David Knowles

My 5th great grandfather, established roots in Connecticut, and Ohio.

Years ago. More specifically, in the fall of November 2001, I was laid off from a factory destined to close and transfer production several states away. I was laid off right before Thanksgiving that year. It was during that time, that I received the genealogy bug. My daughters came home from school, and were probing questions about my family history. I was caught off guard. A quick phone call to the parents, got me the required information I needed. It was during that layoff I connected to a genealogy researcher from California through some genealogy email queries. Through her, I was able to establish David Knowles as an ancestor. Another researcher related to one of David’s daughters, put together a biography of David that was well researched. I have included it below. Thanks, Betty, and Pam for work well done here.

David Knowles, son of Elizur Knowles and Johanna Hill was born on May 22, 1792 in Lanesville, Litchfield, Connecticut. David’s great- grandfather, William Knowles and his wife, Innocent Butts Phillips, were Quakers who had moved from Rhode Island to a large Quaker community in New Milford, Litchfield, Connecticut in 1751.

We assume that David and his family were Quakers, but cannot prove it since we do not have access to the records of early Litchfield Quaker meetings which is the only place the family’s membership in the Society of Friends would be recorded.

Prior to 1850, marriages, deaths, and births within a Quaker meeting, were not recorded with civil authorities. The fact that David’s birth and his father’s birth were recorded by the town of Milford could mean that they were not Quakers. Or, it could mean that they were Quakers, but their parents were disowned at the time of their births, so the births were registered with town officials.

Since there is no record of David’s first marriage to your five times great grandmother, it could be that they were married “in meeting” and the marriage was not reported to civil officials. If David was a Quaker, it would have been mandatory for the couple to make their proposed marriage public in meeting. The proposed marriage would have been recorded within the minutes of the Quaker meeting as would the actual marriage several months later.

We do not know the name of David’s first wife, your five times great-grandmother. Many family genealogies wrongly cite Thankful Taylor as his first spouse. Although a Thankful Taylor did marry a David Knowles, he was not our David Knowles. Thankful Taylor lived to be an old lady and your five times great-grandmother died before 1831.

David’s first child, Louisa Carolyn, was born in 1813 in Milford, Litchfield, Connecticut. Seven years later he and his family were living in Berlin, Coshocton, Ohio and by 1823 they were living in the nearby county of Knox, Ohio where your four times great grandmother, Dorothy Ann, was born. One has to wonder how a family living in Connecticut in the early 1800’s was enticed to migrate to the Ohio frontier.

After the War of 1812, a series of laws were passed by the federal government to encourage people to migrate to lands west of the Appalachian Mountains. The Land Act of 1820 allowed settlers to buy as little as 80 acres at $1.25 an acre with only $100 down. Special provisions were made for the “squatters” who were already on federal land by allowing them to purchase the land even more cheaply if they had made improvements such as building homes, barns, or fences.

The New England states had been economically devastated by the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. By 1820 a flood of New England migrants was moving to what was known as the Old Northwest Territory – the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In fact, migrants from Connecticut formed one of the largest state groups to settle in pre- state Ohio. Ohio’s population in 1810 was 45,000 and just ten years later it had grown to 581,434.

We have spoken before about the inaccuracies of the census takers due to being paid by the number of names recorded and not the accuracy of their information. They often relied on neighbors for the information if the family was not present.

It is believed that the David Knowles and family recorded in the 1820 Berlin, Coshocton, Ohio is our David Knowles. The census records the population as Head of family, Males: under 10, 10-16, 16-18 16-26 26-45 and 45 and over and Females: under 10, 10-16, 16-18, 16-26, 26-45 and 45. David was recorded as 16-25 but we know that he was 28. Your five times great-grandmother is recorded as 16-18 years old. Their only child, Louisa, is seven years old but the census records her as a male. Nevertheless, we think this is our David.

By 1828, David and his wife have five children who were all born in Ohio except for Louisa who was born in Connecticut. His son, Daniel was born in Pike, Coshocton, Ohio in 1822, but the other three were all born in Knox County, Ohio with your four times great grandmother, Dorothy Ann, being the first in 1823. David and his young family were considered to be early settlers of Knox County, Ohio.

In 1830, there are 938,903 people living in Ohio. David is listed on the census as a male 30 and under 40. His wife is listed as 20 and under 30. There are eight children living in the Knowles home in Clinton, Knox, Ohio – two boys and one girl under the age 5, one male and two females “of 5 and under 10,” [your three times great grandmother Dorothy would have been 7] and one male of 10 and under 15. There is one female 15-19, Louisa Carolyn, 17.

David’s wife died after the census was taken in 1830 and before January 10, 1831, when he remarried. A Justice of the Peace conducted the marriage ceremonies for David’s next two marriages which might mean that his wives were not Quakers or that he just wanted to get married more quickly than the Quaker tradition would allow due to his children being so young.

Registration of Marriage: David Knowles to Mrs. Mary Ritter

The state of Ohio, Knox County:

I do hereby certify that on the 10th of Jan. by virtue of a license from the Clerk of the County of [can’t read] for Knox County Mr. David Knowles and Mrs. Mary Ritter were legally joined in marriage by me a justice of the peace within the foresaid county – given under my hand. [Can’t read] this 14th day of March 1831. Gideon [can’t read] JP

“Marrying out of community” [marrying someone who was not a Quaker] and “marrying out of meeting” [marrying before a Justice of the Peace or the clergy] would have meant that David would have been disowned by the Quaker congregation. In fact, the Society of Friends would only sanction a marriage taking place within the meeting between two Quakers and the clergy was never allowed to be involved.

