A Truly Henry Knox Day

My last day on The Trail was a very exciting one. I started with Monument No. 18 on Main Street (Route 20) across the street from the Northborough Library. Katrina Ireland (left above), the librarian, advertised a “Celebration” that brought 15 to 20 mommies and their children to hear me sing/tell my ballad about Henry and his Train of Artillery.

More exciting, as I was explaining who the hero of the tale was, in walked the man himself (right above). Don’t tell the children that sometimes this Henry Knox thinks he’s Archer O’Reilly III, Secretary of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati.

So, after the children and I finished the last chorus and the children yelled “kaboom” as loudly as they could, Henry Knox talked about himself for awhile. He told the kids how his wife’s family were Tories and left Boston with the rest of the British, never to see their daughter again. He explained how some of the cannon had fallen into the ice-covered rivers and had to be fished out during the dead of winter.

Here is the Northborough monument in front of the Town Office and a Minuteman statue.

I wish all of my library visits could be so festive. I continued down the Old Boston Post Road (Route 20) to the next town, Marlborough. It is a POSH town and their large modernized library has none of the coziness of the smaller libraries.

The director accepted my book graciously but with no recognition of what it was about. I don’t think she knew about her town’s marker even though it has been very well kept.

Monument No.19 guards the entrance to the village three blocks farther down the road.

Southborough Library was much more enthusiastic.

I already had a soft spot for the town because it is home to St Mark’s Preparatory school, which my son Jon attended.

The cute library on Main Street is kitty-corner from Monument No.20.

Moving on in spite of it being 98 degrees out, I found Monument No.21 on Main Street by Framingham’s Town Common, not today’s Framingham center.

The Memorial Library next to it is now the Framingham History Center. I gave them some of my bookmarks and they gave me a brochure on, would you believe, the Henry Knox Trail.

I learned something I didn’t know before. From Framingham on, Knox was told “to disappear.” The roads close to Boston were heavily guarded by British soldiers. That explains why Knox didn’t leave detailed records about his route through this part of Massachusetts. Historians have pieced together the puzzle by looking at such things as tavern records.

The route veers from Route 20 at Wayland, which is the one town with two monuments, sort of. The Old Post Road probably crossed the Sudbury River at what is now called the Old Stone Bridge.

You can see the decaying bridge from today’s bridge. Thank goodness I had tried to find it online back at home or I would never have known where to look. Heading east over today’s bridge on Potter Street at the town line, you see the old bridge to your left (north). Then you come to a street called Old Stone Bridge Rd. Turning left onto that road, you backtrack toward the old bridge, driving through homes. The old bridge is blocked with mounds of dirt, rubbish, and weeds, but you can see two stone pillars marking the entrance. On top of the right pillar is a stone sign that says, “Knox Trail Fort Ticonderoga to Cambridge.” That’s it! To the left is a granite stone that looks like the top of a monument, but it is buried.

The second monument, No.23, is your standard variety. It stands on the SW corner of Route 27 and Route 126. There was absolutely no where to park, so I had to be content with a photo from my car window. I couldn’t place my book on top of the monument to prove it was my photo.

Taking a left off Route 26 onto Route 126, you reach the charming Wayland Library.

Unfortunately, Pam McCuen, The Director of Youth Services, was out to lunch. We had previously had a great chat on the phone and I was looking forward to meeting her and telling her about the old bridge marker. But another librarian enthusiastically received the book so I could hurry back outside where I had left Annie tied to a tree. It was simply too hot to leave her in the van.

Back on Route 20, I drove to Weston’s town center. Monument No. 24 stands across from the fire station. The town takes good care of it. Their newish library is several blocks away.

Then I reached Waltham, home of Monument No.25, which stands with a monument to George Washington on a grungy corner across from a Walgreens. It looks like someone tried to rip off the brass plaque.

The library is a few blocks farther down Main Street (still Route 20), but it was closed. Their air conditioning system had broken down. A woman there said it was the hottest summer she remembered in the 40 years she lived in Waltham.

As I sat in Waltham’ McDonald’s parking lot eating a Quarter Pounder, it suddenly got windy and began to rain. The temperature dropped 20 degrees. I only had two more monuments to go, so I pushed on.

Watertown‘s beautiful main library, where I donated a book, is on Route 20. The stone is in front of another old library that was shut down about ten years ago. Monument No. 26 gets the Most Neglected Monument Award. It leans sadly to the side, is partially buried, and its library is all covered in vines.

Last but not least, I reached Cambridge. Massachusetts Monument No.27 stands on the edge of the Cambridge Commons facing toward the center of the green. When you pass it on Garden Street, you see a blank back of a stone, unlike all the other stones that face the street. It is in good shape. No flowers or flags, but upright and clean.

The library is three busy blocks and a tunnel away on Broadway. It’s huge and intimidating. I couldn’t find a place to park and it was getting late. Since I knew I was returning to Cambridge the next day to meet a friend for lunch, I decided to do my donating the following day when I was on foot. Ramsey, Annie, and I spent the night at my college friend Jill’s in Stoneham just north of Cambridge.

I took the subway into Cambridge the next day, a signed book in hand. I worried about approaching the Public Library. I feared rightly they wouldn’t accept a donation from just anyone. Sure enough, when I asked the man at the information desk if Julie Roache, the Youth Services Director, was available, he said, “We have a procedure for accepting donated books. You need to go online and download a form. Have you done that?” He said that in a not so nice way.

With a spunk I didn’t know I had, I replied, “Sir. I’ve driven here from California. I’ve been following the Henry Knox Trail speaking at many of the libraries along the way. I just want to give you a book. Isn’t there someone I can leave it with? You can throw it away for all I care if your library is too big and important.”

“Well, why don’t you talk to Admin,” he said, and gave me directions how to find the Administration Office on the second floor.

Melanie at Admin was delightful. “I’m here from California,” I repeated to her. “I want to donate this book about the Henry Knox Trail. Do you know what that is”

She smiled sheepishly and shook her head.

“That’s why I wrote the book.” I explained and showed her some of the photos I had taken. “You have the final monument here on your commons where Knox delivered the guns to Washington. I’ve visited 57 monuments [40 in New York and 27 in Massachusetts] and nearly as many libraries. I’m tired. I don’t want to be told I need to download a form.”

Melanie cheerfully said to leave the book with her. “We like books about local events. Have a safe trip back and thanks.”

Now, back to rambling.

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