Historical Marker #782 in Knox County relates the history of the county’s namesake, Henry Knox.
Created in December 1799, Knox County became the forty-first county in the state of Kentucky. The county was created from parts of Lincoln County. Located in the southeastern part of the state, Knox County is a mountainous region on the watershed of the Cumberland River. Throughout the nineteenth century, parts of the original county were broken up to create Clay, Rockcastle, Whitley, Harlan, Laurel, and Bell counties. The county seat is the city of Barbourville.
Knox County received its name in honor of Henry Knox. Born on July 25, 1790, Henry Knox grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents, William and Mary Knox, were poor Irish immigrants. After his father’s death, Henry quit school to work as a book binder to support his family. In 1774, he married Lucy Flucker. She bore him thirteen children but only three lived to adulthood.
Henry Knox first gained famed during the Revolutionary War. Before joining the Continental Army in 1775, he witnessed the Boston Massacre and supported the Sons of Liberty. With the outbreak of war at Lexington and Concord, Knox abandoned his business in Boston to join the fight. George Washington appointed him as chief artillery officer. Knox fought in many battles including Bunker Hill, Brandywine, and Yorktown. In 1781, he was promoted to major general. After the war, Knox became secretary of war under George Washington. Through the government’s transition from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution, he served in this cabinet position until 1794. Additionally, he proposed a military academy that would be the precursor to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He also helped organize the Society of Cincinnati in 1783. In 1795, Knox retired and moved his family to Maine. On October 25, 1806, he died in Maine and his family buried him on the grounds of his estate. Only fifty-six years old at his death, Knox did much to help the new nation and establish the United States of America.