What’s in a name of a place on MDI? Inside Hank Raup’s 38-year journey to find out ..

SOMESVILLE, Sept. 23, 2020 – Ever wonder why a place has its present-day name?

Some may be obvious. Eagle Lake. Beech Hill. Echo Lake.

But what about Acadia? The Bubbles? (hint: origin has an anatomical bent)

For 38 years, Henry A. Raup has been researching the origin of the names of places on MDI, where he spent his first summer vacation in 1959. Since then he’s been coming about “every other year.” The other years were spent mostly in Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. Three years ago he moved to Somesville permanently.

He was a professor of geography at Western Michigan University. As an academic, he was free to roam and study during the summer. He found Mount Desert, an 18-hour drive from Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Henry Raup’s shingle as professor of geography hung.

Henry’s father had an interest in the origin of the names of places in Ohio and built an enormous archive of research. The son inherited that penchant. In 1982, Hank Raup began a similar project to categorize names of places on MDI. He conducted his first interview which would become a labor of love that would last almost 40 years.


His manuscript, which he calls gazetteer, is nearly complete and he has asked the Mount Desert Island Historical Society to help him get it published. This week a band of preservationists hailed by Tim Garrity, Mount Desert historian, gathered at Raup’s home in Somesville to help him push his tome through the last mile to publication.
“It is relevant to mention that Hank has developed a visual impairment that will make it difficult for him to review the manuscript at the level of detail that it deserves, thus our request for extra help,” Tim Garrity wrote in his call to arms.

Raup gave enormous credit to Tim Garrity for galvanizing his team to help bring this project to the goal line.

And what a project. The section of places starting with the letter “B” is 54 pages by itself.

I was reminded of Thomas F. Vining, author of Cemeteries of Cranberry Isles and the towns of Mount Desert Island, who recorded every grave in Bar Harbor, Cranberry Isles, Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor and Tremont.

Both men are extremely private. Vining declined to be interviewed when I called him.

Raup calls himself a “hermit,” although he did agree to this interview. He has given himself a deadline of January to complete the manuscript. The project then will be in the hands of the editing team at Mount Desert Historical Society.

Raup is a serious scholar and took pains to ensure the true historic dimension of each name. When I brought up the surprising genesis of “The Bubbles,” he was quick to point out that the fishermen who gave the name to the twin peaks were practical people who needed effective ways to identify landmarks and that it did not necessary have a “salacious” origin.

This work is about to join the pantheon of books about the island we treasure. In addition to Vining, I recommend “Roots in the Rocks,” by Charles Child, “A Maine Hamlet” by Lura Beam, “A History of Little Cranberry Island” by Hugh L. Dwelley, “Traditions and Records of Southwest Harbor and Somesville” by Mrs. Seth S. Thorton, “Crossing Lines” by Judith S. Goldstein and “Maine Ways” by Elizabeth Coatsworth. Each has its special place but none with the scope and reach of Henry Raup’s opus.

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