The Knowles Family of White County, Tennessee
(original author unknown)
White County, Tennessee was established September 11, 1806, and soon thereafter
became the home of the pioneer Knowles family. John Knowles, founder of the
family, was born in Northern Ireland in 1749, participated in an unsuccessful
uprising against the English Army as a young man emigrated to the American
Colonies before 1775, served in the Revolutionary War in Pennsylvania, moved
to Virginia about 1782 and finally settled in White County, Tennessee in 1807. He
died in 1838 and was buried in the Mount Pisgah Cemetery where his grave is
marked with a monument erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Research has failed to reveal his marriage record, although Pennsylvania marriage
records do show that one John Knowles married one Hannah Preston on March 21,
1770. If this is the same John Knowles, he would have been twenty years old at
the time. It must be stated, however, that a John Knowles lived in the Philadelphia
area, while our John Knowles by 1775 lived in or near Shippensburg,
Pennsylvania, located in modern times in Cumberland County.
In applying for a Revolutionary War pension in 1833, John Knowles made these
State of Tennessee, White County
On this 16th date of August, A.D. 1833, personally appeared before me, Joseph
Herd, an acting Justice of the Peace in and for said County and State, John
Knowles a resident of the County of White and State of Tennessee aged eighty
four years, who first being duly sworn according to the law doth on this oath make
the following Declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress
passed June 7th, 1832.
That he entered the service to the United States under the following named
officers and served as herein stated. He volunteered his services for 12 months
under Captain William Rippee, in the year 1775 as well as he can now recollect, in
Cumberland County in the State of Pennsylvania. His lieutenants' names were
Matthew Scott and William Smith, according to his present recollection. Captain
Rippee's Company met at Carlisle in said Cumberland County. From thence
declarant marched to Valley Forge on the Schuylkill River where he remained
about two weeks. He then crossed the above river at this place and marched to
Amboy on the banks of some stream, the name of which this declarant does not
remember. At this place he fell in with the main Army. The Army were here but a
short time when they were marched from Amboy and this declarant, among a
number of others, were left with the pack horses. Captain Rippee directed him to
remain and make it his business to provide provender for the horses. Here this
declarant remained discharging the above duty until Captain Rippee directed him
by letter to carry the horses back to Cumberland County to a place called
Shippensburg and there vendue the horses off, stating as a reason for thus
disposing of the horses that they intended getting wagons and thereby supercede
the necessity of pack horses. He went back with the horses and disposed of the
horses as directed. His instructions were to return the papers in relation to the sale
of the horses to Robert Peoples, Esqr. and Peter Dickey a merchant in
Shippensburg, which he did. His 12 months had now expired and he returned to
his family consisting of a wife and 1 child about four miles from the above town.
In the year following, 1776 to the best of his recollection, he again volunteered
under Captain William Sharp. Joseph Culberson, he thinks was the name of his
lieutenant. He was under Major Smith of Yellow Britches Creek, by whom he was
appointed to provide provender, pasture, etc. for the Continental cattle. He
continued in the employment from the year 1776 until the surrender of Lord
Cornwallis. During this time he frequently had an opportunity of seeing his family.
Headquarters was at Morristown some considerable time. During this service the
Battle of Lexington and Bunker Hill was fought, but he was not in either, being
then out providing cattle for the Army. He recollects to have seen General Green
and Washington, but he had no acquaintance with either of them. Thus he
continued to serve his county until the surrender of Lord Cornwallis when he was
discharged and returned home. Having served his county as above something like
six years in all. He is informed that he can only claim pay for two years service: he
therefore states that he served two years for which he claims a pension.
Answers to the questions proscribed by the War Department:
1. He was born in Ireland in the town of Ballymena, on the River Main in Antrim
County, parish of Ahoghill, the 4th of July, 1749.
