Thomas Elliott Knox was an interesting figure in the history of California and my wife’s family history. Photos that I have found of Thomas, from newspaper articles or those that were held and preserved by the family, always show him as a rather starched, dignified individual. I have always, through the years that I have researched Ellen’s family, referred to him rather formally as ‘Thomas Elliott Knox.’ It is a bit hard for me then to see him referred to as “Tom,” but that, as it turns out, is exactly how he was known to his family.
On 19 October 1882, Tom, a native of Huron County (and likely, more specifically, the village of Seaforth), Ontario, Canada, married Amy Jane Knox, a native of Chesterfield, England, in California. Tom was plasterer by trade and had worked his way to California as a young man presumably to find his fortune. Amy had immigrated to California with her parents and seven known siblings as a young girl. Amy’s older sister Emily kept a diary and that diary tells the story of Tom’s death in a way that can’t be captured by a newspaper article.
Emily Squires’ diary entries show life as it was during a time before the conveniences of automation, gadgetry, and mobile devices. In early 1938, the highlights in her day that she wrote about in her diary included social events, writing, posting and receiving mail, having clothing made, mended and adjusted, and of course, the household finances. She also recorded the health status of family members. The following are my transcripts of extracts from her diary entries:
Wednesday, January 19, 1938
…Tom and Amy are both laid up with heavy colds….
Thursday, January 20, 1938
…Tom & Amy both laid up with colds….
Friday, January 21, 1938
…Tom not so well….
Saturday, January 22, 1938
…Tom suffering from cramps in stomach. They sent for Dr. Hamlin, and he called an ambulance & had him go to hosp. pronto. They fear pneumonia.
Sunday, January 23, 1938
…Tom is in a pneumonia jacket, has been x rayed, but they do not know just what is causing the trouble.
Monday, January 24, 1938
… Tom about the same. Doctor would operate if he were younger & see what it is all about….
Tuesday, January 25, 1938
..Olive and Leila went to see Tom at Prov. Hosp. [Providence Hospital in Oakland, California] this afternoon. I wrote Will & Nellie about him this eve….
Wednesday, January 26, 1938
…Tom seemed weaker to-day….
Thursday, January 27, 1938
Tom has pneumonia and seems to be growing weaker….
Friday, January 28, 1938
…Tom is weaker, and was given a serum this noon, & no visitors allowed. Amy went to Y M [?] to tell me….
Saturday, January 29, 1938
…Dude [Tom and Amy’s youngest son] & Amy were with Tom until 11 last night, and were called at 8:30 this A.M. Has been in a comatose condition all day. Practically no hope….
Sunday, January 30, 1938
…poor old Tom went to heaven about eleven o’clock this morning. I hope his spirit has already found Art’s. [I believe this is a reference to Arthur Squires Knox, Tom’s son who died in 1928] I went to church & heard Dr. Zwemer talk on Islam. Wonderful speaker. Talked with Mr. & Mrs. Davenport and walked home with Auntie. The Beebes and Mrs. Jackson were with Amy & Dude. Amy asked me to write to Mattie & break the news. I also wrote to Mary, Marion, Gertrude Jordan and Ella McCul. Note in S. F. Chronicle of Tom’s illness.
Tues, February 1, 1938 (The Funeral)
…Linden took Olive, Emma & myself to Grant Miller’s. [Grant Miller Mortuary, 2850 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland] Almost all the family was there – all except Ed & May, Nellie, and our children in the East & at Sacramento. Tom looked handsome.
[Note: A special thanks to Squires cousin, Pam Marino for sharing her great grandmother Emily Squires’ diary pages.]