9 Oct 2000Bob Perdue email@example.com
NOTE: the following is based in part on National Archives documents; for explanation of citations of these documents see "Sources".)
In April 1955, the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince received a note from the Government of Haiti requesting the Embassy's assistance in stabilizing the price of sisal in the United States, Haiti's major customer for sisal exports. Accompanying the note was a report on the then current status of sisal production and export. In a Despatch to the State Department in Washington, the Embassy realized that little could be done and had informed the Foreign Office accordingly and added: "Nevertheless, the instability of the price and export volume is a serious factor in the Haitian economy. Furthermore, the loss of approximately 40% of Haiti's coffee crop makes it mandatory for the country to seek export earnings from other sources". (/5-1155)
The Haitian note pointed out that the value of sisal had declined from 30 cents (US) per pound in 1951 to 12.5 cents in 1953 and 9.5 cents in late 1954. In 1951 sisal made up 24.4% of the value of Haiti's exports while it had declined to 8.9% in 1953-54. Value of sisal exports decreased from over 102M Gourdes in 1950-51 to less than 25M Gourdes in 1953-54. (/5-1155)
On August 1, 1953 Andre DeCoppet died in Switzerland and in that same month, two years, later William Van Brundt Finley passed away. DeCoppet, who had controlling interest in the Plantation had a very complex estate and in order to resolve the many family problems associated with the Plantation there was no choice but to sell it.
In mid-1955, an audit of the Plantation was conducted by Price Waterhouse and one of the auditors commented that he was from the Dominican Republic. This was the beginning of a rumor that Dominican interests were considering purchasing the Plantation much to the chagrin of President Magliore. (/9-2055, September 20, 1955)
Subsequently, Magliore requested a conference with Roy Tasco Davis, American Ambassador to Haiti. He advised Davis he had heard the American stockholders were planning to sell out to Dominican interests. He told Davis the Haitian Government had been highly satisfied with the American ownership. He stated they were progressive and energetic and do not become involved in politics and that his Government and the people of Haiti would be disappointed if the Plantation was sold to others than citizens of the United States. He also stated that the Government and people would be alarmed and resentful if Dominican interests gained control of the Plantation. Magliore asked that the Ambassador advise the Department of State about his concerns. The President indicated he would have Ambassador Leger in Washington consult with Robert Pettigrew (former Plantation manager and still a Director, "whom the President holds in high esteem") and then see the Department of State. (/9-1255, September 12, 1955).
The Haitian Ambassador in Washington discussed the matter with Pettigrew who assured him he had no intention of selling the Plantation to Dominican interests. Pettigrew noted that two stockholders, DeCoppet and Findley, had recently died and that in an effort to settle their estates Pettigrew was negotiating with another American group to take over their interest in the property (/9-2355, September 22, 1955).
On September 20, 1955 the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince reported to the State Department that Don Lungwitz, Plantation Manager, had showed up at the Embassy on that date accompanied by E.R. Black of Lazard Freres and Joseph T. Dineen of Eberstadt and Co. of New York, "to discuss the situation of the Plantation." "It is the understanding of the Embassy that Mr. Black and MR. Dineen represent financial organizations that may be interested in acquiring stock in the Dauphin Plantation". (/9-2055, September 20, 1955).
Lazard Freres was indeed instrumental in the sale of the Plantation. The thought expressed in the last sentence of the above paragraph was probably responsible for the rumor that Lazard bought the property and held it for a short time before selling it to the Haitian American Sugar Co. (HASCO). According to Edward DeCoppet, son of Andre, Lazard never owned the Plantation but served as broker and negotiated the sale between the parties.
HASCO was controlled by the Clark brothers, John and Bradley, who were well-to-do New York stockbrokers. According to Albert Hill, the Clarks had been "looking for something to invest in". HASCO was owned by the West Indies Sugar Co. They purchased the shares of a Hungarian who was declared an enemy alien and then purchased shares from other shareholders until they formed a block that owned the largest block of stock and bought out West Indies. Hill had been in the sugar business in Florida and Dominican Republic with West Indies Sugar Co. and came to Haiti in 1945 as an engineer. He ultimately became President of HASCO and continued in that role after HASCO was sold to the Mevs family. He "stayed there 14 years after the Mevs purchased HASCO." He left Haiti in 1987.
The Clarks were twin brothers. Hill described them as "nice-looking fellows, well built and well met, society club types in New York." According to Jean Claude Leger, long-time Plantation attorney, "They were twins, real twins; they sounded like twins." When he called their office where they had side-by-side desks he never knew who he was talking to because they sounded the same. "The only way I could tell them apart was that one parted his hair on the left side and the other parted his hair on the right. Bradley was a real extrovert; John was very quiet." Leger went on to say, "The Clark brothers had minds like this." (as he snapped his fingers) "They were very sharp people. They could glance at a calculator tape and immediately pick out an error." Bradley Clark told him, "It is the duty of U. S. Citizens to avoid paying taxes legally."
