From: ANTIETAM ANCESTORS
VOLUME II, NUMBER 4
Transcribed by Cheryll Reed, April 2003
The Knepper Family.
Among the German Baptists who in 1729 accompanied their founder, Alexander Mack, from Europe to Pennsylvania was a certain Wilhelm Knepper, whose family later settled along the Antietam creek in what is now Quincy township, Franklin county. The following paragraphs constitute a mere outline of his family history, and are not presented as a complete genealogy of the Knepper family. Furthermore, conjecture and discrepancies enshroud much of the early family history, so an attempt here is made but to relate what are considered by this magazine the best versions of the conflicting and questionable data where sound conclusions cannot be reached.
For contributions of information, this magazine is indebted to the following descendants of Wilhelm Knepper: Mrs. Robert W. Cashman, of Saginaw, Mich.; Mrs. Eldon Cunningham, of Fort Wayne, Ind.; Mrs. L. R. Everhart, of Gettysburg, Pa.; Mr. John E. Geesaman, of Quincy, Pa.; and Mrs. Kathryn S. Huber, of Newtown, Pa. Further information was obtained through the kind offices of Mrs. John E. Geesaman. And The Knepper Genealogy, by the late Miss Grace E. Smith, was liberally consulted for relationships in more recent generations.
TILMANN KNEPPER departed this life April 3, 1706, aged seventy-nine years, at Domsiepen, Solingen, in the German Rhineland. He is believed to be the grandfather of Wilhelm Knepper. His widow died at Domsiepen on February 19, 1713, aged eighty-six years.
According to the records of Mrs. Eldon Cunningham, Tilmann Knepper married Christina Bogel and fathered the following children:
1. PETER, of whom presently.
2. CATHARINA (1662-1737) married Christoffel Schnittert.
3. WILHELM wed Maria Weck.
4. MARGARETHA wed Johannes Rausch.
PETER KNEPPER died October 17, 1725, aged sixty-seven years, and was buried in the Reformed Church cemetery, Solingen. At the same place, he married, May 29, 1690, Anna Maria, daughter of Johannes Fischer, of nearby Unnersberg. They had six offspring born at Unnersberg:
I. WILHELM, of whom presently.
2. CLEMENS (1693-1748) married (first) in 1724, Anna Catharine Schaff, and (second) in 1730, Catharina Cronenberg (1700-1752). He presumably was the father of Godfried Knepper who settled in Somerset county, Pa., and was the ancestor of Mrs. Charles Mark Chesnutwood, of Pasadena, Tex.
3. ANNA MARGARETHA married, April 23, 1719, Christoffe Grotthoff.
4. JOHANN PETRUS died October 28, 1703, aged seven weeks.
5. CATHARINA married Johann Peter Voes.
6. HANS PETER married, May I, 1730, Anna Maria Ascheuer.
WILHELM KNEPPER was born at Unnersberg, and was christened October 27, 1691, in the Reformed church of Solingen. In 1714, he and five other young men left the Reformed Church and, being immersed in the running waters of the river Wupper,
joined the German Baptists. Only the Lutheran, Reformed, and Catholic churches were recognised by the German govemments at that time, so on February 1, 1717, the six men were marched to a prison at Dusseldorf to await trial for espousing adult baptism. After refusing to renounce this "new" doctrine, Wilhelm Knepper and his friends were condemned to hard labour for life. Consequently, they spent nearly four years in prison at Julich, and Wilhelm's health was broken. During this period, Wilhelm, a weaver by trade, is supposed to have composed nearly four hundred hymns.
Upon his release from prison, Wilhelm Knepper migrated to Surhuisterveen, Friesland, in The Netherlands, where he married, February 22, 1723, Veronica, daughter of Ludwig Bloom (Bloem), who bore him the following offspring:
1. PETER, of whom presently.
2. ABRAHAM, of whom presently.
3. MARY wed George Adam Martin (1715-1794), a controversial minister of the German Baptist Church (from which he was excommunicated in 1762) and, afterwards, of the Seventh-Day German Baptists. In 1764, Martin conducted a successful revival in the Antietam settlement, which gave birth to the present Snow Hill Society of German Seventh-Day Baptists. He also founded a church at Stony Creek, Somerset county, where he died and lies buried.
