Biography of Rev. William Knipe

Rev. William Knipe is one of the few surviving participants in the war with Mexico, which was fought nearly seventy years ago. Many other interesting distinctions attach to this venerable and useful resident of Kansas. He was one of the pioneer Methodist missionaries in Jackson County, Kansas, and is one of the very oldest members of the Methodist Conference. He was also a soldier of the Civil war and few men who live so long succeed in compressing so much useful service to humanity within a lifstime.

His birth occurred in a log house in Wayne County, Indiana, September 28, 1827. He is now nearing the eighty-ninth milestone on the journey of a well spent career, and enjoys the comfort of a good home in Manhattan. His parents were John and Jemima (Jackson) Knipe, His father, though born in England, was of German lineage. He came to the United States in early manhood in company with his brother Thomas Knipe. Settling on a farm in Wayne County, Indiana, he was a pioneer there and spent his days usefully and honorably. Reverend Mr. Knipe’s mother was a native of North Carolina. She died when he was six years old and ten years later he was deprived of the guidance and care of a father.

From that early age he has been dependent upon his own resourees. A limited education was all that the schools of that time could afford and the circumstanses of his early life were such that he could hardly attend such schools as did exist. There were no public schools in Indiana anywhere when he was a boy. School was conducted on the subscription plan. Reverend Mr. Knipe is a man of culture and intellectual attainments, but has gained this training largely as a result of private study and of long and constant association with men and affairs. The reading of many books constituted a part of his education, and to his reading he has brought a judgment and discrimination in selecting the facts best presented. After the death of his father he worked for neighboring farmers at wages. While working for a farmer in Putnam County, Indiana, the Mexican war broke out. He enlisted for service, and was mustered in at New Albany, Indiana, as a private in Company A of the First Indiana Regiment. The First Indiana Regiment saw active service on the battlefield of Monterey and in much other campaigning in Northern Mexico. Mr. Knipe was with his command through all its service.

After his honorable discharge be returned to Putnam County, Indiana, and was engaged in farming until his thirtieth year. In 1857 he came to Kansas. Kansas was still a territory, and the scene of constant fends between the free state men and the pro-slavery advocates. Mr. Knipe pre-empted 160 acres of land in Jackson County. This land was located eleven miles due west of Holton. He proved successful as a farmer, acquired other lands, and is still interested in a large amount of Kansas real estate. He achieved a gratifying success as a farmer and stock raiser.

However, his chief services have been in other fields. While living in Indiana he began preaching the Gospel as an exhorter of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In March, 1858, after coming to Kansas, he was licensed as a minister of the church by Dr. A. Still. For two years he supplied the Holton Circuit. Rev. Mr. Knipe has the distinction of having conducted the first religious meeting in Jackson County, and he also preached the first funeral there. Many years were spent in spreading the Gospel truths and in upbuilding the Methodist Church at Holton and elsewhere. In 1860 he was made a member of the Kansas Conference, and only one other man still living has been a member longer than Rev. Mr. Knipe. At Wyandotte, now a part of Kansas City, Kansas, he was ordained a deacon by Bishop Simpson in March, 1862, and two years later, having completed a required four years’ course in theology, was ordained an elder by Bishop Baker. Though Rev. Mr. Knips has been on the superannuated list for a number of years, he still continues his ministerial duties. As an active preacher he gave his services to a wide region in Northern Kansas, and was at different times located as pastor at Holton, Fort Riloy, Circleville, Frankfort, Blue Valley, Rock Creek, Wamega and elsewhere. Able as a preacher, a kind-hearted and true man, his career has been one of great usefulness and wherever known he is held in the highest esteem and tender personal regard. He has been called upon to officiate at more weddings and funerals perhaps than any other living minister in Kansas.

So far nothing has been said concerning his record as a soldier in the Civil war. He was a strong Union man, and from the beginning of his residence in Kansas had used his influence wherever possible to strengthen the cause of the free state. When the war came on he was commissioned a major in the Twentieth Kansas State Militia. When General Price was leading his Confederate army for the second invasion of Missourt, he took part with his regiment in defeating the Price raid at Westport. Politically Rev. Mr. Knipe began voting as a whig. His first presidential ballot was cast for General Taylor, under whom he had fought as a soldier in the war with Mexico. He is now one of the few men who were voters in the first republican campaign of 1856, and has never lost an opportunity to cast his ballot for the republican candidate. In 1892 he was candidate on that ticket for representative from Riley County, was elected in the face of the combined opposition from the populists and democrats, and served with ability and distinction in the Legislature of 1893. Again in 1894 he was elected to the same office, and was one of the few republicans in the Legislature of the next term. Rev. Mr. Knipe is a Master Mason and has been affiliated with that organization since 1852. He became a Master Mason in Indiana and at the present time is one of the oldest Masons in the country. He is a member of La Fayette Lodge No. 16, of Manhattan.

On December 26, 1847, he married Lucy A. Branham, Mrs. Knipe was a woman of many excellent qualities of heart and mind and was his companion and helpmate for nearly sixty years. The summons of death came to her in 1907. The children of their marriage were: Susanna Jane, deceased; Mary Elizabeth, deceased; Laura Belle; William A.; Lucy Ann; George D.; Charles A; Alphonso B., deceased; Emma, Maude, deceased; and Harriet Eusebia. On August 21, 1909, Bev. Mr. Knipe married for his present wife Mrs. Evelyn (Rutherford) Bradford. Mrs. Knipe has long been prominent in social cireles and is well known in the order of the Rebekahs. She has been state secretary of the Rebekahs for five years and is past department president of the Women’s Relief Corps of Kansas. She was the first superintendent of the Odd Fellows’ Home at Eureka Lake, Kansas.


Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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