Biography of John McBride Knote, 1904 Graduate of Wittenberg College
by Travis Rodgers, 2016
John McBride Knote was born on February 19, 1884 in Springfield, Ohio. Ohio, Births and Christnings Index, has his parents listed as J.M. Knote, whom he is named after, and Lillie V. Knote.[i] He lived quite a life as he attended Wittenberg University, traveled between throughout the United States, was a university professor and instructor, and later an entrepreneur. Knote lived quite an interesting life, but it is also a challenging one to look at. Due to his behavior and travel it is difficult to put a pin on where Knote was at all times. Regardless, what we can conclude is that John McBride Knote led quite an interesting life.
When John McBride Knote was ten years old, his parents purchased a home at 217 Ferncliff Avenue, now 525 N. Wittenberg Avenue. They purchased the home for $7,500 on September 29, 1894.[ii] According to the 1900 Federal Census, John’s father was born in Indiana, and his mother, Lillian, was born in Ohio. John also had two siblings. An older sister Alice Rosetta Knote, who was 19 at the time of the census, and Theodore W Knote who was 14 at the time of the census. John himself was 16 at the time of this census, his father was 53, and his mother was 42.[iii] It is worth noting that this census does not give an exact date of birth for John, although we know from his WWII Draft Card that he was indeed born on February 19, 1884.[iv]
John attended Wittenberg University from 1900-1904. He was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and during his senior year he received “The Class Prophecy.”[v] His younger brother, Theodore, also joined the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, showing a close family bond and also a younger brother following in the footsteps of his older brother.[vi]
Knote graduated from Wittenberg as a chemist with a specialty in clay pottery. This is evident from his book in which he wrote Some Chemical and Physical Changes in Clays Due to the Influence of Heat Volume No. 15.[vii] He also taught courses in this field as well as having his own business dealing with this later in life.
From the years of 1905-1909 John was in several different places in Springfield, Ohio. According to the 1905 Springfield City Directory, John was still a resident at 217 Ferncliff Avenue. In 1906 he was living at 439 N. Limestone Avenue. The 439 Limestone Avenue home is, unfortunately, now a parking lot (FOR WHAT BUSINESS?). (HE ALSO RECEIVED A MASTERS at OSU in 1906). In 1907, John is listed as a chemist at 28 Park Place. In 1908, John is listed as an instructor residing at 501 Woodlawn Avenue. In 1909, he no longer appears in the Springfield City Directory. John Knote was definitely moving around in the Springfield bubble before branching off in 1909.[viii] John did not like to be held down to one spot as is obvious from his change of residence within the city. Although John resided in Springfield, he taught chemistry at Ohio State from 1904-1908.[ix]
According to the 1910 Federal Census, John had moved west to Champaign, Illinois with his wife Anna . They moved to Illinois where John was appointed a faculty member at the University of Illinois in Ceramics.[x] They were both 27 at the time, which correlates with the earlier 1900 Census.[xi] Anna was a member of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority—the sorority that would eventually take residence at the adjacent house at 219 Ferncliff Avenue. She was a prominent member of the national organization for AXD.[xii] While John was in Illinois, he had his short book, mentioned earlier, Some Chemical and Physical Changes in Clays Due to the Influence of Heat published by the University itself. John likely performed some work and study on clay while he was here. John also taught here from 1908-1911.[xiii]
After 1920, things get very odd and interesting. According to Wittenberg’s Bayley Alumni House records, John Knote’s wife is named Mable. In the “Sorority Handbook,” Mrs. John M. Knote, Jr., is listed as living at 179 W. 4th St., in Mansfield, Ohio.[xv] Things get odder when the only John Knote that could be our John is actually listed as John Nott in the 1920 Federal Census, his age is 37 which is right on, and his birthplace was Ohio. According to this census record, John Nott lives in Erie, Pennsylvania and they have four children, one being 15 years old.census could be ignored if not for the interested fact that Bayley Alumni House records state that John’s wife was in fact named Mable. This Mable could not be our Anna. It could be presumed that Anna’s middle name may have been Mable, but according to her gravestone which is located in Mansfield, Ohio, Anna’s middle name was actually Miller. [xvii]
In 1930, John reaches South River, New Jersey, which will be the place he stays until he passes. His wife resides in Mansfield, Ohio, with her sister, Clara H. Miller. Interestingly in the 1930 census, neither Mable nor Anna is listed and his marital status is listed as single. The record states that both his father and mother were born in Ohio, which we know from earlier and likely more accurate records is not the case. His father was born in Indiana. At this time John is currently living in a boarding house, likely looking for what would be his future home and trying to make a new life for himself as it has become apparent that he is no longer with Anna nor is he with a Mable at this time.[xviii]
By 1942, John is still in New Jersey, running his pottery business. His draft card states that he is living at 44 Darrow St. which is still in South River. The age this gives is 58, which matches better than previous census lists which were lightly questionable on his age. John even lists his employer as “Self.” on this card which matches to his pottery business.[xix]
In November of 1948, John Knote passed away in his 44 Darrow St. home. His obituary in the Springfield Daily News stated the following, “Word of the recent death of John McBride Knote, 64, an authority on clay and a native of Springfield, was received here. Mr. Knote, owner of a clay refractory and paint manufacturing business, died in his South River, N. J., home. He was a graduate of Wittenberg College and a former Ohio State University instructor. A sister, Mrs. William K Shilling, of Springfield, is among the survivors.”[xx]
John Knote lived quite a life. He was a man who was fairly well traveled, he used his knowledge of chemistry to further his passion for ceramics, even making a business of it later in his life. He seems to have had a rough marital life, with two wives, neither of whom he seems to have stayed with. John found comfort in his work. He succeeded in writing a book, teaching, and with entrepreneurial endeavors. From the sources, it seems John never had any children and from his travel and marital history, it seems he didn’t intend on having any.
