Copywrite W.C. Landr 1999 Richard Knowles, 1717-18 to 1798, Topsham, Androscoggin Co., ME
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Posted 7/29/99


     RICHARD KNOWLES was born about 1717 or 1718, birthplace unknown. He died on 10 Jan 1798, age 80 in Topsham, Androscoggin Co., ME. [1-V.2] The Vital Records of Topsham in recording the births of his children describe him "Richard (who came from England to Topsham)". On 10 Jan 1798 Richard was "found dead in the street of apoplexy" in Topsham. [6]

   Nothing of his parentage is known. It is interesting to note that William and Sarah (Clark) Knowles of Portsmouth, NH had a son Richard who was baptised on 15 Aug 1717 in Portsmouth. [2/406] There were also three daughters. Children were normally baptized within a few days of birth, so he was probably born in 1717. After William Knowles died his widow Sarah married Joseph Martin in 1723. After Sarah's death in 1745 her estate was administered by her youngest daughter Mary. If a copy of her will exists in the probate records of Portsmouth it would be of interest to find if she mentiond her son Richard and if so, where he was residing. It is possible that Richard of Portsmouth could have gone to England for any number of reasons and settled in Topsham when he returned. It could be just a coincidence but is still worth investigating.

  Richard arrived in Topsham by 1755 as evidenced by the notation of his marriage in the Topsham Vital Records, "Richard of Topsham and Mary Orr of Brunswick, int. 27 Oct. 1755". [1/V.2]

   Mary was born possibly in Ireland [2] and died on 09 Nov 1791 in Topsham, ME. [1/V.2] [6] Brunswick, Cumberland Co., ME is directly across the Androscoggin River from Topsham, ME. When Richard Knowles and Mary Orr were married in 1755 there was only one Orr family mentioned as residing in Brunswick This family was composed of Joseph, Clement, and John Orr and their sister Mary. Wheeler indicates that the family had arrived in Boston from Ireland along with the Scholfields (another pioneer Brunswick family) and had come to Brunswick in 1742. [3/411-12] A search of the records yields no Mary Orr old enough to have been the wife of Richard Knowles in 1755 except Mary the sister of the three Orr brothers. Another connection of the Orr and Scholfield family was the 1788 marriage of Margaret Knowles, the daughter of Richard and Mary, to Stephen Scholfield of Brunswick.[1/V.2 marriages]

   There is some evidence to suspect that Mary (Orr) Knowles and possibly Richard spent an unknown amouunt of time in England.   On the 1880 Census Mary (Blair) Atkins, the daughter of William and Rebecca (Knowles) Blair, indicated that her mother, Rebecca, was born in England. This would would mean that her grandmother, Mary (Orr) Knowles, was in England at the time of Rebecca's Birth. [5] Although Rebecca's birth date isn't known this would probably have sometime between about 1773 and 1777.

   That the Knowles family had connections with England and Europe is also hinted at by the death of 22 year old John Knowles "washed overboard and drowned on his passage from Europe". 1/V.2 deaths] His connection with Richard and Mary is unknown. He was possibly a son, born about 1770, or perhaps a nephew or some other type of relative. In any case his death was noted in the records of Topsham and the only Knowles family in Topsham was Richards. [1/v.2 deaths]

In 1757 Richard was on the "Company and Alarm list" maintained by Capt. Adam Hunter. [3/879]

In 1764 twenty nine settlers from Topsham signed a petition to the Province of Massachusetts for the incorporation of their town. Richard's signature was one of the twenty nine. [3]   

In 1777 Richard was shown as having lots 8 and 9 on the town plan of Topsham. [3/870, appn. 1]

On 30 April 1795 Richard was elected Sexton of the First Parish Congregational Church in Topsham with a yearly allowance of 12 shillings. [3/411-12] [6]


1. REBECCA KNOWLES, b. abt 1773-1777, possibly in England. She m. as his second wife on 7 Mar. 1793 in Topsham to WILLIAM BLAIR of Woolwich. [1/V.2 marriages] William Blair was the son of JAMES and JANE (TODD) BLAIR of Woolwich. He was b. on 2 Apr. 1673 in Woolwich, Sagadahoc Co., ME. On 19 Sep. 1790 he married (1) Mary Blinn, the daughter of Harrison Blenn of Woolwich and Eunice Meserve of Kennebunk, Me. Mary died shortly thereafter, date unknown, No Issue. Rebecca and her brother Richard were apparently married in a double wedding, both marrying Blairs.

2. Susanna Knowles, b. prob in Topsham. She married on 27 Oct 1793 to Vine Holt of Brooklyne, CT. [1/V.2 p. 156, marriages]

3. Margaret Knowles, b. prob. in Topsham. She m. on 27 Apr. 1788 to Stephen Scholfield of Brunswick, ME. [1/V.2 p. 156 marriages] In 1790 they were living in Harpswell, Cumberland Co., ME. [4]

4. Mary Knowles, b. prob. in Topsham. She married in 1790 to Francis LeRoy "a trader in Topsham" "from France". The couple later removed to Canada. [1/ V.1 p. 19, V.2 , p.156 marriages]

5. Richard Knowles,  B. 3 Feb.1767 in Topsham. [1.V.1 Births] He married on 7 Mar 1793 to Mary Blair of Woolwich, Sagadahoc Co., ME. [1/V.1 p. 19, V.2 p. 156 marriages] Mary Blair was born 3 Jan 1765 in Woolwich, Sagadahoc Co., ME. She was the daughter of JAMES and JANE (TODD) BLAIR of Woolwich.


  1. Mary Knowles, b. 03 Nov 1794 in Topsham, ME. [1/V.1 p.19]

  2. Jenny Knowles, b. 23 Aug 1796 in Topsham, ME. [1/V.1 p.19]

  3. Margaret Knowles, 25 Jan 1799 in Topsham, ME. [1/V.1 p.19]

6. Jenney Knowles, b. 1772 and died in Aug 1792 "age 20 years". [1/V.2 Deaths]


7. John Knowles, b. abt. 1770 and died Jan 1792 age 22,  "washed overboard and drowned on his passage from Europe". 1/V.2 deaths] As was noted above his relationship to Richard and Mary is not understood but his age would have fit comfortably within the range of their own children's birth dates and it seems significant that his death at sea was recorded in Topsham.

  1. Topsham, Maine: Vital Records To The Year 1892", Pub. by Authority of the Maine Historical Society

  2. "Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire", Sibil Noyes; p. 406, Southworth-Anthoensen Press, Portland, Me., 1928-1939.

  3. "History Of Brunswick, Topsham, And Harpswell Maine", G. A. Wheeler and Henry W. Wheeler, Pub. Alfred Mudge & Sons, Boston. 1878.

  4. 1790 U.S. Census, Maine, Harpswell, Cumberland Co.

  5. 1880 U.S. Census, Maine, Gardiner, Kennebec Co.

  6. Records of the First Parish Congregational Church in Topsham "CR1" in the Topsham Vital Records.

  7. A secondary source for the Knowles family is found in the "Elder Genealogy Papers", p. 30; Compiled by George Elder. Ms. copy on file at Pejepscot Historical Sociey Brunswick, Maine.

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