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Gorham History » Baxter Library

Baxter Library

In 1907, James Phinney Baxter purchased the existing building and land. He moved the original house back on the lot to allow space for the stone building to be erected

This building was to be used as a public library; the house, to be used as a museum for relics from the past - Now the Baxter Museum

Both buildings were donated to the Town of Gorham in memory of his father, Dr. Elihu Baxter. The building was dedicated in 1908.

Percival Baxter, son of James Phinney Baxter, and who would later be governor of Maine, had a great love of animals.

The story goes like this: Baxter, a trustee of the library during the 1950s, noticed a dog tied up outside the library before a board of trustees meeting. Always the protector of those with fur, feathers or scales, Baxter informed the group that pets would be allowed in the building from that day forward.

Although no official policy was ever written, it became known that dogs and cats were welcome at the library, a gift of Percival's father, James Phinney Baxter.

Percival Baxter was widely known as a lover of animals, a commitment he demonstrated in and outside his time as governor, from 1921 to 1925.

A search through the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram archives reveals a file of yellowed clippings entitled, "Baxter, Percival - Fondness for Animals." The highlights include stories about Baxter ordering the flag at the State House lowered to half-staff in June 1923 after the death of his beloved Irish setter, Garry.

Garry was no stranger to matters of state, as he even had a special green leather couch in the governor's office. An article from the Evening Express at the time described the dog as "unusually intelligent and friendly to everybody, especially children who daily passed the Blaine House on their way to school." The flag incident caused a stir among veterans' organizations, who felt the gesture was an insult, and generated national headlines.

In 1924, Baxter introduced Sandy, a collie, to the Maine State Prison in Thomaston, as a "missionary" to help spread cheer among the prison population.

Baxter is perhaps best known for donating 200,000 acres of wilderness around Mount Katahdin to the state, creating what would become Baxter State Park.

In 1943, Baxter made headlines again, this time offering to buy a 750-pound Siberian bear from a vaudeville performer who was accused of mistreating the animal.

In 1957, Baxter suggested the Irish setter be adopted as the state's dog, after a bill was introduced in the Senate to make the chinook Maine's official dog.

Many paintings of the governor depict Garry at his side. The dog and many of its descendants were buried at a pet cemetery on Mackworth Island in Falmouth that still stands. Excerpted from:
Juston Ellis Staff Writer Staff Researcher Susan Butler contributed to this report.. Portland Press Herald [Portland, Me] 01 Apr 2004: 1F.