I suspect some of you have heard of Henry Knox. He became the Secretary of War for George Washington after rising up from the ranks in the army. And after the Revolutionary War he settled in Thomaston, Massachusetts (now Maine).

Knox’s path to war hero was not exactly what you would expect. He was born to Scottish immigrants and at the age of 9 he had to quit school to work and support his newly widowed mother. But the job he got was in a book store, so he was not only able to work but learn as well.

At the age of 20, Knox was witness to the Boston Massacre. He even attempted to no avail to get the soldiers to stop. Just one year later he opened his own bookstore specializing in military books. His bookstore became the hangout for British officers and their ladies as he was friendly and considered very charismatic.

Ironically, at this age he was also involved with the Sons of Liberty. And he had an unfortunate hunting accident that resulted in the loss of two of his fingers. You never see his hand without his fingers in any paintings and when he was out in public he would wrap his hand in a handkerchief to hide his injury.

In 1774 he married Lucy Flucker. This was against her family’s wishes as they were loyalists and it was clear by now Knox was not. They were together as often as possible, which meant that once war broke out, Lucy would actually travel with Knox. Some how, this man who shot his own fingers off, became Washington’s right hand man. He was soon promoted to Brigadier General. His military strategies aided in the Americans winning the war.

After the war, he settled in Thomaston and became involved in many business ventures including brick making, ship building and cattle ranching. Despite his best efforts these all failed and he became bankrupt. At age 56 he choked on a chicken bone and died three days later from the infection. His beautiful estate fell into disrepair and was torn down to make way for the railroad.

Buzz Bradley/TSM
Buzz Bradley/TSM

You can visit a replica of his beloved estate. After being closed last year due to covid19, it is open again Tuesday through Saturday. Here you will be given a guided tour of the replica of Montpelier led by knowledgeable and friendly volunteers.

From rags to riches. From grade school drop out to self taught academic. From hunting accident victim to secretary of war. From riches to rags once again. Henry Knox.

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