front of the Court House and then continued around the town, with the band playing in front.”

Mr. L.B. Scot was appointed by the colonial government as foreman of the Public Works department of the Windward Island and he filled this position well for over twenty two years before retiring in 1952. There are many buildings and roads in the Windward Islands which are existing monuments to his ability as a builder and a contractor. For example the Methodist Manse in back of the Methodist Church, Mt. William Hill road, the Governor’s residence and the Government school on St.Eustatius, the Harbour Building, the old pier and the former Administration Building (now the Library) on Saba. In “De Slag om Slag” of 1938 we can again read: “We understand that Mr. L.B. Scottof this place is expected in St.Eustatius by the following trip of the S.S. Baralt next week to begin the building of these farm houses. Mr. Scott is also expected to build, while in St.Eustatius, a dwelling house for the Government Agriculturist.”

When he returned from Santo Domingo, L.B.Scot was considered a young “upstart” by the older folks. However, Scot believed that there was a job to be done in St.Martin, and that he was the one to do the job. That conviction, coupled with his great devotion to his mother and his desire to be near her, encouraged this noble son of the soil to “hold on.”

In 1930 at the age of 33 Mr. Scot was given his “big break” when he got the contract to build the Methodist Manse in Philipsburg. This building which stands as a monument to his construction ability, won for him the respect of the older folks.

Mr. Scot served as a member of the Agricultural Association. He was also quite active in public service. He served on the Court of Policy as a member during the colonial system of government. When the Netherlands Antilles acquired autonomy within the framework of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in 1950 he entered active politics. He was elected to the Island Council of the Windward Islands in 1951 and served as a member until his death in 1966.

I have copies of some of the minutes of the Island Council meetings of the early nineteen fifties. Mr. Scot having dealt in construction with Saba people in the Island Council meeting of June 17th, 1954 said: “I think that a raise in wages is fair and I regret that Mr. Lambert Hassell has waited too long to apply for a raise. He said that he had always admired Mr. Hassells’ work and knows that only a Saba man could do what he had done. In the meeting of November 29th, 1951 on a proposal to raise the salary of the Commissioners from one hundred guilders per month to seven hundred, Mr. Scot said: “Mr. President, I think seven hundred a month too high and I propose an amount of five hundred guilders per month be asked for.” Many tax payers today who ridicule excessive government spending would wish to have a man like him still around.

His private life was centered on his estate his family and his horses. His fondness for horses was known throughout the Caribbean and probably acquired during his years in the Dominican Republic. Two of his favourite horses were “Pensamiento” and “Duke” handsome brown stallions. In the newspaper “De Slag Om Slag” of August 1st 1936 we read the following under the headline RACE HORSE IMPORTED:

“On Saturday evening 25th ultimo a mare was landed here which had arrived from St.Eustatius by S.S. Baralt for Mr. L.B.Scott. It is said that Mr. Scot imported this mare to race against the white horse “Apollo”, belonging to the Beauperthuy Brothers.”Apollo” is the horse which won the race on June 24th, while running against Mr. Scot’s horse “Pensamiento.” We hope to see this race on the Queen’s Birthday, August 31st.”

When I was doing research for my book “For the Love of St.Martin”, his son Mr. J.F. York shared correspondence he had with his father when he Mr. York was living on Aruba. He knew that I had known Mr. Scot well. I was fascinated by him. When he came to town on one of his horses it was like a Roman emperor of old coming into the city. My first encounter with him was when he came to let me know who of the Receivers he had had problems with in the past.Either they had taxed him too much or sent him the same bill twice in a row and so on. In the meantime he had put his big cowboy hat on the table I was working at and was staring me straight in the eye. I told him that I was only a junior clerk in the Post office and was just helping out here and there. His answer to that was:” I know that you are Johnsons’ boy. You have education and ambition. These people in this building are no challenge for you. Just now you will be calling the shots here so I am informing you in advance just in case.” It is remarkable that a few months later Lyman Halley came to me and asked me what I had done to Claude. He said that Claude was down at the Lido Bar taking a turn in Fons O’Connor shouting at him to tell him who was the boss in the Court House, he or that so and so Will Johnson. You see how you get a reputation without deserving it?

Much of Mr. Scot’s philosophy of life has been preserved thanks to Mr. York sharing those letters which he received from his father while he Mr. York worked for the Lago refinery on Aruba. I would like to share a few excerpts from those letters:

March 25th 1949: “My plans I am sure will be helpful to you all in later years even if I am gone. While we are here we must do something to leave behind when we are gone.”

June 21st 1951: There is one thing you can boast about me; whatever I am entrusted to do, I shall do the best of my ability, God being my helper. And rest assured I cannot be bought at no price to do anything that I know is wrong.

May 18th 1955: It is true that everyone should be able to think for themselves, but can they do it? So someone must shoulder the burden to help the less fortunate and I feel that should be the job of those who have the chance of knowing better to help them. What we need is conscientious men to fight this battle …There is no success without sacrifice.

July 26th 1962: “I am 65 years old and I have plenty to thank God for; if I am not a good father I feel sure I am not the worst…I was working for my mother and her children since I was 14 years and thank God I have nothing to regret… and I am not worthy to thank Him for His grace and mercies to me.”

