Maine’s outsized role in Civil War reflected in MDI burial grounds – 7th in a series …

Department of Corrections and Amplifications:

Some very knowledgeable sources corrected the following post. It seems the solider mentioned was buried in Virginia.

Here is Brian Bouchard of the Maine Old Cemetery Association: “I know this wasn’t the original intent of your post, but I thought you might find this interesting. Robert B. Higgins… although he has a memorial stone on MDI, he is actually buried in Richmond National Cemetery. I’m not sure where the “Salam Church” comes from on his MDI stone. His military records indicate he died at Bethesda Church after fighting in the Battle of Totopotomoy Creek. Another interesting “fun fact” about Robert is that his brother, Edwin Higgins (my ancestor), was fighting about 5 miles away the day he died. I did a talk about this family’s Civil War service (3 men fought – 2 returned) for the Tremont Historical Society a few years ago.

“The topic was this Higgins family who were from MDI and sent 3 men into the war … I did quite a bit of research into this family and Robert. his brother Edwin is my 4th great grandfather. Edwin’s son, also named Robert, is my third great grandfather – and he lived much of his life in Tremont, which is how I got connected with Tremont in my own research.

Another member of the Association, Cheryl Willis Patten, wrote that Higgins’s headstone is actually a “cenotaph – a tomblike monument to someone buried elsewhere, especially one commemorating people who died in a war. Families put up a stone – even though the soldier – or those lost at sea or .. were not actually buried in the local cemetery.”

It’s great to be corrected by experts. Here was the original post …


TOWN HILL, Nov. 28, 2020 – Robert B. Higgins’s broken headstone is barely legible today (see photo). He died on June 1, probably in 1864 after his regiment fought a battle May 29-30 in Hanover County, Va., just north of Richmond. The headstone said he died in “Salam Church, Va.” which might have been a misspelling. He was the son of Capt. Joseph M. and Eunice H. Higgins. He was 19-years-old.

Abolutionist fervor in Maine during the Civil War was so intense that it sent 80,000 soldiers and sailors to fight – a higher proportion to its population than any Union state. A stroll through the Mountain View Cemetery here underscores that.

There are at least eight Civil War soldiers buried here, according to Tim Garrity, retiring Mount Desert Historical Society’s historian. Half of them served in the First Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment, which suffered more casualties in a single day of fighting than any Union regiment during the entire war, in the so-called Siege of Petersburg, when the Union Army was trying to cut off Confederate supplies.

On June 18, 1864, Col. Daniel Chaplin, a merchant from Bangor, ordered an ill-advised charge across an open field toward Confederate defenses resulting in seven dead officers and 108 men killed, and another 25 officers and 464 men wounded. These casualties constituted 67 percent of the 900-man force. Chaplin survived the action but was later killed by a sharpshooter.


A beautifully written account By Tim Garrity on the charge at Petersburg called “All the Island Boys are gone,” may be accessed here –

Among those in the First Maine Heavy Artillery killed that day was George Kittridge, who is buried here. He was 23. Two other local Mainers, Stillman H. Smith (see photo), 20, son of Reuben and Lois Smith, died four days after the charge in Petersburg from his wounds; and his older brother, Reuben Smith Jr., 24, died a month later.

A month earlier the Maine regiment saw its first action and suffered heavy casualties at the Battle of Spotsylvania – six officers dead and 76 enlisted men killed. One was MDI native Elliot J. Salisbury, son of Reuben S. and Lydia H., who died in a Washington, D.C. hospital on May 31, 1964 from wounds suffered in the battle.

Eben F. Burns was the lone First Maine Heavy Artillery soldier buried at Mountain View who survived the charge at Petersburg. He lived to Age 67 and died in 1911.

The other Civil War soldiers buried here are:
Melvin G. Joy (husband of Maria W.) who died on Sept. 8, 1915 at Age 89. He was a member of Co. D, 22nd Maine Regiment.
Sylvester B. Richardson, 19, (son of Capt. Eben and Jane) who was killed on Sept. 17, 1862, at Antietam.

The haunting memories of the Civil War dead lends the air a heaviness over what already is a somber tableau. The cemetery rests on a hill cleaved aside the north-south highway which bisects the island. The view of the mountains appears permanent and without obstruction, except a few utility poles and wires.

This is a big cemetery, cared for by the West End Village Improvement Society. The names of the dead take up 20 full pages of Thomas F. Vining’s catalog of MDI cemeteries. The familiar Quietside families are all represented: Higgins, Hadley, Emery, Hamor, Knowles, Mayo, Richards, Richardson, Salisbury, Thomas …

Vining has a curious reference to an African-American family buried here, starting with the patriarch, Capt. Frederick Allen. From “When Frederic Allen was born in 1813 in Pennsylvania, his father, Juan, was 33 and his mother, Canelie, was 23. He married Climenia Higgins in Hancock, Maine. They had 12 children in 23 years. He died on October 30, 1885, in Bar Harbor, Maine, at the age of 72, and was buried there.”

