Robert B. ed Ross.

History of the Knaggs family of Ohio and Michigan. Historical, biographical and genealogical online

. (page 1 of 14)
Online LibraryRobert B. ed RossHistory of the Knaggs family of Ohio and Michigan. Historical, biographical and genealogical → online text (page 1 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

,' ,0

• ,R. 5 , • "P.





< o

.1 T^ • ,. /r->i^









• '

A' ' '"■


^ fy. o

^r, c





* '\

• » \ '




v^ .






A' .


,';&'- "^A 0^




'^ ^H'^^V'/



»A^ V..^" ''^

■>- ,1''




..^^p;-" ^^^"\ - ^py , '^^

.o' \ '>^





Of Ohio and Michigan.

Historical, Biographical and

Edited by




Prrnlefl by




By R. B. ROSS.

The record of the Knaggs family of Ohio and Michigan is a part of the history of the northwest. Spring-
ing from English and Dutch forbears, its descendants represent the best traits of both races, and as patriots
in war and good citizens in peace they are the peers of any contemporary family in these states. The
Knaggs are a virile race, and although they are now found in every grade of society, their distinguishing
characteristics — courage, perseverance and integrity^are as pronounced today as in the perilous times of
the Indian wars and the war of 1812. The following record is historical, biographical and genealogical,
commencing with the progenitors and aiming to include the youngest descendants. Every care has been
taken to insure correctness, but in such works there are very few which are absolutely perfect. Much of
the genealogy could not be obtained from records, and if errors are found they can hardly be blamed on the


FALtEN TinecRS _^ Anausr,


1790 -. DuDLEvi otftnr

This map shows the location of I^orf Miami, in the vicinity of which a majority of the first generation of the
Knaggs family were born; also the points of interest in the Indian wars and the war of 1S12. Also the loca-
tion of Whitmore Knaggs's grant of 4.000 arpents in 1784.

The genesis of the Knaggs family of
Michigan and Ohio was In the Mau-
mee valley and on the river of the
same name, near the site of Fort Mi-
ami, which is about nine miles from
the new courthouse of Toledo. This
fegion was probably never inhabited
before 1760. A few years ago a re-
tired journalist, named Knapp. pub-
lished a history of the Maumee val-
ley, in which it was asserted that a
French trading post had been estab-
lished above Toledo as early as 1684,
and that a fort had been erected there
which was garrisoned by a small force
of French soldiers. This statement
created considerable interest in To-
ledo among students of the history
of the northwest, as the authorities
he adduced were at least plausible.
But research developed no corrobora-
tive facts. It is now believed that
this statement is a mere invention,
and that there was no white settle-

ment there before the fall of Quebec.
The valley was the scene of
armed strife in the Indian wars that
succeeded the revolution, and also in
the war of 1812-15, and the members
of the family during those periods
were in the very center of war's
alarms. It was here that the pro-
genitor of the family, George Knaggs,
an Englishman of good family, brought
his wife in 1760. He was born in Eng-
land, of English parents, his mother
being a native of Wales. Tradition says
that he was originally a sea-faring
man. though in what capacity is not
stated; also that he was a friend and
protege of Sir William Johnson, and
that he was an officer in the British
army. No proofs or records, however,
can be found to support these two lat-
ter statements. He married Rachel
Sly in Philadelphia. She was of Hol-
land Dutch extraction, and was a na-
tive of the Mohawk valley in New
York state. The date of their marriage

Is not known, but It was probably in
the same year (1760), that they came to
the Maumee valley.

Quebec was captured during the pre-
vious year and the sovereignty of the
northwest had passed under British
rule. Detroit, which had been under
French rule since 1701. surrendered to
a British force in 1760. the year follow-
ing the fall of Quebec. These events
brought many people into what had
previously been French territory.

At that time the only gainful occu-
pation in the west was the Indian
trade, and in this George Knaggs and
his wife engaged. The country was a
wilderness and they were surrounded
by Indians, who. however, were gen-
erally friendly. The Indian trade was
all barter, there being little money in
circulation. The goods sold to the In-
dians, namely, muskets, powder, balls,
blankets, kettles, fire-water, knives,
beads, trinkets, silver ornaments, etc..


which had been previously procured by
the French traders from Quebec and
Montreal, were now mostly procured
from Fort Orange, now Albany. N. Y.,
which became the groat center of the
Indian trade of the west. The goods
offered for exchange by the Indians
were almost invariably furs, although
occasionally maple sugar in the form
of mococks was offered.

