April 1966 | Volume 17, Issue 3
One moonless spring night in 1775 a young couple crept quietly out of their house on Cornhill in Boston and ran for a waiting carriage. It bore them away through dark streets toward Boston Neck. Each moment they expected to hear a sentry’s challenge, but none tame and soon they were across the Charles River bound for the headquarters of the American forces at Cambridge. The young man, Henry Knox, bookseller, was one whose name appeared on Governor Gage’s list of suspected rebels who must not be permitted to leave Boston: his eighteen-year-old wife was the daughter of the Royal Secretary of the Province of Massachusetts Day. She carried her husband’s sword sewn into the quilting of her cloak.
The marriage of Henry Knox to Lucy Fluckcr had taken place the year before and had caused a pleasurable flurry of gossip in Boston. Tory society was shocked, but the Sons of Liberty and their friends rejoiced, including an anonymous poet who celebrated the triumph of young love over parental opposition: For who ever heard / Of a case so absurd / As a marriage deterred, / Or even deferred, / By scolding the boy / And caging the bird .
It was indeed a mesalliance for the bride, an heiress of distinguished ancestry, raised in the heart of the Royal Governor’s official world. Her father, Thomas Flucker, was an appointee of the British Crown and grandson of a founder of the town of Charlcstown, across the Charles River. Hc lived in opulent style, his wife and daughters were ladies of fashion, and his only son was an officer in the British Army. He owned one of the first carriages imported to Boston from England (the flamboyant merchant and subsequent patriot John Hancock wrote to London to the same carriage maker to order an equipage comparable to Secretary Flucker’s; namely, the best). Thomas Fluckcr had made two brilliant marriages, first to a Bowdoin and then to Lucy’s mother, Hannah Waldo, who had inherited from her father, Brigadier Samuel Waldo, a fortune in Boston and large estates in the Province of Maine.
Henry Knox had neither fortune nor powerful ancestors. His father was an Irish immigrant who had failed as a wharf owner in Boston’s South End and had departed for the West Indies, leaving Henry in charge of his younger brother, Billy, and his mother. Henry was only nine years old at the time, but he cheerfully left school and went to work for a bookselling and binding company, Messrs. Whai ton and Bowes. Under the kindly eye of Nicholas Bowes, he learned to control a belligerent temper, and relinquished his position as ringleader of the South Knd “gang” which had a yearly brawl with the North End on “Pope’s Night” when the Pope was burned in effigy. Denied the advantages ol young gentlemen who drank and duelled their way through Harvard when not conning their Latin and Greek, he educated himself among his employers’ books. At twenty-one he opened his own bookshop. The young gentlemen of privilege congregated there, and Henry observed their manners and soon could be mistaken for one of them.
Lucy Flucker was very loud of books and at seventeen began to join the panics of smart young people who gathered at the Knox bookstore on Cornhill, a congenial plate “of great display and attraction for young and old, and a fashionable morning lounge,” wrote a contemporary. The girl’s interest in books was rapidly transferred to the bookseller, whom she had also seen, splendidly accoutered and mounted upon a sturdy horse, parading on Boston Common with the Grenadier Corps of the militia. Frequently the imperious, spoiled Miss Thicker led the young proprietor away from chatting groups for private talks among the bookshelves. It is said that the young man’s emotions were so stirred by his Charming client that he could not make correct change.
When Lucy’s parents got wind of what was going on in (he bookshop, they exploded in wrath. For one thing, they had no liking for a son-in-law “in trade.” And what was even worse, young Knox was in sympathy with those rebellious American colonists who were making such a fuss about taxes and who that very winter had tossed tea into Boston Harbor. Although for reasons of business Henry tried to be discreet—he simulated a quarrel with his friend Paul Revere when their earnest discussion was interrupted by the arrival of a Tory in the shop—he was suspected of active participation. He had done little yet but listen, read, and debate with friends, but in his heart he had no doubts; he had been present at the Boston Massacre and had seen the redcoats fire upon the crowd.
