Diagonal, Ringgold County, Iowa
April of 1972
Before the Turn of the Century. . .
What Life Held for a Small Boy at Knowlton
By A. H. BONEBRAKE
NOTE: The following transcription appears as it was written at the time. Some terminology is
considered to not be politically correct by today's standards, and serves as a glimpse into how things used to be. -SRB
My friend, Harold TURNBULL, asked me to write what I know of Knowlton in the early years. As I was only three-years-old
when my folks moved there in 1888 and moved away in 1895, my knowledge of early events there will be limited more or less to that
period of time and what has been handed down by my folks and by other older people. However, I shall endeaver to come as near
to the facts as possible.
I can recall some things while we were yet on the farm north of Knowlton with no close neighbors and
no children of our age with whom we could play. How lonely seemed the nights with the sound of barking dogs and other
weird sounds in the distance, making cold shivers run up and down your spine.
I wonder how many remember the old home-made
figur-four traps, placed under a box and set to trap rabbits and prairie chickens, st. Our father had se out such a trap
near the bar.
Next morning early my brother and I were up looking out from a north window, watching a flock of
prairie chicken playing around the trap. We thought surely we would have prairie chicken for dinner. But just as it seemed the
prairie childen were ready to enter the trap, Dad came out of the barn, the chickens were all scared away, so no prarie
chicken dinner that day.
When I begin looking back over the many years God has permitted me to be on this earth many pleasures
come to remembrance and some sorrow is also bound to come to mind.Coming of the Rails
My life began October 28, 1885 in north central Ringgold County, Iowa. About that time the Chicago, Great Western Railroad ran
the first train down across the rolling timber-covered land, follwing much of the bottom land of the Grand River. When the
train reached Knowlton, many were there to welcome this iron horse which offered their first outlet to the world further on.
Knowlton, as I have heard years ago, was named for one of the high officials of the railroad company.
[Dexter Asa KNOWLTON] Knowlton was really a
"Great Western" town, since their various lines and branches were so located that if a picture of these were taken and a line
drawn around it, it would form the likeness of a maple leaf. So it became known as the Maple Leaf Route. Some business
firms and the early school house were identified with the Maple Leaf. There was a depot, a coal chute, a large switch yard, and
All trains stopped for fuel. It was generally thought Knowlton would become a freight division station between Des Moines
and St. Joseph, Missouri.
I. D. JORDAN was the station agent. Miss Clara WING was an employee at the station . . . I
believe as night operator. Hans LARSON was section foreman. At one time my uncle, Frank BONEBRAKE, worked at the coal chute.
NOTE: Hans LARSON was born November 21, 1858, and died March 31, 1935. He was interred at Centenary
Cemetery near the Knowlton town site.
Railroads at that time were very valuable assets to small towns. To meet
trains offered much enjoyment to many people, to meet friends and to see others come and go.
When the report came out that
a new fast passenger train was to be added, people were really elated. This train, named "Cannon Ball No. 5", reached Knowlton at
2:30 (mid-afteroon). On the day of its first run, space around the depot was packed with people who came to see this speed
monster fly down Ringgold county hills and valleys.
The Chicago Great Western filled quite a gap in travel service whe it installed
in this area the first through route to Kansas City, where pasengers could change to other routes - the M.K.&T. [Missouri - Kansas -
Texas Railroad, also known as the Katy Railroad], Union Pacific,
Santa Fe and other lines which served most any place in the south.
People now living in other areas or states will like to
recall their early connection with this little southern town - Knowlton, which had such a promising beginning.
I will relate an experience I had many years ago on coming up from some point in Kansas. I was straveling with a through ticket
over the M.K.T. railroad, changing trains at Kansas City to the Great Western for Diagonal, Iowa. On presenting my ticket at
Kansas City to the conductor of the C.G.W.R.R. he informed me that the only way I could board his train would be to
agree to pay the fare to Knowlton as his train would not stop at Diagonal. Then I was to find my own way back to Diagonal.
