Friday, March 17, 2017


A Saint in Bar Harbor
Among the visitors to Bar Harbor, ME during summers surrounding 1900 was Katharine Drexel. Based on her considerable inheritance, she would have accommodated well with the wealthy summer set there. She was unique, however, in that she didn’t take part in it. Her direction in life was diametrically opposite.

St. Katharine Drexel
(relic and prayer card)
Katharine was born in Philadelphia, PA, in 1858, one of three daughters of wealthy banker Francis Drexel. Her mother, Hannah, died within five weeks of her birth. Having travelled out west with her family as a young girl, she was touched by the deplorable conditions of Native and African Americans. Following this emotion and her desire to serve God, she entered the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy in 1887. She received her final vows in 1891 and established the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored and applied her love, motivation and inheritance to the fulfilment of the religious order’s mission. She died in 1955 at the age of 96. At the time of her death, her order’s accomplishments were monumental. They had started 50 missions for Native Americans in 16 states, opened 63 schools and founded Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the U.S. for African Americans.
Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament motherhouse


S.B.S. convent
Her association with Bar Harbor was tied to her sister Louise and brother-in-law Edward Morrell, who in 1897 had bought a 30-acre summer home named Thirlstane. They were generous contributors to the 1907 construction of Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church on Mount Desert Street. In 1913, at the request of Katharine, they donated land and a house on Ledgelawn Avenue for a convent close to Holy Redeemer. The convent became home to S.B.S. nuns and to Katherine when she visited.*1 They also donated money for Holy Redeemer’s first grammar school, a wooden building located on Ledgelawn Avenue, and its brick replacement, St. Edward’s School, built in 1914 behind the convent. There is a memorial plaque to Edward Morrell on a large granite boulder in front of the Jackson Laboratory off Route 3 on the south side of Bar Harbor.*2
St. Edward's School


Katherine Drexel’s body lies enshrined at the S.B.S. motherhouse in Bensalem, PA. For the good she brought to the poor and for the curative miracles attributed to her, she was beatified in 1988 and canonized a saint in the Catholic Church in 2000. Her feast day is celebrated on March 3.
St. Katharine Drexel crypt

*Footnotes:

1. The former convent is now the site of the Bar Harbor Historical Society and the school is an apartment building.
2. Morrell memorial GPS coordinates: N44° 21.823'  W068° 11.957'

Saturday, January 28, 2017


John D. Rockefeller, Jr’s Memorial
At an August 27, 2016 ceremony, during year-long centennial celebrations, the National Park Service deputy director and the Acadia National Park superintendent presented a long-overdue replacement memorial plaque honoring John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to David Rockefeller, Sr. and family members.*1 The bronze plaque was funded by private donations.

The original plaque, located on a rock wall overlooking the ocean at Otter Cliff, had been vandalized some time by 1991.*2 The word American had been pounded out.

The plaque inscription reads:
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER, JR. 1874 – 1960

These groves of spruce and fir, these granite ledges, this magnificent window on the sea, were given to the United States by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. He was among the first to sense the need to preserve America’s natural beauty and to set high standards of environmental quality. This quiet, dedicated conservationist gave generously of his time, wisdom and resources to help establish this park and others for the physical, cultural and spiritual benefit of the American people.

Library of Congress
JDR, Jr. (c.1915)
No other person is more responsible for the size and overwhelming popularity of Acadia National Park than John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The fifth smallest national park at 49,000 acres, with 31,000 acres at its main location on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, had an estimated 3.3 million visitors in 2016.
He donated $3,568,000 to the Park and related projects.*3 He gave it over 11,000 acres, helped finance and construct its 27-mile Park Loop Road and built a 53-mile network of carriage roads. Forty-five miles of those roads are in the Park today and include 17 unique stone bridges and 2 gatehouses. Locally, he gave Seal Harbor the land for its village green, after buying the old Glencove Hotel and having it torn down in 1919. In 1948 he gave 30 acres to the Jackson Memorial Laboratory in Bar Harbor after the widely devastating 1947 fire had destroyed the facility.

JDR, Jr., the only son of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (founder and president of Standard Oil Company) and Laura Spelman Rockefeller, was born in Cleveland, OH in 1874. He married Abby Greene Aldrich in 1901. They came to Mount Desert Island in 1908 and rented a Bar Harbor cottage called The Briars on the Shore Path off Wayman Lane. There Abby gave birth to their son, Nelson, later to be New York governor and U.S. vice president. JDR, Jr. had first come to the island in 1893 while a student at Brown University. In 1909 he and his family became summer residents of Seal Harbor and the next year purchased The Eyrie, a 150-acre estate.
He died of pneumonia in Tucson, AZ in 1960 and was buried in the Rockefeller Family Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, NY. In his will he left the U.S. Government an additional 1,500 acres on Mount Desert Island for “the extension or improvement of Acadia National Park.”

*Footnotes:
1 A special thanks goes to Earl Brechlin and the Mount Desert Islander newspaper for reporting this event.
2 Memorial GPS coordinates: N44° 18.482' W068° 11.345'
3 http://rockarch.org/bio/jdrjr.php