The home of Matilda Adolphus for over twenty years before the destruction by Muriel Tillett family on Nov 12, 2009. First it was the fence around the property, then the windows.
Disagreements and conflicts are a fact of life within communities and societies, and for the people who live and work in them. Disputes may be between neighbors, public government agencies or private industry. This is the story of one such conflict.
Rochelle Adolphus, her three brothers and a sister have lived on the seven acre ancestral land of her parents' in Crooked Tree Village all their lives. Her house is surrounded by beautiful mango trees, avocado trees, oranges, and a large open field. Now it seems that they are about to lose a portion of the land that generations of the Adolphus’ have been occupying and living for over one hundred years.
(Top)Rochelle Adolphus, (L-R) Charles Adolphus, Horace Adolphus, and Walden Adolphus: The sons of Josiah Adolphus.
Many years back the patriarch of the family, Josiah Adolphus invited his sister Edith Adolphus Rowland to live on the land with him. Although Edith was told she could live on the property until she died, her daughter, Muriel Tillett is now claiming a portion of the land 32 years after Edith’s death.
In 1937 after living for years on the property, Josiah Adolphus purchased the land from Ann Henrietta Tillett Gillett. This was before his sister Edith came to live with him on the land. The deed was issued in the name of Josiah Adolphus from the government of Belize for the parcel of land shown on the Registry map and was given a Registry number. Over all these years, the government registry for lands in Belize has records documenting Mr. Josiah as the owner of the property. How is it that 32 years after the death of Edith, Josiah’s name was removed from the files at the government’s registry?
The house of Rochelle Adolphus behind the mango trees.
The bar of Kenneth Bruce, the grand-son of Josiah Adolphus, he is been evicted from the Adolphus land also.
View from the north of the property
Muriel Tillett, the daughter of Edith filed trespassing claims in the Supreme Court of Belize against the children of Josiah and the judge handed a portion of the land over to her. Muriel Tillett, the daughter of Edith claimed that the land was given to her mother and they have proof that it was subdivided in 1947.
Rochelle Adolphus, the daughter of Josiah said “the land was never subdivided in 1947 or any other time by anyone. She said that after her father died in 1966, Edith and her family started to claim the land. The Tillett family said they have papers to the land, but ten years ago, there was no paperwork showing them on the land. Everything on their paper work is a lie; the Adolphus family is the owner of the land. And the land was handed over to the Tillett family illegally”.
Horace Adolphus, the son of Josiah said “In 1937 my father Josiah bought this land cash and it was deeded to him only; all the papers were in the government registry in his name. What I do not understand is why the government cannot protect land owners. Why are these people taking over? If the land was subdivided to them, why did they allow my brother Heckland Adolphus to build his house forty one years ago and my sister Matilda over twenty years ago on the land they are claiming. In my opinion, they are not telling the truth, something did not go down honestly! If I’m the owner of a property, in no way would I allow anyone to build on it”.
View from the south
The issue that is of great concern is the portion of land they are claiming has a permanent structure on it. The home is occupied by Raquel Gomez, the great-grand-daughter of Josiah Adolphus. This house was built twenty years ago. Raquel, a single mother, was forcibly evicted from her home and many of her personal belongings were burned or destroyed on Thursday November 12, 2009.
The majority of villagers in Crooked Tree Village is in an uproar over the decision and has come out to demonstrate in support of the Adolphus family.
Arthur Saldivar, the Attorney for Muriel Tillett’s family said’ “The matter had been first and foremost in the Supreme Court. This is a family feud so to speak over a portion of land that was divided by the patriarchs of the family some time ago; between grandparents of the parties that are now having this contention. One portion, a one point five acre portion, was passed down from Ms. Edith Rowland to her daughter Mrs. Muriel Tillett. That mater was decided in court since 1989 and subsequent to that another matter was brought. I don’t want to go into all that detail but simply to say that an action brought by the Adolphus’ to the Court of Appeal was abandoned at the eleventh hour and as we now speak, this is a settled matter where the inheritance of the Tillett family has been restored. The will of the court should be respected; the order of the court should be respected. I believe that what occurred yesterday was that the marshals went out to effect the court order and, as you are making me aware now, there was a contention over that. I find that to be somewhat shocking.”(Channel 5 Belize)
I would like to know what happens when removal of records are made under the Government’s watch? I can speak from experience that this is not the first time that land mis-deeds happen within the Department of Natural Resources in Belize. The only way to stop these kinds of illegal activity is to have real land reform in Belize.
To be continued...
Photos by Dr. Jane Crawford and Laura Crawford