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"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Romantic Independence Day: Inside Old Fort Western - Part 1


Fort Western, Augusta, Maine
Oldest standing colonial fort in America, circa 1754.

ro·man·tic

Marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized.



Carla & Brad in the window seat of
the dining room at Fort Western.
Is there anything more romantic than a colonial fort? This author of historical romances thinks not, at least when I'm thinking of Independence Day or reading our friend Laura Frantz's novel The Colonel's Lady. Last month on our wedding anniversary my husband and I took trip to nearby Augusta, Maine to visit  Old Fort Western. It also happened to be their Memorial Day weekend season opening so admission was free and we were greeted by many cheerful reenactors. I understand that two of them recently said their wedding vows at the fort!

Built in 1754, during the French & Indian War, as a fortified storehouse to support Fort Halifax, 17 miles to the north and to protect its own region, Old Fort Western is the nation’s oldest surviving wooden fort. On the banks of the picturesque Kennebec River, the impressive fort with two large and two smaller blockhouses and a 100 x 32 foot main building that was built from the great pine forests surrounding the area. Hundreds of hand hewn 12 x 12 beams support the fort. The Fort was built by the Kennebec Proprietors, a Boston-based land company seeking to settle the lands along central Maine's Kennebec River that had been granted to the Pilgrims more than a century earlier when my Pilgrim ancestor, John Howland, commanded the trading post at this site. The company and the Province of Massachusetts were interested in expanding their influence in the area as part of an effort by Britain and her colonies to take final political control of North America and to sever the ties between the Abenaki Indians and the French in Canada. One of the Kennebec Proprietors, Captain James Howard, garrisoned the fort with a provincial military unit made up of his sons and 16 other men and four cannons sent by Governor Shirley as a defense against the Indians.

Captain Howard purchased the fort for $500 to be used as his residence (becoming the first permanent settler) and opened a store in what had been the military storehouse section of the main house. For the next 50 years, this store was a center of trade between the new settlers on the Kennebec and Boston, New Foundland and the West Indies. In the 19th century, the fort was transformed into a tenement house sheltering immigrants fleeing the Irish potato famine. Falling into demise, the fort was rescued by a descendant of  the Howard's and Old Fort Western was opened as a museum in 1922. 


Today, the story of the "Old Fort" is told through living history programs that emulate daily life at the fort during the 18th century. Like the stories we told in our serial A Forted Frontier Holiday, I'm certain that there are many tales that could be told about life in this fort, only these stories are true.

Here's a glimpse inside Old Fort Western from my visit there on Memorial Day. I'm looking forward to returning on the 4th of July! Please join me on Wednesday, July 3rd, for Part 2 of A Romantic Independence Day when I share some of the stories from inside Old Fort Western.


CLICK HERE FOR A FULL SIZE SLIDESHOW

Do you have a favorite historical romance about the French & Indian War or the American Revolution? Have you ever read a novel that takes place in a fort? Have you ever visited a fort?



GIVEAWAY:  For those who comment on this post and/or our post on July 3th (two chances to win), you will be eligible to win a copy of my book Colonial Courtships that features my novella Carving a Future, which is set in the same time period that Old Fort Western was built.

12 comments:

  1. It's not exactly the same as a fort, but I have been to a stockade built during the Sioux uprising of 1862. It lacks some of the romance, having been thrown together purely for protection and not as a permanent living space.

    I particularly enjoyed Laura Frantz's three Kentucky novels, "The Frontiersman's Daughter," "Courting Morrow Little," and "The Colonel's Lady."

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    1. Rachael, that sounds very interesting. What history behind that! I adore every one of Laura Frantz's novels. Have you read Love's Reckoning, her Christy Award nominated novel?

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  2. This is so cool, Carla, thanks so much! I love Fort Michilimackinac and Fort Mackinac in Michigan, both of which are reproductions. I'm just back from visiting both! Love this post and the pics!

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    1. Thank you, Carrie! What a pleasure to share it with you. I thought of you often while I was there and our Forted Frontier Holiday. Also, I know how much you enjoy the Michigan forts. I'd love to see those someday.

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  3. Hi Carla--

    This is wonderful! Wondered why I loved this era....everything was so simple, sturdy and uncluttered. Sturdy and well-built enough to last a lifetime. Simple....(I even remember kids could work on their own cars in the fifties, and make them work). And finally, clean and uncluttered. (Just can't handle the complexities of today's world.:)

    Loved the interior shots, and pictures of the fabrics and trader's goods. Maybe some good pics to send to Early American magazine? ;)

    Thanks, Carla!

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  4. I have never read a novel romance in a fort! Sounds great. :) I am partial to my Michigan forts - especially on Mackinac Island. Love visiting that one!
    Susan P
    farmygirl at Hotmail dot com

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  5. No books come to mind except THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. I'll be taking note of those mentioned because it is a fascinating period.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  6. Thank you for these wonderful photos and the history lesson. Somehow I thought I heard wheels turning for a new romance novel. Can hardly wait to see what you concoct.

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  7. I have visited Fort Loudon in Tennessee. It is fairly small I think but it was interesting to see the history there.

    I have also read & loved both The Frontiersman's Daughter & Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz.

    Beth
    bharbin07[at]gmail[dot]com

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  8. I have visited Fort Watauga Elizabethton, Tennessee, which was a Revolutionary War fort; Fort Nashborough in Nashville, TN, which was a frontier fort; Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island, Michigan, which was built during the Revolutionary War, and Fort Sumter.

    I really enjoyed your post. It is very interesting and educational.
    may_dayzee (at) yahoo (dot) com

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  9. This sounds like a wonderful place to visit! Here in MN we don't have too many interesting places like that.
    Would love to win the book.
    bettimace(at)gmail(dot)com

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  10. Nice blog, thank you for doing this and for the chance to win this book.

    wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

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