Knowles, James D. (James Davis), 1798-1838

Titles by this author
Life of Mrs. Ann H. Judson : late missionary to Burmah

Knowles, a Baptist clergyman, educator, and editor was born in Providence, Rhode Island to Edward and Amey (Peck) Knowles. His father, a mechanic, had hoped that his son would attend college, but Edward Knowles died when his son was twelve years old (Spofford 200). In 1810, James was apprenticed to John Carter, editor of the Providence "Gazette" (Johnson). In this position, he became a master of his trade, but he also studied French and Latin and began to write poetry and prose for the newspaper (Spofford 200). Knowles became associate editor of William G. Goddard's Rhode Island American at the age of twenty-one (Grant and Fiske 564). Soon after taking the editorial post, he joined the First Baptist Church in Providence and was licensed to preach in the autumn of 1820 (Johnson). He decided to prepare for the ministry and studied theology in Philadelphia and at the Columbian University. He attained the highest rank as a scholar in his class, and he edited the weekly religious paper entitled "Columbian Star." He graduated with valedictory honors in December, 1824 and was appointed as a tutor at the Columbian University (Spofford 200).

In December, 1825, Knowles was ordained the pastor of the Second Baptist church in Boston, Massachusetts, and he married Susan Langley of Providence Rhode Island on January 11, 1826. Knowles resigned as pastor of the Second Baptist church 1832 as a result of failing health. He then filled the chair of pastoral duties and sacred rhetoric at Newton Theological seminary while also overseeing the Christian Review, a quarterly magazine (Grant and Fiske 564).

He published Memoir of Mrs. Ann H. Judson (Boston 1829), said to be one of the most popular religious biographies ever issued. After becoming a professor at Newton, he published his Memoirs of Roger Williams, the Founder of the State of Rhode Island (1834) (200). He died of small-pox in Newton Centre, Massachusetts in 1838 (Grant and Fiske 564).

Johnson, Rossiter, ed. The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans. Boston: Biographical Society, 1904.

Spofford, Ainsworth R., ed. The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. New York: James T. White, 1924. (199 - 200).

Wilson, James Grant and John Fiske, eds. Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Vol. III. New York: Appleton, 1888. 564.

Written by Stephen Rachman