1847: Rev. Jared Owen Knapp to Hannah Bedell Knapp

Gravemarker of Rev. Jared Owen Knapp’s parents

This letter was written by Rev. Jared Owen Knapp (1818-1860), the son of Jared Knapp (1779-1839) and Mary Owen (1784-1870) of Greenwich, Fairfield County, Connecticut. From a family with limited financial resources, Jared worked to earn his education and graduated from Yale College in 1840. Later he completed Theological studies at New Haven and, in 1846, accepted his first pastoral assignment at Central Village, Connecticut, where this letter was written the following year.

The letter was written to Jared’s younger sister, Miss Hannah Bedell Knapp (1823-1915) who was then residing at Round Hill (North of Greenwich) in Fairfield, Connecticut. Hannah would later marry Rev. Orin Fowler Otis (1811-1883) and reside in Providence, Rhode Island.

At the time Rev. Knapp wrote this letter, he was not yet married. He would marry Sarah Elizabeth Beach (1822-1899) in Hartford, Connecticut, in May 1850. Sarah Beach’s older sister, Mary Catherine Beach (1817-1851), was the wife of Elizur Tryon Goodrich (1817-1868), a Hartford merchant. [Editor’s Note: Elizur Goodrich was the brother of my great, great, great, grandmother, Mary Ann Goodrich.]

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[Addressed to Miss Hannah B. Knapp, Round Hill P.O., Conn.]

Central Village [Connecticut]
Dec. 11, 1847

Dear Sister,

I received yours of the 4th inst. on Thursday of last week. The money ($20) was safe. You speak of sending me eighteen dollars more. As I owe Mr. Wilcox for money which he left in my hands, I will thank you to hand it over to him, and when you write me that you have done it, you may consider your [promissory] note redeemed. I will send the note to you in a letter. The interest which you say is six dollars and seventy-two cents, I will cheerfully give you. Although I am in debt, the Lord has so greatly favored me with health and friends, that I deem it my duty and my privilege to favor a sister who has ever been so kind to me — so persevering in effort to cancel the debt, and to prepare herself for usefulness by disciplining her mind and acquiring knowledge. I hope you will endeavor to improve the time which you have at home. Be systematic and persevering, and you can accomplish much — otherwise you will do but little. You have books to read and you can pursue your studies to some extent. “Time is flying, years are wasting.” You have no time to lose. You have much to learn, much to do in the discipline of your heart as well as mind. While you grow in knowledge, I trust you will grow in every good quality — in meekness, patience, industry, energy, modesty, kindness, self-control. You will need the grace of God in order to be successful in your endeavors — and that grace, if sought with humility & faith, will be imparted to you as it is needed. Make the Bible your daily companion & solace. Resort to it for instructions & for consolation. I have found it very interesting to trace out on the map the travels of Paul, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. You will find much in the Bible in the form of narrative, well adapted to afford instruction respecting practical life. I would advise you to study the character of Christ, of his apostles and prophets. It will interest you. It will improve your mind, and if perused with a proper spirit, it will have a happy effect on your heart & life. So much by way of advice.

It is Monday, as you will perceive by the date — the day which I usually take as a resting day. In the afternoon, I usually attend a minister’s prayer meeting. In the morning I attend to miscellaneous matters. There have been a few hopeful conversions among us which encourages us to pray for still greater blessings. I have two evening meetings — besides the Sunday evening — one a prayer meeting, the other a lecture. My labors are arduous, but very pleasant. They are pleasant because I feel that I am serving God. If I were more devoted to his service, they would doubtless be more pleasant still. The most faithful Christian — the one who is most like Christ — will be most happy the world over. I hope you are striving to promote practical piety in others in the church, and among the impenitent by praying and laboring for their conversion. The Sabbath School is a good field for young ladies. Those little children should all be affectionately & faithfully pointed to the Savior. And I should add, that the family circles at home, is an excellent place for doing good & getting good. While it is a severe test to Christian principle, it affords abundant opportunity for strengthening the Christian character. A correct example at home is the more powerful in its silent influence on account of the temptations to be encountered.

