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Alameda County



Joseph Knowland.--There are few names better known in connection with the lumber and shipping interests of this coast than that of the above gentleman.  Mr. Knowland came to California when quite young, a stranger in a strange land.  He brought with him, however, a heritage of good principles, a sound and vigorous frame and indomitable resolution to make his life here successful, and these were of infinitely greater service to him in his contests here than wealth would have been.  His life work since coming has been marked by continued industry, and to this was added keen business ability; so, that he succeeded in his aims is but natural.  He now is well known particularly in commercial and shipping circles; hence we doubt not the facts of his history herewith given will be read with some interest.

     Mr. Knowland was born in New York and raised in Southampton, Long Island, and there he received his schooling.  He was yet in his 'teens when the news of the gold discovery here was carried East, and this aroused in him a spirit of enterprise that only the venture to the far West could satisfy.  In coming to California he was well equipped.  He had, as we stated, good health, and the moral home education he received was a staunch foundation for his after work.  He came by way of the Isthmus, going to Aspinwall on the George Law.  He arrived in San Francisco February 14, 1857, on the John L. Stephens.

     Shortly after he went to the mines and worked in the usual manner of that early time in the neighborhood of Yankee Jim's, Placer county.  He did not mine long, however, for taking sick he returned to San Francisco.  Mining indeed was not such as imagination had painted it, nor did it prove as lucrative.  In this city he soon secured an engagement with the shipping house of Moore & Folger, then agents for a line of clipper ships running between here and New York.  He was with them for a considerable period, and also had other engagements of like character prior to his entering the lumber business.  His first experience in this business was in the year 1862, when he began with Benjamin Dore.  Afterward he was with the house of Blyth & Wetherbee.  In 1867 he entered business for himself with Mr. Springer, under the title of Springer & Knowland, and so continued for some three years.  About this period Mr. Knowland had a sick spell and was out of business for about a year.  He next entered the lumber business associated with Charles F. Doe, under the title of Knowland & Doe.  He was so associated for a number of  years.  Prior to his connection with the Gardiner Mill Co. in 1882, Mr. Knowland made a trip East.  From 1882 up to the present he has been agent here of this company, and is in fact the managing owner.  The Gardiner Mill Company have a very important enterprise.  The mill, which was located at Gardiner City, Oregon, was burned in October, 1888, but this impeded operations only for a time. Of this company Mr. Knowland is the president as well.  It owns extensive lumber lands, and has interests in a large coasting fleet.  In its operations indeed large capital is used, and used in a very enterprising manner.  In giving this running summary of Mr. Knowland's history we do not go into detail, for these would take more space than our limits would permit.  Enough is shown, however, to give an idea of his enterprise and the industry that has characterized him since coming here.  Besides the above, indeed, he has at various times engaged in other important undertakings.  He has truly been a far-seeing man and used the wealth that by his own energy he has accumulated very wisely.  For instance, he was the main owner in the well-known whaler, the Amethyst, wrecked some time ago, and to the rescue of the crew of which the Government dispatched a relief vessel. He at one time was also interested with the Hoopers and Talbots in the San Pedro Lumber co., and was a director of that company.  He also had large interests in the Southern Lumber Co. of San Diego, which he closed out.  Of this he was president and one of the board of directors.  With Gov. Low, Egbert Judson and other prominent men, he was interested largely at one time in Arizona mines.

     He has been a resident of Alameda since 1872.  Is now one of the directors and the largest owner in the Alameda Bank.  Nor has he allowed business undertakings to consume all his time.  He has given freely of both his time and money to the fostering of many worthy institutions, such as the Old People's Home here, of which he is one of the trustees.  In matters of this kind, however, Mr. Knowland's friends know but little, for he makes no display of such acts, and therefore the good they do is doubled to both giver and receiver.  Mr. Knowland did belong, we believe, to both the Masonic and I.O.O.F. bodies, --Golden Gate Lodge, F.&A.M., San Francisco Lodge I.O.O.F.  In home life, however, he finds the greatest happiness for he is the father of three children, one son, Joseph R., and two daughters.  Sadie E. is the wife of Professor George E. Coe; the other daughter is Lucy B.  Another son, Hollis P., is dead.  May 13, 1863, he married Hannah B. Russell, a native of Bingham, Maine.

     In his life work he certainly can take all of satisfaction, for he has achieved a great measure of success by his honorable industry.  He is the architect, too, of his own fortune, for all is owing to his own push and energy.  Mr. Knowland is held in deserved esteem by all who know him.  He is to-day the same unassuming, pleasant and courteous gentleman of the past, and that he is so is indeed the more to his credit.  In his history and life work his people should take certainly very justifiable pride.


Transcribed 2-18-05  Marilyn R. Pankey.

Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 2, pages 48-50, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.

2005 Marilyn R. Pankey.