In the U.S. state of Maine, a plantation is a type of minor civil division falling between township (or unorganized territory) and town. The term, as used in this sense in modern times, appears to be exclusive to Maine. Plantations are typically found in sparsely populated areas.
No other New England state has an entity equivalent to a plantation. Massachusetts used the term "plantation" in colonial times for a community in a pre-town stage of development. Maine probably originally got the term from Massachusetts, as Maine was once part of Massachusetts. The term, however, has been out of wide use in Massachusetts since the 18th century. The term was also used in colonial Rhode Island, and a vestige remains in the official State name, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Writing in 1949, author Richard Walden Hale in The Story of Bar Harbor described the formation of a plantation as follows:
First came the survey, without which no settlement was legal. Land so surveyed was divided into 'townships,' which in New England means areas planned for development into full-fledged towns. Then certain proprietors--who might be a religious congregation, a group of speculators, or a group of would-be settlers--bought the 'township,' 'planted it' with settlers, and saw to it that land was reserved for a church and school. When enough settlers had been planted, limited self government was granted, and the township was raised in status to a 'plantation.' When the population of the 'plantation' should have grown large enough, another step forward was taken, the area received full civil rights, the full town organization came into force, and in those days one representative in the legislature or 'General Court' was automatically allotted to the new town. ... Such a system still holds good in Maine. ... To this day one can go thirty miles northeast of Bar Harbor and find, still unsettled, Township Number Seven, just back of Gouldsboro and Sullivan, and then go twenty miles southeast--in each case as the crow flies--and find Swan's Island Plantation, where to this day there is not enough population for the full complement of town officials.
- James J. Haag, "A Study of Plantation Government in Maine." Orono, ME: Bureau of Public Administration, University of Maine, 1973.
- Hale, Jr., Richard Walden (1949). The Story of Bar Harbor. New York: Ives Washburn, Inc. pp. 72–73.