Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D             [ Back ]    [ Home  [ Next

Elliott’s Island

In Elliott’s Island: The Land that Time Forgot we are offered a rare opportunity to step back into time and live in a world that once was popular and beautifully primal. With the passing of time comes the death of the founders and the those loyal to their roots.  But A.M. Foley and Freddie T. Waller manage to nudge our memories about this little world and bid us welcome to enter into their pages.

Foley is a veteran writer, so much of the word-shaping has fallen to her, as has the convincing of Islanders to release their private memories, while Waller organized the project. The authors have caught the charm of their homeland and given us a sneak peak into their isolation, their fear of wild hurricanes, their dread of the coming of the end of their livelihood. These Islanders seemingly exist in a dimension different from racing autos, crowded stores, main street financiers, tall buildings, and a computerized lifestyle.

Along with the rare images are the writers’ carefully culled words that make captions leap off the pages and give us an inside look at who these people are and how much they love and appreciate their land–people who have little interest in politics, which fork to use for dinner, or what is and isn’t politically correct, but all the same they are people who do have a good feel for “being the last of their kind.” They are “just people,” real people, people who mark their lives from the time period when “there was oysters.”

To get the scoop on the Island, Foley says the “old-timers” would spend days talking  to her in what, to outsiders, would seem more like the voice of cloistered people who have for years done for themselves among themselves. She offers, “A [few] of them used to take great pains to explain things to me so I could follow their [endless] conversations...[as] outsiders would have no idea what working on the water or marsh involved. All the men are gone now and only three widows endure on the Island.”

The authors did their homework as the pictures are rich, each with a history of its own, many of which come from the Islanders, some from relatives, and others from people around the country who had once visited the Island, using some of the small houses as getaway summer colleges. The writers compile a dynamic history of the mile-and-a-half long island separated from the mainland by the” Dorchester Everglades.”  Past tense overflows with tales of Captain John Smith, legends of the Nanticoke Indians, and records of the Europeans who had the Island patented under Lord Baltimore which eventually brought the Elliott family in 1690s.

One could lose days sifting through this book, reading its history, studying its deeds and records, tracing its maps, coveting images of boats, school, churches, people, homes, cars, stores, a lighthouse, button factory, and the fire company. Equally entertaining are the snapshots of “birders” who thrive on the marshes to catch glimpses of black rails, golden and bald eagles and at least 100 other species. The National Muskrat Skinning champions pose holding their trophies and  traps. Ranked right up their with skinning and birding is, of course, fishing, which once served equally as a livelihood and a recreational activity. But these hardworking Islanders revel in their form of recreation and community, which at one time included quilting, courting, Journaling, neighboring, partying, and the occasional trip to Ocean City sponsored by the Methodist Youth Fellowship which almost matched the thrill of circus day. The Grange,4-H Club, Homemakers Club, and the baseball league took top honors. Warm but saddened memories are highlighted in the Service photos of unreturned uniformed young men, while at home Mom and Pop did all they could to help the war effort.

Foley and Waller catch it all in their pictures and, while offering us a bonus appendix listing comical nicknames of the residents, and names of historical boats.  This gem, published in 1999 by Dogwood Ridge Books, is worth the money and the time spent holding and fondling the images, caressing the past, welcoming the future.

Perhaps in many ways time has forgotten this tiny little spot on the map but after reading Elliott’s Island: The Land that Time Forgot, it will never leave your memory banks.

Here’s to six mighty pens.

Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D.
Copyright 2002 Nan Hayes