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Wiiliam S. Knox

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 5th district
In office
March 4, 1895 – March 3, 1903
Preceded by Moses T. Stephens
Succeeded by Butler Ames

Born September 10, 1843(1843-09-10)
Killingly, Connecticut
Died September 21, 1914
Lawrence, Massachusetts
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1st) Eunice B. Hussey
(2nd) Helen M. Boardman
Alma mater Amherst College

William Shadrach Knox (September 10, 1843–September 21, 1914) was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts who served from 1895 to 1903.

Knox was the son of William Shadrach Knox Sr and Rebecca Walker, and the grandson of Samuel Knox and Mary Kimbell and Jimmy Walker and Hannah Richardson. Born in Killingly, Connecticut, he moved with his parents to Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1852; he attended the public schools and Amherst College where he studied the law. He was admitted to the bar in 1866 and commenced practice in Lawrence. In 1874 he became a member of the State house of representatives in 1874 and 1875, and he was city solicitor of Lawrence in 1875, 1876, and 1887-1890. Knox was elected as a Republican to the Fifty-fourth and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1895–March 3, 1903). There he served as chairman, in the Committee on Territories (Fifty-fifth through Fifty-seventh Congresses). He was not a candidate for renomination.

Later, he became president of the Arlington National Bank of Lawrence.

He died in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1914 and was interred in Bellevue Cemetery.[1]


The following is a biography written about WSK by an unknown person, but kept by the family for nearly 100 years.


It is not easy to rate the real human forces contributing to the development of a nation, for often the most efficient are obscure, the most inefficient the most blatant. The title “great man” is not infrequently a misnomer, for the conspicuous are not always great, and the great are not always conspicuous. The study of our National House of Representatives will occasion pause in our judgment, for to the superficial view, it will seem that the few are carrying upon their shoulders the whole burden of the Government, whereas the vast work of our Congress is performed by the quiet and often obscure members, who do not rush into print, and who keep out of the public eye, but with rare ability and conscientious purpose carry forward the vast interests of this greatest business corporation in the world, the United States of America.

A study of the types of citizenship which form the composite American, must be incomplete without including the ripened fruit of generations, as well as the brilliant bloom which exhausts itself in the blooming.

It is a good to fix in history so fine a type of American citizen as the Hon. William Shadrach Knox, for there are few of greater value as an example to the youth of our country, or of greater satisfaction to those who knew his worth through personal relation.

Mr. Knox represents the strong undercurrent of sterling character which unchecked and undiverted by the glistening waves and iridescent bubbles on the surface, is sweeping this country forward to a future of magnificent achievement. And therefore we come to this brief study of the man with a sympathetic pen.

To be well born is to be reckoned among the chief factors of a successful life, and it was the good fortune of Mr. Knox to have the backing of a staunch and sturdy ancestry. Without the advantages or disadvantages of riches, there was the wealth of homely and wholesome principles transmitted into life.

His father, William Shadrach Knox, was of Scotch blood, and very naturally took pride in the name so distinguished in Scotch annals, and to which honors were added by General Henry Knox who made a name for himself, in the history of our own country.

William Shadrach Knox, Senior, married Rebecca Walker, likewise of a strong New England strain, and together they farmed in the hard soil of New England, which has produced the finest harvest of men and women the world has ever known. They were true New Englanders of the keen and open mind, quick to absorb the truth and firm in their maintenance of those humble and elemental virtues which gave stability to our citizenship. They were in sympathy with the progressive interests of our country, and their membership in the Universalist Church indicated their freedom of thought joined with reverence of spirit. To these people came the son who was to take his place as one of the vital forces of our community and the faithful servant of his country.

William Shadrach Knox, Junior, was born at Killingly, Connecticut on September 10, 1843. He died at Lawrence, Massachusetts, September 21, 1914. His childhood was spent on the farm and when he was eight years of age his parents removed to Lawrence, Massachusetts. Latterly he moved to Andover, Massachusetts, of which place he was residence until his death.

The education of this boy wasn’t in the pleasant and easy ways of modern life, when the law of the state will not allow labor to interfere with learning, for he was obliged to work his way from childhood. While in grammar school he took care of the school building, and later held positions of clerk and bookkeeper in a men’s furnishing store. Literally he worked his way through school and college with some help from his elder sister, Mary.

