The archaeology of Fort Knox - Elisabeth Messer

Portland Archaeology Examiner

Need a place to go this summer that’s both fun, educational, and lets you wander everywhere? You might want to check out Fort Knox. Sure it’s a bit of a jaunt from Portland, but it’s absolutely worth it. Not only do they have activities there (as well as a gift shop and guided tours, if that’s your thing), but the Friends of Fort Knox have been having archaeological schools for a few years digging up the history of Knox.

The fort, located in Prospect Maine, is one of the largest stone forts built during the Civil War. It was built to protect the Penobscot River and Bangor, Maine from a river attack between 1844 and 1864, but was never finished.

According to the Maine.gov website, it is New England’s “finest unmodified specimen of military architecture of that period.”

Equipped with two batteries (each facing the river to defend from both sides) that fired several types of cannons, the fort would’ve made an impressive defense. Part of the intrigue of Fort Knox comes with two hot-shot furnaces that were used to heat up the cannons before firing them at ships. Unfortunately the furnaces became obsolete as soon as wooden ships ceased being built, but to this day they stand as a stubborn reminder of warfare.

But enough about the history, what about the unique archaeological finds that this school has uncovered? One of the school sessions was lead by historical archaeologist Peter Morrison (a few years back). Morrison had a hunch about one of the areas in the fort, thinking that it had once been a black smithy while the fort was under construction. With this in mind, he lead two schools (each a week long) to excavate certain areas. What they found was interesting in two ways because they found two sets of artifacts.

In the first set of artifacts they found Crown glass (a type of glass made in the 1700’s) and bits of ceramic tableware (cups, plates and saucers). According to Morrison, “these would have been old pieces of ceramics by the time the fort was being built. This all hints that this was a residence from the late 1700s to the early 1800s.”

Apparently the fort was built on top of several farm houses, this site being one of those, so this finding wasn’t too surprising.

The second set of artifacts would’ve been more up Morrison’s alley. They included “railroad spikes, an iron pin, wedges and half-rounds or feathers used to cut granite, a piece of iron nail stock used to make nails and two padlocks,” all of which are pretty common finds for a smithy.

The artifacts were well cared for by the school and the Friends of Fort Knox planned on having other schools opened up for other amateur archaeologists to help uncover more history of the fort.

So if you want a place to go that’s ripe with history, knowledge and the possibility of being in on uncovering some of Maine’s Civil War past, Fort Knox is where you want to be.

Fright at the Fort 2011

Fright at the Fort Returns Friday Night for 12th Year

by Diana Bosch - October 21st 2011 09:19pm

Prospect - If you're one of the brave souls who chooses to go to Fright at the Fort, be prepared for some spooky suprises because you never know what might be hanging around. "Fright is never the same two nights in a row. Volunteers will portray different creatures different nights." Leon Seymour calls himself the "twisted" mastermind behind the event. "Kids a lot of times build model cars of planes, I was building monsters but as a kid I built model monsters like the werewolf, Phantom of the Opera and Frankenstein." He created fright at the fort 12 years ago and his team of creative ghouls and volunteers have been stirring up scary adventures ever since. Guests are lead down a spooky tour of the fort in groups of fifteen. It's fun for all ages, but Seymour says be careful with the little ones. "If your child likes horror movies and does well they're probably going to be okay but if watching Bambi is disturbing it's probably not the event for them." And if there's one creature that sends chills down people's spines, veteran fright volunteer Jeremy Sawyer says it's clowns. "Hands down is Clowns, probably the most, biggest thing I've done that's had the biggest turnaround." Proceeds from Fright at the Fort help Fort Knox fundraise various projects throughout the year. Sawyer says it's a sweet treat that makes the scaring well worth it. "Just good memories and as I'm having a good time I know all the money is going towards the Fort and helping people rebuild it." Fright at the Fort kicks off Friday, October 21st at 5:30. It'll run until 9 pm, and it starts back up again Saturday. If you can't make it this weekend, you can go next Friday and Saturday. It starts at 5:30 both days Admission is five dollars. For more information visit fortknox.maineguide.com

Restoration of Fort Knox Magazine Powder Underway

by Wayne Harvey - June 20th 2011 01:51pm

Prospect - "We believe this was constructed probably around 1863," said Leon Seymour the Executive Director of Friends of Fort Knox.

Past the caution tape, and behind this door, is where the project really starts to take shape, down the walkway in a damp, dark room.

"We're restoring a powder magazine that's been closed for decades to the public," said Seymour. "As you look around, you can see massive wood deterioration that's been created by moisture over the years."

