Louis Oakes

Forester, First Chief Fire warden, Philanthropist

Louis Oakes (1871-1964) was born in Sangerville and moved to Greenville in 1907, where he remained in residence for the remainder of his days. He graduated Foxcroft Academy and the University of Maine in forestry. During his early years, he was appointed the first Chief Fire Warden by the Maine Forestry District upon its inception in 1909.

Of particular significance, Mr. Oakes financed exploration efforts conducted by his brother, the famed Sir Harry Oakes, who ultimately discovered a $250 million gold mine in Ontario. Louis shared in his brother’s wealth, much of which he invested in his local community for the benefit of its residents.

Louis Oakes was instrumental in re-opening the Kineo Hotel and had the sidewalks built on West Street, now Pritham Avenue in downtown Greenville. His contributions included his alma mater, the Oakes Room at the University of Maine.    1995.4.237

Over the years he acquired large timberland holdings and served as director of two paper companies, including Hollingsworth & Whitney, where he served as superintendent until his retirement in 1951.

One of his most cherished undertakings was the $500,000 Greenville Consolidated School which he gave to the town in 1935. He further established an $80,000 trust fund with the income to be used for certain school departments and repairs. Mr. Oakes was also intimately connected with the Squaw Mountain ski area, believing in the great recreational possibilities of ski development, especially for young people.

He was named one of the outstanding citizens of Piscataquis County in recognition of, among other contributions, his commitment to the community which included terms of service as trustees of the Guilford Trust Company, Charles A. Dean Hospital, and the Shaw Public Library. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Maine in 1953 and, in 1954, an honorary degree from Colby College.

When he passed away in Nov. 1964, his obituary in the Piscataquis Observer read simply, yet eloquently, “Louis Oakes: Builder. If you seek his monuments, look around you.” His beneficiaries included his grandson, the late Louis O. Hilton, one of Greenville’s most philanthropic citizens, and Foxcroft Academy to which he left a bequeath of $450,000.

Greenville Consolidate School, built by Mr. Oakes in 1935, then given to the town.     1978.2.23

His work as a surveyor and superintendent of Hollingsworth & Whitney, and as the State of Maine’s first Fire Chief Warden, is on permanent display at the Moosehead Outdoor Heritage Museum on our main campus, 444 Pritham Ave., Greenville Junction.  

This is an excerpt from an article originally written by Bob Cowan as part of a series about Moosehead Lake benefactors.