Do you know Marc Cyrus from Le Carbet? Marc Cyrus was the son of Marc so called Méry and Marie Sainte. He was born in Le Carbet probably in 1788. Married in 1819 to Cécile Edouard so called Pavot, he had 7 children. It is not so long ago that I discovered its interesting life, at least part of it that I share with you today.
It all started when I was looking for documents on Ilet-à-ramiers in the Martinique Privacy Council sources. It was there that I discovered Marc Cyrus, who was the subject of a report to the governor for « disobedience in the service and insulting and seditious remarks made by colored militiamen of Le Carbet. »
It was December 1829, Marc Cyrus free man of color, major sergeant of a militia company, refused to make a transport of mail, his company and himself was not being on duty. In a territory where prejudice of colour structured society, this refusal did not pass. A report of the facts was reading at the Privy Council meeting:
« Mr. Governor,
The commander of the parish of Le Carbet having given the order, a few days ago, to Marc Cyrus, a free colored man, Sergeant Major of one of the militia companies of color of the same parish (…) first objected that this service was to be done by the men of the company of the aerobatics, composed entirely of Whites, and claimed that it was his turn to walk (…) that all the men of his company had refused to perform the expected chore (…) that his company was not on duty. The Count Commander of Le Carbet broke the man named Marc Cyrus of his rank and put him following his colored company as a simple rifleman. The man named Marc Cyrus declared that he preferred to have this action taken against him rather than to order unfairly.
The Comte Commanding Officer of Le Carbet, having informed the Colonel of the militia of the refusal to obey by the man named Marc Cyrus and the men of colour of his company, he made his report.
According to his orders, the colonel of the militias went to Le Carbet, had the three militia companies of this parish put under arms, had Marc Cyrus taken out of the ranks, and notified him on your behalf that he was dismissed from his rank of sergeant major and declared unworthy of ever performing his duties.
The colonel of the militias then appointed the two riflemen who had first refused to obey the orders of the commander of Le Carbet, the first being Edwige; the second whose name is not indicated in the report (…) was absent because of illness.
The colonel immediately ordered the officers of the same company to appoint two men to carry the letters of service from Le Carbet commander. The first step out of the ranks and immediately executed the order given to him, the second was a man named Celestin said Victoire that, far from obeying the most irreverent words against the leaders. The order to keep silent was given to him in vain.
In this state of affairs, the colonel of militias had the men Marc Cyrus, Edwige and Celestin disarmed and led them to the military prison in Saint-Pierre.
According to your orders, Governor, they have since been sent to Fort Ilet-à-Ramiers where they are being held by military police.«
The prison on Ilet-à-Ramiers? Here it is, mentioned on a plan of 1826. It is therefore in this red rectangle labeled « traverses whose casemates will be used as prisons » that the three men were probably waiting to know more about the fate that would be reserved for them.
In this case, more than insubordination, it was their particular position that was criticized. The text goes on to recall that in 1824, the « tranquillity of the colony was compromised by the events of the Carbet. » Reference is made here to the repression of men of colour during the Bissette affair, during which more than 220 men from the island were arrested or even deported for disturbing the order and security of the colony. According to the report, the three accused were among them; Marc Cyrus was sentenced to life imprisonment, as was Pierre Edwige. But at the request of the commander of Le Carbet, General Donzelot authorized Marc Cyrus to return to the colony on 24 August 1825.
This probably explains this detail in the birth certificate of his daughter Luce, born in 1824. It is « the Negress Geneviève, a midwife, » 40 years old, who introduced the child to the civil registrar and not Marc Cyrus, as was the case for these 6 other children. Marc Cyrus was then banned.
The implacable report concludes: « The three men who had to return to their homes to the benevolent tolerance of the government (…) have just demonstrated their evil spirit. » It was therefore proposed to banish Marc Cyrus and put under the surveillance of the high police in the parish of Le Marin the two other: 6 months for Edwige and 2 years for Celestin, guilty of a crime tending to disturb the order and to damage the security of the colony.
