A story of David Mills aka Vance James, Sr.

Dear Editor,

  In this piece of writing, I am giving public recognition to the late David Mills for his services to the community of St. Maarten in retrospect. David, as he was affectionately called, was the father of the late Vance James, Jr. a former Island Council member, and leader of Government of St. Maarten. He was a man of many skills. A sailor turned businessman, a natural-born salesman, and a great sea captain. David Mills was very active in transporting cargoes from the twin islands of St. Kitts and Nevis to St. Maarten in his early days.

  He brought food supplies, building materials, and soft drinks for the people of St. Maarten from the twin-island state. David was one of the early pioneers risking his life, crewmen, and cargoes through a dangerous channel at night between St. Maarten and St. Kitts with his small vessel, Lady James. Upon arrival at the Great Bay Pier in Philipsburg Harbor, he was greeted by the “sounds of the conch shell.”

  “I was filled with enthusiasm on arrival, and was praised for his great entrepreneurial spirit by the people of the Island,” said Mills. David Mills came from Dieppe Bay, a small quiet village on the Western side of St. Kitts, overlooking St. Eustatius, Saba, and a view of St. Maarten in the background. On hearing of so many sad and horrific stories about fishermen lost at sea, small boats overturned in the channel, and men eaten by sharks. I sometimes wonder how did he manage these perilous journeys with men on board and supplies through the dangerous “Statia Channel.”

  “St. Maarten should never turn its back on St. Kitts,” said Mills. He brought English language textbooks, agricultural supplies, soft drinks, building materials, medicines, and the list goes on. Most of his times in St. Maarten, he used to wear mostly short pants, white tee-shirt, sailor-type shoes, a cap and dark pair of shades.

  David Mills was a big supporter of the late Dr. Claude Wathey. “I always told Vance James, Jr. to stay out of politics, but he doesn’t listen, and I never voted for him because of that,” said Mills.

  “My voyages to St. Maarten with cargoes were never easy. It was breath-taking at times, especially sailing through the Statia Channel. Sometimes my crewmen would ask, Are we going to make it to St. Maarten with all these supplies on board?” “Yes, we will make it,” said David. He was a very positive person.

  David Mills was the first to set up a soft drink distribution company on St. Maarten, and because of him Coca Cola is here today.

  It is so sad in retrospect to see such an important person who did so much for the people of this country was never recognized for his contributions to the community of St. Maarten. David Mills, aka Vance James, Sr., you are truly a shining star in my book of heroes looking over this little island. You always said to me in the past that one of these days someone will set sail from the twin-island state with a larger vessel loaded with more supplies of materials and foods for the people of this country (St. Maarten).

  This is a short COVID-19 relaxer for all those readers who love to read non-fiction stories about great people.


Joseph Harvey

The Daily Herald

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