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Lincoln, Maine

A Town of Hearty, Resilient Souls

Gordon's Fox Farms

Responses from four students in Mrs. Harris’ Social Studies class can be viewed below:

Brett Crocker
“Research your topic and summarize the 'who, what, when, and where' in the form of a few paragraphs”

#1 Gordon Fox Ranch, Lincoln, ca. 1920
#1 Gordon Fox Ranch, Lincoln, ca. 1920

Item Contributed by
Lincoln Historical Society

In about 1920, fox farms in Lincoln began running. A man named Dr. Frank H. Gordon and his family owned all of them in Lincoln for the first sixteen years. Some of them were the fox farms on the Military Road, Transalpine Road, Route 2, and Fish Hill.

Fox farms generally consisted of 200 foxes. Foxes were fed fish and horse meat. When it was time for the foxes to be skinned, they were skinned in the late fall.

There were three kinds of foxes that were on a Gordon fox farm; silver, which was most popular, black, and red. Fox farms were invented so people could sell the pelts for a profit. Foxes were kept in one hundred 16 by 16 foot pens. There were also usually two workers per farm.

When a mother fox didn’t take care of her young and a cat on the farm just had a litter, the owners would kill all but one of the kittens. Then they would let the mother cat take care of the pups that the fox had.

The last fox farm to close in Lincoln was owned by Will Brown. It closed in 1947, five years before fox farms became illegal in 1952. The Gordon era for fox farming ended when Mr. Gordon went bankrupt in 1936, never to be open again under the Gordon name.

Scott Sibley
“Create a ‘why’ question, research and infer the answer, and create an response”

Why were Maine furs so popular?
I think that furs from Maine were popular because they were thicker from colder weather. Gordon’s farms were widely known and people wanted to go to a famous place to by furs to make coats, hats, and scarves. Silver furs were very popular and there were also red and black furs. People from New York came to buy furs a lot. Furs were expensive, so Gordon’s farms went bankrupt when people stopped buying them.

Fox farms were a very large business. Fox farms were like having a farm with all kinds of animals on it. Lincoln’s fox farms were all owned by the Gordons. Most people who owned a fox farm would be widely known around the town and maybe even the state. Now people who own farms are not as widely known.

Jesse Pelkey
“Describe your feelings, or the feelings of someone living at that time when a certain event happened”

Dear Diary,

Today at the farm, I had to go put down twelve foxes. I don’t really like hurting an innocent animal but it’s an easy job that pays good money. I poisoned them instead of shooting them or breaking their necks, because I would have never been able to know I was going to do something that would hurt an animal.

Fox pelt on display at Lincoln Historical Society
Fox pelt on display at Lincoln Historical Society

After I “took care” of the foxes, I took them to the skinning room on the other side of the farm to get the hide ready to sell. This is my least favorite part of the process, because I don’t like to see the hides separated from the bodies. The foxes sell between $1,000 to $3,000, depending what color fur they are. The furs are hung and dried, then sent to Bangor where they tan the pelts. Mrs. Lewis, a woman who owns the little store down the street, is bidding $4,000 for our oldest and largest fox on the farm. His coat is the biggest and shiniest and I don’t feel like that is a good price, but she is old and she has helped me in the past, so I’ll give her a break.

Till next time,
Sam

Levie Levesque
“Imagine you are a resident of Lincoln during the time of fox farming. Reference your research topic and what you know about this era to write a journal or diary entry pretending to be a person from back then”

Day 1 (November 17, 1938)

We just moved in to the new fox farm. The old owner, Mr. Gordon, went bankrupt so Dad bought one of his farms. Dad said I need to get an extra job so we can buy more foxes for the farm. We just moved from Florida because we all needed jobs, so Dad made an investment and bought the farm. I really don’t like it so far.

Day 2 (November 18, 1938)

Today is my first full day in Lincoln and I am going to go to town today and shop. I am hoping to find a pair of boots to wear when I clean the fox pen. I’m hoping that I can make a new friend, too.

Fox pelts ready for sale, Lincoln, ca. 1922
Fox pelts ready for sale, Lincoln, ca. 1922

Item Contributed by
Lincoln Historical Society

Day 3 (November 19, 1938)

I had my first full day at the fox farm today. I had to feed them fish and meat. It stunk very bad, but they like it. We only have a few foxes, but we’re working hard to buy more.

