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This Deserted Island In Maine Has A Seriously Sad Past

NOVEMBER 25, 2016  —  By Corinne Sanders

If you were to visit Malaga Island today, you'd probably assume that it's never been inhabited by humans.

However, the 40-acre island off the coast of Maine used to be home to an interracial community of about 45 people. In 1912, they were forced to leave the island because of racism, a eugenics movement, and political corruption in the state.

The island's residents were black, Irish, Scottish, and Portuguese. They made up a number of interracial families with both married and unmarried couples, and they mostly made a living on fishing.

Because of the growing popularity of the eugenics movement in the country at the time, many people ridiculed the islanders. They believed that mixed blood equated to inferior genetics.

Newspapers also printed stories shaming what they called "the degenerate colony." The people of Malaga were even accused of incest and feeble-mindedness, all because they weren't of the same race.

Frederick W. Plaisted, the governor of Maine then, believed that the small fishing community was a stain on the state's reputation, so he sent a notice of eviction to the island's residents. Three weeks earlier, he promised them that they would never be forced to leave.

The notice stated that they could leave and take their homes with them or be forced out and have their homes destroyed. When representatives came to the island in July 1912, everyone and everything was gone. Most left the island with no destination. Some floated their homes on the river and eventually died there.

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Sadly, eight of the islanders were institutionalized at the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded because they were deemed mentally incompetent. A few of these people were there for the rest of their lives.

The people who had been buried on the island were even dug from their graves and reburied outside of the mental institution. They were all piled into five caskets. One body was carelessly lost in the river while being moved.

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The governor was motivated to remove any trace of the residents because a friend of his bought the land in 1913 to develop a resort, which was never actually built.

Now hardly any human life remains on the island, save for occasional tourists who visit. Residents of Maine did their best to pretend that none of this ever happened, but the state finally issued a statement of regret in 2010.

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Additionally, former governor John Baldacci held a ceremony on the island that year to apologize for the injustices committed against the islanders.

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This marker was also placed in the Pineland Cemetery in New Gloucester, Maine, to commemorate the dead whose bodies were removed from Malaga Island.

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The island remains uninhabited to this day, and is now owned by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, which permits daytime visitors.

(via Atlas Obscura / Guff)

It's so sad to think of what all those innocent families went through just because they lived peacefully with people of different races. Other residents of Maine could have learned a lot from their example if they had only given them a chance.

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