Ruffian lawlessness in the remote regions of the District of Maine dates from the earliest coastal settlements of the 17th century. One of the many causes of the Revolutionary War was the propensity of the 18th-century Mainers to cut down and haul away numerous massive white pines marked as future ship masts for the King’s Royal Navy. Throughout the 20th century, public access to the millions of forested acres owned by the paper industry was prompted as much by industry apprehension of citizen lawless behavior toward their property, as by any altruistic motives.
Mainers in rural areas have shown a particular disdain for the property rights of outsiders, that is, of “people from away.” A curious contradiction exists in the belief patterns of many Mainers. On the one hand, we believe in independence, individuality, personal property rights, and we understand what Robert Frost was saying when he suggested that “good fences make good neighbors.” On the other, both neighbors and public officials seem to condone assaults by their fellow Mainers on the property rights of people from away.
The story of the repeated vandalism, property crimes and physical assaults endured by retirees Wilbur and Lanie White in Jonesboro (BDN, Nov. 22) at the hands of their neighbors is something that fair-minded residents of Maine should be ashamed of. That elected town government officials in Jonesboro appear to condone the illegal behavior of the neighborhood ruffians against outsiders (living in property that has been in their family ownership for generations) is disturbing. That law enforcement officials turn their eyes away from these repeated assaults is even more troubling.