An essay contest to find a new owner of 47 acres in Whitefield didn’t receive enough submissions, so refunds will be sent to those who entered the contest.

The contest rules required entrants to pay $100 and submit an essay of no more than 200 words describing what they planned to do with the wooded land along Route 218.

Martha Manchester of Edgecomb, who has owned the land since 1994, extended the deadline from June 21 until Saturday because she hadn’t received enough entries by the earlier date. The contest rules required that at least 3,000 essays be submitted, but Manchester’s website for the contest later said she was requiring 3,500 entries. She told the Coastal Journal earlier this month that if she didn’t receive the 3,500 entries, she would lose money on the land.

When interviewed about the contest at the end of March, Manchester said she was holding it to give people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford so much land an opportunity to win the property, and so she could try to be paid more than the land’s fair market value. She also planned to donate some of the earnings to charity.

Manchester, when reached by phone Tuesday, blamed a Kennebec Journal story that included the town’s $57,200 assessed value of the property for cutting into the numbers of entries.

“That totally killed the whole concept of trying to give away 47 acres,” she said. She would not say how many entries she did receive.

If Manchester had received the 3,500 essay submissions, the contest would have brought in $350,000 before taxes. She planned to donate $10,000 each to the American Cancer Society and the Lincoln County Animal Shelter and give $5,000 to the contest winner to help pay taxes.

Manchester wrote on the contest website that she would refund all entrants’ money in the next seven business days. She also cautioned people interested in running similar contests, saying it was a lot of work and included the costs of an attorney, advertising and Internet fees.

The owner of the Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant ran a similar contest this year to sell the inn, which she had won in an essay contest in 1993. A couple living in the U.S. Virgin Islands won the business and the 12-acre property with their essay and $125 entry fee.

Janice Sage, who held the essay contest, received 7,255 entries, bringing in $906,875, according to a Maine State Police investigation report obtained by the Portland Press Herald.

State police investigated the contest after non-winners said the contest evaluation was suspect, but investigators determined the contest was conducted legally. Officials have said contests such as these are legal because the winners are judged on skill, not picked by chance.