Lucy soon made up her mind that she wanted “her Harry,” and neither reason nor force would change it. Her parents tried to prevent meetings but Lucy defied them when she could; the lovers exchanged fervent letters, signing themselves “Speria” and “Fidelio.” Lucy was violently emotional and inclined to hysterical scenes if crossed. She wore her parents down while Boston society watched the battle with glee. Harry was the m:m she wanted, a strong, positive, cheerful man who could calm her seething temperament. And perhaps there was an unconscious reason for her fixation—he was tall, built like a heavyweight prize fighter; Lucy herself was plump, her pretty face poised upon a hefty body. Here was a man who could make her feel petite and fragile.
At last the Fluckers gave in, and the wedding took place on June 16, 1774, shortly before Lucy’s eighteenth birthday and Harry’s twenty-fifth. The Fluckers tried to make their unwelcome son-in-law respectable by offering him a commission in the British Army. He was promising material, being a well-trained officer of the militia and a self-taught student of military history and tactics. Harry politely refused and went on studying his military books for other purposes. He was supported in his decision by Lucy. The parents groaned and pointed out that Lucy’s older sister, Hannah, had married a fine British officer, and her brother Thomas was also in the King’s service. Obviously, they said, Lucy and her rebellious bookseller were bound to end up “eating the bread of poverty and dependence.”
In April, 1775, came bloodshed at Lexington and Concord, and Harry made up his mind. The decision to offer the fruit of his military studies to the cause of liberty was inevitable for him, but for Lucy it was a drastic break with her family and past life. There is no record to show that Henry Knox was with the American forces until late in June, so there may have been a period of doubt as to what she ought to do. But it ended unequivocally, and they took flight to Cambridge together.
Henry Knox was one of the few volunteers who had any idea of military engineering or the use of artillery. He was immediately put to work designing and building defensive forts at Roxbury, while Lucy, left among other Army wives in Worcester, spent her time awaiting letters and writing them. She poured out her soul to “my ever dear Harry,” together with complaints and domestic detail. She was filled with pride that her Harry was indispensable, but sobbed with self-pity at their separation. She rejoiced that General George Washington, on his arrival at Cambridge, praised Harry’s defense works at Roxbury and, following John Adams’ advice to make good use of the young student of military tactics, appointed him commander of artillery. Harry suggested to the new Commander in Chief that an expedition be made to Fort Ticonderoga to fetch the equipment captured from the British by Ethan Allen. Thus Lucy had a glimpse of her Harry in November, as he travelled through Worcester to start the mission, and again in January, when he returned with fifty-nine precious pieces of artillery that had been brought through snow and ice. These same guns, dragged onto Dorchester Heights above Boston, were trained upon the city and caused the flight of Lucy’s parents in the general evacuation by the British and their Tory sympathizers. (See “Big Guns for Washington” in the April, 1955, A MERICAN H ERITAGE .)
Throughout the next two years, Lucy’s life consisted of snatched visits with Harry alternated with dreary months in strange houses. She dashed to Harry’s side when Boston fell, and managed to go along with him when he toured New England ports to plan for their defense. She had to be left behind in Fairfield, Connecticut, for the birth of their first child, Lucy Flucker Knox, while Harry joined General Washington in New York. But she was soon with him again, in spite of warnings that the unpredictable General Howe might attack the city at any time. She was delighted with the house, at No. i Broadway, requisitioned for Knox’s headquarters, and she basked in the deference shown to her splendidly military husband, now a colonel, commander in chief of artillery, and on intimate terms with General Washington. In July the Knoxes joyfully celebrated the reading of the Declaration of Independence, but hardly had time to savor the heady moment, for suddenly the British fleet loomed off Staten Island.
