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History of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Biographical

NY: The American Historical Society, Inc. 1920

p. 148 - 150:

HORACE BROWNING KNOWLES  --  For more than half a century the name of Knowles has been prominently identified with the undertaking business of Providence, being represented here by Horace B. and Ellmer F. Knowles, father and son, who succeeded one another as the head of the large establishment here.  Since the death of the latter the business has passed into the hands of his son, Horace E. Knowles, and his son-in-law, Harold F. Sanderson.  It was founded in Providence in the year 1854 by Horace Browning Knowles, a son of John and Hannah Knowles, of Hopkinton, R. I., where he was born, January 27, 1824.  The Knowles family in Rhode Island has figured prominently in Colonial and State history since the second half of the seventeenth century.  Henry Knowles, immigrant ancestor and progenitor of all of the family of ancient date in Rhode Island, came from London, England, to Portsmouth, R. I., arriving on April 15, 1635.  Of his three sons only one, William Knowles, lived to perpetuate the line.

William Knowles, born in 1645, was a resident of Warwick, and of South Kingstown, where he was active in official life for several decades, serving as deputy to the General Assembly in 1706 and 1707.  His sons, with the exception of John, who removed to Richmond, were residents of South Kingstown.  Through John Knowles descended the Knowles of Richmond and Hopkinton, of which the late Horace B. Knowles was a descendant.

Horace B. Knowles attended the Hopkinton schools, both public and private, until 1842, then became an apprentice in the establishment of a cabinet maker, where he learned the trade and became an expert workman.  He continued in this line until 1854, and then accepted the appointment as manager of the undertaking department with great skill and sagacity for thirteen years, from 1854 to 1867, and then resigned, having decided to employ his skill and business genius on his own account.  For seven years after leaving the firm of Cleveland Brothers he conducted an undertaking business in Providence in association with James Boyce, the firm being known as Knowles & Boyce, but in 1874 this partnership was dissolved, and Mr. Knowles continued his enterprise alone.  After a number of years he admitted his son Ellmer F. to partnership.  The latter eventually became his father's successor.

Horace B. Knowles was the first man in Providence to gain an expert knowledge of and to practice the art of embalming.  In fact, modern methods of undertaking in this city may be said to have had their beginnings with Horace B. Knowles. Broad-minded and progressive, upright and honorable, he gave to his calling a new dignity and a high purpose which carried him through his responsible duties with the least possible obtrusion or display. His successors have followed in his footsteps, and the business which is known as Horace B. Knowles Sons, Incorporated, and which is the largest of the kind in the State is carried on in the most progressive manner.  Every invention known to modern undertaking has been applied to its conduct and a mortuary chapel has been added to the establishment at No. 187 Benefit street.  Every detail of the surroundings reflect dignity and good taste, and the ability and high reputation both of its founder, his capable successor and son, and the present able owners and managers.

Horace Browning Knowles was always active in general affairs in addition to the carrying on of his own great business.  He was elected the first president of the New England Undertakers' Association in 1868.  This organization, now merged with the Massachusetts undertakers, was the first of its kind in New England, and the second in the entire world.  As in his private business, so in his public life, Horace B. Knowles was progressive, public-spirited and loyal.  He met every obligation of his life fairly, and while modest and quiet by nature he shirked no duty and left a record of tasks well performed and a business greatly advanced from the conditions which had prevailed when he entered it.  Although a man of more than seventy-eight years when he laid aside life's burden, he continued at the head of the business which he had founded up to the last, and while many years have elapsed since his death in 1902, his spirit still pervades the work of his successors.

Ellmer F. Knowles, son of Horace Browning and Eliza Mary Knowles, was born September 5, 1850, in Providence, and died there August 28, 1918, after a short illness contracted at his summer home in Maine.  He was educated in the Providence schools and completed his studies at the Scholfield Commercial School from which he was graduated.  As a young man he became associated with his father in the latter's undertaking business here, and during the years of preparatory training for greater responsibilities attended full courses of study and was graduated from the United States College of Embalming.  As his father advanced in years the younger man naturally shouldered the heavier burdens of the business and finally became its head upon his father's death.  In 1902 he admitted his son, Horace E. Knowles, to partnership, and this continued until 1909, when the business was incorporated under the name of Horace B. Knowles' Sons, Incorporated, at which time Harold F. Sanderson was admitted to the business.

