Alex A. Knapp was born in Wooster, Ohio in 1836. His parents would soon thereafter relocate to Mansfield, Ohio, where Alex would learn the trade of a tinner and plumber. After working as a journeyman in that trade for a number of years, he would come to Fort Recovery, Ohio in 1857.
It was there that he found work in the tinning and stove business of Mr. R. G. Blake. In 1859, Blake was named a Judge in Celina. Blake would sell his business to Knapp and relocate for this new position. Knapp continued to work in the store until that fateful day in April of 1861 when Fort Sumter was fired upon beginning the Civil War.
He enlisted and served as a First Sergeant in Company I of the Seventeenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry under Generals McClellan and Rosecrans in what would be known as West Virginia. He would return to Fort Recovery in the Autumn and in October was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He would spend three years during the war enlisting volunteers. He recruited an entire company within a month and was soon assigned to the 40th Regiment of Ohio Volunteers. Knapp was made a Captain and put in charge of Company K.
With 100 hand-picked men under his command, he participated in the battles of Middle Creek and Pound Gap in 1862. His unit would remain and help preserve the occupation of the Big Sandy Valley against the forces of Confederate General Braxton Bragg until 1863. The regiment would then be assigned to serve in a brigade of reserve corps under General Walter Whittaker. This group was active in many battles in Tennessee. On September 20, 1863, during the battle of Chickamauga, Knapp was injured when the horse of one of General Whittaker’s aides fell on him. Knapp would continue to serve until March of 1864 when he was given an Honorable Discharge due to his injuries.
Knapp returned to Fort Recovery until the end of the War. In 1865, he moved to Union City where he formed a partnership with Colonel Jonathan Cranor, whom he had served with in the war. The two friends began a hardware business under the name of Cranor & Knapp. In 1867, Knapp fell ill, sold his interest to Cranor and returned to Fort Recovery.
After recovering from this illness, he sold all of his property in Fort Recovery and returned to Union City in 1870. Knapp began a business shipping walnut logs to Eastern Ports and Europe. The following year he began a lumber business in Redkey in which he would partner with William Sniff under the name of Knapp & Sniff.
It was also in 1871 that Knapp was a member of the Union City Council that saw the construction of the first water works in Union City. Upon its completion the council named him as the new facility’s first superintendent. Knapp would serve in this capacity for a half-dozen years. Under his supervision, there was never an instance where a pump, valve or hydrant was found in anything less than perfect working order during a fire. Leading to little, if any, property loss to fire under his watch.
In 1873, Knapp returned to the plumbing business. As his business grew, he began selling sewer pipe and terra cotta goods. Knapp had possibly the finest selection of such goods in the area. This business would be incorporated in 1889 with a capital of $25,000.00 as “The Knapp Supply Co.” Owing to poor health, he would sell his interest in this company to L. C. Huesmann, the following year. In 1926, Huesmann would move the business to Muncie where it remains in operation to this day.
In 1893, Knapp began another business under the name “Alex Knapp & Co.” which sold iron and lead pipes, plumbing supplies, rubber hoses, steam fitting supplies, terra cotta tiles, and other such supplies. This business would branch out and had locations in Union City, Portland, and Dunkirk.
In March of 1869, Knapp would marry Mary P. McDaniel whose parents were among the pioneering families of Mercer County, Ohio. Upon her death in 1883, Alex married Emma T. Slough, who descended from the Pennsylvania Dutch. Knapp’s parents, John N. Knapp and Hannah Spang are also descended from those who settled Pennsylvania with William Penn. Knapp’s parents were among the earliest settlers in Mercer County, Ohio.
Captain Alex A. Knapp would pass away on February 24, 1901 at the age of 64. Emma would survive until March of 1938. Alex, Emma, and Mary are all buried in the Union City Cemetery. Captain Knapp led an interesting life, and one of the businesses he began is still operating nearly 150 years later.