New Sweden (Me.).

The story of New Sweden [electronic resource] : as told at the quarter centennial celebration of the founding of the Swedish colony in the woods of Maine, June 25, 1895 online

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Online LibraryNew Sweden (Me.)The story of New Sweden [electronic resource] : as told at the quarter centennial celebration of the founding of the Swedish colony in the woods of Maine, June 25, 1895 → online text (page 6 of 8)
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are not confined to this colony or this vicinity. As
early as 1871 Swedish artisans and skilled workmen,
drawn to Maine by New Sweden, began to find work in
the slate quarries of Piscataquis county, in the great
tanneries and saw-mills of Penobscot, and in the stores
and workshops of Portland, Bangor, Augusta, Pitts-
field, Monson, Houlton, Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield,
Caribou, and other cities and towns. Since the found-
ing of the colony the Swedish girls have ever fur-
nished needed and valuable help in our families in all
sections of the state. Some Swedish immii^rants,


who came to us in independent circumstances, pur-
chased improved farms in Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield,
Limestone, and other towns ; while many Swedes with
less means settled on abandoned farms in Cumberland,
York and our other older counties. These deserted
homesteads have been placed by the Swedes in a high
state of cultivation ; indeed Swedish immigration is
proving to be the happy solution of the " abandoned
farms " question in Maine.

The United States census of 1890, returned a Swed-
ish population in every county in Maine except Frank-
lin, and gave the total number of Swedes in our state,
including children born in this country of Swedish
parents, at 2,546.

To-day there are in Maine more than 3,000 Swedes
as the direct result of the Swedish immigration enter-

Furthermore the good accomplished by New Sweden
is not limited by the boundaries of our state. Skilled
workmen from New Sweden early obtained employ-
ment in the mills, fiictories and workshops of Boston,
Worcester, Lowell, Fall River, Springfield and Brock-
ton in Massachusetts; Manchester and Concord in
New Hampshire ; Rutland and Bennington in V(n -
mont ; Providence and Pawtiicket in Rhode Lsland ;
New Haven, Hartford. Bridgeport and Waterbury in
Connecticut, and in other manufacturing centers all
over New England. And each little band as it settled
down, formed a fresh nucleus, around which have
continually gathered new throngs of Swedish immi-


Thus the overflow from New Sweden has reached
and benefited all our sister states. In fact the estab-
lishment of this little colony of Swedes in the woods
of Maine twenty-five years ago turned a rill from the
stream of Swedish immigration, which before all flowed
west, upon New England, and added a fresh element
of good, northern blood to every New England state.

And Swedish immigration has benefited Maine in
other ways besides the direct addition of several thou-
sand Swedes to our population.

The best part of this fertile town, where we are now
assembled, was run out into lots in 1861. For nine
years Maiue offered these lots to settlers. . The offer
was made under our settling laws, which did not require
the payment of a dollar, only the performance of a
certain amount of road labor and other settling duties,
which made the lot virtually a gift from the State to
the settler. Yet not a lot was taken up. Until the
advent of the Swedes no one was found willing to
accept his choice of the lots in this town as a gift, pro-
vided he was required to make his home upon it.

The opinion of many in this vicinity upon the wis-
dom of the Swedes in settling here was pointedly
expressed by a good citizen of Caribou. Walking out
of the woods with him, in July 1870, a few days after
the arrival of the first colony, I expatiated, no doubt
with enthusiasm, upon the magnificent results which
to my mind must flow from the enterprise. The
gentleman listened to me patiently till I had finished,
then turning squarely upon me in the road, he
said :


" Mr. Thomas, you may say what you like, but I
don't suppose there are bottles enough in that colony
to hold the tears those poor, deluded creatures will
shed before their first year is out."

And not only was New Sweden without a settler on
the morning of July 23, 1870, but several of the lots
in the northern portion of Woodland plantation, which
had years before been taken up by settlers, and on
which clearings had been made, houses built, and crops
raised, were now deserted by their owners, the houses
with windows and doors boarded up, and the clearings


commencing to grow up again to forest. Such was
the condition of the last clearings the Swedish colony
passed through on its way into the woods. These
clearings are now settled by Swedes and smile with
abundant harvests.