His tastes were scholarly; he turned instinctively to the study of English prose and poetry and made a friend of Shakespeare. A strong personal preference drew him to the law, as a life work and after graduating from Amherst College as a Phi Beta Kappa, in 1865, he was admitted to the Essex County Bar one year later, and practiced successfully in his home city, and in Andover. In 1885, on motion of Hon. Augustus H. Garland, United States Attorney-General, he was admitted as Attorney and Counselor before the Supreme Court of the United States.

For fifteen years he was president of the Arlington National Bank of Lawrence, and represented his city in the State House of Representatives in 1874-5, and was City Solicitor six years from 1875-1880. Was at the time President of the Essex Bar Association.

It was but natural as it was fitting, that in recognition of merit, and in the natural order of promotion, his fellow positions should call him to a higher order of service, and was elected to the House of Representatives in the Congress of the United States and served with distinction in the fifty-fourth, fifty-fifth, fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh sessions.

It was as a member of Congress that he was recognized as a valuable and influential member, commanding the respect of his fellow member in the House and also of the members of the Senate; even though he antagonized the senior senator from his own state on some matters of foreign policy, who never lost the regard or friendship of one who sensed his high principles and genuine worth. His was a well poised and judicial temperament and he faced the great national and international questions with a mind transparent to truth and right. His patriotism was always sane and faithful. As a lawyer and parliamentarian he was held in high esteem and was frequently called upon by the Speaker to preside over the House.

The record of his achievement in the House is long and historic. It includes the introduction of many important bills, which subsequently were made laws on the statute books. These bills covered not only local interests, but some of them reveal his world wide grasp of events. He was a speaker of convincing power, and on such great question as reform in the Bankruptcy laws, the Alaskan Civil Government and Fisheries, Cuban Affairs, the International Monetary Conference, the Government of Hawaii, and the Philippines had a large influence in their final settlement.

Mr. Knox was Chairman of the Committee on Territories during the fifty-fifth, fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh sessions of Congress, a period when that Committee was one of great responsibility and power.

It was on his introduction that bills providing for Delegates in Congress from Alaska, and the statehood of Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Mexico, were passed, thus bringing them into representative connection with the Union.

He declined to seek nomination for the fifty-eighth Congress and retired to his distinguished law practice and his private interests in Lawrence and Andover. First, and always, the law was an ideal to Mr. Knox, an ideal of stern integrity and clear sincerity. Of one young lawyer who had complained that his employer required him to write over his own name letters contrary to his convictions, Mr. Knox asked, “Do these letters involve legal opinion?” to which the young lawyer replied that they did. “You cannot write them then,” said Mr. Knox: “never give a legal opinion which is not honestly yours.”

This brief sketch of his intriguing career, but faintly represents the service William S. Knox has rendered, for his whole life was one of service. Hating whatever smacked of ostentation; he lived his life of duty as he saw it with a cheerful optimism which belongs to one confident of the victory of righteousness.

Looking for the source of this man’s life and achievement, we must note that he placed chief among the influences in shaping his character and purpose, a taste for study, not study in general, but private study, when he was seeking for the equipment he needed with which to make life a success. Yet he was no book-worm, for he liked to study life at first hand in the contact with men and events, and for this larger training, he found himself fitted by the home training where he received those elemental virtues essential to winning anything worth while, and to a bent towards clean out of door sports, where through tramping and fishing he got close to nature, and through athletic contests he trained mind and muscle to discipline.

It is not too much to say he was an all ‘round man of wholesome worth to home and country; who stands out, a clear cut figure of the true American.

Mr. Knox was twice married. His first wife was Miss Eunice B. Hussey of Acton, Maine. They had one daughter, Blanche, the wife of Dr. Henry M. Chase, of Boston. His second marriage was with Miss Helen M. Boardman, of Lawrence, November 26, 1898. Two children were born to them.

Mr. Knox was an eminent man who drew much from life because he gave much to life.

Having rounded out a useful life in the exercise of those virtues which win the generous regard of our fellow-citizens, he died, leaving behind him a legacy of simple faith, of unbroken loyalty to duty, of conscientious tolerance for the severe convictions of others, even when opposed to him, of unfaltering belief in the effectiveness of lofty ideals, of tireless service for the welfare of the city he loved so well, and of generous help in all movement that helped either to lighten the burdens of the breadwinner or to brighten the pathway of the toiler.




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