Otto Schutt, Cap Haitien business man, knew the Clarks well and considered them good friends. Of the two, Bradley had more finesse. "He was the leading man but they worked together nicely. He was a charming man, "friendly, good hearted, good humor, nice to old ladies, nice to young ladies. Everyone liked him." Bradley had a great sense of humor,"would come up with things like, 'Otto, where is the scheiss house?'" At times he would joke about his knowledge of Germany. He had served in Germany post war with an intelligence agency, had learned some German and liked to boast about it.
Jack Webster, former Plantation employee, told me the Clarks did not mix socially during their visits to the Plantation. But, he "shot craps with DeCoppet."
According to Emil Girard, former Plantation Comptroller, the Clarks were not frequent visitors to the Plantation. He and Lungwitz would go to New York to discuss Plantation business with the Clarks rather than the latter coming to Haiti. When there was a visit it was usually made by Bradley Clark at year's end. Girard said Bradley was much more sociable than John and he had a very good impression of him.
Even while negotiations were underway for the sale of the Plantation, there was growing concern about the decline in the price of sisal on the world market. On April 30, 1955, the Haitian Foreign office addressed a Note to the American Embassy enclosing a report on the status of sisal in Haiti in 1954-1955. The price had declined from 30 cents per pound in 1951 to 9.5 cents per pound in late 1954. This was a severe blow to the economy of Haiti for sisal was second only to coffee in export value. The Haitian government requested the Embassy's assistance in stabilizing the market for Haitian sisal in the U.S. (/5-1155, May 11, 1955)
In June 1955, Ambassador Davis sent a despatch to the State Department in which he noted that he had been visited by Don Lungwitz, Plantation Dauphin Manager, and other sisal producers who expressed concern over a report that the Office of Defense Mobilization would sell its sisal stockpile at auction and further depress the already low price of this commodity which was so important to the economy of Haiti. They asked that Davis request that no action be taken that would further lower the price of sisal. Davis pointed out that "As a result of the hurricane and falling coffee prices, Haiti has entered into a depression which is working hardships on all sectors of the economy and which has necessitated relief from the United States both in the form of food and financial aid..." Davis reminded the State Department that if the price of sisal declined further, there would be an additional relief burden on the U.S. In formulating a decision they should keep in mind the desirability of maintaining a valuable source of sisal in the Western Hemisphere. (/6-1655, June 16, 1955)
On December 22, 1955, the Clarks took over the Plantation. While the original ownership and management had an emotional attachment to the Plantation it would now become strictly business - profit or loss would control events.
According to Pettigrew (1958, p. 264), the Clark brothers were "young enough to have a youthful enthusiasm for the Plantation that was lacking in the aging officers who previously directed it".
A few months after the Clarks took over, Charles Swisher, Industry Advisor, USOM/Ecuador, visited Haiti to obtain information on the sisal industry. He reported to the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince that there were about 32,000 acres under cultivation including leased land. Leases on such land cost about 10% of farm expenses. The Plantation normally had about 4,000 employees supplemented with additional help during weeding operations. There were about 35 kilometers of narrow gauge rail and about 900 rail cars. The Plantation exported sisal to New York from its own pier in Fort Liberte Bay, about 30M pounds of line fiber and 5M pounds of tow per year. Production costs were 7-8 cents (U.S.) per pound plus shipping costs and current sales were averaging about 10 1/8 cents per pound for line fiber which included a premium for quality of 1/8-1/4 cents over Dutch and African fiber. The Plantation was using decortication residue for fertilizer and was experimenting with cattle to determine the best hybrid for that climate. (/4-1656, April 16, 1956)
On December 28, 1956, Don Lungwitz, now Vice President and General Manager of La Plantation Dauphin, S.A., personally delivered a letter to Ambassador Davis in which he stated that the Plantation "may be completely closed by the end of January 1957" and that in compliance with Haitian Labor Laws employees had been notified that the Plantation will close within thirty days. He went on to caution that "upward to 4000 men will be out for employment and a payroll of $35,000 per week cut to about $1,000. About $10,000 in fuel and other expenses will drop off considerably. Four schools with over 600 students, two hospitals, a clinic, a laboratory and a dental clinic will be closed". (/1-757, January 7, 1957)
Lungwitz pointed out in this letter that the Plantation had over $1M in sisal stock and had been unable to move the fiber. The current stock would meet anticipated sales for many months and once closed the Plantation would have to wait for better prices before restarting operation. For more than six months the Plantation had been holding more sisal than it had warehouse space to properly protect.
