James Knowles, Sr.

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James Knowles, Sr.

Birthdate: (83)
Death: 1806 (79-87)
The Crossing, Long Island, The Bahamas
Immediate Family:

Son of John Knowles
Husband of Patience Knowles (Darville) and Hannah Knowles (Campbell)
Father of John Knowles; Elizabeth Knowles; James Knowles, Jr.; Thomas Knowles; Samuel Knowles and 8 others

Occupation: Plantation owner
Managed by: Ashley Odell
Last Updated:

About James Knowles, Sr.

James Knowles was a mulatto plantation owner on Long Island, The Bahamas. He was born c. 1723 in an unknown location (likely Eleuthera) to John Knowles, listed as white or European, and an unknown African woman or woman of African descent. He is sometimes listed as being born on December 20, 1733 since that is when he was baptized at Christ Church Cathedral in Nassau. Due to his racial background, his baptism was logged in the registry reserved for mulatto children. The priest who baptized him noted that he appeared to be about ten years old.

James is believed by some Knowles researchers -- generalists, not Bahamian-specific researchers -- to be a third-great-grandson of Damon Knowles, previously of Southampton Tribe, Bermuda, but no substantial evidence for this claim has ever been shown. For that line to be true, it would require him to have a different father than John.

Family Life

James married his first wife, Patience Darville, c. 1735 at Christ Church, Nassau, The Bahamas. With Patience, James had five children:

  • John, b. December 29, 1756 in Nassau
  • Elizabeth, b. May 12, 1759 in Nassau
  • James Jr., b. December 12, 1761 in Nassau
  • Thomas, b. 1766 in Nassau, d. 1833 on Long Island
  • Samuel, b. March 16, 1769 in Nassau

On October 7, 1777, James married Hannah Campbell at Christ Church. Together, they had eight children:

With James, Hannah had eight children:

  • Abraham, b. c. 1778
  • Alexander George Knowles, b. bet. 1779-1781
  • Charles, b. c. 1782
  • Mary (Rattray), b. 1782, d. 1856; married name Rattray
  • Joseph Alexander, b. December 2, 1782 at The Crossing, Long Island, d. c. 1850
  • William, b. c. 1784, d. September 28, 1862 on Eleuthera
  • George Richard, b. February 12, 1786
  • Ann Susannah, b. c. 1790; married name Rahming


James' marriage record, from Christ Church in Nassau, designates him as being from Long Island. His fourth child, Thomas, is listed as being born on Long Island, but his other full siblings were born in either Nassau or Long Island; records are unclear. Since his father was clearly listed on James' baptismal record as being from Eleuthera, it seems likely that James was born in Eleuthera and then moved to Long Island later in life.

By the 1782 birth of his ninth child, Joseph Alexander, James was decidedly living on Long Island. He also appears as a signatory on a December 23, 1796 letter from the planters of Long Island to the Lieutenant Governor.

Death & Estate

James died in 1806 at The Crossing, Long Island, The Bahamas. His estate inventory included 50 slaves (one freed upon his death); 24 cattle, 2 hogs (and their pigs), 2 horses (and one colt); 4000 wt seed cotton and 1000 wt clean cotton, plus two cotton machines; and a large number of home furnishings and supplies.

Among those he enslaved was a mulatto woman named Charlotte, with whom James' son George Richard had one son.

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James Knowles, Sr.'s Timeline

December 20, 1733
Age 10
Nassau, New Providence, The Bahamas
Age 12
December 29, 1756
Age 33
May 12, 1759
Age 36
December 12, 1761
Age 38
Age 43
The Bahamas
March 16, 1769
Age 46
December 2, 1782
Age 59
The Crossing, Long Island, The Bahamas