Sometimes, if one reads the current news, there are some who attempt to give every impression that the Bahamas has never entertained or embraced Haitian nationals. This is far from the case. The people of Bahamas and the people of Haiti, have had a very long history, ever since, 1492.
1904 Nassau, New Providence – A growing problem with negro boys!
In the early 1900s, juvenile delinquency, among young men, was beginning to cause a social problem. This was never more apparent than on the capital island, New Providence. With dwindling industries, rising population numbers, limited access to education and very little to keep their minds and hands occupied, young men started roaming the streets. In the negro communities, petty crime was rife. All of it, was spilling over into the city limits of Nassau.
Around this time, alcoholism, was becoming an increasing social issue, again among negro communities. A great effort to educate Bahamians, about the evils of alcohol became a fervent exercise, for one particular man, Captain Stephen Albert Dillet.
Captain Stephen Albert Dillet, for whom the present day, Stephen Dillet Primary School in Nassau is named after, ran the Temperance Society.
Among the many passions and pursuits of Captain Stephen Albert Dillet, was education. Captain Dillet was one of the founders of the first boy’s industrial school. In 1904, we have a preliminary meeting about the proposed industrial school attended by Mr. Stephen Dillet, Rev. R. P. Percy, Dr. A. P. Holly, Mr. R. M. Bailey and Mr. Joseph Attenborough. At the meeting in August 1904, we come to understand that an American lady, Miss Alice M. Boynton, who had spent last winter in Nassau (probably a winter tourist) had inspired the creation of the Young Men’s Intellectual Club.
It all began as a society to raise the education levels of young negro men from the labouring class, in other words, poor people. This was in addition to helping to foster proper social manners, temperance and of course, a strict reverence for religion. It began in 1903 as the Young Men’s Intellectual Club, then became the Boynton Industrial and Training School in 1904 and by 1905, it was finally formalised as The Boynton Normal and Industrial Institute.
The name Boynton Normal is interesting. A Miss Alice M. Boynton, a winter tourist to Nassau, is actually who the first Bahamian Industrial School is named after. But why? It is all rather curious indeed. Alice M. Boynton must have had a very strong effect on the Bahamian community, the negro community in particular, for them to have decided to name the school after her. Alice Boynton was travelling back and forth to the Bahamas as late as 1917 when she was 59 years old. She was born on 10th September 1858 in New Haven, Vermont, and apparently never married.
Who was Dr. A. P. Holly?
Dr. A. P. Holly is another mystery. He was born in 1866 and died in Miami in 1943. He got married in 1934 in Dade County Miami to a Rose E. Holly. He had a daughter named Lydia Holly but this was years before the 1934 marriage. His daughter is mentioned in 1905 in Nassau. He had not long been in the Bahamas before the idea of the industrial school emerged. We know that Dr. A. P. Holly was a negro and defined his profession as physician.
During his time in the Bahamas, Holly caused a tremendous stir when he was elected as the president of the very first boy’s industrial school. We do not know why Stephen Albert Dillet himself, who was very interested in education was not voted in for this position. Dr. Alonzo P. Holly was Haitian. He was born to Haitian parents in Haiti. Not everyone thought that he was the right choice. Some thought that a Bahamian should be elected the first president seeing as though it was intended to educate Bahamian boys.
The letter that started the war of words
20th Sept. 1904
To the Editor of the Nassau Guardian.
In your issue of the 17th inst. my attention was drawn to a meeting held in the Church Hall for the election of Officers for the Boynton Industrial Institute.
Now Mr. Editor being present, I claim that no such election was held. There was never a nomination made, and no ballot or voting of any description taken. It was simply calling out the names of those who were already elected or I should say chosen by a certain few who pose themselves as the leaders of this gigantic scheme.
I am strongly of opinion if the voice of those present were heard, the the so called election would have been far different especially in the case of the president, a gentleman who is an alien and a comparator stranger in this country.
Surely the people could have found one of their own who would have been equally capable to sit in the presidential chair. With all due deference to the gentleman I say that it is a stigma upon the Bahamians to have made such a choice. Why it goes to show that there was not a man in the Bahamas fit to fill so honourable a position. Now I ask the question, is that so or not? If so, then there is certainly more need for urging on the organisation of this so called Industrial Institute.
I do not wish to throw cold water on the scheme, but I am afraid that a little too much is being undertaken.
A good deal has been said about Booker T. Washington, but we must bear in mind that he commenced in a Log Cabin and not in the present building occupied by him.
I have attended several of the meetings, and I have heard a good deal said, but Nassau is poor country, and those whom the Institute purposes to benefits are the labouring classes, and were we to consider the wages of these and the handicraft I fail to see where success lies.
I am aware that I am raising a storm of indignation against me but I thing it would be wise for us all to look look well before we leap.
(The Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands’ Advocate and Intelligencer, Nassau, September 21, 1904)
One day later, Dr. A. P. Holly resigned as President. The following letter from the other officers of the Boynton Normal and Industrial Institute is published in the newspaper soon after. The officers, including Stephen Albert Dillet, Samuel Tinker, H. J. Fountain and others, sign a letter asking Dr. Alonza to reconsider and return as president of the new industrial school
Board of Trustees
The Boynton Normal and Industrial Institute,
23rd. Sept. 1904.
Dr. A. P. Holly,
President, The Board of Trustees of the Boynton Normal and Industrial Institute.
The Board of Trustees have received with much regret your communications of the 21st. instant tendering your resignation as President of the Board of Trustees of the “Boynton Normal and Industrial Institute.”
At this initial stage of the work, we deplore that anything should have arisen to cause you tot take such a course.
We unqualifiedly repudiate the anonymous and mendacious tirade signed “Hamitie” published in the “Nassau Guardian” of the 21st instant; and believe it was a malicious intent to injure the prospects of the “Boynton Normal and Industrial Institute”; and your resignation would be gratifying to the infamous author.
We, therefore earnestly request that you will comply with the request of the following resolution unanimously passed by us at an urgent meeting held this evening.
RESOLVED: “That this Board having full an perfect confidence in the ability, integrity and zeal for the work of establishing an Industrial Institute for the Bahamas of Dr. A. P Holly, earnestly request that the re-consider and withdraw his resignation of the office of President of the Board; and that every member of the Board in favour of this resolution will sign the communication conveying the same.”
Signed: S. Albert Dillet, Mover
H. J. Fountain , Seconder
We beg to assure you of our determination to stand by and support you in the discharge of your duties as President of the Board of Trustees of the “Boynton Normal and Industrial Institute” and remain,
Signed: THOE. RUSSELL 1st Vice President, P. Fernandez, Treas., S. Albert Dillet, Secretary., W. L. Roberts, Assistant Secretary., H. J. Fountain, Auditor, Sam’l Tinker, W.C.B. Johnson, David Patton, G.R. Evans, Chas. A. Dann (Rev.), Lewis N. Weir, R.P. Perry, (Rev)
Not present at the meeting, but we concur with the above. W. E. Pritchard, Auditor., J.W. Roberts, Rev. 2nd Vice President
(The Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands’ Advocate and Intelligencer, Nassau, September 28,, 1904)
Dr. Holly gets his revenge, tells a big lie and sings the Haitian national anthem at first official fundraiser for January 1905
By January 1905, the Dr. Holly had rejoined as president of the industrial school. There were many other letters flying back and forth in October and November 1904. One letter asked whether or not he had ever headed such a venture as this before in Haiti, and if so, what was the outcome of it.
At the first official fundraiser, held at St. Andrew’s Hall, and attended by the Governor Sir, W. Grey-Wilson, Dr. Holly got his revenge. On the first official event of the Bahamas Boynton Normal and Industrial Institute, Holly gave a lecture on Education and Society in Haiti. The lecture was quite long and in the intermissions, the Eastern Orchestra provided musical selections.
To cut the wound delivered to his critics even deeper, at the end of the evening, Miss Holly, the daughter, sang the Haitian National Anthem “1804” composed by M. Roberts Geffrard.
One thing Dr. Holly did lie about in his lecture, was when he said the British, observing the way Haiti got their independence made them consider giving the Bahamas its emancipation. This is completely false.
So what happened after?
By 1913, Dr. A. P Holly had left the Bahamas and was living in the Florida in the United States. He was 62 years of age by 1930. He puts his native language down as French and his race is negro. His profession is private physician. He has a woman living with him, his Bahamian servant, Elizabeth Munroe, who is 34 year old in 1930. Munro emigrated in 1921. Munroe’s profession is nurse. Holly dies in 1943
The Boynton Normal and Industrial Institute seemed to limp on. Stephen Albert Dillet as Secretary continued to put advertisements in the paper asking for urgent donations as late as January 1908.
Incredibly, Alice M. Boynton is back in Nassau by 1909, and has separated herself from the somewhat confused beginnings of the Boynton Institute named after her. She sets up her own business called The Columbus Institute situated at the residence of Alice M. Boynton, Secretary, in the Delancey Street area of New Providence
(The Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands’ Advocate and Intelligencer, Nassau, February 3, 1909)