In the 1840s Charles Daveis was an official with the Society of the Cincinnati in Maine. He started to collect information for a biography of Gen. Henry Knox, a founder of that hereditary order who had settled in Maine (on land grants his wife Lucy had inherited from her Loyalist father).
One of the stories Daveis tried to track down involved Knox and the raucous celebration of patriotism and anti-Catholicism that Bostonians called “Pope Night.” On 21 July 1848 a Cambridge man named George Ingersoll sent Daveis a letter setting down a story he had heard from another man named Charles Hayward:
The South & North ends of Boston were, in old times, (that is that exceedgly wise & important [?] portion of the Population the boys) in decided and unceasing opposition to each other. In celebration of that immortal day the fifth of Nov. each Party had its Pope accompanied by the “gentleman in black”—there were thus the South End Pope & the North End Pope.Over the next two years, Daveis collected similar versions of this anecdote from Hayward and from yet another man, Charles Knapp. They guessed the event had taken place in the early 1770s, but if Knox had indeed been “about 18 or so,” it would have been in the late 1760s. Ebenezer Mackintosh is well documented as the South End captain in 1764-65, but he may well have yielded the position later in the decade.
These two parties always continued to meet at some half way spot where a regular fight ensued (an annual battle)—which lasted until one Party drove off the other & took possession of its Pope—the victorious Party then took both Popes to some particular place—generally the Mill Pond, & then burnt them both together.
On the present occasion, one of the wheels which supported the Platform of the South End Pope came off—or broke down—this, of course, would tend to Slide off his Holiness into the Street or at least compel him to lower his head before the rival Pope which would be regarded as a Sign of Submission.
To prevent this awful catastrophe, Knox immediately placed his Shoulder under the platform & kept the Sacred image erect until the fight was over. Which way the victory turnd Mr. Hayward does not remember.
Knox at the time was not—properly speaking—a boy, but rather as Mr. Chamberlain said, a dashing young man, about 18 or so. The belligerents—by the way—on these occasions were not by any means mere boys only, but were composed also of young men.
The South End Party was then commanded by a certain Abraham Foley—usually known as Niddy-Noddy, a nickname given him from a peculiar motion of the head. This man afterwards became a Servant and at last died in the Hospital [i.e., was poor and possibly insane]. Knox as Pope man was Subject to his orders—among others of the South End Party. And here, as the Showman says, is the illustration which the anecdote affords—Foley the comander, dying in the Hospital—Knox, the dashing young man, at last the Major-General.
Daveis never finished his Knox biography. He left his papers to another man with the same goal, Joseph Willard—who also didn’t finish. Eventually Francis S. Drake used their research in his Life and Correspondence of Henry Knox, published in 1873. The Daveis-Willard material is now at the Massachusetts Historical Society.