In November 1938, a few months after he got married and started his new job as an Acadia National Park ranger, Karl Jacobson was shot near Schoodic Point. He died two days later.
This month, nearly 81 years after the shooting, Acadia National Park has erected a monument to honor Jacobson, who was 22 years old when he was killed at the hands of a poacher who mistook him for a deer. Jacobson remains the only law enforcement ranger at Acadia ever to be killed in the line of duty.
Stuart West, chief ranger at Acadia, said that he advocated for erecting the memorial, which is located outside the ranger office at the Schoodic Woods Campground near Winter Harbor, to help preserve Jacobson’s memory. A line-of-duty death is “meaningful” within the relatively small community of law enforcement park rangers and should be noted, he said, as some have been at other national parks.
As of this past summer there were fewer than 1,800 full-time and seasonal law enforcement rangers spread among the more than 400 National Park Service properties nationwide, according to a report by USA Today.
Plus, West added, because it occurred so long ago, not many people today know about Jacobson’s death in defense of Acadia’s natural resources. This is true not only of tourists who come to visit from afar, but also of many people who have lived in the area for a long time.
“He left behind a new wife,” West said. “I didn’t want his story to be forgotten.”
The memorial consists of a large, rounded piece of granite with a plaque and a bronze ranger’s hat bolted to the top, as if a ranger had just put it down momentarily, West said. It is not located where Jacobson was shot — known only to be somewhere along the park’s Schoodic boundary at the time — but park officials wanted it in a place where the public would see it, he said.
Jacobson’s death is one of only three homicides ever in Acadia National Park.
Mark Reed, 18, of Southwest Harbor, was shot and killed on Thanksgiving Day in 1982 at Seawall picnic area. Clifford L. Strout, also of Southwest Harbor, later was convicted of Reed’s murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Kathy Frost Larson died in 1987 after her husband of a few weeks pushed her off Otter Cliffs in order to collect insurance money. Dennis Larson later was convicted of murder in her death and, on Dec. 31, 2001, killed himself by leaping from a window at Maine State Prison in Thomaston.
According to historical data collected by the park, deaths from falls or drowning are the most common types of death in Acadia. Of the 81 deaths in the park since its founding in 1916, 33 people have died from falls and/or drowning.
Eleven people have died by suicide, while 14 people have died from natural medical emergencies such as heart attacks. Seventeen have died as a result of road accidents, most often in motor vehicles but at least one on a skateboard and another on a bicycle. This figure includes three people who died last month in a car crash on Park Loop Road in the deadliest incident ever in the park.
Other deaths have been more unusual. One person died in a plane crash in 1970 and another died in a blasting accident when the road to the summit of Cadillac Mountain was under construction in 1929. In 1919, Henry W. Brown, 14, died when his gun accidentally went off and fatally shot him in the leg near Eagle Lake, according to the recently released book “Death in Acadia,” by Randi Minetor.
Deaths occur at all national parks.
Since 1990, when the park changed the method by which it estimates its annual number of visits, Acadia has averaged 1.67 deaths per year. The volume of people at Acadia since 1990 has grown from about 2.3 million visits to 3.5 million visits in each of the past two years.
Over that same time period, Acadia has had a total of more than 74 million visits and 50 deaths, averaging one death for every 1.48 million visits.
By contrast, Grand Canyon National Park, which had 6.28 million visits in 2018, averages 12 deaths a year, which amounts to less than one death per 500,000 visits, according to a CNN report earlier this year.