The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Will Johnson’s contribution!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My first book on St. Maarten.

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

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

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

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

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

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Comments on my blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Annual account Windward Islands Bank Ltd. 2015

establishment but to oppose it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Homework of Nikita Johnson.

etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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This one is a political history of the island.

My first book was.

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

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

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This is the fifth edition of my first book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

encouragement to continue writing and speaking out!

Will Johnson

The Saga of Captain Richard Hassell

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

The Saga of Captain Richard Hassell

Introduced by Will Johnson

This story was written by Richard Stuart Hassell on May 26th, 2000 when he was 87 years of age and living in Santa Monica California. He did this at the urging of Brian Mark a friend. Brian had heard Richard telling so many stories about when he grew up on Saba as a boy that he felt these stories should be written down and sent to the island for people here to enjoy. After Richard’s death Brian sent the stories to Sea Saba whose site he found on the internet. Lynn Costenaro passed them on to me. I first introduced Richard’s (Dick) own life story which was very interesting and now what he informs us of his grandfather the captain. He lived in the house in Windwardside which was torn down to make way for the new Kindergarten and he was related among others to Captain Eddie Hassell of “Swinging Doors” restaurant.

In the foreword the writer tells us:”This story has been written with the knowledge that it is a true story as related to me by my mother who experienced a great deal of it herself and as a youngster and teenager had a lot of it related to her by her mother. There are many seamen who may have had similar experiences, but since I can only write about those of my grandfather, it then becomes a partial history of my family, and is written with a humble pride. Therefore, this story is dedicated to my grandfather for being a man of great courage and that he had the determination to do what he thought was best for him and his family when the odds were against him.”

My grandfather Captain Richard Hassell was born on the tiny Dutch island of Saba (only 5 miles square in size) in the year 1856 and whose forbearers settled on Saba in the year 1640.

Since seafaring was the way of life in those days, and the island being so small, the male population by necessity had to go to sea in order to earn a living and support their families. The very young teenagers had to start out going to sea at 13 years of age to follow in their father’s footsteps, and were always signed on the ship as the “cabin boy.” It was standard practice that the captain had the responsibility of teaching the cabin boy all the rest of the schooling he would be missing by starting out at sea at such an early age. In addition he had to teach him all the rudiments of navigation and seamanship, along with the aid of books on the subject.

As it turned out, my grandfather was a very ambitious man, and so at 16 years of age he decided that he wanted to get married and so he married a Saban girl who happened also to be 16, after receiving the blessings of her parents. One year later my mother was born. Being a father gave my grandfather the impetus to learn more about navigation and seamanship. He studied so hard that at age 21 he had taken the examination for a Captain’s license and passed it, whereupon the shipping company for whom he was sailing gave him command of a ship, and so he kept going to sea. It was a customary thing for a shipping company not to allow the prospective captain to take command of a ship without being a part owner which was 25% of what the ship was worth. The shipping company’s idea was that the captain of the vessel would be more interested in keeping it in good shape and would look out more for the company’s interest if he was a part owner. My grandfather turned out to b a man of good judgment and thrifty with his money because he had built his own home on the island of Saba by the time my mother was three years old. After having sailed to New York many times my grandfather decided to take his family to live there in the year 1877. After his first son Richard was born my grandmother started to get a little more apprehensive about my grandfather going to sea, particularly after having weathered three hurricanes at sea. He finally relented and found a grocery store in New York City that was for sale and bought it almost immediately. But being a born seaman at heart he put the grocery store up for sale after only two years and eventually sold it to another merchant. He found a small schooner of 46 tons in size and bought it, putting it in seaworthy shape. He began trading up and down the East Coast of the United States and

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

the Caribbean area. He called the vessel the R.H.

My mother having been born in 1872 was about 8 years of age and interested in whatever my grandfather did because my grandmother had gotten in the habit of keeping her informed even at such a young age, particularly about the dangers of going to sea. Although Captain Hassell had some dangerous adventures, one where he was the only survivor, he always returned successfully. But my grandmother was more convinced than ever that she would try to persuade him to give it up. Finally in about 1886 on a particular trip to Jacksonville, Florida, he was approached by a representative of a local shipping company who was interested in buying the R.H. at a price satisfactory to my grandfather. By the following day he found out that an orange grove was for sale located on the St. John’s River, not too far from Jacksonville. The price of the orange grove was much less than what he had been offered for the R.H. and so he made up his mind to sell his beloved ship and buy the orange grove.

 

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

So he put down a down payment on the orange grove and signed an agreement to sell the R.H. to the shipping company, advising them that he would have to go back to New York City and conclude all business there before returning to Jacksonville and finalizing the sale of the R.H. and purchasing the orange grove. Captain Hassell finally got all the business taken care of in New York and took enough supplies including food and water for 26 days to take him and his family to Jacksonville. After about 3 days at sea, when he was approximately off the coast of Cape Hatteras, the vessel’s barometer started to fall rapidly. From his experience with other hurricanes he knew that the telltale signs pointed to trouble – running headlong into another hurricane. He immediately called the crew together and told them that from his past experience with hurricanes he felt it imperative that they prepare. He decided to ride it out. He then ordered the crew to take in all sails except for the jib which he needed to help keep the vessel’s bow into the wind. He battened down the hatches. He further asked several crew members to lash him to the helm so that he would not get washed overboard and since his family was on board, he wanted to make sure he and he alone was responsible for bringing the vessel through the hurricane. Many of the crew had asked him to let them spell him at the helm but he would not hear of it. The ship’s cook, knowing that he would have to at least have some hot coffee, did manage to hold the coffee pot on the stove long enough to boil the water for the coffee. That was all Captain Hassell had for three days and three nights while the hurricane lasted. But he did bring the R.H. successfully through. After the hurricane was over they found themselves becalmed which lasted for 25 days and my grandfather had supplies for only that period of time. On the 26th day he was down to one tin of salmon and some “hard tack,” which he chose to give to the crew and sugar water and crackers which he gave to his family. That afternoon, around 3 P.M., a United States warship was seen approaching within a close distance and Captain Hassell put up a distress signal. The warship gave them enough supplies to get to Jacksonville, which they reached after six days. He then proceeded in finalizing the sale of the R.H. and the purchase of the orange grove, and immediately started to put the orange grove home in better shape, after which he started the trimming of the orange trees. Blossoms sprouted in a month or so, and soon tiny oranges began to appear. My mother said she had never seen him in a better frame of mind. As the oranges started to reach maturity my grandfather envisioned a bumper crop and had by this time decided that being a “landlubber” was not so bad after all. However, his luck was about to run out because the area was hit with one of the heaviest frosts in years and the whole crop was lost. He went bankrupt. Wasting no time, he checked in Jacksonville about possible other jobs and as luck would have it; he found out that the Jacksonville lumber company had a three master schooner that needed a captain. He applied for the job and got it. The lumber company gave him all the information that was necessary including the fact that he would have to run the vessel on shares of the profits, which he readily agreed to. After taking command of the vessel his first trip was to Trinidad with a load of lumber. He took his family and dropped them off at the island of Saba where he still owned his own home, and he continued on to Trinidad. My mother, now having reached the age of 17, had started to teach a small kindergarten class of children to help out as much as she could until her father had received his first share of the profit. Soon my Uncle Richard had reached the age of 13 and immediately went to sea as a cabin boy with an uncle of his who was captain of a 4 master square rigged ship. In the meantime, my grandfather continued to carry lumber to Trinidad and on one particular trip, after he had taken his first sight of shooting the sun, in the morning around 10 o’clock he laid down to rest. In the afternoon, just before he shot the sun again (around 3 o’clock) he called the mate and told him he was not feeling well and that he felt like he was going to die. He said if he did, he did not want his body buried at sea, but to take tar and tar his body, wrap it in canvas, folding it over and over, and put it in the ship’s hold. He gave the mate the course to steer after having taken his second shot of the sun, and found his position according to his calculation of the latitude and longitude, and that if they stayed on course as he told them they would come to Barbados where he wished to be buried, and so he was.

