Not many people can say that their relative helped to found a town that helped shape a nation and a branch of the military.
Kathy Trywhitt-Drake can, however.
Trywhitt-Drake, who is from the small town of Wheatacre, England, is the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Philip Skene, who set up residence and founded the town of Skenesborough in 1759.
“It’s mind blowing,” said Trywhitt-Drake. “I can’t get my head around it. It’s a little bit of the history of our family and a chance for me to see where he lived.”
Trywhitt-Drake said that the trip to the United States has been part of a great adventure for her in looking back on her ancestors.
“I really don’t like to fly, so from the beginning this was a big adventure,” said Trywhitt-Drake.
Trywhitt-Drake said that initially, she was coming to the United States to meet a long-time friend.
“Me and Corrine (Weeks) have been friends for a long time,” said Trywhitt-Drake. “This is my second visit to see her and my first visit here to Whitehall.”
Weeks is also friends with Martin Kelly, with the two meeting in the acting field.
“In the 1970’s, Corrine’s husband played lead in a show that I had written and I got to know them both,” said Kelly. “The last time I had seen her was 10 years ago until I saw her recently at a wake. We got to talking and she said that she had a friend who was one of Philip Skene’s relatives coming over to visit her. We went out for lunch Monday and that was the first time I met Kathy, and we said that she should come up here.”
Trywhitt-Drake visited the Manor on Oct. 26, and also took a tour of the town and a visit to where the site of the Skene home is speculated to be located at.
Trywhitt-Drake said that while this was her first visit to Whitehall, there had been other members of the family who had visited the town before.
“Many years ago, my mom was writing a book about Philip Skene and she came here with my brother,” said Trywhitt-Drake. “She died before she was ever able to finish the book. I am writing a book right now with my friends about the village of Wheatacre but maybe after I am done with that, I will look back at her notes and see what I can do with them.”
Trywhitt-Drake said that Phillip Skene and his journey to America is just a small part of a rather detailed family history that her parents had worked on.
“My mom and dad had traced our line back before the Norman Conquest,” she said. “This is just a little bit of the history that we know about our family.”
Trywhitt-Drake said that she hopes to learn more about the town where her ancestor called home prior to the Revolutionary War, and that is now known as the “birthplace of the Navy.”