In a Despatch to the State Department, on behalf of the Ambassador, an Embassy Counselor recommended "very strongly that everything possible be done within the framework of overall policy to permit the Plantation to remain on operation." During his visit Lungwitz met with the Ambassador and other officers and indicated he hoped for three things: an accelerated program of stockpile rotation with 2000 tons purchased from Plantation Dauphin, a quota on imports of Mexican twine and reduction in competition from Brazil. Lungwitz claimed that Brazilian sisal was sold at or below cost for dollars which were used to purchase wolfram which in turn was bartered for PL-480 wheat. The Embassy pointed out to Lungwitz that the U.S. opposes the use of quantitative import restrictions, rotating sisal out of the stockpile and its replacement by new purchases would not increase demand, and that the U.S. "has a vital interest in disposing of its surplus wheat and may well be more interested in acquiring wolfram, in which the stockpile is deficient, than sisal, in which it is not. (/1-757, January 7, 1957)
Lungwitz expressed the view that there would be no reduction in demand for sisal because of technological change in agriculture and the introduction of new fibers. His problems resulted from the abnormal reduction in sisal prices due to the Brazilian barter deals and from over-production which he attributed to the influx of newcomers attracted by the high prices a few years previously. In the despatch to the State Department the writer noted that "the fall-off in volume and in unit values is world-wide. It is possible that Haiti has fared no worse than other suppliers." He enclosed a document on imports of sisal into the U.S. which showed that the "unit values of imports from Brazil are far below those of imports from other sources." (/1-757, January 7, 1957)
And the pressure was being put on the State Department from HASCO's New York headquarters. A Memorandum of Conversation , dated January 10, 1957, records a telephone call received from Frederick Hasler, President of HASCO, inquiring as to whether the Department had received any information from Ambassador Davis about the sisal situation in Haiti. Hasler noted that many importers are turning to Brazilian sisal at lower prices because the Brazilian Government is subsidizing production. According to him, the number of workers to be laid off was 6000. (/1-1057, January 10, 1957)
The American Embassy in Port-au-Prince reported to the State Department in Foreign Service Dispatch 371 that for lack of storage space or a market, the Dauphin Plantation was having to stack bales of sisal on the factory floor. (/1-3057, January 30, 1957)
(Jean Claude Leger told me that at times the Plantation had as much as 3000 metric tons in storage - four bales per ton. Even the airplane hangar was used for storage.)
The Clark brothers had been in Haiti for ten days to decide what to do with their holdings (referring apparently to HASCO as well as the Plantation). "They apparently have a firm intention to remain in business and keep operating if possible." They do not plan to close down on January 30 as earlier reported and indicated it was a mistake for the Plantation manager to issue dismissal notices to employees. They are looking for ways to reduce expenses and for additional warehouse space. During the Clark's visit several embassy staff toured the Plantation and discussed it plight with the resident manager (Lungwitz) and owners. (/1-3057, January 30, 1957)
This Despatch pointed out that "the problems of the company are linked so inextricably with the problems of Haiti, both economic and political, that the Embassy is anxious to have the company's research supplemented with Government research to whatever extent is possible." The company's search for a by-product has concentrated on extraction of cortisone from the waste liquor. This had been accomplished on laboratory scale but they had not found a way to do this on a commercial scale. The Embassy posed several questions as to research that had been done that might be applied to the company's problems. (/1-3057, January 30, 1957)
The State Department referred Despatch 371 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture which in response arranged for Dr. Monroe Wall to visit Haiti in April 1957 to advise on developing sisal waste as a cortisone source. He was then a chemist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Eastern Regional Research Laboratory near Philadelphia. (/3-2657, March 26, 1957)
(NOTE: Wall had been in charge of a USDA program aimed at identifying plant sources of cortisone precursors. Among these were sisal and its relatives and the objective of his visit was to determine if one of these steroidal sapogenins could be recovered from sisal processing waste.)
Several people I interviewed mentioned a Plantation Dauphin interest in "hecogenin". This is a steroidal sapogenin and was probably the cortisone precursor of interest. When the USDA discontinued interest in this type of effort, Wall moved to Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, NC, where he became involved in a program to screen plants for anti-cancer agents. Even before he left USDA, Wall provided the National Cancer Institute with about 2000 old plant extracts he had prepared for the cortisone program. One of these was an extract of Camptotheca acuminata, a tree introduced from China and rare in the U.S. From this plant Wall subsequently isolated camptothecin which led to derivatives now of great interest in cancer chemotherapy. I was the USDA botanist responsible for supplying Wall and others with the plant material they needed and the effort we made to keep Wall supplied with Camptotheca is another story. Wall also isolated taxol, from plant material I supplied, which is currently of great interest in cancer treatment.)
In 1958 Cavalier Press, Richmond, VA printed the first edition of "The Story of Fort Liberty and the Dauphin Plantation" by Robert L. Pettigrew, "Honorary citizen of the town of Fort Liberty". The book was dedicated "To Mary King Pettigrew whose loyalty, confidence and excited enthusiasm for a gamble in the bleak environs of Fort Liberty contributed so largely to the successful culmination of the Dauphin Enterprise." A copy of this edition is in the Special Collections, Georgetown University Library, Washington, DC, part of a collection contributed by Nancy Gordon Heinl, co-author with Robert Debs Heinl, Jr., of "Written in Blood - The Story of the Haitian People , 1492-1971".
In early 1959, the Embassy reported to the State Department that Edwin G. Ross, President of the Plymouth Cordage Co., Plymouth, MA, incorporated a new company in Haiti, the Citadel Manufacturing Co., S.A., with its main office at Phaeton. The company will manufacture twine, string, rope, etc. and will use facilities owned by Plantation Dauphin. (Foreign Service Despatch No. 288, 838.357, January 20, 1959. This document was found in the Special Fiber Collection, National Agricultural Library and was not seen at National Archives.)