 

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

The crew then sailed the vessel to the island of Saba where they related all the details of what had occurred. When my grandmother, Rebecca, heard it, she told my mother that six months from that date she would not be alive and let herself grieve to death. My mother then had to take over the responsibility for her younger brother Camille who was only five years of age at the time (+_1892). After my mother reached 20 years of age (1896) she felt that she could better provide for her brother and herself by going back to New York City and with her uncle being captain of a sailing ship he stopped at the island of Saba, packed them up, and sailed for New York. Since she knew no one in New York City, she decided after a year to go to Providence, Rhode Island, where she had relatives.

 

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

My father had fallen in love with my mother after her mother died, but she did not get to see him too often because of his going to sea. When his ship stopped at Providence, he heard from other relatives that my mother was now living there and he went to see her. They decided to marry and did so in January of the year 1902. My brother was born in December 1902. Soon after, my mother decided to go back to Saba for a short time but that never happened, as she stayed much longer. My sister Caroline (Carry) and I were born on Saba which is a place I can never forget, as small as it was.

As this story has been written primarily about my grandfather I deem it to be my duty that it is centered on him. I wish to add that nothing has given me greater pleasure than to try to recall all of the information that comprises the Saga of Captain Richard Hassell.” END.

As I was typing out this article I thought of the hundreds of Saban captains and other men of the sea who would have had similar stories which went unrecorded and that Saba can truly be called “Isle of a thousand sea tales.”

Will Johnson

Two Tales of One HASSELL FAMILY

Two Tales of One Hassell Family

By: Will Johnson

Sometime back Ms.Lynn Costenaro of Sea Saba called me and said that she had two interesting stories for me. They had been sent to her by a Mr. Brian Mark of Mar Vista, California. He must have found her website on the internet and sent the following letter: To whom it concerns. “I was a friend of Richard Hassell (who passed away some years ago) and I heard many of his stories about growing up on Saba. I encouraged him to write about Saba and the stories he knew, and before he passed he was able to write two pieces. I’ve included them here, as I think they may interest Saban Islanders, as well as visitors interested in your island.”

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

As there were so many Richard Hassell’s on Saba it was not easy to figure out his background. One of the stories which he wrote was about his grandfather Capt. Richard Hassell. I contacted several “old timers”, but it was teacher Frank Hassell who helped me to put the puzzle together. His grandfather was also Richard Hassell married to Ann Rebecca Hassell. They owned the house in Windwardside which belonged to the R.C. nuns and which was torn down to build the Kindergarten there. His aunt Lilly May was the organist in the Anglican Church both in Windwardside and The Bottom. The family bought a home at The Gap which they sold later on to Mr. Ignatius Zagers. He had a sister named Carrie who spent her last years on St.Maarten and who has a surviving daughter Leonora Hassell who is in the “Sweet Repose” at the St. John’s Ranch. I put that name to it as my fond memories go back to the “Sweet Repose” on the Backstreet. These folks are related to Captain Eddie Hassell of the “Swinging Doors “restaurant in the Windwardside.

I will first give the story of Richard Hassell (Dick) the friend of Mr. Brian Mark (and  we also thank Ms. Lynn of Sea Saba) whom we thank for bringing  these stories to our attention so that we can share them with a larger audience to once again show how people from this little island moved around in former times.

He starts his own story with a Foreword.

“The story entitled “The Saga of Captain Richard Hassell”, has been written by me his (Grandson) Richard S. Hassell, mainly because of it’s being unique by nature of it’s contents and is somewhat abrupt in some circumstances, but is nevertheless a true story as told to me by my mother and she in turn was told by her mother, which is really considered to be a part of my family’s history.”

“Since I am the grandson of Captain Richard Hassell I am now compelled to write something about my own life with a view that it will be construed as a story of some interest to anyone who may read it.

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

Like all my forbears I too, was born on Saba even though my brother who was the eldest of three children was born in Providence Rhode Island and lived there until he was two years of age when my mother took him back to Saba to see the family, planning to come back to Providence in the near future, but she never did return and chose to live in Saba where the weather was like summer year round. In the meantime my father kept on going to sea and would come home for a vacation every two years or so, but worked doing painting or other needed repairs on our home if required, and would even put in a vegetable garden if the weather was good.

“According to the records that were located in the archives in Holland, there were 3 families of Hassells that were found to be residing on Saba and who had settled therein 1640 and in 1695 one of them was listed as a Richard Hassell and so the name Richard has come down through the ages from family to family all having the name Richard in each family till my Grandfather who had 4 children, 2 girls and 2 boys, had the notion that he too should name one of his sons Richard who also went to sea, and was a Naval Officer in World War 1, but finally became a landlubber after getting married to a girl in Providence, and my mother in turn named me Richard. In 1695 there were only around 500 people living on Saba and so that is the reason practically everyone had to go to sea in order to earn a livelihood, while all the women were home makers.

I was born on December 13th 1913 on Saba and enjoyed a very happy and peaceful life there until I was 21 years of age. Since there were no cars there everyone had to walk wherever they went because the only mode of transportation were horses which numbered about 6 or so and were owned by the Doctor, the Governor and the others by merchants on the island. We had no movies or telephones or any ice cream stores, but I would not change one day of it. Now that our little island boasts over 100 cars and 2 movie houses, everyone now possesses flush toilets and showers, T.V. sets and Telephones including supermarkets with ice cream available. However I would not change life as it was while growing up there, and I will always cherish the memories of my childhood.

I had a loving kind and gentle mother who was the epitome of a first class lady who never smoked or drank alcoholic beverages of any kind and the word “damn” was not in her vocabulary. My father was also a good man who never cursed or used profane or foul language of any kind but he did like his little schnapps now and again to which my mother found it hard to accept the idea that he did, but he never overdid it.