Mr. Scot died on January 6th, 1966. His funeral was described by the Windward Islands Opinion as the largest ever witnessed on the island. Most of the members of the Island council of the Windward Islands attended the funeral, as well as dignitaries from neighbouring islands, among them the Honourable Robert Lewellyn Bradshaw, Premier of St.Kitts-Nevis and Anguilla. At the grave site many speeches were made by persons who knew and had worked closely with Mr. Scot. In his speech ,the Lt. Governor of the Windward Islands J.J.”Japa” Beaujon, said: “St.Maarten will never forget you, Scot. Rest in peace and, even as you will rise in glory and eternity, your work in St.Maarten will always be gratefully remembered, will expand, and will last.”

Mr. Scott was honoured in many ways, while alive and after his death. He was awarded the gold medal attached to the Order of Oranje Nassau by Her Majesty the Queen for his services to the Windward Islands. On January 28th, 1974 the Postal Services issued a Postal stamp in his honour. And on January 28th, 1968 the road leading from the Public cemetery at Little Bay through Cul-de-Sac to Reward estate was officially named the L.B.Scott road.


At the time of Mr. Scot’s death in 1966 St. Maarten was still relatively undeveloped and his beloved valley of Cul de Sac partly pictured here was still being used to raise cattle. 

I wrote in a Curacao newspaper at the time that:” the late Mr. Scot had made himself an inspirational example to the youth of St.Maarten, by linking his name to a road in the district where he was born, grew up and worked for the welfare of his people.

What can we today learn from the life of Mr. Scot you may ask? Each generation is supposed to produce its own leaders based on existing norms and values.

One of the monumental figures of the literature of the whole of human civilizations, Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his epic poem:”The passing of Arthur”, wrote:

“The old order changeth, yielding to new,

And God fulfills himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”

Mr. Scot’s legacy is established and can be studied and emulated. The essential task for young St. Martiners, the new order, is to study the lives of those pioneers who went on before them, and through dedication to purpose, honesty and sacrifice, confront the central issue. The central issue being that the call on St.Maarten today is for fresh thinking, new directions and most of all honest and courageous leadership.

Those same challenges faced Mr. Scot in a different way as a young man, and he met them beyond the expectations of his generation. And that is why so many years after his death we can still pay tribute to him and declare how proud we are to have known this great St.Martin son of the soil.                                                                                             * * * * * * * * .


A Visit to Saba in 1935

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George A. Seaman, Author.Scan1115Scan1116


Home of George A. Seaman, in Break Heart Hill locally called “Brickett Hill”


George Seaman

George in front of his verandah.



Ideal Location for a man who loved to write and meditate on the  affairs of the Universe.


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We used to visit him often. Here he is with Mrs. Enid Renz my mother-in-law, my wife Lynne and me in the background.


The Hill on Saba once owned by Pan American Airways.


Thais Hill property of Pan American International Airways.

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

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

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

Pan American approaching Juliana Airport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Passengers boarding the Pan American flight at Miami

Second deed August 5th, 1945.

Appeared before Maximillian Joseph Huith:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Third deed August 5th, 1945.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Mr. Charles Stellrecht here checking the communications equipment.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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



A Mystery Solved For the Good Folks of Liscomb

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The Bessie A. Crooks at anchor in Canada.

A Mystery Solved For The Good Folks of Liscomb.
By: Will Johnson
As a boy I used to hear my mother telling how four first cousins of my father had been lost in the First World War on a schooner off the coast of Brazil. In my book “Tales from My Grandmother’s Pipe”, I mentioned the following: “…Quite a few Sabans lost their lives on schooners torpedoed by the German U-boats in World War I. In one case alone my great-grandparents on father’s side namely George Rodney Johnson and Sarah Elizabeth Vlaun lost four grandsons at one time on a schooner called the “Bessie A. Crooks”, which was lost on January 26, 1917 in the Gulf of Pernambuco, Brazil.”
After the advent of the internet someone from Caribbean Consulting posted the entire book on the internet. They never asked my permission of course but that is the way it went.
Last year I received a letter from Mrs. Ruth M. (Rumbley) Legge from Liscomb Canada who is doing a history of her town. I will quote parts of what she wrote to me as her book is not published yet but the story of the “Bessie A. Crooks” is of interest to Sabans as well and to the readers of “Under the Sea Grape Tree.”
Mrs. Legge writes: “One of the enduring mysteries among Liscomb folk was the disappearance of the “Bessie A. Crooks”. The late Allison Pye recalled that often, after church, people would stand and discuss whatever might have become of the Liscomb-owned vessel that disappeared without a trace during W.W.1.

Scan0926Built at the D.C. Mulhall shipyard in Liverpool, Nova Scotia in 1913, the “Bessie A. Crooks” was a three master (“tern”) schooner, a popular vessel at the time. With an official # of 131,203, she measured 112.6 x 28.6 x 10.4 ft. and her registered tonnage was 198.62. Her master, Capt. Arthur Crooks, was also
her Managing Owner, holding sixteen of her 64 shares. He was also part owner of a number of other schooners during his lifetime.
The “Bessie A. Crooks” began a career in the West Indies & Brazilian trade. It was very common for Nova Scotian vessels to transport principally dried fish and/or lumber to the Caribbean islands or South America and bring rum, molasses, sugar and other goods back north. While specific cargoes for this ship are largely unknown, it is likely that many of them fell into these categories. Her first port of call was St.John’s, New Foundland, and from there she sailed to Bahia, a state in Brazil, where she arrived on 26 February 1914, and on to Barbados, arriving 10 April, thence to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and Newcastle, New Brunswick and on to New York. For three years she plied a similar route, between the Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland, Brazil and the Caribbean, occasionally calling into northeastern U.S. ports.
Capt. Arthur Crooks was listed as her master on every trip she made until the beginning of November of 1916. According to oral history passed down through the Crooks family, his wife, Elizabeth A. “Bessie” (Redmond), for whom the vessel was named, had a dream or premonition that frightened her, and she forbade her husband to go on the next voyage. Be that as it may, while in Halifax, the vessel took on a new master, Capt. Frederick Lorenzo Walley, of Hantsport, Nova Scotia. She left Halifax in late October for St. John’s, arriving there on the 31st and loaded a cargo for Brazil. Sometime prior to 5 December, she set sail once again for southern waters and was never heard from again … at least not back home in Spanish Ship Bay and Liscomb.