4. CATHARlNE married John Horn, a colleague of George Adam Martin.
5. ELIZABETH ("Betty") died unmarried. On June 27,1787, she obtained the patent for a tract of land called "Maiden Hall." In her will dated March 18, 1807, and probated April 10, 1807, Elizabeth left one-half acre of "Maiden Hall" for use as a meeting-house and graveyard. This gift formed the nucleus of the present Mount Zion Cemetery in Quincy township. According to the late Corwin W. Elden, a Knepper descendant, a small meeting-house was erected on the half-acre tract in 1837, and was sometimes called "Knepper's." The church building was used in turn by the German Baptists and Seventh-Day German Baptists. In 1888 this building was replaced with the present brick structure, now occupied as a dwelling. This second building was denominated a "union church," being used by the German Baptists, Seventh-Day German Baptists, and Old Order German Baptists. Elizabeth Knepper is among many family members buried in the adjoining graveyard. She also wrote hymns, some of which were published by the Ephrata press.
Wilhelm and Veronica Knepper were among fifty-nine families who, led by Alexander Mack, set sail from Rotterdam aboard the ship Allen and arrived at Philadelphia on September aboard the ship Allen and arrived at Philadelphia on September 11, 1729. The group first settled at Germantown, but many soon pushed westward.
The Kneppers probably settled in Chester county around 1737; for in that year, according to "Wilhelm Knepper (1691-1766) and His Descendants in Franklin County, Pennsylvania," by Cathy D. Knepper, a certain William Neper obtained a warrant for one hundred fifty acres of land in Coventry township, that county
The authorities cannot agree as to the date and place of Wilhelm Knepper's death. There is evidence to suggest that during the seventeen-fifties he dwelt in the vicinity of big Conewago Church in York (now Adams) county. Some of his children were residing there at that time. In1749, William Knepper wrote a testament addressed in part to his brethren and in part. to “my children, P. K. and the remaining. When printed this writing was captioned as having been "Composed On His Death-Bed"; however, no documentary evidence has been found to support the supposition that he died at that time.
There seems to be a corollary between the ministerial peregrinations of George Adam Martin and the migration of the Knepper family. Martin preached at both Coventry and Conewago, where it has been shown that Wilhelm Knepper is supposed to have lived contemporaneously. So it is not surprising to find Kneppers in the Antietam country one year after Martin's successful revival meeting here.
In August, 1765, the proprietors of Pennsylvania warranted three adjoining tracts of one hundred acres each in Antrim township, Cumberland county (now Quincy township, Franklin county) unto a certain William Knepper, Veronica Knepper, and Abraham Knepper, respectively. Undoubtedly, this Veronica Knepper is the wife of Wilhelm; and this Abraham, the son; descendants of this family still reside on this land. But it cannot be stated with such certainty that this William Knepper is the Wilhelm Knepper, subject of the present writing, who accompanied Alexander Mack to America.
By deed dated September 22, 1772, and recorded April 6, 1793, in Franklin County Deed Book 2, page 544, a certain Josua (sic) Knepper, of Antrim township, Cumberland county, conveyed unto Abraham Knepper, of the same place, a tract of land situate in Antrim township adjoining lands of Abraham Knepper. The deed recites the land tenure as follows:
"Whereas William Knepper late of the Township and County
aforesaid deceased obtained a warrant of the honourable
proprietaries of the province aforesaid for a certain Tract or
piece of land adjoining Abraham Knepper in Antrim Town-
ship aforesaid bearing date at Philadelphia the thirtieth day
of August ill the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred
and (sic) anno 1765 which by virtue of said warrant was
surveyed unto the said William Knepper and in his life time
was seased (sic) and possessed thereof and soon after died
Intestate and the said Josua Knepper being the right heir at
law unto the estate of said William Knepper."
Peter Knepper witnessed the instrument.
The existence of this document suggests that it was not Wilhelm Knepper who obtained the 1765 warrant along with Veronica and Abraham. The fact that Joshua Knepper was this William's "right heir at law" indicates that he was the eldest surviving son, while all other deeds that have been found list the heirs of Wilhelm and. Veronica Knepper as only the five offspring enumerated above.