Author: Travis Rodgers
[i] “Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.orh/pal:/mm9.1.1/vrm5-vvx : accessed 20 May 2014), John M. Knote, 19 Feb 1884; iting v 2 p 190, Springfield, Clark, Ohio; FHL microfilm 466657.
[ii] “Property Owners of Lot 3776 (525 N. Wittenberg Ave.).” Nearby Archaeology at Wittenberg. http://www9.wittenberg.edu/nearbyarchaeology/property-owners-of-lot-3777-525-n-wittenberg-ave/ (accessed June 6, 2014).
[iii] Year: 1900; Census Place: Springfield Ward 2, Clark, Ohio; Roll: 1246; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 0021; FHL microfilm: 1241246.
[iv] The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Records of the Selective Service System, 1926 – 1975; Military State: New Jersey; NARA Series: M1986; NARA Series Title: World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of New Jersey; ARC Number: 2555983; ARC Title: Fourth Registration Draft Cards, 04/27/1942 – 04/27/1942; Creator: Selective Service System. New Jersey State Headquarters. (1940 – 1947); Record Group Number: 147.
[v] The Beta Theta Pi. Oxford, Ohio: Beta Theta Pi, 1904.
[vi] Ancestry.com. U.S. School Yearbooks [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
[vii] “Some chemical and physical changes in clays due to the influence of heat (University of Illinois bulletin) Unknown Binding.” Some chemical and physical changes in clays due to the influence of heat (University of Illinois bulletin): John McBride Knote: Amazon.com: Books. http://www.amazon.com/chemical-physical-influence-University-Illinois/dp/B00088OO6K/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1402065401&sr=8-3&keywords=john+knote+clay (accessed June 6, 2014).
[viii] Springfield, Ohio, City Directory, 1905-1909. Springfield, Ohio: Springfield, 1905.
[ix] Ancestry.com. U.S., School Catalogs, 1765-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
[x] “Coming and Going,” Mansfield News Sept. 9, 1909, p. 7.
[xi] Year: 1910; Census Place: Champaign Ward 7, Champaign, Illinois; Roll: T624_233; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0013; FHL microfilm: 1374246.
[xii] “Alpha Xi Delta,” The Anchora of Delta Gamma Fraternity (Menasha, WI: George Banta Publishing, 1923), 201.
[xiii] Ancestry.com. U.S., School Catalogs, 1765-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
[xiv] Ancestry.com. U.S. School Yearbooks [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
[xv] Twida, The Sorority Handbook (Roxbury, MA: Ida Shaw Martin Publisher, 1921), 67.
[xvi] Year: 1920; Census Place: Elgin, Erie, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1565; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 62; Image: 92.
[xvii] “Find A Grave – Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials.” Find A Grave – Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=112384988 (accessed June 4, 2014).
[xviii] Year: 1930; Census Place: South River, Middlesex, New Jersey; Roll: 1369; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 0123; Image: 487.0; FHL microfilm: 2341104.
[xix] The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Records of the Selective Service System, 1926 – 1975; Military State: New Jersey; NARA Series: M1986; NARA Series Title: World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of New Jersey; ARC Number: 2555983; ARC Title: Fourth Registration Draft Cards, 04/27/1942 – 04/27/1942; Creator: Selective Service System. New Jersey State Headquarters. (1940 – 1947); Record Group Number: 147.
[xx] Springfield Daily News, “John McBride Knote.” November 6, 1948. http://index.rbhayes.org/hayes/index/record_detail.asp?id=1211722 (accessed June 1, 2014).