New monument marks shameful event in Maine history
NEW GLOCESTER (WGME) -- It's one of the most shameful events in Maine’s history, the forced eviction of a mixed race community living on a Midcoast island.
A century ago, Maine's governor ordered that eviction.
Friday, Maine Governor Paul LePage tried to right that wrong.
They are the descendants of a former interracial community that once stood here on Malaga Island, just off the coast of Phippsburg.
Their grandparents and great grandparents lived on the island from end of the Civil War until the summer of 1912. That's when historians say the State of Maine evicted everyone on the island, erasing this mixed-race community.
Racism, fear of losing tourist dollars, and a belief at that time that mixed blood produces inferior offspring, motivated the eviction. Newspapers printed stories of a so-called degenerate colony on Malaga Island.
In 1911, Governor Frederick Plaisted forced men, women and children from the island into various institutions. Eight were committed to the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded, including Jacob Marks, who died two weeks after being committed.
Most people who lived in the interracial community of Malaga Island lived on the north end of the island away from the ocean.
Governor Plaisted saw the Malaga community as blight on Maine's reputation. So in 1912, he ordered the mass eviction of the remaining 45 people who lived there. In July 1912, the governor arrived on the island only to find families had already left. Homes still standing were ordered burned.
The state later exhumed 17 bodies from the island cemetery and relocated them to the Pineland cemetery. Among them, Laura Tripp, Gloria Tripp's grandmother, who died after fleeing the island.
"My father was there with his mother when she died on the boat," Tripp said.
105 years later, state leaders and dozens of Malaga Island descendants dedicated a new monument Friday afternoon to bring dignity and honor to their ancestors.
The Governor's Contingency Fund provided most of the funds to build and install the memorial.
"It was just so shameful that the people on the mainland did not see what they were doing," LePage said.
Today, there are few signs the community ever existed on this island, but descendants say this new memorial ensures the people of Malaga Island will never again be forgotten.