Ralph D. de Magne de Chabert (1890-1955)

Ralph de Chabert
Ralph de Chabert
Public Domain Image (CC0)

Journalist, publisher, farmer, legal advisor, and political activist Ralph D. de Magne de Chabert, the son of Louis de Chabert and Laura de Chabert, was born in Saint Croix, Danish West Indies, on January 12, 1890. However, the 1940 US Census indicates his date of birth about 1893 in Saint Croix.

De Chabert was interested in agriculture and spent much of his time working on sugar farms during his youth. Early in his life, he supported the efforts of David Hamilton Jackson, a Saint Croix labor rights advocate and founder of The Herald. De Chabert, like Jackson, advocated for improved social and economic conditions for the agricultural workers of Saint Croix, and joined the farm workers on the island when they went on strike.

Polylingual in English, Danish, and French, de Chabert studied Journalism and Legal Studies through the La Salle Extension University, accredited by the National Home Study Council and the State of Illinois.

With the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States in 1917 accompanied by a US payment to Denmark of $25,000,000, de Chabert was excited about the islands now being under the US flag. Nonetheless, he continued to stress the need for political power for the local population.

In 1922, de Chabert founded The Saint Croix Tribune, which was financially supported by the St. Croix Co-operative Society in Christiansted. He edited the paper’s articles and wrote editorials. A daily newspaper (except on Sundays), the Tribune adopted the mottos, “A Journal for the Progress of the People” and “Let Justice Be Done Though the Heavens Should Fall.” Three years later in 1925, de Chabert was one of the founders of the Saint Croix Chamber of Commerce and served as its first president. He was also a founder of the Saint Croix Democratic Party.

After leaving the Tribune in 1937, de Chabert served as a legal advisor to the Virgin Islands government’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches until 1938. During this period, he introduced the Homestead Act which granted adult heads of families, public land for a minimal filing fee. This act allowed thousands of Virgin Islanders to become homeowners at an affordable price.

In 1940, de Chabert worked as a dairy farmer on a 235-acre farm on Estate Rosegate. Five years later, in 1945, de Chabert purchased and developed land for farming in Estate Blessings, Hope, and Jerusalem. He continued working with the Virgin Islands government in various capacities as an elected official responsible for the tax assessment of all property throughout the islands and as the administrator, collecting property taxes and maintaining the public records and documents regarding real estate deeds and mortgages. He served in this capacity until 1953 when failing health forced him into retirement.

Ralph de Chabert married Ansetta Muckle (1908–1976), an entrepreneur from Frederiksted. They parented six children: Juan de Chabert, Austin de Chabert Sr., Ralph A. de Chabert, MD, Mario de Chabert, JD, Shirley de Chabert Highfield, PhD., and Rita de Chabert Schuster.

Ralph D. de Magne de Chabert died in Christiansted, Virgin Islands, on February 6, 1955. He was 65.