Pokagon and Cuyahoga

As I write, I’m parked in front of my baby brother’s house in Buffalo, where I spent the night. Trouble is, my brother is missing. He and his wife were delayed in Toronto so I won’t catch up with them until the wedding of our niece this weekend. Now to this blog.

After leaving my rellies in Minnesota, I spent a free night in a Rest Area in Wisconsin. Here is Ramsey parked between the Big Boys.

From there I headed toward Chicago. I followed a brief wild goose chase by seeking out a Riverside Cemetery just outside the other Windy City, where I thought my great-grandfather was buried. Lesson learned – copy genealogy notes more carefully. After learning no Knowlton Ames was buried there, I did some Googling with my cell phone and learned he was buried in Rosehill Cemetery. Since that meant backtracking, and I had 1000+ miles ahead of me before the weekend, I pushed on.

In the northeast corner of Indiana, I spent a beautiful, star-covered night in Pokagon State Park. I was one of only three guests.

Then I drove into Ohio, where I found Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It is just south of Cleveland. Whereas Arches NP is known for its rock formations and Rocky Mountain NP is famous for its 12000-ft-high drive, this NP is meant to preserve the history of the era of the Erie Canal. The hour or so drive up the valley follows an old canal, now mostly grown over, and the towpath, now manicured as a hiking or biking trail. Fun to see was the old lock.

Cuyahoga Valley NP is also known for its waterfalls. Brandywine is the most famous (photo above). Arthritic Annie was allowed to walk the boardwalk trail with me.

I had to carry her back up the stairs, poor girl.

Today we scurry through upstate New York.

I’m in Wisconsin

It is stormy and green here in the cheese state, but gorgeous.

Since my last post, I spent a peaceful night by the lake at Split Rock Creek State Campground just east of the Minnesota border – the best site for a night in Ramsey ever.

About 15 minutes up the road, I toured Pipestone National Monument, where American Indians have mined the red stone used for peace pipes for as long as their oral tradition remembers. The red stone is thought to contain the blood of their ancestors, hence a very spiritual stone.

This reproduction of a painting by George Caitlin shows the mines in the middle of the prairie in the mid 1800s.

Then I dashed through corn field after corn field to St Paul on the other side of Minnesota to visit my third-cousin-once-removed, Leila. She turns 94 this Thursday. I spent two nights in a real bed.

On Saturday, we toured Grand Hill, where her side of our family lived for four generations, and where my paternal grandmother spent her childhood. The current owner of 501 Grand let us look around.

This morning, more of my third cousins gathered for breakfast. Here are four generations of Ameses.

Next destination, Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. I must drive through Illinois and Indiana first. I’m due in Vermont for the wedding festivities for my niece on Friday.

Wind Cave and Badlands National Parks

I’m on the 10th day of my 6-wk Swing Around the USA, which I should probably rename “Zoom Around the USA.” On travel days, I’m driving between 215 and 297 miles a day, not counting the first leg from Pasadena to Zion, which was 433 miles. I’m paying between $2.77 and $3.59/gal for gas depending on how remote I am. I thought I would boondock more, but so far I’ve had only one free night. The free view over the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was amazing, but I wasn’t very comfortable with the isolation. Feeling less brave, I look first for state park campgrounds, which are gorgeous and inexpensive ($12 to $24 so far), then RV Parks ($33 to $45). I’ve only had to dump my tanks once. I prefer my own coffee to anything I can buy out and eat lots of fruit and granola for breakfast. In order to eat plenty of veggies, I cook most of my dinners. Cooking and eating outdoors is a nice thing to do at the end of a day of driving and sightseeing.

Yesterday I started with Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. It offers two highlights: The “Park” itself is a calming, preserved prairie complete with buffalo and prairie dogs.

Under the park, like a subway maze, is one of the world’s most complicated and extensive natural caves. The native Americans thought it was the Source, where buffalo came from. 436 miles have been explored so far by daring people who like crawling through dark, tiny spaces. In the 1800s, all they had were candles to guide them in, and string to lead them out. It’s thought only 20% of the network has been seen so far.

Though I overcame my fear of heights to drive the 12000-foot-high trail over Rocky Mountain NP, my even worse claustrophobia and the excuse not to leave Annie in the car too long (there was an hour wait for the Cave tour and the tour itself takes an hour) led me to the 20-minute movie in the visitor center auditorium.

To get from Wind Cave NP to Badlands NP, also in South Dakota, I wiggled through the pine-covered Black Hills in Custer State Park.

