In August 1937, two brothers, and a large group of men, terrorised the quiet island of Great Inagua, resulting in a riot, property destruction and death. It all began when the brothers had committed an act of arson. When a small boy told the authorities that he knew the brothers had started the fire, they beat the child mercilessly for it.
Dr. Dudley Arthur Fields, an administrator on the island of Great Inagua, and representative of the governor-general, had ordered the arrest of a native man, one of the brothers, who was suspected of abusing the boy. One of the brothers refused to be arrested. He fired several shots at Dr. Fields wounding him but killing an employee of the Erickson company, a salt company operating in Inagua, as well as wounding the son of the owner of the salt works company. The brothers then set fire to several buildings and houses. By the time news could be sent to Nassau for help, and constables dispatched, the rioting had quelled.
Inagua was left in ruins.
Fifteen people ran to a boat that night to escape the rage of the Brothers. They barely escaped with their lives. The fifteen drifted for nearly five days without food or water. All they managed to take with them was a gun, some flares and ammunitions in order to defend themselves.
When they had finally drifted long enough to hit land, the group were arrested in Cuba for having materials of war and insurrection. The fifteen people who were fleeing certain death in Inagua, now found themselves jailed, and on trial as suspected revolutionaries in Cuba.
Wednesday August 25, 1937
REFUGEES BARE BAHAMAS RIOT
15 SAFE AFTER DRIFTING FIVE DAYS, REBELS KILL ONE
At least one person was killed, 15 others were forced to flee and several buildings, including the commissioner’s residence and the radio station were destroyed by fire in a violent uprising on Great Inagua island in the Bahamas, it was revealed today.
The 15 refugees, including five Americans, and nine negro British West Indians, were detained here by army authorities after they had been picked up at the small port of Cananovas. They had been forced to flee from Great Inagua island in a small motor launch on August 20 after rioting had broken out the day before. They had drifted helplessly on the open sea since.
The steamer Pricilla, which the Bahamas government sent to Mathew Town on the island after merger details of the uprising had been received, was to arrive there today with police officials and other authorities.
Americans among the refugees here were Philip A. Smith, 26, Portland, Me., a bookkeeper; Charles F. Kaddy, 24 Fort Worth, Tex., construction engineer; Allen G. Mowatt, 24, Swampscott, Mass., electrical engineer who said he was manager of the West Indies store at Great Inagua; Joseph Erickson, Swampscott, who said he was an administrator general of the store and Douglas Erickson, Swampscott, a student.
One of the Negro refugees, Dr. Dudley Arthur Fields, said he was the representative of the governor-general of the Bahamas at Great Inagua. Accompanied by soldiers, he was permitted to go to Santiago to confer with the British consul there. Joseph Erickson was taken to Antilla to confer with American authorities. They later returned to Mayari. All were to be transferred to Santiago today.
Fields told army officers that the and his companions were forced to put out to sea from Great Inagua in the launch after a group of armed natives attached them at the West Indies store in Mathew Town. They had sought refuge in the store after trouble arose over Fields’ order for the arrest of a native who had attacked a small native boy.
The native refused to submit to arrest and fired several shots at fields. He missed Fields but killed John Munroe, a native in the store.
For the five Americans and nine Bahamians fleeing for their lives, almost starving to death on the open sea, only to end up in a Cuban jail, must have been a startling turn of events. They were put on trial and released.
By 21st September 1937, the five Americans, the owners of the salt works company Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Erickson and their three sons, who had escaped the terror of Great Inagua had been flown back to Miami on their way back home to Massachusetts. One of the sons, had been shot in the escape and still needed medical attention for the wound in Miami.
(The Miami Daily News, Tuesday September 21, 1937)
The Duvalier Brothers
Brothers George and Willis Duvalier, the ringleaders of the riot, went on a shooting, murder, robbery and devastating arson spree in Great Inagua that August 1937.
It all began with an assault one of the brothers, committed on a police detective who had attempted to arrest him for a prior arson. In the course of the arrest George Duvalier assaulted the detective and beat a child suspected of giving evidence against him. When news of the beating of the child reached the commissioner, Duvalier’s arrest was again ordered. This incited the brothers to further violence ending in the riot.
The Brothers Duvalier managed to make their escape to Haiti with money taken during the course of the Inagua robberies committed during the riot, as they were of both Bahamian and Haitian parentage, they decided to hide out in Haiti.
By October 8, 1937, the Duvalier Brothers had been arrested in Port au Prince, awaiting extradition to Nassau.
(The Miami Daily News, Tuesday October 8, 1937)
Justice was swift and final for the Duvalier Brothers. Before the end of November 1937, just over a month since their extradition from Haiti to stand trial, the Brothers Duvalier would find themselves already hanged for their crimes, and lying cold in Potter’s Field Cemetery, in Nassau.