According to Seymour they're finding little pieces of history with every board that's removed, from the cover of an old nail bucket, to a tool used to move granite blocks into place. "There are features here you won't find very many places. There are little wooden covers that went over nail holes. They were very concerned about any kind of spark happening in here because of the vast amounts of black powder. People that came in or soldiers that came in to deal with the powder were made to wear cloth on their shoes because they were afraid of even a spark being kicked off by nails in their shoes, so they took security of this place very seriously."

The restoration should take about three weeks. They're trying to save materials to be used again, but a lot has been damaged by moisture.

The completed project will include lights and replicas of black powder barrels.

"I think this is an integral part for how the Fort would have operated because this is where the charges would have been loaded and then brought out to the canons," said Seymour. "A Rodman Canon could take as much as 100 pounds of black powder, so that's an enormous amount of firepower, so we think it's an important interpretive piece of the Fort that will be opened to the public."
The room should be open to visitors later this summer.

Click Here for Ghost Hunter Episode on Fort Knox

Ghost Hunter’ show finds unexplained activity at Fort Knox

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

PROSPECT, Maine — The results are in.

“This place has some serious activity going on.”

That was the “reveal” Wednesday night on the SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunter” show that featured the investigation of Fort Knox back in February.

“They definitely believe it’s haunted,” said Leon Seymour, executive director of the Friends of Fort Knox, who was featured on the show giving the “Ghost Hunter” crew a quick tour of the fort.

About 50 people gathered at the Bucksport Golf Club to watch the show on a big-screen TV.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said, adding that the locals got a chuckle from the crew’s complaining about the cold and how they felt as if they were out in the “wilderness.”

The show’s stars, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, and co-star Amy Bruni roamed the 19th century stone fort with high-tech equipment searching for evidence of paranormal activity.

The ghost hunters didn’t see any ghostly figures in any of the areas where they investigated, but they did pick up some unexplained readings on their instruments. In Long Alley, where there have been reports of ghost sightings, there was a strange anomaly on their thermal imaging camera that they could not explain. And something broke through the laser grid that they had set up. They also heard some “crazy breathing.”

“It sounds like it’s right next to me,’’ Hawes said from the darkened alley “It sounds like it’s coming closer and closer.”

Near the cannon mounts, the crew also heard loud footsteps when there was no one there.

While there were no spooktacular apparitions during the show, being featured on the popular SyFy Channel show definitely conjured up some interest in Fort Knox.

According to Seymour, the Friends’ website got 951 hits by midnight Wednesday and another 270 by late Thursday afternoon, coming from all over the country. This time of year, the site usually gets about 60 or 70 hits a day, Seymour said.

“It certainly had the effect of getting the fort out all around the country,” he said.

GHOST HUNTER SyFy Channel TV PROGRAM

Airs Fort Knox Investigation- April 6

(Prospect) The Friends of Fort Knox working in partnership with the Maine Department of Conservation’s Bureau of Parks and Lands report that the SyFy Channel’s, Ghost Hunter TV program, will air the results of their investigation of the Fort, on Wednesday, April 6, at 9 PM. The investigation and filming took place in February when a film production crew arrived at Fort Knox, where Friends’ of Fort Knox executive director, Leon Seymour, provided the Ghost Hunters a tour of the site and recounted visitor reports of paranormal experiences.

A live public screening of the Ghost Hunter Fort Knox episode, entitled “Residual Haunts”, will take place on Wednesday, April 6th, from 7:30 PM until 10 PM, at the Bucksport Golf Club, Route 46, in Bucksport. The special event fundraiser, sponsored by the Friends of Fort Knox, will provide people an opportunity to meet people who have reported paranormal experiences at the Fort and watch the show on a big screen TV. Advanced tickets for the Ghost Hunter TV event are $7 per person ($10 night of the event) and may be purchased by calling 469-6553 or stopping by the Friends’ office at Fort Knox. Attendees will receive snacks and a cash bar will be available.

 

At the conclusion of the investigation, Ghost Hunter stars, Amy Bruni and Grant Wilson, presented their paranormal investigation findings to Friends’ executive director Leon Seymour. This portion of the investigative process known as the ‘reveal’ has been kept confidential until the TV program airs.

The visit by the Ghost Hunter group was more than a year in the making. It began when the Friends of Fort Knox received an email from the producer of the program in December 2009.

