Monday, July 21, 2014

Acadia National Park: Founded on Inspiration, Perseverance and Generosity
It is widely accepted that three individuals stand out as being responsible for the creation of Acadia National Park: Charles W. Eliot, George B. Dorr and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Eliot attributed his idea for the formation of an organization to protect Mount Desert Island's natural resources for future generations to his son Charles, who had done exactly that for the people of Boston, MA. The organization Eliot Sr. inspired was the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations in 1901, which he served as president until his death in 1926. Eliot, a Bostonian and Harvard University's longest serving president, first came to Mount Desert Island in 1871, when he and his sons Charles and Samuel sailed their boat from Boston to Southwest Harbor and camped on Calf Island in Frenchman Bay. In 1881 he established his summer home in Northeast Harbor. There is a bronze memorial plaque for him on Eliot Mountain, formerly Asticou Mountain and renamed in his honor.

Dorr seized on Eliot's idea of preservation, was his vice-president on the HCTPR and dedicated his life to the establishment and development of Acadia NP. Called the founding father of Acadia NP, he was a son of wealthy Bostonians who came to MDI during the summer of 1868 and set up their home, Oldfarm, at Compass Harbor in Bar Harbor a few years later. An entrepreneurial graduate of Harvard, he launched a successful horticultural nursery and a granite quarrying business in Bar Harbor. Following the creation of the Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916, Dorr became its superintendant, a position he held through the subsequent transitions to Lafayette NP in 1919 and Acadia NP in 1929, until his death in 1944. There is a bronze memorial plaque for him at Sieur de Monts located on the east base of Dorr Mountain, formerly Dry Mountain and renamed in his honor.
Rockefeller, philanthropist and son of the Cleveland, OH oil baron, believed strongly in preserving land for a park. He first came to MDI in 1893, while a student at Brown University. He returned to MDI in 1908 where his wife, Abby, gave birth to their son, Nelson, who would later become governor of NY and US vice president. In 1910 Rockefeller purchased and then expanded his Seal Harbor hilltop home, The Eyrie. Before his death in 1960 he had given over 11,000 acres of land to Acadia NP, helped finance and construct its 26-mile Park Loop Road, built a 53-mile network of carriage roads and donated 45 miles of those carriage roads, along with its 17 unique stone bridges and 2 beautiful gatehouses. The Rockefeller Archives Center states he gave over $3.5 million to Acadia NP. There is a bronze memorial plaque for Rockefeller on the Ocean Path near Otter Cliffs. But unlike the recognition accorded to Eliot and Dorr, no Acadia NP mountain is named for him. Yet, were it not for Rockefeller's generosity and his support to superintendant Dorr, Acadia NP would not be the cherished site it is today attracting over two million visitors each summer.
Kebo Mountain ridgeline viewed from Jesup memorial path
It would thus seem fitting for Acadia NP and the National Park Service to consider naming a mountain in honor of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. One possibility is on Kebo Mountain. There are two peaks on its popular ridgeline, which overshadows downtown Bar Harbor's southwest flank. The northern peak has been named "Kebo Mountain" since at least 1860. This summit location is a mistake, however, as the southern and unnamed peak of the mountain is higher by some 15 feet.*1 Even Benjamin DeCosta in his guide book of 1871 speaks of Kebo's "two well defined peaks."*2

In light of the upcoming celebration of the 100th anniversary of Acadia NP's 1916 founding, such a tribute is long overdue to an individual so crucial to the development of Acadia NP.*3

1 The higher southern peak was first suggested to me by Earl Brechlin, Bar Harbor resident and editor of the Mount Desert Islander newspaper. Subsequent hand-held GPS readings and Acadia NP's more sophisticated data confirm Mr. Brechlin's observation.

2 Rambles in Mount Desert by B.F. DeCosta, A.D.F. Randolph & Co., NY, 1871, p. 102.

3 Coincidentally 2016 is also the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, which was established by President Wilson in 1916 "…to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." (Excerpted from the Organic Act of 1916.)

GPS coordinates:
Northern peak - N44° 22.400'  W068° 13.105'
Southern peak - N44° 22.178'  W068° 13.089'
Dorr memorial - N44° 21.721'  W068° 12.466'
Eliot memorial - N44° 18.105'  W068° 16.427'
Rockefeller memorial - N44° 18.482'  W068° 11.345'


  1. Hi Don I just posted a link to your blog on a comment I made on MDI Historical Society's Facebook page. Someone's looking for information about a Seawall inscription. In addition to hiking books we're blogging now at We're planning on doing a blog post soon on you and Acadia memorials. Happy trails to you!

    1. Hi, Delores! Thanks for your comment. I responded directly to the person inquiring about "CHH" at Seawall. In my book I wrote:
      "1895 - 1900
      This engraving is on a weathered boulder in the Park close to the ocean at Seawall. No individual has yet been identified to these letters. Close scrutiny of the letters and numbers indicates the date might be 1875 and the letters CHH might be GHH. The mystery remains." Despite all my research, the initials still remain a mystery.