But the governor considered himself unfit to decide the case of Marc Cyrus in order to avoid any conflict of jurisdiction with the military court. Marc Cyrus’ fate was therefore not stopped during the sitting. And I haven’t found the details of his conviction yet.
All I know is that his presence in a death certificate testifies that he was not taken prisoner and deported beyond July 1835.
Who was this Marc Cyrus who had been arrested at least twice for fighting the colour prejudice? It is impossible to find the union of his parents or his birth certificate. All I know is that Marc Cyrus was established as his parents at Le Carbet and that his life was probably full!
In 1816, he was a witness and knew how to sign in the civil register.
In 1817, he was presented as a carpenter in a marriage.
In 1819, he married Cecile at Le Case-Pilote and saw the birth of his first daughter Adelaide, followed by Marthe Rose in 1820, Marie Cécilia in 1822, Luce in 1824, Marc in 1826, Louise in 1827 and Judith in 1828. As in many 19th century families, there was many children who died in infancy. Mark loses 3 children under 3 years of age: Marte-Rose in 1822, Marc in 1829, Judith in 1830. In 1846, he lost Marie Cécilia, 24 years old, whose tomb was listed in the heritage inventory, and in 1854 Luce, 20 years old, died. Before his own death, Marc Cyrus buried 5 of these 7 children.
In the birth certificate of these children, Marc Cyrus was presented as a resident of the parish, then from 1827 onwards as a baker, an activity he practiced at least until 1847. From that date onwards, it is said to be a merchant and owner.
After the abolition of slavery, Marc Cyrus took part in the political life of Le Carbet, he had been a municipal councillor since at least 1849; he still held this position in 1855. And in 1854, by decision of the governor, he also became treasurer of the office of charity to replace Moïse Celestin who had resigned.
In 1859, after a rich life that led him from carpenter to merchant, from deportee to sergeant major, from prisoner to city councillor, Marc Cyrus, owner, died at the age of 72. He leaves the image of a dynamic man.
Yet many aspects of his life and that of his family are yet to be discovered. In trying to find out more about him, I discovered that a Mr. Marc Cyrus of Martinique was rewarded at the 1867 Universal Exhibition in Paris. Martinique’s official bulletin reported that a Marc Cyrus received an honourable mention for his cotton and a bronze medal for these waxes, and a report from the exhibition’s international jury pointed out that he made a name for his « bamboo basketry ». It’s probably a grandson of Marc Cyrus’s.
But nothing proves that it was Henri François Albert Marc Marc Cyrus, present in the data base Saint Pierre 1902, even if it is for the moment the only descendant that I found. In compiling the data from the database, I learned that Adelaide, Marc Cyrus’ eldest daughter, had a son, born on April 1, 1845 at Le Carbet (whose birth certificate I could not find). The latter, « a priest serving Villeparisis, stayed in Martinique to take care of his old mother and aunt’s affairs, and asked for reimbursement of travel expenses » on August 7, 1902. He then asked for the repatriation in first class of his mother, Rose Adélaïde Léonide, 83 years old, and his aunt, Louise Marcilia, 72 years old, whose houses were destroyed in Saint-Pierre and Le Carbet and who took refuge in Trinidad. On April 5, 1903, the country priest again asked for help for his mother and aunt staying at Port of Spain Hotel London Frédéric Street.
In short, I discovered Marc-Cyrus and his family, and it was exciting!
A few sources:
Archives territoriales de Martinique, 5k6, fol 47 v., 10 décembre 1829.
Base Ulysse, plan du Dépôt des fortifications des colonies, Plan du fort l’Islet aux Ramiers. 1er mai 1826.
État civil numérisé, mariage de Marc Cyrus et Cécile Edouard dite Pavot à Case-Pilote p.5 et décès de Marc Cyrus au Carbet p52.