Later that year Sandy Peden came to Haiti to operate the baler-twine plant on East Bay Plantation at Derac. He "set it up, ran it and closed it down". He ran the factory until January 1966 when he left Haiti.
On September 4, 1959, Herbert Waite of the U.S. Geological Survey visited the Plantation. He contacted Eric Moum, Chief Engineer, Curtis Hough, Accountant, and Emery Tellford, Factory Superintendent. Waite recorded that all water used at the factory was surface water from the company "lagoon", 3 miles from the factory. "A sump at the edge of the lagoon is equipped with turbine pumps, and water is pumped from this sump into a pipeline that connects with the factory." There were two successful wells at Maurice, 3 miles southwest of the factory and one at Macady. "Company officials...have a considerable amount of well information in their files. Approximately 120 test wells have been drilled and little or no water was encountered, perhaps as much as 40 g.p.m. in one or two instances. A few wells encountered brackish water." The factory processes 1.5 to 2 million pounds of sisal leaves daily.
"The factory had been completely shut down from March 27 to April 13 because water in the company lagoon was completely exhausted. On April 12, 12 inches of rain fell and the lagoon was immediately replenished. Each decorticator machine used a continuous 2-inch stream of fresh water under 20 pounds pressure. Large amounts of salt water were used to flush waste from the decorticators. Fresh water was used only for sluicing and washing the fiber. The Plantation had closed down the factory at Derac and all sisal was then being processed at Phaeton."
On September 20, 1960, Donald Marek, Assistant General Manager of the Haitian Agricultural Corporation which produced sisal on a property between Terrier Rouge and Cap Haitien, visited the American Embassy and advised that his company had applied for a loan from the Development Loan Fund to enlarge the HAC Plantation from 8,000 to 9,500 acres. According to him, "political and economic difficulties in British East Africa, the major source of sisal fiber were likely to curtail production there." He planned to expand production because he believed the outlook for Haitien producers was very bright. (/9-3060, September 30, 1960)
(The Korean war had temporarily boosted the price of sisal. In early 1951 it was over 30 cents per pound but by the end of 1952 was down to 15 cents and continued to decline until in about 1958 it stood at just one-third of the price in 1951. About 1958, the price began again to rise and reached a temporary high in 1962-64. The 1950s was the time of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya. It had begun in 1952 at which time a state of emergency had been declared by the British. While for all practical purposes the rebellion ended in October 1956 with the capture and execution of "General" Kimathi, the state of emergency continued until 1960 with Kenya becoming independent in late 1963. About 75% of the world's sisal production was in British East Africa and this period of unrest boosted sisal price on the world market. Kenya independence in 1963 marked the beginning of a new decline in the price of sisal which would continue until it reached a new low in 1970 - less than 20% of its 1951 value.)
In August 1961, K. Lerche, a sisal expert from East Africa visited the Plantation and published an account of his tour in the Kenya Sisal Board Bulletin (Lerche, 1962):
"The Plantation has 33,000 acres under Sisal and produces 10,000 tons per year and is working up to 15,000 tons. The Factory has six Krupp Coronas with hydraulic tensioners, and two Stork decorticators without hydraulic tensioners. There is a drier for each decorticator.
"The field work and transport is similar to that in use in Kenya, i.e. double-row planting and rail transport. Their cutters cut into bundles with a circumference at the place of tying of 33 ½ in., measured with a piece of wire by the headmen. The trucks are loaded with five bundles across in three lines and stacked seven bundles high, which is equivalent to one task.
"The Decorticators are about five to six feet off ground level and the bundles are carried nine to ten feet up to the feed table by an elevator, taking one bundle at a time, which helps to ensure an even flow of leaves. The feed tables did not have butt-end adjusters.
"When the fibre came out of the decorticator it was carried through a squeezer and thereafter continuing hanging on a rope for 100 ft. where the fibre was graded when still wet, i.e., various lower grades were lifted off the rope on to tables while the good grade was carried on the rope to the drier and the lower grades were carried to the driers by hand. The dried fibre was beaten over a board and baled. The tow percentage was two or less, and baling was only done to 85 cubic feet per ton.
"The flume waste was flumed into a long perforated trough on each side of which were boards doing "down-forward-up" motions, thus extracting a lot of pulp. There were two sets of these boards or blades each being about 10 ft. long. Salt water was sprayed into the trough to help the flow.
"The flume was carried to a pin drum which took up even sized lumps to feed into the rollers. This pin drum was of ingenious design with the pins retracting and self-cleaning. There were three pairs of squeeze rollers running at different, but high, speed and two pairs of compression rollers. The whole system was over-elaborate and I think our Kenya systems are simpler and more effective.
"The flume solids then went to one oversize rotary pulp extractor, fell down on to a brattice, and was lifted into two other oversize Rotary extractors and a good flume tow was extracted with a stable length of 7 in.- 8in.
