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Mystery Knower # 4

Samuel Knower

Frank, Edna, Austin Knower


          According to his death certificate, Samuel Knower, engineer and longtime resident of Albany, N.Y., was born February 28, 1827 in Sing Sing (Ossining) N.Y., and died March 23, 1895 in Albany. The death certificate states his father was Thomas Knower and his mother was Sarah Knower. Fine, except that we know of no such couple in New York.

          There is, of course, a Thomas Knower associated with Sing Sing -- Thomas Donnelly Knower, son of Samuel Knower and Maria Donnelly, but he wasn't born til 1813. The Samuel (and Thomas) we are looking for are absent from Thomas D. Knower's family bible as published, and absent from the list of heirs of Maria's father, Revolutionary War pensioner Thomas Donnelly, which includes many other Knower names. Entries of births in the Thomas D. Knower bible, however, point to a residence in Buffalo in 1839 and 1840, and sure enough, "Thomas D. Noah" turns up in the 1840 census. Curiously, there are four adult males in the household.

         Who are they?

         My theory is that Samuel Knower of Albany, cabinetmaker and brother of Benjamin Knower the hatter, was married and widowed before his well-documented 1810 marriage to Maria Donnelly. He was 27 in 1810, certainly old enough to have been married at a younger age. I believe one child of that hypothetical first marriage was named Samuel, and he is the Samuel who pops into the 1818 and 1819 Albany directories as Samuel Knower, skipper, marine. I further hypothesize that Samuel the Skipper married a woman named Sarah, possibly of Sing-Sing, and that couple are the parents of Thomas Knower, father of Samuel the Engineer -- and perhaps also of John George Knower, who turns up later in San Francisco.

      Looking again in Buffalo, we find Samuel Knower, a Morocco dresser, listed in the Buffalo city directories for 1835-37; his clerk, Thomas Knower, is named in the 1836 entry. Samuel Knower, age 56, died in Buffalo September 1, 1839. In 1840, Thomas D. Knower is a partner in the firm Knower & Platt, dealer in wool and skins. By 1844, Thomas is in Albany with his family; later censuses show them drifting among their Sing-Sing cousins, the Doubledays and Buckhouts.        

      But back to the Samuel the Engineer.

      According to the 1855 state census, Samuel the engineer began to live in Albany at the age of 20, at about the time of his marriage to Mary Ann Anthony, who was born July 8, 1824, in Canada. She died March 2, 1888. Where was he before his marriage?

          In 1886, Samuel is an engineer living at 82 Second St. According to the 1889 Albany city directory, he is an engineer with Rathbone, Sand & Co. Edward C. Knower, a gasfitter and presumably his son, resides with him.


i. WILLIAM KNOWER, born about 1848; died 1888.

ii. MARGARET KNOWER, born about 1849.

iii. CATHARINE KNOWER, born 1850; died in early childhood.

              iv. HARRIET L. KNOWER, born July 14, 1852, Albany, died there May 25, 1918. In Albany directories, Harriet lives at 143 Lark St. from at least 1900 to her death in 1918. She never married.

v. ANNA KNOWER, born 1854; died 1857.

2.          vi. SARAH CORNELIA KNOWER, born 1856.

              vii. EMMA KNOWER, born 1858; died 1859.

3.          viii. THOMAS KNOWER, born Albany 1861, died there January 31, 1898.  

              ix. EDWARD C. KNOWER, born December 31, 1865; died February 23, 1900, Albany.

In 1886, Edward is a gasfitter working at 10 James. He lives with his father until his father's death, and is still in the family home at the time of his own death five years later. He is buried in the Samuel Knower lot in Albany Rural Cemetery.

          This first Edward C. Knower died in 1900, but the name refused to. According to the directories, Edward C. Knower is a clerk boarding at 508 Washington in 1913. In 1914-15 he's at 215 Spruce with Frank L. and Samuel C. Knower; 1915 also reveals he's a clerk working at 38 North Pearl. In 1916 he boards at 195 North Pearl. In 1917 he still lives at 195 North Pearl, but is a salesman at 705 Broadway. He vanishes from the directories in 1918.


Second Generation

              2. SARAH CORNELIA KNOWER was born in 1856. She married CHARLES MUNSELL September 7, 1876 in Albany. He was born December 19, 1852, and died November 1, 1914.


i. HARRIET EDITH MUNSELL, born June 24, 1878. She married Marcus A. Muller on Sept. 24, 1918.

ii. GRACE HUESTED MUNSELL, born July 19, 1880.

iii. ALICE MARY MUNSELL, died in infancy.

iv. BESSIE EVELYN MUNSELL, born 1885; died 1887.

         3. THOMAS KNOWER was born in Albany and died there January 31, 1898. He married MARGARET MILLER, also a native of Albany. In 1886, Thomas is a machinist living at 313 Sherman. In 1898, the year of Thomas' death, the name Austin Knower, brakeman, appears in the directory at his last address.


i. SAMUEL C. KNOWER, born June 10, 1887, Albany; died December 18, 1946, in an accident at the Water Street railroad yards. He married BERTHA SCHULTZ.

          In 1904, Samuel is a "helper" living at 130 State St. In 1905 and 1906, may be the printer who boards at 420 Orange St. He is absent from the 1907 directory. In 1908, he lives at 85 Clinton St. In 1909-1911 he lives at 92 Lark, with Edna and Frank Knower; he's absent in 1912; also absent 1912 is Edna. She vanishes, married, perhaps?

          A Bertha Knower, 20, is listed in the 1910 census, in Albany's second ward, living with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Schultz, and her infant daughter, Margaret E. Knower.

          Samuel returns in 1913 as car inspector, living at 417 South Pearl. In 1914-15 still car inspector, but at 215 Spruce -- Edward C. and Frank L are with him. In 1916-18, he's a brakeman in New York City, with a home at 331 First. Edward has moved, Frank has vanished. From 1919-21, Samuel is at the same address, but a night conductor; and yard conductor in 1922-26. In 1927-29, he's at 13 Beekman, Margaret E. is listed at this address also in 1928 as a student and as a stenographer in 1929 and 1930.

          In 1930-1933 and 1938 Albany directories, Samuel is a conductor working in New York City; his wife's name is Bertha. In 1930-1934, Margaret E. Knower, a stenographer, lives with them. Their address in 1938 is 13 Beekman; by 1943 it's 505 Hudson; after 1944, it's 70 Kent. After 1950, Bertha, a widow, is at 692 Myrtle She's still living at that address in 1960 Polk's directory.

Frank and Edna Knower

          And then there's Frank L. and Edna C. Knower, who are identified as the niece and nephew of Harriet and William Clapham in the 1900 federal census. Edna was born in March 1885, and Frank in 1883. The teenagers live with the Claphams; were they orphaned by the death of Thomas in 1898, or Edward C. Knower, in 1900? Harriet Clapham reports that her mother is German -- I wonder if she is the sister of the Margaret Miller mentioned above.