Unorganized townships in Maine. Over half the state is township this, range that and just not organized
Didn’t even get a name. With no school colors or mascot or basketball team to maybe get to go to the tournaments during Maine February vacation. The “town office” is in the Maine bureau of taxation’s unorganized townships division. Or in the unorganized division of the county government that the territory in question Maine land resides. The deed to the real estate title of all the acreage is recorded in one of the sixteen Maine counties.
Like people you meet who have no middle name, the unorganized townships are like that.
Oh sure there are nicknames like TA R2 is affectionately called Letter “A”. Or Township 6 north of Weld in Franklin County Maine, and others have handles so every local knows where you are referring on the Maine map. When you break down on a snow sled or ATV four wheeler. Or describing the best place ever to hunt and fish or hike or tap into the wilderness lake where no camps hug the shoreline.
Very big in land mass area in this vast New England state but coupled with such a sparse population. Maine is extremes. The 39th largest state and the USA’s 9th least populated.
Elbow room, Maine sure does have plenty the further inland and north you go. Oh sure, Maine has 22 cities, a whopping 435 towns but the number of unorganized townships number 424 and another 33 entities are labeled plantations. Don’t forget 3 Indian reservations too. More on early Maine history. Life is definitely simpler living with low or no population areas. Where wildlife in the and out of the waterfront run the show unopposed.
But what about something else, a settlement in Maine?
What are those? Well the Plymouth Company of Popham Maine showed up in the same year as the famous Jamestown Virginia settlement. The year was 1607 but the Popham colony now present day Phippsburg in Sagadahoc County Maine on the Kennebec River settlement had a down hill slide because of a harsh winter. The new to this land landing party could not sustain. Petered out the following year. That put Jamestown in the history books as the first American permanent settlement. Along the Maine coast, other settlements sprung up in the 1620’s but not all lasted due to a the climate, the being on the look out for Indian attacks and just plain lack of provisions in the pantry. The early Maine settlers were used to easier living conditions and taking a step back in the Maine landing new life.
Massachusetts gobbled up most of the Maine land claims in what was a wilderness territory of the USA and by 1820 when Vacationland became a state, only about six settlements had survived.
1820 was the year the state of Maine pulled away from the Bay State. Even though despite a few New York Yankee fans among us, most are still in Red Sox Nation after the separation from Massachusetts. Early fishing settlements and tradings posts had their share of ups and downs in this New World. Not everyone was cut out for starting from scratch and totally new undeveloped surroundings.
The price of furs that soared high and low made trade with the native trappers feel cheated. The new settlement band of newcomers were used to open field line them up and mow them down warfare. They did not react well to hit and run raiding party spur of the moment attacks from the natives who knew the landscape so well. The locals always have a home court advantage. They had tamed daily conditions to make life in their area of Maine easier. For safety sake, it was mostly coastal fishing and river side settlements in Maine locations as a rule. And the existing native tribes headed inland. To blend in with the forest where they felt right at home trapping, farming, respecting the land and natural resources.
If you visit Maine you will learn of areas called settlements.
You could think they were a township, a plantation or just dubbed a little more interesting nick name for an unorganized township location. But low and behold you will find a place like Robinson Settlement in Aroostook County Maine that sounds like a municipality is really just an area of the township of Blaine (formerly Township Letter B, 1st Range; Alva Plantation). The name changed from Alva Plantation in honor of James G. Blaine, the current US House Of Representatives Speaker. Who never delivered on the promise of a town bell for a carrot if the locals did switch to his last name. Often a grist or lumber mill was the reason for the settlement name, like Whitlock Mills. Whitlock Mills near Calais in Washington County is the northern most lighthouse location in Maine.
Here is a list of Maine communities, some that are no longer here and are alive in history records only. Another list of towns in Maine which is very long. And check out the list of Maine plantations.
