Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Governors with Kennebec ties

Gov. Enoch Lincoln (left) was the first Maine governor to die in office; Gov. Percival Baxter (middle) was the driving force behind the creation of Baxter State Park; Gov. Janet Mills (right) became the first female governor in 2019.

by Mary Grow

Here follows the third and probably final piece on Maine’s governors and the second that lists those with a connection to the central Kennebec River valley, with some random notes that might be of interest.

William T. Haines, Maine’s 49th governor, was born in Levant and was valedictorian of the Class of 1876 at the University of Maine. With a law degree from Albany Law School, in New York, he opened an office in Oakland in May 1879 and moved to Waterville in October 1880. Between 1882 and 1905, he was, successively, Kennebec County Attorney, State Senator, State Representative. State Attorney General and member of the Governor’s Executive Council under Governor John Fremont Hill (See The Town Line, July 9, p. 10). He was inaugurated as governor on Jan. 1, 1913, failed to win re-election and left office Jan. 6, 1915.

Burton Melvin Cross was, by one of those oddities mentioned in earlier discussions, Maine’s 61st and 63rd governors, with Nathaniel M. Haskell, from Portland, serving as #62 for 25 hours in between. A Gardiner native and Cony High School graduate, Class of 1920, he held city and then state offices and was President of the state Senate when he was elected governor in the fall of 1952.

Cross’s predecessor, Frederick Payne, resigned Dec. 25 because he had been elected to the U. S. Senate. Being Senate President, Cross took over until his Senate term ended, Wikipedia says at 10 a.m. Jan. 7, 1953. Haskell, the new Senate President, then became governor until Cross was inaugurated the next morning.

The State Office Building behind the Capitol was built in 1952 and in 2001 was renamed the Burton M. Cross Building.

Edmund Sixtus Muskie, the 64th Maine governor, who succeeded Cross and governed Maine from Jan. 5, 1955, to Jan. 2, 1959, set off another succession oddity: elected to the U. S. Senate in the fall of 1958 to succeed Payne, he too left the governorship early and another Haskell, Robert from Bangor, was governor for five days. Muskie, Maine’s first Roman Catholic governor, was born in Rumford. He graduated from Bates College in 1936 and Cornell University Law School in 1939 and practiced law in Waterville before and after his service in the Navy in World War II.

One of Muskie’s interests as Maine governor was environmental protection. In his later national career, as Senator he was a chief author of the 1970 Clean Air Act and the 1972 Clean Water Act. He was also a vice-presidential and presidential candidate (1968 and 1972) and Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter, who awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981.

Clinton Amos Clauson was an Iowan by birth and a World War I veteran who opened a chiropractic office in Waterville in the 1920s. He was inaugurated as governor #66 on Jan. 5, 1959, and died on Dec. 30, 1959, before finishing his first year in office. Wikipedia credits him with increasing the state sales tax and creating the lodging tax, both to provide more money for education. A 1961 Maine Legislative Resolve named the planned Interstate 95 bridges across the Kennebec River connecting Fairfield and Benton the Clinton A. Clauson Memorial Bridges. The bridges opened in 1964.

Paul Richard LePage, of Waterville, served two terms as Maine’s 74th governor, from Jan. 5, 2011, to Jan. 2, 2019. A Lewiston native, he graduated from Husson College and earned an MBA from the University of Maine. His Waterville connection began with a position at Scott Paper Company; in 1996 he became general manager of Marden’s Surplus and Salvage. After serving on the Waterville City Council and as the city’s mayor, he was elected governor with 37.6 percent of the vote in 2010’s five-candidate race and with 48.2 percent against two other candidates in 2014.

LePage left office after serving the two-term limit created by a 1957 amendment to the state Constitution. Earlier in 2020, news reports said he was a legal resident of the State of Florida and that he planned to run for the Maine Governorship again. On July 9, the Associated Press reported that the 71-year-old ex-governor is now a resident of Edgecomb, happy to be back in Maine and planning to resume his political career with the 2022 elections.

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Besides Clauson, three other Maine governors died in office.

The first was Enoch Lincoln (#6), whose history was summarized in the July 9 issue of The Town Line.

Joseph R. Bodwell (#40) was inaugurated Jan. 5, 1887, and served until he died Dec. 15, 1887. Bodwell lived in Massachusetts until 1866; he was in the granite business, and part-owned a quarry on Vinalhaven by 1852. In 1866 he opened quarries in Hallowell; by 1869 he was elected mayor of Hallowell, and in 1886 he was elected Maine’s governor.

A family history describes him as enterprising, energetic, a reluctant politician who nonetheless was an able and vigorous governor and ran a successful, business-like administration. He was interested in agriculture, and in addition to his Hallowell farm cooperated with livestock-breeder Hall Burleigh, in Vassalboro.

Frederic Hale Parkhurst (#52) was a Bangor native who graduated from Columbian Law School, in Washington, D. C., Class of 1887.

(Columbian Law School, not to be confused with Columbia Law School, was chartered in Washington as a college in 1821 and in 1826 added a law school, which closed after a year due to lack of students and money. It reopened in 1864 and graduated its first class in 1867. In 1904, Columbian University became The George Washington University.)

Parkhurst returned to Bangor to practice law, but gave it up to join his father’s leather business. His political career began on the Bangor City Council in 1893; he served in the state House and Senate and on various Republican state and national bodies before running successfully for Governor in September 1920. After the election, he caught pneumonia; he was able to attend his inauguration on Jan. 5, 1921, but died Jan. 31, after only 26 days in office.

Senate President Percival Baxter, of Baxter State Park fame, finished Parkhurst’s term and in 1922 was elected in his own right.

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Janet Mills is Maine’s 75th governor, but Wikipedia says only 70 people have held the position, because the four who served non-consecutive terms are counted as two people. They were Edward Kent (#12 and #15), John Fairfield (#13 and #16), John Dana (#19 and #21), and Burton Cross (#61 and #63).

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Maine has had four sets of governors who had the same last name. Two were closely related; two apparently were not.

The state’s first governor, William King, was probably not an ancestor of the seventy-second governor, Angus Stanley King Jr.

Anson Peaslee Morrill (#24), born in 1803 in Belgrade, was the older brother of Lot Myrick Morrill (#28), born in 1813.

Two Plaisteds, Harris (#38) and Frederick William (#48) were father and son. It was the son who directed the removal of Malaga Island’s mixed-race population in 1912. The island, at the mouth of the New Meadows River, is now a preserve owned and managed by Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

Nathaniel Haskell (#62, the 25-hour governor) and Robert Nance Haskell (#65, the five-day governor) were not closely related.

Main sources

Web sites, miscellaneous


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