February 16, 2011

The Alford/Egremont Learning Curve

So, in search of Henry Knox and how he is remembered or not, I thought I would go to the places where the trail is marked and strike up a conversation with the locals. Turns out, so far, in southern Berkshire County that’s easier said than done.

Knox Trail Marker
Alford, MA

Alford is the site of the first marker in Massachusetts after crossing the New York boarder. The marker, although interesting due it bearing both the Massachusetts design and the New York design on opposing sides, is positioned along a section of Route 71 not exactly conducive to spontaneous conversation. In Alford, aside from trespassing or flagging down a car going 55mph I’m just a guy standing next to a rock no one notices. I am curious about how much has changed in Alford since Knox passed through. Then a small farming community Alford separated from Great Barrington in 1769 and incorporated four years later. Today it boast just 507 residents and, as its official website states, “Alford has no post office, no stores, no motels or hotels, and not a single gas station.”
Standing on the border facing MA

Less than three miles southeast of the Alford marker is the Knox Trail marker in North Egremont. This marker is located on a small green, currently under three feet of snow, in front of the Olde Egremont Store. Surely here was my chance to chat up some locals about my man Henry Knox, or maybe not. The only customer in the grocery/deli/coffee shop/video store was an ardent supporter of the state lottery system. Having placed his bets he promptly left to begin wearing the edge off of a perfectly good quarter. The woman behind the counter seemed pleasant enough as I paid for a beverage and 99¢ bag of popcorn I didn’t actually want. I asked, “Do you get many people noticing the Knox Trail marker?” adding that I realized winter wasn’t the ideal season for curious tourists. Her response to my question was “Why?” I briefly explained my purpose in asking. She observed, “The marker has been there so long no one pays any attention” and added “we’re not even sure he came through here, there’s some controversy in that.” With a sigh she said, “it is interesting though” in a way that made be believe it wasn’t. As she turned to greet what seemed to be a regular customer I retired to the car and headed for Great Barrington vowing to brush up on my people skills.
Knox Trail marker
Egremont, MA

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