The American pioneer who abandoned the clearing
nearest New Sweden was happily with us at our decen-
nial celebration in 1880, and joined in the festivities
with wondering eyes. Mr. George F. Turner then
told me of his attempt to settle in these woods. He
came from Augusta in the spring of 1861, and took up
lot No. 7, in Woodland. Here he built a house and
barn, and cleared thirty-live acres of land. But there


were no roads. If his wife wished to visit the villao-e,
he was forced to haul her through the woods on a
sled even in summer. No new settlers came in. His
nearest neighbors, Dominicus Harmon and Frank
Record, left their places and moved out to Caribou.
Still he held on for two more years, alone in the woods.
At last in the fall of 1868, he abandoned the clearins:
where he had toiled for seven long years, and moved
out to civilization.

" I left," said Mr. Turner, " because in the judgment
of everyone, there was no prospect for the settlement
of this region. The settlers around me were abandon-
ing their clearings. Everyone said I was a fool to
stay, and I at last thought so myself, and left. Little
did I expect to see this day."

The tide of settlement was ebbing away from these
woods, when a wave from across the Atlantic turned
the ebb to flood. It has been flood tide ever since.

With the founding of New Sweden, our state recov-
ered from the check in her career and again took up
her onward march. From 1870 to 1880 Maine increased
22,021 in population ; from 1880 to 1890, 12,150.

And it is worthy of note that more than one- half of
the increase of the entire state in both these decades
has been in the county where lies our Swedish settle-
ment. Not only this, but the towns of Aroostook
County that exhibit the most marked progress, are
those lying nearest New Sweden.

Woodland, the adjoining town to the south, in 1870,
numbered 174 inhabitants, in 1890, 885 — an increase
of over 400 per cent.


PerliJim to the southwest in 1870, numbered 79
citizens, in 1890, 438 — an increase of more than 450
per cent.

Caribou to the southeast, the town which has ever
been the center for the trade of our Swedish settlers,
and which perhaps has reaped the greatest advantages
from their settlement — Caribou in 1870 numbered
1,410 inhabitaats. In 1890, it had grown to 4,087,
— an increase of no less than 2,677 in population. And
with this increase Caribou became the largest town in
Aroostook County.

The founding of New Sweden in the back woods of
Maine called the attention of our own country, as well
as Sweden, to our state, its resources and advantages.
The files of the land office show that in addition to
the Swedish immigration, American settlers upon our
wild lands increased in 1871, the first year after the
arrival of the Swedes, more than 300 per cent

When the Swedes first entered these woods there
was not a mile of railroad in Aroostook County. The
nearest point reached by a railroad was some seventy
miles distant in the Province of New Brunswick. The
journey from Portland to Caribou then took three days.
Many of you accomplished that entire distance yes-
terday by rail in ten hours. Two railroads now run
into Caribou, but I seriously doubt if there would be
a foot of railroad in northern Aroostook to-day had it
not been for the impetus given to this region by New

One special instance among many may be given of
the influence exerted by our Swedish settlement. Mr.


Albe Holmes, a potato starch manufacturer of New
Hampshire, was induced to visit Aroostook County in
1870, by reading a newspaper notice of New Sweden.
He put in operation the first potato starch factory in
Aroostook at Caribou in 1872. These factories quickly
increased. There are to-day in Aroostook County no
less than 41 starch factories, with a yearly output of
8,000 tons of starch, worth $560,000 ; while the raising
of potatoes and their manufacture into starch have
grown to be among the chief industries of the county.

And the good accomplished by New Sweden will
not stop with its twenty-fifth anniversary, nor cease
with this summer day. This successful Swedish colony
will go on and fully accomplish its mission. It will
continue to push out into the great Maine forests to
the north and west, and convert township after town-
ship into well-tilled farms and thriving villages. It
will continue to attract to all sections of our state the
best of immigrants — the countrymen of John Erics-
son, and the descendants of the soldiers of Gustavus
Adolphus, and the " boys in blue " of Charles XII. —
and throughout the future it will confer upon Maine
those numerous and important advantages which a
steadily growing agricultural and industrial population
is sure to bestow upon a commonwealth.