In 1768 George Knaggs was in De-
troit, and evidently was one of a syn-
dicate composed of himself, Robert
Henry, John Farrel and James Ab-
bott. The four bought a lot •ISxW feet
on St. Anne street, on the corner of
Campau alley. St. Anne street was
then 20 feet wide, and ran between
■what is now Wayne street to Grlswold
street, and was all on what is now
Jefferson avenue. The lot was situat-
ed about the center of Jefferson ave-
nue, 200 feet west of Grlswold street.
Of course it was purchased to erect a
building for store purposes, but no
record of his venture exists. He prob-
ably returned to Maumee soon after,
as his wife and children were there
until 1794.

Nothing Is known of George Knaggg
or his wife during the revolutionary
war or during the conspiracy of Pon-
tlac. Eight children were born to
them between 1763 and 17S4. and It Is
almost certain that George and his
wife simply continued their occupation
and made money. Had the head
of the /amily been engaged In
the revolutionary war It Is more
than likely that the fact would
have been known by his descendants
or recorded in history. The tradition
of the family Is that he was quite aris-
tocratic In his Ideas and objected to
his daughters doing any household
work. "There are servants for such
things." he Is credited with saying.
His wife, however, was a prudent,
careful manager, with great force of
character, and was the business head
of the matrimonial firm. Sne was also
educated and was even versed in Latin,
an uncommon accompll.shment for la-
dies in those or any other days. Her
first child. Whitmore Knaggs. horn in
1763, first went to school In his own
home and was taught Latin and Dutch
by her. as well as the elementary
branches of education.

The eight children of Georire Knaggs
and Rachel Sly were all born on the
Maumee river, or Miami, as It was
called. Most of them were baptized
at the Huron Jesuit mission at Sand-
wich, Ont., opposite Detroit, but of
some there are no records either of
birth or death. George Knaggs was
probaby either a protestant or an In-
differentlst, but his wife was a strict
catholic, and the children were all
reared in that belief In childhood.
Some of them, however, became prot-
estants in after years. In regard to
the word Miami. It may be explained
that the Indians always pronounced It
Maumee. There were three rivers of
that name— the Great Miami and the
Little Miami, both oif which flow into
the Ohio river, and the Miami of the
Lakes, which flows Into Lake Erie-
The name of the Miami of the Lakes

was afterward changed to Maumee,
and It was on its shore that the
Knaggs family had Its origin. As the
family is now numerous and wide-
spread It may be well to set down the
names of the first generation in para-
graphs as follows:

(1) WHITMORE KNAGGS, born 1763.

(2) GEORGE KNAGGS, born about 1765.

(3) ELIZABETH KNAGGS, born Jan. 11.

(4) ANNE KNAGGS. born Jan. 11, 1777.

(5) REBECCA KNAGGS. born Feb. 28. 177S

(6) JAMES KNAGGS, born about 17S0.

(7) THOMAS KNAGGS. born Nov. 1. 1782.

(S) WILLIAM KNAGGS. born about 17RI.

The above dates will no doubt sur-
prise some of the members of the
family, who have always believed that
James Knaggs. the Indian fighter, was
the youn.gest child, but the records
show that this belief is unfounded.

The dates of many of the births,
deaths and marriages in this series
of articles have been copied by Rev.
Christian Denissen of Detroit from the
catholic church records at Monroe.
Sandwich and Detroit. Fr. Denissen
Is a genealogist of skill and resource,
and has continued the records of Fr.
Tanguay. the great French genealo-
gist, down to the present day. The
Knaggs records, and also other facts
presented in the series, have also
been revised by Clarence M. Burton,
who Is an authority on the history
of Detroit and the northwest.

In 1S93 the late James W. Knaggs,
a native of Detroit, and residing there
in that year, told the writer of this
article that his father, Whitmore
Knaggs, was appointed a United
States Indian agent when he was 18
vears of age. If this Is correct. Whit-
more held that position in 1781. Mrs.
Kev.sor. the w^do^v of George B.
Knaggs. son of Whitmore Knaggs,
says that his first a-ppointment was
made by President Washington. There
is no doubt that Whitmore, who was
adopted by the Ottawa Indians as a
member of their nation, was held in
hish esteem by the Indians of fhe
Manmee region, and an official ap-
pointment of this kin-d would make
h:m more influential than ever. This
state of affairs lead to a most Im-
portant event in the history of the
Kmggs family. In July. 17S4. the head
men of the Ottawa nation. In consid-
erPtion of love and affection, deeded
him a tract of land on the Maumee.
on part of which Fort Miami was aft-
erward built. The tract fronted 40
arpents on the river by Ifio arpents
in depth. The description read as fol-
lows: "Bounded by two trees stand-
ing on the plains and by another tree
standing upon the hill." This deed wa»
lost, but it was renewed by six Ot-
tawa chiefs. 13 years later, on May
13. 1797. The description was followed
in regard to the two trees standing on
the plain, but it was explained that
they "have since fallen down, but
where a bush now remains." In re-
gard to the "other tree standing on
the hill" it was stated to be "near
the spot where the dwelling house of
said Whitmore Knaggs was built im-
mediately after we gave him the said
tract of land, and where his father
planted an orchard." It was also stat-

