Thursday, June 1, 2017

Ashmun Asaph Knappen (1828-1909)

From "Free Masonry In Michigan: A Comprehensive History of Michigan Masonry", 1895.

    Methodist minister Ashmun Asaph Knappen is another example of an oddly named clergyman having brief flirtation with politics, in his case being the Prohibition nominee for U.S. Representative from Michigan's 3rd district in 1896. A native of Vermont, Knappen was born in the town of Sudbury on September 4, 1828, being the son of the Rev. Mason and Clarissa (Hutchinson) Knappen. A Congregationalist minister, Mason Knappen removed with his family to Michigan in 1833 via horse drawn wagons through Canada, a four week trip that reportedly left the young Ashmun "deeply impressed".
    Knappen's education occurred at the Branch Academy in Kalamazoo, Michigan and married in Kalamazoo in August 1851 to Sarah Jane "Jennie" Stafford (1830-1908), to whom he was wed until her death. The couple would later have five children, Helen, Ida, Harriett, Nelly, Frank and George Frederick (1867-1952). Of these children Frank E. Knappen made substantial inroads into local politics, being city prosecuting attorney for Kalamazoo from 1880-89 and a Republican Presidential Elector for Michigan in 1904. 
   Ashmun A. Knappen would reside in Hastings, Michigan from 1850-57, where he edited the Barry County Pioneer newspaper. In the late 1850s he removed to Kalamazoo, where he began studying law with Julius Caesar Burrows (1837-1915), who would go on to represent Michigan in both houses of Congress for over three decades
    Admitted to the state bar in 1859, Knappen established a law practice in Kalamazoo with Burrows that continued for several years and by 1867 had formed another law firm with Rufus Grosvenor. In the following year Knappen had a religious calling, partly influenced by his wife and friends who had "induced him to attend a business men's morning prayer meeting." Now caught between wanting to continue in the practice of law or to devote his life to religious work, Knappen decided upon the latter, and by the fall of 1868 had joined the Michigan Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church
   Soon after his admittance to the Michigan Conference Knappen was dispatched to Constantine, Michigan, where he accepted a pastorate.  In 1869 he would take on another pastorate in Sturgis (remaining here until 1870) and from 1871-72 preached in Manistee. For the next decade Knappen would preach in Coldwater, Lansing, Battle Creek and Grand Rapids and by 1883 had settled into a pastorate in Hastings. He continued to preach until 1890 and afterwards "lived a retired life at Albion."
    An active Mason in addition to his pastorate, Knappen was for many years the Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Michigan. A temperance advocate, Knappen entered the political life of Michigan in 1896 when he was nominated for the U.S. House of Representatives on the Prohibition ticket. Hoping to represent his state's 3rd congressional district, Knappen was one of three candidates that year and on election day in November lost out in a very lopsided contest, garnering only 441 votes compared to Democratic candidate Albert M. Todd's winning total of 24, 466.
   A.A. Knappen continued to reside in Albion, Michigan into his twilight years and was widowed in 1908. He followed his wife Sarah in death one year later on June 17, 1909 at age 80. Both were interred at the Riverside Cemetery in Albion. 

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