Many of us dream of owning a little piece of Maine oceanfront property. To own a private beach would be fantastic.

Imagine, if you will, owning Reid State Park in Georgetown and simply giving it away for public enjoyment. That’s what a man known as “The Howard Hughes of Maine” did in 1946.

Walter E. Reid was a typical recalcitrant Mainer. He made a fortune in the stock market but refused to talk about it. Called “The Mystery Man of Wall Street,” he would only say, “My name is Walter E. Reid, and I’m from Georgetown, Maine,” whenever a reporter would ask him a question.

Reid was born in Georgetown in 1869 while his father, Capt. John Reid, was on a trip around Cape Horn. At age seven, Reid’s father was lost at sea.

One of seven children, Reid was forced to fend for himself and worked on a farm in Brunswick. At age 11, he shipped out on a Kennebec ice vessel. Six years later he became a landlubber again, worked various odd jobs, and then went back to sea.

Eventually, he became the Maine sales manager for Fleischman’s Yeast. Other management jobs followed, and he purchased a home in Georgetown. Eventually, he became involved with Charlie Morse’s shipping companies.

Perhaps inspired by Morse’s success, Reid became involved in Wall Street trading. Somehow … he refused to talk about it … he acquired control of the Mack Truck Company and the Checker Cab Company. He borrowed, lent, and accumulated millions of dollars in the process.

Reid’s wife died just after he started building her a fabulous home on the Georgetown shore, with a view of Seguin lighthouse. The house would never be finished.

Reid himself was too ill to attend the ceremony when Governor Horace A. Mildreth accepted his gift of 350 acres, which included Mile Beach, Half-Mile Beach, and the lagoon. Reid gifted the land to the public in honor of his mother, just as Charlie Morse had gifted Morse High School in honor of his own mother. Eventually, Reid would give 800 acres to the park.

The state was initially reluctant to accept the gift, as it would require expensive development to turn it into a park. Fortunately the work was completed, and today we all have a wonderful place to enjoy the rugged beauty of the Maine coast.

Source: Down East Magazine, 1963