Biography of Thomas Knowles
Bristol County, MA Biographies

Knowles, Thomas, was born December 31, 1803, and died at his home in New Bedford, August 29, 1877. For many years he was one of New Bedford's leading whaling merchants, being associated with his brother, John P., and his cousins, Joseph and John P., 2d. He was a member of one of our oldest families and traced his ancestry back to the early settlement of New England, when Richard Knowles, who had lived in Plymouth and. Cambridge, removed to Eastham, Cape Cod, in 1653. His son John died about 1675, "slain in the colony's service." Col. Johnson of the above, was born in 1673, and died 1757, and his son, Col. Willard, was born in 1711, and died 1786, leaving a son Seth. who was born in 1753, and died 1821. Thomas, son of Seth, was born 1777 and died 1820. He was the father of the subject of this notice. Thomas Knowles was a man of great clearness of thought and independence of expression and while conducting the details of his business with energy and ability, was at the same time in sympathy with all movements for the better interest in National politics until the abolition of slavery, and invested his large means unhesitatingly in the war bonds of the government. He was always adverse to holding public position, but had a deep interest in temperance reform and once accepted the nomination for mayor on the temperance ticket. His discernment in financial matters was unexcelled and during the last twenty years of his life he was a director in the National Bank of Commerce. His early religious teaching was received in a home in which the Puritan traditions almost without change were still accepted as the guides of life and thought. He continued a member of the Baptist Society, but not of the church, for many years, and in the latter years of his life attended the Unitarian Church. Mr. Knowles married Mary Keith Eaton of Middleborough, a descendant of Francis Eaton, who came in the Mayflower, and of Rev. James Keith of Bridgewater. Their children were Thomas H., Sidney W., Charles S., Mary E., who married Josiah N. Knowles of San Francisco, and Martha A., who married Dr. Charles D. Prescott of New Bedford. Thomas H. Knowles, oldest son of Thomas and Mary K. (Eaton) Knowles, was born in New Bedford, September 12. 1837, educated in the public and private schools and was graduated from Harvard in 1861. Soon after, he entered his father's business in which he eventually acquired an interest. Mr. Knowles has been interested in many of the financial and manufacturing corporations of the city, having been in the direction of the Acushnet Mills, New Bedford Gas Light Company, and the Merchants' National Bank. He has also served on the board of trustees of the Savings Bank and as president of the City Manufacturing Corporation and Bristol Manufacturing Corporation. In all of these Mr. Knowles has been valued as a man of prudence. good judgment and wise foresight. He served several years in both branches of the city government, has been a trustee of the Public Library and a member of the Board of Overseers of the Poor. He has long been a member of the First Congregational Church (Unitarian) and now serves the society as clerk. Mr. Knowles has been twice married; his first wife was Mary H. Swift, who died in 1881, leaving one son, Harry Swift Knowles; for his second wife he married Annie D. Swift of Acushnet. Of this union is one daughter, Sylvia Knowles.

Our county and its people
A descriptive and biographical history of
Bristol County, Massachusetts
Prepaired and published under the auspices of
The Fall River News and The Taunton Gasette
With assistance of Hon. Alanson Borden
The Boston History Company, Publishers, 1899.

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