Rev. Elias L. Knupp, gunsmith

Introduction: The 1953 edition of Gluckman's "American Gun Makers" puts Eli Knupp in Bakersville, Somerset County as someone who made percussion rifles. In the 1962 book "Two Centuries of Brothersvalley Church of the Brethren", David J. Weimer also indicates that Elias Knupp was a gunsmith in Bakersville, and describes Elias's workmanship as good. I wonder if they confused Elias Knupp with the gunsmith Charles Monroe Knupp of Bakersville. Alternately (and probably a better theory), perhaps Elias Knupp was served by the Bakersville post office, and had a Bakersville address. I believe, based on what you can read below, that the Knupp property had portions in Cook and Donegal townships of Westmoreland County and Jefferson Township of Somerset County.

The following portion of the 1860 Walker map of Somerset County shows the location of Bakersville relative to the Westmoreland County line and the town of Somerset. Elias Knupp lived a significant part of his life in Westmoreland County just west of the county line, at a location very near the upper edge of this map fragment:

1838: The tombstone of Elias L. Knupp indicates he was born in 1838. According to his findagrave.com memorial, his parents were Jacob and Catherine Knupp. They are buried in the Ritter Cemetery (40.1162000, -79.2463000) on Felgar Road in Cook Township of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. This cemetery is located 1.2 miles northwest of the western mouth of the abandoned Laurel Hill tunnel of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

On his web page about the Ritter Cemetery, David Harrold reports that his great-great-great grandparents Jacob and Catherine (Brailler) Knupp had a property that was located in Cook and Donegal Townships, Westmoreland County and Jefferson Township, Somerset County, and reports that their home was near the west end of the abandoned turnpike tunnel. Mr. Harrold also reports that Jacob and Catherine were the parents of the gunsmith Elias Knupp, and were the parents of the Barbara Knupp who married Jonathan Dormyer.

1857: The following portion of the 1857 Barker map of Westmoreland County identifies the location of the residence of Jacob Knupp near the source of Indian Creek:

1860: The following composite image is from the 1850 agricultural census of Donegal Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. I believe it represents the farm of Elias Knupp's father Jacob Knupp.

1860: According to the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania", in 1860 Elias Knupp was apprenticed to Somerset Township gunsmith Jonathan Dunmeyer (really "Dormayer"), who was married to Elias's sister Barbara. By my calculations, Jonathan Dormayer was about 12 years older than Elias Knupp. Elias Knupp would have been about 22 years old in 1860, and Jonathan Dormayer would have been about 34 years old. This apprenticeship qualifies Elias Knupp as a Somerset County gunsmith.

1861: A different Eli Knupp was born in Cook Township, Westmoreland County in 1861, died in 1918, and is buried in Somerset County.

1867: The following image is from the Cook Township portion of the Beers 1867 "Atlas of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania". It shows the residence of the gunsmith Elias Knupp near the border with Somerset County (i.e. Laurel Hill). Nearby is the residence of J. Knupp. As an educated guess, this J. Knupp residence may be the residence of Elias's father Jacob. As another educated guess, the "H. Reter" residence to the northwest may be the site of the Ritter Cemetery, which is said to have been on the farm of Henry Ritter.

1870: The 1984 book "Pennsylvania Gunmakers: A Collection" reports that Eli is enumerated in the 1870 Cook Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania census as a 33-year-old individual living with his 30-year-old wife Harriet and his one-year-old daughter Mary. The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania" puts Eli in Mount Pleasant in 1870, as a gunsmith who was living with his infant daughter and his wife Harriet. One book or the other is wrong about the location of Eli's residence, and I suspect it is the 2017 book.

The following item is from the 1981 book "Some of the ancestors and descendents of Dewalt Ankeny", and identifies Elias's wife and children:

1872: Elias's father Jacob died June 2, 1872.

1876: The following image is from the Cook Township portion of the 1876 "Illustrated Atlas of Westmoreland Co. Pennsylvania". It locates the residence of E. Knupp in Donegal Township, just south of the border between Donegal and Cook townships. Elias's residence was at or near the source of Indian Creek, and roughly 1.4 miles south of the source of Powder Mill Run.

1880: According to the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania", in the 1880 census of Donegal Township, Westmoreland County, Elias Knupp was enumerated as a gunsmith. It is possible that Elias Knupp's property was in both Cook and Donegal Townships, Westmoreland County and Jefferson Township, Somerset County. Elias's residence was near the western mouth of the abandoned Laurel Hill tunnel, which is in Donegal Township, about 143 yards from the Cook Township line and about 727 yards west of the border with Jefferson Township, Somerset County.

1880: Click here to review the details of the Donegal Township farm of Elias Knupp that are recorded in the 1880 agricultural census. As an educated guess, Elias may have owned some of his deceased father's property.

1884: The following composite image is from the July, 1934 issue of the "Turnpike News". It indicates that construction on Knupp's tunnel began in February of 1884, and confirms that it became the (now abandoned) Laurel Hill tunnel of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

1884: The following article from the August, 1939 issue of the "Turnpike news" tells what life was like in 1884 in the vicinity of the site of the Laurel Hill tunnel, which was originally known as Knupp's tunnel. In the text, "1844" is a typographical error and should read "1884". Pennsylvania didn't have a deer season until 1869.

