March 3, 1820: The U.S. Senate’s acceptance of a provision that slavery be permitted in Missouri – which would become a state in 1821 – fulfills a compromise that clears the way for Maine to become a state 12 days later.

News that Maine’s admission to the Union is linked to the slavery question sparks outrage among many of Maine’s civic leaders and newspapers. Delegates to the Maine Constitutional Convention conclude that it might be better to wait another year for statehood than let Maine be used as “a mere pack horse to transport the odious, anti-republican principle of slavery” into Missouri, according to delegate George Thacher of Biddeford.

Leading separation advocate and future Maine Gov. William King opposes the slavery linkage at first, but comes to accept it. In the U.S. House, Rep. John Holmes becomes instrumental in pushing the Missouri Compromise through Congress, drawing scorn and abuse from political opponents at home, including the Portland Gazette.

March 3, 1931: Former Gov. Percival Baxter (1876-1969) donates Mount Katahdin and the land that surrounds it to the state, resulting in the creation of Baxter State Park in Piscataquis County.

Gov. Percival Baxter fly fishes in Kidney Pond below Mount Katahdin in the park he created in 1931. Reprinted from “Baxter State Park and Katahdin,” by John W. Neff and Howard R. Whitcomb Photo Courtesy Harold Dyer Collection, Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine

Climbing the mountain in 1920 leaves a lasting impression on Baxter, leading to his desire to preserve the mountain and protect it from development. Then the 44-year-old president of the Maine Senate, Baxter begins developing proposals for the state to acquire the mountain.

The next year, newly elected Gov. Frederick Parkhurst dies unexpectedly a little more than three weeks after taking his oath of office. As Senate president, Baxter succeeds him. He wins his own election to the job in 1923. At the beginning of each legislative term, he lays out a plan to establish a Mount Katahdin State Park, but the Legislature rejects it repeatedly. When the independently wealthy Baxter leaves office, he offers to return his annual salary of $10,000 for the previous two years if the state will use it to acquire property for the park. The state never meets the conditions of his offer.

Beginning in 1925, Baxter decides to finance the project himself. He makes his first complicated purchase of 6,000 acres, including Katahdin and most of its adjoining peaks, for $25,000 on Nov. 12, 1930.

He gives the land to Maine in 1931. The state names it Baxter State Park in his honor and makes formal acceptance of it in 1933. Over three decades, Baxter makes a total of 28 acquisitions and subsequent donations to the state, increasing the park’s size to about 200,000 acres, all shielded from development. When it is done in 1962, he writes to then-Gov. John Reed and the Legislature to inform them. He applies all the subtlety he can muster to the message.

“This brings to an end an interesting incident in Maine history,” he writes.

March 3, 1904: The first issue of the Waterville Morning Sentinel appears. It is the 16th newspaper to debut in Waterville; all of the others failed.

The Sentinel, at first a Democratic newspaper, was competing during its first three years with the Republican-leaning Waterville Evening Mail. Then the Mail went out of business.

In another of the countless examples of how newspapers in those days rarely try to avoid political conflicts of interests, the Sentinel’s owner, Cyrus W. Davis, a Democrat, is elected mayor of Waterville. His election victory dominates the front page the next day, which bears six U.S. flags and carries a cartoon of a rooster labeled “The Rooster that Crows for Waterville Democracy.”

The Sentinel’s name later is changed to the “Central Maine Morning Sentinel,” and then to simply the “Morning Sentinel.”

March 3, 1977: The Cumberland County Civic Center opens in Portland, featuring a performance by the rock band ZZ Top in the first concert held there.

The building later becomes the Cross Insurance Arena, which has a seating capacity of 6,200 people after a 2012 renovation.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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