All in the Family

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Previously I’ve blogged about the Oakland House, which has been in Jim Littlefield’s family since it was awarded in the mid 1600s as a king’s grant. It’s not the only Maine coastal property with such loooonnng family ties.

Nearby, in Cape Rosier, is Hiram Blake Camps. Like Oakland House, it’s been in the same family since before the Revolutionary War. It too is a family oriented, oceanfront cottage colony, where guests are served breakfast and dinner. It’s more rustic than Oakland House, and the dining room is less fancy, but it too has generations of followers who book for the following year before they depart each season.

Down in Kennebunk, Patricia Mason is the 12th-generation innkeeper at the Seaside Motor Inn, which occupies a spectacular, 20-acre, beachfront chunk of real estate bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the Kennebunk River and Gooch’s River. She first realized how deep her roots here were while in high school. She was sitting on the beach reading Arundel, by Kenneth Roberts, and recognized not only the place, but also some of the characters. “It was eerie,” she recalls.

The property was settled in the mid-17th century, Mason says, when her ancestor John Gooch answered the call of Fernando Gorges, agent for King Charles II, to reside here in order to ferry travelers across the mouth of the Kennebunk River. Travelers often needed to pass a night or two, so Gooch provided rooms and operated a tavern. Although Mason can’t date exactly when he settled here, his will is dated 1667, which is the date the family uses as the inn’s beginning, although it’s more likely Gooch arrived in the 1640s.

As was custom at the time, the property passed down for generations to the first-born son. “My grandmother’s mother was an only child and a girl, so the first name change occurred with her,” Mason explains. “Then my grandmother was the eldest and a girl, a Severance.” That was another name change. “My dad was eldest, and he had two daughters.”

Mason and her husband, Ken, were living in Franklin, while her husband was stationed with the Coast Guard in Jonesport. “We got a phone call from Mom and Dad. They said, ‘Someday we want to retire, is this something you want to do?’” It wasn’t something the Masons previously had considered. “It was a hard decision, but one I couldn’t say no to. After 12 generations, you really can’t say, ‘I don’t feel like it.’”