"Goats were walking round under the Rotary pulp extractors which gave a nice rural feeling in an efficient set-up. I was told that the cattle refused to eat the pulp, possibly due to the salt from the salt water used in the flume. The smell of the flume was not nice - to say the least - due to the use of sea water.
"Their fields were planted 10ft. x 28in. x 3ft. but a large part of the new plantings were planted 9ft. x 6ft.x 2ft. which gives them 2,904 plants per acre. They do a 5ft. discing for the first 12-18 months, which leaves all the weeds as a nice dry mulch.
"The rumor that Dauphin Plantation was completely clean-weeded had no foundation.
"They were more bothered by diseases than we are in Kenya, tip wither, black spots, chlorosis, etc. and a fungus which produced a blue ink-like spot with up to 100 or more stains per leaf in some areas, which when dry will stain the fibres.
"Several nutrient deficiency diseases were also noticed in the fields, and several observation plots were in progress with combination fertilizers. They seemed happiest with the N.P.K combination at 10x20x20. Sisal waste had been tried in trenches under the plants at planting with very small results, which I put down to the low rates of only 12 tons per acre.
"The cutting was light but they appeared to cut too early in some areas. The boles were smaller than we usually see in Kenya and, on the two I counted, I found only 200 to 210 leaf butts and the boles were only 3ft.-3ft. 6in. high at poling. Whether this is a feature of sisal in the whole area would need a lot of study for which there was no time.
"On this estate, production costs are lowered by cheap oil from Venezuela direct from ship to their own tank installations, no railage charges, no housing or rations for their laborers, low ocean freight rates, low pressure bales to 85 cubic ft. per ton only, which therefore allow the use of cheap presses.
"I left the country with a feeling that there was much scope for progress. The loveliness of the island, the wonderful climate, the kindness of the people should be the picture one has in mind and not the first impression of squalor obtained in the harbour district of the Capital, Port-au-Prince."
[Lerche was considered the world authority on sisal. He had toured the world to study all aspects of sisal production. After his visit to Haiti he went to Mexico, then to the USDA Fiber Research Station in Florida and then to the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, MD, where he also reviewed the Special Collection on Fiber Plants, assembled by E. G. Nelson and his predecessors going back to about 1900. En route back to Kenya, he visited Rome and D. W. Fishler, fiber expert formerly with USDA at the Belle Glade, FL Station. He commented to Fishler that he learned the most during his visit to the Special Fiber Collection. Said Lerche, "It is the best in the world." (Personal communication, Fishler to Kate Hayes, National Agricultural Library, June 12, 1986). This special collection, I can attest, is superb and it has been a valuable resource in compiling this history of the Dauphin Plantation.]
[To add a further note. I knew Nelson quite well and made good use of the collection many years ago when I wrote the section on fibers for Encyclopedia Americana. After his retirement, Nelson occupied an office next to mine where he continued to add to the collection. As he grew older he became concerned about its preservation and asked the National Agricultural Library to house it. NAL was not interested. When I learned of this response I sent a letter to Richard Schultes, Director of Harvard University's Economic Botany Museum, in which I described the collection and advised him of Nelson's desire to find a home for it. Schultes responded that he would be delighted to have the collection. Nelson took Schultes' letter to NAL and there was an immediate change of mind. If Harvard wants it; we want it. The collection is now housed at NAL.]
Rollo Millar, a Scotsman and textile engineer with operations background, came to Derac in 1961 on a three-year contract to operate the Plymouth Cordage Co. plant. Sandy Peden had advertised the position in the British press; there were more than 100 applicants and Millar was selected for the job. According to Millar, Peden had a tight budget and it was less costly to hire a person from the U.K. Peden was Irish and more comfortable with a U.K. person but economics was the main factor - a U. K. person would be less costly.
Millar told me Plymouth Cordage had an initial agreement with the Clark brothers to use Dauphin sisal but Lungwitz "charged an arm and a leg" so Peden set up his own sources of fiber and most came from Miragoane. A Haitian with an old mine sweeper, "La Franchie", brought fiber from Miragoane by sea when the weather permitted. It was trucked in when the sea was too rough. About 80% of the fiber they used came from that source but Peden also rented land near Hinche and produced fiber there which was trucked into Derac. The Hinche and Miragoane fiber was not of the quality produced on Plantation Dauphin which was longer and whiter and some of this was mixed with the lower quality product.
Millar remained at Derac until late 1964 when he moved to Rockford, IL and then to California. He departed "because of the bad political situation." Under the agreement with the Haitian Government, there was to be no export tax on twine or import tax on supplies. "Duvalier reneged on the tax matter and Plymouth Cordage decided to reduce operations." During his tour there were no Americans at Derac. In addition to Millar and Peden, there was Bill McCay, a Scotsman and factory controller and Hans Ralff, an agronomist, who worked for Lou Wankum and "looked after the fields on the Derac side". Wankum was an agronomist and oversaw the Plantations field production.
The decortication plant at Derac did not operate at any time during Millar's tour.