Vining wrote that the following Allen family members are buried here.:

Charles D. (husb. of Julia E.) – b. 1867; d. 25 October 1940
Climenia (wife of Capt. Frederick) – [no dates]
Delmon [son of Capt. Frederick and Climenia?] – d. 15 October 1875, Havana, Cuba, Æ22y.
Flora B. (wife of Harvey F.) – b. 1867 d. 1951
Frederick (Capt.; husb. of Climenia) – d. 30 October 1885 Æ 72 y. Harvey F. (husb. of Flora B.) – b. 1863; d. 1901
Julia E. (wife of Charles D.) – b. 1859; d. 1 February 1944

But according to Eben M. Hamor’s 1908 notes published in The Bar Harbor Times in 1915, “There is a gravestone for Frederick Allen in Mountain View Cemetery. He was, however, originally buried ‘in his field on Spruce Point.’ “

The MDI Historical Society also has the following documentation of age and year for the Allen family:

Frederick Allen38485867dead
Climenia ([…]) Allen26364555??
    Edward W. Allen81827married and living in separate household
    Emily F. Allen61625[living? in separate household]
    Elvira E. Allen4142333
[see note below]
    Annette C. Allen21221living in separate household
    George D. Allen6 m.1020[living? in separate household]
    Delmon Allen717dead
    Frederick [H. or A.?] Allen515[living? in separate household]
    Mary H. Allen31328 [sic]??
    Ivory W. Allen1121??
    Harvey S. Allen919??
    Cora E. Allen716??
    Charles D. Allen312??

According to the 1881 Colby Atlas, a house for “F. Allen” was located at “Negro Point”… Just north of that point, but on the same broad peninsula, was the label “Spruce Pt.”

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information about the Allen family. A more robust history of famous African-Americans on the island and in Schoodic was published in 2017 …

Town Hill village society seeking to restore federated church ..

TOWN HILL, Nov. 28, 2020 – Members of the Town Hill Village Improvement Society are raising funds to restore the federated church at 1901 Crooked Road.

The attached flyer is being circulated:

The church has been in disuse. The roof leaked, the basement is flooded and there is significant damage to the wood inside. The building has no heat.

One of the organizers, Diane L. Vreeland, posted on Facebook, “I am thankful for all of you who have already given. It is very motivational. Every amount counts and it truly is an historic building with stained glass. If you lived close by you would have heard the beautiful bell ring. I couldn’t help myself.”

New SWH bar taking it to the next level during pandemic

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Nov. 27, 2020 – With 17 years of bartending and food service experience between them, Renee Miller and Jose “JoJo” Feliciano put up their shingle 11 months ago and gave birth to Next Level Sports bar about 50 yards down from the Southwest bicycle shop on Main Street.

They took over a building which had been vacant for seven years. Shortly after their baby arrived in September, they waited until New Year’s Eve to open.

What possibly could go wrong? The economy was roaring, a big customer base for a local hangout awaited them, and for the first three months of 2020 the returns were indeed felicitous. “For two and a half months business was excellent,” Renee said.

Then came the national emergency declared on March 13, followed by lockdowns, quarantines and a new paradigm for the food service business.

Renee and JoJo swung into action with cocktails to go, and meal deliveries,. “We had a slow first week” until folks learned that this was going to be the norm, said Renee.

The restaurant never closed but indoor dining was limited. The owners are going making it through that first harrowing year, and hope to fulfill its promise of being the Quietside’s friendly sports bar. Next Level is open seven days a week. After the football season, it will close Sundays.

I am partial to their Buffalo wings and looking forward to try the Spanish rice bowl. They validate parking in the adjacent private lot.



MDI has little time to build a much needed regional middle school

SOMESVILLE, Dec. 1, 2020 – More than a century ago, the concept of “middle school” took an enlightened turn – to focus on a curriculum that was more substantial and physical space more differentiated than that in elementary schools. It recognized the peculiar characteristics of a population with a developing frontal lobe. Plus, the traditional K-8 schools were beginning to become overcrowded and unwieldy to manage.

A leading thought-leader in the late 19th century was none other than Harvard President Charles W. Eliot who helped found the summer community of Northeast Harbor. He, George Dorr and John D. Rockefeller Jr. were later credited with the founding of Acadia National Park.

Eliot was so many things but as an educator, he was a lion. Not only did he create the modern Harvard, he also had profound influence on secondary education. wrote, “During his presidency Harvard raised its entrance requirements, and other major colleges did likewise. This, in turn, effected a corresponding rise in secondary-school standards.”