Harry sent Lucy back to Fairfield, where she slumped in misery. All the news was bad; there was a rout on Long Island, New York City was taken, the Continental Army had retreated into New Jersey. A family Christmas with their first-born was impossible; Harry was on the banks of the Delaware using his mighty voice to shout General Washington’s orders to each unit as it embarked across the stormy river. He wrote to Lucy of the successful crossing, the triumph at Trenton, action at Princeton, the pause at Morristown. Lucy pleaded to join him, hotly denying that she had ever complained or needed luxury: “I was pleased with the inconvenience” (did Harry raise a humorous eyebrow?)—“nothing but bread and water might I be within twenty miles of you.” She learned that Mrs. Washington and Mrs. Horatio Gates had been with their husbands. “Happy Mrs. Gates, Happy Mrs. Washington—in the last ten months we have not spent six weeks together.”
Harry wrote whenever he could, though constantly at General Washington’s side and occupied with a thousand duties concerning supervision of artillery and training of recruits. “Nothing but the call of a country much injured and misunderstood to whom I am inseparably connected,” he wrote, “would have called me from the arms and company of her who is inexpressibly interwoven with my heart.”
Lucy had shown the force of her passions when she fought her parents for permission to marry, and tantrums had succeeded in the defeat of Papa and Mamma. Now she was faced with life in a historic moment which could not be changed to suit her, and with a husband who recognized its solemnity and put his duty first. And there were no longer parents to comfort her. Perhaps when she fled from Boston it had been rather fun to defy them, but now she felt deep hurt that no letter came from them. Through an aunt she learned that Mr. Flucker continued to draw a salary of £300 as Provincial Secretary and worked to obtain compensation for dispossessed Tories, savagely denying the claims of those he suspected had ever shown the least sympathy for the American cause, as if hitting out at his daughter through them.
Harry was never spared a detail of her anxieties and loneliness. At Fairfield she complained of the company as “unrefined as yeomanry,” and earned a lecture on democracy from Harry. From Wallingford, Connecticut, where she and a Mrs. Pollard rented a house together, their landlord wrote to Colonel Knox to report the crockery broken and the cellar of West Indian rum consumed, and without actually accusing the ladies he may have given Harry fears that his young wife was drowning her sorrows. It was a relief when Lucy moved back to Boston, where she had friends and could also be kept busy helping Harry’s brother Billy run the bookstore.
When the Continental Army encamped at Valley Forge for the winter of 1777, Lucy was at last allowed to join her husband. She bloomed in contentment in a big stone house beside Harry’s artillery park and became a pleasing hostess to cold and threadbare officers. Somehow the Knoxes always managed to provide extra food and wine, and at night there was often dancing and singing. At this time the relationship between the Washingtons and the Knoxes burgeoned. Henry Knox was already as close to the Commander in Chief as any officer in Washington’s working “family,” but now the ladies became close in spite of twentyfive years’ difference in age. Both came from a background of privilege, Martha’s accomplishments being those of a country lady, while Lucy’s were more urban and official. Lucy grew in self-importance as she informed the older woman on matters of protocol. Together the Knoxes were of special value to the Washingtons in this moment of open criticism of the General. Never a word of criticism was spoken by Henry and Lucy Knox.
With spring came the glorious news that France had recognized the American republic and would send aid. A Maytime Thanksgiving was celebrated. Then camp was broken, the men prepared for battle, and the women scattered to their homes. The separation of soldiers and wives was brief this summer, however, for by August the last major battle in the North was fought at Monmouth and the army settled down to await a move by the British in New York. The new encampment was at Pluckemin, New Jersey, where Harry created an artillery park with an “academy” attached for the training of officers (the forerunner of West Point). Lucy joined him, and there enjoyed an almost settled life for nearly two years. The Knoxes gave a ball on February 18, 1779, attended by seventy ladies and three hundred gentlemen. It was opened by General Washington, who led Lucy onto the floor for a minuet (in spite of her advanced pregnancy). There was dinner, a fireworks display, and dancing till dawn. General Washington accepted the challenge of Kitty Greene, General Nathanael Greene’s giddy wife, and danced for three uninterrupted hours.
