Baxter State Park at 50 and The Baxters at Bowdoin

Percival Baxter. Photo: Baxter State Park Authority.

Percival Baxter. Photo: Baxter State Park Authority.

 

August 22, 2012, marks the 50th anniversary of the completion of Baxter State Park, a gift to Maine by Percival Baxter, of  the Class of 1898, comprising more than 200,000 acres of wilderness and public forest boasting 180 miles of trails, and among its 46 mountain peaks, the highest in the state at 5,267 feet.

Celebrations are planned around the state to mark the occasion, including in Portland, where the Baxter family’s generosity provided for the city’s first library and a 30-acre park. A schedule of Governor Baxter Day events here.

The Baxter legacy runs deep at Bowdoin; at a recent reception celebrating INSPIRATION KATAHDIN!, an exhibition by Percival Baxter’s great-grand niece Connie Baxter Marlow in LaMarche Gallery, Smith Union, Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth H’08 delivered the talk, “The Baxter/Bowdoin Connection,” in which he shared details of the Baxter-Bowdoin connection.

 

 

 

James Phinney Baxter
1831-1921
Honorary master’s degree, 1881; honorary doctorate, 1904

In 1861 James P. Baxter established the Portland Packing Company with William G. Davis, which formed the basis for the family fortune. Financial independence allowed Baxter to become a noted scholar of Maine history, president of the Maine Historical Society for 30 years, and a six-term mayor of Portland. As mayor he promoted an improved park system and the construction of a boulevard around Back Cove that bears his name. Baxter donated library buildings to Portland and Gorham and served as a Bowdoin overseer from 1894 to 1921.

Hartley Cone Baxter
1857-1939
Class of 1878

Hartley C. Baxter was the first son of James P. Baxter to attend Bowdoin, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. He worked for his father’s packing firm from 1878 to 1887, and then established his own canning company in Brunswick in 1888 with his brother James P. Baxter Jr., which they managed together for more than 50 years. An avid yachtsman and automobile enthusiast, Hartley Baxter held the first driver’s license issued by the State of Maine. In 1901 he built Baxter House at 10 College Street in Brunswick, an elegant Colonial Revival style residence designed by the Boston architects Chapman and Frazer and a virtual twin to the DKE Fraternity House at 4 College Street built the same year from plans by the same architects. Baxter House has been owned by Bowdoin College since 1971 and is now used as a student residence.

Clinton Lewis Baxter
1859-1931
Class of 1881

Clinton L. Baxter was the second son of James P. Baxter to attend Bowdoin. From graduation until his death, he worked for his father’s business, the Portland Packing Company. He served as a Bowdoin overseer from 1917 until 1931.

Rupert Henry Baxter
1871- 1960
Class of 1894

Rupert H. Baxter was the third son of James P. Baxter to attend Bowdoin. While at the college, he participated in the 1893 Bowdoin expedition to Labrador and wrote reports of his trip, which were published in the Portland newspapers. Upon graduation Rupert Baxter joined the Brunswick canning firm of H.C. Baxter and Brother. He was also involved in textile manufacturing, real estate and banking. His service in the Maine Senate from 1917 to 1923 and on the Governor’s Council from 1923 to 1925 overlapped with the governorship of his brother Percival Baxter.

Percival Proctor Baxter
1876-1969
Class of 1898

Percival P. Baxter was the fourth son of James P. Baxter to attend Bowdoin, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. While at college he edited the Bowdoin Orient, founded the Bowdoin Quill, played varsity football and managed the baseball team. His dog Deke lived with him in his dormitory and accompanied him to classes. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1901, Percival Baxter managed his father’s real estate interests in Portland. Beginning in 1905, he served three terms in the Maine House and two terms in the Maine Senate before becoming Governor in 1921, upon the death of Governor Parkhurst. Baxter was elected governor in his own right in 1922, holding office until 1925. After failing to secure the U.S. Senate nomination in 1926, he turned his attention to his life’s work of assembling the more than 200,000 acres that compose Baxter State Park and include Mount Katahdin. His creation of the park is often cited as a major achievement in American land conservation. He also donated Mackworth Island to the state for the Baxter School for the Deaf and Baxter’s Woods to the City of Portland.

James Phinney Baxter III
1893-1975
Honorary doctorate, 1944

James Phinney Baxter III was a grandson of James Phinney Baxter and a son of James Phinney Baxter Jr. A 1914 graduate of Williams College, Baxter taught history at Harvard from 1925 until he became president of Williams in 1937. He successfully combined the roles of historian, educator and governmental leader. He was the official historian for the Manhattan Project, and his book “Scientists against Time” won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1947. He continued to teach while administering Williams. He served as an advisor to Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower, serving on the Gaither Committee, which Eisenhower created for the long- term strategic formation of American defense plans and goals.

John Lincoln Baxter Sr.
1896-1984
Class of 1916; Honorary master’s degree, 1960; Honorary doctorate, 1970

A son of Hartley C. Baxter, John L. Baxter graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1916 and served as a second lieutenant in U.S. Army in World War I. He joined the canning firm of H.C. Baxter and Brothers in 1919 and was president of Snow Flake Canning from 1939 until 1968. During World War II he performed vital national service as a “dollar a year” man overseeing the processing of food for the armed forces. In 1946 he directed the first commercial production of quick frozen French fried potatoes. Baxter served Bowdoin in many capacities, including as an overseer and a trustee. Through his mother Mary Lincoln Baxter, he and his descendents are related to several prominent figures in the college’s history, including three early overseers, John Dunlap, Dr. Isaac Lincoln and Samuel Fessenden.

John Lincoln Baxter Jr.
Born 1920
Class of 1942

A son of John L. Baxter Sr., John L. Baxter Jr. is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate. After serving as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in World War II, he worked in the family canning business until 1967, after which he was in the food processing business in Oregon and Hawaii. While in Maine, Baxter served as a state representative from 1959 to 1962, being House Majority Leader from 1960 to 1962. As such, he played a key role in the acceptance of Governor Baxter’s final gift of park land to the state in 1962. His son is John Randolph Baxter, Class of 1965, and his daughters are Constance Baxter Marlow and Judith Baxter.

Hartley Cone Baxter II
1926-1996
Class of 1948

A son of John L. Baxter Sr., Hartley C. Baxter graduated in 1948 and began an advertising career that spanned from 1949 to 1986. His notable advertising campaigns included Red Rose Tea, State of Maine tourism and Shaw’s Supermarkets. His son Eric Stoddard Baxter graduated in the Class of 1975.

Hartley C. Baxter’s two grandsons through his daughter Ellen Baxter Morrell attended Bowdoin:

Robert Lincoln Morrell, born 1926, Class of 1947
Richard Allen Morrell, born 1928, Class of 1950

Smith Union was created during the 1995 renovation of Hyde Gymnasium. A plaque in the spacious ground floor lounge there reads: The Morrell Lounge — This Lounge is named in memory of Allen E. Morrell of the Class of 1922 and Ellen Baxter Morrell through a gift from their sons Robert ’47 and Richard ’50, who helped to make possible the construction of this union for the Bowdoin Community.

Rupert H. Baxter’s three grandsons through his daughter Mary Baxter White attended Bowdoin:

Bruce Hugh Miller White, 1925-2007, Class of 1950
Rupert Baxter White, born 1933, Class of 1955
Dr. Houghton McLellan White, born 1937, Class of 1958

Compiled by Earle G. Shettleworth Jr.
Maine State Historian
2008 Bowdoin College Honorary Degree Recipient

 

 

 

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