Knecht's book covers the history of St. Paul Lutheran

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Fayette Faces

By Panzi Blackwell


“The shock of arriving in a foreign land must have been overwhelming for our forefathers because what they perceived in their minds looked different after that arrived. While they would never forget the land from whence they came, once they set foot on American soil, their lives were haunted by dislocation.” 


These words are from the preface of the book “History of St. Paul and Its Earliest Settlers (1864-2014), written by David Knecht in commemoration with St. Paul Lutheran Church’s 

150 years “of service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at St/ Paul Lutheran Church.” 

Preceding the quote are the words, “Let each of us strive to become good ancestors,” a goal that Knecht is certainly achieving through his gift (the book) to the families of St. Paul and a tribute to their ancestors, some of the earliest settlers in America. 

It is a treasure of information and includes old photographs and copies of legal documents and of even old receipts for store purchases, giving the reader a picture of everyday life in those times.

The book is indeed a treasure, not only for the St. Paul descendants, but also for Fayette County historians and all who are interested in the county’s rich and historical background, and the cultures, traditions, beliefs and life for the early settlers. 

Meet David Knecht

“First, let me say the book isn’t about me, so I hesitate to elaborate very much, other than to say that I am the son of  the late Edward and Fredia (Malchow) Knecht of rural Shobonier.”

He was born and reared on a farm and was baptized, confirmed and married at Immanuel Lutheran at Augsburg. He received his education at Augsburg, Vandalia Community High School and SIU Carbondale. 

He served six years in the Army Reserves and was granted an honorable discharge. Then, after a 33-year management career with General Motors, he retired in 1999, having worked in sales, service, marketing and education, and training while living in Michigan, Texas and California. 

He and his wife of 47 years, the former Nancy Phinney from Vernon, have two daughters.

His respect and affection for St. Paul and his admiration for the early settlers of St. Paul is understandable, as his maternal side of the family were members of St. Paul for more than100 years, and his mother and father were married there.  

His great-great-grandfather was a charter member and the first church reading services were held in his house.

On the paternal side of his family, his great-grandparents were married at St. Paul, and his great-great-grandfather is buried there.

The Book

There are 529 pages in the 11-inch-by-inch book, which is divided into six sections: Introduction, pages 1-6; Life in Prussia, pages-7-40; Immigrating to Wisconsin and Illinois, pages 41-70; Significant St. Paul Event, pages 71-517; Closing Comments, pages 518-519; and Contributor Acknowledgements-pages 520-529. 

An artist’s simple, but attractive drawing of the church adorns the front cover of book, which also makes it an object of beauty in the home.

Much Information & Many Highlights

As the author takes the reader on the journey from the pioneers’ home country of Prussia, he actually begins the story in the preface, with intriguing questions most would have not have thought to considered, as we take many things for granted in America today. 

He said, “Finding answers to these questions breathes life into those who have gone on before”… and he is right. As you read on, you develop a sense of compassion the families who endured the difficult life and oppression, and then feel admiration and hope for those brave and courageous souls who made the monumental decision to make the arduous and dangerous ocean voyage to a land where they would be strangers … to everything, including the language.

Through obvious intense research, Knecht introduces us to those who first arrived in America,  before the Civil War had ended, a time of turmoil in the United States.

The earliest arrivals who fled the oppressive, difficult life of Prussia settled in other states before arriving in Fayette County and St. Paul in April 1864. 

The recorded names of the first arrivals include Ferdinand Bass, Ludwig Lenz, J. Frederich  Malchow, Robert Maske, Friedrich Sasse,= and Gottfried Stein, courageous forefathers and ancestors of some families that remained, married, raised families and are buried in the cemetery there.

The Book Includes …

… marriages, deaths, births and pastors, up to and including the current, the Rev. David Hoehner. It also includes  copied church records of confirmations and baptisms, church building rund records, maps, many photographs of the people who have served and are now serving (Ladies Aid, “Pancake Flippers” etc.)

Knecht’s book is available for purchase by contacting the church.

The church women have also put together and published a commemorative historical cook book that contains some of the earliest families’ recipes. 

The Celebrations

The public is invited to join the congregation of St. Paul Lutheran Church in celebrating its150 years of service to the Lord. 

They have planned three special Sunday afternoons,which will include a meal at noon,  followed by a program and a 2 p.m. church service.

• Sunday – The Rev. Calvin Seban. Knecht will be the program speaker.

• Aug. 17-LCMS president, Rev. Harrison (this date is tentative). Program speaker will be Linda Hanabarger, area historian.

• Sept. 14-Rev. Douglas Meyer. Program speaker will be Roger Boye, a professor at Northwestern whose family is from this area.