Furthermore, the testament of Wilhelm to "my children, P.K. and the remaining," upports the proposition that Peter was Wilhelm's eldest son. And, moreover, it is unlikely, under the prevailing laws, that Veronica Knepper could have obtained a warrant for land if she were a married woman. Wilhelm must have died before she obtained her warrant in 1765
Further warrants were issued for Knepper land in what is now Quincy township. On September 5, 1766, a certain Godfrey (see CLEMENS KNEPPER above) Nipper obtained ninety acres. On December 12, 1766, Abraham Nipper took up seventy-eight more acres, and "Francia" (probably Veronica) Nipper acquired two hundred forty-one acres. And on February 19, 1767, Godfrey Nipper obtained the warrant for yet another one-hundred-acre tract.
It is not unreasonable to suppose that Godfrey Nipper and the William Knepper who obtained the 1765 warrant were brothers, possibly sons of Clemens or Hans Peter Knepper.
Mrs. L. R. Everhart is of the opinion that Wilhelm Knepper died in 1755 in either York county or what is now Adams county. The material consulted for this article supports her theory. Nothing in the court records of Cumberland and Franklin counties hints at Wilhelm's ever having crossed the mountains into the Cumberland Valley.
Veronica Knepper died April 27, 1769. Her passing was recorded in the register of deaths at the Ephrata Cloister, and she may have died there; but the land records seem to indicate that she settled in Quincy township, Franklin county, where she owned three hundred forty-one acres of land.
In his testament, Wilhelm imparted this advice to his children:
“Pray without ceasing to Him for his good and Holy Spirit, which will lead you into all truth. Always strive against your selfishness open and secret anger, rage and concealed and open malice of the heart and the flesh; the youthful and ruinous enjoyments of the world, covetousness and the desire of riches. Let your behaviour-inward and outward-be meek and lowly Be content whether you have much or little; wish others much, and be simple and sincere toward all men, love especially the.brethren; follow gladly the counsel of the pious, yea, more than your own will. Learn diligently the good counsel of God for your souls, especially that which Jesus the Son of God himself has brought from Heaven, in doctrine and life, and also revealed through his ambassadors. 0 the passive and patient Lamb reveal himself with his spirit and mind in your hearts and entire life; follow him patiently who, when he was reviled, reviled not again, and threatened not once when he suffered; much more he prayed for his enemies, and also taught us the same.”
PETER KNEPPER, eldest son of Wilhelm, was a weaver by trade. Because there seem to be more than one Peter Knepper of his generation living in America, it is difficult to ascertain his own history: the facts can only be stated for further scrutiny.
As early as November 15, 1753, one Peter Knipper obtained a warrant for thirty acres in Cumberland county. In 1762, as members of the Big Conewago Church of the Brethren, Peter and Abraham Knipper opposed the excommunication of George Adam Martin, who thereupon removed to Stony Creek, Somerset county, In 1764, Martin, Abraham Niper, and Peter Knipper are listed as each owning fifty acres at Stony Creek.
About this time, Pontiac's War was raging, and many settlers on the Pennsylvania frontier returned eastward to escape Indian raids. This probably accounts for Martin's activities along the Antietam in 1764 and the appearance of the Kneppers on tax lists here beginning in that year.
Peter Knepper died in 1791 ,probably in what is now Quincy township, Franklin county, His death is recorded in the Ephrata register; his estate was administered in Franklin county, His wife, whose name has not been ascertained, died October 10, 1794; she bore at least the following offspring:
1. PETER married, according to "Wilhelm Knepper," Regina Wolf.
2. SOLOMON married Elizabeth, daughter of Frederick Foreman. He apparently resided in Warren township, Franklin county; for by deed dated March 31, 1830, Frederick Foreman, administrator of the estate of Solomon Knepper, of that township, sold to Henry Brewer a tract of two hundred thirty-two acres. William Knepper, eldest son of this Solomon, had petitioned for valuation of the land on August 21; 1827.
6. MARY wed Abraham Segrist
7. SUSANNAH married Henry McFerren.
ABRAHAM KNEPPER (born March 10, 1734-diedDecember 8, 1823) obtained one hundred acres of land in the present Quincy township by warrant dated August 7, 1765, and seventy-eight acres along the South Mountain in the same township by warrant dated December 12, 1766. An account of his migration prior to settling here is included in the above sketch of Peter Knepper.