He came home on vacation December 1920 and upon returning to the United States brought my brother with him and found my brother a job with a manufacturing concern in Brooklyn New York. He then went back to sea, sailing around the East Coast of Canada and the United States. In November 1922 he came down with chronic bronchitis and asthma and his doctor in Providence, Rhode Island suggested that he should retire back to Saba where the tropical weather would at least give him better health there. So he made up his mind that he would do just that and came back to Brooklyn, New York to make sure that my brother was doing O.K. and being satisfied that he was took passage on a steamboat that sailed between New York and the Caribbean, with St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands being the first stop. While on the way he came down with double pneumonia and bronchitis and when the ship reached St. Thomas he had to be placed in the hospital there and passed away a couple of days later. This was a great sorrow and shock for the family but my mother was a very religious person and although suffering great sorrow, she nevertheless accepted my father’s death as God’s will. She was highly concerned about how well we would be able to live and fortunately found a job as a school teacher in one of the schools where we lived and along with dress making jobs we were able to live fairly comfortably.

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

I was only 9 years of age when my father passed away and found it hard to cope with, but my mother would sit me down and tell me that this was God’s will and that we had to accept it as such. As time went on I finally reached age 17 when I graduated from the local school that I attended with the equivalent of a High School education in the United States. On many occasions I would talk to my mother about coming to the United States after I graduated, but soon thereafter, the great depression came about and that scuttled everything that my mother and I had planned. As luck would have it I found out that the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey had built an oil refinery on the Dutch island of Aruba and that the possibility existed that I might find a job there. So I talked it over with my mother and she agreed that it was worth a try and so off I went to Aruba and as luck would have it I was hired as an apprentice in the electrical department. However electricity at the time was all Greek to me and it was suggested by the electrician with whom I worked, that I should take a course in electricity from the International Correspondence Schools in the United States, and so I did and after 4 years with on the job training and the course in electricity the company promoted me to a first class electrician. This was the terminology used by the company, but I can assure you that it did not hurt my feelings any, because it was not a fallacy. During my four years tenure I had switched to the electrical shop, where I worked on repairing electrical motors and also rebuilding them. After spending 10 years in Aruba I wanted to come to the United States, and so I did in May 1944 but I had to be released from the oil company because they were considered to be a highly essential industry who was supplying two thirds of all the aviation gas for the allies in England and North Africa and because of that 7 oil tankers were torpedoed by German while waiting to be docked and loaded with aviation gas. It occurred in 1943 and the refinery had been in a state of total blackout, but some of the submarines had surfaced and was shelling the refinery and in doing so were first firing tracer bullets of all colors and some of them were going over my head and hitting the bachelor quarters where I lived.

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The LAGO oil refinery as seen from a distance.

Some passed only 10 feet over my head where I was standing watching the whole scenario and as in the rest of the health turmoil of mine the Good Lord was with me. We were shelled twice more after that but luckily I was a mile or so from where the shells hit. After arriving in the United States in May 1944 I went immediately to the draft board in Brooklyn, New York and at that time they were not accepting anyone over age 30 and they suggested that I go to the Naval supply depot and they would employ me as a maintenance electrician and so I was hired immediately and worked there until the war was over. To all intents and purposes the war ended in 1945 and although the naval supply officer wanted to find me a job in the naval shipyard in Brooklyn, I chose to resign and seek a job in private industry which I did by taking a job as an electrician with a marine electrical contractor. Soon after I met a girl who eventually became my wife and we had 3 children, and the first born who was a boy, “yep you guessed it”, I named him Richard and that is where the name Richard ended because eventually my son Richard who did have 4 sons chose not to name either one of them “Richard.” And so that is a history that ended after several hundred years, and is the sign of the modern times we live in, but I accepted it with some degree of reticence. I had 3 children of my own, Richard the eldest, then my daughter Patricia, and finally a son David. Richard lives in a little town called Bennet about 40 miles from Denver, Colorado. My eldest daughter Patricia lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and my youngest son David is working in Northern New Guinea as a business administrator along with his wife and they have no children. Back to my own private life, I got divorced after 17 years of marriage and have lived alone since 1969, but I have some good friends with whom I come in contact fairly often, and apart from that I manage to keep my mind occupied with taking care of myself health wise. I thoroughly enjoyed working for the Marine electrical industry because anything to do with shipping was something that I grew up with and the fact that it was never dull, considering that overtime was always a possibility and very often a fact, when I had to work 7 days a week for as long as 6 months with going 12 hours a day Monday to Friday, 10 hours on Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday, and very often worked 24 hours around the clock and twice that I worked 2 days and 2 nights without stopping except for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. So you can see that working on ships was never dull, and very often in fact humorous because of things occurring that invariably had spontaneous humor in them.

A view of Windwarside nineteen seventies

Village of Windward Side where Richard was born

I lived in Brooklyn and Long Island for close to 20 years, and then I got the bright idea to move to Tampa Florida, because of the cold winters in New York but soon changed my mind because the wage scale was about half of what it was in New York. So back I came to New York and settled down in Wantagh, Long Island and remained there for 10 years when my doctor advised me to move to a warmer climate and so I came to California and have lived there for 35 years in Santa Monica which is large enough in size to equal the 5 square miles of Saba Island, and the only difference between the two is the geographical location and mode of living, but are the two places where I have spent the most of my life, and have enjoyed living in both immensely. Just about 18 years ago I was lucky enough to get an apartment in Santa Monica and when I went there the board of Directors asked me if I would be the entertainment chairman which I accepted and once every month would hold a “dinner dance” for all the seniors in the building who were observing their birthdays for the particular month and we would have special entertainment for them with a little band for dancing, which was enjoyed by all.

Dorothy Palmer

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

After doing that for 10 years with my age creeping up on me I retired and a good thing that I did because of my having serious setbacks with my health. I enjoy living in Santa Monica because of my being in close proximity to the beach and the ocean and will always be happy here, but nothing will EVER, EVER surpass that little island of Saba where I was born and grew up having two of the best loving parents in the world in a very happy and peaceful environment, all of which could persuade me to call it “fantasy island”, and for all that I offer my praise and thanks to our everlasting Almighty God for his love and care of me. END.

If you have enjoyed this just wait till I bring you the story of his grandfather Captain Richard Hassell.

Annals of Anguilla

Looking back at Annals of Anguilla

By; Will Johnson

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter VI. Emigration.

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

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

VII. Famine of 1890.

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

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

VIII. The New Emigration

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

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

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

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

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

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Headline of the Windward Islands Opinion on St. Maarten.

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

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

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

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Carl Zagers. A Eulogy.

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

E U L O G Y.

by: Will Johnson

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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My son Peter with Carl Zagers on the farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE OLD FARMERS PRAYER

Time just keeps moving on

Many years have come and gone

But I grow older without regret

My hopes are in what may come yet.

On the farm I work each day

this is where I wish to stay

I watch the seeds each season sprout

From the soil as the plants rise out.

I study Nature and I learn

To know the earth and feel her turn

I love her dearly and all the seasons

For I have learned her secret reasons

All that will live is in the bosom of Earth

She is the loving mother of all birth

But all that lives must pass away

And go back again to her someday.

My life too will pass from earth

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

When my body is old and all spent

And my soul to Heaven has went.