To-day, New Sweden pauses for a moment to rejoice
over the work already done. To-day also New Sweden
gives an account of her stewardship, and shows you
the results of twenty- five years' hard work — results
achieved by the never-flagging industry, the rigid
economy, the virtue, faith and hope of our Sw


To yoUy American visitors — to the State of Maine,
these Swedes may proudly say, '' Si monumentum
quaeris, cir cum spice.'' New Sweden stands to-day a
monument of what can be accomplished in the wilder-
ness of Maine by strong arms and brave hearts in the
short space of quarter of a hundred years.

And I feel I am but giving expression to that which
lies in the heart of every American here to-day, when
in your behalf — aye, in behalf of our good State of
Maine, I publicly thank our Swedish fellow citizens
for the great work the}^ have wrought in the woods of

But most of all are our thanks due to you, survivors
of that first little band of fifty-one souls; to you, and
your comrades who sleep in the graveyard j'onder,
who with faith in the State of Maine and faith in its
messenger, twenty-five years ago sailed from your
native land to follow me over the ocean, and who here
in the primeval forest laid broad and deep the founda-
tion for the great things we have seen this day, and
of still greater things which will be seen in the future,
for the good of our state.

Maine thanks and honors you. You and your deeds
will not be forgotten as long as the history of our state
is recounted among men.

As the orator concluded, the applause, which had
been frequent throughout the delivery of the address,
broke forth again and continued for several minutes,
the audience finally rising en masse and cheering


The choir sang,

"Columbia, We Love Thee."

The President: It gives me great pleasure now to
present to you our fellow country-woman, the Swedish
wife of the founder of this colony.

The applause which followed this announcement
was continuous, and the enthusiasm increased as Mrs.
Thomas arose and gracefully bowed her acknowledg-

The President: I have the pleasure of introduc-
ing to you the father of the founder of the colony,
Hon. W. W. Thomas, senior, ninety-two years old.

Mr. Thomas as he rose was greeted with prolonged
applause. He was evidently taken by surprise in
being called upon, yet despite his great age, he
advanced with a firm step to the front of the tribune,
stood erect, and spoke with a full, clear manly voice.


Mr. President, and Ladies and Gentlemen :

The Chairman has given me the credit of being a little
older than I am. I am but ninety-one. I will not be
ninety-two until next November, the seventh day.

I had the pleasure of being here on the decennial
anniversary of this colony fifteen years ago. I recol-
lect with gratification the cordiality and attention
which was shown on that occasion to all the visitors
here by the Swedish people. It gives me pleasure
to say that the citizens of Maine are very glad to have


you as their fellow citizens, and to extend to yow all
the privileges and the protection guaranteed by the
national flag. We are proud of the wonderful advan-
ces that have been made here in the last twenty-five
years, and hope that you wall make still greater ones
in the future. God bless you all. [Applause.]

The President: There is one thing more which
must certainly be done. Since we have seen the
father of the colony, the mother of the colony, and
the grandfather of the colony, we ought surely to
see our little brother, Oscar Thomas.

And the little boy was greeted with loud applause
as his father placed him upon a chair where all might
see him.

The President : The first boy and girl born in the
colony. Permit me to introduce to you Mr, William
Widgery Thomas Persson, and Mrs. Elizabeth White
Goddard Thomas Swanberg, born Clas^, and named
for the mother of the founder of the colony.

The young man and woman stepped to the front of
the platform amidst applause.

The President: I am informed that we have two
representatives of the Governor on this tribune, and
we must certainly hear a few words from them. I
have the pleasure of introducing Mr. Daggett of
Presque Isle, a member of the Governor's Council.




Mr. President, and Ladies and Gentlemen:

When I came here to-day I did not suppose I should be
called upon for any remarks. I am not here for that pur-
pose ; I will say, however, that Governor Cleaves was unable
to come here and he asked my associate, Mr. Shephard, and
myself to be present and represent him.

