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Photo Friday: A 6 year old map and where it got us

November 16, 2007

I’m trying to follow President Eyring’s counsel to keep a record of the hand of God in our lives.  Here is an experience we had in Maine in September. 

I have a road atlas.  I love my road atlas. I happen to love all maps, but feel especially inclined towards this road atlas.  We bought it in Ohio when we flew out to visit DH’s family when A was just a baby.  It has guided our way on many a road trip since.  I also keep it handy for when I’m doing genealogy and need to see where places are. 

When we were looking at vacation options for our tenth wedding anniversary in August, our original plan was to fly to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where DH’s 3rd-great-grandfather came to from England.  After consulting calendars, babysitters for the boys, flight options, the road atlas, how much money we had to spend, and the fact we still don’t have passports, we finally opted to go in September instead of August, fly to Maine and then drive to Halifax, hitting all the family history sites we could come up with along the way (we both have family that come from that part of the world).  We were leery of doing a road trip after driving to Ohio and back last summer, but seeing how it was only 600 miles one-way instead of 1700, and we wouldn’t have three boys with all their stuff in the backseat, we decided to go for it.

The prime motive for going to Maine was to visit the Pownalborough Courthouse in Dresden which, besides being the only Pre-Revolutionary War courthouse left in Maine, was home to Samuel Goodwin and members of the Goodwin family for over 200 years.  DH’s grandmother was a Goodwin and we’ve been fascinated by this piece of property for years.  We’re major history and genealogy buffs here.  We always said we’d visit one day.  It was looking like one day was now.

The (very late) night before we were to leave, while frantically printing out maps and driving directions to hotels and other such places on our itinerary, I suddenly remembered that the courthouse was only open on the weekends after August which was when we were originally planning to visit.  I copied down the phone number of the Lincoln County historical society which now owns the courthouse, and figured we could call them and possibly arrange to see inside.  If not, I figured we’d at least drive by it, take a picture, do something.  But I forgot to write down how to actually find it.

We landed in Portland, Maine, on Thursday, September 6, after three different flights and found our hotel easily enough.  Our plan for the next day was to find the Pownalborough Courthouse then head to Wiscasset for lunch, then be on our way towards Pittston, Farmingdale, and Newburgh before heading towards the Canadian border.  

We called the historical society several times but only got an answering machine.  So we started out that Friday morning with our handy dandy road atlas in hand, only to find ourselves going in the wrong direction on the wrong road.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, the state of Maine decided to renumber not only all the exit numbers on the freeway, but the freeways themselves in the six years since we bought the handy dandy U.S. road atlas.  DH is generally the driver on our road trips, and I’m the navigator.  I love poring over the map and planning and following our route.  But the route and the map were not matching up that day. 

I was searching all the exit signs and when I didn’t see any towns that we should have already passed, I began to get worried, not to mention frustrated.  After seeing a sign that cautioned “No Services for the next 40 miles” I finally realized we were on the Maine turnpike, which we shouldn’t have been on, and were heading north rather than fairly east on the way to Lincoln County.   We finally found an exit and DH took it, then kept driving so by the time I figured out where we were, we were no longer there.  This is a common occurrence with us when we’re in unfamiliar territory, the one with the map isn’t the one with the car keys, and I’m trying to figure out which way is east when the Wasatch mountains are nowhere in sight.  I finally had to tell DH to “STOP driving.”  I directed him to a gas station where I could buy a new map.  I’d had it with the old one. 

Now we could see where we were, where we were supposed to be, and how far apart the two were.  We drove through some lovely rural Maine countryside, though most of the state is lovely rural countryside as we found out.  We also found out that the town of Dresden doesn’t even appear on our new road map.  Dresden Mills–yes, Dresden–no.  We ended up on the road into Wiscasset along with many other late-summer tourists.  I suggested we eat lunch first since it was already past noon and not knowing how to even find the courthouse, our plans were already shot.  We ate at Sarah’s Cafe and had some incredible haddock chowder and homemade bread, thus starting my love affair with seafood on that trip.  Fish just does not taste like that in Utah.

