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KNOWLTON, PAUL HOLLAND, pioneer industrialist, soldier, and politician; b. 17 Sept. 1787 in Newfane, Vt, son of Silas Knowlton and Sally Holbrook, grandson of the Honourable Luke Knowlton, judge of the Supreme Court of Vermont in 1786 and a loyalist sympathizer; d. 28 Aug. 1863 in Knowlton, Canada East.

Silas Knowlton took up in 1796 the British government’s offer of wild land in Canada made earlier to his father, who had been too old to accept it. Paul Holland was only 11 when he came to the future Stukely Township in Lower Canada, but he remembered the struggles of pioneer life. The family of three boys and one girl was left motherless in 1800 and Paul Holland was sent back to his grandparents in Newfane to be educated. He returned to Stukely in 1807 and on 22 Sept. 1808 married Laura Moss, a schoolteacher of Bridport, Vt. Not having any children of their own, they adopted a boy and a girl of his brother Luke’s large family.

In 1815, after farming in Stukely, Paul Holland Knowlton moved to Brome Lake in Brome Township where he cleared a farm, built a home on the lake, and operated a store and distillery. In 1827 he was appointed agent to dispose of the unsold land in Brome Township for its absentee owners; a few years later he had purchased much of the land himself. The early proprietors had mortgaged most of the land in the township so that settlers were discouraged from purchasing; under Knowlton’s management and ownership the mortgages were discharged and the land disposed of. On 26 Oct. 1830 he became representative for the newly formed Shefford County in the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, and held the seat until 9 Oct. 1834.

In that year Knowlton became one of the first corresponding members from the Eastern Townships of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec; the early local interest in history he encouraged survives today in the Brome County Historical Society. Knowlton was also president from 1834 to 1836 of the Shefford County Agricultural Society formed at a meeting over which he presided in Waterloo on 15 June 1834; one of the first county agricultural societies in Lower Canada, its formation was assisted by a bill “to make more ample provision for the encouragement of Agriculture” promoted by Knowlton himself in the legislature.

Knowlton moved in 1834 from his farm on Brome Lake to a site beside a large stream flowing into the lake. Here he took up water rights, first erecting a sawmill to produce building materials. He built a large house with offices attached, a smithy and its shop, a pearlashery, and later a store and a grist mill which became the nucleus of the village of Knowlton, called Coldbrook until its post office was set up in 1851. These facilities enhanced the value of the wild land in the neighbourhood, much of which either belonged to him or passed through his hands.

During the rebellion of 1837 in Lower Canada Knowlton helped arm and equip 400 men in Shefford Township and was promoted lieutenant-colonel of the Shefford battalion of militia on 1 Dec. 1837. A detachment under his command captured one of the Patriote leaders, Dr Wolfred Nelson, in the Shefford area on 12 Dec. 1837. His Shefford Volunteers were also “on guard at Granby . . . to protect the families and property from American sympathizers and Canadian refugees.” Colonel Knowlton assisted in furnishing the Missisquoi militia with arms and ammunition for the battle at Moore’s Corner (Saint-Armand-Station) on 6 Dec. 1837. He received the special thanks of Sir John Colborne who called him in 1838 to sit on the Special Council which governed Lower Canada while it was under martial law.

Mention of these activities in an English newspaper had a curious sequel. Miss Sarah Knowlton of Darley Dale, Derbyshire, England, wrote to Knowlton claiming that she was a relative. Knowlton visited her and they kept up a correspondence. In April 1845 he learned that she had died leaving him heir to her fortune.

Knowlton was named to the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada on 9 June 1841. He was active throughout the 1840s in voicing the needs of the Eastern Townships. In 1846 he introduced a bill to facilitate the partition of lands in the Townships, and in 1847 served on a commission which made recommendations to prevent immigrants to Canada from being induced by American speculators to settle in the United States. In 1847 also, he and Philip Henry Moore* of Missisquoi objected in local newspapers that the recently adopted free trade would mean too heavy competition for Canadian goods in the home market and called for protective legislative action. Knowlton had also objected in 1846 to the inequality of representation in the Legislative Council: Canada West had 18 members but Canada East only 15. Nor did he and Moore feel one member from the Townships was enough, but, according to Knowlton, in speaking to the governor, Charles Murray Cathcart*, on this subject they might as well have “addressed a horse block.”