Captain Arthur  Crooks.

Although Capt. Crooks was not on board on that trip, two Liscomb men were and both were related to him: his younger brother, Seth “Murphy” Crooks and his nephew Kenneth Hartling, both of Spanish Ship Bay. Descendants of Seth Crooks, Sr., who for many years was the lighthouse keeper on Liscomb Island, and his wife Sarah (Robinson), all of the Crooks family were very well aware of the dangers of going to sea, but to have two of their loved ones disappear such mysterious and unsettling circumstances undoubtedly plunged the entire community into turmoil. The world was at war and, as time wore on, the assumption was that the “Bessie A. Crooks” had been sunk by the Germans. After the war, when there was still no word, and they were not among the prisoners who were returned, hopes faded.
And there it stood …gradually talked of less and less, but never forgotten around Liscomb: “What ever happened to the “Bessie A. Crooks?”. It was one of those enduring mysteries.
With the advent of the internet, research capabilities that would have been totally

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Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson-Hassell here with her niece Adelina Johnson-Hassell. Elizabeth was the widow of John Henry Johnson who was one of the Sabans lost on the “Bessie A. Crooks”  on January 26, 1917.

unimaginable to those directly affect ted by this 1917 tragedy opened new windows of opportunity. Descendants of the Crooks family and of Capt. Frederick Walley, by then spread far and wide, connected by e-mail through on-line interest groups, and shared the sparse stories told to them of this family tragedy. The posting of a history of a tiny Caribbean island called Saba provided an important breakthrough. The posting is the one referred to earlier.
Pernambuco had been a frequent port of call for the “Bessie A. Crooks” throughout her career. That is the name used by foreigners for the seaport Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco; this city is
located near the extreme eastern point of South America. In 1917 it was a city of approximately 190,000 and a regional commerce center with exports that included sugar, rum, cotton, hides, skins, was, fibers, dye woods, pineapples and other fruit. The schooner had arrived in Pernambuco by January 1917 and was reported departing on 21 January, bound for Barbados …then as overdue for Barbados … then as missing.
When contacted by e-mail, Will Johnson, the author of the historical work on Saba, was able to provide further information. No one in Saba knew where the “Bessie A. Crooks” was from or anything more about her, but somehow word had filtered back to the tiny Caribbean island as to what happened to her and when… more than had made it’s way back to Spanish Ship Bay. A mere five sq. mi. in area, Saba had a navigation school at that time and a strong maritime tradition.

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First edition of my book.

According to Johnson, Sabans also bought schooners for trading in the West Indies from Gloucester Mass., from Maine and from Nova Scotia. Of the Sabans lost on the Bessie A. Crooks he is sure of four names, Norman Zagers, James Hubert Every, John Henry Johnson, and Lorenzo Johnson (sons of Henry Johnson) and perhaps John Simmons who disappeared around the same time and who is also suspected to have been on board and one or two other Saban sailors.
Johnson goes on: “I also have a remarkable story from Madge and Agnes Johnson, born Zagers. They told me that their brother Norman Elmore Zagers was torpedoed on his way from Brazil. After World War 1 their brother Ralph received a letter from Germany stating that it was from his brother Norman. The Roman Catholic priest at the time, Father Mulder, advised him not to answer the letter as it must be an impostor. Some years ago I saw a documentary on World War 1 submarine operations and understood that the Germans in that war would take crews back to Germany. The family never heard from him again. Perhaps he thought they were not interested and death which escaped him in the first World War took him in the second world war. That is a mystery which hopefully can still be solved if by any miracle records from the First World War survived in Germany.”

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My grandfather;s brother Henry Johnson lost two sons on the schooner. Pictured here is Daniel Johnson with his wife Marie and daughters May and Cora. I do not have a picture of his brother Henry.

At last finally there is an answer for the folks of Licomb “What ever happened to the “Bessie A. Crooks?”. Sadly, it has come much too late for the old Liscomb residents who used to pause after services at St. Luke’s church to ponder her fate.”
It is important to record events of the past. Just this past week, I received an e-mail from a descendant of the Vaucrosson family of Statia who ended up in St.Barths. He had read my article on the internet. He informed me that the Vaucrosson gravesite is an elaborate one on St.Barths and that he will be coming to Saba soon to get more information from me on his great-great-grandfather whose property I now own on the historic Lower Town “The Bay” on St. Eustatius. With this article I have included a photo of the “Bessie A. Crooks” so that our people on Saba can at least see one of the schooners on which so many Saban young men in the past lost their lives.I wrote this article more than a year ago. At the request of Mrs. Legge I delayed publishing it until her book would be ready. I just received word from her that her book is now published so that I can go ahead and share this remarkable story with my readers.Her book” …shreds&nooks of land” by Ruth M. (Rumley) Legge will be presented on Saturday June 25th, at 2.30 pm at St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Liscomb, Nova Scotia. This book presentation should finally lay to rest for the people of Liscomb the nearly one century old question as to “Whatever happened to the schooner the “Bessie A. Crooks”?”

