JAMES KNOWLES OF GEORGIA
THE FAMILY OF JAMES KNOWLES
James Knowles, traditionally said to be of North Carolinian parents, and of Scotch-Irish extraction, was born in Georgia in 1801, likely in Hancock County(#1). His sister, Elizabeth, was born there in 1797, and married James Gray there in 1820(#2). "Our" James Knowles may have married Lucy Thomas in adjoining Greene Co. in 1823, in any case, he had settled in Henry Co. by 1830(#3). Two children were born there: Elizabeth(1831)-and, James Bellah(1833). His wife, Lucy Knowles died in 1837, and is buried in a family cemetery in adjacent Butts Co. There were at least two more children: Martha(b.1829)-and, Christy Rebecca(d.1847). The latter(and her young son)are also buried in Butts Co. A grandchild, Lucy G. Messer, listed with the James Knowles family in Henry Co.(1850)might also be Rebecca's child. A young man, John Abner Knowles, also listed with the family, and an adjacent entry, Joseph T. Knowles(newly married)are quite likely nephews of James Knowles. Both are mentioned(not as brothers)in the diary of James Bellah Knowles. This journal provided many of the facts/clues, names/relationships which led to further research. Now in the State Archives(microfilm, private papers)it covers the years 1852-1858. Even now, it occasionally supplies an obscure clue to the family. In 1840 the family moved to Butts Co. for about three years, and then, back to Henry to the "same place". In December 1850, they moved again(an eight day journey)to Dooly Co. in South Georgia, perhaps, to be nearer relatives. Brother-in-law James Gray had won land in Dooly in 1829, and a deed, recorded in Henry, shows that James Knowles owned land there in 1834(#4). The 1840 Dooly Co. census lists three Knowles families: George, G.W., and Joseph Knowles. And, in nearby Baker Co. in 1850, George and Joseph Knowles are listed, as well as James Gray. The latter two men are clearly named as "uncles" in the J.B.K. diary. Young James B. (seventeen)was upset by the move to Dooly, but he stayed until September 1851, when he returned to Henry Co. for his health, having suffered with ague since April. The family obviously still had relatives in Henry, several Turner Cousins are noted in the Bersheba community. On Christmas Eve 1851, James started "home" to Dooly. In February 1852, he began school there at Fort Early, near Warwick. Fall of 1852, found him back in Henry, staying with Samuel Moore, and going to school at Sardis Church(Mr. "Wrine"). Later, across the river in Newton Co., a Mr. Lee Bates taught him for six weeks.(Order of last two schools is reversed!).
THE FAMILY OF JAMES KNOWLES
In January 1853, boarding with B.G. Hooks, James started school at O'Dell Academy in Bersheba in Henry Co.(#5). He would not see his family again until November, however, in March, he would see two relatives he had never met. Cousin Thomas and Uncle Joseph Knowles, obviously unaware of the family's move to Dooly, came seeking refuge. A few days later their pursuers came, and March 15th, James learned-"those men caught Uncle Joe in Dooly at Pa's". Later, he received a letter about Joe from Henly Brown-"Kingston" Alabama. During this period, he also got a letter from J.J. Knowles-"Tylor" Texas, relationship(and content)unknown. In June for William T. Turner, he wrote to "E. Yancy a cliant for Joe in ala". In July he wrote to Uncle James Gray in Baker Co.-and, in August to Uncle Joe. He received a reply in September: "letter from U. Joe-ala jail-he was well and want-ted help in his distress". There had also been a letter to A. Judia Johnson, an aunt, perhaps?(#6). For a long while there was nothing more about Uncle Joe, until August 11 1854: "today is the day for my Uncle to be hung-but was not". The nature of his crime has not been determined, but the sentence was evidently overturned. Swearingen Bible records(Watts Powell's Dooly County History-Vol.II) indicate that after his wife's death(Mary Swearingen-1862)Joseph Knowles remarried and moved to Texas. The record also shows: Mary's sister Jane married Washington Knowles, perhaps the G.W. mentioned earlier(they moved to Louisiana(#7). When young James Knowles returned home to Dooly in November 1854, he learned that family member Abner Knowles had been sent to the "silem"(hospital records show that John Abner Knowles was admitted Nov. 25 1854 & died July 19 1855). Apparently, the other young man, Joseph T. Knowles(Henry Co.- 850)did not move to Dooly, living first in Newton Co., then moving further away. On top of family matters, James learned in December by letter: "they wanted me to come back...and teach where I had been going...the two last years...as Mr. Hilsman(his teacher)was kilde". Returning to Henry, he accepted the offer, and started his teaching career at O'Dell, January 8 1855. Busy in his new profession, he was concerned about Abner, and his family in Dooly: "when I think of them-it nearly makes me blow my head & give up the ghost-two sisters, a nease(Lucy Messer), and him(his father)-he is old and not able to work". In August, he learned of Abner's death, from Dr. T.F. Green of Midway GA, near Milledgeville(#8).
