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).

The Death of Tom Knox As Told By His Sister-in-Law Emily Squires in Her Diary

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.


Three-year old Olive Theresa Evelyn ‘Tess’ Latimer (Ellen’s mother) stands between 
her grandparents Edward Nelson ‘Ned’ Latimer (on the left), 
Amy Squires Knox (centre) and 
Thomas Elliott ‘Tom’ Knox (on the right)


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.]