George Gilpin, the Church Historian for the Southwest Harbor Congregational Church, believes he has found the answer to a mystery carved into a granite ledge at the Seawall area of Acadia National Park. The inscription crudely carved into a rock facing the sea appears to say, “1895 – 1900 CHH” or perhaps “1895 – 1900 GHH.” If the latter, Gilpin believes the inscription likely refers to Rev. George H. Hefflon, who served as pastor of the Mount Desert Congregational Church. According to Gilpin, “The inscription could be nothing more significant than graffiti left by the Reverend or an admirer.”

In July 2016, Theo Gardiner, then a student at the Harrow School in London, UK, interned at the Mount Desert Island Historical Society and volunteered to try to find a solution to the mystery. He found a 2007 article in The Bar Harbor Times that reported the site might mark the spot where a child, perhaps Charles H. Hodgkins, Jr. (C.H.H) was washed out to sea. However, Gardiner’s research showed that Hodgkins, though born in 1895, lived until 1987.

Don Lenahan, in his 2010 book, The Memorials of Acadia National Park, noted that the inscription might be either “CHH” or “GHH” but that “No individual has yet been identified to these letters.” Lenahan concluded, “The mystery remains.”

Gardiner went to the Maine State Archives in Augusta and searched all the birth records from 1895 and all the death records from 1900 but found no one with corresponding initials and lifespan. Thinking a child lost at sea may have come from away, Gardiner searched newspaper obituaries from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, but to no avail.  He appealed to the public for answers in a press release published in the Mount Desert Islander in July 2015. This article caught George Gilpin’s attention and he remembered it when he came across Rev. Hefflon’s name and dates of service while working with the church archives. He thought there was a good chance that he had found the meaning of the rock’s inscription.

After his service in Southwest Harbor, Rev. Hefflon went on to serve as a “General Missionary to Deaf Mutes” in the Episcopal Diocese of Boston. In 1923, a newsletter for the deaf community reported he would take a respite from his pastoral duties due to ill health. The report said, “The great exertion he put forth to carry forward the Christmas festivities in various cities in New England was too much for him to shoulder and the result was he simply broke down.” Hefflon died in Saybrook, Connecticut in 1925.

Theo Gardiner is now a student at the Groton School in Massachusetts. Upon learning of Gilpin’s discovery, he wrote, “I am so excited to hear about George Gilpin’s discovery, it is a mystery that had stumped me for two summers and is characteristic of the great history that surrounds the island.”