Over the past several years, local paranormal investigating groups have approached the Friends of Fort Knox to enlist their help facilitating nighttime research. Some of these paranormal research groups such as Bangor Ghost Hunters, Central Maine Paranormal, East Coast Ghost Trackers and Maine Supernatural have posted their investigation results on the Internet.

The Friends of Fort Knox helped the TV show’s producers by identifying individuals who had reported having paranormal experiences to the organization during the past several years. Some of those individuals who reported having a paranormal experience were interviewed by the Ghost Hunters TV personalities. . One of those interviewed by the crew was local radio personality, Sky Taylor, who reported hearing various sounds and even seeing an apparition. Also interviewed was, Bureau of Parks and Lands Historic Site Specialist, Tom Desjardin, who provided the production company with a brief history of Fort Knox

The following information describing the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunter program is taken from the Wikipedia Internet site: “Ghost Hunters is an American paranormal reality television series that premiered on October 6, 2004 on the Syfy Channel (previously SciFi). The program features paranormal investigators Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson who investigate places that are reported to be haunted. The two originally worked as plumbers for Roto-Rooter as a day job while investigating locations at night. Since the show’s success, the series now takes precedence in their lives, but they are still honorary employees with the company and continue to do jobs for them if time permits.”

The Friends of Fort Knox, formed in 1991, work in partnership with the Bureau of Parks and Lands to preserve Fort Knox and enhance its educational, cultural and economic value for the people of Maine. The Friends sponsor numerous special events including Civil War reenactments, the annual Fright at the Fort Halloween scare fest, medieval tournament, pirate day and Scottish Tattoo. Last year, the Friends funded extensive repairs to the Battery ‘B’ retaining wall, wharf area and initiated erosion control measures. This season the Friends’ will provide funding for the restoration of a powder magazine adjacent to the northern spiral staircase located within the walls of Fort Knox.

Individuals interested in learning more about the Friends of Fort Knox, special events and the history of the historic site are encouraged to visit the following web site: fortknox.maineguide.com

Contact: Leon Seymour

207-469-6553 (W)

207-223-0087 (H)

fofk1@aol.com

Tom Desjardin, Bureau of Parks and Lands

207-287-4975

GHOST HUNTER TV PROGRAM

Wraps Up Fort Knox Investigation
(Prospect) The Friends of Fort Knox working in partnership with the Maine Department of Conservation’s Bureau of Parks and Lands report that the SyFy Channel’s, Ghost Hunter TV program, has concluded their paranormal investigation of the State Historic site. The investigation and filming took place recently when a production crew arrived at Fort Knox, where Friends’ of Fort Knox executive director, Leon Seymour, provided the Ghost Hunters a tour of the site and recounted visitor reports of paranormal experiences.

The paranormal investigation took place amidst brief snow showers. As part of their investigation, the Ghost Hunter’s production company interviewed individuals who had reported as having a paranormal experience at the Fort to the Friends. One of those interviewed by the crew was local radio personality, Sky Taylor, who reported hearing various sounds and even seeing an apparition. Also interviewed was, Bureau of Parks and Lands Historic Site Specialist, Tom Desjardin, who provided the production company with a brief history of Fort Knox. The Ghost Hunter film crew also spent a good deal of time shooting exterior shots of the Fort from various locations and some shots of the Town of Prospect.

At the conclusion of the investigation, Ghost Hunter stars, Amy Bruni and Grant Wilson, presented their paranormal investigation findings to Friends’ executive director Leon Seymour. This portion of the investigative process known as the ‘reveal’ will be kept confidential until the TV program airs. Ghost Hunter producers told Seymour that he expects the Fort Knox episode to air this spring.

While filming the investigation the Ghost Hunter group stayed at the Four Points Sheraton, Bangor and kept local food establishments in Bucksport busy with take out food orders.

The Friends of Fort Knox report that they are giving some thought to having a ‘screening party’ the night the episode airs on the SyFy channel. The organization says that they will release details of the ‘screening party’ and how the public may obtain tickets in the near future.

The visit by the Ghost Hunter group was more than a year in the making. It began when the Friends of Fort Knox revived an email from the producer of the program in December 2009.

Over the past several years, local paranormal investigating groups have approached the Friends of Fort Knox to enlist their help facilitating nighttime research. Some of these paranormal research groups such as Bangor Ghost Hunters, Central Maine Paranormal, East Coast Ghost Trackers and Maine Supernatural have posted their investigation results on the Internet.

