By Dora Sue Oxendine Farmer
Knox County holds many firsts especially in the area of accomplishments of numerous local women. This article focuses on one woman, Mary Elizabeth Pitzer, who lived in the late 1800’s.
Mary Elizabeth Pitzer lived during the time of the Civil War in Barbourville, Kentucky. She along with a group of women in Barbourville decided to do their part for the Union by making a suitable flag for the Home Guard which had just been organized. Miss Pitzer was able to obtain the appropriate material needed for the flag and worked with several other local women in sewing, quilting and embroidering the flag, which was painstakingly completed in 1861. On July 4, 1861, the completed flag was presented to the captain of the Home Guard. Three months later, in order to save the flag from capture by Confederates, Mrs. Pitzer removed the flag from its staff and sewed it in her featherbed where it remained hidden for nearly four years. It was finally donated to Union College where Union has been designated the keeper and custodian of the flag and maintains it on display.
Mrs. Pitzer and her husband Thomas Jefferson Pitzer once owned a business in Barbourville. Their store was a large two-story structure located at the corner of the Courthouse Square and South Main Street. Mary Elizabeth had a daughter, Mary Jeanette Pitzer, known as “Nettie.” Nettie, who became the wife of Gov. James D. Black, also from Barbourville, is mother of Mrs. H. H. Owens, grandmother of Duane Owens, Eleanor Clark and Jean Knuckles and great grandmother of Steve Owens who currently lives in Barbourville.