Emmanuel Rougier

A portrait of Emmanuel Rougier; the eye is bright, the face is square, the man of action transpires before the photographer’s lens.

TAHITI, 28 April 2016. Richest landowner, at the head of a flotilla, coining money, issuing its own stamps, Father Rougier (1864-1932) was, without any doubt, was the most extraordinary figure in the world colonial missionary. One who did not wish to evangelize the natives became, thanks to an unexpected inheritance and his business acumen, one of the wealthiest men in Tahiti and even the South Pacific. Emmanuel Rougier was a pure strain of Auvergne, even if he was born August 26, 1864 at the margin of the Auvergne, in the small village of La Chomette canton Paulhaguet, in Haute-Loire. His parents, Benoît and Louise, very religious, lived modestly while dreaming of one day acquire the castle of the Isles, they managed to June 3, 1872.

In Fiji the day of his 26th birthday

At eight, Emmanuel discovered this area of the Isles where he soon felt in paradise, surrounded by woods and fields. His passion poaching (he laid snares …). His parents moving towards a religious career, but it is hardly inspired. Yet it did two years of theology at the major seminary of Le Puy-en-Velay, then share with the Marist in England before becoming a priest in June 1888 to almost 24 years in the chapel of the Isles. On June 27, he embarked on behalf of the Society of Mary to Fiji with Monsignor Vidal, on the ship “the Caledonian”. Sydney, Noumea, the journey is long to the terminus, Suva, reached by Emmanuel Rougier August 26, 1888, day of his 26 years. Cannibals, polygamous, Fijians have the worst reputations (not always misused, it must be the ‘confess). But Rougier philosopher: “the more they are disgusting, dirty, physical or moral, the more I want to love them, I came to them …” Chef Manuele no expense to convert to God the many souls as possible, the risk finished eaten or killed by the henchmen Wesleyan Protestants. On land, at sea, Rougier is everywhere, but in 1898, he will see even greater: it organizes, on Pentecost Island (now Vanuatu), a mission with 50 converted from Fiji. In two months, he did more than his predecessors in twenty years.

A huge cathedral

Back in Fiji, he brought his father to France and began the construction of a cathedral in Naililili: coral stones, twenty-five stained glass windows brought from France, a big clock, bronze bells, nothing is missing: 47.50 m long, 27.4 m wide at the transept off 30,50m in front with two laps (Rikitea Cathedral measures 48 m long and 18 wide). The monument was completed and opened on Easter Monday 1905 (in April), having his blessing on 6 May 1906. A bit like the father Laval Gambier, Rougier was a builder of soul as well as a priest. But in 1904 his life is turned upside: indeed, Noumea, a former convict, Gustave Athanase Cécille, arrived more dead than alive on a whaling. Emmanuel Rougier will collect, without question, the son of a good family that went wrong and who was sentenced for desertion in Algeria and for false currency issue and finally for trivia related to his drinking.

A fortune fell from the sky

In 1906 Cécille learns that he has inherited a very large fortune to his father’s death: 900,000 gold Francs. The Bishop Vidal, knows the ties between Rougier and Cécille; eyeing it, of course, on the loot, but Cecille, who Rougier found a young wife, Katarina Biaukula, 21 (Cécille 62 years), does not like the maneuvers of this bishop. On 4 December 1906, to the chagrin of Bishop Vidal, Cecille, who knows himself incapable of managing his father’s fortune, says Emmanuel Rougier, an annual rent of 520 pounds for him, and at his death, to Katarina. After twenty years of slave labor as a missionary “all terrain”, living in poverty, Rougier decides to ignore the Archbishop of moods. Vidal. He agrees to manage the fortune fell from the sky and take care of Katarina Cécille abandon that in 1907 (the ex-convict will die in 1913 in Maromme, Seine Maritime). Therefore, if the bishop prohibited the father Rougier to celebrate Mass in October 1907, the priest will continue to use the wealth entrusted to him to grow. A profit.

Buying Fanning and Washington

In November 1907, a dark case of disagreement between partners resulting in the sale by auction in Suva, two islands, Fanning and Washington. Rougier did not hesitate a second and sees the owner of the two islands 30 November 1907. Purchase price: Twenty-five thousand pounds. It has already acquired a beautiful property in Fiji where it also operates a market, a bakery, shops …. The abbot will travel to Fanning, where one prepares copra, in August 1909. On site it creates a supply store and, not to be stolen by officials, it beats currency, dollars in aluminum that have courses on both islands. In Fiji, Rougier, who is jealous, not only friends. He nearly lost Fanning even for a defect in the deed, but managed to save his island. In 1909, he sold everything he owns in this archipelago, having been excluded from Marist. True Katarina lives under his roof and that cohabitation tongues wagging … Before he left, he made ​​a great “shot”, acquiring rights over 12,000 hectares argentiferous: it grants mining concessions that will earn him a fortune . for years, even away from Fiji

Christmas Purchase in 1913

In August 1909, the mines “turning point” at full speed, Rougier therefore permanently leaves Suva with Katarina Cécille; Executive Honolulu, where he bought a three masts to rotate between the islands and the ports where it will sell copra, guano and phosphate. Added to this are the oysters, fish and especially sea cucumbers, the Chinese pay for gold. Busy showcase his little island paradise, Rougier is already looking ahead: it is eyeing another island, even greater, Christmas Island (316 000 hectares), today Kirimati Island, Kiribati (the largest atoll in the world ). He went there in 1912 and was won over. On 10 August 1912, he sold Fanning and Washington 70 000 books and buys Christmas September 17, 1913 on behalf of his company, Pacific Cocoanut Plantation Ltd. (headquarters in London). He obtained the British government a valid operating license until 2001. Before embarking on the great adventure of Christmas, Emmanuel Rougier returned to France, the Isles. He was relieved of his vows priest becomes free and no longer belong to any order. In 1915 (he has 51), Rougier leaves for Christmas where everything is to be done. He will be accompanied nieces and nephews. End 1915, the San Francisco priest leaves for Tahiti where he needs to find a boat that will allow him to carry on his island staff and cargo required for a lasting settlement. This will be the Temoua Ahi.