Eliot was a driving force behind the concept of a middle school. The first middle school was established in 1909 in Columbus, Ohio. There was a burst of adoption in the Sixties when Grades 6-8, or junior high (7-8, or 7-9) became the norm for most of the United States. To be sure, some districts have moved back to a K-8 system but those were mostly driven by cost considerations during the Great Recession.

So it is a puzzlement that Mount Desert Island remains an outlier which still clings to a K-8 system despite being home to one of the greatest education innovators of American history.

But now MDI faces a major decision. It has a small window of opportunity which may not be there for another 50 years – to create an islandwide middle school similar to the high school which has served MDI communities so well.

The issue is exacerbated by exigent needs. Tremont School has run out of space. Bar Harbor’s Connor Elementary is falling apart. Both are grappling for solutions, any solution, as the situation has been made urgent by the rigorous enforcement of pandemic-related logistics. Only a year ago, Bar Harbor began to discuss the idea of building a new school. That idea has been shelved for now. But if Bar Harbor ever built a new school, there will be no chance to build an islandwide middle school.

I asked Heather Jones, chair of the combined boards, on the status of the middle school proposal. “It comes down to funding,” she said. She cited two factions – some Mount Desert residents and Tremont teachers – who have vocally opposed a single middle school.

But that would go against a straw poll last summer that asked the question, “Are you in favor of the school board continuing planning efforts for a combined, district-wide middle school?” The votes were 1,237 to 598 in favor in Bar Harbor, 439 to 205 in Mount Desert, 158 to 62 in Southwest Harbor and 273 to 199 in Tremont.

The opposing voices in Mount Desert may be small but they have a point. No islandwide school will be viable without the largesse of Mount Desert because the formula for contribution from each town is largely determined by the tax base under which Mount Desert dwarfs everyone else by several factors.

Last year a 16-member committee of teachers, parents, administrators, school board members and others in the community proposed the creation of a Grades 7 to 8 middle school to be a new building located on the campus of MDI High School.

That committee presented its recommendations to the school system board May 13, 2019. Its vision was for “a combined middle school that directly targets the ever-evolving academic, social and emotional needs of its young adolescents.”

Mount Desert Islander veteran reporter Dick Broom wrote that committee member Maria Simpson, who teaches at Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor, said, “We believe that a middle school with a unified vision of education could deliver even more challenging, relevant, engaging and hands-on learning. We feel a combined middle school would draw families and students to the area. It could also serve as a model of middle school innovation.”

Middle school committee co-chair Marie Yarborough told the board that, throughout its deliberations, the group kept two guiding principles in mind: “One, keep the students at the center of the conversation and the recommendations; they are our constituents. And two, whatever we recommend has to be a better version of any middle level experience than exists in our district today.”

After the committee’s presentation to the school board, all of the school principals, along with Supt. Marc Gousse and curriculum chief Julie Meltzer, issued this statement: “Administrators felt strongly that a single middle school could support student government and greater student engagement (e.g. green team, civil rights team) and provide equitable programming opportunities prior to high school.” School Supt. Marc Gousse told QSJ a middle school created in his previous job in Westbrook, Maine, had Grades 5 through 8 and that he is open to adding another grade if need be.

The decision by the 16-member did not include Tremont. Members said Tremont representatives and teachers attended the meetings in the beginning of the process and then stopped attending. QSJ made several calls to Heidi Lawson, Chair of Tremont’s school board, but she did not respond.

In Fairfield County, Connecticut, where I lived for 20 years, the town of Wilton, with 18,000 year-round residents, has one high school, one middle school, one Grade 3-6 school and one pre-K to Grade 2 school.

What I admired about Wilton is that by consolidating, they were able to offer luxuries – a pre-K to Grade 2 school, for instance. So imagine Tremont and Southwest Harbor sending their Grade 6 to 8 kids to a new middle school and relieving their current overload. Can we create a Pre-K to Grade 2 program in Tremont and a Grade 3 to 5 (or 6) program in SWH? Those schools are 7 minutes apart by bus.

The middle school kids would receive a better education. Parents would be delighted at the addition of a Pre-K program, and there would be no space crisis.

But the reality is that the The Mount Desert Island Regional School System, with a year-round population of 10,000 has nine schools and too many school boards to count. It reports to 11 bosses, including the state. Only the high school is a truly regional school. The Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS ’91) on MDI, Trenton and the islands south of here was in response to Gov. John Baldacci’s effort in 2007 to consolidate schools to save costs.

Unlike the high school, the member entities of an AOS still have their own individual school boards.

“I want to give a shoutout to Nancy Thurlow,” said Supt. Gousse Monday night in front of the AOS ’91 school board. “She manages 11 budgets and 11 audits.” Gousse is a clever guy and a great operator. Did the board members pick up his signal: 11 budgets! Seriously?

Gousse said in a phone call that the enormous behind-the-scenes effort to keep this hamster wheel running are invisible to parents as they drop off their kids, the school board members, and the kids themselves.

