After discussing Maine’s unincorporated townships, I need to add that there are a lot of variants – 17, if I’m counting right. Among them are the BKP, BPP, NBKP, NBPP, and WBKP designations – translated as Bingham’s Kennebec Purchase, Bingham’s Penobscot Purchase, North of Bingham’s Kennebec Purchase, North of Bingham’s Penobscot Purchase, and West of Bingham’s Kennebec Purchase.
So just who was this Bingham guy?
In short, he was William Bingham, already a wealthy Philadelphian when he became filthy rich via privateering during the Revolutionary War. He was also a statesman and U.S. senator who parlayed his riches into vast land purchases, as noted above but also including upstate New York, where Binghamton, where I’ve also lived, was named in his honor.
Quite simply, Bingham owned two million acres in Maine, making him land rich but cash poor.
His agent in Maine, Revolutionary War Gen. David Cobb, was responsible for laying out most of the roads associated with the Airline Highway (now eastern State Route 9). And when Cobb retired in 1820, John Black, agent for Baring Brothers Bank in London, felt that lumber was the wealth that would provide his boss the needed profit. There were further complications as well as marriages, but you get an idea how Baring township in the Moosehorn wildlife preservation got its name.
Cobb did, however, build a great house at Gouldsborough and soon faced some harsh realities that he notated between 1795 and 1800.
First, the land and climate of eastern Maine were not and are not suitable for farming. He noted that “those who come to view the country … have as frequently returned almost blind by the bites of flies and mosquitoes. You have no conception of the hosts of these devils that infest the thick forest at this season.”
More critically, he found “the great body of the people of this country possess no regard to the rights of private property,” calling them ” vicious inhabitants who disfigured its landscape. Every inhabitant here is now a trespasser, a plunderer. They live by it, and therefore they will not cultivate the finest soil in the world. They’re not doing this is the chief cause why the reputation on the country has been damn’d. If the people who live by lumbering are indulged in cutting the forests wherever they please, they will have but little … appreciation of the soil.”
For the record, the soil itself wasn’t nearly that rich.
But continuing, in his estimation, “The greater part … follow lumbering and fishing … and they are very intemperate, very lazy and very poor. It may be said in truth … the majority of the inhabitants are drunkards.”
There are those, of course, who would question whether much has changed since.
Or, as is sometimes said of Eastport, it’s a drinking village with a fishing problem.