Percival Baxter
(1876 - 1969)
Campers, hikers, biologists, and nature lovers, both from Maine and from away, owe a debt of gratitude to Percival Baxter, one- time governor of Maine and arguably the state's pioneering conservationist. Baxter was raised in a philanthropic family from Portland. He served several terms as a member of the Maine legislature, where he defended the Fernald Law, a bill passed to contain the state's hydroelectric power within the state. Eventually, in 1920, Baxter became Governor, and with his newfound political influence, he attempted to convince the legislature to reserve Mt. Katahdin and its surrounding area as public land. The legislature refused, so when Baxter left office, he took the matter into his own hands. In 1930, he bought Mt. Katahdin, along with six thousand acres of wilderness. A year later, he donated the land to the state, on the condition that the state make it a park and that it be left "forever wild." Baxter continued to increase the acreage of the park throughout his life. Over thirty-two years, Baxter donated a total of 201,018 acres to the state. In 1933, the state named the park after Baxter. Today, his words can be read on a plaque placed on a Katahdin Stream boulder: "Man is born to die. His works are short-lived. Buildings crumble, monuments decay, and wealth vanishes, but Katahdin in all its glory forever shall remain the mountain of the people of Maine."

Sources: The Maine Almanac, by Jim Brunelle. Portland: Guy Gannett Publishing. 1979 and Finding Katahdin: An Exploration of Maine's Past, by Amy Hassinger. Orono: University of Maine Press, 2000. Image courtesy Maine Historical Society.

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