Mrs. Fenner & daughter are visiting in Pawtucket. They have been absent more than a week. We expect them home in a few days. I find this a very pleasant home. If Mr. Green says any thing about the money, you may tell him that he may depend upon it in the spring, or he may have it sooner if he is willing to incur the risk of receiving it by mail. Perhaps it would be well to mention it to him when you see him.

Remember me to Mr. Wilcox & family, to Mr. Munson, to Deacon Isaac & family. Ask Mother if she will not favor me with a short letter, at least — a long one if she is willing to tax herself so much. My love to the rest of the family. I want them all to write often. Postage is cheap.

Your affectionate brother, — Jared O. Knapp

[P.S.] Your mode of reconing interest, I did not understand. For the sake of gratifying curiosity, I have hastily computed in my way and make it only $5.76. Am I right? Please to inform me which you consider the best way of computing interest on notes.

  • Obituary Notice for Jared Owen Knapp:  “Died in this city, on the 14th inst., the Rev. Jared O. Knapp, aged 41 years.

    During his brief sojourn among us, Mr. Knapp has won the high esteem and warm regard of all who have known him, and some notice beyond the bare announcement of his death seems due, both to his memory and to the feelings of his many friends.

    Mr. Knapp was born in the village of Greenwich, Connecticut. In his simple New England home, his pious parents trained him by the Scripture rule, in piety towards God, and love to his fellow-men. At an early age, he was hopefully converted to Christ, and from that time he seemed to grow up steadily into the spirit of Jesus. Such was his maturity of mind and character, that at the age of fifteen he was called to the charge of a school in his native village, the responsibilities of which he successfully met. Though the limited means of his parents seemed to forbid his acquiring a liberal education, yet, encouraged by his pastor, he succeeded in working his way through College and was graduated at Yale, in the year 1840. While in College, his character both as a scholar and a Christian gained the peculiar aspect and esteem of his instructors and fellow-students, and raised high hopes of his future usefulness.

    After leaving College, he taught in the Academy in Middletown, Connecticut, for two or three years, with marked success. Then he pursued his Theological studies in New Haven, and immediately on their completion was called to the pastoral office in Plainfield, Conn., where he was settled in 1846. A precious revival marked the opening of his Ministry, and in the memories of the people of this his first charge, his name is cherished with warmest affections. In the year 1850, he accepted a call to the church in Hatfield, Mass., where he labored for five years with most earnest devotion and eminent success in winning souls to Christ. His severe and constant exertions broke down his health which had been hitherto firm, and he was obliged to resign his charge. He was seized with a bronchial affliction, which brought him very near the grave. But his strength rallied, and after a year’s respite he resumed his work taking charge of a young church just organized at the Suspension Bridge. He entered into his work there with the same love and zeal which characterized him everywhere, and was blessed by seeing precious fruits of his Ministry.

    About a year ago, his old difficulties returned upon him, and he was obliged to seek a change of climate. Traveling in this region, he found in Beloit [Wisconsin], old College friends and a feeble enterprise just started for establishing a Second Congregational Church on the West side of the river. He was induced to hope that he might here find a congenial climate and a sphere of labor, where he might yet accomplish something more in his master’s service. With strength and voice enfeebled, he undertook to conduct one service on the Sabbath and to look after the interests of the little Congregation. For a few months, both he and his people enjoyed his work. Then he was laid aside, and we have been instructed more effectually than could have been by preaching, in the power of the gospel, as illustrated by his patience of faith and constancy of love through the months of his slow decline to the grave. He contemplated the end, with regret, only that he could do no more work for Jesus his Lord. Then again towards the last, hope kindled anew at the thought that death would only prepare and introduce him to a higher sphere and a nobler work for the same loved Master. So he passed away, conscious to the end, and when the power of continuous articulation had ceased, ejaculating at intervals in whispers, “Peace,” “Joy,” “Christ.” — Faith had interwoven with his poor human life, the divine life of Jesus, and all along its earthly course the savor of Christ’s love has exhaled. Its fragrance lingers here, while his spirit lives in union and communion with his risen Savior.”