May 31, 1916: “foundation of Christmas”

Back in San Francisco, he bought a beautiful schooner, the Mary Ysabel, two Ford he learns to drive and it does produce its own postage stamps, fancy that will prove to be later an additional source of income. The press “Frisco” has eyes fixed on the man she called “millionaire priest” and welcomes his departure for Tahiti. On site, not without difficulty, he hired twenty-five Chinese and almost as many Tahitians. May 31, 1916, Marguerite Rougier, accompanying his uncle, wrote: “Christmas Foundation”. In fallow since 1905, the island needs arms, as everything is done. House, chapel, barracks, huts, sheds, warehouses, the task is immense. It must also map the island, baptized its sectors, clear, not least as to clear passable tracks for Ford. Rougier monitors everything, including the number of coconuts that its workers drink during the day: no question of wasting the first copra terms, there is enough water in reserve. Men are paid 100 francs per month, women 50. The priest store provides food shortage, medicines are free.

30 hectares Taaone, 12,000 in Papenoo

In a corner of the island, exposed to wind, Rougier discovers a real boat cemetery, which will prove to be a copper mine, but also carpentry and timber. For the small community of life was uneventful, the priest establishes strict regulations. In June 1917, Christmas is habitable, carriage and operations. The card mentions specific names: London, Paris, Cécille peninsula, Oasis, Poland, Algeria … . He made ​​another trip to France in 1917, from where he returned with two other nieces In June 1918, Emmanuel Rougier finds he dreamed property in Tahiti, the Taaone (currently the armed forces command and the surrounding land, thirty hectares planted. the old residence of the director of the Bank of Indochina exchange hand and to 37,500 Francs.). At 54, Emmanuel Rougier will definitely cast anchor in Tahiti, where he will lead the operation of Christmas it will regularly inspect. In Tahiti, it is called the Father Rougier. He manages to get through the Spanish flu epidemic which is ravaging the population in 1918. Every morning, he goes to Papeete to tell them his mass for 5 hours. His brother, Stanislaus, help manage Christmas. In 1923, Rougier called his godson Pierre-Emmanuel Rougier administrator of his island. He’s only 23, but it is a “hard worker”.

Alcohol smuggling in the United States

He became president of the Society of Oceanic Studies in 1924, Rougier has its office Bruat Avenue; he now says mass at Taaone; it became the largest landowner in Tahiti, because besides the Taaone, it has twelve thousand hectares in Papenoo Valley, associated with his friend Deflesselle, besides its properties in town. Very involved in local life, he was president of the Chamber of Agriculture of EFO in 1926, founder and president of the visitor center, the agricultural union and, of course, a member of the board of the colony. During the prohibition in the United States in 1931, Rougier will not hesitate to make smuggling spirits with one of its boats, copra prices have meanwhile fallen. In fact, it will rent his boat to an American smuggler. In 1932, it will have the joy of knowing his nephew, Pierre Rougier, born in February of this year. But he will not see 1933; heart attack terrace on December 16, 1932 to 69, after a life for the less extraordinary…

Daniel Pardon

Rougier letter postage to Christmas

On this letter postage to Christmas Island, we see a double postage EFO (left) was made for the mail to arrive at its destination, items not recognizing stamps millionaire priest.


Rougier stamps

Focus on one of the stamps issued by Rougier: collectors tore these vignettes and profits fell in the priest’s purse.

Stolen by the English!

The nephew Emmanuel Rougier, Paul-Emmanuel Rougier, nicknamed Emmanuel II, who inherited Christmas, was shamefully expelled by the British government. The latter claimed that the domain administrator had deserted their land for ten years, when he had left in 1939, mobilized because of the war. It touched as compensation, only 50 million pittance. The British wanted to drive there Atoll Nuclear Test with the Americans, which they did in 1957.

The Tahitian heritage …

Inheritance “Tahitian” Rougier was considerable; Furthermore Papenoo valley (nearly 13,000 hectares), there was the field Taaone (30 hectares) land Tevairoa in Bora Bora (7 hectares), a three-masted (Marshal Foch), not counting the divided assets in four banks and movable or immovable property in France, especially in Auvergne.

And Katarina?
Ex Wife generous Cecille, who bequeathed his fortune to Emmanuel Rougier, the young Fijian Katarina never left the abbot until his death and rumors circulated about the true nature of their relationship. The gossips ensured that the priest had forgotten his vow of poverty by engaging in the business and that he also forgot his vow of chastity. Rumors were never substantiated. But Katarina was not forgotten: at his death bequeathed Rougier 650 Australian pounds; she had inherited 50,000 francs to the death of his stepmother, Lady Cecille.
We never knew the contents of the sealed letter which was handed to Katarina after the opening of the will of Father …

Flowered tomb

The tomb of Father Rougier is on the second address of the cemetery of Urania, in Papeete. It is Auvergne pink granite formed a vault eight places and a granite column topped with a crucifix. Today, this tomb is regularly flowery evidence that Father was not forgotten. He was very generous with many friends and the local Catholic mission.

Rougier tomb

The majestic falls Emmanuel Rougier at the Urania. More than 80 after his death, she is still flower (photo DP).

Source: Tahiti Infos