Like every National Park I have seen so far, Badlands offers sights you can’t see anywhere else in the world. The 45-mile drive through the canyons of its white mountains kept me saying “WOW”.

At the end of the drive is a campground but off limits to rigs over 18 feet. Ramsey is 20.5 feet. However, not much farther down the road is a tourist spot I’m glad I didn’t miss. The little town of Wall has two RV Resorts. The reviews on the app AllStays, which I frequently use to find places to park, praised Sleepy Hollow RV Resort, which is where we are now.

It’s very nice and friendly, and only a short walk away from the real highlight of this town, Walls Drugs, a super touristy mall of shops offering everything from cowboy boots to ice cream to BBQ beef sandwiches to silver decorate rifles.

I now have two days to get to St. Paul, Minnesota. My National Parks map says that Pipestone National Monument is about halfway.

Wyoming and Nebraska

I made it through the Mohave Desert without melting and toured Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Arches, and Rocky Mountain National Parks with my jaw dropped in awe — snapping photos all the way. I then downloaded the pix to my computer. But none of the gorgeous campgrounds have wifi that allows for me to upload the pix from my computer to this blog, so I’ll recap those days with videos when I get home. Here’s one of Bryce that escaped the download.

And this one of Ramsey my second night. I boondocked overlooking the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Boy, was that sunset spectacular!

Today I visited Fort Laramie (the covered wagon) and the (in most cases cast copies of) 19-million-year-old bones of Miocene period animals on display at Agate Fossil National Monument in Nebraska, from where the bones were excavated.

The drives between each destination have been equally exciting. Even these vast expanses of prairie.

Now Ramsey is hooked up at campsite number 67 at Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford Nebraska amidst a gaggle of vintage camper trailers owned by Sisters on the Fly. (12000 women members who meet up for fun events all around the country. Eighty will be here this week. I took a tour of their cute, theme-decorated trailers. Check them out on YouTube if you have never heard of them.) My silver spaceship seems quite plain in comparison.

On to Wind Cave and Badlands National Parks tomorrow. I’m due in St Paul MN Friday night.

Back to rambling. …….

Mission Accomplished in Pasadena


It’s roughly 400 miles from Marin County to Pasadena, a trip I take nearly every month because my daughter and two of my grandsons live there. To pass the time on the boring, straight, Interstate 5, I watch YouTube videos. Yes, it’s safe. The iPhone is propped up at eye level and I watch things that require more listening than looking. I’m addicted to the videos about Tiny Houses. I don’t know why except that I’ve always been interested in architecture, fitting things into small spaces, and living minimally.

Map San Rafael to Pasadena

Not only did I want to see my family before departing on a six-week road trip across the country, but I wanted to deliver to them their dog, Basil (pronounced like the name Basil Rathbone). He had been with me for a couple of months while his family was on vacation.

Basil was happy to be home, and I had a great time being Nanna. The LA Zoo is a lot of fun to see through the eyes of a four-year-old.


Tomorrow I drive through the tough part, miles and miles of lonely desert. I take the same road east toward Zion National Park that I took a few months ago heading west from Death Valley National Park. The desert has its own beauty, but driving through it can be hot and tedious. YouTube may not be an option if my cell service doesn’t work.

BTW. Before I left home, I upgraded my AAA membership to ‘premium,’ just in case Ramsey breaks down far from a service station.

Map Pasadena to Zion NP

The Henry Knox Trail 3-Part Video Series

Haven Younger and Mary Mitchell singing the chorus of Henry's Big Kaboom

Haven Younger and Mary Mitchell singing the chorus of Henry’s Big Kaboom

Hi. I find many of you prefer to watch videos than to read through blogs, so I’ve put together a three-part series about my trip to New England I hope you will enjoy.

Part I is my visit to Fort Ticonderoga in New York and a snippet of my performance of Henry’s Big Kaboom for the children.

Part II starts with finding New York Marker No. 1 of the Henry Knox Trail in Ticonderoga and following the rest of the markers through Albany, over the border into Massachusetts, and on to Westfield. That took three days. I then had to dash to Thomaston, Maine for the ‘Boom’ event. I will finish the trail from Westfield to Cambridge in September when I return to New England for my niece Megan’s wedding.