When I landed at Knowlton that dark, gloomy midnight and very tired and beginning my walk back to Diagonal, I wished we
were still living in Knowlton. you can see by this that as far as the C.G.W. Railroad was concerned, Knowlton at that
time held priority over Diagonal. This experience occurred about 1905, several years after the two fires which were
really the beginning of Knowlton's decline.
Our Knowlton home was across the street east and a little north of the M.E. Church.
The new school was under construction a short distance west of the church. While this school was under construction school was
heldin an old country schoolhouse a quarter of a mile west of Knowlton and two miles south of Willow Grove School. This is
where I started to school.
I can remember three teachers who taught there, but cannot remember which was my first teacher.
The were Sadie COOK, Addie SHERRILL and Emma TRUSKET. This of course was back when there were not modern conveniences in
country school. The water system was a pail and a long-handled dipper. Any big boy who would rather carry water than study
could go to the nearest well and return with a pail full of water. Some ambitious younster then was given permission to pass
the water. The drinks were on the house, stopping at each desk. if any one dipped up more than he could drink, the balance
was to be returned to the pail.
The school was one of typical country style to accommodate pupils of all sizes and ages,
some just past the bottle age and others old enough to be farmhands. Some of the older boys at one time encountering difficulty
with their teacher left the Knowlton school and went north to Willow Grove school, riding horse-back.
One morning there
was considerable excitement. At just about time to call school to order, two of these boys on their way to Willow Grove,
rode their ponies in through the west door of the Knowlton school, up to the front of the room, crossing over the
recitation platform and out through the door and then on to Willow Grove.
After the new school building was completed,
all school activities were transferred there. As I remember, only two rooms were used at that time. Mr. TALBERT was
superintendent and Hiram VORHIES the grade teacher.
There was considerable timber around the school grounds. Some of
this timber had been cut. The children thought this was quite an addition to the playgrounds, but when som of the long
sprouts that grew up around the stumps began to appear in conspicuous places in the school rooms, they were not so sure.
The children found out these teachers would threaten to use the sticks and ofttimes did. I do not know how efficient these
teachers were as instructors, but when they used these long heavy sprouts as whips they surely were professional.
Knowlton Baptist Church
Contribution by Delbert Spencer
There were two churches in Knowlton. The Methodist church was served by the
Rev. Mr. CARPENTER who was the regular minister of the Diagonal church, where he made his home. The pastor of the Baptist
church was Rev. Mr. G. W. RINGLER. Both churches were very active. As I remember both had morning and evening services
every Sunday and mid-week evening prayer meeting. The Methodist Sunday School was held in the forenoon while the Baptist
church had theirs in the afternoon. Some children attended both Sunday School periods.
Dr. HUMPHREY, M.D. was the town
physician. He also owned and operated a drug store on Oak and Main. He was well-liked in Knowlton and filled his position
Mr. WIONS was the Knowlton leather man. He not only repaired harness and shoes. He made a set of work harness
for my father's horses and als made shoes for my brother and me. In those days when the horse was the principal means of
transportation, a harness maker was a valuable asset to a town or community.Let the Buyer Beware
Down near the railroad tracks on the south side of Main street there was a restaurant owned by a Mr. BELLAMY. One day I
had a dime. I think this was the first dime I ever had, so I looked for a safe place to spend it. I went to Mr. BELLAMY's
and looked around. He showed me a small box and upon shaking it, said, "Look! here is something nice. There is brass in
it." At that age brass seemed as good as gold to me so I bought the little box. later when opening the box I found to my
surprise that it contained only four or five small gum drops, and a little brass horse head. I never went again to
Mrs. Adeline CONLEY and Mrs. SHADOW, two widow ladies living alone with their children did custom laundry,
house-cleaning or any other honest work to be found. The water supply at Knowlton at that time was somewhat limited. Several
were still pretty dependent on the town well. My father often filled this need by delivering a fifty-gallon barrel for ten-cents.
They seemed to manage quite well but occasionally would run out and have to wait until some could be delivered to finish a
washing. These ladies were surely to be commended on the effort they made to support and care for their children as they
did. Mrs. CONLEY and Mrs. SHADOW were our only neighbors on the north since we lived at the north edge of town.
