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Maine State documents and Proclamations

After the production of Malaga Island: A Story Best Left Untold in 2009 and up to 2012, three apologies by members of state of Maine's government have been made for the events at Malaga Island. And, a revealing document from 1913 was “discovered.”

Joint Resolution Recognizing the Tragic Expulsion of the Residents of Malaga Island, 124th Legislature, April 7, 2010.

Physicians Certificate collage
Physicians Certificate collage By Kate Philbrick, 2009

Under the leadership of State Representative Herb Adams of Portland, in 2010, the 124th Legislature of Maine formally expressed “profound regret” for the eviction of the Malaga residents nearly a hundred years prior. The resolution was co-sponsored by several legislators including those from Woolwich and Bath, towns near Malaga, and Phippsburg, the home of Malaga. You can read the entire document below as well as listen to Herb Adams read this historic document into the record before the legislature.


Governor John Baldacci on Malaga Island with descendant Marnie Voter, September 10, 2010
Governor John Baldacci on Malaga Island with descendant Marnie Voter, September 10, 2010Photo by Rob Rosenthal

In September of 2010, Maine's Governor John Baldacci visited Malaga Island. He was the first governor to do so since Governor Plaisted toured the island in 1911. After Plaisted’s visit, the islanders were evicted. Baldacci, on the other hand, apologized for his predecessor’s actions.

Governor Baldacci came to the island as part of a celebration marking the dedication of Malaga as part of the Maine Freedom Trail. At the podium, the governor briefly put his notes down to speak directly to the audience of over forty. “To the descendants of Benjamin Darling, let me just say that I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what was done. It wasn't right and we were raised better than that. We're better people than that."


"We apologize for the hardship we have caused you." Governor LePage in May, 2012
"We apologize for the hardship we have caused you." Governor LePage in May, 2012Photo courtesy of Kate McBrien

At the opening for the Maine State Museum’s exhibit “Malaga Island: Fragmented Lives” in May of 2012, Governor Paul LePage spoke about the eviction and offered his apologies for the state’s action in 1912.

“To the descendants,” he declared, “I will tell you as a governor, I will say, we apologize for this hardship we have caused you. We did similar things to the Native Americans here. And, frankly, ten years after Malaga Island was destroyed, the largest Ku Klux Klan rally in the history of the United States was right here in Maine, against the French Catholics coming down here from Quebec. So, we understand. We have been part of it as well. So, my sincerest apology on behalf of the people of Maine to the descendants.”


It’s hard to pin down the exact reasons why the Malaga Islanders were evicted. In the documentary, we refer to a “swirling mix” of factors including eugenics, economics, tourism, and the politics of prohibition. That sort of triangulation was born mostly from the lack of a smoking gun, a document like a diary entry or meeting minutes or letters, that clearly spell out Governor Plaisted and his Council’s rationale.

However, Marnie and Del Voter, with the help of local historian and former State Representative Herb Adams, may have found the closest thing to a smoking gun. We wish we’d learned about it at the time of the production of our documentary, but, fortunately, we can present it here. It’s the state-published “Reports of the Committees of the Council, 1911-1912.” The document was found on Google Books, a resource that wasn’t available a few years ago. (A .pdf copy of the document is below.)

This 1913 publication is a kind of “annual report.” It summarizes the highlights in the year of governance from the governor’s perspective. The report covers education, prisons, and libraries, among other topics. Of interest to the Malaga discussion is the report from the Committee on State Beneficiaries and Pensions. In that section, the Council gives an account of their rationale behind the eviction at Malaga.

In short, the Council felt state government was paying too much to support paupers throughout Maine – especially in Frenchboro, Athens, and Malaga, towns they called a “blot upon the state.” they considered many of the recipients of state aid to be freeloaders or, in their words: “a drain on the treasury [that encourages]… around them a thriftless, lazy gang, to help them in consuming supplies furnished by the commonwealth.”

As for Malaga, the report states: "after viewing conditions (on Malaga), it was decided at a council meeting shortly after, that the good of the state and the cause of humanity demanded that the colony be broken up and the people segregated. The inhabitants then numbered about 56, a large part of whom were state paupers. It was decided that to rid the island of its population, and to prevent further squatting, that the state should hold a title to the property..."

That’s the clearest statement we’ve seen regarding the state’s motives for purchasing the island and evicting the community. It contradicts the governor’s initial public response to his visit to the island where he said, in effect, the islanders should be helped, not removed.

The question remains, however, what exactly caused the shift? Was it merely that the governor needed to sleep on the issue? Did other members of the Council persuade the governor to change his mind? Who and why? And, where does the Perry family fit into this? The Perry’s owned the island in 1911. Who contacted who first – did the Council make its decision and then reach out to the Perry’s? Or were the Perry’s part of the decision making process?

To be clear, this rationale for the eviction does not rule out motivations that remain unstated. To be sure, governor Plaisted and his council were men of their time.

Perhaps reporter Allen Breed said it best when we interviewed him in 2007 on the takeaway for the Malaga story.

“It’s a slice of a moment in time,” he replied. “It’s a time when the words ‘moron’ and ‘idiot’ were medical diagnoses. It’s a time when blacks and whites weren’t supposed to be living together in the same household. The races, even in the north that was supposedly so enlightened, even blacks and whites weren’t supposed to be living together. It just wasn’t done. And, it’s a time when the state and local governments were wrestling with what to do about the poor people in their midst and whose responsibility it was to care for those less fortunate and in need. Unfortunately, in the case of Malaga Island, a lot of very nasty things were done in the name of the greater good and social improvement.