Separate from the middle school consideration is another subcommittee investigating ways to reorganize AOS ’91 to make it more efficient. Gousse said work already has been done to streamline operations such as working off of a single school calendar, setting universal policies, negotiating a single union contract and unifying health insurance. But there’s more to do, such as centralizing hiring to spread the work. “If the Cranberry Isles wanted to hire a 20 percent Spanish teacher, they could never make that happen,” Gousse said. “But if the district had a Spanish teacher, we could share that teacher.”

It would help to see an analysis – a true forensic analysis – on the benefit of consolidating central office costs versus the true “soft” cost of operating a highly constipated system of juggling reports and other demands from so many different entities catering to so few constituents. How many calls does Nancy Thurlow get a month? How big of a support staff does she have? How many of those requests are of substance and how many are frivolous? This is Maine, so I assume the adults in the room are mostly adults and respect each other’s duties. But nonetheless, dear reader, here is a link to the school board page of Alternative Organized Schools 91 and you may decide for yourself whether this is a well-oiled system …

Local control is laudible until it’s not.

Principals were hired to be educators. “They weren’t intended to oversee building maintenance,” said Heather Jones.

Tremont Consolidated School is an underachiever as evident by standardized test scores and as reported earlier by QSJ. There is no upside to protecting under-achievement. Tremont kids have benefitted over multiple decades from attending Mount Desert High School, one of the best in the state. The high school is what lawyers would call prima facie evidence that the streamlining of resources and talent can truly lead to exceptional results as MDI high school consistently ranks in the top 10 of Maine’s 161 high schools.

It gives bragging rights to all involved.

Is it time to pull the rip cord on this question of a single middle school? Time is running out.

Boards, committees, services atrophy as volunteerism fades

SOMESVILLE, Nov. 21, 2020 – This week, we heard the lament over inadequate ambulance staffing on the Quietside, the need to recruit a new harbormaster and deputy for Southwest Harbor, the continuing talk of police consolidation spurred on by the challenges of recruiting officers for small towns and the chronic vacancies on town boards and committees.

Two years ago, the Town of Tremont unceremoniously booted the planning board chairman from his perch after he went AWOL. That only exacerbated the problem of finding competent people who would serve on these boards. The town in July reduced the number of planning members to five and the terms to three years from five.

This year Mount Desert filled its vacant spot on the board of selectmen by wooing elementary school teacher Geoff Wood, photo left, to be a write-in candidate. He got 28 votes. He’s is now a selectman.

“I’ve always had an interest in politics, law and policy. And civic duty runs in my family. I plan to live out the rest of my days in this town, so I figured it was time I stepped up and did something for it,” Wood said in an interview with the Islander. “I do have some concerns about the direction that the island communities seem to be going in with regard to commercialism, away from community … I’m very interested in affordable housing, sustainable energy and policies that are not necessarily focused exclusively on the dollar.” 

But spirited citizens like Wood are harder to find.

“It doesn’t get easier,” said Mount Desert Town Manager Durlin Lunt. “We have fewer year-round residents who want to serve and they are getting older.” Lunt said he only has one committee, the harbor committee, which he doesn’t have a problem filling.

“Citizen engagement” was one of the top five issues which kept local officials awake at night, according to a survey conducted by software provider Diligent Corporation.

Mount Desert’s Zoning Board of Appeals is such a case study. The ZBA is an important small town institution – to ensure a town’s growth is in keeping with its heritage and history and to check the planning board. Keeping a ZBA thriving is in the public interest, not to mention saving taxpayers enormous legal fees.

Unfortunately, the Mount Desert ZBA has not been able to meet since the summer. It has had a vacancy the selectmen have not been able to fill. The ZBA now only has six active members. It canceled two meetings since late summer because it could not muster the necessary quorum of four members, according to board chair William Ferm. The meeting before that also was canceled because a power outage thwarted meeting by Zoom.

An application to re-build a house in Northeast Harbor approved by the planning board in June has been in front of the ZBA since then with no movement. The approval is being challenged by a neighbor.

Similar to Tremont, the Mount Desert ZBA chair is asking for relief from the current ordinance that requires seven members. In an interview, William Ferm said several times he was willing to work with the town’s land-use zoning ordinance (LUZO) advisory committee to fashion a way forward amenable to all.

Ferm said the selectmen should immediately fill the seventh seat, and, if not, consider changing the quorum from four to three if there are only six members. He also floated the idea of adding two alternates. At a meeting of the LUZO committee Tuesday, members questioned how they could find alternates when the ZBA can’t even fill the seventh seat.

Meanwhile the Lapsley family of Northeast Harbor who had hoped to complete construction of a family compound last summer must wait. Their application is now scheduled for review on Nov. 24 but it’s anyone’s guess whether that will actually happen because two ZBA members already have recused themselves, citing conflicts of interest. That leaves only four members.