Willis PARR, a young man who liked very much to joke with young squirts, at one time encountered me on the streets of
Knowlton with the question: "Are you Greeley BONEBRAKE'S son?" I answered, "Yes." He then said, "When you go home ask your
father if he knows a man whose name is "Tickle Breeches, Peter walk up the creek'?" Of course my father knew of no such
person but asked he he looked like. I described him as best I could (which was not very good). Then father said, "It sounds
like Willis PARR." Well, for seventy-five years I have thought of those two names, Willis PARR and Tickle Breeches Peter
Walk Up The Creek. But I never thought of one without the other.
Homer SHERRILL, Earl DUNLAP, Shirley HITCHCOCK, Billy HANEY,
Ross HANEY, Bill DICKEY, Mike SHINN, Oran LONG - these are a few other men I remember that lived in Knowlton in the year
1895 and before. But, I knew little of their activities.
I recall one 4th of July, 1895, celebration . . . the day
started quite early in the morning when Ben KELLER, the blacksmith, awakened most of the people by shouting off of the
anvil. This was done by filling a hole in the anvil with gun powder and with a long iron headed red hot at one end,
dragging it across the anvil. When the red hot end came in contact with the powder, it blew off the heavy weight with a
blast that was heard by and awakened the town. This was a custome followed on most every Fourth of July.
The balance of
the day of celebration was taken up in part by ball games, band concerts, foot racing, and sack races. Another attraction
was Climbing the Greased Pole. For this a smooth well-greased pole taller than a man's head was placed solidly into the
ground. On top of this pole had been placed a one dollar bill. Any one who tried and could climb to the top and reach
and get th dollar bill could keep it. A greased pig turned loose in a pen, caught and held was another reward to be given to
anyone who could do so.
These were a few of the things that took place that day which I remember. These are just a few of
the things that usually took place at a Fourth of July celebration. But the day was spent in keeping with the customs of the
times, and closed with a display of fireworks.
Two Negro brothers, John and Charley ENGLISH, made their home in the
Knowlton neighborhood for a number of years, working at various jobs and active in sports. John was the foot racer and
had many matches with the local boys. Clyde SPICER ran serveral races with this John and said he was very hard to outrun, but
Clyde did occasionally beat him.East Kansas City
While writing about the early days of Knowlton,
I must not fail to mention the little village of East Kansas City which nestled sngly among the wild flowers, blue grass, hazel
nut bushes, wild crab apples, wild plums and in the shade of many trees, just across the river east of Knowlton. A number
of families chose this spot which was very much as nature had left it as a good place to build a home.
LARSON, Great Western Section foreman, and his family lived in this hamlet for some time, later moving to Knowlton, in order
to be closer to his work.
My own grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. E. D. AYERS and their daughter Grace were citizens of little
E. Kansas City for a number of years. Grandfather AYERS did considerable carpenter work in and around the community, and
they also had a large garden.
Mr. and Mrs. "Stucco" KIMBLE and son, Bob, were among those who chose this quiet little
city as a good place to stop and let the world go by. Now "Stucco" was not his proper name, but mr. KIMBLE being a mason
doing brick and mortar work, using a material called stucco, very popular at that time, his name became Stucco. His son,
Bob was about our age. When we would come to Kansas City to visit our grandparents we would visit and play with young
NOTE: George William KIMBLE was born July 6, 1878, and died June 12, 1956. Mary Ann KIMBLE
was born May 5, 1884, and died November 20, 1973. Robert F. KIMBLE was born September 27, 1882, and died March 12, 1949.
They were interred at Rose Hill Cemetery, Mount Ayr.
An elderly gentleman, Mr. Hype BLAKESLEY, another member of the East Kansas City group, lived alone, a
Mr. and Mrs. Addy RUBY, one son, Ira and their daughter Ima, owned and farmed land just across the
highway. Ira and Ima RUBY both graduated from the Knowlton school. Later my uncle, John WAX and family operated this farm.
The farm has changed owners and tenants many times, but is now owned and operated by a progressive young family, Mr.
and Mrs. Bill G. GOODALE.