A good deal of preparation was necessary to ensure that the TV production crew would have easy access to the Fort due to the series of local snow storms. Bureau of Parks and Lands’ park manager, Mike Wilusz, other Bureau staff and Friend’s contracted local snow removal personnel, plowed, shoveled, removed ice and sanded to provide a safe environment for the crew in the frigid temperatures.

The following information describing the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunter program is taken from the Wikipedia Internet site: “Ghost Hunters is an American paranormal reality television series that premiered on October 6, 2004 on the Syfy Channel (previously SciFi). The program features paranormal investigators Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson who investigate places that are reported to be haunted. The two originally worked as plumbers for Roto-Rooter as a day job while investigating locations at night.
Since the show’s success, the series now takes precedence in their lives, but they are still honorary employees with the company and continue to do jobs for them if time permits.”

The Friends of Fort Knox, formed in 1991, work in partnership with the Bureau of Parks and Lands to preserve Fort Knox and enhance its educational, cultural and economic value for the people of Maine. The Friends sponsor numerous special events including Civil War reenactments, the annual Fright at the Fort Halloween scare fest, medieval tournament, pirate day and Scottish Tattoo. Last year, the Friends funded extensive repairs to the Battery ‘B’ retaining wall, wharf area and initiated erosion control measures.

Individuals interested in learning more about the Friends of Fort Knox, special events and the history of the historic site are encouraged to visit the following web site: fortknox.maineguide.com

Friends of Fort Knox Help Bureau of Parks and Lands

by Meghan Hayward ·WABI Apr 21st 2010

The group Friends of Fort Knox is lending a helping hand as the state deals with more budget cuts for Maine parks and historic sites. Even though the cuts will impact fort operations, officials say they won't catch the eyes of visitors.
Meghan Hayward reports.
The Friends of Fort Knox board of directors have responded to a request from the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands to help them stave off cuts to their budget.
" We recognize the fact that our partner the Bureau of Parks and Lands are in a tough position economically as is everyone throughout the state of Maine."
The FFK board voted to help the bureau by accepting a request for a 50 percent reduction to their management services contract for one year. Under the contract, they provide interpretive tours, entrance fee collection, marketing and outreach services for the bureau. In the past, contracts have allowed them to retain 50 percent of fort only admission fee income to meet contract staffing needs and preservation projects. Some of those projects include the cannon restoration and re-pointing bricks.
Officials say they will have to slow down future projects, but visitors won't see a single change.
" We've seen instituted fees in other parks. They didn't want to increase fees throughout the entire park area."
But they say some projects will still get underway despite the reductions in revenue.
" One of them is a retaining wall on Battery B that is in very tough shape and we hope to get after that this Summer."
The fort did open earlier this year because of the warm weather. And they encourage everyone to come visit.
" We'll give them the same great time they usually have."

TV’s ‘Ghost Hunters’ takes interest in Fort Knox’s haunting lore

By Rich Hewitt
Bangor Daily News Staff

The suspected ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night at Fort Knox may be getting a visit from television paranormal investigators the “Ghost Hunters.”

The producer of the SyFy channel’s “Ghost Hunters” series and Leon Seymour, executive director of Friends of Fort Knox, are discussing the possibility of filming a segment of the show at the fort. Story Producer Patrick Powell on Monday confirmed the show’s interest in the fort, but declined to discuss the matter until details had been completed.

“We can make it happen,” Seymour said this week. The fort was constructed between 1844 and 1869, and although troops were housed there during the Civil War, the fort never saw any action. And though no one actually died inside the fort, several people have reported hearing voices and seeing images inside.

At least one psychic has confirmed the existence of spirits in the fort. Some have suggested the spirits are those of a solider who had strong ties to the fort, such as Sgt. Leopold Hegyi, who served there for 13 years and died in the house where he lived across the road from the fort.

In addition to many unexplained experiences, visitors, over the years, perhaps sensing something in the fort, have asked guides about the possibility that the place is haunted.

The Friends organization helps to bolster that idea of ghosts with its annual Psychic and Paranormal Fair and the Fright at the Fort celebration at Halloween in which real-life spooks haunt the dank and dark alleys inside the fort.

Seymour stressed, however, that the Friends group has not taken any position on whether there are ghosts at the fort, but he said the “Ghost Hunters” investigation could be a boon for the fort and the surrounding area.

“A television show that is seen by millions will certainly put the area on the map,” he said. “It would focus attention on the fort and the observatory, and increase visitation, which can only be a benefit for everyone, except maybe the ghosts who might be disturbed.”

