August Christian Knabe (1828-1903)

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August Christian Knabe (1828 - 1949), originally from Hamburg, was a successful business owner in the city, running a mattress factory for 33 years.

August Christian Knabe
Born4 Mar 1828
Died14 Feb 1903
Adelaide, South Australia
  • Hamburger 1828-1861
  • British Subject 1861-1903
  • upholsterer
  • mattressmaker


by Benjamin Hollister

In Germany

August Christian Knabe, known as August, was born on 4 March 1828 in Hamburg to August Matthias Knabe and Johanne Dorothea Lucia née Schultz. Little is known about his early years, to date, but his obituary stated that the death of his parents led to him migrating to South Australia. He left behind at least one younger brother, who he mentioned in his will.[1] August Christian left Hamburg aboard the Steinwaerder on the 30th of August 1848.[2]

In Australia

Knabe arrived at Port Adelaide on the 12th of January 1849. By August 1849 he was working for a William Gee, although not always being paid, with a claim brought before the courts for £3 in unpaid wages. He answered the call of the Victorian goldfields and left South Australia aboard the Lysander on the 23rd of December 1851 but, as with many of his fellow colonists, was unsuccessful in making a strike.

By the 22nd of July 1852, August had returned to South Australia and soon set up his mattress factory on Morphett Street, a business he operated until 1886 when he was forced to retire due to ill-health, possibly due to effects of flocking on his lungs. He married Elizabeth Jane Williams at Holy Trinity Anglican Church on 22 July 1852, and the couple had 13 children before Elizabeth’s death in 1876. 6 of the children survived to adulthood, although Joseph August died at the age of 21, with 2 sons and 3 daughters marrying and having families.

Knabe was naturalised in 1861, and listed himself as an upholsterer on Morphett St, Adelaide.[3]

August remarried in 1879 to Frances Anne Hawkes (née Johns), a widow, and lived at his Elizabeth Street residence in the city until his death in 1903.


August married Elizabeth Jane Williams in Adelaide in 1852. The couple had the following children:

Name Birth Death Spouse
Elizabeth Mary 30 April 1853 Adelaide 30 December 1853 Adelaide (unmarried)
John Heinrich

(Johann Heinrich; John Henry)

2 April 1854 Norwood 18 March 1919 Adelaide Hannah Pengelley 1879 Adelaide

Eva Minna Hubble 1895 Adelaide

Elizabeth Mary 11 August 1855 Adelaide 25 January 1927 Kensington SA George Rowland Edwards 1875 Adelaide
Johanna Ellen 11 May 1857 Adelaide 9 December 1945 Kensington SA Joseph Dixon 1876 Adelaide
William August 20 June 1860 Adelaide 25 August 1862 Adelaide (unmarried)
Joseph August 25 September 1862 Adelaide 10 Jun 1884 Adelaide (unmarried)
Mary Williams 30 June 1864 Adelaide 6 May 1875 Adelaide (unmarried)
Matilda Jane 21 February 1866 Adelaide 31 May 1940 Adelaide Thomas William Skewes 1886 Adelaide
Susan Alice 6 May 1868 Adelaide 12 May 1875 Adelaide (unmarried)
Edward Ernest 25 September 1869 Adelaide 13 January 1870 Adelaide (unmarried)
Hernest Christian

(Ernst Christian)

8 Dec 1870 Adelaide 3 June 1936 Adelaide Annie Julian 1896 Broken Hill
Flowrense Esther 18 September 1874 Adelaide 21 November 1874 Adelaide (unmarried)
Charles Hermann

(Charles Henry)

23 July 1876 Adelaide 23 December 1876 Adelaide (unmarried)

August's wife Elizabeth Jane died in 1876 in Adelaide and Johann married the widow Frances Anne Hawkes (née Johns) in 1879. The couple had no children.