Even if David and his wife had been disowned by the Quakers, it did not mean banishment from the Quaker community. The purpose in disowning a member was not to punish the person. The purpose of disowning was to tell the world that the Quaker community did not approve the behavior that caused the disowning. It was always possible for the disowned person to rejoin the Quaker community if he publicly and in writing professed his wrong doing.

The disowned could still go to church and would not be shunned by other Quakers, but they could not attend business meetings. Therefore, it is possible that David was disowned for his marriages before the Justice of the Peace and/or not marrying a Quaker, but he still was able to work as a miller. The fact that he states his occupation as a miller on the 1850 Federal census lends credence to his being a Quaker since the mill owners, millwrights, and millers were predominantly Quakers.

Another fact that supports David being a Quaker is that his estate left an inheritance to the children of his first wife. This was a requirement of the Quaker community. There is no record of where David or our great-grandmother were buried which might also lend credence to his having been a Quaker since they were not allowed to be buried in Christian cemeteries. Generally, Quakers were buried in unmarked graves on land given for Quaker burials by a Quaker farmer. It could also be that our not knowing either burial spot is just due to a lack of Ohio record keeping at the time.

David’s second wife evidently died quite soon after they married since he married his third wife, Mary Stultz, about a year and a half later on October 11, 1832.

Registration of Marriage: Mr. David Knowles to Miss Mary Stultz the Clk of the Co. of [can’t read] this is to inform you that Mr. David Knowles and Miss Mary Stultz were united in matrimony Stultz according to the law on Thursday the 11 of Oct 1832 by me. Wm Hayes

When David married for the third time, he would have been 42 and Mary, 31. He had five children from his first marriage ranging in age from 3 to 18; your four times great grandmother, Dorothy, was about 9 when Mary became her new step-mother. David and Mary became the parents of six more children during their twenty-four-year marriage.

In 1840, Ohio’s population has swelled to 1.4 million people. David is residing with his family in Milford, Knox County, Ohio. David, 50, and Mary, 30-40, have eight children under the age of 20 living with them. There is a son under the age of 5, a daughter and son who are 10-15, a son and a daughter who are between 15 and 19. Your four times great grandmother, Dorothy, is 17. Three family members are engaged in agriculture.

In 1840, the county seat of Knox had seven churches, twenty dry goods stores, six grocery stores, two hardware stores, three apothecary stores and two bookstores. There was a fulling, four grist and five saw-mils, and three newspapers. The population was 2,363.

In 1850, David, 60, and Mary, 47, live with six of their children in Burlington, Licking, Ohio. This is the first census to record everyone’s name who lived in the household. Elizabeth is 16, Virgil is 13, Margaret is12, Juliet is 10, George is 8, and Amelia is 4. Mary was born in Pennsylvania and all of the children were born in Ohio.

David is listed as a Miller. Since the craft of a miller was learned in an apprenticeship, he was probably apprenticed as a young man in Connecticut to a Quaker Mill owner and practiced the craft the rest of his life.

David was probably a miller for a custom mill where individuals and farmers brought their grain for grinding. The miller was paid for his service by collecting a portion of the grain milled which was usually 1/8th for corn and 1/6th for wheat. The custom mill is usually referred to as a grist mill, so it is likely that David worked at one of the four grist mills that existed in 1846 in the Mount Vernon area. This was a seasonal business that operated just during the harvest, so the miller was often the person who owned the mill, but judging from his small estate, we assume he just worked for the mill. David probably farmed in the “off season” since he owned a small farm and he did indicate on the 1840 census that he worked in agriculture.

A “DNA fourth cousin” wrote that David and his son Marquis were “wagoners” who transported goods in Conestoga wagons on the National Road between Connecticut and Ohio, but she offered no proof. The census does not ask for an occupation but just how many members were engaged in agriculture. Marquis would have been 25 in 1850 and could very well have traveled with his father and the National Road ran through Licking County.

The non-population schedule of September 12, 1850 also lends credence to David supporting his family during the non-harvesting season by working on his farm. The schedule gives a snapshot of his farm. He owned 50 acres of land with 35 acres of it being improved and 15 acres unimproved. He valued his farm at $1,000 and his farm implements at $50. He owned 2 horses, 3 milch cows [milk cow], 1 other cow, 20 sheep, and 4 swine with a livestock value of $210. He owned 320 bushels of wheat and16 bushels of Indian corn.

His farm is listed on the same federal census page as Thomas Jones, Sr. so they would have been neighbors and this is no doubt how your four times great grandparents, Dorothy Ann Knowles and Thomas Jones met. They were married February 24, 1846 and continued to live near Thomas’s grandparents and her father until 1850/1851 when they moved to Illinois.

David died on May 1, 1855 at the age of 65. Dorothy Ann Knowles Jones, your four times great-grandmother, a widow, was living in Warren County, Illinois when her father died. She received $50 from the Knox County Ohio Estate Settlement. The total estate was $926.12 with $437.50 paid out to debts, bills, and administrative costs. $452.42 was paid to his children and to his widow leaving a sum of $37.20 in the probate.


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