T heresa C. Lonergan, historian and noted scholar of 18th century American naval history died of natural causes on Nov. 26, 2011 at the Moses Ludington Nursing Home in Ticonderoga. She was 82.
In his best-selling work on the battle of Saratoga author Richard M. Ketchum said, “Mrs. Theresa C. Lonergan, during four decades of research, compiled what is certainly the most authoritative study of eighteenth century naval activity on Lake Champlain. Her detailed notebooks, with transcripts of primary sources and her own comments, comprise the Theresa C. Lonergan research collection on the First American Navy at Fort Ticonderoga’s Thompson-Pell Research Center.”
A former Ticonderoga Village historian, Mrs. Lonergan was active in several local projects including refurbishing of the village’s Moses Circle historical monument and restoration of the several historical markers indicating major events of the French and Indian War and The American Revolution taking place in the Ticonderoga-Lake George area.
In conjunction with the marker project she authored a tourist guide for those who chose to visit these various battle sites.
In addition she was instrumental in revitalizing and restoring Carillion Park commemorating the removal by General Henry Knox of Canon from Fort Ticonderoga, which he transported to Massachusetts for use by the Americans in the Battle of Dorchester Heights.
Other local projects she worked on include a Civil War Memorial for those who served in that war from Ticonderoga and at the time of her death she contributed work on the history and manufacture of various belfries in area churches and other historical locations.
During a lifetime of research into the origins and activities of the First American Fleet she helped identify recovered ship wrecks of the fleet found in Lake Champlain, many of which were built in Skenesborough, NY (now Whitehall) under the direction of General Benedict Arnold. The tiny fleet was instrumental in delaying a superior British fleet at the battle of Valcour Island which postponed the British invasion of the north country in time to give the Americans time to prepare for their victory at Saratoga in October 1777.
She also supervised and personally financed the building of three models from the First American Fleet that now reside in the Skenesborough Museum in Whitehall, New York. These ship models of the Lee, Washington, and Philadelphia are the only ones ever constructed of the nascent American Navy. Their construction was made from plans she obtained from the Smithsonian.
Moreover, she was an unpaid research consultant to the Skenesborough Museum in the construction of its diorama depicting the harbor scene at Whitehall at the time of the building of Mrs. Lonergan also helped identify one of the War of 1812 wrecks from Macdonough’s fleet found in the East Bay of Lake Champlain which had mistakenly been identified as one of General Arnold’s vessels.
Mrs. Lonergan was born Theresa Cucci in Whitehall, New York on Feb. 8, 1929. She was an honors graduate of Whitehall High School and received a scholarship to Barnard College, Columbia University and later graduated from the Katherine Gibbs School in New York City.
In 1956 she was married to James Lonergan of Ticonderoga and for several years they operated the Lonergan Insurance Agency and Montcalm Premium Finance Company. Additionally she and her husband operated the tourist attraction on Historic Mount Defiance which was a key strategic site during the American Revolution and was critical in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by British General John Burgoyne in 1777. They both were charter members of the Route 22-4-40 Association whose objective was to improve roadways to the Adirondack region of New York.
Mrs. Lonergan was very generous in sharing her research with historians, students and anyone interested in colonial American history. Extensive use has been made of it by researchers, U.S. Naval Academy students and was made available to the Champlain Maritime Museum in Vermont for their research purposes.
She is survived by her brother and sister-in-law Mr. and Mrs. E. John Cucci of Croton-on-Hudson, New York and two nephews John T. Cucci and Timothy Cucci of Los Angeles, California and a niece, Mrs. Susan Drake and nephew Thomas Wilson both of Rutland, Vermont plus several grandnieces and nephews.