The gravesites of such revolutionary heroes as Paul Revere and John Adams 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
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 Loyalist newspapers printed nothing but pro-British news. Only the Courant could 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 Loyalists 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.
Of all the revolutionary heroines, Lucy Knox sacrificed the most for her husband. She 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 served as the second 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. She cheered 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 their own house, Montpelier, in Thomaston, Maine.
Lucy Knox died in 1824 and is buried along with her husband in Elm Grove Cemetery in Thomaston.
At five-foot-seven, Deborah Sampson was tall enough to pass as a boy in 1782. That was an advantage for a girl like Deborah who wanted to join the Continental Army and fight in the war for independence.
Sampson’s father abandoned her after her birth in Plympton, Mass., in 1760. She grew up in indentured servitude. As a young woman, she taught 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. Again disguised, she 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 during a skirmish in Tarrytown, N.Y., when musket fire struck her head and legs. Fellow soldiers brought her to the hospital. Though she let a hospital doctor dress her head wound, she left the hospital before he treated her leg was treated. Fearing discovery, she removed one piece of shrapnel, but she couldn’t retrieve a second. 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. When she came down with a fever that summer, her doctor discovered her secret. But he kept it. His wife and daughters nursed Sampson back to health.
With the war ended, Gen. Henry Knox honorably discharged her at West Point in October 1783.
Upon returning to Massachusetts, she married Benjamin Gannett of Stoughton and raised four children.
Sampson lectured about her adventures and sold a book about her experiences. But she did struggle financially, and didn’t get her military pension until 1816. After that, she lived comfortably until her death in 1827.
Deborah Sampson Gannett is buried in Rock Ridge Cemetery in Sharon, Mass.
Molly Stark is the best known of the revolutionary heroines because of the war cry uttered by her husband, Gen. John Stark. During the Battle of Bennington, Stark told his men:
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 when the American Revolution broke out. They had 11 children.
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 cared for some 20 patients, including her own children. She saved every patient, but she came down with the disease, which disfigured her for life.
Elizabeth (Molly) Stark is buried in Stark Cemetery in Manchester, N.H. A brass cannon captured at the Battle of Bennington – called ‘Old Molly’ – is fired every year in New Boston, N.H. in her honor.
Lucretia Allen, born in 1770, was easily the youngest of the revolutionary heroines. The oldest child of Judge John and Mary Allen, she lived in North Kingstown, R.I.
Judge Allen staunchly supported 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.
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.
The British released Judge Allen, and he 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.
Ann Story’s heroics during the Revolutionary War earned her the sobriquet ‘Mother of the Green Mountain Boys.’
Newly widowed, Ann Story moved to West Salisbury, Vt., in 1775 with her five children. Tall and strong, she could handle an ax as well as a musket.
When the Revolution broke out, Vermont got dangerous because Loyalists and their Indian allies harassed the patriots.
Many Vermonters left their farms. Ann Story not only stayed, but offered to spy for the Green Mountain Boys.
In one harrowing incident, Story and her children fled in a canoe while Indians burned their house. To hide from future attacks, the Story family dug a cave in the banks of the Otter Creek.
One day, one of her sons discovered a pregnant woman lost in the woods. Indians had captured the woman, but left her behind when she couldn’t keep up. Ann Story took the woman in. Later, the newborn baby’s crying drew the attention of a Loyalist scout, Ezekiel Jenny. He demanded to know the hiding place of the Green Mountain Boys’ supporters.
Story defied him. “I had no fears of being shot by so consummate a coward as he,” she recalled. Jenny continued on his way, and Story told the patriots the Loyalists were afoot. Local patriots tracked down Jenny and his scouting party, captured them and hauled them to Fort Ticonderoga.
Ann Story later married Capt. Stephen Goodrich. She is buried at the Farmingdale Cemetery in Middlebury. Her headstone bears the name Hannah Goodrich. A second memorial marks her home site on Shard Villa Road, West Salisbury. It’s next to the Shard Villa Nursing Home, once the home of lawyer Columbus Smith.
End Notes on Revolutionary Heroines
Thanks to: History of Salisbury, Vermont by A.H. Copeland. You can read more about Ann Story here.
To find the grave of Lucretia Allen: According to findagrave.com, the easiest 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.
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, artists’ conceptions.
This story about the gravesites of revolutionary heroines was updated in 2018.