Joseph C. Knapp
KNAPP, CURTIS, BENTON, STODDARD, HILL, HARRIS
Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/3/2001 at 08:25:35
From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties - 1890
JOSEPH C. KNAPP
Hon. Joseph C. Knapp, who was among the older lawyers and eminent jurists of Iowa, settled at Keosauqua three years before the territory became a state. Through nearly all its history as a commonwealth he was conspicuous in its politics, as well as its jurisprudence. His name is thoroughly woven into its annals, in al cases in a highly creditable manner.
Our subject was a native of the Green Mountain State, and a son of Ebenezer and Irene Curtis Knapp, born on June 27, 1813, in Berlin, Washington County. The Knapps were early settlers of Massachusetts, while the Curtis family was in Hanover New Hampshire. Ebenezer Knapp was a farmer, a hard-working man himself, and reared his children in habits of industry.
Joseph Knapp received a good academic education in Montpelier, left his native State in 1833; came as far west as Racine Wisconsin, then a part of Michigan Territory; read law at first with the Hon. Marshall M. Strong, and afterward with Hon. E.G. Ryan, late Chief Justice of Wisconsin; practiced a few years in Racine, and in 1843 pushed westward across the Mississippi River locating at Keosauqua, Van Buren County Iowa. He was for some years a member of the noted law firm of Wright, Knapp & Caldwell, his partners being the Hon. George G. Wright, of Des Moines, and the Hon. H.C. Caldwell, now Judge of the United States District Court of Arkansas. It is not often that the three members of a law firm rise to such distinction.
Judge Knapp was appointed Prosecuting Attorney, by Gov. Clark, in 1846, and Judge of the Third Judicial District by Gov. Hempstead in 1850. He was appointed by President Pierce United States Attorney for the District of Iowa, in 1853; re-appointed by President Buchanan, and held the office eight consecutive years. To the office of Judge of the Second Judicial District he was elected in the autumn of 1874, taking the bench on January 1, 1875, the term extending four years. The Judge had a long experience; was very learned in the law; had a natural legal mind; was independent as a jurist, and with his innate knowledge of what the law was or ought to have been, his rulings were usually correct and just. At an early day he was a circuit lawyer, with an extensive practice in the courts of a number of counties. As his home business increased, he gradually abandoned his circuit practice, except in special cases. To some extent he made criminal practice a specialty, and in that had great success. His arguments to jurors were always eloquent and forcible, but deep pathos more that anything else made his appeals to the jury remarkably effective.
Judge Knapp always affiliated with the Democratic Party, and figured extensively in the politics of the State. He was the Democratic candidate for Supreme Judge of 1869, and for Governor in 1871, and received the votes of the Democratic members of the General Assembly for United States Senator at the session of 1872.
The Judge was a Royal Arch Mason, and for many years a consistent member of the Congregational Church, and was never known to soil either his good Christian name or the ermine. In 1876 the distinguished honor was conferred upon him of being appointed a member of the commission of five persons, whose duty it was to investigate the charges against the late Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. On December 10, 1849, he was united in marriage, with Miss Sarah A. Benton of Keosauqua by whom he had three daughters. Keo is the wife of Hobart A. Stoddard of Little Rock, Arkansas, Io is the wife of Fred H. Hill, of Attica Michigan and Hannah Benton married Mr. Harris an attorney of LaMoure, North Dakota.
Judge Knapp had been in failing health for a few years before his death, which occurred from kidney disease, on April 27, 1882. His remains were interred at Keosauqua with Masonic honors and his funeral was the largest ever witnessed in the city. Mrs. Knapp is still living and makes her home with her daughter. She is a woman of culture and refinement, an active and sincere Christian whose influence is exerted for the good of society generally.
I am not related, and am posting this biography for those who may find this person in their family history.
Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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