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The “Bessie A. Crooks” under sail.




dr. Julia G. Crane here being honoured for her birthday on Saba.

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In the center Gertrude Hassell wife of Benjamin Johnson. She was the one who learned how to make the ‘Spanish Work’ while studying in a boarding school ‘Mahaai’ on Curacao and introduced it to the women of Saba from which they made their living.


Celebration of the 85th anniversary of the Sacred Heart Church in The Bottom, Saba.


This is the Sacred Heart Church in The Bottom as it looks today.

Sacred Heart Church in The Bottom

Declaration by Father M. Meesters on the laying of the first stone for the new Sacred Heart Building on October 8th, 1934.

I was asked by Mr. Ronny Simmons to write a brief history on the building of the Sacred Heart Church in The Bottom. The plan is to have a commemorative service on March 19th, 2020 on the occasion of the 85th anniversary of the dedication of this building.

I have already written an article on the History of the Church of Rome on Saba. For this assignment I will go more in details on how the present church came about and the previous church buildings of the Roman Catholic Church in The Bottom. Also in the interest of those who may not know I am also proposing that a booklet be put together with other articles and photo’s of the church in the past as a keepsake by those who are interested in the history of the church on Saba, When I get a chance I will also put together a history of the St. Paul’s Conversion church in the Windward Side which was built in 1860 and thus the first Roman Catholic Church built on Saba. Both of these churches were built by the Reverend Father Joseph Philip Thomas Kock.

Star of RC church in The Bottom, Oct.1934

Once the four men arrived from Curacao construction started full swing. There were a number of Saba people too who worked on  the building and the cutting of stones. Just yesterday Eric Johnson was telling me that Commissioner Ulric Hassell (1951-1955) had told him that as a boy he had worked on the building of the new church.

The first and most famous Roman Catholic Priest and companion of pirates, Pere J.B.Labat visited Saba on Sunday April 17th, 1701 and landed at the Ladder Bay at 10 am. He was received by then Commander Jacob Leverock who invited him for lunch at his home. Father Labat gave a good description of life on the island back then. He was also invited in the homes of several French refugees. He left two days later after having purchased six pairs of excellent shoes made on the island back then.

The dominant Christian religion in 1701 were the Presbyterians who had a church on the grounds of the cemetery now called ‘Potters field’ behind the World War 11 monument. The hill behind it called ‘Parish Hill’ serves as a memory of those days.  When Msgr. Martinus Johannes Niewindt (born 17 May 1796 in Amsterdam died Curacao, Thursday January 12th, 1860), visited Saba in 1836 the dominant  Christian religious grouping was The Church of England or the Anglicans.

R.C. Church The Bottom under construction 1934.

Progress shown just over a month later. These are probably the skilled workers from Curacao.

Msgr. Martinus Joannes  Niewindt the Apostolic Prefect of the Roman Catholic Church of the Dutch West Indies colony then called ‘Curacao and dependencies”, visited the Windward Islands. Having been on Saint Maarten and Saint Eustatius earlier, he decided to visit Saba. On neither one of these three islands was there a Roman Catholic priest in 1836.

When Father Labat was on Saba in 1701 he did not have missionary intentions. Niewindt most certainly did. At the end of May 1836, he arrived at Ladder Bay accompanied by Manuel Romero, a Venezuelan priest who had come to Curacao a year earlier as a political refugee. Niewindt spoke French and Dutch; Romero spoke only Spanish. Saba spoke English only as it still does today. Except for some five people, the then 1800 inhabitants were illiterate. They, Msgr Niewindt and Father Romero, did bring with them some English catechism books to distribute.

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The priest inspecting the work on November 24th, 1934.

Nevertheless on June 1st, 1836, the first  recorded Holy Mass by a Roman Catholic clergyman was said on Saba. He was at the mercy of the hospitality of the Anglicans who did not understand what the Latin Mass was all about, although the ceremony of the Anglican church did not differ all that much from that of the Catholics.

This Holy Mass was held in the house of Engle James Heiliger and his wife Rebecca Heiliger born Beaks. This house much later was bought by Commissioner and Acting Lt. Governor John Godfrey Woods and it is still owned by his heirs. At that first Mass one adult and four (4) children from The Bottom and one child from St. John’s were baptized.

Progress report construction RC church The Bottom

Outside view of the progress on November 10th, 1934.

Niewindt stayed in a house at The Gap in the home of a black lady from Guadeloupe named Lahaye who lived there with her son, both Catholic and the only ones of the Roman Catholic religion on Saba. However I read in the life story of Msgr. Niewindt by father G.J.M. Dahlhaus that there were also three Roman Catholics from St. Thomas living on Saba at the time.

One of the first priests stationed on Saba was Joseph Philip Thomas Kock. He was born in Oostende Belgium on August 29th, 1825 and was ordained as a priest on Curacao on December 18th, 1852. In May of 1858 Reverend Kock started his work on Saba. He was the builder first of the St. Paul’s Conversion Church in the Windward Side in 1860, and in 1877 he also built the first  Sacred Heart Church in The Bottom. He died on August 20th, 1890 and is buried in the vault of of Peter Hassell and his wife Esther Johnson (my great aunt). The vault is located on the grounds of the church in Windward Side.

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Getting there.

The land for the church in The Bottom was purchased from the teacher Gustave Eckerman from St. Barth’s, on condition that he and his Saba wife could live in the house until they died. This building was used in the latter part of the 20th century as a Roman Catholic kindergarten. Some of those who taught there were Velma Johnson, Claudia Johnson and Janice Johnson. For the past years the building has been used as Office of the Saba Housing Foundation.

