At the turn of the 20th century when Greek immigrants to America worked as laborers in mines and factories for starvation wages, a former Greek monk who took the name Jason Malbis found cheap land in Baldwin County Alabama, carved a natural paradise out of the wilderness and set up a commune where Greeks coming to America could work and live together. Starting in 1906, the Malbis Plantation created a string of successful businesses including the county’s first electric generator and ice plant; a dairy; lumber mill; a bakery serving the entire Southeast; a prize-winning nursery with greenhouses covering tens of acres, and on and on.

The members of the commune lived as one family, without marriage or children. Greek was the everyday language and the Greek Orthodox faith was strictly observed. In the 1950s, as the original colonists began to fade away, a new group of immigrants were brought from Greece to continue the work Malbis had started. But unable to accept the strict morality and communal lifestyle of the older generation, one by one the new immigrants drifted away. In the 1960s, as land was sold off to shopping centers and housing developments, the last colonists pooled their resources to build a Greek Orthodox masterpiece that ranks as one of the most beautiful churches in America, and were laid to rest side by side in identical tombs in its cemetery.

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