Please compost and spread me on this plain

So my Mother Earth can claim

That is where I wish to be

Then Nature can nourish new life with me.

So do not for me grieve and weep

I did not leave, I only sleep

I am with the soil here below

Where I can nourish life of beauty and glow

Here I can help the falling rain

Grow golden fields of ripening grain

From here I can join the winds that blow

And meet the softly falling snow.

Here I can help the sun’s warming ligth

Grow food for birds of gliding flight

I can be in the beautiful flowers of spring

And in every other lovely thing.

So do not for me weep and cry

I am here, I did not die.

***

May he rest in peace.

 

 

Nurse Angele Cagan

NURSE ANGELE CAGAN

BY; Will Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Rose Hospital 1947

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Anslyn Brothers

Carl Anslyn at Schotzenhoek planatation.

William Carl Anslyn feeding his chickens at Schotsenhoek plantation on Statia.

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

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

Carl and his brother Arthur were the sons of Edward Anslijn whose mother was from Saba and whose father was the famous Dutch Doctor Nicholas Anslijn. He in turn was a descendant of a famous Flemish educator who wrote one or more books on the subject of education.

In an interview in Saba Silhouettes by Dr. Julia Crane ,Carl describes his ancestry as follows:

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Commissioner John Arthur Anslyn in center with other dignitaries.

“My grandfather first came here from Curacao as a doctor. That must have been in l875. My father (Edward) died at the age of seventy-two years. That would give him, let us say, l880 roughly when he was born. My grandfather was a doctor on Curacao, and he had been married to a Venezuelan lady whose father was a military man, and she had died. He came here when he must have been up around forty-five or fifty years, I imagine. Around fifty let us say. My grandmother was very young. She couldn’t have been more than sixteen or eighteen years. He fell in love with her and married her. He took her away to Curacao where they lived for some time. They came back up here then, and he died in Sint Maarten. He left her with three children. She stood here and she married a Saba man who believed that it was much easier to sit down than to work, and she had a tough life.”

Carl and Arthur were very ambitious,and hard working men. They both had an excellent education for their day on the island of Nevis.

Their father Edward was captain of the Luxury yacht the “Nearra” of the Sea Island Cotton company with headquarters on Nevis. The yacht was seldom used and in the hurricane season the yacht had to be sheltered in the Oyster Pond on St.Martin, on St. Barths or St.Thomas, but mostly at the Oyster Pond.

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Capt. Edward Anhslyn father of Carl and Arthur who served for many years as the ferry captain between St. Kitts and Nevis.

Carl used to tell me many stories about the isolation of the area when he was a boy with no one living there and no roads leading to it:

” In Saba Silhouettes he says:” You can imagine, two boys, my brother and I, in a place where there were practically millions of fish, lobsters, every kind of bird, wild goats, wild sheep, horses, cows, everything you could think of. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer never had the equal of what we had! It was one spree from morning until night, roaming the hills, swimming catching fish, boating, sailing, everything you could do. We were very healthy.

Of course it played hell with our schooling becuase in Sint Maarten living at the Oyster Pond, we could not go to school. The town was some miles away, and in those days there wasn’t cars running back and forth like now.”

In between Oyster Pond, Carl and Arthur lived in Nevis. He said: “We went to a very nice school, a private school that a lady educated in England kept for the Administrator’s children and so on. It was the people who had money, that could afford to pay for good schooling and not send their children to the government school. They sent them to Miss Bridgewater’s school because she gave them a better education. In Nevis I studied not only English but French, and we had Latin classes.”

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Commissioner William Carl Anslyn on Aruba second from left. He also served as Senator for Aruba in the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles.

His father Edward later became the captain of the ferry between St.Kitts and Nevis. He and Carl’s mother were divorced by then and he married a lady from Nevis. Carl’s sister Dr.Brontie Gonsalves-Anslijn and his brother the second Arthur known as “brother” are prominent people on Nevis. “Brother” used to run the ferry for years after his father died. I have occasional contact with them.”Brother’s” son Vaughn is a very talented painter and reminds me of his Uncle Carl.

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

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

Cornelia & Council

From left to right. Mr. Rupert Sorton, Mr. Arthur Anslyn, Mr. Carl Anslyn, Mr. Ciro Kroon, Miss Cornelia Johnson, Administrator Walter G.Buncamper, and Mr. Matthew Levenstone early 1955

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

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

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

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Left to right: Guy Johnson, Arthur Anslyn ‘Brother’ and his sister Brontie and then Will Johnson. They , Arthur and Brontie, are the children of Edward Anslyn by his second wife on Nevis.

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

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

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

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Commissioner Arthur Anslyn between his cousins Henry and Floyd Every at the opening of the Guesthouse in Windwardside, then owned by the Saba Development Company which was started on Aruba by people like Henry Earl Johnson and other employees of the ESSO refinery there.

When he was sick and ailing I had one hell of a time getting Aruba to pay him his pension. It seemed to me that all the leading politicians on Aruba were unaware of his career. Some even denied that he had ever been a Commissioner. In 1985 they had fixed up sizable pensions for themselves. How I was able to get through for him is too long for this article but he finally got something a few weeks before he died on Aruba.

Arthur came back to Saba in 1950 after their mother had died on Aruba.He brought a jeep with him. I think it was the first privately owned vehicle and the third one on Saba. As a little boy I used to help him. My job was to jump off the jeep and place a rock under the wheel while he switched gears. He named one of his two sons that he had by Phyllis van Putten after me. At least he told me,” If its a boy I am going to name him Will.”

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

Arthur became Commissioner and Island Council Member on Saba in 1955 and served for twenty years in both jobs.

Carl returned to Saba in 1968 and he and I were in opposition to one another. He was not easy with his pamphlet “The Bulls eye”, but then neither was I with the “Saba Herald” After one election Carl declared Cessie Granger and myself the world’s two best eye specialists. He said that young people declaring to the voting bureau that they could not see well enough to vote, after being helped by one of us, were miraculously cured when they left the booth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Urbina Invasion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**************************

Will Johnson

The Johnson’s of St. Eustatius

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Henry Hassell Johnson went to Statia as a young boy  to work for the Every’s of Schotzenhoek plantation , married a Schmidt from Statia who taught him how to read and write and when he was in his twenties he was the biggest businessman on the island.

By Will Johnson

Every now and then, someone living on St.Eustatius, will call to buy my property there. They are usually not familiar with the islands history.

The one they want to buy is not the property which I own on The Bay. They want to buy that large open lot leading from the main street to the old Synagogue.

Each time I have to relate to them, that even though distantly related to those Johnson’s. I am not descended from them, and therefore not an heir to the property. Some of the Peterson’s on Saba together with family in the U.S.A. are the heirs to this property. My Statia ancestors were the Horton’s, who were related to the Hill’s and the Hamilton’s.

Former Lt. Governor Max Pandt, ever since we were in Boys town Brakkeput on Curacao has been bragging to me that he is descended from Sir John Of The Hill, in England who lived in the time of William The Conqueror. So be it.

