Estiverne family and the 1969 terror at Grand-Bois
1969 arrests and killings of members of the Estiverne family
are barely known beyond the town of Grand-Bois/Cornillon. Six
members of this large and once thriving peasant clan died in
Fort-Dimanche or other prisons of the regime of Francois Duvalier.
Many others suffered arrestations, beatings, threats, and confiscation
of properties; some died too young, still smarting from their
prison experiences. The repression began with the Estivernes,
but it went on to touch other families in Grand-Bois, which
is a farming community on the border of the Dominican Republic,
east of Haiti.
Four of the Estivernes who died were members of the large family
of Pierre and Charisna Estiverne. Their son Prosper was the
first victim. Born in 1942, he had gone to school in Port-au-Prince
and graduated from the Lycée Petion. In 1968, Prosper
left Haiti with the aid of a friend who he said would help him
to study electrical engineering in France. The family never
saw him again. For many years, they believed that soldiers from
the Army killed him in an armed confrontation with alleged communists
in a house in Port-au-Prince. But recent information indicate
that Prosper Estiverne may have been arrested at the
airport upon returning from abroad in February 1969.
February 19, 1969, soldiers under the command of Capt. Albert
Pierre reached Grand Bois and arrested Prosper's younger brother,
Gérard (born 1944), while he was working his land.
In the next few days, they took Prosper and Gérard's
father, Pierre Estiverne, a church sacristan, and five of
the younger children - Ambroise, Jean Bosco, Marie Agnes,
Cocotte, and Yves. The oldest son, Franck Estiverne, went
into hiding but was caught a week later. Also arrested were
Simon Estiverne, Prosper's uncle, and a 17-year-old cousin,
Gladys Estiverne, and her brothers, Wesner and Roland. Also
arrested were neighbors including Joseph Atisné and
Mme. Theodore Médor.
Among Pierre Estiverne's
children, Ambroise (born 1946) and Yves were freed after a
short period of time. Jean Bosco and Marie Agnes spent 17
days in prison at Croix des Bouquets, and Jean Bosco four
days. Both were tortured. Only 12-year-old Ybalt, 9-year-old
Antoinette, and the mother of the family, Mme. Pierre Estiverne,
née Charisna Volcy, were spared imprisonment.
Franck Estiverne is known to have died in Ft. Dimanche. His
father Pierre, and cousin Gladys were last heard of in Ft.
Dimanche. Gérard may have died in the Casernes of Croix
des Bouquets. It is not known where Prosper Estiverne and
Joseph Atisné died.
Many others in Grand Bois suffered in the second wave of arrests, beginning on
April 24, 1969. Local military and Tontons Macoutes militia rounded
up a diverse group, including skilled and unschooled people and even
some members of the militia. Several women were arrested and released
when their husbands were found. The curé of the parish, Père
Clerot André, a Frenchman, was briefly held, along with school
teachers Pierre Maccenat and Gabriel Bien-Aimé.
The soldiers tied up at least ten men and marched them down the mountain
to Cornillon. There they released Theodore Médor and another
man, before sending the others on to Thomazeau and then Croix des
Bouquets. Gérard Bien-Aimé and his brother Pierre Bien-Aimé,
Ylexante Ylus, Matthieu Saint Vilis, Kenol Orelus, Ignace Medor, Alma
Cantave, Nicholas Louisjuste, and Duplessy Ducasse, were imprisoned
in Ft. Dimanche.
Soldiers had beaten Ignace Medor so badly in the Croix des
Bouquets Casernes that he died on June 20, 1969, in Fort- Dimanche,
according to a cellmate.
On September 22, 1969, Kenol Orilis, Ylexante Ylus, and Matthieu Saint Vilis were released as a result of an amnesty. Gérard and Pierre Bien-Aimé, and Alma Cantave were released a couple of years later.
summary is taken from research in progress by Louis Estiverne
and Anne Fuller (December 2001)
Mme Pierre Estiverne