Incorporated in 1870, New Sweden was one of the nation’s first planned communities.
William Widgery Thomas (1839-1927) was a politician and diplomat from Portland. He self-described as a “colonizer,” and was a driving force of European emigration to Maine. He served multiple terms in the Maine State Legislature, and as the American Minister to Sweden and Norway for 15 years, under the appointment of three presidents.
Thomas was dismayed that the majority of Scandinavians bypassed Maine and headed to the Midwest and Western states.
To entice Swedish immigrants to stay in Maine, Thomas worked with the Maine Legislature to provide public assistance—100 acres of land, a log home, provisions, seed stock, and money—to the first immigrant Swedes.
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