William W. Thomas Jr., New Sweden, ca. 1920
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William Widgery Thomas (1839-1927), of Portland was an 1860 graduate of Bowdoin College and was "war consul" to Sweden in 1860. He was impressed with Sweden and the people there and advocated for Swedish immigration in Maine. In 1870, the Maine Legislature approved his plan to establish the colony of New Sweden north of Caribou. Fifty-one Swedes representing various skills and trades arrived in New Sweden July 23, 1870. Thomas referred to these settlers as his "children in the woods" and they referred to him as "Father Thomas." He lived among them for one or two years in his own log cabin. By 1895 New Sweden had grown to 1,500 residents.