Maine remembers Malaga Island residents with memorial

Melaga Asylum

NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - It is one of the darker moments in state history.

The removal of a mixed race community from a small island off the coast of Phippsburg.

In 1912 the state forcibly removed about 40 residents from Malaga Island, took down their homes and committed some of them to the Maine School for the Feeble Minded. The state has since apologized and today another step was taken towards helping their descendants heal. 

For several decades they lived and worked quietly and peacefully on a small island off the coast of Phippsburg. They were fishermen and laborers of mixed races, African American and White.

“Marrying, living together, raising their families and that was different. It was not seen a socially acceptable at the time", said historian Kate McBrien.

It was the early 1900’s, and for some Maine leaders, it couldn’t be tolerated. So the state forcibly evicted them.

“They didn’t give them other places to go. They said you need to go and you need to be out by July 1st, 1912 and if you’re not, we will burn everything", McBrien said.

Some of the residents were committed to the Maine School for the Feeble Minded. 17 bodies buried on the island were removed. The entire island community forced out, including Charmagne Tripp’s Great Grandmother, Great Uncle and Grandfather.

“My reaction was shock, outrage, I was a little confused, I felt it couldn’t be true, there had to be some misunderstanding, who would do that and why?”, Tripp said.

As Tripp learned more about her relatives and the other island residents, she said it appeared to be an age old story of the haves and have nots.

“I think it’s about just deciding, we don’t value these people and their homes and their lifestyles and therefore we don't want it here”, she said.  

It is a part of Maine history most people don’t know about.

“It is unthinkable and I think my very first reaction was, this happened in Maine?”, McBrien said.

For 15-years Kate MCBrien has researched this story.

“That a state could separate a community based on race and you don’t think that could happen in Maine”, she said.

That brought her and the descendants of the people of Malaga Island to a small graveyard next to Pineland Farms where relatives are now buried and where another apology from the state was offered. This time from Governor LePage, who was instrumental in setting up a memorial stone to them. A memorial to make people aware of what happened back in 1912. A memorial to make sure we don’t forget.  

“Having a memorial like this is a very permanent statement that this community existed, these people existed and they never will be forgotten again”, McBrien said.

“Just being acknowledged that these people mattered is powerful, it’s powerful”, said Tripp.

 

 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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