Despite the pacifist doctrine of his church, Abraham Knepper served as a private in Captain Samuel Royer's Company, First Battalion, Cumberland County Militia during the Revolutionary War, and a number of his descendants have joined patriotic organisations by virtue of his service.
Some of Abraham Knepper's descendants still reside on his land. He owned considerable property, being assessed in 1782 for four hundred forty acres of land.
The 1798 Federal Tax lists Abraham Knepper, Sr., as owning a stone dwelling house thirty-four by twenty-five feet, two storeys (the upper not finished), with ten windows and one hundred thirty-five window lights; also a stone kitchen, fourteen by eleven feet. This is probably the house now owned by Mr. Lloyd Angle, which stands along the west side of the State highway leading from Waynesboro to Mont Alto at the point known as "Knepper." This house, a picture of which adorns the cover of this magazine, descended in the family of Abraham Knepper until the mid-Twentieth century. Tradition insists that construction of this place was begun while Indian raids were still occurring, and that loopholes were worked into the walls for defence of the workmen.
Abraham Knepper married Catharine (born August 26, 1738-died March 17, 1823), daughter of Jacob and Anna Barbara (Huff) Wertz. They had issue:
I. CATHARINE married John Benedict and bore three children:
(1) Peter, ancestor of Mrs. C. Robert Miller and Mr Charles Harbaugh, of Waynesboro; (2) David; and (3) Susan, who married Abraham Stoner (see Antietam Ancestors, Volume I., pages 18-19) and was the ancestor of Messrs. John Martin and Frank N. Miller, Jr., Misses Grace and Pauline Hess, Lillian Ridenour, and Hazel Snively, and Mesdames J. Warren Large, Austin Levick, and Darlene S. Weddle, all of Waynesboro. Catharine (Knepper) Benedict predeceased her father, and John Benedict married (second) Nancy, daughter of Jacob Mack and great-granddaughter of Alexander Mack.
2. DAVID, of whom presently.
3. ABRAHAM, of whom presently.
4. JOSHUA, of whom presently.
5. SAMUEL married a Bittinger and had nine offspring, namely: Mary; Matilda; Frany; Dolly; Catharine; Susan, wife of Jacob Decker; Adam; William K., who wed Mary Smetzer; and Anthony, who married Catharine Sollenberger.
Both Abraham and Catharine Knepper lie buried in Mount Zion Cemetery, and their graves are clearly marked.
DAVID KNEPPER (born June 5, 1759-died November 18, 1824) succeeded to the mansion farm of his father. He married Esther (born March 27, 1775-died December 31, 1826), daughter of Frederick Foreman. They had issue:
I. FREDERICK, born August 10, 1797, died unmarried in 1846 in Bedford county, Pa.
2. JONATHAN (born April 14, 1799-died August 1, 1856) married (first) Hannah Davis and (second) Martha McFerren.
3. DAVID, of whom presently.
4. ANDREW (born March 12, 1803-died November 20, 1846) wed Mary Ann Reed and had issue; viz.: Mary Jane, wife of John Funk; Henrietta, wife of Abraham Baker; Addie, wife of Levi Heefner; Alexander, married to Sarah Dunkle; Albert; Andrew; Cyrus; and Henry. The father lies buried in Snow Hill graveyard in Quincy township. "Bob" Knepper, the noted baseball player, is a descendant.
5. LEAH (born March 19, 1806-died April 1, 1896) married Joseph (born January 1, 1802-died November 19, 188O), son of William and Mary Catharine (Miley) Geesaman, by whom she had three sons:
(I) William, a tailor at Quincy, married (first) Elizabeth Monn and (second) Lydia Riddlesberger and was the grandfather of, among others, Mesdames Roy Linebaugh, Elder S. Myers, and George A. Clopper and Mr. Lee C. Monn, and the great-grandfather of, among others, Miss Evelyn Cook and Mr. John E. Geesaman, of Quincy, and Mrs. Thomas J. Latoff, of Coatesville, Pa.;
(2) Finley, who died unmarried near Tucson, Az. , was buried in the Mount Zion Cemetery; and
(3) Josiah Ellsworth, of Rouzerville, ancestor of, among others, Miss Isabel Geesaman, Mrs. John Kahl, and Mr. Lambert Geesaman, of Quincy, as well as Mesdames Albert LeBlanc and Dorsey Sease and Mr. Blaine Geesaman, of Rouzerville.
