“main road into the town soon became crowded” — Maine Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin

Today, the Maine Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the start of the colony on July 23, 1870 and their celebration ten years later.

From Celebration of the Decennial Anniversary of the Founding of New Sweden, Maine, July 23, 1880, published under the direction of Andrew Wiren, Nils Olsson, and N.P. Clasé, Committee on Publication, 1881:


Friday, July 23, 1880, was a notable day in the history of New Sweden. It was the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Swedish settlement in the woods of Maine, and the Swedes had long been making preparations to commemorate the event with fitting ceremonies.

The day dawned gloomily. A dull rain fell from a leaden sky. But the rain soon ceased, and at an early hour people began to gather together in the great central clearing of New Sweden, where stand the capitol, the church, the store, and the parsonage.

The first comers were Swedes, but their American and Canadian friends soon came flocking in from the surrounding country. The main road into the town soon became crowded with an almost continuous line of carriages.

To New Sweden everybody was going, and in every sort of vehicle. There were wagons and hay-racks, coaches and carts, drags and buck-boards. There were Swedish teams from the colony, French vehicles from the upper St. John, Bluenose turn outs from Canada, and Yankee wagons from everywhere around.

Mingled with these were elegant carriages, drawn by noble spans of horses, for which Aroostook county is justly celebrated.

For hours the steady stream of vehicles poured along the road from Caribou to New Sweden. A Miss Brown, of Woodland, sat at the window of her house, and with slate in hand kept tally of the passers-by. She counted 492 carriages containing 1448 persons, that drove past her house that morning into New Sweden.

Add to these the number of foot travelers, those who came by other roads or through the woods, the Swedes from outside the colony who came in the day before, and the 787 members of the colony itself, and it is certain that over 3000 persons were present and took part in the decennial celebration at New Sweden.

Four hundred invited guests had started the day before by rail from the older sections of the state outside of Aroostook county. Their goodly numbers overtaxed the capacity of the New Brunswick Railway.

They were kept up all night in crowded cars, while the good people of Caribou sat up all night waiting to receive them. At last in the gray dawn, the train of four hundred belated travelers was hauled in sections into the depot at Caribou, and sulky and grim, in a drizzling rain they drove to their lodgings.

At ten o’clock, however, after a nap and a cup of coffee, these visitors forgot the fatigues of the night, and were joining the long procession driving into the Swedish woods.

By this time New Sweden, from the capitol to the church, was literally full of people in gala-day attire, among whom the Swedish girls, with their national head dress of a deeply fringed silk kerchief, formed a striking and picturesque feature.

A triumphal arch of evergreen had been erected across the road in front of the church. On each side of the arch was a flagstaff, likewise decorated with evergreen; while to the right was drawn up the company of Swedish cadets under command of Captain Lars Nylander.

Everybody was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the guests of the day.

Among the honored guests who joined in the celebration, and were now driving toward New Sweden, may be mentioned

Nearly all these gentlemen were accompanied by ladies.

At last the carriage of Hon. W. W. Thomas, Jr., the founder of the colony, followed by the carriages of the Governor, the Council, and other distinguished guests, drives across the boundary line from Woodland into New Sweden; a salute is fired by the Swedish cadets, the stars and stripes and the yellow cross of Sweden sail proudly into position at the top of the flagstaffs on either side of the evergreen arch, and the sweet tones of the church bell float out for the first time over the woods and clearings of New Sweden.

At the triumphal arch the guests of the day are received by the Swedish cadets and escorted under the arch and down the road to the capitol.

That was a strange sight in the woods of Maine.

First came the band, playing a martial air, next the Swedish cadets marching like veterans, then the carriage of the founder of the colony, followed by a long line of carriages containing the Governor, Council, and distinguished visitors.

Three thousand people, Swedes, Americans, Canadians, and French, filled the great central clearing and cheered on the procession, the flags of Sweden and America floated loyally side by side, the church bell rang a merry peal, all around stood the primeval forest in silent, majestic lines, while the sun, breaking forth from between the clouds of morning, shone down upon us like a happy augury, and gave tone and color to the scene.

The procession halts in front of the capitol. The cadets draw themselves up on either side of the way, present arms, and shout

“Lefve Konsul Thomas” (Long live Consul Thomas),

“Lefve Koloniens Välgöraren,” (Long live the benefactor of the colony),

“Lefve Koloniens Grundläggaren” (Long live the founder of the colony),

“Lefve Governoren of Maine” (Long live the Governor of Maine).

A cheer goes up from the great throng of Swedes crowding around.

Then Nils Olsson, one of the first colonists and the first lay preacher of New Sweden, steps out into the open space between the two lines of cadets and welcomes the guests of the day in a short speech in Swedish, of which the following is a translation:

Address of Welcome of Nils Olsson.

In behalf of the Swedish people, men, women, and children, I bid you, Consul Thomas, and all the gentlemen and ladies in your company, a cordial welcome to New Sweden, upon this tenth anniversary of the day when you led us into these woods. We Swedes feel grateful and not a little surprised that we are deemed worthy of a visit from so many of the most honorable citizens of Maine. For this visit, and for the many acts of kindness extended to us Swedes — although strangers in a strange land — by the State of Maine and its citizens, ever since we first crossed your borders, we now return our heartfelt thanks.

The guests now alight from their carriages and pass between the files of Swedish cadets.

Then Mr. Thomas replies to the address of welcome from the threshold of the capitol.

The cadets march forward, form a line directly in front, and present arms.

The colonists crowd around with eager interest.

Mr. Thomas spoke in Swedish. The substance of his remarks translated into English is as follows:

Response by Hon. W. W. Thomas, Jr.

Swedish colonists, my comrades in the woods of Maine, my countrymen, — from my heart I thank you for this royal reception to your guests of today. I am proud of you and of the great work you have done in these forests. You little band that entered these woods with me ten years ago this very hour, and all you that have followed after, I know your trials, your toils, your hardships, and your privations. I know, too, your courage, your hope, your industry, and your perseverance, and today I see your victory. And not I alone, but the Governor and Council of our State, and many of the most distinguished citizens of Maine, are here today to see and bear witness to the great results of your labors.

And you, Captain Nylander; and you, Swedish soldiers on American soil, I thank you for the part you have so well taken in the observances of this day. In your veins flows the blood of the Vikings. Yonder float the flags of Sweden and America. Should ever foes without or foes within threaten this free land of ours, let the old berserker rage fire your hearts, and may you fight in defense of the stars and stripes as gallantly as the soldiers of Sweden have ever fought for the yellow cross of the Northland. My Swedish brethren, one and all, again I thank you.

Mr. Thomas’ remarks were received by the Swedes with loud and long-continued applause.


The Maine Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an image of the New Sweden Historical Museum, circa 1940, containing relics from the first Swedish settlers.

Maine Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin