Maine: An Encyclopedia
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Baxter, Percival P.

Percival P. Baxter (courtesy Maine State Museum)

Percival P. Baxter (courtesy Maine State Museum)

(1876-1969) was Maine governor from 1921 to 1925, and donated the land for Baxter State Park beginning in 1931. Born on November 22, 1876, he was the son of James Phinney Baxter and Mehitable Proctor Cummings Baxter.

He attended schools in Portland and England (while his father researched New England historical documents). He graduated from Bowdoin College with honors in 1898. Though he never practiced, Baxter earned a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1901. He did, however, plunge into family businesses, managing and developing them into even more successful enterprises. Funds from these and a substantial inheritance from his father provided him the opportunity to travel widely and become involved in politics.

Percival P. Baxter (courtesy Maine State Archives)

Percival P. Baxter (courtesy Maine State Archives)

Percival Proctor Baxter served one term in the State House of Representatives (1907-1909) and a succeeding term in the State Senate (1909-1911) but was defeated in a Democratic surge in the 1910 elections. Baxter returned to the House in the elections of 1916 and 1918, then ran successfully once again for the State Senate in 1920. With the help of his brother Rupert, a senator from Bath, Baxter was elected President of the Senate.

He was almost immediately elevated to the governor’s office when the newly elected Frederic H. Parkhurst fell ill and died after only a few hours in office. The Maine constitution provides that the President of the Senate become governor on the death of the incumbent. At forty-four the state’s youngest governor, Baxter was reelected in 1922 but retired after that second term. He also was the first governor to climb Mount Katahdin.

Bust of Governor Baxter in the State House

Bust of Governor Baxter in the State House

As a legislator, he fought major power, water, and forestry interests, intending to preserve resources for use within Maine. His “Fernald Law” prohibited the export of power from the State. He opposed the sale of public lands to railroad and timber companies, believing that these wildlands should be in public ownership.

A fiscal conservative, as governor he cut support for the University of Maine, closing its Law School, and opposed federal financial aid to dependent children in an attempt to protect state’s rights. As the Ku Klux Klan surged in the 1920’s, Baxter opposed its goals and appointed Catholics and Jews to government posts.

After an unsuccessful struggle to get the state to purchase land around Mount Katahdin to establish a preserve, Baxter decided to do so on his own. For many years he negotiated with area landowners, including paper companies, to purchase suitable property. Beginning in the 1930’s, Baxter began giving parcels of land in the Katahdin area to the state. By 1955 the new Baxter State Park outline was virtually complete.

The presidential proclamation establishing the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument credits Baxter’s efforts:

[Baxter] followed this route on the 1920 trip that solidified his determination to create a large park from this landscape. Burton Howe, a Patten lumberman, organized this trip of Maine notables, who stayed at Lunksoos Camps before their ascent via the established route. As a State representative, senator, and governor, Baxter had proposed legislation to create a Mount Katahdin park in commemoration of the State’s centennial, and the 1920 trip cemented his profound appreciation of the landscape. Spurned by the Maine legislature, Baxter devoted his life to acquiring 28 parcels of land, largely from timber companies who had heavily logged them, and donated them to the State with management instructions and an endowment, resulting in the establishment of Baxter State Park.

In 1946, he donated Mackworth Island to the State to be used for state public purposes and as a sanctuary for wild beasts and birds.

Percival Baxter died on June 12, 1969 providing, as did his father, for a variety of bequests to organizations, projects and people.

Additional resources

Baxter, Percival Proctor. The American Legion and World peace: address of Percival P. Baxter, Governor of Maine, at the State Convention of the American Legion, Presque Isle, Maine, September 6, 1923.

Baxter, Percival Proctor. Greatest mountain–Katahdin’s Wilderness. Excerpts from the writings of Percival Proctor Baxter and photographs by Constance Baxter Marlow. Gardiner, Me. Tilbury House. 1999.

Baxter, Percival Proctor. Humane Education in the Public Schools of Maine: animals have rights as well as we. Augusta, Me. Commissioner of Education. 1924.

Baxter, Percival Proctor. My Irish Setter Dogs. Augusta, Me. 1923?

Baxter, Percival Proctor. The Schools of Maine, 1923: address of Percival P. Baxter, Governor of Maine, at the State Convention of the Maine Teachers’ Association, Portland, October 25, 1923.

Baxter, Percival Proctor. Taxes and Farms. Maine 1923 address of Percival P. Baxter , governor of Maine at the seventh annual convention of the assessors of Maine, November 13, 1923. Augusta, Me. 1923.

Baxter, Percival Proctor. World Peace and Good Will: address of Percival P. Baxter, Governor, at the dedication of the state memorial to the sailors and soldiers of Maine; Kittery, November 11, 1924

Hakola, John W. Papers, 1956-1981 (bulk 1967-1977).  University of Maine Orono Special Collections, whose notes include:  “The collection also contains photocopies of various scrapbooks of Percival P. Baxter, governor of Maine, 1921-1925, and donor of the land for Baxter State Park; these were presumably used by Hakola in his book about the park. The clippings also document Baxter’s interest in waterpower.”

*Kennebec Journal, Augusta, June 13, 1969.

Obama, Barack. “Presidential Proclamation — Establishment of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.” Washington, DC. August 24, 2016.  https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/08/24/presidential-proclamation-establishment-katahdin-woods-and-waters (accessed July 3, 2017)

Rolde, Neil. The Baxters Of Maine: Downeast Visionaries.

Percival P. Baxter’s vision for Baxter State Park: an annotated compilation of original sources. Compiled and annotated by Howard R. Whitcomb. Bangor, Me. Friends of Baxter State Park. c2005.

Soares, Liz. All For Maine: The Story Of Governor Percival P. Baxter. Mount Desert, Me. Windswept House Publishers. c1995.

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*Cited in Friends of the Blaine House at http://blainehouse.org/governors(accessed April 25, 2011) (accessed April 25, 2011)



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This entry was last modified: July 05, 2017 12:01 AM

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