Day 100 (February 18, 1939)

We have over 200 new foxes at our farm. I don’t want to kill them in the fall, I think that is very mean to do. They’re actually kind of neat. We have different types of foxes: red, silver, and gray.

Day 200 (May 28, 1939)

Some rich people from New York came to the farm today to buy fur for coats and
scarves. They offered $1,000 for just one fox pelt. My jaw dropped. That’s a lot of
money!

Clayton Twitchell
“Using your new found knowledge of this topic, write a creative piece (haiku, cinquain, story, song) about it”

On The Farm

In a land two miles down the road, in the year 1931, there was a boy named
Keith. He lived on a fox farm.

“Keith come down and eat your breakfast!” Keith’s mom yelled.

The brown haired 15 year old came down the stairs in his nightgown. “What’s for
breakfast today Ma’am?” Keith asked.

“Pancakes and bacon, without the trimmings.”

“Yay my favorite! Ma’am, where’s Pa?” Keith asked.

“Your Pa’s outside getting ready to harvest the foxes. You can go and join him
once you’re proper and your breakfast’s gone.”

After hearing that he is old enough to help his Pa harvest the foxes, Keith hurried in eating his breakfast then ran back upstairs to put his favorite red flannel shirt and overalls on.

Once Keith was ready, he ran down the stairs and out the door into the yard. The
leaves on the trees and ground were orange, yellow and brown.

When Keith got to the fox pens his Pa wasn’t ready for the fall harvest. “ Pa, how
come you're not gettin’ ready for the harvest?”

“Well son, Mr. Gordon came by earlier today and said we're not harvesting enough fox furs and the way we’re killing the foxes is too expensive so we’re going to have to leave the farm.”

“But why can’t we get some more foxes?” Keith asked, pleadingly.

“We don’t have enough money to buy any,” admitted Pa.

Silver Foxes, Lincoln, ca. 1920
Silver Foxes, Lincoln, ca. 1920

Item Contributed by
Lincoln Historical Society

“Then I’ll get a job to help us get some money to buy foxes,” stated Keith, peering at Pa out of the corner of his eye.

“Where will you work?” Pa questioned.

“Actually,” Keith hesitated, “I’m not really sure, have any suggestions?”

“Well, I heard that they just got a White Castle restaurant in New York and they’re hiring. It’s a long drive, but I’m sure that if you took the car and some furs to sell on the way for gas, you can get there fine.”

“Now that wouldn’t help your sales very much would it?” said a voice from behind
Keith and his dad.

Keith turned around to see the farm’s owner, Dr. Frank Gordon. “Mis-Mister
Gordon what are you doing here?” stuttered Keith.

“I uh, forgot my case,” Mr. Gordon said nervously. “That will be all Jerry,” he said, nodding to Pa. Mr. Gordon closed his briefcase on the ground, picked it up and left. The father and son watched Mr. Gordon walk out behind the barn to his car.

Keith noticed a white sheet of paper out of the corner of his eye. “Hey Pa, Mr.
Gordon forgot a paper.”

“Hmm,” Keith’s Pa picked up the paper and read it. “It says that Mr. Gordon is going bankrupt and that he doesn’t have enough money to keep the farms.” Pa kept reading to himself, then paused. “So if you got a job, you could probably buy the farm and we could use it as a house. We could keep the farm running.”

Keith looked surprised. He scratched his head and said, “Well, okay then. I guess
I should. I mean, I don’t want to be homeless.”

It was settled. “Well, okay then,” Pa nodded his head in approval.

Keith jogged back to the house and packed his things in his shabby, green suitcase. He kissed his mother, left the house, and got in the car. He started driving down the road to New York. Keith hoped to find a apartment and a job at White Castle. After ten months, he hoped to have enough money to support his family and buy the fox farm.

Works Cited
"Agnes Cole's Story of Fox Farming in Maine." Interview by Peggy Kneeland. Bangor Daily News (Bangor): 27-28. Print.

"One Thousand Attend Annual Chapman Picnic." The Sun Journal (Lewiston) 12 Sept. 1924: 34. Web. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=rYkgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=M2UFAAAAIBAJ&dq=one%20thousand%20attend%20annual%20chapman%20picnic&pg=1185%2C6652314