Addison Sparks RUBY was born on December 20, 1839, and died in 1936. He
was a Civil War veteran, serving with Company D of the 5th Iowa Cavalry. Hortensa B. RUBY, Addison's first wife,
was born in 1844, and died in 1874. Harriet Belinda (STAHL) RUBY, Addison's second wife, was born in 1857, and died in
1934. Altha Ira RUBY was born January 8, 1883, and died January 26, 1916.
They were interred at Centenary Cemetery located near Knowlton.
Just a note about our friend the last Dr. WATSON who was always very much in earnest in his medical practice. When the above
mentioned Miss Ima RUBY, whom the doctor had not met previously called at his office, he asked for her name. Her reply
stated, Ima RUBY." He, to have a little fun with her asked the question over serveral times, getting the same answer.
"Ima RUBY! Ima RUBY!" Finally the doctor said, "Yes, I know you are a RUBY, but which one?"
Bill COLLINS was
another C.G.W. section hand who made his home for some time in the almost forgotten little village of
East Kansas City.Versatile Publisher
Mr. Ham BADLEY, editor of the Knowlton paper, was quite a character. he was a lieable fellow, good to kids, but he liked
to make stories, not meant to hurt or offend anyone, but everyone did get a good laugh. Mr. BADLEY lived east of Knowlton
just across the river. There was a small store-house inside of which along all sides were glass jars filled with canned
fruit. Once a fire broke out near this building. Several men came to help. Telling about this later, Mr. BADLEY said, "We
knew there was not time to carry the fruit out and we did not want to lose it all. So we men lined up along the side of the
building away from the ditch, slipped our hands under the sill, which was on blocks slightly above ground. All lifted together
at one time. The house rolled down the creek, turned completely over and lit right side up." Mr. BADLEY continued, "Do you
know, only three or four jars fell off the shelves."
Mr. BADLEY'S printing office was on the east side of Oak street,
south side of Main, just south of HUMPHREY Drug Store.
At one time, Mr. BADLY convinced the idea there were hidden treasures
on his land east of Knowlton. After giving up all hope of finding the treasure by himself a piritualist was employed to locate it.
After a thorough search was made without success, the spiritualist would go into a trance. After one of these visits he would
return to earth with various types of news from the spirit world regarding the lost fortune. After investigating old tree
stumps, old sunken places in the earth, old earth mounds, and anything that looked a little unnatural, the spiritualist no doubt
decided he had lost his power with the sprit world and gave up the hunt as a lost cause. Many people have lived at different
times on or near this land. If any of them have found the lost treasure they surely have been quiet about it.
As I look
back in memory over my boyhood day and think of the people I knew at that time, I believe Mr. BADLY fascinated me most.
Knowlton furniture store was owned and operated by Mr. MERRIMAN who had two sons, Arthur and Ernest.
Here in Diagonal just a short time ago at a closing out auction of household goods, an old rocking chair was sold. On the
underside of the seat was the name and address: MERRIMAN Furniture Co., Knowlton, Iowa. Harold TURNBULL purchased the chair.
I do not remember the Knowlton barber but recall that Arthur MERRIMAN was his apprentic and chose this method of learning
the barber trade: lathering faces and necks, shaving backs of necks, giving shampoos, applying hair tonics and giving
massages, or (and) any other duty that would familiarize him with the operation of a barber shop.
A Free Shave
One day quite a number of men were in the barber shop and Mr. MERRIMAN thought it
was about time for him to venture out. So he said to the group of waiting men, "Any one who will let me give him a shave
will get it without cost." The men listened but non seemed to want to submit to this novice. But then my Dad accepted the
offer. So it was he that received MERRIMAN'S first shave, the free shave. Dad had no bad effects from the ordeal. Mr.
MERRIMAN finished his apprenticeship, became a good barber. After leaving Knowlton he went to Des Moines, where he followed
his trade for many years and as far as I know he may be there yet.
