Arts and Leisure

The Gravesites of Six Revolutionary Heroines

The gravesites of such revolutionary heroes as Paul Revere and Nathan Hale are well known and well marked, but where are the revolutionary heroines buried? The New England Historical Society searched for the stories of courageous women willing to sacrifice for the patriot cause, and then for the their graves.

In each state, we found at least one (and often more) heroine and her resting place. Each found a way to support the American Revolution, whether by spying, nursing, publishing and even fighting.

Here, then, are six revolutionary heroines and their gravesites. If you know of another, please include it in the comments section at the end of this story.

Hannah Bunce Watson

revolutionary heroine grave old south

Hannah Bunce Watson stepped in to run the pro-patriot Courant newspaper when her husband died suddenly of smallpox.

The Courant was crucial to maintaining popular support in New England for the American Revolution, as the British had shut down all the newspapers in Boston. Plus, New York’s newspapers were all Loyalist and printed nothing but pro-British news. The Courant was the only paper large enough to provide reliable news to patriots in the Northeast.

Hannah already had plenty to do, with five small fatherless children. She knew little about printing but kept the presses running, even after Tories burned down the mill that supplied her paper. The British wouldn’t export paper to the colonies so Hannah persuaded the Connecticut Legislature to lend her money to rebuild the mill.

For two years Hannah steered the Courant, publishing stories about battles, local news, analyses of colonial politics and criticisms of the British Parliament.

Hannah Bunce Watson died in 1807 and is buried next to her third husband, Barzillai Hudson in the Old South Burying Ground in Hartford. The name on her gravestone is Hannah Hudson.

Old South is at the intersection of Maple and Benton streets in the Barry Hill neighborhood of Hartford.

Lucy Knox

revolutionary heroine grave thomaston

Lucy Knox defied her rich Loyalist parents in 1774 to marry Henry Knox, a mere bookseller. After the Battles of Concord and Lexington, she never saw or heard from her family again.

Henry taught himself about war from his books. He famously brought artillery from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston and forced the British to evacuate. He was second the commander of the Continental Army, first secretary of War and founder of West Point.

When Henry left for war, Lucy Knox begged to let her join him. He finally relented, and she stayed with him until he retired in 1794.

Lucy was often pregnant, and only three of her 13 children survived to adulthood. She stayed with Henry during the brutal winter at Valley Forge, cheering the cold and hungry officers with food, wine and sometimes dancing. Lucy and Martha Washington sewed socks and clothing for the soldiers. The two revolutionary heroines also tended to them when they took sick.

Lucy and Henry Knox lived in borrowed or rented homes for the first 20 years of their marriage, finally settling in Thomaston, Maine. They called their home Montpelier.

Lucy Knox died in 1824 and is buried along with her husband in Elm Grove Cemetery, next to the Thomaston Village Cemetery on Dwight Street in Thomaston, Maine.

Deborah Sampson

revolutionary heroine grave sharon

At five-foot-seven, Deborah Sampson was tall enough to be mistaken for a boy 1782. That was an advantage for a girl like Deborah who wanted to join the Continental Army and fight in the U.S. war for independence.

Sampson was born in Plympton, Mass., in 1760. She was abandoned by her father and grew up in indentured servitude. As a young woman, she was hired to teach school in Middleborough, Mass. Her first attempt at enlisting ended as a joke. She disguised herself, joined up and then apparently thought better of it after spending some of her enlistment pay on a drunken bender.

In 1782 she tried again. She disguised herself as a boy and signed up for service in Uxbridge in the Massachusetts 4th Regiment as Robert Shurtlieff Sampson, her dead brother’s name.

Sampson’s undercover act held, for the most part, throughout her 17-month service. She had a close call in July of 1782 in a skirmish in Tarrytown, N.Y., when she was struck by musket fire. She was brought to the hospital with wounds to her head and leg by her fellow soldiers. Though she let a hospital doctor dress her head wound, she left the hospital before her leg was treated. Fearing discovery, she removed on piece of shrapnel from her leg herself, but a second was too deep for her to retrieve and it stayed with her for life.

After a cold winter in which she suffered frostbite, Sampson received a promotion to serve as a waiter to General John Paterson in April of 1783. She had one more close call when she came down with a fever that summer of that year. Her doctor discovered her secret, but he did not reveal it. His wife and daughters nursed Sampson back to health and, with the war now ended, she was honorably discharged by Gen. Henry Knox at West Point in October 1783.

Upon returning to Massachusetts, Sampson abandoned her disguise. She married Benjamin Gannett of Stoughton and raised a family of four children, three biological children and one adopted daughter.

Sampson lectured about her adventures throughout New England and into New York and sold a book about her experiences. But she did struggle financially, asking her friend Paul Revere for loans several times. She had to wrestle with the bureaucracy to receive her military pension, which wasn’t fully approved until 1816. After that, she lived comfortably until her death in 1827.

Deborah Sampson Gannett is buried in Rock Ridge Cemetery at 101 East St., Sharon, Mass.

