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Finding Family in Maine

July 19, 2017

This is a reworking of a post from 2011 for the Family History Travel with Kids Blog Link Up at Family Locket.  Click the link to read more posts on incorporating family history
in your family travel plans.

The boys had been telling everyone for years that we were going to Maine in 2011.

People would say, “Oh, do you have family back there?”  And we would say, “No…..”

Not now, but we did.  Both of my parents have family lines that come through Maine and I think there’s just something about Maine that must be in my blood.  My husband also has ties to Maine.  His grandmother was a Goodwin and we can trace the Goodwins clear back to Maine in the 1750s.

His 6th-great-grandpa was one Samuel Goodwin, a major in the colonial militia and one of the Kennebec proprietors who settled the Kennebec River valley in the 1750s.  When the Pownalborough Courthouse was erected on the east bank of the river inside Fort Shirley, Major Goodwin and his family moved in as caretakers.  When the town of Pownalborough was split in the 1790s, the court itself moved to the town of Wiscasset, and the Goodwin family and its descendants remained as the inhabitants of the “Old Court House” until the 1950s when it was finally sold to the Lincoln County historical society which still maintains it.  Today the Pownalborough Courthouse is the only pre-Revolutionary courthouse still standing in the state of Maine.

DH and I decided to take kind of a dream trip for our 10th wedding anniversary and track down some of our roots in Maine and Nova Scotia.  We were able to have a personal tour of the Pownalborough Courthouse after we ran into the president of the historical society by happenstance and mentioned we were related to Major Samuel.  Both the tour and walking through the family cemetery on the grounds were an amazing experience for us both.  Our tour guide left us with these words, “Be sure and come back in 2011.  The courthouse will be 250 years old and we’re going to have a big birthday celebration.”

So we came home and told the boys we had to go back to Maine in 2011.  They started planning!  We were always hearing about “our trip to Maine.”  Then suddenly it was 2011 and we had to sit down and figure out if we really could pull off a trip to the East Coast that year.  Thanks to SkyMiles and a nice tax return, we worked it out.

And so in September 2011, we found ourselves on the banks of Kennebec for a day of fun and celebration and the opportunity to experience some of the life our ancestors must have lived.  The trip was not without its mishaps (as most of our family trips never are), but it was an incredible experience that I don’t think any of us will ever forget, and worth every penny!

Standing on the land of their forefathers:

The view in the opposite direction, overlooking the Kennebec River:

Visiting the cemetery on the grounds where many family members are buried:

Colonial games, this one is called Cat and Mouse:

Nine pins:

Rounders, the grandfather of baseball (and much more fun in my opinion):

There were a number of re-enactors there that day.  This guy was dressed as a French-Canadian settler and cooked some amazing salmon and sourdough bread over his fire.  He also gave me a hair clip made from a turtle shell that would have been used to repel bugs when rubbed with bear grease.  He said it will also work if sprayed with insect repellant and then worn (which is much more appealing than bear grease!)

Incidentally, in 2012, my father and I broke through one of our genealogy brick walls and discovered that our ancestor in Maine, a very English-sounding George King, was in fact of French Canadian descent, so this re-enactment was actually relevant to our family history as well, although we didn’t know it at the time!

Members of the Goodwin and White companies who provided us with musket and cannonfire, and military drills for the kids:

The current head of the historical society portraying Major Samuel Denny with the judge come to take  possession of the courthouse and declare court in session, 250 years and 1 day after the original anniversary of Sept. 9, 1761:

Following the judge in the procession into the courthouse:

The courtroom (photo from 2007):

The boys were still going strong with their muskets long into the evening while period music and dancing were happening on the courthouse lawn:

One last view over the river:

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 19, 2017 8:27 pm

    I can tell your kids loved the trip!! What a fun time! So glad to meet a fellow mom and family historian.

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