Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’

Swedish Colony Exhibit at Maine State Fair in Late 1800’s (?)

April 30, 2011

Marie Malmquist copied the following “whole account, word for word.”


A novel and entertaining feature of the Maine State fair, held at Lewiston, September 21-25, was the exhibit made by the Swedish Colony of The Pine Tree State, located in Aroostook County. The Fair itself was by far the largest and most successful since the organization of the Society, and the agricultural products and examples of the domestic industries of the Scandinavian settlement occupied a prominent place in the main building. The grains and vegetables amply illustrated the fruitfulness of the soil which a few short years ago formed part of the vast forest that still covers a part of the state larger than the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Illustrative of the primitive arts and industries of the sturdy descendants of the Vikings was displayed an assortment of home-made cloth, cloth made from cows hair (for blankets), wooden shoes, beartraps, bronze coffee pots, wooden tableware, saddlebags of wickerwork, oxyokes, moccasins, gloves and leggings of reindeer skin; straw beehives, snowshoes ten feet in length, and a variety of similar articles, none of them possessing much aesthetic grace or beauty, but admirably adapted for the severest purpose.

“A unique chapter in the History of Maine” was the apt phrase by which the Hon. W. W. Thomas, Jr. ex-minister to Sweden, characterized this Swedish Colony in an address at the decennial of its founding, held at New Sweden in 1880; and the colonists greeted Governor Chamberlain on that occasion with ‘Leve Koloniens Grundläggare! (Long live the Founder of the Colony). It was during the notably progressive administration of Joshua L. Chamberlain—the hero of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, and now President of Bowdoin College [1871-82] – that in response to his earnest recommendation the Legislature took action to secure Swedish immigrants to offset the depopulation of the State by emigration by the native born citizens. Mr. Thomas was sent to Sweden in 1870, and in a short time returned with a colony of fifty one souls, who were enthusiastically welcomed to the promised Land. The State gave each settler – all having paid their own fare from Sweden – 100 acres of land and afforded such other assistance as was necessary at the start. In 1880 the colony had expanded to 787 souls, and at present times numbers about 1000 men, women, and children. They have 20,000 acres of land under careful cultivation.

The Town Hall, or “Capitol,” as they call it, of New Sweden, serves as a church, schoolhouse, Castle Garden, and general place of meeting. In religion the colonists are about equally divided between the Lutherans and the Baptist. They have five schools and an excellent system of practical education. The original settlers still retain their native costumes and customs, but the new generation is becoming thoroughly Americanized. The farmers particularly pride themselves on their fine horses and comfortable turnouts for both Summer and Winter driving.

Mr. G. W. P. Gerrard of Caribou, who was responsible for the excellent exhibit at the State Fair, said to the writer: “The Swedish colony today is very prosperous. They are hardworking, industrious, frugal people, and are steadily improving their farms. They are an honorable class of men and women, and can be trusted implicitly. I do not believe there is another community of so many souls in America of which so much can be said in this direction, as of the Swedish Colony in The State of Maine.” Ex-Governor Chamberlain said: “I regard the enterprise as very well planned, well arranged and successful. The colonists are an excellent class of people, and will make the best of citizen. They are thriving in every way, and I look for a still more important development of the colony, which will in no small degree be influential in the course of future welfare of the State.”


By now, the great Decennial Celebration was past, the colony was secure, the church bell had been installed, and in making notes for a later speech, doubtless in a jocular vein, Thomas (we presume) wrote:

Church dedicated

You have built you a church

I have given the bell

You may now got to meeting

Or else go to h–l



[Centennial History Maine’s Swedish Colony 1870-1970 New Sweden, Westmanland, Stockholm and Adjoining Areas, Compiled and edited by Richard Hede, Section H-1 and H-2]


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