“We are close to the bone,” Ferm said. “We’re at critical mass at this stage.”

The status quo is not a neutral stance. In this case the appellants, William and Marjorie Grace, would like nothing better than for construction not to start. In a phone interview, their lawyer seemed perfectly content with the chronic delays.

Perhaps it’s time to activate the seasonal residents. The virtual attendance of board and committee members during the pandemic worked flawlessly. Is there a hybrid model to allow snowbirds to sit on boards and committees like that which worked so well with year-round residents? It’s also not a bad idea to get seasonal residents more interested in the workings of their town for which they pay copious taxes.

Covid update: reassuring hospital doctor, CEO walk QSJ back from the edge during pandemic fears

BAR HARBOR, Nov. 20, 2020 – Julius Krevans will pass on an item on his shopping list if he detects that another shopper near him was not properly masked. He also gives wide berth to individuals who are exercising and breathing heavily – as far as 12 feet away. He has favorite restaurants on MDI but he only does takeout.

Krevans is also “Doctor Krevans,” one of the frontline clinicians at Mount Desert Hospital who has seen Covid-19 up close and is learning every day on how best to treat the disease.

He gives MDI an excellent grade for its handling of the pandemic. “We’ve seen very few person-to-person transmissions here.” Compared with similar communities in states like Idaho, Wyoming or eastern Colorado, the rate of Covid on MDI is less by a “factor or 10 to 20,” said Krevans who worked as a rural doctor in Alaska for 20 years before coming to Maine. MDI also has had zero cases of in-hospital transmissions.

He attributes the low rate to the willingness of the citizenry to effect communal behavior in everyone’s interest. MDI has not reported a new case in almost a week, after a surge of cases in the first half of November.

In total there have been only 31 positive tests on MDI since March, six of whom were visitors from out of the county. At least 17 of the 25 Hancock County positive tests were of MDI residents. There was one admission to MDI Hospital and two patients transferred to other hospitals, one of whom who died. As of this writing, this may be the first week without a positive test in a month.

When asked about the current drug regimen to combat Covid, Krevans said, “The best drug is great nursing.” Nurses in rural hospitals must be the “Jack and Jills of all trades.” From proper application of oxygen to ensuring how patients lie in bed. – “You’d be surprised at how important that is,” Krevans said.

The subject of testing drew a different reaction from Krevans. “It’s our biggest challenge.”

“Starting with the place – where you test – to the person who gives the test, to what supplies are used, to even what part of the nose you swab,” Krevans described an unwieldy array of possibilities which sow confusion and possible mistakes.

The hospital possesses two of its own rapid testing machines but its supply kits are limited. Krevans is waiting for the promised delivery of 50 kits a week to stabilize rapid testing. The hospital is also awaiting shipments of antibody drugs which, he said, have proven to be the most promising drug treatment.

Christina “Chrissi” Maguire <br>CFO/COO

It was reassuring after talking Krevans and hospital CEO Chrissi Maguire this week about the state of the pandemic on the island.

With education and programs such as the Covid-19 task force testing of 200 frontline workers and the high school testing program underway, Maguire is confident MDI will turn the corner. “We’re in excellent shape,” she said.

But Krevans emphasized that it takes only one careless person to ignite a spread such as the breakout at the Kidspeace facility in Ellsworth which issued the following statement Wednesday:

“KidsPeace is happy to report no new cases of COVID-19 associated with the KidsPeace Graham Lake Campus since the last update. The total number of individuals that have tested positive is still at 26 (15 youth and 11 staff members) and 82 negative tests. We are exceptionally pleased to report that 12 of the 15 kids who tested positive are now officially recovered. Similarly, 5 of the 11 staff who tested positive have also recovered and have returned to work.” As of the last report Nov. 15, Ellsworth had by far the highest rate of positive tests in Hancock County with 43.

Right after Halloween, folks went indoors and could not contain their “aerosolized” behavior, Maguire said. Eating and talking are two extremely aerosolizing activities which were more forgiving in an outdoor environment.

For about two weeks after Halloween there was an unquestionable surge on MDI. “But it seemed to have plateaued for us,” Maguire said. There were specific pockets of a “family unit and another social unit” which contributed greatly to the surge on the island, she said.

Krevans is having the same concerns about Thanksgiving and urged residents to wear masks even when inside with friends and relatives.

Special care needed to be taken in break rooms, cafeterias and other congregate settings where people were likely to be unmasked and emitting fine sprays, Maguire said. She worries about the fatigue of the hospital staff who are performing exhausting work as both care workers and social resources for their patients.

QSJ readers may help by donating to the Covid-19 support fund at the hospital …

SWH town manager sounds alarm over staffing of ambulance service

SOMESVILLE, Nov. 19, 2020 – Bar Harbor is the only municipality on MDI with a full-time 24/7 professional ambulance service instead of volunteers mixed in with per diem workers such as that serving the communities of Tremont, Southwest Harbor and Mount Desert. The latter is now being questioned as whether it should be the model going forward.