Knowlton signed the Annexation Manifesto of 1849, thus placing himself among those who felt that, with the economy of the country at its lowest ebb, union in a great North American confederacy of states would be a particular benefit to Canada East. When it came to a decision between loyalty to the British crown and the progress of his country Knowlton firmly supported the latter. As a result he lost his military commission, at the special request of the member from Shefford, Lewis Thomas Drummond*, who according to a local newspaper wanted a friend appointed to the position.

Knowlton’s interest in his own area remained constant. In 1849 he obtained, through his influence as a legislative councillor, a grant for a road through Brome Township that brought traffic to Knowlton. He gave land and funds for the building of a high school in 1854 in Knowlton, just as he had earlier contributed to the erection of the Anglican church and rectory. To Knowlton also goes the credit for securing Brome County in 1855 out of parts of Stanstead, Shefford, and Missisquoi counties. He was elected first warden of the county, and became first president of the Brome County Agricultural Society on 12 July 1856. He worked to have the counties organized into districts for judicial purposes, and in 1857 Brome County became a part of the judicial district of Bedford.

The Advertiser and Eastern Townships Sentinel was started in Knowlton in 1856 by Lucius Seth Huntington*, who acted as editor, and Knowlton, who provided influence and financial support. Articles in the early issues reflect some of Knowlton’s political views, especially that the interests of rural districts were not fairly represented in parliament. In 1860 Knowlton and Moore took up a lively issue in the paper by appealing for a meeting before a forthcoming election of a new legislative councillor which would determine that henceforth the voters would be represented in parliament by residents of the Townships. When Knowlton felt that the editor had become too radical, the partnership was dissolved.

Paul Holland Knowlton died on 28 Aug. 1863 at his home in Knowlton. Many memorials of his liberality remain in the village of Knowlton, including the Paul Holland Knowlton Memorial Museum in the original high school he assisted. All through his career he had kept the progress of the province as his first goal and he became inseparably connected with the history of his own area.

Marion L. Phelps

BCHS Arch., VII, Paul Holland Knowlton papers. Franklin County Registry Office (St Albans, Vt.), marriage records, 22 Sept. 1808. L.C., House of Assembly, Journals, 1830. Advertiser and Eastern Townships Sentinel (Knowlton and Waterloo, [Que.]), 8, 29 Feb. 1856, 10 May 1860, 3 Sept. 1863. Montreal Herald, 26 May 1847. Philipsburg Gleaner (Philipsburg, [Que.]), 23 Feb. 1847. Stanstead Journal (Rock Island, [Que]), 9 April 1846. G. Turcotte, Cons. législatif de Québec, 9, 132–33. C. M. Day, History of the Eastern Townships, province of Quebec, dominion of Canada, civil and descriptive, etc. (Montreal, 1869), 256. J. P. Noyes, Sketches of some early Shefford pioneers ([Montreal], 1905), 15. Stanstead County Historical Society centennial journal (2v., n.p., 1965–67), II, 85. C. H. W. Stocking, The history and genealogy of the Knowltons of England and America (New York, 1897), 118. E. M. Taylor, History of Brome County, Quebec, from the date of grants of land therein to the present time; with records of some early families (2v., Montreal, 1908–37), I, 164–65, 169, 281. Cyrus Thomas, Contributions to the history of the Eastern Townships: a work containing an account of the early settlement of StArmand, Dunham, Sutton, Brome, Potton, and Bolton; with a history of the principal events that have transpired in each of these townships up to the present time (Montreal, 1866), 235–37, 267–71. “The Moore’s Corner battle in 1837,” Missisquoi County Hist. Soc., Annual report (Saint-Jean, Que.), 1908–9, 70–71. “Parliamentary representation of Missisquoi from the beginning of parliaments in Canada,” Missisquoi County Hist. Soc., Annual report (Saint-Jean, Que.), 1907, 29–30.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Marion L. Phelps, “KNOWLTON, PAUL HOLLAND,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 21, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/knowlton_paul_holland_9E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/knowlton_paul_holland_9E.html
Author of Article:   Marion L. Phelps
Title of Article:   KNOWLTON, PAUL HOLLAND
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1976
Year of revision:   1976
Access Date:   May 21, 2024