Event Title

Potato Prisoners

Presenter Information

Alison Zak, Colby CollegeFollow

Location

Diamond 342

Start Date

30-4-2015 1:12 PM

End Date

30-4-2015 2:25 PM

Project Type

Presentation

Description

When people first settled Aroostook County, Maine, they went as loggers. Because of harsh and unpredictable weather conditions, loggers and their families survived on hardy crops that would flourish in most weather conditions. Alongside shingles and other wood products, Aroostook County sold surplus hay and oats. After loggers grew disillusioned with the glamorous life of a lumberjack, they had nothing but cleared land. About this time, the Civil War facilitated movement of people throughout the state, and required that trains run from Aroostook County to southern New England. Connections to the outside world, along with ample farmland, convinced farmers to switch to a crop that would rake in greater profits: potatoes. As potato farming flourished, Aroostook county became the potato empire. The industry didnt fizzle out in the same way that textile-based economies in other parts of the state did due to new technologies and global trends. The isolated communities in Aroostook County finally met global issues during World War II. During World War II, the United States chose to send German POWs to Houlton, Maine, capital of the potato empire. Prisoners lodged in Camp Houlton, and labored in the potatoe fields. The prisoners were young men, almost boys, and performed the labor that normal farmers, overseas fighting Germany, could not. The irony of German POWs helping with the harvest of food for the troops did not go unnoticed, but townspeople and prisoners were able to reach an understanding that allowed Aroostook countys main export continue as it had before. This project examines the progression of agriculture in Aroostook County, and the implications of the potato empire and the effect German prisoners had on the crops as well as the county itself.

Faculty Sponsor

Elizabeth Leonard

Sponsoring Department

Colby College. History Dept.

CLAS Field of Study

Social Sciences

Event Website

http://www.colby.edu/clas

ID

1400

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Apr 30th, 1:12 PM Apr 30th, 2:25 PM

Potato Prisoners

Diamond 342

When people first settled Aroostook County, Maine, they went as loggers. Because of harsh and unpredictable weather conditions, loggers and their families survived on hardy crops that would flourish in most weather conditions. Alongside shingles and other wood products, Aroostook County sold surplus hay and oats. After loggers grew disillusioned with the glamorous life of a lumberjack, they had nothing but cleared land. About this time, the Civil War facilitated movement of people throughout the state, and required that trains run from Aroostook County to southern New England. Connections to the outside world, along with ample farmland, convinced farmers to switch to a crop that would rake in greater profits: potatoes. As potato farming flourished, Aroostook county became the potato empire. The industry didnt fizzle out in the same way that textile-based economies in other parts of the state did due to new technologies and global trends. The isolated communities in Aroostook County finally met global issues during World War II. During World War II, the United States chose to send German POWs to Houlton, Maine, capital of the potato empire. Prisoners lodged in Camp Houlton, and labored in the potatoe fields. The prisoners were young men, almost boys, and performed the labor that normal farmers, overseas fighting Germany, could not. The irony of German POWs helping with the harvest of food for the troops did not go unnoticed, but townspeople and prisoners were able to reach an understanding that allowed Aroostook countys main export continue as it had before. This project examines the progression of agriculture in Aroostook County, and the implications of the potato empire and the effect German prisoners had on the crops as well as the county itself.

http://digitalcommons.colby.edu/clas/2015/program/322