Residences in the City

Dates Place Current Address Co-ordinates

Work in the City

Dates Place Current Address Co-ordinates

Published Obituaries

From the Advertiser and Express and Telegraph, both on Monday 16 February 1903[4][5]:

The death occurred, after a lingering illness extending over 10 years, on Saturday, of Mr. August Christian Knabe, of Elizabeth-street, Adelaide. He was born at Hamburg, Germany, on March 4, 1828, and having lost his parents came to Australia in the ship Steinwerder, arriving on January 12, 1849. His life for the first few years was one of many hardships, until the Victorian diggings were discovered, and with many others from South Australia he decided to seek his fortune over the border. He was, however, not very successful. He afterwards went into business in Morphett-street, Adelaide, as mattress and bedding manufacturer, and remained there for 33 years. In 1886 he was obliged, owing to failing health, to give up business, and had from that time till his death lived a quiet life, He was connected with the Pirie-streèt Methodist Church from the day of its opening, 51 years ago, and with the exception of the last year or two had been a constant attendant. He was of a retiring disposition and never took an active part in public matters. He left a wife, three daughters, and two sons. One son is Mr. J. H. Knabe, of Messrs. Pengelley & Knabe, and the other is Mr. Ernest Knabe. The daughters are Mesdames George Edwards, Jos. Dixon, and Thomas Skuce. At the Pirie-street Church last evening fitting reference was made to the death of Mr. Knabe, and the hymn "The Christian's good-night" was sung by the choir.

From the Australische Zeitung, Wednesday 18 February 1903[6]:

Herr August Christian Knabe, aus Hamburg gebürtig, wo er im Jahre 1828 geboren wurde. In 1848 wanderte er nach Südaustralien aus und hat seitdem fast ununterbrochen in Adelaide gewohnt. Der Verstorbene hinterläßt eine Witwe, 3 Töchter und 2 Söhne, Herrn Ernst C. Knabe und Herrn Johann Heinrich Knabe, welcher Teilhaber der bekannten Leichmbestatterfirma Pengelley & Knabe ist.

[Translation by Benjamin Hollister: Mr. August Christian Knabe, native of Hamburg, where he was born in 1828. He emigrated to South Australia in 1848 and has lived in Adelaide almost continuously since then. The deceased leaves behind a widow, 3 daughters and 2 sons, Mr. Ernst C. Knabe and Mr. Johann Heinrich Knabe, who is a partner in the well-known undertakers Pengelley & Knabe.]

From the Adelaide Observer, Saturday 21 February 1903[7]:

Mr. August Christian Knabe, an old resident of Adelaide, died on Saturday, after a lingering illness extending over 10 years. The deceased gentleman was born at Hamburg, Germany, on March 4, 1828, and came to South Australia in the ship Stinwerder on January 12, 1849. For the first few years he worked on farms. Afterwards he went to the Victorian diggings, but was not very successful in the search for gold. He finally settled in Morphett street at his trade of mattress and bedding manufacturer, and after 33 years in business, which was characterized by strict integrity, he secured a competency. Owing to failing health he was obliged to retire from business in 1886, and since then had lived a quiet and secluded life. He was a member of the Pirie Street Methodist Church since the opening day, 51 years ago, and until the last year or two was a constant attendant at that place of worship. Mr. Knabe has left a widow, three daughters (Mrs. Edwards, Mrs. Dixon, and Mrs. Skuce), and two sons (Messrs. Hernest C. Knabe and John Henry Knabe, of the firm of Pengelley & Knabe). Reference was made in the Pirie Street Church on Sunday evening to the death of Mr. Knabe.


  1. "Australia, South Australia, Will and Probate Records," database, FamilySearch ( : 26 September 2019), August Christian Knabe, 11 Mar 1903; citing Will, South Australia, Australia, Probate and Administration Books, Supreme Court of South Australia, Adelaide; FHL microfilm 103618642.
  2. "SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE". Adelaide Observer. Vol. VII, , no. 290. South Australia. 13 January 1849. p. 1. Retrieved 9 May 2022 – via National Library of Australia.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  3. National Archives of Australia: [South Australia] General Registry Office; A823, Enrolled Certificates of Naturalization and Memorials, 01 Jan 1859 - 31 Dec 1866; 5/1861, KNABE, August Christian, 1859 - 1861.
  4. "PERSONAL". The Advertiser. Vol. XLV, , no. 13, 831. South Australia. 16 February 1903. p. 4. Retrieved 17 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  5. "THE RAINFALL". The Express And Telegraph. Vol. XL, , no. 11, 808. South Australia. 16 February 1903. p. 1. Retrieved 17 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  6. "Südaustralische Angelegenheiten". Australische Zeitung (in Deutsch). Vol. LV, , no. 7. South Australia. 18 February 1903. p. 6. Retrieved 17 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  7. "OBITUARY". Adelaide Observer. Vol. LX, , no. 3, 203. South Australia. 21 February 1903. p. 34. Retrieved 17 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)

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