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Portrait and Biographical Album of Benton County, Iowa
Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887

GEORGE R. KNAPP, Auditor of Benton County, was born in Philadelphia, Pa., Aug. 19, 1854, and is the son of John and Hannah Knapp. He came to Benton County with his parents in 1856. His literary education was obtained at Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, Iowa, and at Griswold College at Davenport. He was Deputy Clerk of the Courts of Benton County nine years, and was engaged in the abstract business eighteen months, and was elected Auditor in October, 1883. He was re-elected in November, 1885, and is the present incumbent. He served three terms as City Treasurer of Vinton, and declined re-election.

Mr. Knapp was appointed Assistant Adjutant General of Iowa, with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel of the Iowa National Guards. He served about two years, and resigned in May, 1880, on account of loss of hearing, caused by being struck by lightning while hunting in Cedar Township, March 31, 1880. The history of Mr. Knapp's case is one of the most remarkable on record, and his recovery almost a miracle. The following account of the accident is taken from the Vinton Eagle:

"The Eagle of last week contained a brief despatch from Mt. Auburn, this county, stating that Mr. George R. Knapp, Deputy Clerk of Courts of this county, had been struck by lightning a few hours before, and that he was lying in a critical condition. Mr. Knapp is still living, we are glad to say, and with a prospect of ultimate recovery. As the case is a remarkable one it is worthy of special notice. On the evening before the accident, Tuesday of last week, Mr. Knapp went home with his father for the purpose of having a duck hunt on the following day. On Wednesday morning, in company with a young brother and Stewart Minard, he started for the river, about a mile distant, there being thunder-clouds in the sky at the time. Arriving at the river, and finding game, Mr. Knapp advanced cautiously, with his gun in position to fire. He was standing near a small elm-tree, and at a distance of a few rods stood four cottonwood trees, considerably larger than the elm. The brother had dropped behind a stump at a little distance, so as not to frighten the game; the other companion was thirty feet away. There came a flash and a crash, and George, leaping several feet in the air, fell forward on his face into a pool of water. Minard, having recovered from the momentary shock to himself, came to the rescue and brought water from the river, which was only ten or twelve feet away, and dashed it in Mr. Knapp's face. (It is a curious fact that a whole shoal of minnows in the river, but twelve feet from where the lightning struck, was killed by the shock and found floating dead upon the water.) As soon as possible Mr. Knapp was taken to the house, a mile or more distant, where he lay unconscious until the next morning, twenty-one hours after the accident. An examination of the ground showed that the cottonwood-trees referred to were struck and considerably shattered, and also that the elm near where Mr. Knapp stood was struck near the top, the electricity following down to a bend in the tree, where it leaped off and struck squarely on the top of his head. The current divided, a part running down each side of his head, one part going down the left side of the head to the shoulder and down the spinal column. The other passed down back of the right ear to about the middle of the abdomen, where it separated again — one part leaving the body and the other passing down the right leg and out of the rubber boot at the ankle and thence into the ground, tearing a hole in the boot as large as a man's fist, and a hole in the ground as large as a man's head and some six inches deep. Mr. K.'s clothes were torn in shreds; his hat was knocked in pieces, parts of it being found ten feet high in the tree, while other parts were found thirty feet in another direction. The flesh was burned quite severely in places. [The burns were two months in healing.] One barrel of the gun was found discharged, but the gun showed no sign of having received the electric charge. Mr. Knapp was able to talk soon after becoming conscious, though he was totally deaf. It was some hours before he began to comprehend what had happened, and he did not fully understand it for two or three days. He has suffered a good deal of pain, though at last accounts he was still improving."

Mr. Knapp was married at Vinton, Oct. 16, 1876, to Miss Dora E. Denman, daughter of Moses and Jane Denman, and a native of Vinton. They have had five children — Grace V., George E., Elsie M. (who died at the age of one year), Anna and John. Mr. and Mrs. Knapp are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In politics Mr. Knapp is a Republican. He studied law, and was admitted to the bar in March, 1881, but was obliged to abandon the idea of following the profession on account of loss of hearing, which is a serious disappointment to him. Mr. Knapp is one of the most popular of the public men of Benton County.

Source Citation: "1887 Benton County, Iowa Biographies"  [database online]  Benton County IAGenWeb Project. <>
Original data: "Portrait and Biographical Album of Benton County, Iowa." Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887, p. 355-356.
Transcribed by: Sue Soden. Submitted to the Benton County IAGenWeb Project on February 18th, 2009.  Copyright © 2009 The IAGenWeb Project.

Return to: 1887 Biography Index

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