ed that "the house had been pulled
down under the command of Gen.
Wayne In 1794."

The latter deed, thus conflrmlni the
first, was signed in the presence of
James May, as one of the judges of
the court of common pleas. Judge
May of Detroit was the husband of
Margaret Labadie, whose sister,
Josette, married Whitmore Knaggs In

This tract of 4.000 arpents. equivalent
to 3,684 American acres, was the first
land acnuired by the Knaggs family,
and some of the descendants live on
it today. Progenitor George Knaggs
Wtis not desirous of owning real prop-
erty, and no deeds or conveyances
have been found, except the one In
1768, above mentioned, that show he ac-
quired any portion of Mother Earth.

It Is almost certain that the elder
Knaggs sympathized with the British,
rather than the colonists In the strug-
gle of the latter for Independence, but
the feeling was not shared In by
Whitmore. his eldest son. It is prob-
able that his Influence kept Whitmore
from joining the colonial forces, but
as time went on he was unable to
control him. During the Indian wars
which succeeded the revolution Whit-
more was an avowed friend of the
struggling Americans on the Ijorder,
and finally became attached to Mad
Anthony Wayne's army as a scout,
spy and official interpreter of the In-
dian tongues.


The Maumee valley. Just above To-
ledo, is famous as the theater of armed
strife in the Indian wars alluded to.
and also In the war of 1812-1.';. After
the treaty of peace between Great
Britain and the TTnlted States In 1783.
the former country Incited mainly by
the wealthy fur trading companies,
disreenrded the terms of the treaty
surrendering the northwest territory,
of which Detroit and the Maumee val-
ley were parts, and secretly encour-
aeed the Indians to attack the white
settlers on the border. President
¥'ashIngton sent several forces to sub-
due these Indians, hut they were all
unsuccessful Gen Arthur St. rUalr's
reverse in 1791 was most humiliating.
He met a strong Indian force near
the head waters of the Wabash, near
Fort Wayne. Ind.. on Nov 4 of that
year, and his entire force of 1.400
troopo was ignominiously defeated by
Little Turtle's warriors. Several at-
tempts were afterward made to patch
up a peace, the last one In 1793. but.
the India rs. secretly encouraged by llic
British, refused to agree to any other
boundary than the Ohio Finally Pres-
ident Washington placed Maj.-Gen.
.^ntbonv "Wayne in command In 1792.
and the latter at once commenced a
series of operations, which resulted
in an honorable peace.

After Wayne's army was organ-
ized Gen. Simcoe of Canada select-
ed the site of a fort on the Maumee,
about eight miles above Toledo, on
Whitmore Knagg's tract, as a strate-
gic point to foil Wayne's movements.
It was built in the spring of 1794. and
named Fort Miami. This made the
trading posts In the neighborhood more
profitable than ever. To this region


came Alexander McKee, afterward a
British colonel in the war of 1S12. and

American troops, as he probably had administered after a certain number

a large interest in the goods and ot years had elapsed. It is probable

established a trading post, erected property, but he considered it as the that tne exact truth will never be

storehouses and dwellings, and did a fortune of war. In all probability his known.

large business. His descenoants ne ., father was a British sympathizer, and RACHEL KNAGGS A BUSINESS WOMAN

ly all live in Windsor. Sandwich town the destruction of his property was There is no doubt that Progenitor

and township, opposite Detroit. Of an act of reprisal which his son could George Knaggs's wife also came to

' of not resent. It was plain, however, to Detroit before the British evacuation.

course he was a business rival

George Knaggs. but there seemed to both father and son. that the Mau-

in 179

James W. Knaggs told the

be plenty of trade for both. Three mee valley wa.? ruined for buislness .^-riter of this article In 1S93 that the

companies of British soldiers, under purposes for some time. So the elder ^^^^^ g^^, dwelling of his grandpar-

romn.and of Cii.r Oildwell. were sen. Knaggs removed to Detroit and start- ;^jg ^.^^^ ^.j^hin the stockade ot this

from Detroit to defend the new fort, ed in business there. He had been ;, g^ ^ jg pertain that thev came

whi-h with insolent bad faith, was preceded to Ihe same place by his son ^j^,. ^1,^)^ store and buildings "on tho

built in territory guaranteed by the George, but whether they became part- Maumee were destroyed by Wayne-s

treaty to be m the United States, The ners in business l.s not known, lieorge troops in 1794 Between that date

fort was close to the place where had been there for several years, and ^„^ the appointment of John Askir.