This was the topic of a recent meeting of MDI town managers, so reported Southwest Harbor Town Manager Justin VanDongen to his selectmen board Tuesday night.

“I think something needs to be said to really push the Tremont/Southwest Harbor Ambulance Service into making a change and making sure that they’re going to be here in a year, in five years or ten years or come up with a plan if they don’t plan to be,” VanDongen said.

That was followed up by selectmen chair Kristin Hutchins who said, “We just can’t find people to do the work.

“Until this spring we had adequate staff … we’ve lost three of our per diem paramedics. November is particularly difficult because some people have gone hunting.”

Multiple times this year there was no ambulance staffing and the Quietside went uncovered, VanDongen said.

The situation in Mount Desert is not as dire because the ambulance service has opted to pay for an extra backup in case the pandemic wreaked havoc with the scheduled shifts. But it too is looking al all options, said ambulance service chief Basil Mahaney, including adopting a Bar Harbor model someday or consolidating with Southwest Harbor and Tremont.

Mahaney pointed out that Bar Harbor has more than three times the call volume than that of Mount Desert. Mahaney, who is a paramedic in Bar Harbor, said it has about 1,000 calls a year compared to 300 for Mount Desert. The volume also means Bar Harbor has a richer revenue source for ambulance payments from users and insurance reimbursement to support a professional staff.

Paramedics from MDI ambulance services with new heart monitors in 2017. From left, Margaret Houghton of the Northeast Harbor Ambulance Service, David Buccello of the Southwest Harbor-Tremont Ambulance Service and Basil Mahaney of the Bar Harbor Fire Department. MDI Islander photo

Mount Desert has had a separate volunteer ambulance service since 1938, a non-profit which is supported mostly by donors. It receives only about $10,000 a year in support from the town plus use of facilities to house the ambulances.

Southwest Harbor and Tremont also has a non-profit service but it gets $72,000 a year from SWH and $50,000 from Tremont which make up about half its revenue.

“What do we need to make sure that the ambulance service is going to be successful in the future? And we need to know the realities of it, VanDongen said. “It just can’t be the general request for money again this year. We really need to take a look at what the investment this community needs to make to provide ambulance service to its residents.

“I think there is frustrations on a lot of fronts as far as staffing, funding, billing,” he continued. There needs to be some changes … “

Hutchins added, “I’m extremely concerned about it … I think it’s appropriate to turn up the heat a bit. If we’re not pushing, I don’t think it’s going to get solved.”

Michelle Kaplan no longer at her job at MDI Hospital

SOMESVILLE, Nov. 19, 2020 – Michelle Kaplan not only lost her race for the 132nd House seat in the Maine legislature, but she also no longer has her job at Mount Desert Island Hospital. Hospital officials confirmed today that Kaplan has submitted her resignation. She posted on Facebook she left for another opportunity.

Kaplan made statewide news when the emergency room physicians assistant went to work after appearing at a Trump rally without a mask and came in contact with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who later was diagnosed with Covid-19.

The following article appeared on The Quietside Journal in late October:

MDI Hospital staffer (GOP candidate) quarantined after mingling without mask at Trump rally

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SOMESVILLE, Oct. 27, 2020 – Michelle Kaplan, an MDI Hospital emergency room physician’s assistant, has begun a 14-day quarantine after a photo appeared on Facebook showing her at the Trump rally Sunday in Levant, Maine, along with several prominent Maine Republicans, includingcandidates in both Congressional Districts. Kaplan is the Republican candidate for the 132rd House seat in Maine.

She was in at least two photos with Dale Craft and Jay Allen who are running against Democrats Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree. One included Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff. Allen is a family physician in Waldoboro.In response to a question from QSJ, Kaplan stated she is “voluntarily self quarantining for 14 days out of an abundance of caution. I will use this time to catch up on some household projects, perhaps produce a painting or two, and make some homage goodies.If I display any symptoms whatsoever I will be sure to get tested.”

She clearly failed to comply with Maine CDC guidelines where she appeared unmasked at the rally. Facebook posters said she worked at least one 12-hour shift at the hospital after the rally.

Kaplan did not answer a QSJ question of whether she worked a shift after the rally and before the quarantine.

An MDI Hospital spokesperson said, “While we cannot discuss individual personnel matters, we can assure you that any employee known to have acted in a manner that does not follow proper health and safety protocols in accordance with our policies and the guidance of the MaineCenter for Disease Control and Prevention will be required, at a minimum, to quarantine for 14 days, receive mandatory education and training, and be subject to disciplinary action.

