Mackworth Island, Falmouth, Maine
Big creepy tree on Mackworth Island.
Maine is famous for horror writer and philanthropist Stephen King, who wrote Pet Sematary, published in 1983. Not being a fan of horror, I have never read it, although anyone who pays attention in Maine knows most of the names of King's horror novels. They are legendary books and movies in Maine's cultural memory.
Mackworth Island was deeded to the state of Maine by another famous Maine son and philanthropist, Governor Percival Baxter. He grew up in Portland and inherited the bulk of his family's wealth made in canning. (His father, James Phinney Baxter, started Portland Packing Company with William Davis in 1861.) Percival Baxter attended Bowdoin College like his father and brothers before him. Baxter served in the state senate twice and state house of representatives, and then he became Maine's 53rd governor. He is one of the most recognizable names of famous Mainers. Baxter also gave the state his "cottage" on Mackworth. The state started the Baxter School for the Deaf on Mackworth in 1957. It was housed and run on the island until just a few years ago. It did indeed look dreary, run-down, and out of use, and I was not aware of its history until I came home and read up (some of which is, tragically, not savory at all!). The school now works within the public school system in the area and has outreach to other Maine schools.
As we enjoyed the quiet day walking the island, we came upon a sign pointing in the direction of the pet cemetery, which is encircled with large stones. Within it is a large stone with a plaque of dedication to Governor Baxter's 14 Irish setters. There are also two headstones. One is engraved in memory of Jerry Roan, a beloved horse. And the other is again engraved in memory "To Gov. Baxter Dogs / For Over 40 Years / His Constant Companions / 1887-1926." It's a little creepy or not depending on how your imagination runs wild. (We did not see any wildly misbehaving cats!) Baxter reportedly had a great love for animals!
Baxter not only donated this gem of an island to the state but acres and acres surrounding Mount Katahdin, known as the rugged and wild hiking and camping area of Baxter State Park, and another 30 acres in Portland called Baxter Woods.
If you are ever in Falmouth, take a side trip to Mackworth Island, pack a picnic and sit on one of the beaches or walk and enjoy the views between the trees. I've lived here nearly my entire life and had never been there. It's worthwhile, and you'll be intrigued by it's history as well along the way.
For more on Mackworth Island State Park, go here. There are small fees and not a whole lot of parking
Other Baxter resources: Baxter Woods (on my to-visit list!)
Baxter State Park--Maine's tallest mountain, Katahdin, is the main attraction. It is the northern terminus to the Appalachian Trail, and even a day hike is not for the inexperienced, out of shape, or faint of heart! There are other trails, camping, kayaking, and water falls, really so much more to do and see then the big mountain (I was greeted by a moose in the road the last time we were there). Plan ahead and make park reservations if needed.
This link is some Baxter family history in relation to Bowdoin College given at a talk by State Historian Earle Shettleworth at the opening of a Baxter family exhibition at the school in 2012.
And for all things Stephen King, because some just have to!
|You can peak at views of Casco Bay through |
the trees on Mackworth Island.