Seboomook’s Prisoner of War Camp

By Everett L. Parker

Note: Because we had so much interest this summer about Seboomook’s WWII POW camp that held young German men, we’re running a short series about it, as detailed in Everett Parker’s book. He was the first director of the Moosehead Historical Society & Museums and is now a Director Emeritus. He laid the foundation of the accessioning system which now houses tens of thousands of items telling the stories of the Moosehead Lake Region’s people and places. During his time as director, Dr. Parker also wrote a series of books based on his research about the area. These popular books are available for purchase in the Carriage House office.


Few people who venture into the Seboomook area today, and particularly to the Seboomook Wilderness Campground, realize that a World War II prisoner of war camp was located on the site during the 1940s. It is almost as if the veil of secrecy, which was necessary during the war years, continues to this day. Even decades after the camp closed and the buildings were bulldozed, it is difficult to find pictures of the facilities, or the military personnel who were stationed there. There were four prisoners of war camps in Maine during and after World War II: Hobbstown (Township 4, Range 6, BKP WKR in Somerset County); Houlton (Aroostook County), Princeton (Washington County), and Seboomook in Somerset County.

It was not on a whim that prisoner of war camps were set up in remote areas of Maine. The reason was the need for paper products. The war effort called for a dramatic increase in the amount of paper production, which in turn required increased production of wood for the mills.


POWs quartered at Seboomook were used on logging operations in Burbank Township shown above loading wood.    1976.1.31

At the time, the Hollingsworth & Whitney Company, a precursor to Scott Paper Company, was the only company in the United States producing “tabulating card stock,” which was in great demand by the U.S. armed forces. Since there was a critical labor shortage because of the war, the need for increased wood production, particularly in pulpwood, could be met, some believed, by importing German prisoners of war to work in the woods. There would be obvious advantages, too, in the remote locations; if prisoners escaped, as some did, there would be virtually nowhere to go, and wintertime escapes could be deadly to the escapee.

Less in known about the Seboomook POW camp than any of the other three in Maine. It is known that Great Northern Paper Company contracted with the U.S. Government in late 1943 or early 1944 to use POWs in its woods operation on the northern end of Moosehead Lake. By June of 1944, the first two POW camps in Maine were operating – Seboomook and Princeton, the latter being near the U.S. – Canada border in Washington County. Surprisingly, the POW camp at Houlton was constructed within feet of the Canadian border.


The barracks at the Seboomook camp was said to have housed most of the 250 prisoners, all from Rommel’s Africa Korps. A guard tower is situated on the left.    2002.49.0005

The Seboomook operation would eventually house 250 prisoners, although the camp was built to house 300. GNP constructed the camp to U.S. Army specifications at the Seboomook Farm, and only a short distance from the Seboomook House. The large horse barn, part of the farm, was enlarged and converted into living quarters for the prisoners, with toilet and laundry facilities in the basement. The potato house, near the barn, was converted into a mess hall, with the kitchen in the lower level and the dining area upstairs. The carriage house was made into a recreation room, and the blacksmith shop was converted into an infirmary on the first floor and quarters for medical personnel on the second floor. Other buildings were constructed to house military personnel and guards. Officers were housed in the farmhouse building outside the compound. It is reported that some soldiers and their wives rented rooms during the summer months at the Seboomook House.