6. GEORGE (born February 13, 1809-died July 16, 1873) succeeded to the mansion farm. In 1830 he established the first general store at what is now Mont Alto, in which he was succeeded by the firm Knepper & Elden. He wed Mary, sister of Martha McFerren (second wife of Jonathan Knepper), and fathered three offspring:
(I) Elizabeth married Melchor Elden (see Antietam Ancestors, Volume I., page 16) and was the mother of the late George K., Mae, Corwin W., Jennie, Addie, and Clara B. Elden, well-known residents of Mont Alto;
(2) Clara K. married Wilson Reynolds, of Mont Alto, and was the mother of the late Harvey, George, Florence, and Lottie Reynolds; and (3) David Knepper. The children of George Knepper fell heir to the mansion farm and were the last of the family to own it. David Knepper and Melchor Elden were influential in having tbe Standard Oil Company in 1890 locate a pumping station along the Mont Alto Railroad on the farm. The railroad station at this point was called "Knepper." The
pumping station was in operation for upwards of half a century , and, with its huge brass works and its manicured lawn with a pond for boating, was one of the showplaces of this region in its day.
7. DEKEL (born January I, 1811-died February 4,1893) married, March 25, 1831, Henry Goshert and was the ancestor of Mrs. Eldon Cunningham. Both Dekel and Henry Goshert died at Warsaw, Kosciusko county, Ind.
8. ESTHER married Jacob Sites.
10. SARAH married Henry M. Meyers.
ABRAHAM KNEPPER (born April 23, 1766-died August 27, 1857), son of Abraham and grandson of Wilhelm, married Elizabeth Benedict (born April 16, 1767---died September 23,1834) and fathered seven offspring, viz.:
I. DANIEL, born July 4, 1781, married Elizabeth Reed and had issue:
(I) Margaret, wife of George Benedict, was the ancestor of J. Glenn Benedict, Esq., and Mr. Donald Geesaman;
(2) Susan married Martin Beatty;
(3) James Knepper, who had a son James who died at Mercersburg Academy and who was probably the James A. Knepper (born August 12, 1848-died February 15, 1870) who was first interred in the Union graveyard at Waynesboro but now lies buried in Green Hill Cemetery (see Antietam Ancestors, Volume I., page 34); and
2. GEORGE (born November 12, 1792---died February 19, 1870) married a Lowry and had five children, namely: George L.; John; Abraham, whose family moved to the West; Elizabeth, who never married; and Hannah, who died unmarried.
3. PETER (born December 14, 1793-died July, 1848) married Elizabeth Geesaman, who survived him. They had seven offspring, as follows: Sarah Ann married Daniel Bricker; Jeremiah; Levi; Cyrus married Sarah Mentzer and was the grandfather of the late Ira Knepper, of Blue Rock; Benjamin; Elizabeth married a Mentzer; and Amanda, who married a Bonner.
4. JOHN, born Dec ember 14, 1793, married twice and was the ancestor of Mr. John Knepper, formerly of Waynesboro but now of Chambersburg.
5. SUSANNA, born August II, 1796, married Joseph Geesaman and was the ancestor Qf Mrs. Edward Rosenberry, of Plainfield, Pa., and the late Mrs. Enos Horst, of Chambers burg.
6. ELIZABETH, born April 12, 1803, married Samuel Reed.
7. ABRAHAM, born September 3, 1809, married (first) Catharine Sites; (second) Mary Anderson; and (third) Elizabeth (Hess) Stover. He was the grandfather of the late Mrs. Welty G. Smith, of Knepper station.