George Knaggs and Rachel Sly trid stood so well with the authorities that ^^ administrator of the estate of

he had been appointed magistrate, and Qf^grge Knaggs, Sr., in 1797, only three

had married into an old French fam- g^^^j years had elapsed, and it !=f

ily In 1795. The elder Knaggs did not gi^nogt certain that their commercial

Near Fort Miami was fought the P™"' ^^ ^^f <^bange. He bought his gj. ^ Detroit was during that

settled in 1760,


battle of Fallen Timbers on Aug. 20,
1794. between Gen. Wayne and a force
of Canadian militia and Indians under
Little Turtle. (See map.) Wayne".5
army Interpreter was Whitmore
Knaggs. who also acted as scout and
spy during this campaign, and his

goods from long established firms, but time. The American State Papers

did not succeed in .getting trade

show that Rachel Knaggs. in


was over 60. and had not the vigor furred her claim before the United
to win success in a new fleld, and he ptates land board, as owner ot iT-i
finally lost health, and died, perhaps. aj.pents being 2?4xl00 arpents front
in 1797, one year after the American i on the Raisin, In rear by uiilo

-.,. „ ....„ _... ^.., „..^ ...., o«"patlon. The word "perhaps" is ^^^,^3 j^n^g above by lands of Giles

younger brother, James Knaggs only "^^'''^ '" sP^^I^'ng "f the time of his Barnes and below by lands of Thomas
14 years of age, was also a scout, spy ^r'^o.^^r.'^^' ,'^1?' ^.'^'^'^'"^ Knaggs, Knaggs, her son. A reliable witness
and soldier. Both fought in this en-
gagement. Col. John Francis Hain-
tramck, afterward the first United
States commandant of Detroit in

of Bay City, states in a paper pub-
li.shed in the Michigan Historical and
Pioneer Collection of 1890. that the
first Knaggs left his family some time



wing of ''"'"" '" ■"'■'-■ '^^"' '° ^'^ seaboard and

swore that, previous to July 1, ^795,
he saw her in possession of the prem-
ises, house, store, stables, etc., and
about 12 arpents cultivated. The
United States land board thereupon

AVayne's army, and the plan of shipped on a whaling voyage, from allowed the claim, and issued to her

certificate 516 on Dec. 16, ISOS. The
above showed that she had put an
anchor to windward before her bus
band went into trade elsewhere, an I
ever, and states her belief that he proves the statement that she was a

battle was conceived by Lieut. Will-
iam Henry Harrison, afterward a mili-
tary hero in the war of 1S12. and elect-
ed president of the United States In

The opposing army was so complete-
ly routed that the Indians lost heart.
They took refuge in and around Tort
Miami, and could not be forced to
come out in the field again The trad-
Ins- posts ot George Knaggs and Col.
McKee were destroyed by Wayne's
troops, and they also took refuge In

which he never returned. Mrs. Key-
sor. of Maumee. O.. who is the wid-
ow of George B. Knaggs. grandson of
George Knaggs, 1st, disputes this, how-

died at the old home of the family on
the Maumee.

As a matter of fact, however, the
time of his death is attested by
a document in the Wayne county
probate court, in which it is
recorded that John Askln, ad-

the fort. The Indians were pursued ministrator of the estate of Georgt-

to within a pistol shot of the fort. Knaggs. Sr , .g.ave a bond of ?r>no

whereupon Ma.1. Wm. Campbell, who to Probate Judge George McDougall.

had succeeded Capt. CaMwell as com- on Aug. 23. 1797. Another document

shows that the "produce" of the es-
tate, which was returned to the same
was valued

prudent, level-headed business wo-
man. The records also state that
she was a taxpayer on the Raisin in
1S02. Events show that her husband
was not possessed of these desirable
qualities. Mrs. May Stocking