Sometimes besides the name sticking for a settlement location in early Maine the locals knew from sight where you were from because of your clothing. It was not uncommon for the few families that carved out a new Maine farmstead in a new territory to buy their cloth material in bulk for the cost savings. For clothing production by hand from a large quantity bolt to save money. So when these settlement members did come to a population center to trade in commerce, to buy some feed, seed or pasture fencing, coffee, sugar, etc the color of their clothes defined where they were from out in the country.
In Hancock County Maine alone there are 1522 islands under the unorganized territories heading. In Maine’s unorganized territories, the UT, there are roughly 9000 year round residents. Lots of seasonal ones in the UT of Maine.
Can you imagine living in Drew Plantation Penobscot County Maine population just 46 people?
I listed a log home for sale with 25 acres of land in Hersey ME recently and that town’s six mile by six mile population is just 79 people. No, there won’t be a Walmart super center breaking ground or a set of golden arches rolling in to this very small Maine township anytime soon. Traffic lights, gangs fighting turf wars, drive by shootings or high crime or pollution just not happening in Hersey or other the very small Maine towns like it. Where there are not layers of players.
But look up, see the stars at night in one brilliant sky back drop. The woods infested with wildlife too. No people, no problems. Fresh air, clean water. Listen. Hear birds chirp, loons cry, woodpeckers knock or just the wind in the trees. The rain on the cabin roof. Not emergency response vehicles or heavy highway traffic or airplanes lifting off or landing. The other sounds of the city that never sleeps.
Peace and quiet happens in these small Maine town or plantation or unorganized settlement locations.
But employment to pay those property taxes, register the car and pump the fuel to make it move. That’s the catch. Maine is a great place to live if you can make a living. Or have a knack of removing money out of your approach to frugal living. Where bartering happens. It’s a long long ways to town pulled by the horse team or in the buggy or farm wagon.
Just water down that buttered rum laddled out to the men friends and male neighbors who are coming over this weekend to help you with the barn raising in Maine. They climb high and are cat like quickly putting the hand hewn 8×8’s mortised into place in the barn skeleton. The folks you work with the same you helped one by one with their community building projects on their homesteads weeks earlier and in future projects scheduled ahead.
Other small population centers are disbanding and electing to try to deorganize because there are just not enough folks to fill the elected offices to to keep the area running.
To keep it marked on the Maine map. In these small areas, the animal control officer for the dog chasing deer serves as a selectmen, on the district school board and mows the ground around the cemetery plots. His wife or her husband is on the planning board and heads up the recreation department and is serves a term on the board of property value assessing and zoning board. Oh and they serve on the local volunteer fire department, down at the local grange hall or snow sled club. They may be a licensed, registered Maine Guide and can help guide you in the hunting, fishing, maybe canoe or kayak or rafting trip.
More than one hat is worn in the teeny weeny small Maine population centers that often were once large bustling lumber cutting forestry communities.
Or railroad communities, mill towns in an earlier time in Maine history. When they herded logs down the Maine rivers. Where the commerce was local before Interstate and Internet happened. Blacksmiths, local clothing stores, drug stores with ice cream soda fountains, phone company with party lines and Mabel helping make the call. Sometimes listening to the conversation.
Often if one more person dies and lets go of the local reins of control, that’s it. All she wrote. Deorganization or annexing, absorption in another municipality are the only options. To lower property taxes from over 30 mill to say 6 mill is another reason to wave the white flag in the legislature. That is fueling the dismantling of local government control at a increasing pace.
Looking for small itty bitty population centers but incredible large areas to roam?
You must be thinking about a place like Maine, the way life should be. Letting the state and the county government take over the municipality or plantation to absorb the tiny population. It is a last gasp surrender, is a last resort when the declining, aging population just continues to slide uncontrolled. We have room for you… all kinds in all four directions. Well maybe not so much to the east where our Canadian cousins hold down the Atlantic Provinces. Could you imagine living in an unorganized township in Maine? A recreational sporting camp or woodlot land owner is the biggest component of who does in Maine’s UT or unorganized townships.
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