Biography of Albert W. Knowles

Albert W. Knowles. Topeka recently had cause to mourn the death of two pioneer citizens and able and successful business men, Albert W. Knowles and his brother Charles O. Knowles, both of whom passed away within a few days of each other. At the time of his death on October, 1916, Albert W. Knowles was vice president of the Bank of Topeka, with which he had been identified twenty-eight years, and he had been a resident of Topeka since the age of twenty.

His father was Joshua Knowles, whose name also deserves the distinction of mention in any history of Topeka or Kansas. As a farmer, financier, promoter of good movements and public spirited citizen, Joshua Knowles came and went among the people of his adopted city from the time of his arrival in November, 1859, until the close of his life August 8, 1869. There remained in his wake an impression of usefulness, of genuine dependable citizenship, traceable to his untiring zeal and ready recognition of opportunity.

Member of a family that was founded in America in 1640 by emigrants from England, Joshua Knowles was born in Massachusetts June 23, 1816. He received an ordinary education in his native state, and for many years was engaged in farming there. He first came to Kansas in 1857, taking up a homestead. It was his determination to make the state his future home, but after a year he returned to Massachusetts, and remained there until November, 1859, selling his homestead in Eastham, Massachusetts, to Gustavus Swift, who later became the noted Chicago packer. He came back to Kansas and located in Topeka. Here he engaged in the business of buying sheep, which he rented out to the neighboring farmers on shares. Joshua Knowles was one of the prime movers in the building of the old pontoon bridge across the river at Topeka. He became one of the incorporators of the old Topeka Bank and Savings Institution, and was actively connected with that until his death. Out of this bank grew the present Bank of Topeka.

Joshua Knowles married Lucinda Doane. Her ancestor, John Doane, settled at Eastharn, Massachusetts, in 1640. The two sons of Joshua Knowles to reach maturity were Albert W. and Oharles O. Joshua Knowles and wife were active members of the Methodist Church.

The late Albert W. Knowles was born in Massachusetts, January 16, 1839. Few men had in their lifetime experience more of adventure, danger and hardship than Mr. Knowles. Like many boys who live along the sea coast, the mariner’s occupation was a constant fascination to him, and as early as thirteen he was gaining experience before the mast. As a boy of eighteen he left his home at Eastham and shipped on a sailing vessel bound on a long voyage around the globe. Before attaining his majority he had visited every continent and helped to steer the course of the ship through the waters of every ocean. On returning home he exchanged the adventures of the sea for those of the Far West. At the age of nineteen, in 1858, he arrived in the Territory of Kansas. Here he took up the trade of stone mason and in a practical sense he helped to lay the foundation of the capital city of Kansas. It was his regular occupation until 1872. During that time he assisted in the stone work of the old east wing of the State House.

In the meantime, with the outbreak of the war in 1861, he enlisted for the three months service in Company A of the Second Regiment Kansas Volunteer Infantry. His time up with this organization, he utilized his previous experience as a sailor, and in 1862 enlisted from Charlestown Navy Yard in the United States navy. He was on the sloops of war Ossipee and Pensacola, and during the greater part of the remaining months of the war was engaged in blockade duty. He received an honorable discharge in 1864.

In 1872 with his brother Charles, Albert W. Knowles engaged in the retail hardware business in Topeka. They conducted one of the old and successful establishments of that kind for sixteen years. Selling his interests as a merchant, Mr. Knowles entered the banking business as vice president of the Bank of Topeka, and he held that position continuously for twenty-eight years until his death. Mr. Knowles was a prominent republican, for a number of years was a member of the Topeka City Council, for eleven years served as city treasurer, and was always ungrudging of his time and energies in behalf of the community where he spent all the mature years of his life. He had long been identified with Topeka Lodge of the Masons, and was also a member of the Grand Army of the Republic.

In August, 1865, he married Miss Mary Sheldon. She died in February, 1905, leaving one son, Reuben Knowles, who is an official in the Bank of Topeka. In 1906 Mr. Knowles married Mrs. Mary A. O’Brien; a native of New York City.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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