Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lizzy Bright and the Buckminster Boy

I'm obsessed with Malaga Island now officially. It's an island off of Phippsburg Maine which was inhabited by a community of 50 or more very poor people for generations. There is a lot of legend surrounding the first people of Malaga - I read some accounts that say sea captains would 'take a lady' with them for journeys and then drop them off on Malaga before returning home to their families - or that Malaga was founded by runaway slaves. Either way, it ended up being the home to an interracial population of people for over 50 years. In the 1910s, Phippsburg saw their shipping port failing and decided their next industry was going to be tourism. In order to attract the rich tourists from Boston, they had to get rid of Malaga as it was - which was a collection of ramshackle shacks that were visible from Phippsburg's coast. Their only solution - obviously - was to evict all of Malaga's people, forcing one family to actually put their house in the river and float it down to Boston - and to throw the rest of them in an asylum where they all eventually died, and not of old age. They burned their houses down, and waited for their beloved tourists to arrive. I don't think they ever did. It's an unbelievable story. The fact that they got the entire town in on it - to evict an entire island community that had been getting by for generations (without much help, mind you) - is amazing to me. It's almost as bad as what happened on Kalaupapa on Molakai Island in Hawaii, except people were exiled TO Kalaupapa (babies and all) when diagnosed with leprosy in the late 1800s, not from. Still.

Lizzy Bright was a Malaga resident, and the 'Buckminster Boy' was the minister's son in Phippsburg. Lizzy and Buckminster formed a friendship, and the reader gets to see both sides of the Malaga/Phippsburg story - from the side of the Phippsburgians, and the side of the mistreated Malaga Islanders.

Here's a picture of Malaga:


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