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“MDI Hospital follows all Maine CDC guidelines for distancing, masking and screening in order to provide a safe environment for patients to receive care and needed services.We take the health of our community very seriously and will take every appropriate action to continue to provide our region with safe, responsible care in accordance with CDC guidelines and our health and safety policies and procedures.” The 132rd seat is held by DemocratNicole Grohoski.

Tuesday night the Bangor Daily News reported that the owner of the orchard which hosted the Trump rally publicly regretted allowing the event to be held saying and that its attendees did not practice good social distancing or mask-wearing in the middle of a pandemic.

Here is the link to the statement

High season for deer collisions; dozens of families benefit from the meat

SOMESVILLE, Nov. 18, 2020 – To snowbird readers of QSJ who are ensconced in their Florida condos, Arizona casitas or California beach houses, there is no venison for you!

That’s because there is very little chance of you hitting a deer with your vehicle.

In Maine, however, there is a one in 91 chance of your vehicle colliding with a deer (or other animals) which was what happened to me two years ago as I drove my rental car away from the Southwest Harbor waste station. The deer actually ran into me.

This is high season for collisions because bucks are “in rut” and seeking a mate. According to State Farm, Maine ranks second only to Rhode Island in New England as having the best chance of a collision and is considered a high risk state. For deer MDI is actually a pretty good deal. There is no danger of being shot because hunting is forbidden. And the habitats are fecund and food is abundant.


Venison is my favorite red meat but it’s very difficult to procure. QSJ residents more resourceful than I have figured out an easy way to get deer meat. They are on a rotating list of claimants at MDI police departments. Police first offer the dead deer to the driver and then refer to the list of folks willing to come to the scene.

For the less adventuresome, here are State Farm’s recommendations to avoid a collision:

1. The most important thing you can do during rut is slow down, keep your eyes peeled on both sides of the roadway and be prepared to come to a complete stop if necessary. Deer don’t stop, look and listen before they dart into the roadway. Deer-crossing signs warn of where they’re most likely to cross, but you can’t count on that, especially during rut.

2. You don’t want to blind oncoming motorists, but you should use your high beams when possible to increase your chances of seeing animals in the ditches. Flicking on your high beams might cause animals to scurry away, but it’s not a sure thing. Your headlights might actually temporarily blind or confuse them, and they might dart in front of you.

3. Know all you can about deer lifestyles and when they’re most active: around mealtime. Deer crashes usually occur an hour after sunset but also are common around sunrise, according to published research, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down at other times.

4. Know that when you see one deer, you’re likely to see another. They travel in herds, often in single file.

5. Don’t veer to avoid deer. No good will come from that. Most car-deer crash deaths and injuries occur when motorists swerve to miss the deer. Instead, brake firmly, hold on to the steering wheel and stay in your lane as you bring the vehicle to a controlled stop.

Also, because it makes sense, make sure you’re wearing your seat belt. If you do hit a deer, it will decrease the chances you will be injured.

Susan Collins can wield great power in the Senate – but will she?

SOMESVILLE, Nov. 13, 2020 – Edmund Muskie died in 1996, the same year Susan Collins was elected to the United States Senate where Muskie served 21 years before becoming secretary of state under Jimmy Carter. He was among Maine’s pantheon of high octane leaders – George Mitchell, William Cohen and, of course, Margaret Chase Smith, who died in 1995 at Age 97.

Cohen was the first Republican senator to vote for impeaching Richard Nixon. Mitchell was majority leader when the Clean Air Act was re-authroized in 1990 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was passed.

William Cohen in 2014

Smith was the first woman to hold seats in both houses of Congress. She famously called out Joe McCarthy at much personal risk in a 15-minute speech on June 1, 1950 known as the “Declaration of Conscience,” in which she denounced “the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this side of the aisle.”


 She said McCarthyism had “debased” the Senate to “the level of a forum of hate and character assassination.” She defended every American’s “right to criticize … right to hold unpopular beliefs … right to protest; the right of independent thought.”

“I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny—fear, ignorance, bigotry, and smear.”

Today, there are only four senators with more seniority in the Senate than Susan Collins. They are Chuck Grassley, Mitch McConnell, Richard Shelby and Jim Inhofe. Not only does Susan Collins own substantial seniority, she could play an outsized role as part of a small moderate bloc of the Senate.

David Brooks of the New York Times suggested this in an interview with Mitt Romney in which he floated the idea of just such a bloc, which presumably would include Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

” … deal-making and moderate senators could form bipartisan gangs around specific issues and try to force McConnell’s hand. Re-elected senators like Susan Collins have potentially immense power in a closely divided body,” Brooks wrote.

Romney told Brooks of areas where bipartisan approval was possible: fix prescription drug pricing and end surprise medical billing; an immigration measure that helps the Dreamers and includes E-Verify; an expanded child tax credit; green energy measures. Others include an infrastructure bank, shoring up American supply chains so we’re not so dependent on China, expanding non-college career pathways, industrial policy to benefit the Midwestern manufacturing base.