Massive French help and plans for a concerted attack put an end to life at Pluckemin. Harry hurried away to collect the largest supply of artillery he could raise and see it transported to Yorktown, while Lucy went to Mount Vernon, where she became a pleasant but somewhat managing companion to Martha Washington. The visit was marred for Lucy by envy of the fine house and established living of the Virginia plantation, and she wrote Harry of her longings for a home of their own. He had little time to give the matter thought: the American-French forces were besieging Yorktown for two weeks and finally, on October 19, 1781, achieved the surrender of General Cornwallis. For his contribution Henry Knox was made a major general—the youngest in the American forces.
The Knoxes lived through the prolonged period of near-peace at Newburgh, New York. Harry was in command at West Point and had the melancholy duty of disbanding the Army, to whom years of back pay were still owed. After peace was signed, Harry and Lucy moved to a house at Dorchester, outside Boston (later Daniel Webster’s summer home), and then to a house on Boston Common rented from the painter John Singleton Copley. Lucy’s pregnancies had been following fast upon each other—a son named for General Henry Jackson; a little boy who died; another boy, Marcus; and a girl, Julia Wadsworth. The Flucker estates were now Lucy’s, awarded to her as the only non-Tory member of the Flucker family; Harry, administrator for his wife, looked over the Maine lands while on a mission to the Penobscot Indians. Speculation in undeveloped territory was the rage, and Harry enthusiastically bought up the patents of other heirs. He noted the fine sweep of the St. Georges River as seen from the settlement at Thomaston, and deemed it an ideal spot for a future home for Lucy. It had to remain a dream for the moment, however, because the Confederation made Henry Knox “Secretary at War,” in charge of both Army and Navy.
In March, 1785, Henry Knox took up his new duties in New York at a salary of $2,450, considerably less than his household expenses. There was little to do at first because there was neither an army nor a navy, but he busied himself drawing up plans for an effective defense force. Lucy, annoyed that Harry had rented a country house on Bowery Lane (“I am an urban person”), arrived from Boston in June with the children. The house was four miles out from the center of the city, but this did not prevent a continual stream of carriages from arriving to receive the Knox hospitality. Lucy soon got her way, and a fine town house at No. 4 Broadway rang with the voices of her children and was kept lit far into the small hours to the sound of music, laughter, and the cries of Lucy’s victims at whist. Harry anxiously made a breakdown of yearly costs, calculated in pounds: total expenditures £1,304; salary, £980; discrepancy, £324, to be met by borrowing on Lucy’s estates. Their extravagant living became fashionable gossip. Lucy had added to the mouths to feed by producing four more children in less than four years: William Bingham, Caroline (who lived less than a year), Augusta, and George Washington.
New York became livelier still as the national capital under the Presidency of George Washington. The “Secretary at War” became Secretary of War. He was one of the most experienced department heads, and his position was further enhanced by his friendship of fourteen years with the President. It was the Knoxes who were called upon to shop for the brown broadcloth of American make for George Washington’s inauguration suit, to which they added some handsome buttons with an eagle design. Henry Knox stood close behind the President as he took his oath of office at Federal Hall, and at the end of the crowded day it was to the Knoxes’ house that the President came to watch the fireworks display in New York Harbor.
Their impressive position seemed expressed in their outward appearance. Harry and Lucy had both become enormously fat. The sturdy youth had turned, at near forty, into a monumental man of 290 pounds, yet easy of step, quick in gesture, erect and alert, with keen gray eyes, his hair powdered and held back in a queue, his left hand always elegantly draped in a black silk handkerchief to conceal the loss of two fingers shot off in a hunting accident. Lucy, now thirty-three, weighed 250 pounds and carried herself with tremendous hauteur. “Her size is enormous,” wrote Mrs. William Smith to her mother, Abigail Adams, wife of the Vice President; “I am frightened when I look at her; I verily believe that her waist is as large as three of yours at least.” Her clothes made her even more noticeable, flamboyant creations hung about with fichus, bows, cascades of lace, mantillas. She retained a French hairdresser at twenty shillings a month to create some startling edifices upon her head: for instance, a wire skeleton towering a foot high, over which her hair was drawn up to a pinnacle and held by a vast crooked comb from which streamers of black gauze floated down her back. The front hair was puffed out, while the back was finished in something like a man’s queue—“she seems to mimic the military style, very disgusting in a female,” remarked one observer.
