Biography of Marvin Knowlton
Connecticut Biographies





MARVIN KNOWLTON, WILLIMANTIC: Lumber Manufacturer

Marvin Knowlton is today best known in Connecticut as the leader of the prohibition party, and he is gratefully remembered in Canada as among the foremost in Good Templar work and in efforts for temperance legislation during the decade of 1870-80. The best years and best efforts of his life have been devoted to the temperance and prohibition cause.

Born in Ashford, in old Windham county, in 1837, he came of a heroic line, in whose veins the fires of patriotism and self sacrifice had burned since colonial days. His father, of the same name, fought in the war of 1812. Lieutenant Daniel Knowlton, the famous scout of French and Indian war, was his grandfather. He is a grand nephew, also, of Col. Thomas Knowlton of revolutionary fame, the close friend and adviser of Washington, who fell at Harlem Heights; and a cousin of General Nathaniel Lyon, the beloved son of Connecticut who fell at Wilson's Creek in 1861.

The obligations of home kept young Marvin in Ashford until his thirtieth year, and when he was only nineteen the management of the farm devolved upon him. In 1868, just after his father's death, he removed to the city of London, Ontario, in Canada, and engaged in the wholesale lumber business with a brother in law. Two years later he purchased the whole business and developed it to large proportions.

In 1870 he began to take an active interest in the temperance work. He joined the Good Templars, and at once became prominent in the order. He entered the field as lecturer and organizer, was largely instrumental in increasing the membership from 12,000 to 35,000, and was successively elected to the positions of grand counsellor and grand chief of the order for Ontario and Quebec; his grand lodge at that time being the largest on the continent, and the third largest in the world. He was delegate to the international grand lodge in the conventions of 1875 and 1876, at Bloomington, Ill., and Louisville, Ky., respectively, being chairman of the Canada delegation in the latter body. During these years he developed great power as a temperance orator. His experience led him to appreciate the insufficiency of moral suasion work alone. Hence he became one of the foremost advocates of the so called Duncan bill, a county local option measure which was championed by the temperance men of all parties, under the auspices of the Canada Temperance Alliance, in 1875. This agitation culminated in 1878 in what is known as the Canada Temperance Act or the Scott Act; and Mr Knowlton was among the foremost of those who were active and influential in securing the passage of this measure. Mr. Knowlton thus became a tower of strength to the temperance cause in Canada. He was identified with the reform wing of the liberal party and was strongly urged to accept various public positions, but he preferred to attend to his own business and to pursue the temperance work in his own way. In 1883 he decided to return to his native state and county, and in r884 he engaged in the lumber business with the firm of E. A. Buck & Co. of Willimantic (where he is now), as manufacturers and wholesale jobbers in native hard woods for railway and domestic uses. Firmly convinced by his Canadian experience that moral suasion and legal suasion must be supplemented by public officers and organization in sympathy therewith, Mr. Knowlton promptly identified himself with the national prohibition party in this country, and he has, with characteristic self sacrifice, given to the movement an abundance of his substance, energy, and political wisdom, to the signal advantage of the cause. As a prominent lecturer and political adviser in the Forbes campaign in 1886; as the chosen representative sent by Connecticut friends of prohibition to assist in the campaign for the amendment in Michigan in 1887; as field manager in the Fisk and Camp campaign in 1888; as chairman of the special amendment committee in 1889; and as state organizer in 1890, he has been generally recognized as the leader of the prohibition movement in Connecticut; while the party has risen from a spasmodic agitation to a steady, permanent place, with a growing political issue.

Mr. Knowlton is a single man and a member of the Masonic order. He also retains connection width the order of Good Templars in this country. He is a man of strong personal popularity, of marked power and magnetism as a public speaker, a sagacious politician in the best sense, and always keenly alive to the whole political situation. He is a thorough and determined champion of the cause of " the home against the saloon," and believes in the speedy coming of a new party of the people, which shall faithfully preserve the democratic principle of equality in the public regulation and administration of wholesome industries, while bringing the full power of government to bear against the forces of rum, monopoly, and corruption.

From:
Illustrated Popular Biography
Of Connecticut
Compiled and Published by J. A. Spalding
Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co.
Hartford, Conn. 1891


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