There were Johnson’s on St.Eustatius from early on, but not in the same numbers as on Saba. In a document of September 21st 1805 in the settlement of the estate of Venancio Fabio, among the properties listed is one on The Bay. It is described as follows; “Premises with house of wood, two stories, consisting of a cellar, a warehouse and 3 top rooms, a cistern, outhouse, furnace, kitchen at the Bay (Op de Baai), to the North a piece of land belonging to the widow Johnson.”

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Austin Johnson of Saba was transferred twice to Statia to work there and he carried his family along once.He loved to read and he said that when he finished the last book in the Library and was going back into the Fort the Administrator called out to him and said ‘Johnson, I have good news for you. Tomorrow you can pack for Saba, you have been transferred.

I remember at Captain Hodge’s Guesthouse in the nineteen sixties meeting a beautiful lady from the USA, who with her son, were on their way to bury her husband on St.Eustatius. He was a Johnson from that island. Besides his accomplishments in life, the lady was testimony to his good taste. As we would say in the West Indies; “What a sweet thing.” That is the equivalent of the more politically correct way of describing her as a beautiful lady.

She told me how she had met her husband. He was a banker in New York, high up in the ranks of the bank. She was a secretary. Each time she had to meet with him it was difficult to understand him. He retained his Statia accent all his life.

And so one day he informed her that since she could not understand him that he would be better off marrying her. And since he was a handsome man, she decided to accept his offer and they lived happily after. Years later I met with her children and told them that story and one of the sons said: “Yes mom was a knockout .”

One thing Johnson did not forget was his beloved St.Eustatius where he had grown up as a boy. He had instructed her to bring his ashes back home to be buried on native soil.

He was one of the many children of Henry Hassell Johnson who was a businessman on St.Eustatius. He also owned Golden Rock estate and other properties in town and on The Bay.

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Mr. Irvie Mussenden with his wife Amy Johnson and daughter Sybil. I still correspond with Sybil who lives in California.

My old friend Charles Arnold knew him well. In Julia Crane’s book Statia Silhouettes, he had the following to say: ” And the Every’s, they came from Saba. One fellow came from Saba a small boy and he became the biggest merchant in the island. That’s Henry H. Johnson. The property across here, he owned that. And he raised his family here. But the boys, soon as they get big enough that they might want to be friendly with girls and everything he send them to the States, everyone, send them to the States to school. So all the boys went away, and then the girls come up. One schoolmaster from Holland, Schotborgh, he’s still living. He married to one o’ his daughters. And some o’ the others hardly they didn’t marry to them. And after he sent away, the girls went to the States also. The three boys they died, but I guess the most o’ the girls are still living.

And they come back occasionally, want to do business here, but they can’t get the property divided to suit themselves. About nineteen heirs to the property now, and they can’t get it settled. They won’t agree, you know, that they could use it.”

As Mr. Charlie said, Henry Johnson went to Statia as a young boy. His parents were James Johnson and Sarah Hassell. On February 27th, 1888 when he was 23 years old, he married Jane Elizabeth Schmidt (25). Her mother was Maria Elizabeth Schmidt and was descended from a Schmidt who had been the harbormaster.

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Johnson’s warehouse on the bay. His properties are for the most part still intact as the family which remains are still divided and so no one can do anything with it.Photo June Boulton.

Johnson’s first wife died at an early age. She was only 31 when she died on May 8th, 1894. As was the case many times back then she died , shortly after delivering her fourth child ,James Clarence Austin Johnson who was born on May 7th, 1894 and died on June 2nd, 1894.

They had three children who survived: Henry Stanley Johnson born September 18th, 1888. Florence Amelia Johnson born December 22nd 1892 and died October 12th 1895, and Helen Lucille Johnson, born August 3rd, 1890. Helen later married Captain Ralph Holm, another Statia/Saba family. Helen did not have any children so that the descendants of Henry Stanley Johnson are the only ones who are descended from Jane Elizabeth Schmidt.

Henry Stanley was the only one who remained on St.Eustatius and carried on the business of his father. He also owned a grocery store on Saba and was a Local Councillor here.

Henry H. Johnson’s second wife was Amy Hassell of Saba. She was a daughter of Henry Johnson Hassell and Joanna Beaks Hassell and she was born on May 10th, 187l.

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Some of the Johnson’s and Pandt’s playing Tennis at The Cottage ancestral home of the Pandt family.

 

The custom on Saba at the time was to have your mother’s maiden name inserted as a middle name. My grandfather James Horton Simmons was named so because his mother was a Horton. That is why you have a situation that Henry Hassell Johnson took as his second wife the daughter of Henry Johnson Hassell. Get it!

They had the following children: George Clarence Johnson born 17-September -1899.John de Veer Johnson born December 10th, 1903, Mabel Louise Johnson born October 3rd, 1903, and Ida Leolin Johnson born 1897 who married Johannes Wilhelm Theodoris Schotborgh (aged 22) on December 17th, 1914.

After his second wife died as Shakespeare would have put it; “Johnson was visited in his gray hairs by a young mulatto woman named Olive Woods by whom he had three lovely little people, two girls and one boy before going on to the Walhalla of old West Indian men.” Old soldiers and all of that you know.

Charlie Arnold in “Statia Silhouettes” goes on to say:” At the time the white people – we had quite a lot o’ white people that owned the estates but they didn’t work on them. All

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Capt. Ralph Holm on the left with his hand on the shoulder of his wife Helen Lucille Johnson daughter of Henry Hassell Johnson and Jane Elizabeth Schmidt. They had no children. The Holm family came to Saba from Statia and are descended from a Holm born in Copenhagen.

the work was done by the Negroes, the Negroes.

But they (the whites) never marry each other. The funniest thing – not a white man in Statia would marry a white girl. Never! I could never understand that. They didn’t marry but they would get children by the black girls.They always wanted the black girls. They kept them and they get children but they never do much marrying. Occasionally a couple o’ them get married to the girl. But the girl, the white girl that got married, is from some ministers came in, some people from England or something, Holland or something. But not one o’ the white men that born in Statia would marry one o’ the white girls. It’s very unusual, and I could never find out from a kid. I noticed it from a kid and when I grow – when I grew up then I could understand better. But not one couple that you can say, well a white man from here married to a white girl. The Pandts and the different one, all o’ them never got married. And we had quite a lot o’ white men in the island then, quite a few. Funniest thing, never married. If they didn’t get married to somebody off the island, they never got married. None o’ them that you can say, see.” Mr. Charlie has certainly made his

Statia - Old photo of Oranjestad 1940's

Old photo of Oranjestad 1940’s. Some of Austin Johnson’s family here going to church. In the background was the store of Henry Johnson and the two story building belonged to the Every’s of Schotzenhoek plantation at one time.

point.

Some years ago at the airport on Sint Maarten, I introduced a Johnson cousin of mine to Miss Elrine Leslie of St. Eustatius. I told her that his grandfather was Woolseley Pandt of St.Eustatius. She gave him a good looking over and whispered to me:” Lord, Gena would have been happy to see he. She had like the colour you know.” She was referring to Eugenia Houtman (Ankar) who had 12 children by the white man Peter John MacDonald Pandt and so she would have been the great grandmother of my Johnson cousin who was unaware that his great grandmother was, as Charlie would have said, “one o’ them black Statia girls.”