  • Rev. Orin Fowler Otis, son of David Otis, was graduated from Yale College in 1840, and for many years was pastor of a Congregational church at Chepacket, Rhode Island. He married Hannah B. Knapp, and they had five children: (1) Samuel A. (2) Orin M. (3) William X. (4) Fanny, and (5) Elizabeth.
  • Rev. Knapp mentions Mrs. Fenner and her daughter’s trip to Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It’s possible that he may have been boarding with Fenner family at the time this letter was written. Arnold Fenner was a well-to-do owner of a cotton-spinning mill in Central Village and is known to have been a member of the Congregational Church. The mother and daughter mentioned may well have been Mrs. Adeline (Walcott) Fenner and her daughter Helen. Subsequent to posting this letter, I found another letter written by Rev. Knapp to his brother Joseph that confirms he was living with the Fenner family. To see that letter, click here.

6 responses to “1847: Rev. Jared Owen Knapp to Hannah Bedell Knapp

  • Doug Gray

    I am the pastor at Second Congregational Church in Beloit, WI, where Rev. Knapp spent his last few years. I really enjoyed the insight into his relationship with his sister. I wondered if I could have your permission to attach the picture of his parents’ tombstone to their record on my family tree for them on Ancestry.com?

    More importantly, I am trying to find an image of Rev. Knapp so we can honor him more appropriately. Do you have one? Do you know of one? I would be grateful for any help you might be able to provide.
    Rev. Doug Gray

  • Griff

    Rev. Gray — Rev. Jared Owen Knapp was actually a distant relative of mine, unlike most of the people who wrote or received these letters, but I do not have a photograph of him. I certainly have no objection to your using the photograph of his parent’s gravestone. — Griff

    • Doug Gray

      Thank you, Griff. Thank you for a new side to Rev. Knapp. The story is told that when Second Congregational was in the process of forming, they called Rev. Knapp to be their pastor. He demurred, saying he thought that they could do better than a broken-down pastor. The members of the baby church insisted that they believed that he was the one meant to be their pastor. Rev. Knapp relented, accepted the call, helped the church form and led its first worship service on September 11, 1859. The fellowship was busy building its first building, completed in time to have Christmas worship to dedicate the building. By that time Rev. Knapp’s lungs were suffering with the tuberculosis that would take him. He was unable to preach that first worship in the new building. The congregation expressed deep sympathy and was extremely supportive of Rev. Knapp, his wife and their family. When the time came, the deacons of the church were at Knapp’s bedside with the family, and sang Rev. Knapp home to Jesus! They continued to care for Knapp’s family until the family chose to move on.

  • Griff

    Rev Gray; I can point you to two references to Rev. Knapp in my ancestors letters. See the letter of 17 September 1859 in: http://www.griffingweb.com/our_dear_ones_have_gone.htm
    and the letter of 25 May 1850 in: http://www.griffingweb.com/baltimore_abounds.htm
    On the latter web page I have included a biography for him in the footnotes. My g-g-grandmother (Augusta Goodrich) had an uncle named Elizur Goodrich who was married to Mary Beach. It was Mary’s sister, Sarah E. Beach that married Rev. Knapp in 1850.

  • Luisa Riley

    I am very interested in the family story. Jared Owen Knapp and Sara Elizabeth Beach Knapp were my father’s (Miles Beach Riley Knapp) great grand parents. I am Mexican and trying to track down my family’s story. Would much appreciate an e mail address to contact you. My name is Luisa Riley casadeatras@yahoo.com

  • Luisa Riley

    I don’t know if my previous message was posted. Sorry.
    I am very interested in this story. Jared Owen Knapp and Sara Elizabeth Beach Knapp were my father’s (Mr. Miles Beach Riley Knapp) great grand parents and I am now tracking my family’s history. I am a Mexican documentaries film maker . I am very interested in contacting Griff.
    thank you for sharing this letter.

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