Mr. Knowles was a member of Nestell Lodge, No. 37, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Providence Chapter, No. 1, Royal Arch Masons; Providence Council No. 1, Royal and Select Masters; Cavalry Commandery, No. 13, Knights Templar; Palestine Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, and had attained to the thirty-second degree in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite. In his youth Mr. Knowles enlisted in the First Regiment of Light Infantry, with which he served twelve years, later continuing his connection through membership in the Veterans' Association until his death.  He was fond of the sports of forest and stream, and maintained a summer home at Bridgeton, Me. He was a man of genial manner and a cheerful disposition and was always ready to enjoy the lighter side of life.  He was a capable, earnest and sympathetic business man, holding closely to the ideals of his father, which have also become those of the present management.

Ellmer F. Knowles married, June 12, 1874, Ella Frances Evans, a daughter of Charles Henry and Caroline (Jones) Evans, of Nantucket, Mass., where the former was engaged in the whaling business, and was a skilled mariner.  Mr. and Mrs. Knowles were the parents of the following children:  1.  Horace Ellmer, mentioned below.  2.  Alice Ella, who married Harold F. Sanderson, of further mention.

Horace Ellmer Knowles, son of Ellmer F. and Ella Frances (Evans) Knowles, and grandson of Horace Browning Knowles, was born on October 6, 1878, at Providence.  He attended the public schools of the city, and on completing his studies entered business life in association with his father and grandfather, the three generations of the family remaining in partnership until the death of Horace B. Knowles in 1902.  Horace Ellmer Knowles entered the business as office assistant, was admitted as partner at the time of the death of his grandfather, and since the demise of his father has become its active head.  He has devoted his life to the great family enterprise and has familiarized himself with its every detail.  His devotion and loyalty to high ideals are a potent factor in its present success and high standing. He is a prominent member of the Masonic order and belongs to Corinthian Lodge, No. 27, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, being past master; Providence Chapter, No. 1, Royal Arch Masons; Providence Council, Royal and Select Masters; Calvary Commandery, No. 13, Knights Templar, and Palestine Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.  He is also a member of the Rhode Island Consistory, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite.

Mr. Knowles married, January 22, 1908, Ann Martin Parker, of Providence, and they are the parents of a daughter, Virginia, born September 17, 1909.

Harold Frank Sanderson, member of the firm of Horace B. Knowles' Sons, Incorporated, was born February 13, 1875, at Waterbury, Conn., and was educated in the public schools of that city.  As a youth he obtained familiarity with the drug business, when ill-health compelled him to resign all active business responsibilities.  In 1909 he became a partner in the present association and is now one of its active managers.  For eight years Mr. Sanderson was a member of the First Regiment of Light Infantry, and for nine years of the First Regiment of Rhode Island National Guard.  During the Spanish-American War he served in the First Regiment of Rhode Island Volunteers, with the rank of lieutenant, and is now a member of the Spanish-American War Veterans' Association.  He is also a prominent Mason, and is affiliated with the What Cheer Lodge, No. 21, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Providence Chapter,  Royal Arch Masons; Providence Council, Royal and Select Masters; St. John's Commandery, Knights Templar; Palestine Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine; and the Rhode Island Consistory, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite.

Mr. Sanderson married, January 20, 1902, Alice Ella Knowles, daughter of Ellmer F. and granddaughter of Horace B. Knowles.

It is an occurrence of sufficient rarity to excite comment, to find three consecutive generations of the same family in one business. The remarkable feature in this case is the fact that the sterling qualities of the founder of the business have been transmitted to his successors, and the successful accomplishment of the senior Mr. Knowles in building and maintaining on a high and modern level of establishment of the Knowles type has inspired the men in whose hands he left the guidance of his business to still higher achievements.  The business integrity, the sterling worth, and the personal dignity of the successive heads of the firm have set a high standard among their associates in the business and professional world.

p. 150:
1179 Main Street, Glocester
Brown and Hopkins Country StoreWILLIAM WINSOR HOPKINS, junior member of the firm of Brown & Hopkins, who run the general store at Chepachet, R. I., and a man of influence in his community, was born May 8, 1867, at Gloucester, R. I.  He is a son of Thomas and Sarah Josephine (Winsor) Hopkins, old and highly respected residents of that place.  His father, Mr. Hopkins, Sr., was born October 22, 1829, at Cranston, R. I., but later came to Gloucester, where he passed the remainder of his life, and died March 23, 1897.  He was engaged in the occupation of farming for many years, and was highly successful in that line.  He married Sarah Josephine Winsor, who was born June 29, 1846, and who survives him, making her home at the present time at Chepachet.  They were the parents of the following children: Hattie M., who married Henry Lamb, of Providence, now deceased;  William Winsor, with whose career we are here especially concerned;  Ida B. who became the wife of Job W. Steere, of Burrillville, R. I., where she died November 24, 1905;  Minnie M., who became the wife of James Leon Brown, partner of Mr. Hopkins, whose sketch follows;  Ermest, who resides at Chepachet and is engaged in the lumber business here with his brother, William Winsor Hopkins;  Flora, who became the wife of James L. Stott, of Gloucester.

