Orient, Maine - Feb. 6, 2023 - Two brooks in Orient may get nationally-approved names. The Bangor Bound Brook and the Calais Bound Brook. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey map and illustration Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli

ORIENT, Maine — Two nameless brooks have quietly rippled through a small Aroostook County town mostly unnoticed by locals until two lifelong friends started talking about them a few years back.

The brooks are just off the Boundary Road in Orient, separated by only a quarter of a mile as they make their way toward the Atlantic Ocean. A geographic anomaly known as a water divide, causes each brook to travel in a different direction, one toward Bangor, the other toward Calais.

When the late Bob Ellis, a beloved local optometrist, pointed the brooks out to his friend Richard Rhoda before his death five years ago, Rhoda started thinking about the brooks. Since the 1950s, the two men often shared tales tied to the regions’ bodies of water, especially during their childhood days at Grand Lake, and Rhoda decided it was fitting to get the brooks recognized in remembrance of his friend.

First, the two brooks needed names.  

“If it wasn’t for him we would not know about the brooks and this would not be happening,” Rhoda said. “The basic thing is most people did not know about the brooks, and they are special with their geographic proximity and their divergent paths.”

And if the U.S. Board on Geographic Names approves their application, the brooks will be nationally recognized as Bangor Bound Brook and Calais Bound Brook.

Officials in the tiny town of 156 appointed a brook naming committee. Naming the brooks draws attention to the bodies of water for tourists and teaches locals something new about their town, said Rhoda, a local attorney who leads the committee.

Most of the town residents had no idea about the brooks and when the committee started talking to individuals, they were aghast, Rhoda said.

“High school student Kaylee Hayes was on the committee and she was so excited she shared it with her grandfather who did not know and now they can teach about it in the local schools,” he said.

To start, Rhoda went to the two culverts off Boundary Road to see where the bodies of water were heading.

Brooks and other smaller tributaries like creeks and streams are important bodies of water that combine to form rivers, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Calais Bound Brook goes over into McAllister Cove, into Grand Lake and works its way down into the St. Croix River that spills into Passamaquoddy Bay, eventually into the Atlantic Ocean. The Calais Bound Brook goes under Boundary Road and follows the U.S. and Canada border. The Bangor Bound Brook Bangor Bound Brook goes under the Boundary Road and Route 1 in Orient, heading toward Skagrock Brook and the Mattawamkeag, flows into the Penobscot River; down through Bangor,  into East Penobscot Bay and then into the Atlantic Ocean, Rhoda said.

As required by the national naming body, the Orient Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the recommendation of the town-appointed brook naming committee.

Later this month —  but before the national naming board’s review — the Aroostook County Commissioners will consider approving the application.

“Every brook is entitled to a name,” Rhoda said, adding that what makes this so interesting is that each brook is traveling in a different direction.

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, reviews name change requests from applications each quarter. In the most recent review, there were 413 name change or new name requests from 46 states, including Maine. Many of the requests were approved while some are still under review. Changes were requested for previously unnamed geographic features, like Orient’s two brooks, some because the current names are derogatory and some to reflect local or family history.

In Maine, three National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration name change requests were for Hancock County islands with derogatory names. These islands will now be called Bagaduce Island, Upper Bagaduce Island and Lower Bagaduce Island. In Somerset County, the name Beaulieu Hill was requested for a previously unnamed summit.

The Bangor Bound Brook and the Calais Bound Brook will be in an upcoming U.S. Board on Geographic Names cycle.

Once the names are nationally recognized by the U.S. naming board, the town plans to install signs, noting the brooks.

The process could take several months, Rhoda said.

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Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli

Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli is a reporter covering the Houlton area. Over the years, she has covered crime, investigations, health, politics and local government, writing for the Washington Post, the LA...