John Adam Knapp

This is a story about John Adam KNAPP, the “other” Knapp brother.

John Adam Knapp was born 21 Oct 1800 in Wald-Erlenbach, Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany. He died 14 May 1885.  He arrived in America in August of 1832. He resided in Randolph Twp. on a farm located on sections 59 and 69. He was a shoemaker and farmer.

He was also Franz Adam KNAPP‘s youngest brother.

If you read the genealogy information about Franz and his family I posted on the About tab of this blog, you can see that there were THREE John Knapps born to this family.

This was not an uncommon practice.

Infant mortality was high and children often died before they reached adolescence – let alone adulthood. Families often kept naming children the same name until it appeared one of them would survive. This apparently was the case here, since the first Johann did not live past his second birthday. The second Johann did survive, but perhaps he had a different middle name than John Adam did.

Still, the Knapp brothers lived in close proximity to each other. If you check the Document Gallery section of this site, I have posted an excerpt of the 1840 U.S. Census, which lists both brothers living a few doors down from each other in Randolph.

The following account of John Adam KNAPP’s journey to America and his life in the United States is taken from Msgr. Pfeil’s Historical Sketch and Reminiscences of St. Joseph’s Church (1931).

John Adam Knapp, one of the pioneer settlers of Randolph Township, Portage County, Ohio, and one of the founders of St. Joseph’s parish, was born in Wald-Erlenbach, a small village in Hessen Darmstadt, Germany, in the year 1800. His early youth saw the sufferings and ravages of the incessant wars of the Napoleonic era; two of his older brothers having participated in the ill-fated Russian campaign. Like numbers of others, who found the struggle for a decent livelihood a severe one, he resolved to emigrate from Germany to the United States, whose opportunities were attracting large numbers of people from many parts of war-torn Europe.

After a voyage on a sailing ship lasting three months, during which the immigrants were forced to endure great privation and hardships, he and his family landed at Baltimore in the summer of 1832. Pursuing their journey overland by ox team and canal-boat, they finally, after weeks of weary travel, reached Warren, Ohio, where the office of the Connecticut Land Company was located. Warren was then a frontier town of a few log houses. Beyond lay the wilderness, with here and there a little village and the widely scattered cabins of the hardy and daring early settlers. Wild animals abounded and roving Indians were frequent visitors at the white men’s cabins. They were mostly peaceful, as there is no record of violence or open hostilities in this section at the time of which we are speaking.

Leaving his family at Warren, he started out afoot and alone, to find a brother, Francis Adam, who had come to American a year previous and had located in a German Catholic settlement in Randolph Township, somewhere to the southwest of Warren. He travelled through the dense woods, following paths and trails marked by blazed trees, inquiring, with the scant English he had acquired since landing at Baltimore, for the location of this settlement at the few habitations he found on his toilsome trip, and on the second day was told of such a place a few miles farther on. Pushing on, with renewed hope and courage, he arrived at a cabin in a little clearing. Going to the door, he saw a pair of shoes setting outside, and looking closer he recognized them as a pair he had made in Germany for his brother before the latter started for America. (Mr. John Knapp was a shoemaker by trade.) His joy can well be imagined after his anxious search had ended so successfully. Returning to Warren, he bought a parcel of land near his brother’s, and immediately settled on it with his family.

Clearing the land was the next job. A truly Herculean task it was, as the land was so densely wooded that trees had to be cut down to provide a place to build the first log cabin. Their method of clearing the land was to cut the felled trees, some of them of immense size, into logs of a length that could be drawn or rolled into piles and then set afire after they had dried sufficiently to burn. Having no ox team of his own during the first few years, he would hire a team for such work as rolling logs and plowing the little patches cleared. Mr. Knapp often mentioned Thomas Gorby as the best worker with his ox team. Mr. Gorby was the grandfather of Gorby Simmison, who was named after Gorby.

The hardships and privations which the early pioneers endured would deter most of the present generation from attempting to gain a livelihood under such conditions.

During the winter months Mr. Knapp would work at his trade in making new shoes and repairing old ones. Sometimes he would make a round of professional visits among the scattered pioneer homes with his tools and materials in a bag slung across his shoulders, and as money was scarce, would get some provisions, chickens or a meal in exchange for patching or half-soling the worn footwear of the settlers. Some years afterward when they had a few cattle, these would sometimes go astray and be lost for days in the dense woods. Fresh cows which had not been milked during such straying periods would be in bad condition to furnish the supply of milk which constituted an important part of the diet of the family, especially of the children.