There are many colorful tales about Plantation Dauphin and the people who worked and lived there. Millar related that Peden came under close scrutiny by the Haitians because his house was closer to the Dominican border. At one point, "Sandy was doing quite a bit of construction on his house. He was building a basement to store food and put in a sewing room for his wife. When Sandy was out of Haiti I was visited by the lieutenant from Fort Liberte. He was instructed by authorities in Port-au-Prince or Cap Haitien to come and inspect because the Haitians thought he was building a tunnel to the Dominican Republic."
In 1963, H.A. Wood, published a map in his study of Northern Haiti indicating these population figures for communities in the Plantation Dauphin area: Fort Liberte 800, Phaeton 1730, Derac 2490, Paulette 2470, Lognon 100, Jacquesy 540, Terrier Rouge 2400 and Ouanaminthe 2200.
During Rollo Millar's tour at Derac, Rene Leon, a Colonel in the Haitian Army, lost favor with Duvalier and needed to disappear into a remote corner of Haiti, preferably near the Dominican border where he could quickly escape in event of necessity. Peden hired him in Port-au-Prince to come to Derac and work in the twine-factory stockroom under Millar. According to Millar, Leon never revealed why he had to leave Port-au-Prince. "Anyone who left the army or the Tonton Macoutes never talked because they couldn't trust anyone." Leon worked at this position for six months and then just disappeared. Millar later learned he had heard the Tonton Macoutes were after him and he vanished across the border into Dominican Republic and then made his way to Miami. Early, one Saturday morning in August 1963, Millar's cook awakened him and "there was Rene in full-dress uniform." Leon announced that Haiti was being invaded; he apologized for the disruption and announced that he would be confiscating vehicles.
Rene Leon was one of a force of 100 men (the largest group to invade Haiti during the Duvalier regime)under the command of General Leon Cantave. The General had opposed Magliore and had tried to maintain order during the upheavals between the time Magliore was deposed and Duvalier elected. He had played a role in the military junta which ruled intermittently before Duvalier's election (Ferguson, 1987, p. 47) With support of the Dominican military, Cantave had organized and trained a force for the invasion of the North. He "took or tried to take Fort Liberte, Ouanaminthe, Mont Organise, Croix Rouge, and Terrier. Unfortunately, in no case did the invaders have munitions or staying power (or frequently the stomach) to get an insurgency going." (Heinl and Heinl, 1978, p. 637-38) On September 22, 1963, "Cantave's last hurrah was a disastrous frontal attack on the barracks at Ouanaminthe (typically betrayed in advance)....." (Heinl and Heinl, 1978, p: 638). Troops, airlifted from the capital repelled the insurgents and drove Cantave and his followers back over the frontier into the Dominican Republic. (Rotberg, 1971, p. 245; Diederich and Burt, 1991, p. 244-248).
[Rene Leon would later be a participant in an ineffective air raid on Port-au-Prince on June 4, 1969. When the aircraft, a Constellation, returned to the Bahamas, the crew was captured and deported to the United States. (Heinl and Heinl, 1978, p. 658)]
The invasion caused more than a little excitement on the Plantation. According to Vivaneen Rippey, they heard gunfire at night over beyond Derac "and suspected there was probably a little army on the other side of the border." The next morning employees went to the factory and found the railroad line had been torn up. They drove around by road and found there had been an invasion.
Even after the rebels were driven back into Dominican Republic there were rumors there would be more attacks and troops were sent from Port-au-Prince to the North to fortify Cap Haitien.
The Government ordered the evacuation of Plantation employees. According to Rollo Millar, workers and families at Derac were evacuated to Phaeton in a tugboat because of a fear the roads would not be safe. Vivaneen Rippey remembers that "we were all set up for evacuation in case something happened. We would go out by U.S. Navy ship to Guantanamo and each of us knew who we would live with. The Rippey family would move in with a doctor and his wife. We were ham radio operators and used to talk with them on the radio every morning. Then it happened and the U. S. was asleep; so we went to Cap Haitien."
(According to Mrs. Rippey, Don Lungwitz and Dirk Smith were also ham operators. "They (government people) came periodically to take away our radios but it didn't make any difference because we always had a spare in the attic. I talked with my mother in Orlando every day. I would contact a ham operator who would patch me through to mother.")
Employees left the Plantation in 13 vehicles. Mrs. Rippey recalls that it took a while to get everyone organized and they did not get away until about noon. "The trip to Cap Haitien was really something; we were harassed all along the way. There were nails in planks across the road and Haitians would laugh as tires were repaired. We had to stop at every town to be inspected. At every check point they would take everything out of one car. Sometimes they even removed the tires. We were carrying radios in back of one pickup but they didn't find those. Our main problems were with the Tonton Macoutes, but also with the Haitian Guard. They (the guard) were our friends but they knew the Macouts had the ear of the President so their hands were kind of tied."
They had been ordered to arrive in Cap Haitien by 5PM and just reached Limonade, the last stop before the Cape, at that hour. According to Mrs. Rippey, Lungwitz approached one of the Haitian officers and told him he would be responsible for their not reaching Cap Haitien by their deadline. 'You are going to be held responsible. I am going to say you held us up. The President has ordered us to be in Cap Haitien by 5 o'clock. So get these guys off our neck and let us get going or I will report you.' "We kept going." The Rippeys stayed at the Beck Hotel; others at the Montjoli and Roi Christophe. Judi Price, Mrs. Rippey's daughter, says of their all-to-brief stay at the Beck: "We partied."
