Earle G. Shettleworth Jr.’s Favorite Maine Place

The Maine State Historian has many favorite spots, but Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead is always near the top of his list.

Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead in Hallowell, Maine
Photo by Benjamin Williamson
By Will Grunewald
From our April 2024 Home & Garden issue
Earle G. Shettleworth Jr.
Headshot courtesy of Colby College

In the 117 years since the Maine Legislature established the Office of the State Historian, a mere six individuals have held the post. As of this year, Earle G. Shettleworth Jr. — first appointed by Governor John Baldacci — has served in the role for two full decades, studying and writing about the state’s past, giving talks in libraries and schools, providing lawmakers with historical context when requested, and assisting the general public with research inquiries. Suffice to say, during his lengthy tenure, Shettleworth has fostered a deep appreciation for more than a few historic sites around Maine. “I could sit here all day and list them,” he says. Always near the top of his list, though, is the Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead, in Hallowell, a few minutes’ drive from his own home.

A prominent British politician whose penchant for republicanism better suited him to the American experiment, Benjamin Vaughan settled on a sylvan perch above the Kennebec River in the 1790s. Over the years, his family added footpaths and several stone bridges to their woods for the public to enjoy, a sort of rustic precursor to the stately carriage trails and bridges that eventually crisscrossed Mount Desert Island. “It’s Acadia before Acadia,” Shettleworth says with a laugh. “The Vaughans before John D. Rockefeller Jr.” In the early 2000s, Benjamin Vaughan’s posterity set up a nonprofit to run the property, additionally opening up its house and gardens for programming about nature, the arts, and, of course, history. “It’s a real treasure,” Shettleworth says.

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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