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Thomaston: The Town that Went to Sea

Henry Knox: The Funeral

Thomaston Cavalry Banner
Thomaston Cavalry BannerThis is the banner that the Thomaston Cavalry may have carried in Henry Knox's funeral procession. Item Contributed by
Montpelier, The General Henry Knox Museum

Major General Henry Knox died on the 25th of October, 1806, after 56 years of life and 11 years in Thomaston. According to all official reports, Knox fell ill after swallowing a chicken bone, resulting in an infection that took his life after a few days of bed-ridden agony. Local legends about his death abound, including the rumor that he was stabbed by a gentleman who, upon returning to his Union home, discovered Knox dining with the gentleman’s wife.

According to Eaton, on October 28th, 1806, Knox’s funeral was celebrated with full military honors. The eulogy was offered by the Honorable Samuel Thatcher of Warren. Several local military groups marching with their arms reversed, including a local militia company, a local artillery company and a local cavalry company, led the funeral procession, followed by the General’s coffin, his favorite horse with Knox’s boots reversed in the stirrups, and a large group of mourning relatives, servants, townspeople and strangers. The group left the mansion and proceeded up Knox Street to what is now Main Street, and from there to a wood near Mill River, where Knox’s tomb was located under his favorite oak.

That Knox’s funeral was a major town event is attested to by the account submitted to Knox’s estate by Sarah Dunton, a local milliner (incidentally, the wife of Ebenezer Dunton, the housewright Knox had hired in 1793 to build Montpelier). On October 27th, 1806 Dunton charged the Knox estate for the making of a shroud, several yards of black crepe, several yards of black silk, black gowns, black bonnets, black ribbon and gunpowder. On November 2nd Dunton recorded charges for several yards of black gauze, black silk, black ribbon, and black muslin. Recipients of these goods, noted on the accounting, included Mr. Gleason, Captain Vose, Miss Caroline (Knox’s youngest daughter), Captain Fales (for drums and colors), the artillery company, and Captain Gregory (presumably for the cavalry company).

Henry Knox monument, Thomaston, ca. 1871
Henry Knox monument, Thomaston, ca. 1871Item Contributed by
Thomaston Historical Society

Unfortunately for Knox, it took several years for him to find a permanent resting place. The ground under his favorite oak tree shifted because of its proximity to the water and the freeze/thaw cycles, so his tomb had to be moved elsewhere on the property - twice. After Montpelier was sold out of the Knox family in 1855, his descendants had Knox and the other family members that were buried in the tomb moved to the town cemetery, which happened to be located on land that Knox had donated to the town for that purpose.