All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lakenwild: Maine's Swampland Scam

In the 1880s, N. S. Reed bought 500 acres of bog land and untamed forest in Hinckley Township (now Grand Lake Stream Plantation and marketed it as "Lakenwild."
On the extreme tip of the point he built a handsome residence for himself. He had a boat house and a substantial wharf. An elaborate prospectus, printed by a map publishing company in Philadelphia, his original home, showed this residence as the scene of a pleasant bustle. Around it spread Lakenwild carefully surveyed. There was a boulevard around the lake shore, and well arranged streets and parks. A splendid hotel was also pictured; steamers were shown on the lake; carriages with prancing horses helped to enhance the scene. It is probable that when Mr. Reed studied this engaging picture he sometimes forgot that much of this land, save where his own residence stood, was hopeless bog and forests and believed in his scheme.
These advertisements naturally appealed to the imaginations of many "over worked, ill fed and plodding clerks, mechanics, mill operatives" and other struggling persons. Thousands of lots were sold.... Some eager purchasers took several lots.
Needless to say, the new landowners were disappointed.
Someone remembers meeting an old man on the wharf there one day. The stranger was trembling; his eyes were wet. He had sold his house, he said, to invest in Lakenwild. It had been all that he had in the world. He had bought land with two or three hundred dollars of the proceeds, and spent practically all of the rest for a grist mill. He had expected to put up some sort of temporary shelter for his family, set up his grist mill and grind corn for the new settlers who, said one pamphlet, needed just such work done. He dreamed of eventually building a fine house, and of spending his last days in peace and prosperity. He found his land useless swamp land and no new settlers nor old either, in the region.
Investors would have done well to heed the advice given in the American Agriculturist of October 1887:
Maine is a great and growing State, her own people are shrewd and "awful" calculating, every man and woman down there know "jest how many peas there are in a pod," and therefore we think that this Lakenwild plantation, with its highly ornamental circular, the "slick" portrait thereon, and "testimonials," including the offer of lots at "ten dollars each, for a while," intending to hold their fellows "at one hundred dollars and upwards" by-and-by, is just a "leetle" too liberal. That the country is a good one for summer sports we know well enough, but that it is a good policy for our readers to go into real estate operations up there, is doubtful. Yet each one should investigate, with all that the word implies, for himself, and not depend upon pretty handbills, poetical descriptions by professors, or personal reminiscences of "wild-roving half-brothers," of long dead or now living United States Senators, when seeking "a home for which to have a deed." [Link]

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