All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Maine Colony at Jaffa

In the fall of 1866, a group of Washington County residents moved to the town of Jaffa in Palestine under the leadership of Elder George Jones Adams, founder of the Church of the Messiah. They sailed aboard the clipper Nellie Chapin out of Jonesport, bringing with them lumber and other building materials. Their stated purpose was to await the second coming of Christ and reclaim the Holy Land, but they also intended to create a profitable colony.
Adams held out the inducement of certain pecuniary success—backing up his representations of the agricultural attractions of the country by the testimony of others who claimed to have minute and accurate personal knowledge of the region, and especially of a man named MacKenzie. [Link]
What was described by one American missionary as a "down-east attempt to get further east" ended in failure. The colony was beset by disease and drought, and Adams was accused of drunkenness and threatening behavior toward his followers.

Mark Twain encountered some of the colonists on his trip to the Holy Land in 1867, as reported in The Innocents Abroad:
At Jaffa we had taken on board some forty members of a very celebrated community. They were male and female; babies, young boys and young girls; young married people, and some who had passed a shade beyond the prime of life. I refer to the "Adams Jaffa Colony." Others had deserted before. We left in Jaffa Mr. Adams, his wife, and fifteen unfortunates who not only had no money but did not know where to turn or whither to go.
The colony was a complete fiasco. I have already said that such that could get away did so, from time to time. The prophet Adams—once an actor, then several other things, afterward a Mormon and a missionary, always an adventurer—remains at Jaffa with his sorrowful subjects. The forty we brought away with us were chiefly destitute, though not all of them. They wished to get to Egypt. What might become of them then they did not know and probably did not care—anything to get away from hated Jaffa. [Link]
The attrition continued, and by 1883 the colony comprised just four families. Perhaps the last survivor of the colony in Palestine was Mary Jane (Clark) Leighton-Floyd, widow of Rolla Floyd, who died in 1934. Reed Holmes stated in a 1982 speech to the Alexander-Crawford Historical Society that some surviving members of the colony were living in Jonesport as late as 1942.

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