Part III shows my visit to the Henry Knox Museum aka Montpelier. Imagine what it’s like to view a place that, even though a replica of the original, is where your ancestors lived for three generations. As evidenced by the streets named after my 5x-great-grandparents (Knox St, Thatcher St, & Flucker St), they also established the town. I performed my Henry ballad a second time and met third cousins Amy MacDonald and Charles Fletcher (fellow Knox descendants) I’d never met before. Thrilling. After working hard to update our family tree and connect with my family, it was also very emotional.

Part I

Part II

Henry Knox Museum, Thomaston, Maine – Book Launch Part 2

Mary Mitchell singing Henry's Big Kaboom to children at the Knox Museum in Thomaston, Maine. Her cousin Haven Younger served as the official page turner.

Mary Mitchell singing Henry’s Big Kaboom to children at the Knox Museum in Thomaston, Maine. Cousin Haven Younger served as the official page turner.

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.

Haven Younger and Mary Mitchell singing the chorus of Henry's Big Kaboom

Haven Younger and Mary Mitchell singing the chorus of Henry’s Big Kaboom

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.

Third cousins Amy MacDonald, Mary Mitchell, and Charles Fletcher on the steps of the Henry Knox Museum.

Third cousins Amy MacDonald, Mary Mitchell, and Charles Fletcher on the steps of the Henry Knox Museum.

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.

Mary Mitchell and Mary Kay Felton on the eve of the Boom! event at the Henry Knox Museum

Mary Mitchell and Mary Kay Felton on the eve of the Boom! event at the Henry Knox Museum.

Cannon fire demonstration during the Boom! event at the Henry Knox Museum.

Cannon fire demonstration during the Boom! event at the Henry Knox Museum.

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.

Family tree at the Knox Museum missing Charlie.

Family tree at the Knox Museum missing Charlie.

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.

Amy MacDonald reading Little Beaver and the Echo. Haven Younger helped turn pages again.

Amy MacDonald reading Little Beaver and the Echo. Haven Younger helped turn pages again.

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.

Original mansion built by Major General Henry Knox and his wife Lucy Flucker Knox.

Original mansion built for Major General Henry Knox and his wife Lucy Flucker Knox.

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.

The Henry Knox Mansion let to ruin.

The Henry Knox Mansion let 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.

Thomaston Historical Society

Thomaston Historical Society in what was once an outhouse of the Henry Knox mansion.

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.

The Waldon Patent included today's Waldo and Knox counties.

The Waldon Patent included today’s Waldo and Knox counties on Penobscot Bay.

Samuel’s daughter Hannah Waldo married Thomas Flucker – Henry Knox’s in-laws and my 6x-great grandparents.

Hannah Waldo Flucker and Thomas Flucker. The Original paintings hang in Boudoin College along with a painting of Hannah's father, Samuel Waldo.

Hannah Waldo Flucker and Thomas Flucker. The Original paintings hang in Boudoin College along with a painting of Hannah’s father, Samuel Waldo.

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.

Today's Henry Knox Mansion, Montpelier.

Today’s Henry Knox Mansion, Montpelier.

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.

View of the Henry Knox Museum Montpelier from the beach that was in front of the old Knox Mansion.

View of the Henry Knox Museum, Montpelier. from the beach that was in front of the old Knox Mansion.

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,

My 5x-great-grandfather Henry Knox's bed.

Henry Knox’s bed. Lucy had her own room.

Lucy’s piano,

This piano belonged to either Lucy or her sister, Caroline. Either way, my 5x-great-grandmother probably played it.

This piano belonged to either Lucy or her sister, Caroline. Either way, my 5x-great-grandmother probably played it.

one of Henry’s many bookcases,

Henry Knox's bookcase.

Henry Knox’s bookcase.

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.

The oval room in the Henry Knox Museum.

The oval room in the Henry Knox Museum.

Among his many talents, Henry was a brilliant engineer. He designed this stairway that is supported only by the arches.

The central stairway in the Henry Knox Museum designed by Henry himself.

The central stairway in the Henry Knox Museum designed by Henry himself.

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.

Graves and monument for Henry Knox and his family.

Graves and monument for Henry Knox and his family.

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).

Ebenezer Thatcher's gravestone.

My 4x-great-grandfather Ebenezer Thatcher’s gravestone.

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.

Cousin Haven outside McLoon's restaurant in Rockland.

Cousin Haven outside McLoon’s restaurant in Rockland.

And on the route between Boston and Thomaston, I stopped to shop at my favorite store, LLBean.

LLBean in Freeport, Maine.

LLBean in Freeport, Maine.