A moderate GOP bloc could ensure these succeed over the recalcitrance of a majority leader who is not interested in governing, Brooks wrote.

Other national media outlets are baying at the moon as well. “Collins’s GOP colleagues see Democrats’ failed campaign in Maine as giving her even more juice than before,” Politico wrote.

And the Washington Post: “Biden’s agenda may rest on centrist Republicans — and the return of a bygone Senate era.”

This week Susan Collins flashed signs of independence once familiar to Mainers when she said on Thursday the White House should give intelligence briefings to incoming Biden immediately. This was after she joined a handful of Republicans in congratulating Joe Biden. She also publicly has been agitating for a new stimulus bill to be passed before the end of the year.

Shortly after her win on Nov. 3, Collins received a congratulatory call from an old friend, Joe Biden. The two won overwhelming support from the Maine electorate made possible by split votes in huge numbers. It set up an interesting dynamic where both now own tremendous equity in Maine which may allow them to work together and lessens the risk for Collins.

Collins said she believes Biden should generally get his Cabinet confirmed, even as President Donald Trump refuses to concede, because she gives “great latitude to presidents in choosing their Cabinets.”

Biden “and I have a long-standing relationship that goes back many years and we worked on issues together in the Senate as well as when he was vice president,” Collins said this week. “It doesn’t mean that if he appoints someone who is way out of the mainstream, that I wouldn’t oppose them.”

All the post election comments augur well for a return to the Susan Collins with a bipartisan sensibility.

It harkens back to a time when she and Olympia Snowe were tabbed “The Sisters” in how they voted in unison as a small bloc of moderates from Maine.


But the media, as is its wont, overly dramatized that narrative. In truth Collins and Snowe couldn’t stand each other, as so well articulated by the Washington Post back when its Style section did such in-depth features:

The lesson is that you don’t have to be friends to be politically like-minded.

“Colleagues in both parties are now in awe of how much sway Collins has after handily winning a race in which she was largely outspent and didn’t lead a single public poll down the stretch,” Politico reported. “Whenever something contentious comes up in the Senate, one of the first questions will be: What does Collins think?”

“She’s sort of like Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who labored for Collins’ vote for six years as party whip. “You’re going to have to work for it to persuade her.”

Collins said at least eight Democratic senators have come calling since she won. And the first call was at 7:30 a.m. after Election Day from aisle-crossing supporter Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), who asked her: “What can we do next? How can we work together?”

“These were by and large my friends. It wasn’t Chuck Schumer calling me, let’s put it that way,” Collins said. “Some of them told me frankly that they’d been instructed by Chuck to not co-sponsor my bills, not work with me to advance legislation. Now, some of them followed that instruction from him but some did not.”

“What she went through and the way they lined up against her? I think that fully empowers her in the way she beat it back,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.).

The simple fact that Biden and Collins spoke recently shows how different her relationship is with the president-elect than it is with the current president. Collins works with top White House officials but rarely speaks to Trump.

But it remains to be seen how much fuel is still left in the tank for this heretofore independently leaning war horse. Politicians tend to become more risk averse not more. While Margaret Chase Smith voted against two of Richard Nixon’s Supreme Court nominations, she also publicly supported the Vietnam War.

It will take a lot for liberals to overlook Susan Collins’s ignominy – voting for Brett Kavanaugh, removal of the individual mandate which dealt the Affordable Care Act a big blow and against impeaching Donald Trump.

But if she can get the Senate back to a semblance of bipartisanship, all will be forgiven.

Hearth&Harbor shows off oven, opening with takeout Nov. 11

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Nov. 7, 2020 – It’s not exactly the most propitious time of the year to open a new restaurant on the Quietside but the owners of Hearth&Harbor next to the library at 336 Main Street are willing to give it a go after working behind veiled windows covered by newspapers since summer.

QSJ was dubious last summer when they promised they would open in 2020 but apparently they will.

Starting Nov. 11, they will offer takeout and work their way eventually to indoor dining. The restaurant will be open year-round, the owners said, joining Sips as the two year-round establishments. Drydock Cafe’s last day is today Nov. 7. Rogue Cafe has been opening three nights in previous winters but have not announced its intentions this year.

Nonetheless, H&H will be a welcome oasis in the barren winter of MDI. Even in Bar Harbor, the offerings are sparse and unpredictable. One good ice storm could drive an owner to hibernate in Florida.

Hearth&Harbor sent me its menu which is posted here. If the clam pie is anything remotely close to Pepe’s in New Haven I shall be ordering it on a weekly basis.

The centerpiece of H&H is a beautiful pizza oven made with special tiles which were fired with silt from the Rhone Valley in France.

Pizzas will be 12 inches and start around $12 apiece.

Two restaurants on MDI have popularized this concept – Blaze and Sweet Pea Cafe.