Exotic woods that no one knows are on St Croix

best website builder I remember visiting some friends in St Croix, Virgin Islands one winter in the early 70’s. They told me there was this ”hippie type guy” out on the end of the island who had exotic woods native to the island laying all over the place. That was enough for me to rent a car and drive out there to find him.

What I found left me feeling like a kid in a candy store without a penny to buy a piece. I had never seen wood like that with strange names like Kiabacca and others I can’t remember . Beautiful colors , Interesting grain … and fairly large..

I told the “not a hippie guy” who I was and that I’d love to have some of these but I was going home by plane and the weight was out of the question.

He then told me to pick out what I wanted and let him know what plane I’d be on. He would see that I have them on board. I asked how he was going to do that and he told me he knows everybody on the island and is friends with most of them, There was not much he couldn’t get done on St Croix.

I picked out several pieces, one almost 4 feet long, and paid the man.

He showed up at the airport with all of the wood on a dolly, asked to borrow my ticket and disappeared into the bowels of the lobby. A short while latter he came back, returned my ticket and told me everything was taken care of. I figured he had put the wood on the plane as freight and didn’t think anymore about it until I arrived at Bradley in Hartford . I began to wonder where I had to go to pick up freight as I waited at the carousel for my luggage.

Imagine my surprise, and that of the other passengers standing there, when the first log popped out of the curtain with a claim check tied to it.  All of the wood arrived that way… My “not a hippie” friend had managed to get everything on the plane as luggage.

Sculpture in Kiabacca wood from St Croix

From a piece of wood I got in St Croix . Location unknown.

I lost track of this piece. I refer you to a previous post because this proves the point once again… I wish I had kept it. It’s not as bad as I thought it was over 35 years ago. 🙂


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34 Responses

  1. ….your story is very interesting ….I had an almost exact experience w/ the same guy, same time frame. I heard he passed years ago…He had made me promise not to ‘cut’ the slabs I took home with me, explaining that that would damage the spirit of the wood; I waited years before I actually turned the slabs into tables!

      • Wow, I also bought a large slab (5′) from Fletcher, who when I was there, walked around naked. A master at his craft

    • The man’s name was Fletcher Pence and he died in 1991. He was a very dear friend of mine. It’s such a joy to read the comments and read how other people remember him. When I visited once, he took me to a party at well-off couple’s house and showed me all the woodwork he had done for them. Fletcher was one in a million.

  2. We lived in St. Croix for 3 1/2 yrs in the late 70’s. The “hippie” was named Fletcher Pence. His shop was St. Croix Leap. We bought saman wood from him that was made into a dining room table & tibet for coffee tables. My husband made several clocks out of tibet. Fletcher would not sell you any wood if he didn’t agree with what you were going to do with it. If you drove up the hill & saw him without his overalls(nothing underneath), then you were lucky. He would go to Miami every year to try to date obese women (didn’t care for skinny ladies). Fletcher was unique.

    • It is so fun to read these comments. I met Fletcher 38 years ago when I was 30 and he was 60. At that time I weighed 300 pounds, so yes, he liked his women big. We were friends and lovers until the day he died. I still have all his letters, along with his gifts to me of cheese boards, a clock, and a beautiful coffee table. Fletcher was loads of fun, very generous, kind, truly unique, and the love of my life.

  3. Thank you for opening that window for me once again. I love it when people from my past come back to visit.

  4. My father Jack James took me to Fletcher’s place many a time. I still have some of his work from 60’s and 70’s. Treasured memories from my home.

  5. Hello Ed,
    While researching a name for our new craft beer & pizza bar in NYC, I had googled “Hippies” and “St. Croix” last year.
    What came up was your blog about Fletcher Pence and the exotic woods he would sell.
    Your blog inspired us to name our new place “KIABACCA”. I would like to think that Fletcher would agree with what we did with the place!
    If you are ever down in NYC, stop in and see us. Drinks are on us.
    Pat Hughes
    C0-Owner Kiabacca Bar, NYC

    • Fletcher was friends with my grandparents, who were quite affluent in the 60’s my fam has many of his pieces, and he had even built a cabin on their property in a Nyack. We still have a house on STX, and my mother lives north of Utica, I feel his unique work was pioneering to the slab furniture game that has won the heart off rustic elegance!

  6. Hello all, I remember Fletcher Pence, visiting his place as a little girl. My dad had to call ahead to make sure he had clothes on. My dad took several pictures of him
    , his work, and even a lady friend (very large of course). My grandparents lived on St. Croix. Fond memories. We had a 3-legged mahogany stool he made. Wish I knew where it is now. My visits to st.croix were in the 60’s and early 1970’s.

    • Thanks for the flash back, Fond memories of St Croix and Pense. All of the pieces I carved from his logs are scattered across the country. Wish I had kept a few of them .