The Mussenden family was also intermarried with the Johnson’s. However I have much interesting information on the Mussenden family and that will be the subject of another article in the future. As Mr. Charlie said; ” And then the Mussenden’s. They owned the most o’ the land on the South part o’ the island.” Senator Kenneth van Putten told me they owned all the land from Oranjestad to White Wall at one time.

The last Johnson to have lived on St.Eustatius was Miss Lillian Johnson( “Miss Lil”). She was an in-law of Mr. Irvie Mussenden. The Johnson’s must have left a good name behind though. In 1969 when I ran for Senator I pulled 232 votes on St.Eustatius out of a total of 503 votes cast on that island equivalent to 46% of the votes cast. You read me good Clyde.? 46%. Now if you think you bad, try and beat that percentage Clyde if you can.46%. All o’

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The Johnson store in former times. Photo June Boulton.

them Statia politicians going to get out their calculator now to see how they compare.

I have more photo’s in my archive of the Johnson family which I will add to this article when i get time to try and find them.

I wrote this some years ago and I will be going to Statia tomorrow for meetings and will be there for the celebration of Statia Day and looking forward to seeing friends there. God bless Statia and its people!

De Bovenwindsche Stemmen

Image (136)De Bovenwindsche Stemmen

By: Will Johnson

The first edition of “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen” appeared on August 31st, 1933 and the Editor of this bi-monthly paper was Mr. Wilhelm Frederick Carl Ludwig August Netherwood who was born on St. Barths in 1870`. The paper in spite of its Dutch name was completely written in English. The paper was stenciled and had a total of sixty copies every two weeks. Tell me about stenciled papers. I did the “Saba Herald” for twenty five years on stencil mostly. My brother Eric did all the stenciling. Finally when his wife Wilda phoned me and said that he had threatened to throw himself over the cliff, I then took over the task. Living next to an even higher cliff it is a miracle that I am still around. Yes tell me about a stenciled newspaper indeed! According to its rival paper “De Slag om Slag” which started publication the following year, a committee had been established by Miss Slothouwer a well known Dutch teacher on St. Maarten at the time in order to establish a newspaper. She saw the great need to give St. Maarten and by extension St. Eustatius and Saba a voice which could resonate in the colony. On that same committee Mr. A.R. Brouwer was also a member but due to disagreements as to what the newspaper should concentrate on Mr. Brouwer parted ways with the committee and started his own paper. Image (140)His paper “De Slag om Slag” which first appeared on December 22nd, 1934, had a decidedly ant-colonial tint despite the fact the he was the son of the well known Lt. Governor A.J.C. Brouwer. He was also married to one of the Van Romondt family members so that he actually belonged to the elite of the island at the time. However you would not notice that from his writings. The “Bovenwindsche Stemmen” on the other hand tried to steer clear of controversial issues and stuck with the promotion of agriculture and defending the government as much as it could.  In the early part of the 20th century the “Amigoe” newspaper on Curacao carried a column by the same name. The Roman Catholic priests stationed on the Dutch Windward Islands would send in news from these islands to be published in that paper. Also the Rev. Charles McIntosh Darrell, Methodist Minister and one of the principal writers for the paper, started his own column in the Amigoe as of June 21st, 1943 under the same name. This was no coincidence as the Rev. Darrell had been one of the principal writers of the newspaper “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen”. The column followed the demise of the paper in the second half of 1942 due to a shortage of stencil paper caused by the Second World War.

Old St.Martin newspapers

A sampling of some of the St. Martin newspapers of the first half of the 20th century. The second half started with ‘The Windward Islands Opinion’ started by Mr. Joseph H. Lake Sr. on July 1st, 1959.

I only have one copy of “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen” issue # 32 of January 19th, 1935. However I do have almost all of the copies of “De Slag om Slag”. Because of the constant state of war between the two papers just by reading  “De Slag om Slag” one can get a good idea of much of what appeared in the paper of Mr. Netherwood and the Rev. Darrell.

I would like to present just a small sample of the war of words between the two papers. In a lengthy rebuke in one of Brouwers editions he says the following:” Although neither time nor space allow me to handle this inexhaustible supply of sermonized rubbish in the proper way, I shall prove to the public by criticizing on one or two of your insinuations, the audacity of your attack; the sly, sneaking method you pour out on the public, in order to slug away at others, and at the same time safeguard an impregnable hiding place for yourself. To trust also that you will be, the one in future, to take up the cudgel against “unwarranted and disgraceful attacks upon private individuals in this community” as suggested by Mr. W. Netherwood. Such bombastic 5-column rubbish will be sure to prolong the “Bovenwindsche Stemmen’s” life.”

In “De Slag om Slag” of February 6th, 1937 under the heading “Bovenwindsche Stemmen Again”, Mr. Brouwer writes the following: ‘The Bovenwindsche Stemmen and the Rev. Darrell do not seem to be very well pleased with our comments on their insulting article and letter in which our Editor was compared unfavourably to the wharf rats of London docks; his mentality, morality, fidelity, integrity etc., were questioned.”

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The Saban Captains and their schooners would regularly buy and transport salt from the Great Salt Pond to many parts of the world. See my book “The Diary of a St. Martin Salt Checker”. Available at the Museum on St. Martin.

 

Another excerpt from “De Slag om Slag” in its edition of February 15th, 1936 # 53 under the headline: “Bovenwindsche Stemmen Motto”.

“It is without the least bit of surprise that we read in the Bovenwindsche Stemmen of the 8th instant No. 58 in their leading article entitled “Some Local needs” the following: “ In this connection, we would again refer to the question of moral training in the Public Schools, which we have reason to know is regarded by the Educational authorities in quite a different light to that in which it has been represented in the columns of “De Slag om Slag” where a campaign of vile slander has been launched against the Editor of this paper.”

The “Slag om Slag” reiterated by stating: “We were not surprised to read this we say, since it has been the motto of “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen” to mislead their readers from the time their No. 1 issue appeared on August 31st 1933.” Those boys were not easy and the tit for tat continued as long as both papers appeared. This led to exchanges of letters which would imply that the Editor intended perhaps to make a legal case in his defense. Such a letter appeared in the issue of January 18th, 1936.

To the Editor of “De Slag om Slag”

Dear Sir,

In order that responsibility for the defamatory letters by “Ex Scholars” which have lately appeared in your paper may be placed where it belongs, I politely ask that you will furnish me with the name of the individual (or individuals) from whom the letters have emanated. Yours Truly, W. Netherwood.

Reply from “De Slag om Slag”

  1. Netherwood Esq.

En ville,

Dear Sir,

In answer to yours of even date we refer to our issue of the 2nd of March 1935, No. 5 wherein we stated on page 4: “We promise not to mention names of correspondents” etc.

Yours truly.

A.R. Brouwer, Editor, “De Slag om Slag”.

