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A Brief History of The Knapp Farmstead, Montgomery Township, Pennsylvania

The Knapp Farm occupies property which Welsh immigrants originally settled just after 1700. A 1712 will refers to a house on what has become the Knapp Farm, though it is unclear what connection, if any, that structure has to the present house.

Previous attempts to date the building suggest the western section was erected around 1760, possibly by John Roberts, Jr. who owned the land from 1756 until 1768, with the eastern half following approximately ten years later. (Note: More recent investigation disputes that chronology, indicating the earliest part of the house to be a small one-room section on the east side of the building.)

In 1770, the property was purchased by Dr. Samuel Preston Moore, who lived in the house with his brothers Mordecai and Charles. In 1776, Dr. Moore carved his name and the date into the western front door, providing some evidence of the building’s history. Local legend, bolstered by a newspaper account from the North Wales Record in September 1883, claims George Washington stayed at the house during the autumn of 1777 following the Battle of Germantown, as British troops occupied Philadelphia.

The family who gave the Knapp Farm its current name bought the property in 1835. Abiram Knapp had married Mary Worrall, the daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia merchant in 1815; in 1835 her father purchased the farm and 102 acres as a gift for his daughter and son-in-law. The property has varied between 80 and 115 acres since the Knapps began living there.

Abiram Knapp (1792-1876) and his wife Mary raised six children. Their fourth son, Charles S. Knapp, (1837-1923) inherited and lived on the farm with his wife and nine children, along with his sister Mary A. Knapp. Following Charles Knapp’s death, the farm was owned by his son C. Howard Knapp {1885-1982) who lived there with his wife and two children as well ashis two sisters, Florence and Henrietta. Florence was 114 years of age at the time of her death in 1988.

Knapp family ownership was interrupted in 1969. That year the North Penn School District seized the property through eminent domain in order to build a new high school. The family fought this attempt, in part by having the property added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The school district then decided not to build a school, instead attempting to sell the property to developers. Finally in 1981 they returned title to the family in the form of a trusteeship.

According to the 1976 National Register nomination form, the Knapp house is one of only a few remaining unaltered 18th century farm houses in Montgomery Township, essentially unchanged since the mid-19th century except for a kitchen wing added sometime before 1875, and the addition of electricity and plumbing systems.

Prior to his death in early 2003, Howard “Bud” Knapp, Jr., arranged to sell the Knapp Farm to a developer with the provision that the house and seven acres of land be saved under Montgomery Township’s Historic Overlay District designation. The deed was transferred to the Montgomery Township Historical Society, which now serves as steward of the property and operates it as the society’s headquarters.

The Historical Society commissioned an Historic Structures Report detailing the history, physical condition, and possible preservation and restoration techniques which helped to guide decisions related to the appearance and structure of the house during restoration.

Portions excerpted from the Historic American Buildings Survey, Prepared by William Wright, 1994 and Nomination Form, National Register of Historic Places, Prepared by Ruth Knapp Oberholtzer and Madeline Cohen 1976

The Montgomery Township Historical Society is proud to have been selected to maintain and preserve this extraordinary example of our community’s history. We welcome new members to join us in our efforts to educate ourselves and our neighbors about our shared past.

If you don’t have time to volunteer, considering making a donation.

©2011 Montgomery Township Historical Society