There were a few milestones that needed to be reached before Knox County could officially exist. After all, Mount Vernon may be found in Fairfield County. In Lancaster, legal matters were settled. However, it must be borne in mind that George Washington was still very much a living memory and the most revered man in America at this time.
Director of the Knox County Historical Society Jim Gibson explained that the town of Mount Vernon got its name from George Washington’s estate. The new county (created in 1808) was named after Henry Knox, one of Washington’s most trusted generals and later Secretary of War, because of the enormous esteem in which Washington was held.
Knox was born to Mary Campbell Knox and William Knox on July 25, 1750, in Boston. Even though a county bears his name, he never lived there. Sadly, he passed away on October 25, 1806, in Thomaston, Maine.
“Before (Washington) was president, he was fighting the revolution and Henry was one of his major helpers. It’s a really interesting story,”
Knox dropped out of high school when he was 12 years old to focus on his music career. By starting “The London Book Store,” he demonstrated his independence. Knox’s reading time was not limited by the demands of running the bookstore. He realized his passion for artillery could be useful to the approaching war effort led by Washington, and he decided to study the subject.
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In their conversation, he learned that Washington had been kind enough to share his expertise. In awe, Washington promoted Knox to general.
“When the revolution broke out, (we) actually didn’t have a very good artillery section to our military,”
“He went to George and talked to him about it and George was so impressed. He made him a military guy.”
According to Gibson, Washington gave credit for several victories to Knox.
“It’s just astonishing when I read about people who (just had) the smallest amount of public education and just taught themselves,”
Washington described Knox as
“A man of great military reading, sound judgement and clear conceptions.”
According to his brief biography, Knox enlisted in the Continental Army in 1775, and by 1776, he had been promoted to colonel and given command of the artillery. After the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781, he was promoted to major general and eventually took over as commander-in-chief of the American army from Washington in 1783.
With the Articles of Confederation in place, President Washington selected Knox to the office of Secretary of War in 1785, and he remained in that role throughout President Washington’s administration. Gibson penned a letter urging the American military to adopt a new kind of musket, and an authentic copy of it can be seen in the Historical Society’s archives.
These accomplishments helped Knox carve out a special place in history and brought him widespread acclaim. That’s why the county finally settled on a new moniker: in honour of a specific individual.
“This area wasn’t big enough to be considered to be its own county until they had to get a certain population,”
“And Licking County was formed at the same time, so they wanted to name our county after somebody that was friends with George Washington since our town was named after George’s home.”
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