Stephen Dillet had an interesting personal life, if anecdotal evidence is to be believed. To fully understand what is proving to be a colourful history, we must first wade through, a complicated latticework of relationships, in which Stephen Dillet (1795-1880), allegedly produced several children.
Stephen Dillet, of course, is credited as being the first coloured person, to enter the House of Assembly, after emancipation in 1834. He is also, anecdotally said to have had, as Bahamians term it, ‘outside children’.
Dillet’s mother was mulatto, from Haiti presumably, and his father was a white French soldier.
Practically speaking, Dillet held many government positions, and was,—had to have been really, given what we know about island politics,—- a connected man. He could make jobs and opportunities happen for people.
Again, given what we know now about Bahama Island politics and politicians, there had to have been a certain magnetism attached to this type of power. People, especially women, are drawn to it.
Dillet is considered, to have fathered, at least 7 or 8 children – possibly more. When Stephen died in 1880, interestingly, only one of his children was mentioned in the newspapers, and only one as the executor of his estate, along with, his wife Charlotte.
Stephen Dillet’s progeny – Thomas William Henry, Joseph Eugene, Charlotte Augusta, Helen Louise, Stephen Albert, Edward Richard and Arthur St. Clair — emerge in the historical timeline beginning in 1821(3) to around the year 1857 or so.
Was the ‘Dillet’ name first introduced into The Bahamas by young Stephen in 1802?
Well, let’s just say, for argument’s sake— yes!
The premise for this doesn’t require huge historical leaps. When Dillet and his mother, a mulatto, arrived in Nassau in 1802, only Stephen carried the surname Dillet – the surname of his father. The backstory of his father, a French soldier, who subsequently disappeared from Stephen’s life and the historical record, still carries a certain type of mystery all its own. Stephen’s mother’s surname was Argo — Hester Argo.
From the book, The Early Settlers of The Bahamas by A. Talbot Bethell, —- Stephen Dillet was given an oblique, off hand, mention. Talbot Bethell only happened to mention the name Stephen Dillet, in an example of slave manumissions before emancipation. Of the 500 such manumissions, Talbot Bethell, just happened to pick the one in which Dillet manumits one of his slaves, a William Bain, in 1826, for the princely sum of £180.
There are no other persons, carrying the surname Dillet, in the Bahama Islands, before 1802.
So, let’s make a giant historical leap, for simplicity’s sake that, young Stephen Dillet was the first Dillet;— and possibly the only one, until he grew up, got married, started having children and owning slaves. It is from this the point – the point of Stephen’s manhood – the Dillet name, begins branching out on the ancestry tree of life… and death.
Whatever happened to Dillet’s slaves— did they take the Dillet name after emancipation?
It was entirely customary for slaves to take the surname of their masters. Did Rebecca and Prince, or anything of the handful of slaves, Dillet owned, take his last name? This would certainly add to the dissemination of the Dillet name, in the Bahamas colony, such as it was.
In 1834, Dillet made a slaveowners compensation claim for two slaves – Rebecca and Prince. Rebecca was a slave under Stephen Dillet for a long time. In the slave registration record of 1825, she is listed as 45 years old. In 1834, at emancipation, Rebecca is listed as 54 years old. Prince, is 20 years old, in 1834.
Between 1825 and 1834, Stephen Dillet owned a few others. He owned Betty 27, and supposedly her child, Maryann, a mulatto, 4 years old. There was John, 41, and Peter, 18, in 1828 and 1831. But are gone by 1834.
If any of these handful of slaves took the Dillet name, then, we can rightly conjecture that they too contributed to the Dillet ancestral branch in The Bahamas.
Dillet, his wife Charlotte, and daughter Charlotte Augusta, who died a spinster without any children. From this, the legacy of any legitimately born children to Stephen Dillet begins
When Dillet died in 1880, the obituary made reference to his devoted daughter, Charlotte Augusta Dillet, who was her father’s carer throughout his lengthy confinement to bed. Dillet was bedridden for some time, due to declining health, attributed to old age. No other siblings to Charlotte Augusta or any other children of Stephen were mentioned.
Moreover, Stephen Dillet left his wife Charlotte Williams Dillet and daughter Charlotte Augusta Dillet, as joint Executrices of his estate. No sons. Dillet did not list any of his male children as executor of his estate, despite all known male children being alive in 1880 when Dillet died.
This is extraordinary considering the inheritance laws of the late 1800s which favoured the eldest son as direct inheritor
1899 – Wife of Stephen Dillet dies (1805-1899).
Charlotte Dillet, mulatto, died 20th November 1899 of natural decay. She was 94. This means that Charlotte Dillet was born in 1805. Charlotte survived her husband by nineteen years.
