Transcribed by: Ellen Booth.Page 354
WILLIAM D. KNOWLES, numbered among the honored pioneers of Menard county, was for many years actively engaged in farming pursuits, but is now living retired. He has passed the eighty-third mile-stone on life's journey and his has been a useful and honorable career. He has never sought to become prominent in public life, but as a business man and citizen has always been worthy of the respect of those with whom he has been associated and his life record may therefore be well taken as an example.
Mr. Knowles was born in Gibson county, Indiana, October 23 1821, his parents being Elijah and Margaret (Woods) Knowles. The father, who was born in Georgia, was of English lineage, while the mother, whose birth occurred in Tennessee, was of German descent. They were married in Gibson county, Indiana, where the father followed the occupation of farming until the spring of 1837, when he sought a home in Illinois, settling at Blue Grass Point, in what was then Sangamon county. In the winter of 1841 he removed to New Market, Menard county, where he continued to reside until 1853, when he took up his abode in Texas. After fifteen years he established his home in Butler county, Missouri, where he died on the 13th of September, 1867, when seventy-seven years of age, his birth having occurred April 22, 1790. His wife, who was born March 1, 1797, died on the 11th of September, 1839, when but forty-two years of age.
William D. Knowles had but limited opportunities to secure an education, but experience, observation and reading in later life had added greatly to his knowledge. He accompanied his parents on their removal to Illinois and was here reared amid the wide scenes of frontier life. He early became familiar with the arduous task of developing a new farm and he continued to assist his father in his agricultural pursuits until twenty-three years of age, when he began farming on his own account on land belonging to his father. He built a log cabin and in that primitive dwelling started out in life for himself. After three years he purchased land on the prairie and again built a log house and a log barn. This was in 1847 and for twenty-eight years he resided upon that place, transforming the wild land into richly productive fields, which returned to him good harvests. On the expiration of that period, however, he bought a farm near New Market, where he resided until1899, when he took up his abode at his present place of residence. That he has prospered in his undertakings is indicated by the fact that he is now the owner of three hundred and twenty acres of fine farm land and also some valuable town realty. He has made careful investments of his capital, which was acquired through earnest purpose, diligence and unfaltering labor and now he has a handsome competence that enables him to live retired in the enjoyment of a rest that he has truly earned.
On the 5th day of October, 1843, Mr. Knowles was united in marriage to Miss Harriet Chapman, of Scott county, Indiana. They traveled life's journey together for little more than five years, when on the 13th of March, 1849, at the age of thirty years, Mrs. Knowles was called to her final rest. They had two children: James H., of Springfield; and Margaret M., wife of William B. Butler, of Oakland, Iowa. Mr. Knowles has been married again and has reared four children. In addition those mentioned, Sarah Elizabeth, born December 18, 1857, died July 3, 1902, while Alice is the wife of William B. Rogers, Montana.
Mr. Knowles has been a consistent member of the Cumberland Presbyterian church since the spring of 1843, joining the first church of that denomination organized in the county. There were thirty charter members, but he is the only one now living. He was made a ruling elder of the church and has taken a very active and helpful part in its work, doing everything in his power to extend its influence and promote its growth. He has close and intimate knowledge of the history of Menard county and its development and can relate many interesting experiences of pioneer life in this part of the state. In 1843 he drove with three yoke of oxen to Chicago, taking a load of wheat to the market there. He forded the Illinois river at Ottawa when the water did not reach to the wagon bed. He brought back groceries and salt. The latter commodity sold for five dollars per barrel and he had purchased it in Chicago at one dollar and fifty cents per barrel, so that he made good profit on his investment. Twenty-one days were required in making the trip, which can now be covered in a few hours. Mr. Knowles has taken a deep interest in what has been accomplished as civilization has replaced the conditions of pioneer life and at all times has favored progress and improvement, bearing his full share in the work of citizenship.