JOSHUA KNEPPER (born March 23, 1777---died April 6, 1839), son of Abraham and grandson of Wilhelm, wed Mary Short (born August 31, 1777---died January 3, 1842) and had the following offspring:
I. JACOB, born October 24,1804, married Lydia Walk and had one daughter, Caroline, who married George McCleary.
2. EPHRAIM married Catharine Smetzer and was the great grandfather of Miss Virgie Peters.
3. LYDIA married Frederick Dull and had one daughter, Malinda, who married Jesse McCumsey.
4. CATHARINE married George Walk and had three children. John, their son, was the great-grandfather of Mesdames Kathryn S. Huber, of Newtown, and Harris Baer, of Fayetteville, and Mr. George Wingert, of Quincy township.
DAVID KNEPPER (born February 9, 1800--died December1, 1860), son of David, wed Mary Catherine, sister of Joseph Geesaman, and had the following offsprmg:
I. MARY CATHARINE (born September I, I 828-died February 6, 1863) wed John George Gift (1822-1883) whom she bore five children:
(I) Anna Elizabeth married Daniel Miller Heefner and was the mother of the late Messrs. Emory G. Harvey M. (of Louisville, Ky.), Faber W. (father of Mrs Robert W. Cashman, of Saginaw, Mich.), Daniel (of Mercersburg), and Rhodney P. Heefner as well as Drs. Mark L and Henry H. (of Mercersburg) Heefner, all well-known persons of Franklin county; (2) Jeremiah; (3) John David; (4) Hiram; and (5) Mary, who wed Luther Mills.
2. SOLOMON (born May 7, 183O-dIed March 22, 1865) died unmarried.
3. DAVID (born March 2, 1832-died July5, 1834)
4. WILLIAM (born January 30, 1834-died August 5, 1834)
5. GEORGE G. (born May 15, 1835-dled October 22, 1909).
6. SAMUEL (born September I, 1837-died December 21, 1923) wed Mary Susan Nicodemus and removed to Atchison county, Mo.
7. HIRAM (born August 7, I 839-died June 30, 1901) married Frederica Seibert Stull (1848-1923). In 1862 he removed to Ogle county, Ill., from which he served seven months as a private in the Union army during the Civil War. At the insistence of his brother Samuel, he removed to Atchison county, Mo., in 1877 and settled at a point (now extinct) called Guy, Mo.; he died there and was buried near Fairfax, Mo. Hiram fathered eight children, of whom the fourth, Anna Jemima married Stephen Oliver Keever and was the grandmother of Mrs. L. R. Everhart, of Gettysburg, Pa.
8. JUDITH (born June 29, 1841-died April 9, 1850).
9. Twin Sons, born July 23, 1843, died in infancy-
10. JACOB (born July 21, 1844-died March 23, 1863).,
11. JOSIAH (born October 3, 1846-died September 7, 1890) married and had two sons: Edward and Seymour.
12. OBADIAH (born September 25, 1848-died February 13, 1933) married Emma George and removed to Kerney, Neb
No better ending can be given the genealogy of the descendants of Wilhelm Knepper than the closing remarks directed to his brethren in his testament:
“He that will earnestly deny himself and do good, will experience how the evil will cleave to him. Here the contest will begin, and a constant penitence and contrition. Here through temptation we take heed to the word, which i,\' given us
consolation, exhortation, doctrine and chastisement. Here is always a hunger and thirst after the righteousness of Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption; for which my soul longs, and
is desirous, with all those who sigh, and long for the manifestation of the children of God.”
Antietam Ancestors, Volume I.
Donehoo, George P., ed. A History of the Cumberland Valley in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg: The Susquehanna History Association, 1930.
Dumbaugh, Donald F. European Origins of the Brethren Elgin, Ill.: The Brethren Press, 1958.
Eisenberg, J. Linwood, A. M., Ph.D., LL.D., ed. The Church of the Brethren in Southern District of Pennsylvania. Quincy; Pa.: Quincy Orphanage Press, 1941.
Everhart, Bonnie Jean. Descendants of Tilman Knepper and. His Wife Christina Bogel: 1627-1986. Gettysburg, Pa., 1986.
Geesaman Cousins, Volume III
.Knepper, Cathy D. "Wilhelm Knepper (1691-1766) and His Descendants in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.". National Genealogical Society Quarterly, June 1985,. pp. 83-92.
Smith, Grace E. The Knepper Family Tree, as far as we have it. n. p., n.d.