Charlotte Augusta (1827- 1914), daughter of Stephen Dillet dies 1913
Charlotte Augusta Dillet, mulatto, died in 1913 at age 86. She was born in 1827.
Illegitimate or Legitimate Sons and daughters ??? – Thomas William Henry Dillet (1823-1884 dies in Belize), Stephen Albert Dillet (1845 – 1930 dies in Nassau) and Arthur St. Clair Dillet (1857 – 1925 dies in Glamorgan, Wales, Great Britain), Helen Louise Dillet (1842- dies in Florida 1919), Joseph Eugene Dillet (1826 – ?), Charlotte Augusta Dillet (1827- dies in Nassau 1913) and Edward Richard Dillet (1851 – dies in England 1929)
What is particularly interesting, is that the Dillets who enter the historical record, as part of Stephen’s lineage, have incredibly beautiful, almost poetic names. Whereas Dillet had the obligatory christian and surname, his children were given quite the opposite.
Also interesting are the varied paths each took.
The first child, attributed to Stephen Dillet, is a man named Thomas William Henry Dillet. A considerable name for sure. It’s practically aristocratic. All the other Dillet children, attributed to Stephen Dillet, coming after the first one born to him, are given only one middle name.
Thomas William Henry Dillet (1823 – 1884) died on his 61st. birthday 29th September 1884 in Belize
Thomas William Henry Dillet (1823 – 1884) was born before the legitimate daughter of Stephen Dillet – Charlotte Augusta Dillet (1827 – 1913).
T. W. H. Dillet’s mother either unknown or is Charlotte Dillet, the wife of Stephen Dillet.
Thomas William Henry, according to an 1884 article congratulating him on being called the English bar, was educated in England at King’s College.
The article noted that attended King’s College, London. Stephen Dillet certainly loved Thomas William, to secure his education in England, obviously before the end of slavery! Before Dillet joined the House of Assembly!
Ironically, Thomas William Henry Dillet had been called to the English Bar in July 1884. He died a short few months later in September 1884.
Thomas William Henry Dillet Dies 1884
Joseph Eugene Dillet (1826 – ?)
In 1849, Lieutenant Joseph Eugene Dillet was promoted to Captain.
His father, as it is attributed to be, Stephen Dillet was then Major and Deputy Adjt.-General, overseeing the promotion exercise. These were purchased military commissions.
Not a lot is known about Joseph Eugene Dillet.
Charlotte Augusta (1827- 1914), daughter of Stephen Dillet dies 1913
Charlotte Augusta Dillet, mulatto, died in 1913 at age 86. She was born in 1827. Only child mentioned in her father’s obituary. She was named co-executor of Dillet’s estate.
Fifteen year gap before other children are attributed to Stephen Dillet are born
Helen Louise Dillet Johnson (1842-1919) father Stephen Dillet
Helen Louise Dillet Johnson’s obituary of 1919, states that she was born in the British West Indies, in 1842, and left her birth place Nassau, Bahamas with her mother at SIX YEARS OLD!
Helen’s mother, left with her daughter, to live in New York sometime in 1848.
Helen Louise Dillet briefly returned to Nassau, with her mother, when the American Civil War broke out in 1860. After the war, she left The Bahamas for Jacksonville Florida. She never returned to The Bahamas.
If must be safe to assume that Helen Louise Dillet Johnson’s mother could not have been Charlotte Williams Dillet, the wife of Stephen Dillet. And neither could Helen Louise’s mother, be the mother of any other children attributed to Stephen Dillet, after 1842, if she left Nassau for New York, when Helen was six years old.
If Helen Louise is indeed the daughter of Charlotte Dillet, why did she take only Helen to New York and not her namesake daughter, Charlotte Augusta? And why would she leave her husband, and family to live in America for over a decade, only coming back because war broke out— and then leaving again.
Stephen Albert Dillet (1845 – 1930)
Stephen Albert Dillet’s mother is said to be a woman named Flora Spence. Capt. Stephen Albert Dillet’s history is well known. To honour his contribution to education, a primary school, Stephen Dillet Primary, in Nassau, is named after him.
Stephen Albert Dillet’s daughter, Elizabeth Stuart Dillet moved to England and married a man named James Colton in 1904.
Elizabeth Stuart Dillet Colton became one of England’s Black Victorians.
Elizabeth Stuart Dillet (1871- died in England in 1951) and James Colton had a daughter, Elsie Colton Dillet born December 1892, Regent’s Square, London. The daughter was born before their marriage.
For more on Stephen Albert Dillet, click on the link below.
Edward Richard Dillet and Arthur St Clair Dillet – Bahamians who became part of Black Victorian England
Untold numbers of Bahamians migrated to England in the mid to late 1800s. They joined Africans and others from the British West Indies, living in places from London to Birmingham to Bristol to Wales.
