One of them was a long lost photo he’s been looking for ever since he started doing historical research on Joseph S. Knobbe, Sr., and his siblings in 2009. It is the wedding photo of Joseph S. Knobbe, Sr., with his first wife, Anna Maria (Henke) Knobbe, taken in 1879. This is a rare photo since she died at the young age of 41 on June 30, 1897, after giving birth to seven children. Knobbe, Sr., found himself as a widower raising six kids.
In 1897, his sister-in-law, Maria Anna (Keeven) Henke, became a widow with five children. Three years later, Knobbe, Sr., married his sister-in-law and they formed a blended family of 11 children. Together, they had one son, Joseph S. Knobbe, Jr., on April 26, 1902.
In April 2013, several cousins and their spouses, all Knobbe descendents, gathered at Busken’s home in Liberty. The purpose was to exchange old family photos, memorabilia and interesting stories passed down from generation to generation. Mary Margaret Noll brought many of the photos she found in an attic trunk belonging to her maiden aunt’s estate who was the daughter of August Knobbe, one of Joseph Knobbe, Sr.’s, four brothers. To Busken’s surprise, one of them was the elusive wedding photo that was the missing piece to his Knobbe family genealogy project.
According to Busken, “When I started my book on the historial research of my great-grandfather Joseph S. Knobbe, Sr., and his siblings, a lot of family pictures surfaced including the wedding photos of his siblings. But I could never find the main one of my great-grandparents. My father always told me to keep looking because there’s one out there to find. I continued working on my book with this hope in my heart and now I’m proud to say its finally in my possession. It brings closure to the years of genealogical research I did to document my family’s legacy for my nine grandchildren, and a tenth expected in September.”
The other two photos are just as remarkable. One shows Busken’s great-grandfather, Joseph S. Knobbe, Sr., at the age of 15. Several family members confirm that Knobbe, Sr., kept this photo in his wallet until his death in 1934. In 1877, at the age of 19, he immigrated to America from Wettrup, Germany. When he arrived in the St. Louis area to live with relatives, he had little clothing and only $25 to his name. Through his strong work ethics and perseverance, he was able to accrue over 300 acres of fertile farmland in Hazelwood, encompassing the area where the Village Square Shopping Center and Hazelwood West High School now sit. He became a prosperous potato farmer, raising 12 children from blended families and serving as a stockholder of the Citizen’s Bank of Florissant and later as Director from 1913 to 1920. Knobbe, Sr., was also a member of the Catholic Central Union (Verein) of America, the first nationwide association of Catholic Men’s societies in the United States.
The third photo shows Joseph S. Knobbe, Sr., posing with his three other brothers: Clement; August: and Benedict. August Knobbe lived in the St. Louis area with Joseph and started the Tower Grove Dairy back in 1894. All three photos will be added to the collection of photos previously donated by Busken to the Hazelwood Historic Preservation Commission of the Knobbe children who were raised in the home.
The Knobbe House is one of three historic structures uniquely preserved at Hazelwood’s historic Brookes Park, 320 Brookes Drive. This home was built in the mid-1800s and owned originally by Bernard Henke, a German farmer. Joseph Knobbe, Sr., came to work for the Henke family in 1877 and in 1879 married Henke’s daughter, Anna Maria. After being in the Knobbe family for more than 100 years, the house was donated to the City of Hazelwood in 1995. Later that same year, this farmhouse was moved from its original location near what is now Emterprise Leasing (near Village Square Shopping Center) to Brookes Park on the other side of I-270.
The house was restored in 2007 for community rentals and social events. In 2010, the City of Hazelwood received the Adaptive Reuse Award from the St. Louis County Historic Buildings Commission for its restoration efforts in preserving the historic structure for ongoing use. It is currently being used as the liaison office for Emerald Automotive, which intendeds to make Hazelwood its North American manufacturing hub for its t-001 — the world’s first all new, extended-range, electric fleet vehicle with zero compromise.