I think it was in 1871 that I first visited this colony. It
was when you first started. You were then beginning your
homes. In order to acquire what you have since acquired,
it demanded great energy and perseverance, and I am proud
to say that this colony has never been lacking in those
qualities. I remember when I was here in 1871 that where
I now see beautiful fields I then beheld for the most part a
dense forest. I noticed then that your homes were nearly
all log houses, built, I think, by the State. In their places I
now see good frame houses and commodious barns, and I have
no doubt from the external appearances that the houses are
well furnished within. I can safely say that in twenty-five
years hence, the progress which you shall then have made
will be even greater than the progress which you have made
in the last twenty-five years, because you have overcome the
first great obstacles ; you have made your homes. You have
become identified with the State of Maine, you are a part of
Maine's people. It has been your pleasure to adopt our
language and our customs, and also to enjoy our laws and
institutions. On the other hand it has been our pleasure to
profit by the example of honesty and good citizenship which
has ever marked your dealings with men and conduct in
society. Our State welcomed you within her borders
twenty-five years ago. To-day she rejoices in your success
and in the fact that the growth and prosperity which you
must inevitably attain will add still more to the wealth and
honor of our State. [Applause.]


The President : I shall now call upon Mr. Shep-
herd of Rockport, another member of the Governor's



Mr. President, and Ladies and Gentlemen :

I am exactly in the situation of my friend, Mr. Daggett —
I did not expect to be called upon to make remarks. We
came here at the request of the Governor, as he felt that the
State ought to be represented, and he gave us to understand
that in order to properly represent the State it was not
necessary for us to make any remarks. Being a man of
great penetration and discernment perhaps he concluded
that the dignity of the State would be fully as well main-
tained by our keeping silence. At any rate he intimated,
as I said, that it would not be necessary for us to say an}^-
thing. The result is that I am here absolutely without
anything like preparation which an occasion of this kind
demands, especially on the part of those who are unaccus-
tomed to public speaking.

I will simply say on behalf of the Governor and Council
that they feel a great interest in this settlement, and that
they welcome your people and all other people of similar
character to our shores ; and I assure you that the hand of
our State government will be extended to assist you in any
undertaking where it would be justifiable so to do. I am
glad to be here to-day ; I am glad to see such evidences of
prosperity, as meet the eye on every hand in this community.
It is certainly wonderful, the advancement that you have
made in cultivating the soil and in preparing and maintain-
ing such beautiful homes as you have. [Applause.]

The President : Kindly extend to the Governor our
thanks for the part that the Council have taken in our
anniversary meeting.


It gives me now great pleasure to introduce to you
our representative to Congress from this district, Hon.
Charles A. Boutelle, whom you always vote for, and
whom 1 hope you will always continue to vote for in
the future. [Applause.]



Mr. President of the Day, and my Friends and
Fellow Citizens, and — as he has so pleas-
antly added — MY Constituents :

I hope you have all been as much interested in the exer-
cises here to-day as I have been. The history of this enter-
prise inaugurated twenty-five years ago in the northern
wilderness of Maine, as recounted by the founder of this
colony, has been to nie as intensely fascinating as a romance.
As I listened to Mr. Thomas' recital of the various stages of
progress in the development of this community, under the
peculiar circumstances which surrounded it, I could not
help being constantly reminded of that earlier period in our
country's history when the first colony was established upon
American soil. And I think that others, as the,y listened to
the wonderfully eloquent stor3% so simply and yet so effec-
tively told by my distinguished friend, whom I congratulate
here upon the great good fortune that he enjoys in being
able to witness the rich fruits of his endeavor in behalf of
his State and his country — I think that all must have felt
reminded of Longfellow's beautiful story of the Plymouth
colony, portraying the simplicity of faith, the humbleness of
beginning, the sturdiness of strife with gigantic obstacles,
the superb self-reliance of the people who had braved the
storms of the ocean and the frowns of a rock-bound coast, to
form a new home in the wilderness, which have found echo
iu my mind and my heart here to-day in the charming idyl
recited by the lips of Maine's Commissioner, who a quarter


of a century ago founded the colony of New Sweden in this
virgin county of Aroostook, Maine. [Applause.]