The Elgin Creamery Co., located in the northeast part of
Knowlton near the railroad tracks and not far from Grand River, was managed by Mr. O. H. EDWARDS. The creamery continued
to operate until the town began to decline, then it was moved to Diagonal.
The Maple Leaf Hotel, owned and operated by
William SHERRILL, was on the north side of Main street, east of the bank.
Another hotel was located on the
first street west of the depot, facing east. As I recall the proprietor was Mr. PARR.
After my folks moved to Diagonal, my
brother Harley and I in an effort to make some money, decided to raise sweet potatoes. After much planning we decided to
try the Knowlton Hotel men for our first customers. We got our home-made express wagon oiled up, ready for the trip to market.
We walked to Knowlton, pulling our wagon loaded with our prized sweet potatoes. When we called at the first hotel, the
manager was a very easy customer. The second manager, I believe, wanted to have a little fun with us, so [he] would hunt
through the sack to find some of the smallest potatoes, hold them out and say, "What are these little things doing in here?
Do you expect to sell these little things?" Our price was 3-cents a pound. We made a sale at both hotels and continued to
call on them until our supply was gone. We not only made a little money to spend but had fun doing it. We really believed we
had cornered the sweet potato market.
The lumber yard and coal dealer were on the south side of Main street, just across east
of the railroad. Mack PARR was the coal dealer. As I remember, my uncle Will COIE was the manager of the lumber yard.
Just across north from the lumber yard was a well and a long watering trough which was an ideal place to wash and cool muddy bare
feet in summer. But horses will not drink dirty water so the last time I was in the trough, I encountered a carpet tack
which ran as far as the head would permit into my foot. That surely cured me of wading in a horse trough.
There were three well-stocked general stores in Knowlton, Fred FURCHT on the north side of Main street west of the bank, J. HITCHCOCK
on the south side of Main street near the Postoffice, and JORDAN and NESMITH on the north side of Main street a short
distance west of the FURCHT store.
The stores all carried complete lines of groceries; canned fruits and vegetables;
potted and cured meats; fresh garden produce in season. Also dry goods such as were available at that time - boots and
shoes, hats and caps, and ready-to-wear. They bought and sold butter, eggs, and poultry.
Ben H. KELLER and son Lyman
were the town blacksmiths. They carried on in the usual way of that type subject to the customs and needs of the time,
shoeing horses, setting loose tires on wagons and buggies, sharpening plows, reparing farm machinery and most any kind
of work which came in the line of blacksmithing. Mr. KELLER also did masonry, laid brick plastered houses, built chimneys.
The KELLERS were very efficient in their trade.
The hardware store, owned by Mr. LONG, was located straight west of the
depot, probably on Clark street. They carried a complete line of merchandise such as you would expect to find in
any store of that type. This much have been some time during 1892.FIRE! FIRE!
Believed to be the aftermath of the Knowlton Fire
Photograph contributed by Delbert Spencer
One night we were awakened by shouts of "FIRE! FIRE!" And soon were were all up and watching the smoke billow oever the town
and we were asking Mother if it could get over to our home. Of course Dad went the fire. Soon we knew it was LONG'S
Hardware Store. It was burned to the ground. This was quite a loss for a new town to lose one of its principal business
After a fire there are always some restrictions as to trespassing. But when these restrictions are lifted people take more
liberty. It wasn't long until the kids had pockets full of almost every kind of knives with burned off handles, broken
blades and other junk. These things made good "sight unseen" trading stock. Then it was quite common to meet a boy with a
clenched fist in the air asking for a trade sight unseen. Not realizing the extensive loss this fire had been to the owner,
we youngsters had considerable fun with part of the rubble such as only a boy can find use for. I do not remember whether
or not Mr. LONG later continued his business in Knowlton.
I recall little or nothing about the early years of the
Knowlton Bank. But while looking through some old papers, receipts, checks and other records, which were dated around the
turn of the century, I found among them a promissory note dated October 1, 1903 for $15.00, payable to MORSE and
JONES at Knowlton, Iowa. This note was given in payment for a sow and six pigs. Now you may doubt all I have written in
this rambling letter, but this is one thing for which I have the evidence as I still have the old note.
