Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Allen line: John Wilson Knott, early years, continued

Continuing with the autobiographical letter written by John Wilson Knott in 1914 in Ashland, Oregon:

..."We lived with father and mother in the little brick cottage during the summer of 1861, and I raised a crop of corn on father Starr's place east of Tipton. In the fall of that year, wife and I went to the farm six miles south of Tipton which father had purchased of the Knott family in Mt Vernon.  Sometime afterwards, father and mother moved down to the farm with us.  We lived there from the fall of 1861 to the fall of 1864, and I worked on the farm, as much for my parents as for myself.  We just got our living.  Whether it was premonition or not, I had a feeling that something unusual was at hand.  What was it?  From a child, I had seemed to have a desire for the ministry, but at no time did it seem possible-conditions were all against me.  I might have been heard many times alone in the barn in prayer during the summer, seeking to know what it was before me that I could not see.  It was 18 months after our marriage, and while we were on that farm that little Alfred was born.  Sometime after little Alfred came, father said to me that mother was unwilling that we should remain in the house with them.  We were going to have a family, and they wanted us to have a house by ourselves.  He said that 52 acres of the farm on the east side was mind, and he would put up a house away up on the hill (a lonely, out of the way place) for us. Of course, this was only talk, for I had no deed of the 52 acres, and when, a few years afterwards, he exchanged the farm for the Sugar Creek Mill property, I had nothing to do with it.  The transaction was made without my knowledge.  And when the mill property was exchanged for the old Mt Vernon farm, I had nothing to do with it.  The $1,500 father frequently said I was to have never appeared.

But the proposition to get rid of us and our unborn children came to me like a shock.  His proposition, at sight, was to me, utterly impracticable.  He had no means to put up anything of a house, maybe a cheap shack, and I had no means to speak of at all.  A deep well would have to be dug, we had but one team and he would control that and other things on the place, as he had been doing all along. I could never take my little family up there under such conditions, and I felt that the plan or demand on us was equivalent to expulsion from the place and I must look out for myself.  I determined at once to face the situation and do or die.

Father Starr kindly offered to give my wife a home with them if I wished to go to the Seminary. I passed my evaluation before the presbytery, and left for McCormick Seminary, Chicago, October 1864.  My undertaking was a crushing experience which no one else can ever know.  I knew I was a green young man, must go before a faculty of eminent professors, and take standing with young men, some of them right from colleges with their diplomas in their pockets. The outlook was tremendous, it was appalling.  In the Seminary, I learned that the faculty had consulted, and had agreed to try me.

Those three years away from family and home were three years of great trial and self-sacrifice, for I loved my wife and children as dearly as any man could.  But notwithstanding, I completed the course with the credit of having been the most faithful in attendance of any married man that up to that time had been in the seminary. 

It is not necessary to delineate particularly what followed in my humble ministry for the next 47 years, from my licensure in 1866 and ordination in 1867, until my advanced age, broken health, and retirement in April, 1913.  It was a checkered life of sunshine and storm, sometimes in prosperity and encouragement, at others in sharp trial and almost alone.  My beloved wife, ever faithful and uncomplaining, traveled with me in loving fidelity through all those years.

In trying to care for my parents in their old age and helplessness, I refused a promising church in Kansas, and went into a very discouraging missionary work in Southern Illinois which was a sacrifice in usefulness, and doubtless, an important financial loss which a very few have know anything about. So the sale of our land in Iowa and the purchase of the Kauffman mortgage at father's earnest request, was doubles a loss of $500 or $1000, as the Iowa land was worth the most.

The remaining lines of my personal biography are sufficiently known to the family: my great bereavement in the loss of my beloved wife in 1910, my experience and narrow escape from death in the hospital, and my journeying since that time until now.

The next important event may be the obituary--a few closing lines--and a long silence until the resurrection."

It's interesting to me what my great grandfather left out of his autobiography.  For instance, his brother Elzy was murdered in Nevada on March 8, 1859 in Nevada.  I think this probably had a great deal to do with the family dynamics outlined in the letter. His father, especially, felt great guilt at the death of his son, and it may have contributed to the way he related to his other children.

 He also didn't mention the early deaths of three of his children, "little Alfred" at the age of 9 months,  John Thomas at the age of four years and three months, and Anna Laura at the age of three years and 9 months. Another daughter, Mary Louise, died as a young adult, at the age of (almost )22.  Did he preach the funeral sermons for his own children? 

His surviving children were George Charles Knott, Walter Leroy Knott, Edith Clarissa Knott, and Herbert Lowell Knott.  Herbert died in 1919, before his father, and I don't have a death date yet for Walter Leroy. 

Reverend Knott pastored at least 17 churches in his lifetime, with his longest pastorate being about 7 years in Lodi, Wisconsin.  He pastored churches in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska, Idaho, and Oregon.  I have never heard a word about his wife, other than what is in this autobiography, but I have very great sympathy for her. She did not live an easy life.  Imagine moving 17 times! Imagine losing four children!  Imagine all the church services she must have attended, while moving frequently and trying to raise her family!   

The "Father Starr" reference would be John Havens Starr, 1803-1873, and mother Starr would be Clarrissa Falley, 1812-1875.  "Father" and "mother" were Thomas Jefferson Knott (1808-1887)and Hannah Bell (1811-1890).  John Wilson Knott died in 1927.

John Wilson Knott and Harriet Starr's daughter was Edith Clarissa Knott, who married Edward F Allen. They are my grandparents. 

I'm glad we have this record of our ancestor's lives, even though we acknowledge that this was one man's viewpoint, and he apparently was bitterly disappointed by the actions of his parents. I hope to share in a future blog about his father's life, and ask that we withhold judgment about this parents until we've heard that side of the story.