Maine can trace its Swedish heritage to the Homestead Act of 1862. Bowdoin graduate William Widgery Thomas, with President Lincoln's approval and the support of Governor Joshua L. Chamberlain, used the act to encourage Swedes to immigrate to Maine and settle parts of Aroostook County. Fifty-one settlers arrived in July 1870, followed by subsequent waves, and by late 1871, more than 550 Swedish men, women, and children had arrived. Their new home, Maine's Swedish Colony, comprises primarily the towns of New Sweden, Stockholm, Woodland, Perham, and Westmanland.
The New Sweden Historical Museum contains three floors of memorabilia and artifacts housed in an exact replica of the colony's original 1870 Kapitoleum, or capitol (the original burned in 1971). Next door, the Capitol Hill School, the last remaining of nine original one-room schoolhouses, is now a Swedish gift shop. Behind these buildings is a monument listing the original settlers.
Nearby are W. Thomas Memorial Park, site of a bandshell where concerts are often held; the circa 1870s Larsson/Ostlund Log Home, one of the colony's oldest buildings; the circa 1900 Lars Noak Blacksmith and Woodworking Shop; the 1871 Adolf Gustaf Evangelical Lutheran Church, now listed on the National Historic Register; and the Stockholm Historical Society Museum.
The best time to visit Maine's Swedish Colony is during the annual Midsommar Festival, when traditional music is performed, traditional foods are served, and costumed children dance around the Maypole.