It was not long
after the fire which destroyed the LONG Hardware STORE until the town began to recover from this loss and assume its former
aggressive spirit of thrift to make Knowlton a city of the future. Then a more devastating thing happened. A fire of unknown
origin blazed its way down a block on the north side of Main street, leaving in rubble everything that stood in its way.
This included Fred FURCHT General Store and NEWSMITH General Store, two of the little town's leading business firms. Other
business firms in this block, as I remember them: MERRIMAN Furniture Store, WION'S Harness and Shoe Shop, Barber Shop,
COOK Sisters (Sadie and Sophie) Millinery Store. Practically all of this block of buildings and contents were destroyed by the fire
which occured sometime between late 1894 and early 1895. This fire was no doubt the beginning of the slow passing of
But the loyal Knowlton people by no means gave up hope. Several brick
buildings were soon under construction to replace the old frame buildings lost in the fire. New stores were opened. The
bank was still operating. The school and the churches were carrying on in the usual manner. The creamery was doing
business as usual. The C.G.W. continued to give Knowlton priority over Diagonal. On the surface, things seemed to be on the way up for the
little city but the opposition was too great.
Diagonal had two railroads which was a great asset in those times for a town of any
size. Many liberal offers were made by Diagonal officials to induce Knowlton residents to move there. [NOTE:
Diagonal offered lots free of charge for those who moved lock, stock, barrel and building to Diagonal.] This caused some
contention as Knowlton residents came to feel Diagonal was taking unfair advantage of their misfortune. But they continued
to work with an indestructible determination to keep the town moving on.
Now as the enthusiasm was still very high, they were
facing an inevitable decline which was the beginning of the end.
Some time later the old two-story
schoolhouse, which for many years had borne, on the side facing the town the large Maple Leaf, the emblem of cooperation
between the town and the C.G.W. railroad system, was demolished. When the large Maple Leaf emblem was no longer visible
it seemed that all connection between the town and its people and the C.G.W. railroad known also as the
Maple Leaf route were severed.
While the old school was being torn down, the WPA men were erecting a new one-room school building a very short distance
north-east of the old location. Classes were held in this building for many years and served by several capable teachers.
Later when school children were taken to Diagonal Community School, this last Knowlton school building was sold to Mount
Ayr district and moved there.
When returning to Diagonal from northern Iowa in 1935, there were several families still
living in the old Knowlton area but there was little or no evidence of there having been a thriving little city
scattered out on those hills and valleys where a few hundred home-loving people had in the distant past made their abode.
The future had appeared bright and people were were happy. After finishing the local school, many of the students for
advanced education were sent elsewhere to institutions of higher learning. A number of the Knowlton graduates became
valuable assets to the communites where they chose to reside.
I am listing below some people who were yet making
their homes in the Knowlton area after all evidence of a town had been obliterated:
Claude G. BYERLY (1888-1954) & Cora B. CONLEY BYERLY (1898-1982); interred Centenary Cemetery
Claude and Cora BYERLY'S daughter, Retha CONLEY
Mr. and Mrs. Leroy GRAHAM and daughter
Jack and Stock DILLENBURG
Claude E. DILLENBURG (1905-1993); interred Centenary Cemetery
Leander Elmer "Gan" YARYAN (1859-1940); interred Centenary Cemetery
Andrew YARYAN (1867-1943); interred Centenary Cemetery
Mr. and Mrs. Walter BROWN
Marion ROACH (1896-1978) & Pearl ROACH (1913-1989); interred Centenary Cemetery; & children
Florence May PARKINS (1872-1965); interred Centenary Cemetery
Mr. and Mrs. Chas. WROUGHTON and daughters
Acy BLAKESLEY (1883-1972); interred Centenary Cemetery
Mable DAY (1881-1957); interred Centenary Cemetery
Mr. and Mrs. George WATTS and family
Mr. Leo CONLEY (1890-1965) & Mabel (ROACH) CONLEY (?-1977); interred Centenary Cemetery
Mr. and Mrs. Ab WINSLOW
NOTE: Interment and vital dates added by transcriber - SRB
I still like to make an occasion drive on these long ago busy streets, passing at the once familiar places and stop
the car at the old home site. Then to look in every direction in an effort to recall the many places we four brothers,
Harley, Rollo, Fred and I used to play, climb trees, chase rabbits, hunt wild fruit, fly kites. There was considerable
timber in and around Knowlton which provided very interesting places to spend time and have lots of innocent fun at
no expense. Harley, Fred and I began our school days in the old school house one-fourth mile west of Knowlton.
have not forgotten our only sister, Clara, who came so nearly missing the opportunity and privlege of being a citizen of
a once very prosperous and much loved little town as our folks moved from Knowlton to Diagonal in 1895, the same year
as Clara was born. Regardless of having been raised with five rough-necked brothers, she was and still is a wonderful
sister. Willard, the youngest member of the family did not put in his appearance until four years after our leaving
Knowlton.Time Brings Change
Now in July, 1971, I took a drive over that area to see whether
or not anything remains to remind me of the former years. The homes are mostly gone. The business places are no more.
The depot, coal chute, stock yard, the large switch yard are all of the past. Not a building remains on Main Street. That
street also has been changed from going down the hill crossing the railroad on the level. Now we cross over the
viaduct hardly realizing the railroad lies a few feet below. The two churches that carried on the usual activities
of such organizations are gone, too. They used to observe the old custom of tolling the bell for a funeral. The
number of taps of the bell indicated the age of the deceased. There seemed to be some contention between members of
the two churches as to which bell gave out the most melodious tone. This never became a serious matter but then as now
you know how people like to argue. The old two-story school house which bore for many years on the front side the large
Maple Leaf, the emblem of cooperation betweenthe railroad and the town is also gone.
As I was returning home approaching
the corner a quarter of a mile west of Knowlton I had a mental picture of the old school there that had served the
district while their building was under construction and where many youngsters had their first year of school. Just across
the road south of the school house was quite a grove of wild crab apple trees which added much to the playground, a nice
shady place to play and to eat your lunch. Games could be played there in the shade of the crab apple trees. This area is
now overgrown with underbrush.
Our neighbors at Knowlton across the alley to the East were the PARKINS family. Their
daughter Florence, continued living in this family home after long employment in Chicago until her late years when
she moved to a nursing home north of Mount Ayr. LeRoy PARKINS, a son of the PARKINSES, after finishing the Knowlton
school, graduated from a medical school and spent his life practicing medicine in Boston, Massachustts (sic), where he
still has an office in his home.
NOTE: Theodore PARKINS, a Civil War Veteran of Co. A 77th Illinois
Infantry, was born in Knox County, Illinois on March 17, 1844, and died December 15, 1922. His wife Lucretia (JACKSON)
PARKINS was born October 11, 1845, and died August 23, 1926. Lucretia and Theodore, the parents of nine children,
were interred at Centenary Cemetery near Knowlton.
Later on, the PARKINS house was moved to Diagonal to a
corner lot two blocks north of the school house on the east side of the street. This place has changed handes many times and has
been occupied by many different families. Mrs. KEIFER made her home there while her daughters attended Diagonal school. It
is now  owned by Elmer STARMER, and occupied by Linda STARMER, whose husband is in the armed forces. (Eldon has
since returned home and the Frank CARSONS own and occupy the place.)
I recall an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. E. T.
KIMBLE living in the south part of Knowlton in a large two-story house. When this house was up for sale I believe it
was purchased by Joel HERSOM and moved to Diagonal. The two stories were separated, a floor added to one and a room to
the other, making two houses out of one and located on adjoining lots, the south house where the MESLERS lived so long, the
corner house where Mrs. Rudolph FOGLE now makes her home. The location is three blocks north of the Diagonal School on
the east side of the street.
The following are names of some of our friends and neighbors in Knowlton:
Postmaster Mr. Jim McGINTY, his wife, son John and daughter, Myrtle.
Mr. and Mrs. CONKLIN had two daughters in the local school. I believe Mr. CONKLIN was a salesman for a nursery company.
