Throughout its history, Richland County has produced or been the home to a wide variety of individuals that have made important contributions to the world. 1812Blockhouse has been sharing their stories in a series we call “Richland Roots.” For other Richland Roots stories, click here.
A woman referred to as one of the leading American businesspersons of the early 20th century received her own start in pre-Civil War Mansfield.
Born in 1857 to David and Amanda Markward, Rose Markward grew up in a house which stood on the southwest corner of West Fourth and North Mulberry Streets, where the Richland County Engineer and Title Office now sits. Her father was a druggist and was doing quite well; the 1860 census shows a high valuation for the family home and also states that the family had a domestic employee.
The Markwards lived in Mansfield until the 1870s.
Soon after Rose’s marriage to Charles Knox, Rose began making homemade gelatin in her kitchen. Charles was a born marketer, and he knew that the couple could be on to something important — a gelatin that could be granulated and thereby made a staple of cooking. In 1896, the couple moved to Johnstown, New York, where they started the Knox Gelatin Company in a four story factory building.
For the time, the couple were remarkably equal in running the affairs of the business. Charles shared all details with his wife, and Rose became savvy in budgeting and handling money. In 1908, Charles died, leaving Rose a 50 year old widow with two sons too young to take over the company. At the time, a woman running such a large concern was unusual, but Rose was ready for the task.
Almost immediately, there were changes starting with the elimination of separate factory entrances for men and women. She became a champion of labor rights, giving her workers a five day work week and two weeks of paid vacation — something unheard of at the time.
By 1915, the Charles Knox Gelatin Company had tripled in size. By the time of her death in 1950, Rose Knox had received numerous awards and honors, and her story had become known nationwide.
While Charles and Rose Knox, as well as Rose’s parents, are buried in Johnstown, New York, Rose’s grandparents, Samuel and Mary Markward, are buried in Mansfield Cemetery.
After being renamed Knox Gelatine, the company was eventually purchased by Kraft Foods. Many of you will remember the treat “knox blocks” but may not know of the local connection.