Nov. 14, 1899: Walter Wyman, who studied engineering, and Harvey Eaton, a lawyer, begin operating the Oakland Electric Light Co., which they had bought for $4,500 seven days earlier. The company eventually buys up other electric companies and becomes the Central Maine Power Co., Maine’s largest electric utility.

Construction of dams began in Oakland in the 1790s because that’s where much of the waterpower potential on Messalonskee Stream, which drops 210 feet between its source in the Belgrade Lakes and the Kennebec River, is concentrated.

At an 1850 dam near School Street, a technology is introduced that surpasses that used to power belt-driven machinery elsewhere in the town. The dam’s owner, Oakland Electric Light, founded in 1887, installs a 22.5-kilovolt electric generator there. It supplies electricity to about 100 customers.

On Dec. 26, 1899, Wyman and Eaton reorganize the company as the Oakland Electric Co. with Eaton as president and Wyman as general manager.

They dream up the Messalonskee Electric Co. to be able to submit a bid for the contract to supply electricity for next-door Waterville’s electric streetlights beginning in 1901. They win the contract, even though they have no power plant to serve Waterville.

The new company swiftly builds one and begins operations in 1901. Its charter expands and it absorbs Oakland Electric Light in 1905. In 1910, it changes its name to Central Maine Power Co. Much of its revenue in those early years is derived from supplying power to local trolley systems.

A century after Wyman and Eaton bought the business in Oakland, CMP grows its customer base to more than 600,000. Today the company, a subsidiary of Connecticut-based Avangrid, has its headquarters in Augusta and maintains 280 substations and about 25,000 miles of power lines.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.