Abide With Me – The Funeral Records of the Knox Family

A singer named Marshall sang two hymns.

Marshall was accompanied by ‘Mrs. McC’ on the organ while singing Abide With Me and Sometime We’ll Understand.

So says the funeral records that I have received describing the final arrangements for Thomas Elliott Knox, his wife Amy Squires Knox, and a grandson Arthur Knox.

I have come to know a lot about Thomas E. ‘Tom” Knox, my wife’s great grandfather, from years of researching his life. Most of the records about Tom describe his life of public service. He served as Postmaster and then Mayor of Livermore, California. He served as an Alameda County Supervisor and was active in his community. Politically, he was a Republican and through his political activity was at minimum an acquaintance of future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren. In business, Tom was a contractor and one of the early proprietors of a California vineyard.

Thomas Elliott Knox (photo taken abt. 1923 during visit to orillia, Ontario, Canada)

Thomas Elliott Knox (photo taken abt. 1923 during visit to Orillia, Ontario, Canada)

Tom was a thin, sharp featured man who was born in Seaforth, Huron County, Canada West (now Ontario) about 1854. It’s likely through the following of employment opportunities that found Tom arriving in California around 1875 where a few years later he would marry Amy Squires, a native of England who had immigrated to California with her parents and siblings in 1873.

Recently I came across an announcement of Tom’s death in a newspaper that the years of research had not previously found. The San Francisco Chronicle reported his death on January 30, 1938 in a page 14 article entitled “Knox, Alameda County Civic Leader, Expires.” On January 31st the Oakland Tribune ran a similar article and on February 1st, the San Francisco Chronicle followed up with an article about the funeral arrangements. The articles gave the name of the funeral home where the arrangements had been made – “the Grant D. Miller chapel, 2850 Telegraph avenue, Oakland.”

A Google search found that the funeral company was still in existence, now as the Grant Miller Mortuary, and operating from the same address in Oakland. The mortuary’s website provided an email address and following a quick exchange of messages, the mortuary sent me the family funeral records (for a small fee, well, actually not quite so small once the currency exchange rate was factored in).

When Tom died in 1938, his widow Amy made the arrangements with the mortuary. The funeral record provides Tom’s date and place of birth, date, place and cause of death in addition to his occupation and the address of the family residence. In addition to the organist and singing of the two hymns, the record details that the funeral was held on February 1st, 1938 at 3:30 p.m. A car was to pick up the family at their 300 Elwood Avenue residence at 3:00 p.m. The cost of the funeral, including the size 6/3, model number 17 casket, was $132.41 (about $2,250 in today’s dollars).

When Amy Knox subsequently passed away five years later in 1943, the arrangements were again made through the Grant Miller Mortuary. There was no singer hired for the funeral service however Mrs. McClusky, whom I believe to be the same organist from Tom’s funeral then identified as ‘Mrs. McC’, played the organ. A limo was dispatched to pick up the family from their 300 Elwood Avenue home at 2:00 p.m. on November 23rd, 1943, the day of the funeral. The service began at 3:00 p.m. An interesting note in the funeral record for Amy is that no hearse was available to transport the casket after the funeral service so an ambulance was used. Cost for this funeral was $249.91 (or about $3,450 in today’s dollars).

Although funeral records may not contain a lot of new genealogical details, they do provide an additional layer of family history allowing us to observe how our ancestors dealt with one of life’s more troubling and difficult occasions, saying farewell to a loved one. And these records may be available for the asking (and the paying of that small (?) fee).

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