William Winsor Hopkins received his education at the public schools of Gloucester, R. I., after which he came to Chepachet, where he engaged in the lumber business, and also worked as a teamster in this region for twenty years.  He then purchased the interest of Mr. Potter in the general store at Chepachet and became the partner of Mr. Brown, with whom he is still associated.  The business of this store is a large one, and it is now the most important establishment of its kind in this region. Mr. Hopkins is also very active in public affairs in this region, and is a staunch Republican in politics.  He has served the community in the capacity of assessor of taxes for the past ten years, and has given complete satisfaction to the entire community, political friend or foe alike, on account of the efficient manner in which he has handled this work.  He is a member of Chepachet Grange.  He and his partner, Mr. Brown, are the representative business men of this town and stand high in the estimation of their fellow-citizens.

William Winsor Hopkins was united in marriage, September 29, 1892, with Lillian Gustell Brown, a sister of his partner, James Leon Brown.  They are the parents of one child, Ella Maud, born May 15, 1897, and a graduate of Pascoag (Rhode Island) High School.  He has also adopted Robert H. Steere, his sister's son, who was born in 1902, and now attends the Moses Brown School at Providence.  Mr. Hopkins is the owner of a large farm in this region, where he spends most of his leisure time.

Acote's Hill Cemetery, (GL023), Glocester, RI
1872 - 1958

Minnie M BROWN
1877 - 1967

1829c - 17 JAN 1866
1827c - 6 OCT 1904
1842c - 31 MAR 1890
1867 - 1961
Lillian G (BROWN) HOPKINS 1868 - 1947
1897 - 1984
Robert E. STEERE
1902 - 1999
Mary S. Steere
1908 - 1993

p. 150 - 151:

JAMES LEON BROWN, one of the proprietors of the popular general store at Chepachet, R. I., and a member of the firm of Brown & Hopkins, is a native of Gloucester, R. I., where his birth occurred December 14, 1872. Mr. Brown is a son of James B. and Lucy Ellen (Hopkins) Brown, of Foster, R. I.  The elder Mr. Brown was a native of Gloucester, and for many years engaged in the lumber business there.  Later in life he took up farming, which he continued until his death, October 6, 1904.  He was a prominent man in Gloucester, and served on the Town Council there, and also as overseer of the poor.  He married (first) Caroline Sprague, of that place, who died in the year 1866, and they were the parents of three children:  Eugene E., of Hopedale, Mass.; Frederick F., of Butte City, Cal.; and Nettie A., the wife of Harry Steere, whose death occurred April 13, 1914.  James B. Brown married (second) Lucy Ellen Hopkins, of Foster, R. I., whose death occurred March 31, 1890.  Of this second union two children were born, as follows: Lillian Gustell, who became the wife of William Winsor Hopkins, and James Leon, with whose career we are here especially concerned.

The early life of James Leon Brown was spent at his native town of Gloucester, R. I., where his education was obtained at the local grammar school.  After completing his studies at that institution, he went to Spindalville, Mass., where he secured a position with the Westcott Spindle Company, guiding spindles, and held that position for two years.  He then returned to his home at Gloucester, where he was engaged in farming for one year, after which he formed a partnership with William Horton, of Providence, R. I., with whom he conducted a meat market.  After five years of this business he returned to the farm, where he remained for eighteen months, and then purchased the general store at Chepachet, from Mr. Reed, and continues in this business at the present time.  He is a man of good judgment and wide business foresight, and under his managment his enterprise has grown until it is one of the most important of its kind in this region. He is a hard worker and devotes practically all of his time to running his business.  Although possessed of wide popularity and the respect and esteem of his fellow-citizens, Mr. Brown has never taken any prominent part in local affairs nor entered politics.

James Leon Brown was united in marriage September 26, 1900, with Minnie M. Hopkins, of Chepachet, where she was born Feburary 19, 1877, a daughter of Thomas and Sarah J. (Winsor) Hopkins.  There have been no children born of this union, but Mr. and Mrs. Brown have adopted Ruth Evelen [sic] Steere as their daughter.  Their residence is at Chepachet, R. I.


These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project. Transcription and pictures 2001-2 by Beth Hurd

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