In recent years, several local paranormal groups, such as Bangor Ghost Hunters, Central Maine Paranormal and Maine Supernatural, have conducted investigations at the fort and have posted their results on their Web sites. According to Seymour, the Bangor Ghost Hunters were featured on a local television news program where they offered their opinion that the fort is indeed haunted.

The SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” is a one-hour weekly reality show that follows a group of real-life paranormal researchers as they investigate hauntings throughout the country, according to the show Web site. Led by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, plumbers by trade who head the Atlantic Paranormal Society, the team investigates “seemingly unexplainable disturbances.”

Seymour said he has contacted the Maine Department of Conservation’s Bureau of Public Lands, which manages the fort, for approval to have the TV crew film there. He said he is awaiting an activity permit for the shoot from Public Lands.

There has been some local interest in the program, and Seymour said he already has forwarded about 10 names of area residents who have expressed a willingness to be interviewed for the show. Despite Maine’s winter cold temperature and heavy snowstorms such as the one last weekend, Seymour said the producers indicated the “Ghost Hunters” could arrive in town as soon as February.

Anyone interested in participating in the show with a personal paranormal experience at the fort can contact the Friends at FOFK1@aol.com or by phone, 469-6553.

Pirate Day 2009 at Fort Knox (click here for video)

by Amy Erickson · Aug 08th 2009 · WABI - TV

Historic Fort Knox in Prospect was invaded by pirates Saturday,but it was all in fun. The Friends of Fort Knox sponsored their annual "Pirate Day" for folks young and old. Hundreds of folks turned out in costume, trying out their best pirate accents, to take part in the festivities, which included several contests, from best sounding pirate to best-dressed. There was also a pirate parade and two treasure hunts. The highlight of the day was the arrival of the professional Pirates of the Dark Rose, who sailed to Fort Knox aboard their authentic Pirate Ship, the "must Roos."

Organizers say besides being a lot of fun, the event also brought in some much-needed revenue to the Fort, which has been struggling this summer because of the bad weather and the economy.

Archaeology Dig at Fort Knox Reveals Clues to Past

by Amy Erickson WABI - TV · Aug 05th 2009

 

Budding archaeologists are spending the week at Fort Knox in Prospect.
A special field school is allowing amateurs to try their hands at digging for clues to the past.

Amy Erickson has more.

"A tremendous amount of history. You just have to find it."

That's just what Faith Campbell intends to do. She and six other students are spending the week at Fort Knox's second annual Archaeology Field School. It's a chance for budding archaeologists to study under a master...and help dig up clues to the Fort's past. They're focusing on an old foundation near the Visitor Center. The spot once housed support buildings while the Fort was under construction.

"My working idea is that this is the blacksmith shop. We found a number of artifacts that went along with that, including nailstock that was used to make nails...and other tools that make sense together only if they're at the blacksmith shop."

Historical Archaeologist Peter Morrison is the project leader. He's helped the students uncover everything from railroad spikes to buttons...even some old crockery.

"It makes the history quite real when you find something that...the last person that held it was a blacksmith, this is where he dropped it...sometimes you get a really direct connection to that history." "It's adding to the story of Fort Knox. There were many support buildings here. We don't know where they were. There is, in fact, an undiscovered Fort Knox, so every time we do a field school, we're discovering more about it and adding to the base of knowledge about Fort Knox."

Campbell, for one, wants to do her part to help others make that connection to Maine's history.
"So many of our history textbooks talk about Virginia and Massachusetts." "not a lot has been written about Maine history, or as much as we'd like."

Fort Knox gets facelift in advance of busy season

By Steve Fuller

The Republican Journal Reporter

PROSPECT (April 21): Volunteers came from near and far Saturday, April 18, to give the grounds at Fort Knox a bit of a facelift prior to the state park's opening next week.

Friends of Fort Knox Executive Director Leon Seymour said it was the sixth year the cleanup day has been held. It takes place in conjunction with the Civil War Preservation Trust's "Park Day," a national effort to clean Civil War sites.

 

T-shirts with this logo were given to participants in Saturday's cleanup at Fort Knox. (Photos by Steve Fuller)

"This is a Civil War site, even though there was no action here," Seymour said. "It was manned for defense during the Civil War."

Grace Clement from Prospect was one of those helping out Saturday morning.

 

Grace Clement of Prospect rakes leaves. (Photo by Steve Fuller)

"I live across the street, so it's easy to get here," said Clement as she raked leaves. Another local who pitched in was Carol Lewandowski, of Verona Island, who has participated for a couple of years.

