Created: Oct 01, 2021 8:00 AM
If many Bermudians were asked which Caribbean island they can trace their roots to, most would correctly answer St Kitts. Some, however, would say they can trace their roots back to the Dutch colony of Saint-Eustache.
“Saint-Where? ” you say.
Christopher Famous’ parents, Thomas and June, look towards Saint-Kitts from the eastern end of Saint-Eustache
Saint-Eustache, more commonly known as Statia, is a small island located between Saint-Kitts and Saba. With a population of less than 4,000 and measuring just eight square miles, Statia makes Bermuda a giant island.
Historically, this island was called “The Golden Rock” as it was an important trading post during the 1700s.
Here is a passage from a column by Bermudian historian Ed Harris, published in The Royal Gazette April 13, 2013:
“Similar to the activities of blocking Bermuda and the Bahamas towards the Southern Confederacy during the American Civil War, Saint-Eustache became the place where the rebels of the second half of the 1770s could obtain goods, especially war material. , which were refused to them in the British colonies and in Great Britain itself.
“The Dutch in Statia, along with their many Bermudan business compatriots, were only too happy to be of service and many fortunes were made at the expense of the British and future Americans. In some of those years, more than 2,000 ships visited Statia each year, many of them Bermudans.
“Unfortunately for the war merchants, Admiral Rodney destroyed the commercial center of Saint-Eustache in 1781, as he advanced through the West Indies, putting an end to the French, the Dutch and all allies of the American rebels, including Bermudan merchants. “
Fast forwarding more than 200 years, Statia’s economy is kept alive by a major oil facility managed by Nustar and a new hotel named The Golden Rock Resort.
While Dutch is the official language of the island, the vast majority of Statians speak Eastern Caribbean English. The old official currency was the Netherlands Antilles guilder. However, in 2010, the US dollar became the official currency.
Now you ask yourself, “What does all this have to do with Bermuda?” “
Well, as you just read, over 200 years ago Bermuda merchants had a booming business with Statia.
A wealthy and influential former merchant from Statia was called Gosling.
According to Statia museum curator Walter Hellebrand, this person may have had connections with the Gosling family in Bermuda.
In many old walls lining the streets of Oranjestad, you can find Bermuda limestone that was shipped straight from Bermuda. The Old Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1755 with the use of Bermuda limestone.
More direct and precise, there are many Bermudian families whose roots go back to Statia.
Here are some of the last names that can tell you something:
The Degraff family, famous for their beef pâtés, can trace their lineage back to Saint-Eustache.
Kim Tucker and her sister, educator Gina Tucker, are the great-grandchildren of a person from Statia named Houghton, pronounced “Hor-ton”.
You will find the grave of Richard Horton (died 1769) in the cemetery of the Old English Church, where many Bermudians were buried with names such as Jennings and Packwood.
As a child, I spent a lot of my time growing up in Statia, trying to learn Dutch and repairing Volkswagen Beetles during the day while tending to my grandfather’s herd at night.
This summer my family was fortunate enough to have a mini reunion, with many of us returning from all corners of the globe. Needless to say, almost everyone here knows each other by first name.
Statia has certainly made progress with a new airport, a new hotel and new roads. Yet it retains its charm with free range cattle, goats and sheep.
Welcome to Statia.
• Christopher Famous is the Member of Parliament for Devonshire East (District 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or by email at [email protected]