After lunch, we were trying to figure out which side road out of Wiscasset would lead us to Dresden and I remembered seeing a sign for the historical society museum and jail.  We followed the sign and drove to the museum, hoping to find someone to help us, and the sign said it was open on Saturday and Sunday only.  We drove around the parking lot and were about to turn onto the main road when I asked DH to drive back around and ask the man digging in the side yard for help. 

DH got out of the car and approached the man, asking about the courthouse and how to find it. 

“It’s closed, you know.  It’ll be open this weekend, are you going to be in the area for a few days?  Are you from around here?” he asked, noticing the Massachusetts plates on our rental car. 

DH replied that, no, we were just driving through, we’d just flown in from Utah and were headed to Nova Scotia.  We were hoping to visit the courthouse, and said, “Oh, by the way, I’m a descendant of Major Samuel Goodwin.”

Well, the doors just flew open.  The man just happened to be the president of the Lincoln County Historical Society.  He just happened to be there at the jail just then waiting for somebody to come consult him on an archaeological dig he was working on of the jail’s original drainage system.  We just happened to drive through Wiscasset, stopping for lunch before heading to Dresden due to issues with our 6-year-old map.  We just happened to drive by the museum and catch him there.

He was so excited when we mentioned Samuel Goodwin.  He said, well, we couldn’t come all this way and not see the Courthouse if we were related to the Goodwins.  He took us into the museum, washed up, and starting calling everyone he could think of who could meet us at the Courthouse and show us around.  Nobody was available, so he called the guy coming to meet him to see if he could wait another hour or two.  He came back to us and said he’d take us over himself and show us around.  We couldn’t believe someone would be so willing to completely rearrange an afternoon to accommodate us.

We followed him to Dresden and up the lane to the Courthouse which is situated on the banks of the Kennebec River.  It was built in 1761 by a group called the Kennebec Proprietors.  Fort Shirley surrounded it, and Major Samuel Goodwin was commander of the fort and retained possession of the Courthouse after the county seat, and thus the court, moved to Wiscasset in 1794.

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Our guide gave us the grand tour of the 3-story building.  Everytime he talked about the Goodwins, he would say “your family” or “your ancestor” did this or did that.  It was quite moving for both of us.  We even got to touch Samuel Goodwin’s table.  After the tour, he showed us where they’ve marked out a nature path along the river.  He told us to follow it for about a quarter of a mile until it heads back uphill and we’d end up across the road from the cemetery which he was sure we’d be interested in.  That was an understatement.  We were thrilled to find it.  We took pictures of every headstone and found a few names we didn’t have on our family charts.  It was such a quiet spot, I’ve always loved cemeteries.  It was hard to leave it behind, but we realized at last we needed to be on our way. 

We are still completely amazed at the way everything worked out that day.  It had seemed as if there wasn’t any chance of us even finding the Courthouse, let alone being able to go inside it, and hearing a more complete history of DH’s family.  But as we thought we were losing our way, I know we were being guided right to where we needed to be, when we needed to be there.

The courtroom:

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Governor Pownal, for whom Pownalborough was named:

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Fireplace in the original kitchen, Major Samuel Goodwin’s table is in the lower right-hand corner:

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18th-century graffiti–Prisoners were sometimes housed at the courthouse overnight instead of being taken back to the jail.  One prisoner of war from the British sloop Polly took advantage of his time there and carved his ship into the wall of the courthouse.

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Framed silhouettes of members of the Goodwin and Twycross families:

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The Old Courthouse Cemetery:

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We have felt prompted to share what we found and have set up a Goodwin Genealogy website where I’m slowly uploading the pictures we took in the cemetery and listing Goodwin family members.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2007 7:04 am

    Oh, wow! How wonderful that everything worked out so perfectly.

    Rhonda

  2. November 19, 2007 12:07 pm

    What a wonderful experience. I guess it really pays to know your personal lineage. I love the photos.

  3. November 22, 2007 9:14 pm

    A very amazing experience. Thank you so much for sharing it! I’m glad everything worked out so well. The spirit of Elija is alive and well.

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