as printed in the Sparta Expositor
Thursday, September 11, 1969
Contributed by Jane Hembree Crowley
….God shed his grace on thee, and crowned they good, with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea……
Thus America was praised, and one who helped gain liberty for this foundling nation almost 200 years ago was honored.
The local chapter of the Daughters of American Revolution unveiled a monument at the grave of pioneer White Countian John Knowles at Mr. Pisgah Cemetery Sunday.
Knowles, a revolutionary soldier, came to White County from Virginia, in the early 1800s, settling in the Mr. Pisgah neighborhood–the site of his home being just behind the present church and cemetery. He is the ancestor of the Knowles clan in White County–and possibly has more descendants in this county than any other man.
Among those taking part in the ceremony were Regent Mrs. Bob Sorrell, Mrs. Lela Taylor, Miss Gertrude Saylors, Mrs. Olivia Knowles Young, Willard Hudson, Jerry Jared, C.L. Fisher, Jack Wright and Freeman Ward, who accepted the monument on behalf of the descendants.
Some one hundred persons gather under the cedar trees in the cemetery for the ceremony, and blended their voices in the singing of “America” to open the dedication.
Miss Saylors, a descendant of Mr. Knowles , read the history of John W. Knowles, adding a bit about the present day family. Her address follows:
John W. Knowles was born July 4th, 1749, in the Echochel parish of Autrim County, in the town of Belemenah, Ireland. He married Mollie (surname unknown) in Ireland. Although he was Irish, it is said he was not a big “talker”.
As a young man he took part in one of Ireland’s Rebellions. The British Army crushed this rebellion and sentenced some of the leaders to hang…John Knowles was one of them. Before the British could execute him, his sister tied bed sheets together and lowered him from an upper story of the jail. He never saw his sister again.
He and Mollie, his wife, and their two little sons, escaped the country and crossed the sea to our American Colonies. He was living in Pennsylvania when we Americans rebelled against British Rule in this country. John Knowles volunteered for 12 months tour of duty in the American cause, 1775.
The first year he served as private: providing beef cattle for the soldiers. The second year, he served as a sergeant, guarding the Carlisle Barracks, for 12 months. Except, for this one year of guard duty, he was directed to provide beef cattle for the soldiers and forage for the army horses.
When he would start these cattle to slaughter at headquarters, for the soldiers, he routed the cattle by his home, near Shippenburg, PA, so he could call by to see his wife and one child. (one child must have died after they reached America.)
John W. Knowles reenlisted each year for 12 month tours of duty. ..in all, he served about six years or, until Cornwallis surrendered. Among several things John Knowles stated under oath, was that he had seen General George Washington, and General Green–he saw, them, he said, but had no personal acquaintance with them.
Following the American Revolution he moved to Augusta County, VA. There, his daughter, Elizabeth , married Archibald McDaniel, 1795. Archibald, was also a veteran of the Revolution. He and Elizabeth moved to Tennessee. When Archibald became ill to die, he left it to John Knowles to select a place to bury him. The rectangular spot, encased by large stones, flush with the ground, (in Mt. Pisgah Cemetery) was Knowles’ choice. ..It was on Knowles’ own farm. McDaniel was buried in 1808 and his is said to be the first grave in what became the large Mr. Pisgah Cemetery.
From Augusta County, VA, John Knowles moved to Amhurst County, and finally to Pendleton County, from which he moved to Tennessee to the place just across the hedgerow east of the cemetery. A large Buncombe apple tree-perhaps a second generation sprout from an original Buncombe apple tree, set out, no doubt by Knowles himself, may be seen at the old home place. The last of the old log house has not been gone too long.
As to the dispute regarding John Knowles or W. W. Phillips being the first sheriff of White County: (many old times say they always heard that John Knowles was the first sheriff) Monroe Seals , who married into the David Goodwin family….(David, in another capacity, being one of White County’s first officials)and of necessity, crossing paths with whomever the fist sheriff had been: Seals , author of “White County History” said, Knowles, not W.W. Phillips was the first sheriff……Mrs. Mary Mitchell says, “Phillips’ name, as first sheriff, is on the books. Mrs. McDowell Blankenship , author of “The Uneven Yoke”, states that John Knowles was appointed “deputy” sheriff of White County in 1807. This word “deputy” may be the solution to the dispute.
Mollie Knowles, wife of John W. died about 1821 and according to custom was buried in their private family plot, that became the large public Mr. Pisgah Cemetery. About 1822, their son Isaac, died in North Carolina, leaving his little son, William, an orphan.
“Grandpa” Knowles, about 73 at the time, mounted his big gray horse, (10 hands high) and headed for North Carolina to pick up this little orphan. (A ride of some 600 miles.) He remained in North Carolina about a year.
In the meantime, his sons John K. Knowles and wife Sarah, John Rascoe and wife, Patsy, Christopher Swindle and wife, Mary Ann, having listened to his praise of Tennessee, had decided to return with him to make new homes for themselves in Tennessee. This was 1823.
It was the big gray horse with little William riding behind “Grandpa”, that was plunged into strange rivers to measure the depths and try for a ford, before the oxen teams with the loaded wagons, enroute to Tennessee, were risked in those waters. The John Knowles family and the John Rascoe family became devoted to each other.
For the fast-stepping big gray horse’s fourth and last trip to North Carolina, he was borrowed and ridden by John Rascoe, on account of a Rascoe death in North Carolina.
Toward the very end of John Knowles’ life, as his vigor waned and he became a bed patient, John Rascoes’ wife, Pasty, spent much time at his bedside. He died in his sleep, with a smile on his bearded face, March 21, 1836, age 80. He was buried beside his wife, Mollie, in what became Mr. Pisgah Cemetery.
The War Department in 1969 issued a monument for his grave.
A list of John and Mollie’s children: 1. John Knowles married a Hutson: 2. Elizabeth married Archibald McDaniel; 3. William (John W’s son, not his graandson, William) married a Womack: 4. Sarah Knowles married Matthias Hutson (descendants) Willard Hudson, Gertrude Saylors and Charlie Fisher and others; 5. Elinor (Ellender) Knowles, first husband, Issiah Hutson (Issiah killed in his north chimney corner, as he tried to prevent Yankee soldiers taking his stallion. Farm now owned by Buck Jernigan): 6. Mary (Polly) Knowles married a Badger (descendants Kate Badger of McMinnville); 7. Isaac Knowles married ??, father of grandson, William, 8. James Knowles married a Harris (descendants) Ed Knowles: The Jareds of Will Knowles, Freeman Wards ; family, Clay Cashdollar and others.
Listed below are some discrepancies between the 1969 article from the Sparta Expositor, and two primary sources on John Knowles: The Other Bunch by Sharon B. Almas Swindell, and the non-published but well-documented work by Harold R. Wallace (now deceased) called The Descendants of John Knowles.
The areas needing documentation are:
1. Spouse of Mary “Polly” Knowles. Wallace’s documented work says the spouse was Stephen K. Charles and lists descendants. The article and the Swindell book say her spouse was a Badger but that info is not documented. Was Mary married to both men? Or is one incorrect?
2. Documentation is needed for the son Joseph, not listed in the article.
3. Documentation is needed for the son Isaac listed in the article.
4. William Knowles married # 1. Swindell and #2 Denton, not a Womack as listed in the article?
5. John II married Mahala Hardin not Hutson? Hardin not listed in either source but appears in LDS records. Both book sources above only list her given name.