There are small numbers of people in northern New England who live in oddly-shaped geographical areas or “gores. ”
They prefer a relatively isolated, rural, existence in seasonal or permanent homes, surrounded by forests, mountains, bodies of water and a few neighbors. They are willing to pay for limited governmental services funded mainly by the state.
Unlike the southern New England states, incorporated local units of government do not encompass all of the land areas in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Various unincorporated entities – including gores – constitute the remaining area.
The Gores of Northern New England
A gore is a piece of irregularly shaped land left over from original surveying efforts in the 18th and 19th centuries to plot town boundaries. They exist only in Maine and Vermont and may or may not have any residents.
In Maine, somewhat more than half of the total land area of the state is designated as “unorganized territory.” It consists of 429 unincorporated “townships” and several coastal islands that extend across the 16 counties of the state. Eight of these townships are gores, located in four counties. Three of them (Coburn, Gorham, and Massachusetts) are in Franklin County. Three are in Somerset County (Blake, Murray, and Moxie). And there are one each in Lincoln County (Hibberts) and Penobscot County (Veazie).
The Maine Legislature is the “local governing body” for the gores and the rest of the unorganized territory. It approves the budgets of the state agencies and any counties seeking funds for services derived from a state-administered property tax. Services provided include waste disposal, law enforcement, fire protection, ambulance services, animal control, road maintenance (except private roads) and land use to limit development.
Four Maine gores have seasonal and/or permanent residents. Population counts are difficult to ascertain as the U.S. Census does not provide them. Moxie Gore has the largest area (19.96 acres) and the largest population (estimated at over 100). It’s known for its waterfall and whitewater rafting opportunities. Coburn Gore is mainly noted for its U.S.-Canadian border crossing. Misery Gore has Moosehead Lake for its attraction. Hilberts Gore has one resident of long duration among its fields and woodlands.
Beyond gores, the unorganized territory also includes townships designated by name (e.g. Bancroft) or number (e.g. T13R16WELS) and those termed a grant, island, patent, purchase, strip, surplus or tract.
Vermont has four gores: Avery’s Gore, Warner’s Gore or Grant and Warren’s Gore are in Essex County. Buels Gore is in Chittenden County. Only Warren’s Gore and Buels Gore have residents. In Warren’s Gore, a Board of Governors of the Unified Towns and Gores oversees the gore. It also appoints a supervisor who can act as truant officer, constable, treasurer, tax collector and town clerk. In Buels Gore, the governor appoints a supervisor. In both gores, residents pay a state property (education) tax and a municipal tax that can be used for certain assessments or town services (e.g. emergency fire or rescue services).
Vermont also has five unorganized towns – Averill, Ferdinand, Glastenbury, Lewis and Somerset. The Board of Governors oversees them since they lack enough residents to qualify as an incorporated town.
And the Rest…
Historically, New Hampshire also had gores, but none currently exist. However, it has eight grants, seven townships, six purchases and four unincorporated locations that resemble gores.
Barring a significant upsurge in population leading to annexation by a neighboring town(s) or creation of a new town, these gores will remain as remnants of bygone times.
Edward T. Howe, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at Siena College near Albany, N.Y.
Images: Moosehead Lake By Dennis Redfield – originally posted to Flickr as Moosehead Lake, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8733277, and Glastenbury Mountain by Andy Arthur via Flickr, CC by 2.0. Also By Richard Coté – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34635193.