After an illness of about 4 weeks duration, Stephen Knecht, another of Comanche-co.'s pioneer settlers, died at 7:00 a.m. on Friday, June 18, 1915, at the home of his son, Henry Knecht, in Avilla-tp, 10 miles south of this city. It is not exactly correct, however, to say that he had been ill, for he seemed to have experienced no sickness. Death was due to advanced age (85 years, 3 months and 15 days) and to the gradual decline of the vital forces of the physical organism, rather than to the development or presence of any disease. Mr. Knecht had scarcely known a sick day for 30 years. His round of daily work was attended to with unfailing regularity up to within a few months of his death. His home had been in this city for about 12 years. Several weeks ago, however, when his strength began to fail, he went to the home of his son, Henry, and there remained, making only two or three brief visits to town. About two weeks before his death his condition became so weakened that he was compelled to remain in bed almost constantly. He took very little nourishment and did not seem to suffer at all. The passing away of his bodily strength was gradual and without a suggestion of conscious pain. It was as if he fell asleep, never again to awaken on earth.At left: Gravestone of Stephen & Diana Knecht, Crown Hill Cemetery near Coldwater, Comanche County, Kansas. Photograph by Bobbi (Hackney) Huck.
The funeral services were held at the home at 2 o'clock p.m. on Sunday and were in charge of Rev. A. Burrill of Wilmore, the M. E. pastor on the South Coldwater circuit. The pastor spoke appropriately and feelingly, paying a beautiful tribute to the life and character of his deceased friend. Present at the funeral were neighbors and friends, several hundred of them, from many miles around, and to each and all there came a sense of sorrow because of the loss of a faithful friend. Many of the early day settlers in the county, those who shared with the deceased in the experiences of pioneer life, were there, and 6 of them - John E. Todd, J. W. Stark, D. E. Barnes, T. B. Duncan, E. G. Carthrae and George Overocker - acted as pall-bearers. Burial was made in the Coldwater cemetery. Among the many floral offerings was a beautiful wreath presented by the Royal Bible Class of the Coldwater M. E. Sunday school, of which Mr. Knecht had been a member for several years.
Deceased was a native of Pennsylvania, having been born in New Lisbon, Northampton-co., that state, on March 3, 1830. He grew to young manhood there, working a part of the time in the coal mines. He was 15 years old when the Mexican War broke out, and he well remembered the stirring scenes and the excitement of those days. Young Knecht's first move westward was to Ohio. He settled near Youngtown in Mahoning-co. After living there a few years he moved to Coldwater, Mich., where he lived until the spring of 1884, when he joined the tide of immigration to Kansas. He settled near Harper, but lived there only 6 months. In March, 1885, he moved to this county, settling on a claim 10 miles south of Coldwater, the claim selected by his son, Fred. There he continued to live until about 12 years ago when he moved to Coldwater. Mr. Knecht figured prominently in the early development of the county, and especially of Avilla-tp. and of the early-day town of Avilla. He was widely known and to all he was a real friend, and especially to the worthy needy was he a considerate and loyal friend.
Throughout his long life and in every community which claimed him as a resident, Stephen Knecht was regarded by his neighbors and associates as the soul of honesty, business integrity and unimpeachable character. He was always found to be in accord with those things which make for the betterment of the community. He hated sham, deceit and dishonesty in every form. He believed in keeping his word to the letter, and he expected others to do the same. He served 3 years as mayor of Coldwater, and in that position he was an impartial, just and conscientious public official.
In the year 1857 in Youngstown, O., Stephen Knecht was united in marriage with Miss Diana Kaercher. To this union two sons were born - Henry and Fred. Both sons came to this county in 1884 and took claims. Henry still lives here. Fred died in Harper-co. the next year after he came to Kansas. Mrs. Stephen Knecht died in this city on December 20, 1900. Mr. Knecht is survived by 2 brothers and 3 sisters-John Knecht of Quincy, Mich., Samuel Knecht of Coldwater, Mich., also Mrs. Mary Osman, Mrs. Harriet Zellers and Mrs. Mariah Tompkins of Coldwater, Mich. John Knecht and wife and their daughter, Mrs. V. Shumway, and husband, of Quincy, Mich., were the only out-of-the-county relatives who could be present at the funeral.
MAR. 3, 1830 - JULY 18, 1915
DIANA, HIS WIFE
MAY 12, 1838 - DEC. 28, 1909
Note: his obituary gives his death date as June 18, 1915 whereas his gravestone says July 18, 1915.
Stephen Knecht's Civil War history -- Residence: Williams Township PA; Enlisted on 10/7/1862 as a Private. On 07 Oct 1862 he mustered into "F" Co. PA 153rd Infantry. He was Mustered Out on 24 July 1863 at Harrisburg, PA. He was listed as Wounded 01 July 1863 Gettysburg, PA. (Sources: History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865 and History of the 153rd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers Infantry.)
"Stephen Knecht at one time assisted to catch old John Morgan when he has extended his raid into Ohio. A force of three or four hundred volunteered and putting themselves under command of army officers, gave chase to the old fellow on Sunday. He was overtaken seated in a corner of the fence, and though it was the intention of the company to forever put an end to his raiding, the officers rushed him off and saved his life. Mr. Knecht is 49 years of age and was born in Pennsylvania. He has resided in various parts of that state and Ohio. He came to Algansee 14 years ago, nearly all of which time he has lived on the farm where we found him taking solid comfort under his own vine and fig tree. He worked several years in the coal banks of Pennsylvania and Ohio." -- Tramping Through Algansee, news article, 25 April 1879, Coldwater, Michigan. (History of Stephen Knecht courtesy of David Bickford)
At left: Fred Knecht, son of Stephen Knecht.
Photo courtesy of David Bickford.
Fred Knecht, son of Stephen Knecht. This photograph was probably taken not too long before his death. Fred had come to Comanche Co. in search of land for his father from Harper Co. KS.
Fred married Carrie Bickford, daughter of Charles Bickford.
Fred Knecht died in November of 1884 in Harper Co., KS.
Carrie Bickford then married Samuel Woods McClure of Coldwater, Kansas.
"A Will 160 Years Old", The Western Star, June 25, 1915. A copy of the Will of Ludwick Haun "of Pipe Creek hundred Frederick County and Province of Maryland", Henry Knecht's great grandfather on his mother's side of the family.
James W. Dappert: Reminiscences of Early Days in Comanche-co.
The Western Star, January 15, 1926.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!
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