Molly Stark

revolutionary heroine graves stark

Molly Stark is perhaps most famous as a war cry uttered by her husband, Gen. John Stark, in the Battle of Bennington.

There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!

But Molly Stark made her own contribution to the revolutionary cause. Born Elizabeth Page on Feb. 16, 1737, she had been married for 17 years to Stark, an old Indian fighter, when the American Revolution broke out. They had 11 children.

John Stark was working in his sawmill when he heard about the Battles of Lexington and Concord. He didn't go home, but mounted his horse in his shirtsleeves and stopped at his friends' and neighbors' homes to tell them to join him. He sent word to Molly to bring his uniform. She packed his clothes and rode on horseback all the way to Medford, Mass., before reaching him. The next day she returned home to Amoskeag Falls (now Manchester).

When her husband was camped near Fort Ticonderoga, smallpox broke out among his men. They were cold, hungry and disheartened. Molly Start sent a message to bring the sick home to her. She turned her home into a hospital and cared for some 20 patients. Some of them were her own children. She saved every patient, but she came down with the disease and was disfigured for life.

Elizabeth (Molly) Stark is buried in Stark Cemetery in Dunbarton, N.H. A brass cannon captured at the Battle of Bennington – it’s called ‘Old Molly’ – is fired every year in New Boston, N.H., in her honor.

Lucretia Allen

revolutionary heroine grave lucretia allen

Lucretia Allen, born in 1770, was easily the youngest of the revolutionary heroines. She was the oldest child of Judge John and Mary Allen. They lived in what is now North Kingstown, R.I.

Judge Allen was a staunch supporter of the revolution and refused to help the British when they occupied Newport in 1776. He gave the patriots livestock and provisions, and wouldn’t let a Loyalist neighbor use his skiff to bring supplies to the British fleet in the harbor.

One cold morning in May 1779, the British came ashore to take care of Judge Allen. They drove off his livestock and marched him at the point of a bayonet to their vessels. Then they set his house on fire.

Eight-year-old Lucretia, her mother and siblings fled in their nightclothes to a neighbor's house. The children were shivering, so Lucretia ran back to her house as the British ransacked it. She faced them and asked for a blanket. A soldier tossed her a quilt.

Judge Allen was released and rebuilt his home.

Lucretia Allen married Silas Allen and had three children. She died in 1810 and is buried in the Deacon George Allen Lot in North Kingstown (also known as Rhode Island Historic Cemetery North Kingstown #81). The cemetery is off Fletcher Road, deep in the woods behind the old Allen homestead at 415 Fletcher Road. According to findagrave.com, easier access can be made through Chimney Rock Drive, with permission of the owner at 150. A pipe rail and granite post fence enclose the lot.

Ann Story

revolutionary heroine grave story

Ann Story's heroics during the Revolutionary War earned her the sobriquet ‘Mother of the Green Mountain Boys.’ An ardent patriot, Story moved to Vermont in 1775 from Connecticut. She was newly widowed. Her husband Amos and son Solomon had come to West Salisbury the year before to construct a cabin for the family.

Amos died in an accident while cutting timber. Nevertheless, Story moved into the home with her five children - two sons and three daughters. Vermont was dangerous country then, and when the Revolution broke out it got even more dangerous. Loyalists and their supporters among the American Indians harassed the local Whigs.

Many of her neighbors chose to leave. Story not only stayed she offered her services to the Green Mountain Boys as a spy. She was a tall, strong woman, handy with an ax and musket.

In one harrowing incident, Story and her children had to flee in a canoe while Indians raided and burned their house. To hide from future attacks, the Story family dug a cave in the banks of the Otter Creek. The family worked outside and ate at the house they were rebuilding, but overnighted in the cave.

When one of her sons discovered a pregnant woman lost in the woods -- she had been captured by Indians but left behind when she couldn't keep up -- Story took the woman in. Later, the newborn baby's crying drew the attention of a Tory scout, Ezekiel Jenny. He demanded to know where the supporters of the Green Mountain Boys were hiding.

Story defied him, she would recall, saying: "I had no fears of being shot by so consummate a coward as he." Jenny continued on up the creek, and Story passed word to the Whigs that the Tories were afoot. Local Whigs tracked down Jenny and his scouting party, captured them and hauled them to Fort Ticonderoga.

Ann Story is memorialized in two locations in Vermont. She is buried at the Farmingdale Cemetery in Middlebury. Her headstone bears the name Hannah Goodrich. She took the name of her third husband, Captain Stephen Goodrich. Meanwhile, a second marble memorial was erected at the site of her first home on Shard Villa Road, West Salisbury. It's next to the Shard Villa Nursing Home. The land for the memorial was donated by lawyer Columbus Smith, who owned the Shard Villa as a mansion. The monument was a gift of Fletcher D. Proctor.

Thanks to: History of Salisbury, Vermont by A.H. Copeland. You can read more about Ann Story here.

Images: Stark Cemetery By AlexiusHoratius - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26455478; Lucretia Allen and Ann Story, artist’s conception.

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