Lucy placed herself firmly in the center of all official activity, certain that she was one of the few who knew how to handle it. Thomas Jefferson, while in Paris as United States minister, recorded in his diary a gossipy report that at a presidential ball in New York, Lucy Knox had pushed herself closely behind President and Mrs. Washington and tried to mount the dais to sit upon the sofa with them—“but unfortunately the wicked sofa was too short.” Martha Washington was not present at the ball in question, and the gossip was untrue, but Lucy’s grandiose manners laid her open to unkind stories and made her repugnant to those who feared that the new American nation might swing away from its democratic principles. Henry Knox, though never bigoted, was a Federalist. His wife, more a social being than a political one, felt comfortable only in the world of privilege, and it was upon her head that the blame fell from Antifederalists when it was seen that Knox would always align himself with Hamilton against Jefferson—“the shadow of Hamilton,” Jefferson called him. The Society of the Cincinnati, founded by Knox for officers of the Revolution, was held up as proof of his aristocratic leanings, particularly because it was a hereditary body in which membership passed to sons.
Henry Knox had not needed Lucy to prod him into large-scale living. It had attracted him as a bookseller in Boston when he made his shop an “elegant morning lounge” and married a girl from the gentry. He believed in his own worth and became a grand seigneur by choice and effort. Still, he was a passionate patriot and swore by the ideals on which the new republic was founded. “I believe a republican government formed upon natural principles … may exist a great length of time,” he wrote to General Samuel Parsons. “I confess I hate the office of king. It is impossible to restrain their power.”
In 1790 the national capital was shifted to Philadelphia, and once more the unwieldy Knox household of children, servants, and household goods had to be moved to another rented house. The John Adamses lent their house, Bush Hill, to the Knoxes until another was ready. In Philadelphia, the President held a Tuesday levee and Mrs. Washington a Friday drawing room. There were more balls, more theatres, and more elegant women than in New York. Lucy became an intimate of the beautiful social leader Anne Bingham, who helped her run up more bills for dazzling clothes and filled her head with dazzling descriptions of life in the great French châteaux. Henry Knox, observing that more money was required to keep his family afloat, joined in financial ventures with Anne’s husband, William Bingham, and later was forced to borrow from him. Harry’s speculations were usually overly optimistic and seldom successful.
It now looked as if Knox’s best hope for solvency lay in the development of his wife’s estates. He and Lucy decided that the time had come at last to build the house they had always wanted; and at Thomaston, Maine, a great mansion, which eventually cost $50,000, began to rise upon the river bank. People were shocked at the grandiose scale—did the Knoxes really need twenty-four fireplaces?—but Harry said he wanted a worthy house for Lucy after so many nomadic years. “Mrs. Knox wants a cabin,” he said; it was he who demanded a mansion. Knox left Philadelphia at a moment when Washington urgently needed him to help suppress the Whiskey Rebellion, and allowed the responsibility and glory to pass to Hamilton and Anthony Wayne. His thoughts were now exclusively for his family, and he wrote Lucy on his trip down East of “the genuine and unspeakable love of my heart, a love which increases with years and shall never die.”
The house on the St. Georges River was ready for the family in June, 1795. The General, Lucy, six children, and assorted servants arrived from Boston on a sloop commanded by Captain Andrew Malcolm of Warren. They sailed into the broad mouth of the river, rounded a bend, and there beheld the big white mansion against a background of spruce, maple, and beech. It was all Lucy had dreamed it would be, a combination of a French château as described by Anne Bingham and a fine Virginia mansion—foreign to the New England landscape. Lucy gave it the fittingly elegant French name of Montpelier. It stood three stories high, topped by a cupola, surrounded by broad piazzas, fronted by columns. A princely house, it was served from a crescent of nine outbuildings behind it—a cookhouse, a distillery, a buttery, an icehouse, stables, blacksmith and carpenter shops, and dwellings for servants, grooms, and gardeners.
