Women of the County
Addie CHILSON Knapp, Southport's First Woman Supervisor
Chemung County NY
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Written Virginia R. WHEELER McElroy
Southport Town Historian
Dated: April 25, 2001
Photo of Addie with her 1909 Pine City Students.
Submitted by Lee KINNAN Fazzari
See School Page for label

In this day and age we recognize more and more the role women play in the work force and our government. But in 1929 it was uncommon for a woman to be appointed Supervisor of the Town of Southport and then to be elected in November of 1929 and again in 1931 on her own. I was privileged to know this woman and her name was Addie Chilson Knapp. The records indicate that this in the only woman that has ever been Supervisor in the Town of Southport.

Addie Chilson was born in 1883 in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of  Adelbert and Mary E Hancock Chilson. In her young adult life, she taught school at the Pine City School, see attached picture dated 1909.

Addie married Leman C. Knapp on January 10, 1912. Addie was 29 and Leman was 31, her first marriage and his second, being widowed. Leman was born in 1881 in Wells, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, son of Judson and Ella Coursor Knapp. He removed to Chemung County with his parents when he was a youth and had since resided at the homestead on the South Creek Road where he conducted a prosperous farming and dairying business.

In 1914, Leman and Addie were living in Wellsburg, New York when their daughter Thelma was born.

On the November 9, 1921 General Election, Leman Knapp ran for Supervisor for the Town of Southport, winning with a vote of 553 over E. F. Chamberlain with 540 votes and Eli Peasley with 10 votes. Ernest Everett was the Town Clerk at the time, having the office in his home on Pennsylvania Avenue. Leman ran again in 1923 against Elijah Chamberlain, in 1925 against Ernest Wilson, and again in 1927 against Elijah Chamberlain. But tragedy struck in February of 1929, with the death of Leman Knapp.

The minutes of the March 21, 1929 Town Board meeting read as "Meeting of the Town

Board of Southport was held at the Booth on Laurel Street. The following were present:

Dickinson, Simpson, Curren, Kiengle and Everett. The meeting was opened by the Town Clerk Everett at 8:00 PM. Board and audience paid tribute to the memory of deceased Leman C Knapp, Supervisor.

Motion was made and moved by Joseph Kiengle, seconded by Thomas Curren that Mrs. Addie C Knapp be appointed Supervisor of the Town of Southport to fill the unexpired term of office of Leman C Knapp, deceased. Motion was carried. Supervisors account and books were then audited and found correct.

Addie Chilson Knapp was warmly welcomed as Supervisor. The Town realized that the young widow was well qualified to fill the position not only because she had helped and supported her husband while he was Supervisor, but because of her teaching ability, she was well organized and efficient in what she endeavored to do and they knew she would faithfully fulfilled the duties of the office. Meetings were sometimes held in her home on Yale Street.

Addie ran on her own ticket in 1929 winning with 1107 votes against Elijah Chamberlain’s 617 votes. Mrs. Knapp also ran again in 1931 winning with 1050 votes against Christian Wiesberg’s 434 votes.

After Addie retired from political life, she married Paul Welch on October 25, 1934.

This information was taken from the Southport Marriage Records of 1934, Record No. 69.

Mr. Welch was the son of William and Mary Sullivan Welch and at the time was living at 708 Pennsylvania Avenue. I was privileged to know her as "Grandma Welch", living across the street from her on Yale Street. She was a kind and sensitive lady, always caring about her neighbors and community. I spent many hours at her home playing with her granddaughter Joan Mourhess. I was not aware of her political affiliations at that time, although I knew she was interested in everything the Town was doing and kept an "eye" on them. But it wasn’t until I went to work for the Town Clerks Office that I stumbled on this information while reading the old minute books researching for something, as we often have to do.

Addie Chilson Knapp Welch passed away in 1980 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery with Leman Knapp and Paul Welch.

Resource: Town of Southport Marriage Book

Town of Southport Minute Books 1921-1933

Personal information

Picture of Pine City School from Lee Kinnan Fazzari taken off the Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice - Internet Site at http://www.rootsweb.com/~srgp/index.html

Joyce, (July 2006)

Thank you for your website on the tri-counties genealogy.  It was such a treat to run across it.

You have the story of Addie Chilson Knapp Welch who is my Great Grandmother on my Mother's side.

There are a couple of errors on that page.

1.  Addie Chilson was born in 1882 (not 1883).  My Mother (Joan Mourhess Youngman) remembers this because when Grandfather Welch would say he was born in 1880, Grandmother would say, "I was born in eighteen eighty two" (but is sounded as if she were saying "too")

2.  Addie Chilson Knapp Welch died in 1960 (not 1980).  Sadly, the year I was born.

3.  According to my Mother, Paul Welch is buried with his 1st wife in Troy, PA (not with Leman and Addie).

You know, according to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity time travel is theoretically possible.  On your website it is really possible...thanks again for the experience of time travel.

Jerry Youngman

Chemung County NY

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By Joyce M. Tice

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