As the years passed, the strip of cleared land grew larger and with it the crops increased. Expenses also increased with the growing family, which now numbered seven children, six girls and one boy.

The children were Nancy (Mrs. John Trares), Elizabeth (Mrs. Nicholas Horning), Eva (Mrs. Joseph Paulus), Peter, Mary,(Mrs. John J. Wise), Rosa (Mrs. Bernard Wise) and Margaret, who never married.

The only son, Peter, named above, died at the age of twenty years. Mrs. Knapp, wife of John, Elizabeth, nee Andes, died about 1872. After her death, the youngest daughter, Margaret, kept house for her father until his death in 1885.

The original homestead passed into the hands of his daughter Nancy and her husband (John Trares). They kept the house and barn, both of which are still standing and are kept in good condition by the present owner, Frank W. Paulus, a grandson of the Mr. Knapp who is the subject of this paper, and has spared neither labor nor expense in adding buildings and modern improvements; such as a water supply, electric light and power, etc., thus affording all the comforts and convenience of a city home. It is gratifying to the numerous descendants to see the old ancestral home that witnessed the early struggles and indomitable courage and patient toil of this pioneer family in hands that preserve the ideals of its founder.

During the first few years after their arrival, the spiritual needs of this little colony of Catholics were attended by missionaries who, travelling on horseback, made a circuit of the widely scattered missions and visited these outposts of civilization at more or less regular intervals. Some of these missionaries later were raised to the episcopate, among them being the saintly Bishop Neumann of Philadelphia and Archbishop Henni of Milwaukee, and Bishop Rappe, the first bishop of the Cleveland Diocese. The home of ‘Shoemaker’ Knapp (for so was he known among his friends) was for a long time the stopping place for these missionaries during their visits, and later when a resident priest was appointed, he lived there until a parish house was built.

When his eyesight began failing when he was quite advanced in years, Mr. Knapp consulted a specialist, Dr. Portman of Canton, who frankly told him he could not hold out much hope for restoring his vision. Eager to recover at least partial sight, he risked an operation, which, however, was not successful, and caused him much suffering and left him totally blind during the last six years of his life. He bore this affliction with patience and resignation. He died, well-fortified with the sacraments of Holy Mother Church, in June, 1885.

May he rest in peace with his God whom he served so faithfully.

Only a few points need clarification. His first land purchase was not until June 6, 1838, when he bought 127 acres in Randolph Twp. secs. 59 and 69 from Isaac Vangorder of Warren in Trumble Co. (price: $414). His wife actually died July 2, 1871, and he died in May, not June. Elizabeth Andes was baptized Ap. 18, 1804. She married John, then a shoemaker in Erbach, at St. Peter’s, Heppenheim. He was baptized Oct. 21, 1800, the son of John Knapp and Anna Elizabeth Jacob. (According to an article in the Portage Co. Democrat (1875) he was also born on Oct. 21.) The Knapps were an astonishingly prolific clan, but the other children of John Sr. and Anna Jacob are outside the scope of this history. And, mercifully, all the descendants of John Jr. and Elizabeth Andes are by way of their daughters and have names other than Knapp. A. Nancy (Trares) 1830-96 B. Elizabeth (Horning) 1832-1901 C. Eva (Paulus) 1837-1906 D. Peter 1839-1860 E. Mary (Wise) 1842-1923 F. Rosina (Wise) 1844-1902 G. Margaret 1847-1926

Endnotes

1.  http://birkenhoerdt.l-s-s.net/getperson.php?personID=I30845&tree=suedpfalz

2.  Death Certificate

3.  Information extracted from the book: The Descendants of PETER ANDES SR. and MARIA ANNA ARTZ Through Four Generations in America Including the History of the Schroeder (Schrader) Family by Richard J. Schrader and Mary Jayne Aylward 1983 Revised Ed.

4.  From a family tree on ancestry.com

http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/4230/person/-217058512/media/1

Just in case you’re wondering where Wald-Erlenbach, Hesse is in Germany, you can take a peek at this map. FYI: it is located south of Frankfurt and Wiesbaden in Germany.

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