Centenary of the Penikese Leprosy Colony, Massachusetts 1905 – 1921 ‘the Tragic story of Massachusett’s ‘Leper Colony’

See the full story HERE in the ‘New Bedford Guide’

This is the story of the ‘Leprosy Colony’ set up in 1905 on the island of Penikese.

On 15 November 1905 Leprosy Sufferers arrived on Penikese Island (7 miles from the Mainland), in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

Dr. Frank Parker and his wife Marion (who had lived a comfortable lifestyle in Boston and had a thriving practice) gave everything up to serve these people who had lost everything due to leprosy.

He went to great lengths to make the patients comfortable, providing good food, fresh air, exercise, entertainment, and nursing.

Here is a letter from one the patients on leaving: –

“My dear Mr. Parker,

I am here now 15 months with you, and now I go away from her I am sorry, very much, because I can’t repay that help you did for me. I thank you very much for your benefit you do to me and my sister. We never forget your noble feeling for us unhappy people.

I wish the God to help you and all your people as you desire, and I wish to meet you again outside some day. I say again I thank you very much. Excuse me because I can’t write very well to write you a few line words pleasant to you.

Farewell, Dr. Parker. Good-bye.

Gratefully yours,
John Marketakis

But ….

It was nearly impossible to overcome the stigma and social ostracism associated with leprosy.  Still the island produced stories of great courage, kindness and fortitude.  The colony closed in 1921 when the federal government opened a hospital in Louisiana and forced the closure of the little settlement on Penikese Island.

This year 2021 is the centenary of the closing of Penikese Island Leprosy Colony.  It makes for an interesting historical read and reveals something of the attitudes and fears of the times, and the compassionate heart of Dr. Frank Parker and his team.