Skip to main content

The Dream Of A Lifetime …

December 2020

Percival P. Baxter was twice governor of Maine, a bachelor, and an heir to a canned-goods fortune. When he died last June 12, at the age of ninety-two, he had left an extraordinary legacy: Baxter State Park, 200,000 acres of wilderness including Mount Katahdin “forever to be held in trust in its natural wild state for the benefit of the people and as a sanctuary for the wild beasts and birds.” As a youth Percy Baxter fell in love with the “grim, gray tower” rising abruptly from magnificent lake-dotted forests, and he later vowed to the people of Maine that no “great timberland or paper-making corporation” should deny them Katahdin, “either as a memorial of your past or as a heritage for your future.” When he failed to persuade the legislature to set aside the area as a public park, he himself bought it piece by piece over a period of thirty years. In 1962, on the hundredth anniversary of Thoreau’s death, he presented to the state the final tract of what Stewart Udall has described as “the most majestic state park in the nation.” Percy Baxter did not want anyone to know what he paid for his park. “It |the price] rests within my heart,” he said, “and there it will stay.”

We hope you enjoyed this essay.

Please support this 70-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.