Important things first. My cousin Haven Younger flew all the way from Napa, California, where she had been vacationing, to Maryland, where she lives, changed suitcases, and, on the next morning, flew to Portland, Maine to join me in Thomaston for the second round of my book signing adventure. I hadn’t seen her in ten years.
Equally important, third cousins Amy MacDonald and Charles Fletcher, whom I had never met, and only came to know as a result of this genealogical adventure, joined our event from their nearby homes in Maine.
Through my membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, I found Mary Kay Felton, who is the regent of the Lady Knox Chapter of the DAR as well as a director of the Henry Knox Museum (known as Montpelier) in Thomaston. Mary Kay invited me to read/sing my book and have a book signing during the museum’s “Boom” event about Revolutionary War Artillery. Henry’s Big Kaboom fit right into their theme.
I had visited the Knox Museum in 2006 when I first learned I was a Knox descendant. I was disappointed that the family tree of Knox descendants that hung on their wall did not include my great-great-grandfather, Charles Gordon Ames.
Charles had been an illegitimate child. He was the son of Lucy Anna Thatcher, who was the daughter of Lucy (Knox) and Ebenezer Thatcher. Lucy Knox Thatcher was the daughter of Henry and Lucy Knox. (A stack of family letters that is now in the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College proves this.) During the time Lucy Anna was pregnant with Charles, it was socially unacceptable to be an unwed mother. She gave him up to foster care. The foster parents gave Charles his last name Ames. No one yet knows with whom Lucy had her pre-marital affair, so we don’t know what Charle’s father’s last name was. However, as mentioned in an earlier blog post, new DNA results have given us a lead. (To be continued on a later blog post.)
Charles’ existence was kept a secret for a very long time, especially in the Knox family. When I learned I could launch my book at the Knox Museum, I made it my mission to add Charles Gordon Ames and his descendants to the wall. In the process of updating the family tree (see a previous blog post), I got to know, via emails and phone calls, many third cousins including Amy MacDonald and Charles Fletcher (shown above).
Amy MacDonald is also a children’s book author. She brought her books and read two of them. Little Beaver and the Echo and Rachel Fister’s Blister.
The museum is a 98% re-creation of the original Montpelier that, until the 1930s, overlooked the St. Georges River in Thomaston. The original was built in 1794. Thomaston has a long colonial history. Montpelier stood where explorer George Waymouth, back in 1605, surveyed the river in search of places for future British colonies.
When Henry died, his daughter Caroline inherited the estate. When she died, her sister (my 4x-great grandmother) Lucy inherited the estate. She left her son Henry the heir. Henry Knox Thatcher wanted nothing to do with the maintenance nightmare. He sold it and the furniture at auction. The house went to ruin.
When the railroad was built through Thomaston, the house had disintegrated beyond repair. It and all but one of the nine outhouses, an old brick farmhouse, were torn down. The railroad turned the farmhouse into the Thomaston Train Station. Now it is the Thomaston Historical Society. The society’s director Susan Devlin kindly showed me around even though the building was technically closed in June for repairs.
The land on which the original Montpelier stood had been part of Henry’s wife Lucy’s family’s estate. My 7x great-grandfather Samuel Waldo obtained the Waldo Patent way back in the 1600s. It included today’s Waldo and Knox counties in Maine.
Samuel’s daughter Hannah Waldo married Thomas Flucker – Henry Knox’s in-laws and my 6x-great grandparents.
Thomas Flucker was a Tory when revolution broke out in Boston. He served as the Secretary of the Province of Massachusetts. He and Hannah were pretty shaken up when their daughter Lucy fell in love with a rebel. But they did consent to the marriage. When Henry’s guns chased the British out of Boston, Thomas and Hannah sailed to Halifax with the British, never to see their daughter again. They also lost their rights to the Waldo Patent. After the war, Henry was able to work with the US government to obtain the lands back. Then he and Lucy built Montpelier.
In the 1930s, the Henry Knox Chapter of the DAR gathered enough money to build the new replica that is now the museum.
It is about a quarter mile north of the original. In the next photo, I am standing where the old house was. You can see the museum in the distance.
When I arrived at the museum, Bailey, one of the delightful docents, gave me a tour. She showed me the paintings of my 6x great grandparents Thomas and Hannah (Waldo) Flucker (above). She showed me many paintings of Henry but no paintings of his wife Lucy because none exist, at least as far as anyone knows. Bailey guided me to a painting of Henry and Lucy’s daughter Lucy (my 4x-great grandmother, and one of only three of Henry and Lucy’s thirteen children who reach adulthood). I also saw Henry’s bed,
one of Henry’s many bookcases,
and the oval room. This oval room is one of only two oval rooms built during that era — the other is in the White House. Henry built his first. Even the doors are shaped to fit the perfect oval. The room served as an entryway meant to impress visitors. On the wall is a painting of Henry. Another painting shows George Washington’s first cabinet. Henry was the first Secretary of War. He served with Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Edmond Randolph, and of course, George.
Among his many talents, Henry was a brilliant engineer. He designed this stairway that is supported only by the arches.
Just up the road from the museum, Haven and I found the cemetery where Henry and his family are buried. The names of Henry’s wife and children cover the faces of all sides of the monument. Only Henry’s name has been preserved so you can still read it easily.
Henry’s daughter Lucy’s husband, Ebenezer Thatcher (my 4x great grandfather) has his own stone with one of Lucy’s daughters, Mary Henrietta (who married a Hyde).
Thanks so much to Director Matt Hansbury, the museum’s board and docents Sarah, Lindsay, and Bailey. Lindsay also helped with the video.
And thanks to my friend Jane Dimitry for trekking the three hours each way from Boston to join me.
Added attractions for the weekend were lobster rolls at McLoons in Rockland.
And on the route between Boston and Thomaston, I stopped to shop at my favorite store, LLBean.