 

Verona Island resident Carol Lewandowski smiles while raking leaves. Other volunteers in the background prepare to head out to their assignments. (Photo by Steve Fuller)

Traveling a slightly longer distance were the 15 Scouts and half-dozen adults from Boy Scout Troop 310 of Saco. The Scouts, as per their motto, came well prepared with rakes, leaf blowers and power sweepers. There were more Scouts than power tools, however, which meant seniority was needed to determine who would use them.

 

Boy Scouts from Troop 310 in Saco clean the grounds at Fort Knox on Saturday, April 18, in the shadow of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory. (Photo by Steve Fuller)

As one younger Scout went to pick up a power tool, an older peer gently informed him he wouldn't be able to use it. "No, no, no," said the older Scout. "Newbies aren't allowed to use the power tools.

"But we're smart," said the younger Scout.

The older Scout said he knew young Scouts were smart, but that he was just following instructions.

 

First Class Scout Dylan Court, of Boy Scout Troop 310 in Saco, operates a power sweeper in the parking lot. (Photo by Steve Fuller)

Martha Mitchell, a teacher from Thomaston, came for the first time; she was on school vacation and wanted to do something outdoors with Earth Day approaching. "Earth Day is coming up," she said, "and this is kind of an earthy contribution."

 

Martha Mitchell, a teacher from Thomaston, freshens mulch around a tree near the Fort Knox visitor center. (Photo by Steve Fuller)

Fort Knox, which opens Friday, May 1, has a busy 2009 schedule. In addition to the traditional Civil War re-enactments and cannon firings, other favorites, including the psychic and paranormal fair, will return.

 

Volunteers break for a group photo. (Photo by Steve Fuller)

Music lovers will have lots from which to choose, too. Bluegrass, bagpipes and rock and roll are among this summer's offerings. For those interested in history, there will be another archeological field school as well as a granite-cutting demonstration.

For those with a theatrical bent, there will be two nights of Shakespeare productions. Additional drama and fine acting are likely to be found during two other events — the pirate festival and medieval tournament.

Athletes looking for a challenge — that's probably the nicest word for it — can sign up for the "Double Hill Duathlon," in September. It will feature a 3-mile run followed by a 15-mile bike leg; both portions traverse the hilly Route 174.

All these events will lead up to what Seymour — with a sly grin — calls "the big enchilada." That would be Fright at the Fort, which will celebrate its 10 anniversary in October. Though details remain sketchy at this point, Seymour said there will be "something special" to mark the milestone.

 

This bumper sticker on a Fort Knox vehicle promoted the 2008 installment of Fright at the Fort. This fall marks its 10th anniversary, and Friends of Fort Knox Executive Director Leon Seymour says special features will mark the milestone. (Photo by Steve Fuller)

Additional information about all these events, and registration forms for the race and the archeological field school, may be found at fortknox.maineguide.com.

"We try and offer a variety of events to attract a diverse group of people," said Seymour, after listing all the planned events. "We do it all, here."

The Republican Journal Reporter Steve Fuller can be reached at 207-338-3333 or by e-mail at sfuller@villagesoup.com.

Fort Knox Restoration Project

 

Photographic Dispatches from Fort

Knox, Prospect, Maine

 

This "long alley" demibastion was reopened this season.

Above ground cistern rooms reopened to the public for the first time in two decades. Tim Hall, Bureau of Parks and Lands Northern Region Director (left) and FFK Chair, Chris Popper (right), cut the ribbon reopening the rooms in October 2008.

Rebekah Woodworth, from Rockport, Maine, displays a nail found during the first FFK archaeology field school held in August. Rebekah and Alma Morrison, from Scituate, Massachusetts, pictured on the right, carefully probe for potential artifacts.

 

Parking lot lights are off loaded and installed by FFK this season. FFK Board member and 20th Maine Civil War reenactor, Michael Celli, lectures visitors on medical practices during the war.

Two local companies pitch in to help at the Fort. Green Thumb, of Brewer, sprays vegetation causing damage to masonry joints on the Fort facade and Wardwell Construction, Bucksport, repairs collapsed wall in Battery 'B'.

Captain Crudbeaard entertains those attending "Pirate Day" at the Fort, while eager listeners learn about ghost hunting techniques at the annual paranormal/psychic faire. The faire was the busiest weekend at Fort Knox this season. Other notable special events included the Scottish Tattoo, Medieval Tournament, Civil War encampments, granite cutting demonstrations and cannon firing.

 

Fright at the Fort attracted 8,700 visitors and added funds for the Century and a Half masonry repair project.