R.C. Church The Bottom roof being put on 1934.

Flags indicating that the height of the roof has been reached.

Apparently the Reverend Father John Toland (see separate article) was buried on this property as he was the grandfather of Eckerman’s wife and must have owned the property. In the church records it is claimed that he had been a Catholic and had abandoned the “true” religion and had served as preacher of the Anglican Church. The Roman Catholic archives state that father G.J.M. Dahlhaus had done a great job by leveling his grave to the ground and thereby erased all memories of his existence.

In the same year (1877) Father J.P.T. Kock the first Roman Catholic church in The Bottom was completed. From then on Father J.P.T. Kock read the Mass every Sunday. It served the communities of the Catholics of The Bottom, St. John’s, Middle Island and Palmetto Point.

Progress report construction R.C.Church 1934

December 26th, 1934 “Boxing Day” or “Second Day Christmas” as we call it. In this case cause for celebration as a lot has been achieved in just three months working by hand.


In 1909 a new larger Roman Catholic Church was built in The Bottom on the same property. In 1911 Father Laurentius Mulder showed his carpentry skills by building a steeple on the new church.

O February 16th, 1927, after the death of Captain Ernest Hugh Toland Vanterpool and his wife Elizabeth Leverock (daughter of Governor Moses Leverock), his children, none of whom were living on Saba decided to sell the house and large property. The price was $1.800.–Interesting for this history is the following; In the period leading up to 1930 or so the many captains of the time and their families pulled up anchor and moved to Barbnados, Bermuda and the United States, while other Sabans moved to Curacao and especially Aruba where there was more opportunity for long term employment with the advent of two of the world’s largest oil refineries at that time.

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Visiting delegation of priests checking on the progress of the building.

In this case the sellers of the property were living elsewhere. Captain Thomas Charles Vanterpool, brother of Captain Ernest then lived between Saba and St. Thomas In this transaction he represented the heirs to his brother’s property.

  1. Mrs. Estelle Simmons born Vanterpool, spouse of
  2. 2. Captain Engle Leverock Simmons, assisting his aforementioned wife;
  3. Blanche Vanterpool, all residing on St. Thomas.
  4. Rebecca Vanterpool born Simmons widow of the late Captain Hubert Vanterpool.
  5. Joanna Levrock Simmons born Vanterpool, spouse of Edward Austin Simmons, both (#4 and#5) residing on Barbados.
  6.  Ivy Clayton Vanterpool born Simmons widow of the late Captain William Donald Vanterpool, and
  7. Captain Charles Pitman Vanterpool, both residing in  the United States
nterior of New R.C. church in The Bottom 1935.

The inside of the church. Those two statutes are the ones which were on the altar of the old church and which were transferred in a ceremony from the old church to this new one.

The home and property were purchased for the Roman Catholic Vicar on Curacao, by the Reverend Father Matthias Petrus de Groen, who was then (1927) serving as Roman Catholic Priest on Saba..

After the property was acquired the home was immediately put to use as a presbytery and the resident priests would rotate the use of the two presbyteries and also when priests and other religious groups visited Saba they were allowed the use of the house in The Bottom.There were many more religious orders in the former Netherlands Antilles back then who paid frequent visits to the Dutch Windward Islands.

On February 15th, 1932. The Provincial Vicar visited Saba. Once again the great need for a larger church in The Bottom was considered and also of a newer school but the necessary money is lacking.

Al expectations lie with the newly appointed Bishop, His Excellency Msgr Verriet, who on February 6th has been anointed as Bishop in Venroy (Holland).

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The new Bishop Msgr. Verriet visiting Saba on February 21st, 1933. He with Administrator Xavier Krugers (in white) . The Bishop saw the need for a new church and took a firm hand in securing the funds and seeing the building to its completion.

A document dated Saba October 9th, 1934 reminds us of the start of the construction of this building. Father M. Meesters delegated by Msgr. P. Verriet laid the first stone.

Inside newly built Sacred Heart Church 1935.

St. Joseph’s Feast, March 19th, 1935 was selected for the official opening of the new church. Father de Groen was delegated to represent the Bishop for the occasion.

It is difficult to imagine that this relatively large stone building was completed in just a little over five months. Everything done by hand back then including the cutting of the stones. A great tribute to those who came from Curacao and Bonaire and those from Saba who worked along with them.

The document in the church archives reads as follows:

In the name of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Sacred Heaart Chuch The Bottom 1935.

Father M. Meesters, the resident Priest here carrying out the Holy Mass.

The first stone of this church, consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is laid by the Reverend Father M. Meesters O.P, delegated by His Excellency, Msgr P. Verriet, Apostolic Vicar of Curacao, in the presence of the two witnesses Dr. M. Berkenveld and Mrs. Elsie Krugers born Simmons, in the afternoon of the 8th of October 1934.

The leaders of this work of the House of God are the senores Joseph Cornelis and Theodoor de Lanooy, sent from Curacao by His Lordship, with two assistants Lourentio Martis and Henrique Alberto.

May this House of God be built up under the protection and blessing from Heaven and with the assistance of our dear people of Saba as a monument for the glory of God and as a true place of refuge and love for the coming generation.

Father M. Meesters

signed E.C.Krugers-Simmons

M. Berkenveld

Saba 8th of October 1934.