THE FAMILY OF JAMES KNOWLES
Despite the discontent of patrons-"they was talking about getting another teacher in my sted"-James began a second term at O'Dell in January 1856. He also, Hooks having moved, began a third year boarding with Andrew J. Ammons in Bersheba. In March he learned of an uncle's death, J. Allen(Jan. 12th-no locale). When his teaching career ended, Nov. 13 1856, he bought land($775)from James E. Buntyn. Visiting in Dooly, he arrived(evidently by chance)for sister Martha's marriage-Dec.18 1856-to George D. Whitfield. Back in Henry, he heard that a Mr."Traynham" would teach at O'Dell. For his "plantation", he impulsively purchas-ed a slave($900)from Ammons, then, just as abruptly, arranged to study medicine with Dr. James H. Bryans at Worthville, in Butts Co.-"Dr. Bryans is to board me & horse...to help his clerk...ride som to collect...other times I am to read med-i-son". Briefly, he considered a position as teacher in the Turner settlement, but did not wish to "interupt" the doctor. In July his slave died-"much bothered about yestoday's affair...what will be my condition this night 12 months". Then, August 25th: "This day I received a letter that Pa was ded...dide-and for me to come home". He returned to Dooly for about three weeks. After sister Elizabeth married(John Hart-Sept.15th)-"1 month since Pa dide", he returned to Butts/Henry for a similar period. To help with his father's estate, he returned to Dooly(#9). On October 28th, he left Dooly for the University of Nashville-"for the purpose of attending Lectors"(#10). The final three pages(nearly 3 months)of his diary, give only a hint of his college life. He later went to the University of Louisiana(Tulane)-then, returned to Henry Co. to begin his practice. In Butts Co. in November 1859, he married Lavonia C. Williamson(all of their descendants are easily traced(#11). Niece, Lucy Messer is listed with the couple on the 1860 Henry Co. census. Sister, Martha Whitfield, remained in South Georgia. She, and George D., are buried in Smoak Cemetery in Crisp Co. Their daughter, Lucy J. Whitfield(the only child to reach maturity)married William D. Odom in Worth Co. Her will(Bk.2-1922)notes: son, Henry G.(D.?)Odom-guardian of unnamed grandchildren, and, deceased daughter, M.L. Holt(Martha? Lola?, who likely married Wesley Holt in Crisp Co. in 1909). I have been unable to locate sister Elizabeth, or husband John T. Hart, on the 1860 census(#12).
(Compiled: September 1991)
# 1) The NC link is obscure-one clue points to Bladen Co. Perhaps, wives supplied the Scotch-Irish lineage. (For probable Delaware/English origins, see KNOWLES IN GEORGIA-4pp.) GO BACK
# 2) James Gray's 1850 Baker Co. census listed birth county of Elizabeth, and children, leading to Hancock Co., and their 1820 marriage. Gray named as an "uncle" in the J.B.K. diary(see text, pg. 2).GO BACK
# 3) The accuracy of this union seems certain, as a letter from J.J. Knowles of Tyler TX provided a link to Greene Co.(see diary entry, pg. 2). James Joseph Knowles married Anna Thomas in Greene in 1821, and they, too, had a son named James Bellah Knowles. It may be that "our" James Knowles and J.J. Knowles were cousins, and-perhaps, also brothers-in-law, as Lucy and Anna could have been sisters.There were two more Knowles/Thomas marriages in Greene in 1820! GO BACK
# 4) This Henry Co. deed notes #201/14D. of Dooly Co., evidently adjacent to one drawn in the 1821 Land Lottery(#200/14D.)by James J. Knowles, of Jasper Co.(Barnes dist.). In 1832 & 1833, J.J. Knowles, now living in Fayette Co., paid taxes on this lottery parcel. The young man Joseph T. Knowles(text, above)furnished a second Fayette County link, marrying there in 1847! GO BACK
# 5) The Berry G. Hooks family lived within 100yds. of the school. The O'Dell Academy was organized, and directed by Methodist minister, Soloman O'Dell-assigned teacher, James Hilsman. GO BACK
# 6) Young James wrote this letter just a few days after Uncle Joe arrived. It seems likely that he would let other family members know about Joe's troubles(his "book of letters" did not survive). A Judith Noles married a Timothy Johnson in Hancock Co., July 21 1817!
# 7) In fact, George Washington, and Joseph E. Knowles both moved to Claiborne Parish, LA-before 1860-(US census)-their kinship is unknown. After Mary's death, Joseph married Emma Beard in 1862. About 1867, the family moved to Navarro Co. Texas[US censuses: 1870, 1880, & 1900(L.F. McCoy entry)]. Oldest son, "Cousin Thomas" Crawford Knowles(almost thirteen-when they came to Henry Co.)remained in Louisiana, as did G.W. Knowles. Recent research, documented in-"The Trials of Joseph Noles, 1817-1907"-revealed two court transcripts, and crime details. GO BACK
# 8) Doctor Thomas Fitzgerald Green is considered "the" founding physician of the State mental hospital in Milledgeville. John Abner Knowles' case is briefly recorded in his journal.
# 9) Though James referred to the area as Dooly Co., his father had purchased land which strattled the current Worth/Crisp Co. line(Worth was created in 1853, Crisp in 1905). James Knowles Sr. first lived in Dooly(tax digest-1851)-but died in Worth Co.(unfortunately, many of it's records were lost). Daughters, Martha and Elizabeth married in different counties!
# 10) There were ads about the University of Nashville's medical program in the Griffin GA newspaper during the mid-1850s. It was likely Dr. James Henderson Bryan's alma mater. James Knowles recorded his schedule(and instructors)in the diary. During the Civil War, the school disbanded. Later, it's faculty moved, almost intact, into the fledgling Vanderbilt University. GO BACK
# 11) James B. Knowles, and wife Lavonia C., are buried in Butts Co., on land drawn by her great, grandfather(Rev. Soldier)John Williamson Sr. in the 1821 Land Lottery. On Nov. 12 1822, Gov. John Clark granted him lot #250/8th district(then in Henry Co.). In 1831, he willed 600 acres to "beloved grandson" Nathan C. Williamson(Lavonia's father). John Williamson Jr.(Nathan's father)served as co-executor. He evidently never moved to Butts Co., dying in Jackson Co. in 1849(the original Williamson "homeplace" was along Walnut River in Wilkes Co., "bounty land" won by John Williamson Sr.). GO BACK
# 12) John Hart, patient, Dr. Knowles' 1865 estate. Also, soldier, Henry Co.Tax digests.