Mr. and Mrs. Bone RUBY, son Oscar and daughter Mary. Mr. RUBY operated an apiary and sold honey.
Bonerges Franklin RUBY was born in 1822, and died April 13, 1898. Lovina Ellen (JACKSON) RUBY, wife
of Bonerges, was born in Mercer County, Kentucky on October 13, 1847, and died August 6, 1901. They were interred
at Centenary Cemetery.
Mrs. WEBB, an elderly lady, and a niece, Miss Leona RUSH, were near neighbors of ours, living only a short distance south
Mr. and Mrs. WILLEY lived in the south part of Knowlton. The only remembrance I have of this elderly couple is that
they were exceptionally fine people.
Living near the WILLEYS were Mr. and Mrs. I. D. JORDAN whose family was much the same as ours in number and ages. The
JORDANS were good friends of ours and we were often together. After the big Knowlton fire, Mr. JORDAN did not resume
business in Knowlton but purchased a building and stock of merchandise from Mr. Elmer WHITE in Diagonal. Here they
had been in business long until this building, too, was destroyed by fire. By this time Mr. JORDAN decided that frame
buildings were a poor risk so they erected one of the first brick buildings in Diagonal. Near the top front of this 40x70
foot building located on the lots where the wooden structure had burned was placed in large white letters and
figures the sign reading "I. D. JORDAN 1903". In this very classy general store, quite in advance of the times, they
continued doing business many years.
I. D. JORDAN and his brother-in-law, Ray NESMITH were co-owners of the
business moved from Knowlton to Diagonal. After the death of Mrs. NESMITH, October 24, 1895, Mr. JORDAN acquired full
Billie DENNEY, the head clerk in the JORDAN and NESMITH General Store, was a good friend of our folks.
We youngsters also thought he was great. We could get more candy for a nickel or penny from him than from most any
other clerk. When this firm moved to Diagonal, Mr. DENNEY continued his service with them for many years.
JORDANS, after discontinuing business in Diagonal, later left Iowa, moving to Hotchkiss, Colorado.
After moving to
Diagonal in 1895, my knowledge of Knowlton was quite limited. The dates used in this story were ascertained from
other sources. While there was consideralbe activity among the people, business seemed to be moving along in the
usual manner. People were working together for the benefit of all. Yet some houses were being moved away and
some people leaving town. The decline had been slow until about 1909 or 1910 when a discouraging thing happened. The
foundry, one of the principal businesses of the town, was destroyed by fire. This was another great loss. No doubt
people were beginning to wonder whether or not they were fighting for a lost cause.
The next serious blow was
the closing of the Post Office in 1919. Soon after this, in 1920, the two High School grades were discontinued. It
continued in Knowlton until the Articles of Incorporation were relinquished in 1926. NOTE: Knowlton
is the only town in Ringgold County to relinquish their incorporation. The name Knowlton still appears on
some recent  highway maps.
After a brave and courageous fight for survival the once properous little town was
forced to submit to defeat. . . .They had been compelled to seek new areas where life could be started over again.
This then is how I remember the early years of Knowlton prior to the turn of the century and what happened in the years to
follow until the final ending of the once prosperous little city. How true is the old quotation:
Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
the saddes are these,
'It might have been.'
All are left are the memories of what has past and the dreams of what might have been.
A. H. BONEBRAKE
NOTE: Arthur H. BONEBRAKE was born in 1885, and died in 1979. His wife Laura E. G. BONEBRAKE
was born in 1894, and died in 1982. Harley M. BONEBRAKE, Arthur's brother, was born in 1883, and died in 1933. Rollo
W. BONEBRAKE was born in 1892, and died in 1957.
They were interred at Diagonal Cemetery.
Fred W. BONEBRAKE was born in 1888,
and died in 1963. He was interred at Rose Hill Cemetery, Blockton, Taylor County, Iowa.
Willard F. BONEBRAKE was born in 1899, and died in 1980. He was interred at Fairview Cemetery, Ringgold County, Iowa.
Transcription, notes, & Oct. 2009 photograph by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2010