It was not all war though. On January 26th, 1936 in issue # 50 under the heading Wedding ,we read in “De Slag om Slag” the following:

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The Rev. Charles McIntosh Darrell, Methodist Minister.

At 5 0’clock on Wednesday afternoon 15th instant quite a large crowd was gathered before the Weslyean Methodist Church to witness the marriage ceremony of Mr. W. Netherwood and Miss Grace Darrell which was to take place there. The church itself was full to overflowing. The bridegroom arrived at about 10 minutes to 5 and at the stroke of 5 the Bride escorted by her brother Mr. Jim Darrell arrived. They were followed by two Bridesmaids, Miss Irma Brouwer and Miss Carmen Darrell both dressed in pink with picture hats nestled slantwise on their heads. After the ceremony the company repaired to the home of the Bride’s father, Rev. Ch. Mc.I. Darrell.”

What Brouwer did not mention was that Mr. W. Netherwood was sixty six years old and the bride in her twenties. Who did make a poem on Mr. Netherwoods ability or lack of same to consummate the marriage was Wallace Peterson. I remember sitting with him one day in the “Oranje Café” and he reciting with relish his poem about the intended marriage. I wonder if the “Ex Scholars” meant by Mr. Netherwood could not have been Wallace and his five cents worth of poetry about the upcoming wedding. Mr. Netherwood had first been married at the age of 23 on July 19th, 1893 to Miss Ella Leonora van Romondt (29). She was born on December 24th, 1863 and died at the age of 61 on March 14th, 1925. Mr. Wilhelm Fredrik Carel Ludwig August Netherwood was born on St. Barths in 1869 and died on St.Maarten on October 18th, 1948, and his parents were George Wilhelm Netherwood and Malvina Augusta Abbott. He came to St. Maarten as a bookkeeper for the Van Romondt family. He later went into business for himself and owned the building on Front street where the Philipsburg Utilities was formerly located. One of the many lovely two-storey houses which formerly graced the town of Philipsburg, this house was first a public school and then later used as a town-house of the first D.C. van Romondt.

His wife Ella was a sister of Mr. Granville van Romondt. Their parents were John George Louis Illidge van Romondt and Anna Paulowna van Romondt.

Mr. Netherwood had no children from either marriage. He was a “grand man” according to some of the old timers like Mr. Carl Buncamper who were privileged to know him personally. He never drank and did not encourage his friends to drink. In the downstairs section of his home there was a large billiard table and in the evenings he would invite his friends for a game of billiards.

Mr. Netherwood owned several schooners, including the “Cyril”. He used them to export salt to Guyana and elsewhere. In his book “Memories of St. Martin N.P.”, Mr. J.C. Waymouth mentions the loss of a fine schooner, the Prins Hendrik. It was lost on a reef while coming out of the Oyster Pond on the 3rd of October 1911, after the hurricane season. Mr. Netherwood who was her sole owner, thereby sustained a loss of $ 4.000.–.

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Mr. Netherwood’s House is the first one on the right. It later became the Philipsburg Utilities, a hardware store.

Mr. Netherwood and his brother-in-law Mr. Granville van Romondt owned a building where Risdon’s Snack bar used to be located and that is where they conducted their business. This property was later sold to the Every’s of St. Eustatius. After they were lost on the schooner the “Verdun” it was sold to Mr. William Benjamin (Willie Bee) Peterson.

Mr. Netherwood served as local councilor for some thirty years and the people looked upon him as a sound and honest man At one time the Methodist Synod wanted to remove the Rev. Charles McIntosh Darrell from St. Maarten. Mr. Netherwood went to the Synod to represent Mr. Darrell as he was a steward in the Methodist Church. In spite of his efforts and even though Rev. Darrell had only one more year to serve in order to get a Dutch pension, it was decided to remove him to Marigot, Dominica, and he resigned. After an appeal to headquarters in England he was allowed to serve out his year on St. Maarten. One of the reasons why the Synod wanted his removal was because he had built the Methodist Manse too large. It was claimed that the reason for this being so was that he hoped to board there when he retired. It was out of this struggle for the cause of the Rev. Darrell that Netherwood started publishing the bi-monthly “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen”, on August 31st 1933, from his home on the Front Street. The Rev. Darrell was one of the principal writers for the paper. By the time the paper had to be closed down Mr. Netherwood was already old and not in the best of health.

Mr. Netherwood was one of the wealthiest people on St. Maarten, yet he died a poor man. He never tried to get money in a dishonest way. He was buried in the Methodist cemetery and acquaintances say there is no tombstone to mark his final resting place. He was concerned for the welfare of St. Maarten and the people had such confidence in him, despite the fact that he was a foreigner; they elected him as their local councilor. He was also the United States vice Counsel starting in 1898 already. He tried in vain to revive the salt industry with his personal funds and some of the salt pans were under his direction. In the end he became so poor that he would have to borrow money from the government

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This photo was taken in the early nineteen sixties just a few years after Mr. Netherwood died. This would have been the lovely town of Philipsburg where he lived and did business.

 

to reap the salt.

After his death the Rev. Darrell lived in Mr. Netherwood’s former home. There is from where he started a column in the “Amigoe di Curacao”, entitled “De Bovenwindsche Stemmen” which appeared at irregular intervals with news of the Dutch Windward Islands. Today few people know of these newspapers and some people even act as if they never did exist. However in their day everyone looked forward to their two local papers on St. Maarten, one of which the Editor (Mr. A.R. Brouwer) was born on Saba and the other Mr. Netherwood was born on St. Barths. Obviously their passport into St.Maarten was the fact that both of their wives belonged to the then all powerful Van Romondt family. As a former Editor of “The Labour Spokesman”, and co-Editor of the “Emporium Review” and for 25 years the “Saba Herald”, all three stenciled papers, I have a great appreciation for anyone who under the circumstances (and at the same time like Mr. Brouwer fighting the colonial authorities), dedicated themselves to publishing a mimeographed newspaper. George Horace Lorimer wrote that;”Writing is like religion. Every man who feels the call must work out his own salvation.” And Mr. Netherwood was one of those who felt the call and made it a reality through his “Bovenwindsche Stemmen.”, and it would be remiss of us not to remember his legacy.

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After the salt was harvested it would be heaped up on the shore until it could be exported.

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Miss Paula Clementina Dorner

Miss Paula Clementina Dorner

By; Will Johnson

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On December 16th, 1986, Minister Leo Chance signed the National Decree appointing my person as the representative for Sint Maarten, Saba and St.Eustatius on the Committee concerned with the issuing of new stamps of the Postal services honouring meritorious persons in our island communities.

The other committee members were

The director of the Postal Services R.H. Galmeijer,( member/chairman). Mr E.A.V. Jesurun of Curacao, Dr. A. F. Paula of Curacao, and Mr. F.J.I. Booi of Bonaire.

 

While I served on the committee I nominated a number of persons to be thus honoured and was successful with all of the ones I nominated. They were from St.Maarten: Mr. Cyrus W. Wathey, Mr. Joseph H. Lake, and Mr. Evert Stephanus Jordanus Kruythoff.

