The Last House on Holland Island
Written By: TJ
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
As the saying goes, “Nature doesn’t need people, but people need nature”. The Earth provides everything we ever desire, but there’s nothing much we can do once it decides to take all of them back. What happened to the town of Holland Island was an example of how nature can easily give hundreds of people subsistence, but also how easily it can take their lives away.
Discovery of Holland Island
In 1600s, colonist Daniel Holland discovered a beautiful island sitting along the Chesapeake Bay, USA. Mesmerized by its abundance, Holland claimed the island and named it after him. He settled in its beauty and lived his remaining years there until his death.
For the first two centuries, life on the Holland island was hugely uneventful. The small colony of Holland’s relatives were the only island inhabitants, until they grew in number through word of mouth from outlanders and reproduction. By the first half of 19th century, Holland Island was a thriving community.
The Booming Economy
Fishing and farming were the main livelihoods of Holland Island people, and these jobs were booming in 1850s. Due to this, many families have arrived on the island and settled for good. As the early 1900s came around, Holland became the most populated island on Chesapeake Bay, housing nearly 400 residents in its territory.
Structures were built including homes, shops, a school, post office, general stores, and specially a church. Even a baseball team was formed who would then travel to far away places by boat to compete. About 90 vessels would call Holland Island a home, making money out of catching fish, trapping crab, and dredging for oysters. Life on the island was indeed simple yet abundant, who could even ask for more.
Waves and Storms
Despite Holland Island’s plethora of resources, this land was uniquely built on mud and silt, and not on rocks, therefore making it more susceptible to shoreline erosions and landslides because of being exposed to crashing waves.
Scientifically speaking, the up and down movement of ice-age glaciers long time ago has pushed Earth’s crust and made the lands slowly disappear for thousands of years. In addition, the melting polar cap made the oceans rise, further accelerating the erosion process for the islands in Chesapeake Bay.
The residents tried desperately to save the Holland Island. They all started to put imported stones to build walls around the island, and even used sinking boats to slow the erosions but to no avail. In 1914, it was visible that the island had lost most of its shoreline, leaving most of the settlers with no choice but to tear down their houses and relocate to mainland.
Few of the brave inhabitants stayed and take their chances, but a violent storm in 1918 damaged almost everything left including the church, which became their last straw to evacuate the place. Some stragglers would come back during the fishing seasons to reap what they can around the area, but this ended when the church finally closed its doors in 1922.
Recovery of Holland Island
A man named Stephen White who spent his early life as a waterman on Holland Island grew up to be Methodist Minister. Seeing the island where he was raised in abandoned and neglected state pushed him to purchase it at a price of $70,000 and try to preserve its legacy by creating the Holland Island Preservation Foundation in 1995.
Money and time were spent in the course of 15 years trying to rebuild what was left on the island, but White had little to no success. Everything he put and set up to protect the island had been devoured by the crashing waters. An estimated amount of $150,000 was shelled out only to find out that the island has shrunk 20 acres during White’s ownership.
The government even tried to help but due to some economic crisis, and the fact that most islands in Chesapeake Bay were privately owned, it was almost impossible to receive public funds for the project. The only residents who remained were the birds including pelicans, herons and terns, but their residency was cut short in 2003 due to hurricane Isabel which destroyed 60% of the remaining trees and decimating the avian population.
Attempts to save the island were all fruitless and global warming did nothing but to accelerate the shrinking of the once liveliest island in Chesapeake Bay. White fell ill to hemolytic anemia in mid-2010 and realizing that he had done all he could to save the island, he sold it to local venture capitalists group Concorde Foundation, as he declines to death.
Swallowed by the Waters
Just a few weeks after being bought, Concorde Foundation was able to take aerial photos of the last house on Holland Island before it succumbed to the waters and fall on a one-story house. These photos would be the last evidence of the tragic beauty of the island before it said its final goodbyes on maps.
The wreckage would then be claimed over the next several months and a year later, Holland Island was gone. 125 years of braving the elements and the last house can stand no more. The town was completely submerged somewhere under the ocean, along with its memories and legacies.
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