Sandburg's Hometown

August 25, 2014

Howard Knowles, Galesburg, IL
Howard K. Knowles, 1847-1926

Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist

by Barbara Schock

Carl Sandburg's first job was as a paper boy. He delivered newspapers the length of North Prairie Street. Some of the most expensive and elegant houses in Galesburg were located on this thoroughfare.

He knew the names of the residents because he was an avid reader of the newspapers. The “Locals” column reported when the Prairie Street residents left town on business, to visit friends, or spend the summer in Michigan. The day after they returned home, they could read about their return to Galesburg in the newspaper.

Howard K. Knowles lived at 573 North Prairie and was President of the Galesburg Gas and Electric Light Company. He had been born in Oquawka March 24, 1847. His parents were Alfred and Catherine Smally Knowles. The family moved to Galesburg in 1858. A few years later Alfred Knowles became mayor of Galesburg. He also served as an alderman, on the Board of Supervisors and on the Board of Education. He was also a trustee of Lombard University for more than fifty years.

Howard Knowles attended Lombard, but interrupted his studies to enlist in the 139th Illinois Infantry on June 1, 1864. The enlistment was for 100 days. He was seventeen years old. The regiment was on garrison duty in Cairo, Illinois, for several months and made raids into Kentucky. After returning to Peoria in late September, President Lincoln asked the regiment to volunteer for service in Missouri against General Sterling Price's invasion. On October 23, 1864, the Battle of Westport forced Price to retreat southward. The 139th returned to Peoria and was mustered out two days later. The unit received a letter of thanks from the President. There were no battle casualties in the regiment, but sixteen men died of various diseases.

Howard completed his studies at Lombard in 1869. In 1871 he moved to Peoria to assist the district collector of internal revenue for the federal government. He became the collector in 1874. By 1890 he had returned to Galesburg and became president of the Galesburg Gas and Electric Light Company. He was also director and vice president of the First National Bank. He served as a trustee of Lombard College for many years. He had been president of the Peoria Water Works for a period of time.

Knowles was married twice. First, to Ida Whiting in 1876, who died in 1889. Next, he married a widow, Ella Chase Conger in 1896. There were no children of either marriage.

While vice president of the First National Bank, Knowles became ill and was cared for in the Galesburg Cottage Hospital for the last two years of his life. He died on March 29, 1926. Funeral services were conducted by Dr. Lewis T. Fisher of Chicago, a former Lombard College president. Burial was in Hope Cemetery.

Howard Knowles was a firm believer in the Universalist faith, but never joined the congregation. Both of his wives and his mother were active workers in the church.

In the Galesburg City Directory and the Federal Census of 1900, Howard Knowles' occupation is listed as capitalist. Young Carl Sandburg thought Knowles might have wanted that title on his grave stone after listing his name and the years of his life.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
August 25, 2014 Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist
August 18, 2014  Alcoholic Beverages
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity