Film Chronicles Stories of Maine's Swedish Immigrants. Listen to the interview with Dan Olson and Brenda Jepson from MPBN radio 4/15/11
116 Station Road
PO Box 33
New Sweden, ME, 04762
Carolyn Hildebrand email@example.com
280 Main Street
Stockholm, ME 04783
John & Rosemary Hede
1149 New Sweden Rd.
Woodland, ME 04736
One might say that America's Civil War in the 1860's led indirectly to the establishment of Maine's Swedish Colony. President Lincoln sent War Consuls to various countries to further the Union cause, and he sent young William Widgery Thomas, Jr. of Portland, who had been a diplomatic courier, to Gothenburg, Sweden. Thomas loved Sweden and the Swedes and rapidly learned the language and customs.
When Thomas returned to Maine after the War, he found the state losing population as many heeded the call to "Go West, Young Man!" At the same time, the State was trying to protect its northern border after the Bloodless Aroostook War and to settle the great North Woods. The state had made land in the townships north of Caribou available to American settlers on very easy terms, and a small influx to Woodland and Perham had begun around 1860 but even many of those left when the Civil War intervened. Now Thomas campaigned, with the support of Governor Joshua L. Chamberlain, to have the state recruit a colony of Swedes to establish a new agricultural settlement in the virgin forest of T15-R3.
On March 23, 1870 the Legislature passed an Act authorizing a Board of Immigration and Thomas was named Commissioner of Immigration. On April 30 he sailed from the United States and landed in Gothenburg on May 16 where he began selecting the first group of immigrants. On Midsummer's Eve, June 23, the colony of 22 men, 11 women and 18 children gathered with Thomas and their friends and relatives for a farewell party in the Baptist Hall. They sailed with Thomas on June 25 to Hull, then by rail to Liverpool, then sailed to Halifax, arriving on July 13. They ascended the St. John River by steamer to Fredericton, where they transferred to horse-drawn tow-boats to Tobique Landing (now Perth-Andover). While on the tow-boats an infant baby, Hilma Clase, died (and was brought to their new home).
The colonists spent the night in a barn in Tobique. They then traveled by wagon train to a welcoming luncheon in Fort Fairfield, and on to Caribou for a bountiful supper and overnight in Arnold's Hall. The wagon train continued on July 23 along a newly cut woods road, arriving at noon at their new home, which Thomas named New Sweden, "a name at once commemorative of the past and auspicious of the future". (Read more at our Guidebook Site written by Richard Hede)