Wirkus, Faustin (1897 - 1945)

Salesman. Born in Dupont, Pa. When 17 entered the U.S. Marine Corps. For ten years he stayed at Haiti; here on the island La Gonave he was elected a king by the colored people in 1927 and ruled until 1929. He was forced to abdicate by his transfer. Married Yula Fuller of Atlanta, Ga., and has been a security salesman in New York, N. Y.

From: "Who's Who in Polish America" by Rev. Francis Bolek, Editor-in-Chief; Harbinger House, New York, 1943

"Yankee King of the Tropics" by J.P. Folinsbee [Arrow Picture]

Fantastic Career of Faustin Wirkus,
Coal Miner who Became a King, Ended by Death

Source: "United Mine Workers Journal," November 15, 1945

The fantastic career of Marine warrant Officer Faustin H, Wirkus, 48, former Pittston PA, coal miner, who became king of a tropical isle, ended October 8, when he died in Brooklyn, NY, Naval Hospital. Wirkus ruled the island of la Gonave off Port au Prince from 1925 to 1929.

Born in Pittston, the son of a Polish-American mine worker, Wirkus was destined for the life of a coal miner, but he ran away at 18 and joined the marines. In 1925, when a gunnery sergeant, he was appointed Marine administrator of La Gonave to halt internal disputes among the 12,000 natives on the small island.

La Gonave had had a king named Faustin. When Faustin Wirkus arrived the natives knelt before him and buxom Queen Ti Meminne pronounced him the reincarnation of the late ruler, Wirkus became king and wore a two-foot crown. He was admitted to voodoo rituals and acquired a deeper knowledge of black magic than any other white man of his time.

Wirkus gained wide publicity when the late William Seabrook, novelist, visited La Gonave and wrote a book "The Magic Isle." However, officials of Haiti, which claimed jurisdiction over La Gonave became jealous and forced Wirkus to abdicate in 1929. He resigned from the Marine Corps the same year.

Later he wrote a book with Taney Dudley, "The White King of La Gonave," lectured and became a bond broker in New York. In 1937 he married an Atlanta girl, who with their 7-year old son survives.

Wirkus returned to the Marine Corps in 1939 as a recruiting specialist and last year was appointed instructor in aviation gunnery at the Chapel Hill, NC, Marine station.

Faustus Wirkus the White King of La Gonave

by Henry Archacki

Source: "Straz", February 25, 1971

[Pen and Ink Picture]

The Caribbean Sea has long been famed for its Islands strung out like a necklace against the iridescent coral waters. Ever since Columbus made his land-fall there, the islands have been a white man's pearl and oyster.

The first European destined to be buried in this Eden was one Francesco Fernandez who was left with others at Hispaniola by Columbus in that initial colonizing attempt. He was killed by the Indians whose early friendliness toward the "white gods" quickly evaporated.

Spain was not able to hold onto all the islands. Eventually the Dutch, French and English came in and took what they could by force. Pirates and buccaneers grabbed off a few island sanctuaries but there still seemed to be islands aplenty dotting the sea.

For us it is of interest to know that for eighty-five years the beautiful island of Tobago belonged by a direct act of purchase in 1652 to Duke Jacob of Courland (then a liege state of Poland) from Holland.

Duke Jacob was no small time operator. He managed to build a fleet of 123 ships of which 44 were war vessels and he conducted, for the time, a worldwide commerce. The Swedish invasions of Poland hurt his ambitious colonization plans. It was not until 1681 that Duke Jacob was able to regain full authority over Tobago by the grace of Charles II Stuart, King of England who had seized the islands. Duke Jacob died in 1682 and Tobago remained in possession of the family until 1737 when it reverted back to England.

Another century was to pass before Polish blood was to enrich the soil of the island of Haiti now the modern name of Hispaniola, that landfall of Columbus. In 1512 Spain had bolster ed the dwindling Indian population with negro slaves. Haiti became a French possession by treaty in 1697 but by that time the negro population had intermingled and a mulatto strain had developed, many free mulattos became property owners and eventually were granted political rights in 1789.

The powerful white landowners sought the intervention of the English and the Spaniards and a long political struggle ensued. The Negro patriot Dessalines tried to liberate the island by getting rid of all the whites. This brought strong retaliatory measures from France when Napoleon sent a French expeditionary force which included a regiment of Polish legionnaires.

The Poles refused to fight the liberator and when the French were defeated in 1803 Dessalines granted the Poles amnesty and asylum. In due course of time one of the strangest colonies of Polish exiles was to come into existence!

Settling around the town of Carzal the Polish legionaries inter-married with the mulatto women. By the turn of the century, a Polish-mulatto strain developed with blue eyes, blond hair and freckles. Further, this Polish-Haitian strain carried such family names as Dombroski, Kowalski, Sadoski and others. The descendants had exceeded one thousand in number.

Faustin Wirkus, a Polish American Marine Sergeant from Scranton, Pa., area, spent ten years with the U.S. Marine forces sent in 1915 to restore order out of this political and revolutionary chaos that was intermittently ravaging the island of Haiti.

Sgt. Wirkus was to become a celebrity in his own right when he was crowned King Faustin II of the nearby Isle de La Gonave.

Later in the book "The White King of La Gonave" written by Wirkus and Taney Dudley, Wirkus described the strange sensation of walking the streets of Carzal with a friend and meeting blond kinky hair mulattos who answered to the name of Dombrowski and Kowalski.

Wirkus mastered the native Creole dialect and became knowledgeable with the voodooism that steeped the populace of that mysterious island lying low on the horizon from the main Island of Haiti. His tour of duty eventually included the Island of LaGonave. He administered his domain with tolerance and good old Polish common-sense and before long the "Lieut. Blanc", as he was called, was looked up to as a friend and a father.

The Island of La Gonave with its scattered population of some ten thousand was ruled by two Negro queens. The original king of this island dependency was Faustin I the first and last emperor of Haiti. In Faustin Wirkus the queens recognized the reincarnation of Faustin the First.

It turned out to be quite a day In the life of this young Polish American Marine when the La Gonave islanders crowned him Faustin II with all the mystic rites and cere- monies that was the island's tradition.

We met the "White King of La Gonave" in New York City back in 1937-38 and were able to authenticate the unique pacification role that Faustin Wirkus played during those turbulent years of Haiti history.

As Wirkus' fame spread the President of the Republic of Haiti decided that a ruling "king" in his domain was undemocratic and Faustin's two year reign came to an abrupt halt.

Faustin Wirkus never returned to La Gonave and has long since gone to his reward in "God's Banana Fields" but were you to visit the island today you would learn that the natives are awaiting his return to his island in the sun as Faustin III.