According to Mrs. Rippey, the next morning, just after daylight, they "heard sirens of military vehicles coming up the hill and then the clump, clump, clump along the beautiful veranda of the Beck. The soldiers wanted to see the bosses and Sandy (Peden) and Don (Lungwitz) went out to meet the entourage." "Papa Doc said you closed the factory. We are going to have 5000 mutineers on our hands. You have to get back there. Papa Doc says get back there fast." Don replied that they would go but "we demand a military escort." "So we came back in a blaze of glory with a military escort. The auditors (from Price Waterhouse) were in from New York and we had them with us. And the money box."
When the convoy returned "Everybody (Haitian employees and their families) was lined up along the railroad track going into the Plantation. There was the priest with his children. The priest, a Belgian, was the only foreigner left on the Plantation. He was one of five in the area. They had been interned in Red China. "Wonderful men, wonderful men," commented Mrs. Rippey.
Both invasion and evacuation were short lived. Mrs. Rippey noted that "invasions were not successful because there were too many chiefs and not enough indians. There was a big group of Haitian military men across the border but they could not organize."
Judi Price commented, "We had some tough scary times during the Duvalier reign."
Marc Ashton, now a businessman in Port-au-Prince, worked on the Plantation for about 12 months in 1964-65. He ran one shift at the Phaeton decortication plant. There were two decorticators operated by 300 employees, two 8-hour shifts per day.
In 1966, Sandy Peden closed down the baler twine factory and left the Plantation.
The Wankums left Haiti during the following year. Lou Wankum was an agronomist "in charge of all the fields", according to Edward DeCoppet. His wife, Simone, had worked at the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince and was brought to the Plantation by Don Lungwitz who wanted a bilingual secretary. The Wankums met at the Plantation.
On May 20, 1968 there was an invasion of Cap Haitien by Haitians desiring to overthrow Duvalier. Don Lungwitz was in Cap Haitien at the time and a week later wrote the following (edited) account provided to me by Mark Pedersen, Lungwitz' son-in-law. The road between the Plantation and Cap Haitien was in very bad shape and Lungwitz "commuted" by aircraft.
"On Monday morning, May 20, following repairs to our plane, I check flew it with our mechanic and radio man into Cap Haitien. I had some banking to do and we had to replace our radio and send out our mail on the local plane (to Port-au-Prince). The plane did not fly that day however. After my business was completed I drove to the Cap Haitien airport with Otto Schutt. We put our equipment in the plane and then went to Otto's for lunch.
"Just after we arrived at Otto's home at 1 PM, a Cessna 180 flew around the airport, landed, and parked on the south side of the runway, about half-way between the terminal building and the west side of the runway. We had been advised of the trouble in Port-au-Prince and I was looking for a way to send our mail to Port along with other items. However, when the plane came to the terminal I felt something was wrong. Shortly, a B25 arrived, flew around the airport and made a remarkably poor down-wind landing and almost cracked up. He also parked mid-runway. The B25 had American number N2882. Then a DC3 arrived and parked near the Cessna. We could see a large number of men getting out of the planes and running in all directions and there was some gunfire. Then all was quiet and a car drove down and soon there was more firing. Later, we learned that the car was driven by the Army Commander of the North, Jean Th ard, accompanied by an employee of the National Bank of Port-au-Prince. They were held and the car was used by the invaders.
"About 2:15 PM the B25 took off and circled Cap Haitien. Then the DC3 and the Cesna took off and both took a west course north of Haiti. The second time around, the B25 dropped a bomb. We were on the wharf at the time and could see the object fall. We took cover but there was no explosion. As the plane flew over the wharf, one of it's engines misfired. The Haitian Coast Guard anti-aircraft unit fired on the plane but did not hit it. The B25 then landed at the airport.
"Otto and I went to the home of one of his employees and as we arrived we saw the so-called "bomb" in the street. It was an 8-inch welded cylinder with fins at one end. It split open on impact - there was nothing inside.
"We returned to the wharf where the M/S Soligen was being loaded. Everyone was advised to keep off the streets so we decided to spend the night on the ship. About 2:45 PM, the Coast Guard was ordered to close in on the airport and shell it. Naturally, I was a bit upset as our plane was sitting there. I told the Coast Guard Captain the white plane on this end of the runway was ours- more-or-less wishful thinking. The tide was low and the Coast Guard vessel could not get close enough to the shore. It fired three shells; all landed short of the terminal building.
"After dark all was quiet.