Photo from 1948 by Administrator Max Huith. In the picture are Sister Benedicta, Mrs. Cynthia Huith-Labega and Sister Pancratia. This building was the first church built in 1877 by Father Joseph Philip Kock in 1877. In 1948 the building was being used by the Roman Catholic Nuns and it was in this building that the first Kindergarten in The Bottom was started.

Theodoor de Lanooy, Joseph Cornelis and Juan Alberto Henrique (born 12.07.1900) all three were born on Curacao, and Johannes Laurentio Hyacinth Martis was born on the island of Bonaire (born 17.08.1893).

After only five months and some days the lovely church building was completed and dedicated.


One of the builders from Curacao sent here to help with the building of the Church was Theodoor Martinus de Lannooy. He was the grandfather of Former Minister Ersilla de Lanooy former Minister of Finance of the Netherlands Antilles. She is looking for a photograph of him to include in this sort history.

R.C. church after 1932 cyclone.

In the September cyclone of 1932 the old church was thrown off its foundations. With help from the Marines who brought some jacks from Curacao and with local volunteers it was placed back on its foundations.

From the Church Archives. May 1934. “Plans for the new church in The Bottom are moving along and has been completed to a blue print. Difficulty is that principally the costs for Saba are double as high as elsewhere.

June 1934. Cement building for The bottom has been cancelled after the estimate of the Company Dijkhof and it has now been decided to build the church in stone.

July 1934. Msgr. has decided to send a man from Curacao as foreman for the church project, however it will be a few months before he can come as the man is not yet free from work he is doing on Curacao.

August 1934. Through continuous correspondence Msgr. decided in the meantime that a start can be made by collecting stones for the project, for which Msgr. temporally sent fls. 500.–

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I am almost certain that this was the altar in the second Sacred Heart Church in The Bottom which in 1935 was turned into a school. In 1953/54/and part of 1955 I went to school in that same building.

All other foundations, ovens, cisterns will be built. under supervision of the resident priest. The stones for the church will be broken up and brought to the place where the large plans are to be carried out. The people of The Bottom are so helpful that after some weeks around 10.000 (ten thousand) hand cut  stones are lying in the yard and the costs were less than fls.500.–(five hundred guilders). Accoring to Ronny Simmons he had been told that the stone were collected from up in The Three Casles at a place called ‘The Fire Burn’ and some of those who collected the stones were Christian ‘Kaiser’ Sorton, Stanley Simmons, Joe Ben Woods, John Woods and others.

September; All of a sudden Msgr. has changed the plan for a foreman (Supervisor) from Curacao and is sending 4 strong men from Curacao, of which 2 masons and 2 carpenters to start the work. Also a lot of material such as wood and cement was sent at the same time with the steamer. The same day of arrival namely September 22nd (1934) measurements were taken and the plan laid out. The work is progressing well and the relations between the workers is good.


Sacred Heart School with students in 1967. Sister Waltruda in the picture on the left.

Since the new church building was taken into use it has experienced many sad occasions with the f funeral ceremonies for such Notables from The Bottom as the former Commissioner Captain Mathew Levenston, as well as Father Anthony Jansen who served the church on Saba for a number of years, and otters. Also occasions for joy in the Roman Catholic community when on July 4th, 1980 the Liturgy of Ordination of Deacon Simon Wilson was celebrated on the Sacred Heart Church. The President was the Rt. Rev. Mgr. W.M.Ellis, Bishop of Willemstad, while the Master of Ceremonies was the Very Rev. Fr. A. Heillegger. Father Simon Wilson was the son of August Wilson  and Ann Dunlock August was awarded with a medal by His Holiness the Pope, for his many years of service to the Sacred Heart Church. The altar cloth for the new church was made by Thelma Zagers and others. The first child to be baptized in the new church was Mary Pansy Sagers born January 10th 1934, daughter of Charles Reuben and Eugenie. The baptism took place on April 16th, 1934. The first person to be buried in the new cemetery was James Dinzey (Carrie’s father).


Miss Ella Roosberg who worked for the priests here standing next to the grave of her sister.

Mrs. Carmen Simmons-Nicholson has been the organist of this church for many years and has been a great helper to the clergy over the years with the functioning of the church.

Also Mr. James Anthony Simmons was always there to ring the bell and to assist the priests in preparing everything for the church to function in a dignified way. He has been followed by Mr, Ronny Simmons also of The Bottom who combines the work formerly done by August and James Anthony. It is Ronnie who asked me (Will Johnson) to prepare a fitting document in commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the church.

The Living Water Community from Trinidad and Tobago served the church and the Saban community for twenty five years. They were introduced to Saba by the late Father Anthony Jansen.

1890-1910 Church Bottom - Tropenmuseum

The first church built by Father Joseph Philip Thomas Kock in 1877. The priest leaning against the wall of the church is Father L. Mulder. The house on the right is that of the teacher Eckerman of St. Barth’s who was married to a granddaughter of the Reverend John Toland who was buried on this property’

1890-1910 School later church Bottom - Tropenmuseum

1909. The opening of the second church Roman Catholic in The Bottom. It was turned into a school in 1935.


1910 Church - former school - towards Crispeen - Tropenmuseum

In 1911, Father L. Mulder built a steeple on the roof of the church.

Town of The Bottom

On the right of the Roman Catholic church complex is the house in which Msgr. Martinus Joannes Niewindt held the first Roman Catholic Mass in 1836, June 1st and baptized 4 adults.

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Father M. Meesters, the resident priest and the supervisor of the Sacred Heart Church which was dedicated on the feast of St. Joseph March 19th, 1935 .

