DOVER-FOXCROFT — One of the most scandalous unsolved murders of the 20th century involves a man whose body lies in Dover-Foxcroft.
Somebody put fresh flowers on the tomb of Sir Harry Oakes this week, on the anniversary of his brutal death in 1943.
“And to this day, nobody knows really who killed Sir Harry Oakes. They don’t know who killed him, how he was killed or why he was killed or what the murder weapon was,” said Dennis Lyford, vice president of the Dover-Foxcroft Historical Society.
Oakes’ life is a true rags-to-riches story.
He was born in Sangerville and moved with his family to Foxcroft in 1908 so he and his brother could attend Foxcroft Academy. After graduating from Bowdoin College, he became a gold prospector with the support of his family.
“For 15 years he went all over the globe looking for gold,” Lyford said.
And he did strike gold, at least twice. Oakes sold his stock in his first gold mine in Canada to begin raising money to purchase a second mine near Lake Kirkland in Northern Ontario. He sold stock in the mine at 10 cents a share.
“He came back to Piscataquis County. Nobody would buy the stock. Eventually, he did raise the money and he found the second largest gold mine in North America,” Lyford said. “And the stock went from 10 cents to $60 a share. So there is some people in Piscataquis County, I think, who really missed out on a good financial opportunity.”
Oakes moved to the Bahamas to avoid paying taxes and met the Duke of Windsor, who was governor. He was named a baronet by King George VI after making a substantial donation to build a hospital in London.
Oakes had plans to join his family in Bar Harbor just before his death.
“He was scheduled to leave the next morning, on July 8th, but he was found murdered in his bed,” Lyford said.
Oakes’ son-in-law was charged but later acquitted.
“It was a very sensational murder trial,” the Dover-Foxcroft historian said.
Several theories circulate about his untimely death
“You had a multi-millionaire who is on a lonely tropical island murdered in a thunderstorm. You have bits of corruption, Nazi spies, American gangsters, corrupt police, a fixed trial … and the former king of England,” Lyford said.
While the mystery remains, his legacy lives on.