Repair project a challenge for local mason

By Rich Hewitt
BDN Staff

PROSPECT, Maine — The Friends of Fort Knox on Sunday reopened a section of the historic fort housing an above-ground cistern that has been closed to the public for decades.

The cistern — a reservoir for storing water — and adjoining enlisted-men’s quarters were refurbished this summer as part of the Friends group’s “Century and a Half” masonry project — work on the fort began in 1843 and was completed in 1869. Orrington mason Joe Bowley repaired loose and falling bricks on the walls of the cistern and quarters and on vaulted ceilings in both rooms. Bowley also replaced and repaired mortar in areas of the walls and ceilings.

“The bricks were falling,” Bowley said. “We lost one big chunk.”

Leon Seymour, the executive director of the Friends group, said they were concerned about bricks falling on people’s heads. That is why the area had been closed to the public for at least two decades, he said.

Many of the fallen bricks had been taken from the fort, and one whole section of the wall of the enlisted-men’s quarters was missing, Bowley said. He was able to draw on stores of old bricks that had been salvaged from around the fort, but many were different sizes and textures than those that remained in place. That posed a challenge for the mason, but the biggest challenge, he said, was a force of nature.

“We were fighting gravity,” Bowley said.

When the cistern and the quarters were built, the builders would have used forms to create the vaulted ceilings, he said. He had to use a 2-by-4 support system to hold sections of brick in place while the mortar dried.

“It was quite a challenge,” he said.

Bowley and his crew spent much of the summer working on the areas in most need of repair, and worked about three weeks on the cistern and quarters areas.

Tim Hall, regional manager for the Bureau of Parks and Lands which oversees the historic site, said the cistern, one of four in the fort, was an important feature in the design of Fort Knox and other forts which could provide water to the defenders in the event of a siege.

“The Friends of Fort Knox have used their own money to bring this area back into public view so that we can better understand the history and how the fort worked,” Hall said.

Also present for the ribbon cutting were Chris Popper, chairman of the Friends of Fort Knox; Sen. Carol Weston, R-Waldo County; and fort manager Mike Wilusz.

The cistern, and another aboveground cistern that is bricked in, is an unusual feature, according to Seymour.

“You won’t see them anywhere else,” he said.

The restoration of the cistern is part of the first phase of the masonry project, which is expected to continue through spring. Bowley has provided the Friends with a 10 percent discount on his work, which has kept the costs reasonable, Seymour said. The group still expects to spend about $75,000 on Phase I of the project by the time it is completed.

Phase II of the project will involve identifying the major areas of masonry work that might cause safety concerns in the fort, and Phase III will include repairing the rest of the masonry work around the fort.

“We want to bring the rest of the masonry up to snuff, so that it will last another 150 years,” he said.

Artifacts unearthed at Fort Knox tell 2 tales

By Rich Hewitt
BDN Staff

PROSPECT, Maine — Artifacts uncovered from an archaeological dig at Fort Knox this summer tell two different stories about the dig site.

The artifacts came from the Friends of Fort Knox’s first archaeological field school this summer. The field school brought in people for two weeklong sessions to work with historical archaeologist Peter Morrison on the excavation of an area around an old foundation located near the visitors center at the fort.

Morrison presented the findings on Sunday before the Friends’ annual meeting. He theorized that the building that once stood on the site was a blacksmith shop during the construction of the fort, but a home occupied the site much earlier. Construction of the fort began in 1843 and ended in 1869.

Students at the field school cleared the site and, under Morrison’s direction, carefully dug at chosen sites inside and around the foundation stones. They cataloged all of the artifacts they unearthed.

“We have two sets of artifacts that tell two different stories,” Morrison said.

The first set of artifacts included window glass and ceramics, Morrison said, and the window glass was Crown glass, a method of making glass panes that was common in the 1700s.

“By the 1840s this would have been an obsolete way of making glass,” he said.

The ceramic bits found at the site included pieces of teacups, saucers and dinner plates. The plates were Pearl, ware made through the 1700s and into the early 1800s, he said. Bits of stoneware made in England right through the Revolution were also found.

“These would have been old pieces of ceramics by the time the fort was being built,” he said. “This all hints that this was a residence from the late 1700s to the early 1800s. That’s not terribly surprising.”

Morrison noted that the fort property was purchased in three different transactions that included three farms. The original building may have been one of those farmhouses.

