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House History

Old Fort WesternJames Howard was a family man, too, and when his sons came of age, they remodeled the north half of the main house, making eight finished rooms, four downstairs and four on the second floor, out of the former barracks area. It isn't known how long it took the Howards to complete the rooms but according to diaries kept by members of the Arnold Expedition, the family was living comfortably by 1775. William Howard was the first to take up residence in the main house, moving in with his wife, Martha, about 1770. With him came his brother, John Howard. Like William, John had been a member of his father's garrison. In 1761, John was given the command of a party selected to survey the Kennebec River route to Quebec. Just a few days from home, John accidentally shot and killed John Small, the party's surveyor. As a result, John suffered what we would now call a nervous breakdown and never recovered. He lived in the main house until his death in 1804.

Old Fort WesternA third brother, Samuel Howard, became a main house resident when he moved from Boston to the Kennebec following the closure of the port of Boston in 1774. Together he and William formed the storekeeping firm of S&W Howard. William Howard stayed at the Fort and ran the store. Samuel sailed one of the family's sloops between the Kennebec and Boston. The brothers also were important players in local, county, and state politics and invested in many public improvements. In 1785, the brothers' aunt, Margaret, and her daughter, Betsy Howard, also took up residence at the Fort, joining what was a steady stream of extended family members - farm workers, housekeepers, Augusta's first minister, and others - who stayed with and would have been considered part of William Howard's household. Even James Howard eventually returned to live at the Fort, remodeling the south end of the main house into an eight-room residence for himself and his second wife in 1781.

Old Fort WesternThe house exhibit is furnished based on the probate inventory taken upon the death of Samuel Howard in 1799.  Because Samuel and William owned not only their store goods but also their household possessions in partnership, the inventory includes much of what must have been in the house when the inventory was taken.  However, census records indicate between eight and ten other individuals as being in William Howard's household between 1790 and 1800.  Who many of those people were or what they may have owned remains unknown.  Still, this inventory-based approach is the closest we can come to showing the main house at it may have appeared prior to William Howard's death in 1810.  What is remarkable is that since 1992, Old Fort Western has been fortunate enough to have acquired, or in some cases to have borrowed for the purpose of anniversary-year loan, several peices of furniture, glass and ceramics actually inventoried by the probate court appraisers in 1799.  The images on this page show those objects as follows:

Old Fort WesternTop left image - Northwest parlor:

  • The set of 12 "yellow" chairs
  • The tea set, plate and rummer on the card table
  • The punchbowl and clear glass decanter on the card table
  • The card table itself

Top right image - Northeast parlor:

  • The desk
  • The document box on the desk
  • The plate (an archaeological artifact) on near end of the table

Above - Northwest bedchamber

  • The mahogany bureau

Old Fort WesternLike the other rooms in the house exhibit, the kitchen is furnished based on the 1799 probate inventory. No Howard family objects, however, are included. This fireplace and bakeoven are the oldest in house. They were built by Samuel Oldham, a mason hired by the Kennebec Proprietors in late 1754. The soldiers who were stationed here as well as the members of the Howard family and the later renters who lived in the north half of the main house all cooked on this hearth until the fireplace was bricked-up and a stove was installed as early as the 1840s.  The room is now set up as if someone (a housekeeper perhaps) is preparing to set a "sponge" as a first step in the bread-making process. A small pantry is located just off the kitchen to the right of this image.

Old Fort Western | 16 Cony Street Augusta, ME 04330 | Phone: (207) 626-2385 | Fax: (207) 626-2304 |
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