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Pittsfield Historical Society's
History of Pittsfield on Disk

Peltoma Point Once Echoed To Shots of Bandits

Grant-Knowles Battle 1863

Most of the two-gun desperados of 1862 were confined to areas other than New England, but two of the more feared outlaws of the sixties terrorized Central Maine for several years during the Civil War. Stories of the Grant-Knowles episode have been passed down through the years since the memorable fatal gun battle on the banks of the Sebasticook River in Pittsfield at Peltoma Point, where the river branches.

According to sketchy reports related by the oldest residents and a yellowed newspaper clipping, Charles Knowles and Isaac Grant were simply two strong and capable young men until they deserted from the Army during the war. In Civil War days it was not uncommon for a man with a family to hire another fellow to take his place when the time came for him to enter the service.

The story is told that Ike Grant not only joined the Army for one man, but tried to make a practice of selling his services and became known as a bounty jumper. It was while in the Army somewhere in the South that Grant and Knowles deserted and came back to their respective homes in Palmyra and Troy. Knowing that death was the penalty for desertion, these two men kept in hiding and had to steal to secure food and other necessary articles to live and not be caught. Thus started a season of crime that drove residents of Troy, Detroit, Pittsfield and Palmyra almost to a maddened frenzy.

Both Men Expert Marksmen

Ike Grant was a powerful six-foot man about 26 years old, and both he and Knowles carried two Colts revolvers apiece as they defied the local authorities to capture them during their pillaging. The Palmyra boy grew up on a farm, and the families in those times depended on wild game for their meat supply. Even before entering the service Grant was noted for his skill with firearms, but he was not considered at all dangerous.

Charlie Knowles was a little younger than Grant and not such a big man, but he too was a fine woodsman and a crack shot. The Knowles family in Troy was respected by all neighboring citizens, and it was the talk of the time how Charlie Knowles became associated with Grant and resorted to a foul mean of existance.

After a while it began to look as though Grant and Knowles would confiscate all the portable property in the area between Troy and Palmyra. The two men would make a raid, take whatever they wanted and escape unharmed because not a soul dared challenge them. Many time posses became organized after a fresh depredation, only to give up in despair after a few fruitless hours of searching. It was known by the townspeople in the mentioned hamlets that Grant and Knowles were hiding in a particular camp on the Sebasticook, but no one would volunteer to approach the camp site. It was a common occurrence when members of the posse met one of the two hunted men on the main street, they shook hands, and slunk off, fearing that they might feel lead piercing their bodies at any moment.

Nearly Captured In Troy

After a series of crimes in the later part of 1863, a party of about twenty men was organized with the expressed purpose of taking Grant and Knowles alive. A long search finally ended in Troy village, where the two gunmen were cornered in the home of Knowles' father. At this time, Noah Prescott, village constable, was called upon to march up to the door of the house and demand the surrender of the fugitives.

The Troy officer was well known for his courage and strength in the face of danger, but as he walked to the house, it was noted that he carried no weapon, for he well knew the outcome of previous battles waged with Grant and Knowles by brave, armed citizens. The other men of the posse sat around the house armed with rifles, shotguns and pistols, but without the urge to follow Prescott.

The constable had almost reached the door when it was yanked open and out stepped Grant and Knowles, both with a revolver in each fist. Grant is supposed to have snarled, "Well, I suppose you have come to arrest us." Prescott, knowing that his followers had stolen into the bushes, and being unarmed, replied, "To be honest, I don't think I can."

Of course Prescott knew Knowles well because they both had grown up in the same town, but the constable probably would have made the arrest if his posse had supported him. Grant and Knowles slipped into the surrounding woods, and Prescott alone followed them at a safe distance to the Troy corners, where he lost their trail. At the corners, Prescott met Chief of Police McKinney and a Mr. Mahoney of Belfast, who were also hunting Grant and Knowles after this pair had been brazen enough to plunder as far toward the sea as Belfast.

While the men were talking, a man drove up and announced that he had seen the criminals cross the road about a half mile away. The officers knew that there was only one place that Grant and Knowles could cross the Sebasticook River without swimming, so they drove directly to Carlton Bridge, where they were informed by some boys in swimming that the hunted men were a short distance ahead.

Fierce Battle on Old Stump Road

The road that leads from Troy to Detroit today was in Civil War days nothing more than a stump trail hardly passable by a team and buckboard. At a point not more than a mile and a half from Carlton Bridge, going toward Detroit, Prescott, Mahoney and McKinney came upon the hunted men, who were believed to be making one of their frequent passages to Palmyra.

Prescott signified that he would attempt to capture Knowles and he ordered Mahoney to tackle Grant, as the team drew close to the men. It is supposed that neither Grant nor Knowles expected that Prescott's men would fire upon them, but Mahoney did shoot, hitting Grant in the back, and Prescott hurled himself from the wagon upon Knowles. At this moment, McKinney opened fire upon Grant from his wagon as the huge man staggered to his feet. In the following exchange of shots, it is said that one of Grant's slugs hit Knowles as Prescott struggled with him on the ground, and another of Grant's bullets hit McKinney in the wrist. McKinney succeeded in hitting Grant in the shoulder, but was himself shot again. Prescott knowed Knowles our and carried McKinney to a nearby farmhouse after Grant too had fallen in a limp heap. In the meantime, Mahoney took his team to Detroit and spread the word of the battle, and when Prescott came out of the farmhouse, he saw Grant and Knowles stagger arm in arm down the road toward Detroit.

Final Battle on Peltoma Point

The following day Lyman Hurd, Joseph Myrick and William Jenkins left Detroit village, supposedly on a trip to locate the camp of the fugitives, not to participate in a battle. As the men paddled along the river, they suddenly spotted a well worn trail, and their shouting must have aroused the outlaws, who evidently had had their wounds cared for by a friend on the Detroit road, as they stumbled to the riverside camp on Peltoma Point, a couple of miles from the scene of the battle the day before. The three men from Detroit had gone only a few steps along the path when Grant and Knowles arose, and the former leveled his revolver at Myrick, but the bullet missed him and struck Bill Jenkins in the heart, killing him just as he fired and wounded Grant in the head. Hurd meanwhile had sprung on Knowles and knocked him down, at which time Myrick tied Knowles' hands behind him. Hurd was also able to strike Grant, who was still conscious, but weak.


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