The second set of artifacts tells a different story, one more like the one Morrison said he expected to find. Those artifacts included a lot of metal: railroad spikes, an iron pin, wedges and half-rounds or feathers used to cut granite, a piece of iron nail stock used to make nails and two padlocks, all types of tools or materials that would have been in use during the construction of the fort, he said.

While one or two items might have been found at sites around the fort while it was being constructed, Morrison said the one place they all would have been found was in a blacksmith shop.

The cataloged artifacts will be cleaned in the lab, Morrison said, which may tell researchers more about the site.

The Friends group hopes to continue the archaeological field school next year with the idea of unearthing more of the hidden history of Fort Knox.

rhewitt@bangordailynews.net

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Dig aims to identify building once near Fort Knox

Thursday, August 14, 2008 - Bangor Daily News (Reprinted with permission)

PROSPECT, Maine - Who didn’t want to be an archaeologist when they were a kid?

A group of fledgling Indiana Joneses is getting that chance this week at the first Friends of Fort Knox Archaeology Field School at the Fort Knox Historic Site. And though the search may not be for the Crystal Skull, the dig at the fort is being conducted to solve a local mystery.

Under the direction of archaeologist Peter Morrison, the students at the field school are excavating the site of a building that sits outside the fort proper near the edge of the fort’s northern boundary. The stone foundation of the building had been discovered during previous archaeological work done at the site.

Although the stones of the foundation are easily visible, no one knows what the building might have been used for.

"We’ve been toying with the idea of a field school for several years," said Leon Seymour, executive director for the Friends of Fort Knox. "We’re interested in telling the story of the lost Fort Knox."

During the 25 years between 1844 and 1869 that the fort was being built, there were more than 20 buildings scattered around the 120 acres currently owned by the state of Maine as part of the fort complex. There were temporary barracks, mess halls, barns for oxen and stone sheds for shaping the granite blocks for the fort.

"There was a thriving little community here," Seymour said. "The records are not very exact. We have a general idea of what buildings were here. But for this building, we have no idea what it was."

The field school started Monday with the students, who paid tuition to participate, clearing the site of trees and brush. That effort uncovered rock divisions inside the main foundations that have posed another puzzle for the dig team.

"We don’t know if those divisions represent divisions within the building itself for different uses or if they are purely structural," Morrison said.

Items uncovered in the different sections may help determine whether the building had multiple uses, he said.

Early finds from the various pits dug within and outside the foundations have included nails, glass and pieces of crockery and dinnerware, which seem to indicate that the building served as some type of residence. They haven’t found anything yet that definitively identifies how the building was used, Morrison said, and it is unlikely that they will find that one piece.

"We’re dealing with a puzzle with thousands of pieces," he said. "We don’t often have just one piece that explains everything. And part of the problem is that a lot of the pieces are missing."

All those artifacts, as well as modern items that have been dumped on the site, are being cataloged as they are found and will be taken to a lab to be analyzed.

The field school has attracted participants of all ages, some local and others from around the country.

"Who didn’t want to be an archaeologist?" said Rebekah Woodworth of Rockport, a facilities manager for a Rockland biotech manufacturing firm. The dig at Fort Knox, she said, was a chance to put pieces of history together, to get a more complete understanding of the period.

Charlie Mock, a paramedic from Holden, and Guy Hamlin, a high school history teacher from Belfast, were working on a pit outside the foundation Wednesday. Mock, a self-described "history geek," said he was enjoying learning a little more of the history of the place.

"Things don’t just happen; people make them happen," he said. "The story of the fort is fascinating, and we’re learning more about the people who came here and poured out their sweat to build this place."

Hamlin said he hopes to incorporate the story of the fort into his American history classes, including possibly involving his students in the dig itself. That was part of the reason Deb Youcis of Bucksport and Ann Marancik of Orland signed up to work at the field school. The two will team-teach a third-grade class next year at the Orland Consolidated School, adapting the fort and its history into a variety of subject areas.

They’re also into the digging.

"It’s the suspense, the fun of finding something and getting to unearth it," Marancik said.

"The first thing we found was a piece of glass," said Youcis, who volunteers as a tour guide at the fort. "It was just a tiny little shard, but it makes you want to keep going."

There’s something about the site that "calls to you," Marancik said, "and makes you want to find out what people were doing here."

"There’s a story here," Youcis added. "We just have to piece it together."

The field school fits in with the mission of the Friends group to expand the educational and cultural value of the fort, Seymour said. The fort’s grounds hold a number of other potential sites for digs, and Seymour said the Friends group would like to make the field school an annual event.

rhewitt@bangordailynews.net

667-9394