"Two carloads of officers from the German ship had visited the Citadel and were stuck on the other side of the airport. Government and Army officials arranged to get them into Cap Haitien via a back road by 7 PM in spite of a curfew that had been set for 6 PM to 6 AM. "The SOLIGEN sailed the next morning at 5 AM and Otto and I went to his home on the hill above Cap Haitien. The Coast Guard vessel was now close to shore and we could see soldiers slowly advancing a mile north of the airport. At about 9 AM, the Coast Guard vessel began shelling the invaders, now located on the hill north of the airport. After an hour and 50 to 60 shells, they left the hill for the terminal building. Shelling continued with direct firing from two heavy and four light anti-aircraft guns. The army was advancing slowly and at 11 AM we could see the invaders leaving westward along the north side of the airport. The Coast Guard left for deeper water and stopped firing. The Army advanced and soon held the airport.
"Traffic was halted on all roads in and out of Cap Haitien but I obtained permission to go to the airport and inspect the plane. One tire was flat; there were five holes from small-arms fire through the fusilage and tail and a large hole through the mid-fusilage. But none of the controls were damaged. We began to jack up the wheel so we could remove the tire and take it into town for repair but firing was too heavy and we left. The next morning we returned and by 11 AM had just about completed the job when they let go again and we departed - sudden like. That afternoon we returned, completed the job, and made a complete inspection of the airplane, including checking for sand or sugar in the oil and gas tanks. Nothing had been touched. We started the engine and taxied around the airport for a general check and all seemed well.
"On Thursday, May 23, we were informed the invaders were heading east for the Dominican border and that the road and airport at Phaeton were closed. The officials were exceedingly helpful. They arranged a car for me so I could leave the following day for the Plantation. They sent three guards with me and provided an extra rifle in the event I needed it. The road to Fort Liberte is in very bad shape. We left Cap Haitien at 10 AM and arrived at the Plantation, 32 miles distant, at 4PM.
"Our airport at Phaeton was completely blocked with tree trunks and all sorts of junk. It would have been impossible to land.
"I believe it was their intention to cause as much trouble as possible and then fly off but with a bad engine a group was left behind. The Haitian Airforce now has one good B25 which they have repaired and flown to Port-au-Prince. I hear they took eleven invaders by Thursday night. Over the weekend, May 25/26, they found six just southeast of the Plantation heading east toward the Dominican border. Three were killed and the other three taken alive. One of our drivers drove the three and three heads into Cap Haitien last night, May 26.
"We are hoping that things get back to normal soon." Heinl and Heinl (1978. p 657-658) give the following account of the invasion:
".....two Bahama based aircraft landed at the Cap and disgorged a landing force of some thirty-five invaders garbed in jungle-camouflage suits labeled 'Big Game: Styled by Broadway.' One of the aircraft took off to shuttle in reinforcements while the invaders began a spirited attack accross the salt flats toward the Cap."
"The aircraft that flew away for reinforcements never returned: the pilot got cold feet. And the seaborn follow-up echelon, nearly a hundred men with heavy weapons and supplies, never left the Bahamas because, incredibly, their small ship was accidentally allowed to sink. The rebels held the airfield and outskirts of the Cap for forty-eight hours, until units of the Garde-Cotes steamed up from Bizoton and shelled them into submission. Several insurgents were killed, ten were taken, and a few vanished toward Santo Domingo. The remaining aircraft, a World War II B-25, was claimed as a war prize....."
Mark Pedersen, Lungwitz' son-in-law, recalls that sometime after this incident, when the Pedersen's were resident in Greenwich, CT, a black man came to his door selling vacuum cleaners. "He had an accent that suggested he came from Haiti and this proved to be correct. He was well educated and a nice gentleman." The two families became friends. Later, the Lungwitz came for a visit and the Haitian and his family were invited to the Pedersen home. During a conversation, the invasion came up and the Haitian "almost turned white" and responded that he had been one of the leaders of the attack. "It was my group that shot up your plane." Lungwitz commented that "You ought to pay me for the tire."
Albert Hill told me the last time he visited Plantation Dauphin was two to three years before it was sold to Dunn which would be in the late 1960s. "It was shut down at the time." "The Clarks concluded that the Plantation was good only for production of sisal and got out."
About 1970 HASCO sold the Plantation to Lonnie M. Dunn who formed a new company, Port Dauphin, S. A.
According to Eric Moum who left Haiti in 1970, there was an exodus of Plantation Dauphin employees. "The game was over. Many pulled out about the same time."
NATIONAL ARCHIVES DOCUMENTS:
Diplomatic Correspondence, Record Group 59. Most documents cited are in this Record Group in which documents dealing with sisal in Haiti are numbered 838.2326 (838 = country number; 2326 = commodity number) followed by a slash and a specific document number, thus 838.2326/9-2055. In the text I have used only the specific document number (thus: /9-2055) followed by the document date.
Marc (Butch) Ashton, Petionville, Haiti
Edward DeCoppet, Georgia
Albert Hill, Florida
Emil Girard, Montreal, Canada
Jean Claude Leger, Petionville, Haiti
Rollo Millar, California
Sandy Peden, Guadalajara, Mexico
Mark Pedersen, Massachusetts
Judi Rippey Price, Texas
Vivaneen Rippey, Texas
Jack Webster, Tennessee
Michael Dobell, "Manufacturer of the well-known Crane Machines (sisal
decorticators)" as quoted in an email from Harry Polman
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