Montpelier was flung open to the entire neighborhood for a Fourth of July celebration. There was music and trestle tables piled high with food (it was said an ox and twenty sheep were slaughtered). No one forgot the queenly presence of Lucy—for many it was their only glimpse of her during nearly thirty years of her residence in Maine. No one forgot the first sight of the General, soon a familiar figure in his black clothes, a cane swinging dangerously as he pointed out spots for ornamental gardens, orchards, and grazing pastures. This first party over, another was given for the entire Tarrateen tribe of Indians, who set up wigwams on the lawn. The Indians found it all so delightful that the sojourn stretched into weeks, until Lucy’s patience gave out. The General called upon the chiefs and said firmly, “Now that we have had a good visit, you had better go home.”
More to Lucy’s taste was the visit of the roving Due de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, who later wrote in his Travels in North America , “Mrs. Knox is a lady of whom you conceive a still higher opinion the longer you are acquainted with her. Seeing her in Philadelphia, you think of her only as a fortunate player of whist. In her house in the country, you discover she possesses sprightliness, knowledge, a good heart, and an excellent understanding.” Then came a big, jolly party consisting of the Binghams, two Bingham children, Anne’s sister Miss Willing, the Vicomte de Noailles, Alexander Baring (later Lord Ashburton), and a Mr. Richards from England. They played cards and billiards, used the stable of saddle horses, and drove in the numerous carriages and smart brakes which, in bad weather, could be brought into quarters below the house to allow passengers to keep dry. And they picnicked along the wooded river banks.
Munificent entertainment at Montpelier became a local legend. Any passing notable was made welcome, or any itinerant preacher. Henry Knox’s generosity was acknowledged far and wide; he built a church (with a bell by Paul Revere), a school, and a courthouse. He set up new villages for workers, gave employment to the whole district, and amicably settled squatters’ claims.
However, the scattered residents of Thomaston, some 800 souls who worked the land, fished, and traded, found Lucy unwilling to mix with the country folk. She drove out in her carriage reportedly spattering mud on pedestrians without acknowledging their presence; she called on no one and is supposed to have preferred to stand in a slushy road rather than enter a farmhouse while repairs were made on her carriage.
Harry could usually accept Lucy’s foibles with humor and he adored her always. She could babble foolishly and annoy him—as she undoubtedly had in 1783 when she greeted the great news of the Peace of Paris with a complaint about having to find a new home—“This plaguey peace has set us all moving again.” One time when she suddenly changed her mind about going riding, Harry told the groom, “John, put Mrs. Knox’s horse in the stable and do not take it out again until God Almighty or Mrs. Knox tells you to.” Always his anger was softened by compassion. Her extreme behavior at Montpelier may have been caused by the relentless succession of tragedies that did not cease even when the haven in the country was reached. Here William Bingham Knox, aged eleven, and Augusta, aged nine, died on the same day, probably of diphtheria, and within a year, Julia Wasdworth, an enchanting girl of fifteen, died of rapid consumption. Lucy’s final pregnancy brought her a stillborn child. A bedroom in Montpelier became known as the “dead room,” where each victim in turn was laid out. In the end only three children were spared her of the thirteen she bore—the eldest, Lucy; Henry Jackson, who caused endless heartache by his instability; and the youngest girl, Caroline.
