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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
John B. Kniffen

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[This information is from pp. 167-169 of Biographical Review Volume XXXIII: Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York (Boston: Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1899). It is in the collection of the Grems-Doolittle Library of the Schenectady County Historical Society at 920 BIO.]

John B. Kniffen, late a leading hopgrower of Middleburg, N. Y., and, at the time of his death, on January 25, 1899, the only hop-buyer with an office in the town, was born at New Baltimore, Greene County, on July 5, 1835. He was a son of John and Sophia (Crook) Kniffen, and descended from a line of agriculturists sprung from English stock. His first ancestor in this country came from England to a farm in New Jersey. His grandfather Kniffen removed from New Jersey to this State in early manhood, and spent the remainder of his life in New Baltimore, where he died in extreme old age, lacking only three years of having reached a full century.

John Kniffen, father of John B., was born in New Baltimore, and was there educated in the public schools. He was reared to a farmer's life, but also did some work at the stone cutter's trade. Although strong and healthy, with every prospect of a long life, he was stricken down in the fulness of manhood, and died at the age of fifty-three from typhoid fever. He was a zealous member of the Methodist Episcopal church, one of the trustees of the society, and for many years a class leader. He was a noted exhorter and a powerful man in prayer. His wife, Sophia, who died at the age of seventy-six, was also a lifelong and active Methodist. She was the mother of four sons and five daughters, and of these nine children the subject of this sketch was the latest survivor.

John B. Kniffen received a practical education in the public schools, and during vacation time worked on his father's farm, where he learned the art of successful farming. At eighteen years of age he came to Middleburg, where until he reached his majority he worked by the month on farms, and at the same time made arrangements so that he was enabled to attend school during the winter. At the age of twenty-one he purchased a farm of some forty acres, which formed the nucleus of his later splendid property of over three hundred acres. As a farmer he was very successful; and he and his son, who was in business with him for a number of years, were looked upon as two of the most progressive agriculturists in this region. The Kniffen estate embraces practically two farms, both of which are in a high state of cultivation. All the buildings on the farm upon which he lived, and also the house where his son lives, were built by Mr. Kniffen. In 1860 he began the culture of hops in a small way, being among the first here to engage in that enterprise. He constantly increased the scale of his operations, and in his later years had some fifty acres devoted to hop-growing, producing annually some one hundred and twenty-five bales of hops. In 1880 he began buying hops, and from that time on he was interested with Charles S. May, who is proprietor of one of the largest hop markets in Albany. Mr. Kniffen was the first man in Middleburg to become a buyer, and he was latterly, as before mentioned, the only one in town who had an office. He raised grain of different kinds on his farm.

Mr. Kniffen was married in 1855 to Tabitha Wormer, a native of Middleburg, and daughter of John Wormer, a successful and prominent farmer of this place. Of the four sons and four daughters born of this union, seven children are living, namely: Emery W., who was in business with his father; Erskine; Estella; Amoretta; Evelyn; Frank; and Elliot. Erskine, who married Molly Bowman, is in the insurance business connected with the Mutual Reserve Friend Association. Estella is the wife of Luther Jackson, overseer of the North Shore Road at South Schenectady, and is the mother of seven children — John, Flora, Frank, Harry, Claude, Clarence, and Ford, who is deceased. Amoretta married Charles D. Mitchell, who is in a shoe factory at Binghamton. They have a family of three children — by name, Belle, Clifford, and Forrest. Evelyn is the wife of Clarence McBain, a member of the firm of Bassler & Co., of Middleburg, and she is the mother of four children — Nellie, John, Louisa, and Alice Leona. Frank, who also is a farmer and was interested in business with his father, married Dora Crosby, and has one daughter, Delia. Elliot Kniffen resides near the old home, and is interested in bee culture, in poultry raising, and in general farming. He married Ella Van Voras.

In politics Mr. Kniffen was a stanch Democrat. He was a member of Middleburg Lodge, No. 663, F. & A. M., with which he had been connected for twenty years, and he was buried with Masonic honors. He followed the religious faith of which his father was so devoted a disciple, and was one of the strong men in the Methodist church at Middleburg. He was a member of it for forty years, and his wife and nearly all of his children are members. At the time the new church edifice was erected, Mr. Kniffen contributed a thousand dollars toward its construction.

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