Vieille Case (F)

A village on the north coast situated on sloping land directly above ravines and sea cliffs created by volcanic outflows from the volcano of Morne Aux Diables. Due to its inaccessibility this area was still occupied by Caribs for over two hundred years after being sighted by Christopher Columbus. There are archaeological sites at Au Tou and Au Parc. The Carib name for the area is Itassi. The first recorded contact with the French was made between the Carib Chief Kalamiena of Itassi and Father Raymond Breton, a French Roman Catholic missionary of the Dominican Order then based in Guadeloupe. Breton lived among the Caribs of Itassi off and on from 1642 to 1648. Here in the chief's longhouse or karbay, he celebrated the first recorded Christian Mass with the inhabitants of Dominica in 1646. Through Chief Kalamiena and subsequent chiefs such as Le Baron, close French links were developed between the people of Itassi and the French in Basseterre, Guadeloupe. Two Carib men of Itassi were taken to France to train as priests; one died in France and the other returned but reverted to his former traditions. The contact with Guadeloupe encouraged settlers from poor white (petite blanc) families, who were being sidelined by the expansion of sugar industry in Guadeloupe, to come and settle among the Caribs. Most of the Caribs intermixed with these French smallholders and therefore many Vieille Case families have French and African as well as Carib ancestry.

They began to call the place Vieille Case apparently from the old Carib karbays that still stood there when the French arrived. Because of the steep jagged nature of the land, no large estates developed at Vieille Case even after the British took over Dominica in 1763. It remained a community of small holders, mainly peasant proprietors owning a few slaves to produce coffee. The tax records of 1827, for instance, show members of the Brumant families with 11, 14 and 15 slaves each and producing an average of 900 lbs of coffee a year. The four Royer holdings averaged 4 slaves each and Joseph Le Blanc had 7 slaves and Jean Baptiste Le Blanc had 9. However after the coffee blight of the 1840s, Vieille Case shifted to sugar. It was an isolated community well into the 1920s that had more contact with Mariegalante and Guadeloupe than it had with Roseau. The wider community is composed of many different zones such as Coton, Paille, Balthazar, En Bas and Au Tou among others. The church, run by the FMI fathers from 1872, was the focus of the community and the construction of the existing church began later in the 1870s. In the 1940s the Village Board system was introduced with much local opposition at first. Slowly by the mid-20th century a motorable road reached Vieille Case. Attention was drawn to the village from 1961, when one of its sons, Edward Oliver Le Blanc, became Chief Minister and later Premier of Dominica. Improved water systems, village roads, improved school buildings, a health clinic and electricity followed from the 1960s.




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