Knaggs, of Bay City, whose husband
is a great-grandson of George Knaggs
and Rachel Sly, has in her possession
a parchment bearing the signatures of
James Madison, president, and
Jpmes Monroe, secretary of state,
dated May 30, ISll. granting to Rachel
Knaggs 259 acres on the n»rth side
of the Raisin. This is probably a

mandant. sent a peppery protest to
Wayne, who retorted in kind. The

paper warfare is amusing reading at tribunal on Feb. 21. lii>.\. was vaiuea " ,\,_ \.^„ „„ otk

this day. Wayne had orders at £104 4s 7d. being all personal prop- Patent of the same Pf "f*'^'^ • Jf J"*

to capture and demolish Fort Miami, erty. The creditors were George Mel- ^rpents are about equal to 259 acres,

but It was too strong for his force, drum. George Sharp, Meldrum & Park A HARROWING EXPERIENCE,

and he prudently forebore. The dc- .ind John Askin, all Detroit mn Before she died she went through

feat, however, had completely demor- chants, and the money owing to them a harrowing experience at French-

alized the Indians, and the surrender aggregated £1.644 19s Sd. leaving a net town, now Monroe, After the bat-

of Detroit was practically Insured, loss of £1.540 15s Id. of which John tie of the Raisin, on Jan. ffi

Askin's individual loss was over £1.200

Gov. Simcoe, hoping against hope, had


a fleet of gunboats built at Chatham. The £104 and small change was of American

and strengthened the fort at Detroit,
but it was labor lost. Finally Fort
Miami, on the Maumee. and Fort
Lernoult. at Detroit, were evacuated
by the British, and were occupied by
American troops under the command


Proctor defeated the

force under General

Winchester, and permitted the Indians

to massacre the Kentucky and other

of Col. John Francis Hamtramck, on what is now the state of Michigan,

course divided among the creditors,
who thus secured an Irish dividend.

But the above documents do not con- troops who had been taken prison-

clusively prove that the progenitor of ers, she showed her humanity by hid-

the family died In Detroit. At that ing a citizen under a hogshead from

time Wayne county included all ot the Indians who were seeking to kill

the same day. July 11, 1796.

Col. and also parts of Ohio. Indiana. Illi-

Hamtramck left Maumee and arrived no's. Wisconsin and Iowa. The Mau-

in Detroit on the 13th.


mee valley was then In Wayne coun-

him. Gen. Proctor heard of her and
ordered her to leave town. It was a
bitter cold day and she was SO years
of age. The British general knew


ty. The probate court records do that she was the mother of several

sons who were enemies of Great Brit-
ain, and with unmanly spite he com-

Whltmore Knaggs's feelings
most likely somewhat hurt when his

not state that he died at Detroit.
So that he may have died at
his old home, or in what is now Tlon- manded her to go to Detroit. Los-
were roe county, or he might have gone on sing, the historian, tells of her jour-
the whaling voyage and never re-

ney as follows: "Thinly clad, hav-

father's store was destroyed by the turned, and his estate could have been ing been robbed by the Indians, bhe


proceeded to Detroit in £tn open tnaln-
eau. where she found several
friends and relatives. Her daughter
Elizabeth, wife of John Anderson, of
Monroe, also went to Detroit with her
three children, believing it was safer
there than at Monroe. When Mrs.
Rachel Knaggs was asked how it hap-
pened that she did not freeze, she re-
plied, "My spunk kept me warm."

She subsequently returned to ner
home in Frenchtown, but afterward
removed to her farm on the Raisin,
some seven miles above Monroe. For
several years she had a store at Green

Bay, Wis., to which place she paid
periodical visits. She dealt in furs
principally, and was also a large
dealer in bears' oil, which was much
in demand in those days for dressing
the hair. By her will, written In
French, and dated Dec. 4. 1S13. she gave
adjoining farms, each fronting three
arpents on the River Raisin, to her
sons, Thomas and William Knaggs,
with a condition that they pay Ave dol-
lars each to her daughters, Elizabeth
Knaggs Anderson and Rebecca
Knaggs, her son, Whitmore Knaggs,
and the children of her de-

^.-eased son, George Knaggs, who
died in Detroit in 1809. The balajice of
her estate she willed to be divided be-
tween her sons. Wli'liam and James.
She appointed Gilbert Lacroix as ex-
ecutor. It is certain that she died in
1.S15, as the will was admitted, and let-
ters of administration issued on July
1 of that year by George McDougall,
of Detroit, register. The records do
not show where she died, but Mrs.
Keysor, widow of George Knaggs, of
Maumee, says that she died at Green

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryRobert B. ed RossHistory of the Knaggs family of Ohio and Michigan. Historical, biographical and genealogical → online text (page 1 of 14)