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Saba History  
  History & CultureSaba's birth was traumatic. Circa 500,000 BC the island was formed as the top of a volcano that became active during the middle of the late Pleistocene era. Now a dormant volcano, she has not erupted for about 5,000yrs.
Arawak Tribe
Circa 1175 BC - hunter gatherers called Ciboney are considered to be the earliest settlers on Saba. They lived near Fort Bay where recent radiocarbon samples showed that the site is over 3,000yrs old.

Circa 800 AD - Arawak Indians migrated into the Caribbean basin from South America and built villages on Saba.

Fast forwarding to 1493, Christopher Columbus sighted the Unspoiled Queen, but sailed on by without attempting any sort of landing when he observed the treacherous nature of her jagged volcanic shores.

A century and a half later in 1632 the island welcomed her first European visitors, a group of shipwrecked Englishmen, they reported later that the island was inhabited. Recently found artifacts revealed the existence of Amerindian settlements.

In 1640, the Dutch West Indian Company, which had already settled on the neighboring island of St. Eustatius (known then as "The Golden Rock" as it was a thriving regional center of commerce) brought people over to Saba in order to colonize the island. Soon after, those Dutchmen were chased away by the famous British pirate Henry Morgan, due to the ongoing conflict between the Netherlands and Britain. For almost 200 years the island switched hands between The Dutch, Spanish, French and English. During this period the village of "The Bottom" was established 1200ft up from Fort Bay. Today it is the administrative center and capital of the island.

After much toing and froing the Dutch won out in 1816. For almost two centuries this still remains the case. Like everywhere else in the Caribbean, the tragedy of slavery brought people of African descent to Saba's shores, because life on the island was hard and all had to work together to survive, slavery on Saba ended far in advance of other parts of the world.

For many years Saba was known as a haven for Caribbean pirates. As time passed by the Unspoiled Queen wove her calming spell and the inhabitants, of Dutch, African, English, Scottish and Irish descent, many of the men became sailors and fishermen. These professions would see many of the Saba men away from the island for extended periods of time... The island thus became known as "The Island of Women"! Since the "man of the house" was often away Saba's women became very resilient and independent by necessity. Their renown grew for making socks, shoes, belts, gloves, Panama style straw hats and, still an enduring tradition today and a healthy income gained from export then, lace. Originally known as "Spanish work" the Sabans made it their own and "Saba Lace" is still created and can be purchased in several locations around the island today.

During this time the inhabitants spread to various locations on the island and formed the villages that we know today, where the fertile volcanic soil created ideal conditions for another profession... agriculture. From 1829 schools were established by the local churches to educate Saba's youth.

The Twentieth Century
Admiral E.A. JohnsonIn 1909 A navigational school was established by Frederick Simmons to train young Saban men in the ways of the sea.

Until 1943, transportation on Saba was not easy, steep trails between the sea and the settlements on the hills were negotiated on foot and donkey. Finally, in 1943, Josephus "Lambee" Hassell achieved the road that, Dutch & Swiss engineers claimed "couldn't be built". Hassell simply took a correspondence course in civil engineering and started to build the road with the help of his fellow islanders. Between 1943 & 1958 the road was completed in stages, the final stage being the road to Flat Point the future location of Saba's airport.

The first aircraft landing was in 1959 and an airport was opened in 1963 linking the island to St. Maarten. Finally, the construction of a pier in 1972 allowed not only fishing boats, but also sailboats and dive boats to moor, thus opening up the island to the possibility of tourism. It wasn't until the late 80's that Saba's Tourism industry started to grow.

The Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) and was established in 1987, with the main objective of preserving and managing Saba’s Natural and cultural heritage. As previous generations of Saba people had appreciated the island’s natural resources, the SCF was not conceived to repair damaged habitats, but rather to ensure the continued quality of an extraordinary environment for the benefit and enjoyment of all.

The Twenty First Century
Formally part of the Netherlands Antilles, Saba became part of a Special municipality of the Kingdom of the Netherlands together with the islands of St. Eustatius and Bonaire in 2010.

Today Saba's guests will discover a mixed population of European, African and Latin descendents, speaking English, Dutch and Spanish. Saban houses are well kept, the gardens team with flowers and the doors seldom are locked. The friendliness of Sabans is not in any doubt, and everyone knows everybody on the Unspoiled Queen.

The Harry L. Johnson Museum
The Harry L. Johnson MuseumLocated in a 19th century sea captain's cottage at the end of Park lane in the historical district of Windwardside. The museum is situated in a meadow surrounded by beautiful flowers.  Exhibits include collections from the 19th and early 20th century as well as a collection of artifacts from the Amerindian archaeological sites around the island. It also serves as a resource center where you can find articles on Saba.

Drop by the tourist office so we can arrange a visit for you!

Open Monday Through Friday
11.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m.

Dutch Museum Saba
The Harry L. Johnson MuseumUnique for the Caribbean: Dutch collections of antiques, 150 to + 400 years old. (Tiles, books, porcelain, tapestries, furniture, lacework, paintings etc.etc.)

Location: a renovated traditional Saban cottage Park Lane street 12, Windwardside, (just above Juliana's Hotel).

Opening hours: every day from 1 - 5 pm plus other times on request.

Entrance fee: on voluntary basis

Presentations and films about the antiques, about the Dutch history and the West Indian Company and Saba and more also after an appointment.

Contact info: Foundation Dutch Museum Saba
Phone: +599 - 416 6030

Religions of Saba

Numerous religious denominations are represented on Saba; Roman Catholic, Anglican, Jehovah's Witness, Seventh Day Adventist and Wesleyan Holiness.

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Other pages in this section
Where is Saba?
Travel Info
History & Culture
Saba's Airport
Saba's Road
Saba's Port
General Info
Real Estate
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