Two men, attributed as being sons of Stephen Dillet, became seaman or mariner, as a profession, in England.
Edward Richard Dillet (4th March 1851 – dies October 1929 Bristol, Gloucestershire, England)
Edward Richard Dillet, names his parents, as Stephen Dillet and Arabella Ann Dillet (Clarke).
1878 was an eventful year for Edward Dillet. He was convicted and sentenced to Bristol jail for unlawfully and maliciously wounding someone in Bristol on 14th July 1877. He was admitted to prison on 1st May 1878. He was discharged from prison on 29th July 1878.
Edward Richard Dillet finds religion, when he converts to Catholicism, just days after leaving prison in July 1878.
Edward Richard Dillet converts to Roman Catholic and is baptised on 5th August 1878 in Bristol, England. Dillet’s intended wife, Susanna Godwin also converts. They are married on 6th August 1878.
Arthur St. Clair Dillet (1857 – 1925) leaves the Bahamas for England, after legal troubles in 1876
Stephen Dillet was still Postmaster in 1876. Dillet held that position for about 40 years or so before retiring.
His son, Arthur St. Clair Dillet, 19 years old, in 1876, took the civil service examinations. Out of a maximum mark of 485, Arthur scored a disappointing 89 points.
Arthur St. Clair Dillet’s mother is said to have been a woman named Arabella (Bella) Ann Clarke (1799-1899 estimated dates) on some ancestry timelines; and others it states mother unknown.
Nevertheless, Arthur was employed as a Postmaster’s assistant. Arthur’s job was to deliver the post.
Arthur S. Dillet, postmaster’s assistant, son of Stephen Dillet, was arrested and tried for secreting a letter – 1876
Arthur S. Dillet was accused of taking out a letter to be delivered and not having delivered it. The charge was a misdemeanour.
Arthur St. Clair Dillet leaves The Bahamas for England in 1879
Arthur St. Clair Dillet left The Bahamas and never returned. He went to England and married twice. Stephen Dillet’s ancestral line, through Arthur St. Clair Dillet, bloomed in England.
Arthur St. Clair Dillet marries Annie Bird Wilson on 2nd April 1882 in England
Annie Bird Wilson is an interesting person. She was a coloured woman born and living in England. Her father’s name was James Bird.
Annie Bird was born in Darlington, Birmingham in 1854. Some family trees say she was born in Antigua and Barbuda, where the Bird family lineage, is quite strong. Others contend she was born on St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Nonetheless, England, specifically Birmingham, appears to be Annie’s place of birth.
Annie Bird Wilson Dillet was a coloured (possibly mulatto) woman, or as history refers to them, a Black Victorian, living in Victorian England, under the reign of course of Queen Victoria.
Annie Bird Wilson was born in 1854, however according to her second marriage licences, it infers 1857.
By the time Annie married Arthur St. Clair Dillet, in St. Thomas Chirch, Stepney, Middlesex, Annie was already a widow.
Annie Bird marries Charles Frederick Wilson in 1875. By 1878, she is a widow leaving her free to marry Arthur St. Clair Dillet of Nassau, Bahamas
They have one child Lilley Maud Wilson (1876-1878) who dies at age two.
Charles Frederick Wilson dies on 5 December 1877 leaving an estate of just under £3,000. Annie would have inherited from her husband’s estate.
Mrs. Annie W. Dillet and Arthur St. Clair Dillet separate or divorce, because Arthur remarries in 1892 to Ada Florence Chappell.
This is a painting of the PARENTS of Ada Florence Chappell who married Arthur St. Clair Dillet.
Arthur St. Clair Dillet and Ada Florence, go on to have 7 children together BUT do not live together for several years. Arthur St. Clair Dillet works on a ship in Wales.
Through Arthur St. Clair and Ada Florence, the Dillet family flourishes in England to this very day
DILLET FAMILY LINEAGE FLOURISHES IN ENGLAND THROUGH THE MANY CHILDREN OF Arthur St. Clair Dillet and Ada Florence Chappell Dillet
To give an example of what I mean by the Dillet lineage flourishes in Britain, let’s take a look at one son of Arthur and Ada – William Stephen Albert Dillet.
William Stephen Albert Dillet ( 1896 – 1963) married Lilly Brister in 1915. They had EIGHT children.
These are the children of William Stephen Albert Dillet (born 1896) and the grandchildren of Arthur St. Clair Dillet (born 1857) who originally came from Nassau, Bahamas—- and if correct, descendants of Stephen Dillet, who was born in Haiti in 1795 and came to The Bahamas in 1802.