When thoughts of bereavements could be pushed aside, the Knoxes’ life for the next ten years was a happy one. They spent winters in Boston and returned to Montpelier in the spring, when Harry toured his acres, planning, expanding, running up debts. Eventually it was Lucy who urged that the Boston winters should be abandoned. It seemed a wise plan, for bills were always soaring and Harry’s good humor became ruffled when creditors clamored at the great gates of Montpelier. All his land speculation would pay off in time, he was sure …
But suddenly time was no longer his. He swallowed a sharp chicken bone, which lodged in his esophagus, and within three days, on October 25, 1806, he was dead at the age of fifty-six. Life without Harry—eighteen years of it—faced Lucy. When the military funeral was over and the last reverberations of the gun salute were stilled and the rich tones of the Paul Revere bell at Harry’s church had dwindled to silence, the frightened birds settled back in the trees and Lucy closed herself into Montpelier.
Her two surviving daughters remained faithfully close. Lucy lived nearby with her husband, a lawyer who assisted his mother-in-law in her struggles with the estate’s tangled affairs. Caroline lived at Montpelier with a feckless husband who welcomed the haven the crumbling mansion offered. On one occasion, Lucy’s son, Henry Jackson, roused her to try to get a commission for him in the Navy. John Adams, over eighty and in retirement at Quincy, wrote to Thomas Jefferson, nearly eighty, at Monticello, “Mrs. Knox not long since wrote a letter to Dr. Waterhouse, requesting him to procure a commission for her son in the Navy; that Navy, says her Ladyship, of which his father was the parent, for says she, ‘I have frequently heard General Washington say to my husband that the Navy was your child.’ ” The two old men dug in their memories, and both tried to recall who did what in the distant past. Henry Knox, one of whose last official acts had been the launching of the Constitution , was fading from the minds of even the men he had worked with, and the public had forgotten him altogether. Only the recluse at Montpelier had him constantly in her thoughts.
Houses encroached on Lucy’s aristocratic isolation, the forest was hewn down behind Montpelier. Harry’s pet projects were swept away; his ornamental gardens grew ragged, the paint peeled off the house, and the piazzas became unsafe and were removed. The horses were gone, dust was thick on disused carriages. When privation and danger came to the town in the War of 1812, Lucy tried to guess what action Harry would have taken. He had always made the decisions, which she had often contradicted, and they could fight, and she could weep, and then came the joy of making up.
Few visitors came. Lucy did not want rich and elegant friends to see the ruins of her life, and besides, many were dead. Interest for a day came from a total eclipse of the sun; bears were reported in the beech woods, there were tales of wolves and catamounts that killed the sheep and cattle; there were local tragedies such as a child drowned in a creek or a man lost at sea or in a quarry. Her daughter Caroline joined in the life of the community, but Lucy never left the house. She accepted at last, however, some friendly overtures of some of the gentlemen of the neighborhood who came to play whist with her, and rewarded them with cozy suppers and good bottles of wine. These evenings were not shared by the wives, and even today, 140 years or so later, her memory in Thomaston is not kindly dealt with by some of the womenfolk. I have heard people speak of her as if she were a living presence, and the rumor is that she drinks!
Lucy’s health declined; then a severe illness when she was sixty-eight brought fever and delirium. She laughed and talked of gowns and hairdressing and friends long gone and called out to Harry across a crowded ballroom. On the night of June 19-20, 1824, she became frantic and her daughters struggled to restrain her, until the tumult was suddenly over and her tempestuous spirit departed at 3 A.M.
Although Henry Knox’s name is borne by numerous towns and counties as well as by the repository of the national wealth, Fort Knox—a wry choice, for Harry could never manage his finances—his contributions as a patriot, soldier, and statesman were forgotten except by the specialist. Montpelier was pulled down in 1871, but in the 1920*3, local interest began to reawaken. The Knox Memorial Association was formed and built a replica of Montpelier—not on the original site but on a rise overlooking the town. This house is now under the wardenship of the state of Maine and, lovingly maintained, is open to the public. An award for patriotism in Henry Knox’s name is presented yearly in Thomaston on the anniversary of his birthday, July 25, and then once more the beat of marching feet is heard, bugles blow, and the Paul Revere bell peals. Lucy is remembered only in an inscription on her husband’s monument; she is a footnote in the histories of her time. She made a contribution, however, to the republic she never fully understood, by loving unto death a man who served it nobly.