1884: The following extract from the April 9, 1884 issue of the "Somerset Herald" newspaper mentions Knupp's tunnel, and borrowing from from the April 5, 1884 issue of the "American Contract Journal" includes the statement, "Over in Westmoreland County, a force of 200 men are hammering away at Knupp's tunnel, which will be the connecting link between that county and Somerset when the road is complete." That many men converging on Elias Knupp's farm would have been a big event in his life.

1884: The following item is from the May 7, 1884 issue of the "Somerset Herald" newspaper:

1884: A first-hand account exists of nine men being killed near the western mouth of the tunnel by falling rock, with three more men severely injured. The account describes the house of Elias Knupp as being located near the west end of the tunnel, at some distance greater than 150 feet. The account also states that the nine men were buried on May 30. Here is another description of the accident from an undated issue of the "Turnpike News":

1884: The following item is from the May 31, 1884 issue of the "Indianapolis Journal":

1884: The following item is from the June 5, 1884 issue of the "Christian Cynosure":

1884: The following item is from the June 6, 1884 issue of the "Perrysville Journal":

1884: The following composite image is from the July 1, 1884 issue of the "Mount Pleasant Journal" newspaper:

1884: This news item from the July 9, 1884 issue of the "Somerset Herald" newspaper mentions Knupp's tunnel.

1884: Here is a November 28, 1884 letter that mentions Elias Knupp in the context of obtaining a railroad right-of-way at the western end of the tunnel.

1891: The following two items are from the 1895 book "Report of the State Commissioners of fisheries, for the years 1892-93-94", and show that Elias Knupp was involved with fish stocking projects. Kuhn is located at 40.091491, -79.217751, which is 4.1 miles north of Bakersville on modern roads, and which is about 594 yards south of the eastern mouth of the now abandoned Laurel Hill Tunnel. Elias Knupp is referred to as "Preacher" in his obituary, which is included below.

1893: The following item is from the 1895 book "Report of the State Commissioners of fisheries, for the years 1892-93-94".

1895: The following item is from the 1896 book "Report of the State Commissioners of fisheries, for the year 1895". Ligonier is 9.6 miles north of the western mouth of the abandoned Laurel Hill Tunnel.

1896: The 1896 Annual Report of the Pennsylvania Fish Commission mentions "...Knupp's tunnel , on the abandoned line of the South Pennsylvania railroad..." Knupp's tunnel formed the basis for the now abandoned Laurel Hill Tunnel of the Pennsylvania turnpike.

Circa 1903: A circa 1903 newspaper article provided by a Knupp family member states, "Two of the handsomest lots of trouts seen in this place for many years were brought in by Henry Mull of Bakersville, and Eli Knupp whose home is at the western approach of the Laurel Tunnel. Mr. Mull brought his lot in on Saturday and they filled a large tin pail, many of the fish measuring between 12 and 18 inches in length. Monday afternoon Mr. Knupp brought his catch in and they filled a small tub. Two of the trout weighed an even pound and both were over 16 inches long. His entire catch varied in size between 8 and 18 inches. The gentlemen did not find ready sale at the price asked 80 cents per pound, but they disposed of them all before returning to their homes." I suspect that Henry Mull was the brother of Susan (Mull) Larimer, who lived with and had a child the gunsmith Augustus Enders, and whose residence was near the eastern mouth of Knupp's tunnel.

1906: This excerpt from Volume III of the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania" indicates that Anna M. Knupp, daughter of Eli and Harriet Knupp, was married to Edwin S. Sechler in 1906, and refers to Eli and Harriet Knupp as residents of Somerset, Pennsylvania.

1910: The following item is from the July 20, 1910 issue of the "Ligonier Echo" newspaper. It identifies Eli Knupp as a Reverend.

1913: The 1913 topographical map which follows shows the terrain in the vicinity of the source of Indian Creek, where Elias Knupp lived. It also shows the proximity of the source of Indian Creek to the Somerset County Line. Also shown is the proximity to the villages of Kuhn and Bakersville.

1914: According to the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania", the April 15, 1914 issue of the "Somerset Herald" newspaper mentions that Harriet Knupp has died of pneumonia at age 72. She is buried in the Husband Cemetery, Somerset, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. What appears to be a footstone there states, "Harriet 1841-1914".

1917: The obituary of Elias Knupp was published in the April 11, 1917 issue of the "Somerset Herald". It states, "Eli Knupp, aged about 76 years, widely known as 'Preacher' Knupp, died unexpectedly at 6 o'clock Monday morning at his home on West Union St. Mr. Knupp was a native of Westmoreland County and following his marriage became a resident of Jefferson Township, where he resided near the tunnel on the abandoned South Penn Railroad, which bears his name, until his recent removal to Somerset, 6 or 7 years ago, since when he lived a retired life. The deceased was up and about on Sunday and early in the evening was seen on the streets in the business section of town. His death was due to a sudden attack of heart trouble."

1917: Elias L. Knupp is buried in the Husband Cemetery, Somerset, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. What appears to be a footstone there gives his name as "Elias L." and indicates he was born in 1838 and died in 1917. The Husband Cemetery is located at Latitude 40.014891, Longitude -79.083683.

1917: According to the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania", the estate inventory of Elias Knupp includes the contents of a tool shop that were valued at $27.50, the contents of a blacksmithing shop that were valued at $6.00, a new shotgun valued at $5.00, and lumber valued at $2.00, with a total estate value of $2,450.00.

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