For Dorr, ‘Earth is our common heritage’

From the October 31, 1963 Bar Harbor Times

Retrieved by Deborah Dyer, Bar Harbor Historical Society


A man in the group gathered on the village green glanced up at the clock towering above them. The minute hand stood at five minutes of 12.

“C’mon, Strout, what’s five minutes?” he said. “He’s not gonna show.”

Strout shook his head stubbornly.

“A deal’s a deal,” he said.

The men muttered.

“Hey, look coming.” One of them pointed down Main Street.

A team was running toward them, dust rising in a billow from the wheels of the buggy behind it. It stopped abruptly by the green.

“Harry Lynam. Woudn’t you know,” muttered one man.

Lynam and his passenger, a tall gaunt man with walrus mustache, got out of the buggy and walked over to the clock.

“I’ve come to take up my option on the spring, Mr. Strout,” said the taller one. “I see I have three minutes to spare.”

“Yes, sir, you just made it,” replied Strout a little uncomfortably.

The others turned on him angrily.

“You can’t do this to us, Strout. We even got the money together.” The speaker waved a fistful of bills under Strout’s nose.

“A bargain’s a bargain,” Strout said. “I told him he could have first no and he’s in time to take it up.” He surveyed the newcomer coolly from the crown of his soft gray cap, his shabby shit, to the toes of his dusty shoes. “I reckon you got the money to pay for it.”

“Yes, of course,” said the other shortly. “Come, Mr. Lynam, we’ll get the papers signed.”

This spring would be, he thought, one of the foundation stones for the plan which must eventually be developed. It was an ambitious plan, one which would affect the lives and future of thousands of people.

He was born and bred in a period when a few men of vision, among whom he must be numbered, foresaw that which is obvious to everyone today: That a time was soon approaching when Americans by the hundreds of thousands would yearly spend vast sums and hard-earned leisure seeking a segment of the America their forefathers had taken for granted, expecting it to persist forever.

Without men like George B. Dorr Americans would turn in vain today from the crowded cities to seek rest and relief among the forests and lakes of the mountains, along the shores of the nation’s great rivers, along the sand beaches and rocky coasts of the seaboards.

Dorr had just purchased the area which would later be known as the Sieur de Monts Spring. It was not the first piece of land to be acquired by the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, but it was one of the earliest parcels set aside in what would eventually become the Acadia National Park.

“There was … a spring sunk deep in the woods near the Great Meadow’s southern end,” he wrote later, “which the old Indian trail along the foot of Flying Squadron Mountain passed by on its way to the Gorge and the ocean-front at Otter Creek. This was on land owned by the Rodick brothers, Fountain and Serenus, who with their father owned and operated during Bar Harbor’s early resort period the largest hotel in the town, the Rodick house.

“From them John Prescott now secured a lease, with option to purchase, on ten acres of woodland where this spring had flowed out, and, enlisting the aid of Ora Strout, active in the transportation business of the town, set out the develop the spring along the lines of the one he had lost at Harden Farm.

“This spring was truly a magnificent one, well worthy of the development they planned, but such development costs money and presently John Prescott, unable to bear his share, turned over his interest in the lease to his associate who himself soon after stopped, retaining in return for his expenditure the lease from the Rodick brothers and the unfinished building.

“Springs from boyhood on have always held a singular interest for me, an interest heightened by years of travel abroad where, from the earliest historic period on, they have been objects of mystery and worship. And this spring was wonderfully placed, with the mountains rising steeply up beside it, contrasting with the Great and Little Meadow lands on either side. Hidden as it was by the concealing woods, I had not realized its existence till Strout and Prescott’s work began, but now that it had come to a halt, I set myself to see for what price it could be obtained and added to our Reservations. But the price was high, $5,000, and there was no other purchaser in sight, so I let the matter lie, entering only into an agreement with Ora Strout not to sell to another without first giving me the opportunity to buy. And there the matter rested; there seemed no need for haste.

“Then one fair spring morning in 1909, when I was out, here and there, looking after work I had in hand, Mr. Harry Lynam, knowing the interest I had in the tract, drove up hastily, out searching for me, and said:

“Mr. Dorr, a bunch of them up town have got together and raised the money to take over the option on the spring, which they believe to be essential to your plans. Ora Strout gives you until noon to take it, but will sell to them upon the stroke of twelve unless you close with him first. Cash in hand, they are waiting by the clock upon the Village Green till noon shall come to make the purchase. What will you do?”

What Dorr did in buying Sieur de Monts Springs was characteristic and would become increasingly the mark of the man in the work he had set out to accomplish. That work was to save many of the more beautiful spots on Mount Desert Island for future generations, and without his energy and devotion it is highly probably that there would never have been an Acadia National Park. Many other men contributed to its beginnings and its buildings, but the story of the Park and of George B. Dorr cannot be separated.

In 1913 when plans were first starting to make a national park of the Reservations he wrote:

“We are passing into a new phase of human life where men are congregating in vast multitudes … but it is not a question of breathing-spaces and physical well-being only; it goes far beyond that … The times are moving fast in the destruction of beautiful and interesting things. The lost opportunity of one year becomes a better regret of thinking people in a few years more.

“Life will always be a compromise between conflicting needs, but its needs are not material only … the earth is our common heritage.

“There are tracts of land which for their beauty and exceptional interest — or their close relation to important centers — should be inalienably public, free to all.”

Nor was his only thought for preservation of Mount Desert Island. Of the Appalachian region he wrote:

“This region of woods and mountains, terminating in a magnificently natural region of the north, presents possibilities of incalculable importance to crowded city populations of the East and South, and the Great Central plains. To save it to the utmost in beauty, and refreshing quality is imperative, in view of the great coming need; and it is yet more imperative to save for those who will come after us the forest’s wealth of tree and plant species, of bird and other life.”

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