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Below is a family biography included in the book,  Portrait and biographical record of Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties, Pennsylvania published in 1894 by Chapman Publishing Company.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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HOWARD R. KNECHT belongs to one of the best and oldest families of Lower Saucon Township, Northampton County, and for many years has occupied a high position in the social, political and business circles of the community. He is the sole owner of one of the most important industries in this region, the roller flouring-mills located at Shimersville, which he operates under the name of John Knecht’s Son. Our subject possesses in a marked degree the traits of character which made his father so highly esteemed and successful in life.

The Knecht family in the last century resided in the Palatinate, Germany. His ancestor, John Jacob Knecht, with fifty-nine of his neighbors and relatives, started on a sailing-vessel, “The Allen,” James Cragie, master, from Rotterdam, in September, 1734, and became settlers in Williams Township, this county. A son of John Jacob, Jonas George was born May 5, 1740, and died February 21, 1823. His wife, Anna Maria, was born September 29, 1752, and died February 12, 1813. Their son John, our subject’s grandfather, was born July 1, 1778, and married Sarah Ruth Stahler, whose birth occurred September 10, 1782. The former died September 17, 1814, while his wife lived until October 5, 1827.

John Knecht, the next in line of descent, was born in Williams Township, August 5, 1814, being the second son in the family. His mother died when he was very young, and his father’s death occurred when he was a lad of twelve years. His uncle, Aaron Knecht, of Williams Township, took charge of him and brought him up on his farm, training him in thrifty and industrious ways, to which traits he owed the foundation of his large fortune in after years. He received his education in a private school held in the Spring House, two and a-half miles below Easton, near the Black Horse Tavern on the Delaware.

Afterward he apprenticed himself to learn the carpenter’s trade with John Seiple, who later removed to Ohio, where he died. Mr. Knecht followed the trade until twenty-one years of age, when he went to North Carolina and engaged in railroad contract work between Raleigh and Gaston. In 1839 he returned to the scenes of his early manhood, and February 2, 1841, was married to Eliza E., daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth Riegel, the wedding taking place in the old house at Shimersville. The marriage ceremony was performed by Rev. Mr. Becker. Shortly after his marriage, Mr. Knecht took possession of the old gristmill at Shimersville, which was built by Nathan Irish in 1735, and the farmers of all this section round about in the eighteenth century carried their grain there to be ground. This is shown by the fact that in 1743 the Moravians of Bethlehem petitioned the court to open a road from that place to the Saucon mill, which was done. Mr. Irish, several years later, sold the mill and land to George Cruikshank, of Philadelphia. After his death, his son-in-law, John Currie, a Reading lawyer, retired from the practice of law and removed to the Cruikshank lands, now Shimersville, occupying the old stone house on the hill in which the late John Knecht resided. He subsequently sold the entire property to Jacob Shimer, who in 1816 erected the present mill close by the old one. His son, Isaac B. Shimer, operated it until 1832, when it was again sold, this time to Samuel Leidigh. In 1836 Benjamin Riegel purchased the property, and in the year 1842 it passed into the possession of the late John Knecht, Mr. Riegel’s son-in-law. Mr. Knecht operated the mill until 1890, improving it a great deal during this time, and then turned the business over to his son Howard, who now runs it.

He was for several years a Director of the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, of which he was always a firm friend, having warmly favored and encouraged the construction of the road. He enjoyed the personal friendship of its projector, Asa Packer, and rendered him every assistance in his power in the consummation of his project. Upon the completion of the railroad, Mr. Knecht, who was a man of great business foresight, realized the benefits which would accrue to the whole valley from it, and at his suggestion that an iron furnace in the vicinity of Bethlehem would grow in prosperity and importance, he enlisted the co-operation of a number of capitalists, among whom were Augustus Wolle, Charles W. Rauch and Charles B. Daniel, all long since deceased, and the great Bethlehem Iron Company was established, Mr. Knecht being a Director in the company from that time (1859) up to the date of his decease. In 1872 he organinzed the Northampton Iron Company, and was elected President of the same. A large furnace was built near Freemansburg, and is now operated by the Bethlehem Iron Company. He was also a Director in the Easton National Bank, and held many offices of trust, being executor, administrator and guardian for many of his friends. He was a member of the Reformed Church, and carried into his daily life its worthy teachings. Many a poor man owes to him substantial assistance, advice and help. He was a stanch Democrat, and though at one time solicited to run for Congress, emphatically declined, preferring to live a quiet life.