  7. Good Night, Mr. Jaffe. My name is Neville James and I am currently the Senate President of the Virgin Islands Legislature. I am currently doing a research project on Mr. Pence and ran across your blog. I’ll be in contact with you down the road when my project is complete. Nice Read….

    Sincerely, Neville James

    • Thank you Mr. James, Of all of the posts I’ve done over the years the story about Pence always strikes a cord in anyone who ever had contact with him. He was indeed a fixture on the island.

  8. Mr. Jaffe, when I was there in 1993, Mr. Pence had passed away but Willie “Cheech” Thomas was working at the shop. Sounds like the same spirit — didn’t always wear clothes. Any idea what ever happened to him?A man named Vincent is there now.

  9. I lived close by from 1970 to 1976. It was called “Domus Hill”. (Domicile) before LEAP was formed. We bought the lease on Royal Harbor beach club from Arthur Christiansen, renamed it Rainbow Beach, painted it up in rainbow colors, and moved the food and drink up a notch from what had been simply hot dogs and burgers. Up at Domus Hill, Fletcher trained Thomas & Janis P., Richard & Pat E., Joe S.,and John D. Then Cheech and Jim L. Joined in. Rainbow is still there, and amazingly the actual beach is officially named Rainbow Beach! What an honor! Thanks for sparking these memories for me.

    • I also had a flashback with your comment Mr.Roffe, It’s amazing how Fletcher lives on in his own way.

    • We lived up the road on Mr. Peterson”s land 1976
      1980, we had a farming project. Fletcher was a friend. He had lots of trees along side the driveway he had brought to the property just waiting to be turned in to something beautiful.
      Most of the time he wore just an apron. I think he was the only person allowed to remove a tree
      That had fallen or needed
      To be relocated. He had lots of huge old trees
      Everywhere, looked like a tree graveyard.
      The young people living in the big domes I think worked for and helped Fletcher with the trees.
      Fletcher was not a big man, but he had a big reputation and he made
      Beautiful Wood Works Of Art.

  10. I also frequented the island from 1980-1986, spent many a sunset at Rainbow Beach, and that’s maybe where I got the tip to go up and buy a slab of mahogany. Lots of good memories.

  11. Oh wow. Don’t ask me how I found this page, but what memories! I lived in St. Croix in the late 70’s and early 80’s, had a small jewelry business and sold my things in the shop that belonged to my Domus Hill friends in Frederiksted (til all was stolen…). Later was a partner in a restaurant called the Strand in Frederiksted and the Strand East in Christiansted. I think many of us left in the mid-80’s, but I know quite a few are still there.

  12. Great to read all the memories; I first visited St.Croix in ’69 and am still here. I own a large Fletcher Pence mahogany dining table, the last ‘planter’s chair’ he crafted (signed, and dated ’87) two small side tables (both signed, dated and dedicated to Mary Pomeroy (who owned 1 North Street in Christiansted, and disappeared in 1990 w/ her single engine plane.)

    • Back in 1989 I went to St. Croix, I was there for Hugo… My life was changed! I was a frequent visitor to St. Croix Leap and have one of the special pieces fashioned for Mary, plus other custom made pieces by Cheech. He was fountain of knowledge and I will forever treasure my time spent at the leap! I own pieces of St. Croix art that I will always treasure! Some of the most beautiful friendships I made in my life were on St. Croix… my happy place.

  13. I met Fletcher Pence in the early 70’s while living and working in St Croix. My company did test work for the US Navy and I frequently flew between the VI and Maine. Fletcher was kind enough to sell me some mahogany that I brought to an instrument maker in Topsham, ME. Jimmy Cox made his first instruments with that wood and is still making some of the best banjos ever made. Fletcher also made me two cutting boards: one made of tidbit and the one I still use daily made of , as Fletcher would say “ MAHOG” . I’ll never forget that gentleman as I,m reminded of him every day in the kitchen.

  14. Reading these comments was a trip down memory lane. I was looking at a video of the rain forest on the Visit St Croix site and started thinking about Fletcher Pence and all the stories about him. I lived on St Croix for three years in the mid 70’s. He and his place were one of the more unusual points of interest on the island. Thanks for sharing.

  15. This string of comments is amazing. Our family lived on St. Croix for 2 1/2 years starting in 1981. We were on a business assignment working on the alumina plant. I purchased a slab of wood from someone up in the rain forest….must be the same person. Just this week, after all these years, I had the slab trimmed to create the cutting board I always envisioned….38 years later!!. Its beautiful. I dont think its mahogany, and was trying to find out what kind of wood it is. The woodcrafter who cut it doesn’t think its mahogany either. I’m on a quest to figure this out. Thanks to everyone for sharing their story.

  16. “yes, me son” Fletcher would say, as he answered inquisitive minds. Working together with Fletcher at the shop was an eyeopener into wood, life, good times…..

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