Remembering one of the “Tom Sawyer’s” Of Cowansville Quebec

Remembering one of the “Tom Sawyer’s” Of Cowansville Quebec


Emmanuel United Church Cemetery on Main Street in Cowansville- Linda Knight Seccaspina

My uncle Frederick Arthur Knight was born in 1922 in Cowansville, Quebec to Frederick John (1890-1967) and Mary Louise Deller Knight (1894-1975). There is no written record that my Uncle Fred existed anywhere, not even on genealogy pages.  He died at age 19 in 1941 and sadly, I only know a little of his story.

When you forget to talk about the past, or even ignore it on purpose, it vanishes into thin air—unless you are someone like me. I know I exist to tell the stories of memories and to remind you that every little thing that transpired in your family matters. Today, after not finding  a trace of him, not even in a newspaper obituary, I decided to write what little I was told about him.

My Grandparents emigrated from England to Canada after the  first world war with little baggage, except for Fred, who also transported his aging Mother, Mary Silley Knight (1858-1944). There was never any doubt that the family brought along their love for each other and their British stiff upper lips. While being extremely loving people they never lingered on anything in life. The young couple were brought up during World War 1 where Mary had to sometimes hide in manholes during the daily U.K. bombings and Fred was gassed in the trenches in France.

Their first son Fred, who was the spitting image of his father, was born in 1922 and my Father, Arthur John Knight, (1924-1983) was born two years later in 1924. There are no pictures of them, but my Grandmother said in a rare sentimental moment that her children almost killed her with their antics. Uncle Fred was apparently the leader being 2 years older and there were days my Grandmother had to hightail her short legs down to the big dye pond at Bruck Mills because the neighbours told her that her sons were going to die before lunchtime if she didn’t go get them.


Bruck Mills 1948 Cowansville Quebec–Société d’histoire de Cowansville

Bruck Mills opened in Cowansville, Quebec in 1922 as a silk mill in town and by the 1950s it employed over 100 people. Some of the material was dyed, and it was said that you could tell what shade the garments were being dyed daily by the colour of the water in the dye pond outside the mill. It was rumoured that some of the kids actually had the odd swimming contest in that pond to see who could get out the fastest when the colour of the water would change.

Fred Jr. and Arthur were not that stupid, but as far as I am concerned they were pretty high up on the food chain in not thinking straight. The both of them had built a raft at home, hauled it down the street to Bruck Mills, and maneuvered it around the dye pond like pirates my Grandmother said. Knowing how conservative my father was I would like to think that I got some of my spirit from daredevil Fred Jr.

One day Fred Jr. pleaded for a B. B. Gun for his birthday and my Grandmother was having none of it. Like the film “A Christmas Story” she told my Grandfather not to buy it for him as he was going to put his brother’s eye out. My Grandfather, the former military man, ignored my Grandmother’s pleas and did indeed buy his eldest son the gun he so wanted. Within two weeks Fred Jr. had put someone’s eye out and the victim was the neighbour’s eldest child who lost the sight in his right eye forever.



Only photo I have of Arthur J. Knight and Frederick Knight outside the South Street home in the back by the barn



That one accidental shot by Fred Jr. ended up costing my Grandfather a $1000 payment to the child’s family in the 1930s. That very day Grampy took that B. B. gun and threw it up in the attic where it remained until the day the house was torn down and it vanished into history with the rest of the South Street house.

In 1940 a Tetanus vaccination was introduced in Canada and many parents didn’t want to have their children vaccinated. My Grandmother told me that she had heard stories that a child in Dunham had gotten the inoculation and “ended up on all fours”. There is no proof regarding that statement of hers – but I know she went down to the high school daily pleading to spare her children from being vaccinated. Mary Louise Deller Knight sat in the principal’s office every single day for a month, but in the end both Arthur and Fred Jr. were inoculated.

After the inoculation Fred  Jr. got sick and died 6 months later. Each day when the doctor would come down those orange stairs from the second floor he would tell my Grandmother that they had no clue how to help her eldest child. In 1941 Frederick Alexander Knight died at the age of 19, and the only memory that was left of him was a picture of him on the wall beside the verandah door. I have no idea what happened to that photo, and the only proof that Fred Jr. was born, lived, and died in Cowansville, Quebec is on the family gravestone that sits in the Emmanuel United Church Cemetery on Main Street in Cowansville.

Every single person needs to be remembered, and today my mind replays what my heart can’t forget. My Grandparents gave me so little to remember about my Uncle Fred but maybe the key to immortality is first remembering a life that was so worth living– and today I mourn the loss of my Uncle and am writing about it for posterity. I implore you to share your family memories as these ancestors may be gone from your sight, but never your mind. Remember, you define what is important to you by what you dedicate your time to.



Vernalyn Morrow Heale sent me this just now and I am beside myself. Thank you Vernalyn

Baptismal record for Frederick



Death record for Frederick


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun

Hobos, Apple Pie, and the Depression–Tales from 569 South Street

Ashes to Ashes and Spins of the Washing Machine

The Days of Smocking and Spanish Bar Cake

Been Caught Stealing– Bank of Montreal

Angry Mobs, Wolves and Bloodsuckers –Selby Lake

Memories of UFO’s Earthquake Lights and Gale Pond

Misty Glen Mountain Snow Bunny Hop

Music in the 60s- Memories of Herman’s Hermits

Back to The Future — Twisting Your Dignity Away

Groovy Hints on How to Catch and Keep a Boy – 60’s style

The Dreams of a Sugar Plum Fairy

I Was A Free Range Child

Scrapbook Photos of Cowansville

6 Seconds of Cowansville High School – Our Miss Phelps

The Benefits of Having a Large Human Chassis for Traction

Linda and Christmas Cards– and the Lack off–This is Your Christmas Letter:)

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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