Born at Ashford. Windham county, Conn., May 5th, 1811. His father and mother were Daniel and Hannah Knowlton, both of the same name, and from families remotely connected. The records of the families are too imperfect to admit of genealogy with accuracy. On the paternal side they were farmers in comfortable circumstances, having influence in the community, and filling places of trust and responsibility. On the maternal side they were also farmers, the grandfather of the subject of the present sketch, Daniel Knowlton, and Thomas Knowlton, his brother, being conspicuous while quite young in the war against the French and Indians, serving with General Putnam, and in the early struggles for national independence, in which Colonel Thomas Knowlton fell at the battle of Harlem, and Daniel served through the war, being nearly two years a prisoner in the hands of the British. Colonel Knowlton was among the first to respond to the call for troops, and raised a company in Ashford, joining the colonial forces near Boston, where he became conspicuous in the fortification and defense of Bunker Hill. It was much to be regretted that one so highly esteemed should be lost to the country in its early struggle for national independence, and not unlike the loss it afterward sustained in the death of his grandnephew, General Nathaniel Lyon, of Ashford, who fell while leading a charge upon the confederate forces at Wilson’s Creek, Mo., August 10th, 1861.
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In the autumn of 1832 the subject of this biography left a happy paternal home with a desire to find some occupation more congenial to his taste than farming. On April 10th, 1833, he entered into an existing firm doing a wholesale grocery business in Hartford, Conn. Continuing the same class of business until December, 1843, he removed to New York, looking for a wider field of operations. With some changes of partners, the wholesale grocery business was continued until 1852, when he visited the island of Cuba and united the importation of its products with the existing enterprise. This mixed class of business was continued until 1861, when all but that of importation was abandoned, and the interest with partners ceased. Importations from the West Indies were continued, with the addition of commerce with South America until 1885, when it was brought to a close, thus completing fifty-two years of mercantile life with the varied success incident to such ventures, having met all obligations in full at maturity.
During the continuance of the importing business a good deal of controversy arose between importers and refiners of sugar respecting the proper duty to be placed upon various classes of sugar, the latter desiring so to discriminate against the better classes suitable for consumption as to prevent their importation.
These controversies led to various appeals to congress, in which the importers generally found the champagne and good dinners of the refiners more effective than the solid arguments and cold water of the importers. Thus that ” infant industry ” was so protected as to lead to colossal fortunes among the refiners of sugar, at the expense of the consumers, resulting in the exclusion from the country of all sugars except such as are required for refining. In those controversies Mr. Knowlton took a prominent part, appearing before committees of congress and contributing many articles on the subject to the press, and otherwise reaching the attention of the members of congress.
In his matrimonial experience Mr. Knowlton was one of the most fortunate of men. Married to Miss Miranda H. Rockwell, the daughter of Park and Esther Rockwell of Stafford, Conn., September 26th, 1837, he passed almost forty-nine years of a most happy union with one whose amiable character rendered her beloved by all who had the pleasure of her acquaintance. Four children were born to them: Maria R., D. Henry, Miner R. and Gertrude M., the former dying at an early age. Previous to retirement from business, Mr. Knowlton built a fine country residence in Stafford, at the birthplace of his wife, with a view of spending at least his summers in that delightful locality.