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REV. ALEXANDRE BATTISTE, EPISCOPAL CHURCH, PORT-AU- PRINCE, HAITI

The registered envelope of Victoria is addressed to Rev. A. Battiste, Port-au-Prince, Hayti, West Indies. The boxed red printed ‘REGISTERED’ has been covered over by a red Registration Label of the ‘United States of America/ NEW YORK, N.Y. There is a handstamp applied in Australia of a black large ‘R’ in a circle and the pair of blue 2½d stamps of Victoria are cancelled with an unframed ELIZABETH STREET NORTH/ SE 4/ 00/ VIC (Figure 1).

The reverse shows the printed red Victoria ‘THREE PENCE’ stamp on the flap, paying the registration fee, cancelled in Melbourne, and there is a 2-ringed REGISTERED/ AM/ 9.30/ 5  9 00/ MELBOURNE/ 1, a faint purple double ringed oval handstamp NEW YORK, N.Y./ OC 9/ 1900 in transit, plus a small arrival black double ring postmark of PORT-AU-PRINCE/ 16 OCT/ 00/ HAITI. There is a pair of double ringed hand stamps with ‘10/ 9/ 1900' which were also applied in New York (Figure 2).

The second item is a registered mourning cover addressed to Rev. A. Battiste, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, West Indies and a large black ‘R’ in a circle is applied as a hand stamp, and the pink ‘ONE PENNY’ and the strip of 3 ‘THREE HALF PENCE’ stamps of Victoria are cancelled with an unframed NORTH MELBOURNE/ ( ) ( )/ 03/ VIC postmark. The same New York, N.Y. registration label has been applied over the stamps. The reverse was not seen (Figure 3).

A Google Book called the ‘Churchman’ (p. 328) on the 22 December, 1880 states that Alexandre Battiste was admitted to the diaconate (as a deacon) and this was the earliest entry I could find for him. On p. 329 he was listed as one of the church missionaries in Haiti whose salary was sustained by the Board of Managers of the Episcopal Church.

In another Google Book, the ‘Living Church Annual and Clergy List’ issued November 16, 1885, ‘The Church in Haiti’ is listed, and there is a synopsis which describes the functions of the Episcopal Church and the religious incumbents are listed. The Bishop of Haiti was The Right Rev. James Theodore Holly. D.D., LL.D., who is resident at Port-Au-Prince. One of the other incumbents, listed in the first column, is The Rev. Alexandre Battiste., as seen in Figures 4 & 5.

In a handbook of the Missions of the Episcopal Church of the West Indies in 1926 there was a discussion of The Theological School at Port-Au -Prince, which had to be closed, for financial reasons. In 1901 the training was reopened and Rev. Alexander (sic) Battiste was one of the Missionaries who conducted a class for students.

So far this is the sum total of information I have for Reverend Alexandre Battiste, except for the following single-liner: " The Rev. Alexandre Battiste and Miss Alice A. Baker married in February, 1889".

Haiti has been so much in the news in the year 2010, but in the early 1900s it was a rare destination for letters from Australia. This extremely poor country shares the Island of Hispanola with the Dominican Republic, and its capital of Port-Au-Prince is shown by the red arrow (Figure 6).

Addendum (June 2010):  I received an email from a student writing his doctoral dissertation on Cuban and Haitian history, which supplies an early history of Alexandre Battiste.  What follows is a summary of a letter sent by him to an U.S. Consul General at Port-au-Prince:   Port-au-Prince, January 25, 1892. 

Sir: In regards to the question of my nationality, I inform you of the following facts:  My father was the son of Haitian parents, but born in the United States.  I was born in the city of Savannah, Ga.  At the age of 4, my mother died and I was sent to live with my father's sister at Philadelphia, where I resided for nearly 17 years.  In 1861 my uncle and aunt went to Haiti and I accompanied them arriving at Port-au-Prince, January 18, 1861.  A few days later my uncle and others took out naturalization papers and I accompanied him.  The oath of Allegiance was administered and our names and ages were recorded.  I assumed that my name had been recorded with the others and have always considered myself a Haitian citizen, for when I purchased real estate (in Haiti), no questions were raised as to my nationality, but 4 years ago when I applied for a license for a carriage, a demand was made for my naturalization papers, which I had never acquired.  When I went for them, I was informed that the papers had been sent to St. Marc, with the exception of those papers for my family.  My licence was refused, on the grounds I was not a Haitian citizen,  I found (later) that my name had not been entered with that of my uncle.

The next is a direct quote from Alexandre's letter:   "The only reason to which I can attribute that circumstance is that I wasted a few days to be of age or to attain my majority.  The officer, it appears, without making any observation to me of the fact, simply ommitted (sic) my name.  On learning this I gave no further pursuit to the affair on account of the Revolution which overthrew the Salomon's Government, and which was followed by an unsettled state of affairs nearly up to the present times."   This was followed by he could not answer 'what is my nationality'.

This remarkable letter was kindly provided by Matthew Casey. and it provides the only clue as to Rev. Alexandre Battiste's birth year, for the above para states that he was a few days short of attaining his "majority", namely 21 years of age in 1861, so he was born in 1841.  I could find no reference to the overthrow of the Salomon's government.

Addendum (October 2010);  This registered cover was addressed to Rev. A. Battiste, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, West Indies and it had 3 copies of the red on yellow paper 'Three Half Pence' stamp of Victoria as well as a single pink 1d stamp.  The stamps were cancelled with a large 'R' in a circle and the cover had a double circle REGISTERED MELBOURNE / PM/ 4 45/ 1 10 01/ -4-, as well as a red registration label which was applied at the New York transit (Figure 7).

 

 
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