Born in Carthage on December 17, 1884, Frank Knell, Sr., was a child of Edward and Susan Wheelock Knell. His father was born in Canada of Swiss immigrants and came to Carthage as a furniture maker and soon branched into casket making, which led him to found Knell Undertaking Company, later known as Knell Mortuary. Frank attended local schools and business college in Kansas City before joining the family business. He went on to become president of Knell Mortuary and oversaw its many innovations in the first half of the 20th century. He was a true progressive, always insisting that the Knell firm have the latest equipment and keep abreast of all developments. Early on he was taught to “scorn a falsehood and despise a man who would make a misrepresentation”. He fully subscribed to the Knell motto: “Service measured not by gold but by the Golden Rule”.
He married Miss Louise Meuschke of Sedalia in 1915. Together they raised five children: Dorothy, who is still living in Carthage, Mary Louise, and triplets Helen, Frank, Jr., and Robert, who were quite a novelty. Frank was a ready candidate for any effort to help his hometown. He served on the Carthage School Board for eleven years, many of that as president and was an energetic member on governing boards of many fraternal and charitable organizations, including Rotary Club, where he was a founding member, Knights of Pythias, United Commercial Travelers, I. O. O. F. , and the Elks. He was also a member of the Masonic Blue Lodge and a 32nd Degree Mason. He was a member of First Methodist Church and Carthage YMCA, always assisting in campaigns for the latter.
The Chamber of Commerce always had a strong supporter in Frank Knell. He was an ardent baseball fan and served as a director of Carthage Baseball Association from its formation until the day of his death. He was one of the leaders that brought organized baseball to Carthage, and was an owner of several minor league teams in the city.
Having inherited from his father the love of a good horse, a highlight of Franks’s life became his work with the Knell Fair. His father had revived the old Carthage Fair and built a race track with pavilion and exhibits on his farm northeast of the city. The fair was immensely popular in Carthage and Frank, his sister Emma, and later his sons, continued in leadership as the fair evolved to rival the attendance at the Missouri State Fair.
Frank became critically ill with cancer in early 1943 and died on March 31 at the early age of 58. The Carthage Press noted: “In the death of Frank Knell Carthage suffers an irreparable loss”. In testament to the esteem in which he was held, his funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Carthage. He is buried in the family plot in Park Cemetery.