Thursday, May 1, 2008

What a way to go!

Manning M. Knapp (1825-1892) was a Justice in the New Jersey Superior Court for a number of years up to his death in 1892 in the court room.

Manning M. Knapp (1825-1892) was a Justice in the New Jersey Supreme Court for a number of years up to his death in 1892 in the court room.

The New York Times of January 27, 1892, page 1 (accessed at, describes the circumstances leading to his death:




"Supreme Court Justice Manning M. Knapp ended a long service on the bench by dropping dead in the Hudson County Circuit Court room on Jersey City Heights yesterday afternoon. The Judge had been ailing more or less for two or three years. The precarious state of his health necessitated a long vacation last Fall that extended into the opening of the December term of the county courts. He was on hand, however, to receive the Grand Jurors when the term commenced. It was noticed that he failed to deliver to them one of his usual vigorous and caustic charges on the condition of public affairs and the prevalence of public vices throughout the county. It was assumed that this lapse was due to his conviction that, as all of his previous commands that Grand Jurors do their duty proved fruitless, there was no use of his saying more to them. The belief is general now, however, that he was forced to abstain by the condition of his health.

"The failure of the present Grand Jury to indict Cronheim, the Hoboken dive keeper whose frequent arrests for giving Sunday entertainments have been reported in these columns , served, however, to arouse all the Judge's latent energies, and when the Grand Jury went into court yesterday afternoon to make presentments and report progress, he was prepared to lecture them for their dereliction. When the members had ranged themselves in front of his bench in the courtroom he denounced them roundly for their refusal to take cognizance of the proofs in this case.

"Once before, he said, Cronheim had been indicted and had pleaded non vult. That was his confession of guilt. The testimony taken in a more recent habeas corpus case that had involved Cronheim's place was sufficient to have convicted him if he had been on trial, and he declared himself astonished beyond measure that the Grand Jury had not found an indictment.

"The court, the Judge added, felt particularly sensitive over these repeated protections of violators of the law, because in the public mind the court itself was involved in the imputations, though it had no control whatever over the Grand Jury. There was once a time when a charge to the Grand Jury was heeded, and he wanted to know if this time no longer existed. Then he picked up a bundle of manuscript and held it in view of the inquest.

" 'Information comes to the court,' he said, 'which involves it in the protection of crime because of the failure of the Grand Jury to act. You will find here a copy of --'

"The Judge became ghastly pale and gasped for breath. Before Judge Lippincott could reach him he had fallen back in his chair unconscious. The excitement in the courtroom became intense. Grand Jurors and tipstaves and spectators pressed forward toward the bench, while Judge Lippincott, assisted by one or two lawyers, carried the suffering jurist into his private chamber. When they had laid him on the sofa they felt for his pulse and listened for heart beats.

" 'I fear he is dead!' said one as he turned with a despairing air to the throng that was trying to push its way into the room. Messengers were hastened in all directions for medical aid. Dr. Rhodes, who was the first physician to arrive, saw at a glance that the end had come and that the stricken Justice was beyond the reach of medical skill. Dr. Noble dashed in a minute or two later. He said that death had resulted from a ruptured blood vessel.

"The remains were removed to the late home of the deceased at Hackensack.

"Judge Knapp had been on the bench of the Supreme Court of the State for seventeen years. He was a native of Newtown, Sussex County. Born in 1823, he was in his sixty-ninth year, but his wonderful mental acumen and his springy, elastic step indicated a much younger man. He was admitted to the bar at the July term in 1846, and was made a counselor in 1850. He quickly acquired a large practice and attracted attention by his success in the conduct of several important cases. In 1875, Gov. Bedle appointed him to the Supreme Court bench. Gov. Ludlow reappointed him in 1882, and in 1889 Gov. Green signed his third commission. Soon after his appointment by Gov. Bedle the Supreme court Justices assigned him to the busy Hudson County Circuit, which Bedle had vacated to accept the Chief Magistracy of the state.

"Judge Knapp was a widely-read man and an enthusiast in other studies than the law. He was specially interested in the mysteries of the heavens, and at his home in Hackensack had one of the most complete telescopes in this part of the country. He was scarcely up to the medium height, but he had a massive head, and the classic mold of his features was a subject of frequent remark.

"The Grand Jury was to have considered the Guttenberg race-course scandal yesterday. Judge Knapp had prepared to make that the topic of a special charge. His death prevented its delivery.

"Judge Knapp leaves a wife, daughter of Capt. Joseph Mattison of the navy, and a son and a daughter, the latter being the wife of Walter V. Clark of Hackensack."


Isn't that interesting? I wish that more journalists could write as well as this is written! I've given up hope that I could... I'll have more on Judge Knapp in later posts. He's related to me!


Lidian said...

I really admire the writing style of the reporters back then. It makes reading the old news doubly enjoyable.

That is quite a way to go! How is Judge Knapp related to you? Look forward to reading more.

Janice said...


Perhaps if newspaper articles were written in a more interesting style, we might be reading them more, and the internet less.