Mr. and Mrs. John Knecht were the parents of seven children, four of whom yet survive: Arabella, wife of Dr. J. J. Detwiller, of Easton; Emily, Mrs. Dr. E. J. Freeman, of Freemansburg; Annie, who resides at home; and Howard R. Those who have passed away are Sallie, wife of Dr. R. H. Sheppard, of Phillipsburg, N. J.; John, who died at the age of forty; and Benjamin, whose death occurred in infancy. February 2, 1891, marked the close of a half-century of wedded bliss, and the event was appropriately celebrated. The aforenamed surviving children were present, as were also the lady and gentleman who acted as lady of honor and best man at the wedding fifty years before. The guests were numerous, among them being officials of the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company and the Bethlehem Iron Company, and other distinguished personages from Easton, Bethlehem and elsewhere. But while these festivities were in progress the dark shadow of approaching misfortune hung over that household in which joyousness and merriment reigned. Not one of the guests for a moment dreamed that almost before the sounds of revelry should pass away grim Death would remove one of the venerable persons in whose honor they had gathered. Twenty days later, February 22, 1891, John Knecht passed peacefully away, and he was followed by his loving and faithful companion in less than six months afterward, her demise occurring July 4, 1891.

Howard R. Knecht was born in Shimersville, September 4, 1856, and received a public-school education. He further pursued his studies in Nazareth Hall, from which he was graduated in 1876. He then commenced working for his father, helping to manage his business, and on attaining his majority became a partner with his father in the milling business. In 1885 the mill was converted into a full fledged roller-mill, and storehouses for the storage of flour and grain were added. Early in 1890 John Knecht practically turned the entire management of the business over to his son, and in his will bequeathed to Howard (whom he also made sole executor) the stone gristmill, the sawmill, the stone dwelling, the tenant houses, and vast tracts of land, together with numerous other bequests.

He is a live, earnest, energetic young man, who has inherited the social and business traits of character which made his father so well beloved and so successful in life. In addition to his active operations at Shimersville, Mr. Knecht is a Director of the Easton National Bank. He is possessed of a very genial disposition, and affable and courteous manners, and occupies a high political, social and religious position in the community. He was one of the jurors who sat in the celebrated Lincoln National Bank case, tried before Judge Butler in the United States District Court in Philadelphia in the early part of 1890. It will be remembered that the Cashier, Ellis P. Bard, and Franklin W. Hull, a coal and wood merchant of Ephrata, Pa., were accused of defrauding the bank out of the sum of $80,000.

September 21, 1882, Mr. Knecht married Laurenti, daughter of Dr. B. C. Walter, of Farmersville, this county. Four children blessed the union of this worthy couple, two of them dying in early infancy. Florence Anna, born September 29, 1883, and John Walter, born February 8, 1885, survive.

In politics Mr. Knecht is a Democrat, and takes a leading part in educational and civic affairs. He is a member of the Reformed Church of Freemansburg, and is a Trustee of the Allentown College for Women.

The products of the mill at Shimersville enjoy a household reputation throughout the country, and are handled by dealers in the Bethlehems, in Easton, Allentown, Wilkes Barre, and, in fact, by all the principal markets in eastern Pennsylvania, also Newark, N. J., and other sections. It is noted as one of the most noted flourmills in this state, and its commodious storehouses are constantly being refilled, so large and continuous are the shipments to the various markets. Mr. Knecht devotes his entire personal supervision to the operation of the mill, and he stands high in the estimation of his customers, his employes and his tenants. His delivery wagons make daily trips to the Bethlehems, laden with barrels of flour consigned to the dealers of this borough.

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This family biography is one of the numerous biographies included in the book, Portrait and biographical record of Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties, Pennsylvania published in 1894 by Chapman Publishing Company. 

View additional Northampton County, Pennsylvania family biographies here: Northampton County, Pennsylvania Biographies

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