Historic Thomaston estate for sale

By Juliette Laaka | Nov 23, 2012
Photo by: Juliette Laaka The home on Stambaugh Drive in Thomaston that, in 1837, provided refuge for a slave named Atticus.

Thomaston — Tucked away at the end of a long, narrow driveway sits a white house on the shore of the St. George River, originally built in 1815.

The property maintains an engrossing narrative. Prior to the Civil War, the home's inhabitant — mate Edward Kelleran — unwittingly came near to initiating great strife with the South.

Assessors' Agent David Martucci said two interested parties have approached him about the property on Stambaugh Drive, off Brooklyn Heights Road. One couple is interested in raising livestock and crops on the land and a developer is asking how many lots are allowable to fill the property. Both inquiries were in September and Martucci said he has heard nothing further.

Realtor Jeri Holm said the property has not been sold and interested parties, as far as she is aware, are interested in maintaining the land as is.

The property is owned by three siblings and is in the farm land program. Martucci said it is still possible for the land to be developed, as there is no conservation easement.

The name of the slope off Brooklyn Heights Road, Atticus Hill, was christened for a stow-away slave, who escaped the docks of Savannah, Ga. on a Maine vessel and sought refuge in Thomaston at the now Stambaugh estate.

Peggy McCrea, a historian with the Thomaston Historical Society, said the home that stands now was re-built after a fire ravaged the original structure.

The listing on the Camden Real Estate website states the house was built in 1940.

Martucci said some of the original house remains and that it was reconstructed in the style of the traditional structure.

McCrea believes Atticus was hid in the waterfront barn on the property, which no longer stands.

From historian Albert T. Gould, the anecdotal evidence claims that in May 1837, Capt. Daniel Philbrook of Camden and mate Edward Kelleran, of Cushing, shipped a cargo of lime and hay from East Thomaston to Savannah, Ga. in the schooner Susan. While tied up for repairs, a 22-year-old black slave named Atticus accompanied his owner, James Segurs, who worked as a ship’s carpenter. Atticus was also a skilled craftsman.

A few days after leaving the Savannah port, Atticus presented himself to the crew and announced his plan to reach New England and realize life as a free man.

A week later, the Susan docked in Thomaston and Kelleran took the stow-away slave to his home for asylum. Segurs, convinced Atticus had escaped to Maine, sent a boat to purse the men. In Thomaston, Segurs was unable to find Atticus until he offered a $20 reward for his capture. Enticed by money, two men, knowing Atticus's location — deceived him into leaving the safety of the Kelleran homestead for another harborage, at a barn on the Knox estate. The duo returned him to Segurs.

It is said an angry crowd gathered at the waterfront to protest Atticus's capture, but Atticus was forced from town and brought back to Georgia.

Segurs, incensed at the Maine men, wrote to the governor of Georgia, William Schley, who in turn contacted Maine Gov. Robert Dunlap, requesting he send Kelleran and Philbrook to Georgia to stand trail for stealing Atticus.

Dunlap refused and a committee was formed in the Georgia legislature that suggested Georgia ports be closed to Maine vessels and visiting Mainers in Georgia be taken hostage. A resolution was passed in Georgia that determined the state did not owe allegiance to the United States if the men were not sent to receive punishment, as it violated the U.S. Constitution and the rights of Georgia citizens. Kelleran and Philbrook were not arrested and the situation eventually cooled.

Fifty years later, Philbrook's grandson, while working at a port in Savannah, was approached by Atticus under a different name. Atticus said, “I hear you are from Maine. I went there once in a vessel whose master was Capt. Daniel Philbrook. I was a slave then." Atticus was then a free man.

One property owner, David Smith, of Cushing, is familiar with the historical significance of the home and said the story he remembers is that Atticus was hidden in a false panel in the fireplace of the home.

Smith said he and his siblings would prefer to have the land remain as is, and added he has hayed the property's fields for 38 years but conceded, "the next owners can do what they want with it — it is what it is."

Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.


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