For Sint Eustatius: Mrs Christine Flanders and Miss Paula Clementina Dorner;

For Saba: Mrs. Maude Othello Edwards born Jackson, and Mrs. Gertrude Johnson born Hassell.

After the Post office of the Netherlands Antilles was given away to Canada I never heard another word either about the committee or the need to honour people who had served these islands. This was a good way to honour people and the families appreciated what I had done to bring recognition for these people through the issuing of a stamp in their honour. Somalia for many years did not have a government. Some say they still don’t have one. They do have their own Post offices though.

During the period that I served on the Committee it was fun for me to do research on the lives of the people whom I nominated. I got help from a number of friends who knew them as well. I did not do a bad job in bringing the women forward. Of the seven which I succeeded in nominating, four of them were women. There would have been a lot more but alas the new owners of the Post office did not see any financial rewards in honouring people they had never heard of. As the Post office goes, so goes the country as well.

I would like to give some information on Miss Paula Clementina Dorner of St.Eustatius, who appeared on a 40 cent stamp issued by the Postal Services of the Netherlands Antilles on September 20th, 1989.

She was born on St. Eustatius on January 15th, 1901, daughter of Jacob Henry Dorner and Agnes Eusebia Godet.

She was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and became a teacher at the Roman Catholic Elementary school in 1919. She taught in the first grade until 1965 when she went on pension. And so for nearly fifty years she directly influenced several generations of Statians who attended her class.

Her religious beliefs also led her to take part in the political life of her island. She was the first woman of Sint Eustatius who took part in elections. She ran on a list in the elections of June 4th, 1951 and obtained 13 votes. Although 5 parties took part in the elections her party the K.V.P. (Catholic People’s Party) was successful in the sense that party leader G.A.Th. Heyliger was elected as a member of the Island Council. Together with Mr. Vincent Astor Lopes he was also elected as Commissioner in the first Executive Council of Sint Eustatius.

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Miss Paula Dorner’s House in Oranjestad, St. Eustatius.

She was directly involved with all which took place in the Roman Catholic Church on Sint Eustatius. She was charged with preparing the young children for first Holy Communion. This task she carried out until her death. She was also leader of the choir and was also the organist. The church on Sint Eustatius was blessed with two great organists.

Before Miss Dorner around 1890 the fourteen year old Cathy Lispier was so talented in playing the organ that she attracted a large number of people to the church. Until her death at the age of 79 she remained the organist and Miss Dorner surely learned from her.

Miss Dorner and her sisters Clasina and Carrie lived next to the Roman Catholic Church on the Van Tonnigenweg. Her house was a place loved by young and old as Miss Paula and her sisters were always socially active in the Statian community. These many years later after her death most old timers on Sint Eustatius know who ‘Miss Paula’ was, where she lived, and,what her contributions were to the community.

After she went on pension she was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen with a medal in silver in the Order of Oranje Nassau.

Paula C. Dorner died on December 1st 1969. Through her work and example she opened many doors for women in the Statian community and her name is held in honour by all of those who had the privilege of meeting her.

Miss Paula’s house is used now as the headquarters of the Democrat Party. In the nineteen eighties I stayed in the house for a week with my family. The house was then called‘t Tuin Huisje’.It was October, calm and very hot but we look back fondly on our stay there.

Carl Anslyn at Schotzenhoek planatation.

A photo of William Carl Anslyn  at Schotzenhoek Plantation feeding his chickens. It was owned by he and his brother Arthur for some years.

The late Mr. William Carl Anslijn knew her well. Carl and his brother Arthur had bought the Schotzenhoek plantation from the Every family of Saba/Sint Eustatius. They lived on Statia for several years before the second world war. When I was doing research on her life I asked him and then Senator Kenneth van Putten to give me information. Carl wrote the following:

“I remember Paula as a person who always had a smile and a cheerful word for everybody. It did not take me long to find that the most of her time when not teaching in the Catholic school or engaged in choir practice and church work, was spent in helping others.

Since every time we came to town from our estate’ Schotzenhoek’, it was always a pleasure for us to stop by for a ‘short’ visit which often lasted an hour or more.

Paula’s sisters Clasina and Carrie were very much respected and liked by my mother, my brother and I, and the same could be said of Paula.

Paula and her sisters were highly respected and liked by the entire Statian community, and many were the gifts of fruit, greens, etc. which were sent to their home by well-wishers.

We grew to regard Paula and her family as our relatives, and many were the happy hours we spent at her home. Some times when I sit and think of the days gone by I imagine us all sitting on their porch on a bright moonlight night, with the fragrance of the jasmine flowers all around us, and peace and contentment in our hearts.

The three sisters were God fearing and religious, and their lives were above reproach.

We spent many happy hours in their company, and when the time came for us to leave Statia it was with sorrow in our hearts that we had to leave such good and loyal friends behind. We kept in touch for many years, but time like an ever flowing stream, bore them also away, and I am sure that among the old folks on Statia there are many who still think fondly of them, and if godliness, goodness, and kindness insure one a place in Heaven, then they are in Heaven.”

Of course Carl is strictly speaking for himself here. His brother Arthur was a bird of different plumage. The old fox would have viewed a house with three single ladies living in it as identical to that of a coup with three pullets in it.

I asked Kenneth about my take on Arthur and he laughed and said:” Yes Arthur was after one of the sisters but she would not take him on.”

I just returned from Statia doing the eulogy for my friend Lasil Rouse. As I passed the old Dorner house memories of my pleasant week there came back to me and thus I decided to share this bit of information with my reading public.

I also went to see Mr. Siegfried Lampe in the hospital. I would like to compliment Statia with its nice clean hospital. Mr. Lampe is 95 and despite the hardships he has been through the last years, I was amazed at how strong he was. He complimented me on my articles and asked me to never stop writing.Image (72)

I must say I am getting a bit of a swell head with all the compliments I get from all the islands where my articles circulate. So many people call me or stop me about what I write. From the immigration officers on St.Maarten, to the airport cleaners, the taxi drivers, and many of my friends from when I was a young teenager on St.Maarten. I think the articles have brought me as much reputation as my political career.

Anyway I enjoy doing this and I promise all of those who ask, that I will try and put a book together in future of the most interesting articles. It also goes to show that our people long for a time and a world which has been mostly lost to us. I would also like to encourage others to share their memories with the reading public.

This article was published in my column Under The Sea Grape Tree some years ago. Some people told me that I had the wrong house. However that is the one pointed out to me at the time. I would appreciate a correction on that one with a photo of the house they have in mind. I remember seeing a more modern one, but could that have been her most recent house and not the one I am referring to? Anslyn refers to sitting on the porch when visiting in the evenings and the one I refer to is still there and has a nice porch. Anyway if anyone can help me out with photo’s of both houses I would be grateful. I will be on St. Eustatius for Statia day and will also take photo’s if I get a chance. Also I was never able to get a good photo of her. If anyone can contribute a good photo of her for this article that too would be appreciated.

 

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