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There are several photo’sin my collection of the celebrations of the opening of the new (more than ten thousand face stones) Sacred Heart Church on March 19th, 1934.

Scan0872.jpgScan0873Pere Labat 7

Pere Labat 3

Father  J.B. Labat wrote a number of books on his stay in the West Indies and his visit to Saba in 1701.

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Records of Baptisms of the Roman Catholic Church on Saba date back to the year 1836 when Msgr. Martinus Johannes Niewindt visited Saba with the objective of starting up the Roman Catholic Church on Saba.


The Sacred Heart Church as it looks today. It has had many repairs over the years.

Father J.Kock served Saba 1858 - 1889

Father Joseph Philip Thomas Kock, born Oostende Belgiums 29 August 1825 and died on Saba August 20th, 1890. Buried next to St. Paul’s Conversion Church in the vault of the Peter and Esther Hassell (Johnson) family. He was responsible for the building of the St. Paul’s Conversion Church in the Windward Side in 860 and the first Sacred Heart Church in The Bottom in 1877.

Dedication R.C. church in The Bottom 1934.

March 19th, 1934 was the opening of the new Sacred Heart Church in The Bottom. There were so many people in attendance that the church was full to overflowing.

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The lovely ceiling and side of the altar in the church were painted by the well known local artist Heleen Cornet and was sponsored  by Mrs. Olga Johnson and her son Cornel and  his wife Juliet Johnson of The Bottom.

Congratulations on this the 85th anniversary of this church building are in order to all those who worked to make it possible as well as to those who are still working to keep it up despite a declining church attendance. In this drastic changing world of ours it is good to know that there are a group of people who care enough for their church to help to maintain it as a living monument and a place of worship and wonder for the local population as well as to those who visit out beautiful island. TO GOD BE THE GLORY!



“THE  MOUNTAIN”15219397_10210981178468325_5130581529231497499_n

By: Will Johnson

In the book ‘Caribbean Interlude’ by Kenneth Bolles he describes a visit to the Rendez Vous. There most of the planting was done for those living in the villages of Windward Side and St. John’s.

In talking to one of the old retired sea captains who would return to Saba in their old age and return to the land for their survival they discussed the farming on the sides of The Mountain. In referring to the mountain the old farmer declared to Mr. Bolles “She takes care o’ we.”

Many of the old timers would voice that same opinion throughout the ages of European settlement. In an interview Bobby Every said that his father used to tell him that if it was not for the Mountain, in times of severe droughts “we would have all been dead”. Some years ago, when a relatively small number of locusts reached the Eastern Caribbean from Africa memories were brought up about The Mountain. Oliver Zagers “Olley” said that his father Solomon had told him that when he was a boy a plague of locusts had descended on Saba and within days had eaten their way to the top of The Mountain.


Pretty Impressive Mountain for such a small island, and this  is half way up from the sea.

George Seaman visited Saba in 1934 and spent some time here. He kept a Journal of his visit which he gave to me. In the Journal he refers to The Mountain as having no name other than that. God too has only one name for those who believe that there is a God, so why should The Mountain so revered by our ancestors in former times have a name?

People regularly ask me as to who gave it the name Mount Scenery. I truly do not know and don’t want to speculate on that. I assume that it could have been one of the Roman Catholic Nuns or a Priest thought it needed a name and gave it that name.

Earlier this year while on Aruba I remembered that there was a street in Lago Heights called ‘Mount Scenery Street’. I asked a couple of people if they could remember what year those streets were given names. They did not know, and I will continue to check on it. That would give an indication as to when that name was used and perhaps point to the person who gave it the name.  I do not recall as a boy growing up anyone referring to it other than The Mountain.



The Mountain 4pm Tuesday August 27th, 2019

Nothing against the new name mind you. People look at me as a critic on many things. I look at my role as a story teller and preserver of things like historic names of places dear to the heart of every true Saban. I do not believe that folks coming into an old island culture should be creating new names solely for commercial purposes. Cui Buena fruit? That is why the island needs a Saba National Trust like those in places like Bermuda. The National flag, coat of arms and National song were approved by a Committee consisting of Sabans, who then presented their research and laws to the Executive Council and then approved by the Island Council. All in a matter of months. There are laws regulating respect for the flag and it cannot be used for commercial purposes without permission from the authorities. I have strayed a bit, and will go back to The Mountain, but not before mentioning Names. The Committee established in May of 1985, by the Executive Council consisted of Frank Hassell, Shirley Smith, Patsy Johnson and me as Chairman/Secretary. The results were presented to the Executive Council in the beginning of September. The Council consisted of Lt. Governor Wycliffe Smith, Commissioners Vernon Hassell and Peter Granger. On Saba Day December 1985 the Island Council, consisting of Vernon Hassell, Peter Granger, Ramon Hassell, Hugo Levenstone and myself approved everything and on that same day presented the results to the people of Saba. They were enthusiastically received and have become proud symbols of our struggle for survival on this small rock with a Mountain without a name.

20157732_10155500574313686_8396555311789398587_o.jpgFrom my research Saba was first settled above the Well’s Bay after 1629 by people from St. Kitts who were chased by the Spanish Admiral Don Francisco de Toledo. The two villages they established were given the names of Middle Island and Palmetto Point after towns on St. Kitts from which they had fled.