2. He has a record of his age in the house.
3. He was living in Cumberland County, State of Pennsylvania, when called into
service as stated. Since the Revolutionary War he has lived in Augusta County,
Amherst County and Pendleton County in the State of Virginia. (Pendleton County
is now in West Virginia.) From Pendleton County in the year 1807, he moved and
settled in White County, Tennessee, where he now resides and has resided ever
4. He volunteered each time when called into service.
He states the names of the following persons to whom he is known in his present
neighborhood and who can testify as to his character for veracity and their belief
of his services as a soldier of the Revolution: Rev. Peter Buram, Rev. Abel
Hutson, Isaac Taylor and Major James Randalls. (signed) John Knowles.
In a second statement on March 18, 1834, he included the fact that he was a
Sergeant in charge of guarding Carlisle Barracks in Cumberland County,
Pennsylvania in 1777.
After John's death in 1838 and during the 1840s and 1850s, his children and grand
children continued to purchase additional property in the Mount Pisgah
community and north along the Old Kentucky Road in the Gum Spring Shady
Grove communities. For instance, the 1947 White County Tax List shows that in
Civil District 5 Knowles men paid taxes on the following acreage: William
Knowles, Esq. 368 acres; John Knowles, 165 acres, John Knowles, Sr., 130 acres;
Elliott Knowles, 125 acres, William W. Knowles, 125 acres; John W. Knowles,
130 acres, and James Knowles, Esq., 366 acres.
James W. Knowles had five sons: Hiram, William W., James A., John W. and
Elliott. Hiram continue for a period of time to live adjacent to his grandfather's
farm in Mount Pisgah, while his father and four brothers located a few miles away
in the Shady Grove community. In 1847, Mount Pisgah was part of Civil District
4. Ultimately, Hiram and some of his neighbors moved to Bollinger County,
Missouri and may have died in Texas.
John Knowles, Jr. (II) had three sons: James, Jr., John III and William. John III
and William inherited portions of their grandfather's farm in Mount Pisgah while
James, Jr. bought extensive property in the Shady Grove community. (It is difficult
to understand why they called James, son of John by the label of "Junior" rather
than calling James A., son of James by that title.)
William Knowles had eight sons: John, William B., Cason, Peter, Thomas, Jasper,
James K. P. and Holland. These men inherited their father's property on the east
side of Hickory Nut Mountain and portions of their grandfather's original 429
acres. After the death of two of their sons in the 1850s, William B. moved his
family to Limestone County, Alabama. Some of his children wound up in Texas.
Old John's fourth son, Joseph, who supposedly married Marjery Templeton in the
1830's had no children, so far as the records show.
A sworn statement by William Knowles in 1851 listed the following living
children of John I: John, Jr., age 66 years; Sarah, age 60 years; Eleanor, age 58
years; William, age 52 years. William was hoping to get additional land for the
children because he felt Old John had not received enough acreage for his service
in the Revolution. This statement is on file in the National Archives, Washington,
D.C. (William's statement was probably not strictly true-at the time there was a
younger daughter, Mary, who married Stephen K. Charles in 1817, who was
probably still alive in White County, Arkansas.
Soon after the Knowles family settled in White County in 1807, their names and
the names of their neighbors (and in-laws) began to appear in such official county
records as deed books, tax lists, will books, land grants and county court minutes.
1807--John Humphrey served on a jury. Archibald McDonald (McDaniel?) To
Peter Hull, his power of attorney. (This may have been to sell land which
Archibald owned up in Virginia.)
1808-Archibald McDaniel served on a jury.
1809-James Knowles witnessed the recording of a deed by John Knowles, Sr.,
John Knowles, Sr. and Jr., Abel Hutson, Jeremiah Denton and John Templeton
served on the jury.
1810-County Commissioners ordered a road established from a dry branch near
John Knowles' property, passing through his land and intersecting the old road.
Archibald McDaniel vs. Thomas McDaniel, case remove d to the September
1811-John Knowles, Sr., John Knowles, Jr. and James Knowles paid county
taxes-John , Sr. paid on 429 acres in Captain James Reynolds' Militia Company.
James and John, Jr. did not pay a tax on any land-they paid only a white poll tax.
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