Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Sanctuary of Outcasts (copy)

South of Baton Rouge sat an obscure little plantation called Indian Camp. Robert Camp ran a highly successful sugar plantation until the Civil War took all his fortunes and left the home and acreage back to the wild. The land was so isolated by the Mississippi River the only inhabitants maintained they had to fight for fishing rights with the mosquitoes who staked their claim in blood.

In 1894 the State of Louisiana took ownership of the property and designated it the Louisiana Leper Home. All Louisiana inhabitants that were diagnosed with the disease were sent to live the rest of their lives in the colony.

“The geography was perfect for outcasts. The plantation was virtually impossible to reach by land: a washed-out road with no outlet, leading to a tiny drop of land that looked like gravity had pulled it into the river’s path. It was known primarily to boat captains who navigated the sharp 180-degree turn in the Mississippi River just south of Baton Rouge.”

At first the residents had to fight with bats and snakes to live within the dilapidated house and slave quarters. They dealt daily with no running water and the very basic in sanitation as they waited for improvements from the state. A doctor from Tulane took notice and requested an order of nuns who arrived in 1896.

By 1914, the site was designated a national leprosarium and President Woodrow Wilson assigned $250,000 for the “care and treatment of people affected with leprosy.”

Today the facility is called Carville and it still houses those unfortunate enough to have contracted Hansen’s disease. On a positive note, the residents are dwindling in number since the disease is lessening and approximately 130 patients now walk the halls.

Because the facility had more beds than occupants, in 1990 the Bureau of Prisons decided to transfer federal inmates to the Federal Medical Center in Carville. On May 3, 1993, Neil White became the newest inmate.

Upon arrival, an inmate cornered him and told him he would be living with lepers now. Oh, and since he was a convict that makes him a lepercon!

Do pick up this fascinating book by Oxford resident Neil White titled In the Sanctuary of Outcasts.

14 comments:

Vivienne said...

I would love to read this one. I recently read The Island by Victoria Hislop, which is about a lepor colony on an island called Spinalonga. I found it a really interesting subject.

Missy said...

Sold! I am adding it to my list right now. I am currently reading a book about a leper colony called The Pearl Diver by Jeff Talarigo. It's very good.

stacybuckeye said...

I've seen good things about this one and your review was another feather in its cap.

____Maggie said...

Who knew there were all these books out about leprosy, Vivienne and Missy!?! After I started reading this book, I did some internet surfing and came up with all kinds. Is it fair to say this topic is hot? There are also more books and websites dedicated to Carville! :D

Ah, thanks Stacy! I was afraid this one fell flat. I'm not feeling to well and it felt like I was just getting it done yesterday. He has a mixture of scary jail stories and moving Carville stories - that makes this a fun read.

Tiffany Norris said...

I would never have picked out this one on my own, so thanks for bringing it to my awareness! Sounds great!

____Maggie said...

One of my friends told me about it, Tiffany, since he is an Oxford resident; otherwise, I would have been in the dark, too! But, checking out Vivienne and Missy response this is a hot topic in fiction and nonfiction! :)

Paul said...

Have you read "Farewell To Manzanar" ?

Ladytink_534 said...

I just adore this cover. Sounds like a very interesting read.

Rosemary said...

Agree with Tiffany- I'd have never stumbled upon this on my own. Thanks for the review. Also, wanted to let you know I've given you a little bloggy award:

http://bookingitbusstyle.blogspot.com/2009/09/word-up.html

____Maggie said...

No I haven't Paul! Where do you get these titles?!?

It is Ladytink! Mixture of fascination over leporacy and incarceration has kept me up a night.

Thanks Rosemary! This is awful nice of you! :)

Bookfool said...

I won an ARC of this one and absolutely loved it. Isn't the final cover beautiful? Mine is kind of ugly, but the contents are what matter.

____Maggie said...

The cover is gee-or-gous, Bookfool! Makes me want to visit! Wonder if it is part of the original plantation?

California Girl said...

that really does sound fascinating. i have not visited for a while but hopefully am back on a more consistent basis.

____Maggie said...

Thanks for coming back California Girl! I have been bad about not visiting, too. I'm so busy lately it is even hard to write on my own blog! But, I seem to have all the time in the world for facebook! :D Enjoy the book!