The history of these islands was mainly written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Dutch people. They had limited resources available to them at the time. The one who made ‘history’ a source for personal income was Dr. J. Hartog. I recall my brother Eric telling me that when Hartog visited he went through old historic files, tore out the items he wanted and told him that the rest of the files could be thrown away as they were not of any interest to him. He and others never believed in oral history and came to many assumptions about our history without any kind of proof to back it all up. They also conveniently forgot to remind us that Holland and Belgium were one country and a number of the first settlers on St. Eustatius were Hugenots from Wallonia and people of Flanders from places like Antwerpen who were in business with other people from Zeeland which was a part of what is now The Netherlands.


Johnny Simmons The Mountain Man

Johnny Simmons also known as ‘The Mountain Man.’

The one who visited these islands, including Saba, was M.D. Teenstra in the 1820’s and who gave an accurate description of the people and resources of these islands. He was an engineer sent out to study the possibilities for the extension of the Salt Ponds on St. Maarten, but his book has more historic value to me than all of that written by people who had never visited here. He was here and did not need to speculate while on a schooner passing by the island.

As early as the year 1701 when the Roman Catholic Priest Father Pierre Labat visited Saba on a pirate ship he described the island as being prosperous. The so-called prosperity stemmed from the fact that the young volcanic soil on Saba was very fertile. Because of the altitude of The Mountain (over 2900 feet) a variety of crops could be grown between sea level and mountain top. Enough was produced to support the small five hundred strong local population as well as have a limited export to the mother colony of St. Eustatius and later on to St. Thomas. The settlers who came into the island some years after the settlers at Palmetto Point and Middle Island, were particularly interested in fishing the Saba Bank. They settled above the Fort Bay where there is a spring which runs all year round. None of those who wrote before my time never mentioned an exact year. They said approximately 1640. Around 1659 this settlement was destroyed by a landslide. In 1665 the island was captured by Edward and Thomas Morgan uncles of Governor Henry Morgan of Jamaica. The pirates who left sent the Dutch settlers to St. Maarten and also to other islands where they became indentured servants.

056 - Saba-August 2007 - Mount Scenery-15.jpg

The Mountain somehow finds a way to restore itself even after  category five hurricanes.

The remaining 226 people left behind were nearly all of English, Irish, and Scottish descent with the exception of 10 Dutch people who swore allegiance to the British. Also, some ninety of the pirates remained behind as they saw the possibility of using Saba as a pirate’s nest while carrying out their pirate activities from the Virgin Islands.

A description of Saba in the 18th century is described by some historians of that period as follows: “Saba remained Dutch from 1679 until 1781. Whatever happened on the larger islands, Saba maintained its insular isolation undisturbed. The population was spread out over the island, and persons in authority on St. Eustatius seldom visited. And so, a sort of patriarchal society developed, where the peace was only disturbed through occasional family feuds. The people fished, caught sea turtles, and there was some agriculture so that the island was economically independent.”

1950s - Rendez-Vous

Big Rendez-Vous was the area farmed by men from the Windward Side and beyond that ‘Little Rendez-Vous’ was farmed by men from St. Johns,

In 1780 the population had already reached 1300. Because of the huge growth in the commerce and population of St. Eustatius there was a market for selling agricultural produce to St. Eustatius. Saba remained for the most part dependent on what the Mountain could produce and the fishing opportunities on the Saba Bank and Bird Island. There were also coffee and cotton plantations because it is recorded that the great hurricane of 1772 destroyed these plantations. Coffee can still be grown as I have three coffee trees in my garden. One from the Blue Mountains in Jamaica (bearing now) and two from a coffee plantation I visited on the island of Gran Canarias.

In 1816, Saba became Dutch again on paper, and most people in the know described the period between 1816 and 1923 as very bleak and depressing years. It is worth noting that exactly during the periods in which Saba was Dutch that the economy was in a very sad state. When left to its own resources or when under foreign flags, Saba was always described as being prosperous, in the sense that the colony was not a liability to the ‘mother country’.

1898 - The Bottom - from - Cuba and Porto Rico, with the other islands of the West Indies.jpg

This photo from around 1870 shows how much of the face of The Mountain was farmed out.

We remained and the many animals we had then dependent on The Mountain mostly.

For the year 1900 the statistics are as follows for Saba. Population 2177, Donkeys 16, Cattle 197, Goats 786, Sheep 390, Pigs 381.

A job description of 1908 shows that there were 240 farmers on Saba. The population from about 1860 grew steadily to over 2000 people and peaked in the year 2488. All were dependent for the most part on farming The Mountain and fishing, while the majority of the men were listed as Mariners, over 700 (seven hundred) in all. They sailed all over the West Indies and the world on Saban owned schooners as well as many owned by people from New England. The “Spanish Work” which was introduced Mrs. Gertrude Johnson born Hassell (a first cousin of my father Daniel Johnson). Through export to friends in the United States this lace work provided a means for a cash economy on the island. In the nineteen twenties with the establishments of the oil refineries on Curacao and Aruba as well as the new immigration rules in the United States the population went into a decline. From around 2500 in the nineteen twenties to only around 900 in 1971. But one thing which was proven between 1860 and 1930, is that the island could produce enough to sustain a population of more than 2000 people, with at times enough surplus to be able to export potatoes, onions, hides, cotton, fish and other produce to St. Thomas.


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My cousin James Bernard Johnson here showing his Irish potatoes planted in The Level.

In recent times things have changed. While others take credit for much of my work I when in government in 1998 added a clause to the building ordinance that you could not build above the 500 meter level and it was I who did all the research for the ownership of the Sulphur Mine lands and which became a bit of a controversy as I was told that it would be a gift to the island. Anyway, I will not dwell on that issue. This is about The Mountain and indeed she still ‘takes care o’ we’.





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