An 80 acre island that once had its own king, navy, and airline. True!

Tintamare Island, often known locally as "Flat Island", seemingly has had three periods of at least transitory activity. The first was in the 18th century when, after the French had retrieved it from the English, who had held it for some 40years. It had approximately 150 inhabitants. Then like so much of the land on both the Dutch and the French sides, it came into the possession of the van Romndt family. The final phase came in the middle of the Twentieth century, when Tintamare heralded the development of air transportation in the area, which we take for granted today.

After the French took possession from the English, a dispute arose about the island’s sovereignty. The island was owned by a succession of persons from St. Christopher (St. Kitts). They resisted French efforts to take possession of the island. Their ownership was never in doubt, but their allegiance was not to the French King or the governments that followed. It must be remembered that St.Martin was regularly changing hands of time; the end of the eighteenth century leading up to the Napoleonic wars.


Then it passed to the van Romondt family. The first to come to St. Martin was Diederik Johannes Van Romondt (1781 - 1849) who arrived from Amsterdam, Holland, in 1801.

Because of a dispute over property taxes (Gebruiksbelasting) in 1902 Diederik Christian moved to the isle of Tintamare, which he also owned. (There is reason to believe that Tintamare is a Dutch island as it was not included in the original partition treaty of the main island of St. Martin 23rd March, 1648)’ thus began most memorable period of Diederik Christian’s life, and one of the most

There, in Kruythoffs Phase, “he reigned unmolested in almost regal independence. “ In fact, a French journalist wrote in journal De Paris, August 23rd , 1913 under the headline of “ Le Roi De Tintamare” (The King of Tintamare), so glowingly that “ he received many letters for Paris, Italy, and Germany, and some from heiresses who solicited a lifelong partnership with Mr. Van Romondt to become ”queen” of romance as well as Tintamare.

For the people working for him (most of them from Anguilla) he founded a shop on the island, and in 1913 he imported 30,000 Dutch cents, which were circulated among them as a currency of his own. Dutch cents seldom used a means of payment in the Windward Islands; Mr. Van Romondt attributed an exchange rate of value of half a penny to each cent. He raised 60 to 70 head of cattle, about 540 sheep, grew fine Sea Island cotton, and made cheese and butter which were renowned throughout the West Indies. Then in 1931 he sold the island to Louis Constant Fleming, a merchant and mayor of Marigot, and the following year to Mary Fancy.

Pirate Expedition

There are many rumors about U boat activity around Tintamare during World War 11. It’s a possibility submariners may have enjoyed “R&R” on the island while their boats were refueled. French St. Martin was like other French islands in the area, under the control of the Vichy French. The shallow waters around Tintamare may have allowed the subs to sit on the bottom and “snorkel” while their diesel engines recharged their batteries. However as the war progressed attacking the more strategic Allied trade with the refineries in Curacao and Aruba, the invention of Sonar and over-stretched Nazi logistic would have limited operation in this area.

The last flurry of activity on Tintamare was described by Georges Bourdin, a French journalist, who devoted 30 years to writing a history of St. Barth. He wrote that Remy de Haenen, who brought the age of aviation to St. Barth in 1945, a few years earlier “had decided to establish his base on Tintamare, and other planes followed. In 1946 he founded the “compagnie Aerienne Antillaise “

Beach and Boats

Soon Tintamare became the operational and maintenance base of a regional airline. CAA Stinson Trimotors would fly the longer stretches to Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe, mostly from Juliana. The Sikosky S- 41 flying boat, built for PANANAM anno 1930, would connect to the island without airports, Dominica, Martinique and even as far St. Lucia. From Juliana or flat island the small Stinson Detroiter shuttle passengers to St. Barth’s or Anguilla.

This was brief golden age for this tiny island off St. Martin, with its 20 inhabitants. On March 22nd 1947 a disastrous night, take – off from the unlit airstrip, killed two pilots. Shortly thereafter, on 22nd May 1947, Tintamare with its 50 acres had never known such activity. The hurricane of September 1950 finally put an end to the old CAA airplanes still on the island and it reverted to its scrub growth and goats. The last airstrips were erased by the 1956 and 1960 hurricanes.

Tintamarre Island

When you visit Tintamare, the island is yours to explore. You will find traces of its history. Imagine the Allets and the Paynes. The pioneering families who produced lime and farmed peacefully the reasonable efforts of the French to establish their sovereignty. The ruins of buildings and stone walls define the idyllic age of agriculture, when “Mr. D.C.” Van Romondt was romanticized by journalists. Finally, you will find what is left of aircraft as you’re standing on what was once an active airstrip. Now it reverts to almost its natural state.

History by: Andrew Mac Donald


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