I have been familiar with every stage of the progress of
this colony. In fact your histor}'^ has been coincident with
that of my own connection with public affairs in this state.
It was in the spring of 1870, when William Widgery
Thomas, jr., of Portland, was making his first effort in the
inception of this enterprise, that I became the editor of the
then only daily newspaper of Eastern Maine ; and I remem-
ber as if it were but yesterday the conference I had with the
father of this colony, in the little editorial room of the
Whig & Courier building, which was afterwards so graphi-
cally delineated by our departed friend, the Hon. Daniel
Stickne}', in the Presque Isle Sunrise, as a " shingle palace
built on piles in the mud of the Kenduskeag stream."

Mr. Thomas. I recollect it well.

I remember well when he called upon me to talk over the
ways and means of interesting the Maine Legislature in the
project of bringing from Sweden an acquisition to the popu-
lation of Northern Maine. I am not going to claim an}'^
share of the credit for your success, but I only want to
remind you here, and to remind myself in a gratifying way,
that I have been cognizant of all 3^our struggles and been
gratified with all your successes, and from the beginning to
this jubilant day have followed the progress of this colon}^
with an interest I can hardly describe. And yet, notwith-
standing my familiarity with the history of your endeavor^
notwithstanding my personal interest in your progress and
prosperity, I must say that the massing of the statistics of
your material progress by Commissioner Thomas here to-day
has filled me as much with amazement as admiration. Surely
if any man was ever justified in congratulating himself upon
the wonderful fruition of an idea that first found birth in
his own enterprising brain, and which was carried forward


to success largely by his own earnest endeavor, your founder,
your earnest, zealous and unselfish friend, Mr. Thomas, is
entitled to feel proud and gratified here to-day. I am glad
for him ; I am glad for the Thomas famil)% that they are able
to be here on the soil of a people whom I have the honor to
represent. [Applause.] And in the persons of three gen-
erations of their family receive the recognition to which they
are entitled at your hands. [Applause.] And as the rep-
resentative of this constituency I am glad to extend my
thanks to Mr. Thomas, to his family and to all who have
cooperated with him in doing such a great service to Aroos-
took County and to the State of Maine. [Applause.] I am
very glad, too, that he has not only the good fortune to be
accompanied here to-day by his venerable father, who has
already exceeded b}"- a generation the span of life allotted by
the prophet, but that he has the happiness to come before
you and before the people of Maine, with a hostage of his
faith in the quality of the Swedish people even greater than
that he exhibited when he founded this colony, in bringing
to us as his best and sweetest gift, his beautiful and accom-
plished wife, the mother of his Swedish-American son.
[Long applause.]

This is a great country to which you have come, my
friends ; it is a great State of which you have become a part
— and you are living to-day in the most progressive and
thriving and promising county of that state. Mr. Thomas,
with just pride, has chiimed that the most rapidly progress-
ing communities of Aroostook Count}' are those which lie
nearest to New Sweden. I congratulate you also tiial
New Sweden is situated directly adjacent to the most
prosperous and the most promising communities in the
State of Maine. From falling back in the last decennial
census of the United States, Maine was saved by the growth
of Aroostook County, and what New Sweden has done in
contributing to the growth of Aroostook Mr. Thomas has


told you so graphically and so conclusively that it is
unnecessary for me to again go over the details. But I can-
not fail in justice to the prospects which are opening around
us to-day with a beauty and promise never equaled in the
previous history of this section, I cannot fail to congratulate
you upon all the indications of a gigantic stride forward for
Aroostook County within the next decade. That which has
taken place in the last fifteen years since I last had the
pleasure of visiting this colony, is almost beyond belief. I
could have driven through your community to-day from
border to border without having recognized the New Sweden
of fifteen years ago. You have grown beyond the knowl-
edge of your friends of that period, and yet this community
in which I stand at this moment, this magnificent section of
which you are a part, has but entered upon the splendid
development that is opening before it. When I came here
to your decennial celebration — and I see on the platform

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Online LibraryNew Sweden (Me.)The story of New Sweden [electronic resource] : as told at the quarter centennial celebration of the founding of the Swedish colony in the woods of Maine, June 25, 1895 → online text (page 6 of 8)