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Reverend Thomas Knapper family papers

Call Number: RH MS 688


The Reverend Thomas Knapper family papers are those of a long time Kansas City, Kansas family. Thomas Knapper was a police patrolman, Baptist minister, and businessman. His wife, Tillie, was a teacher, as was his daughter Barbara.


  • Creation: 1920 - 1983


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of Reverend Thomas Knapper Family

Thomas Knapper was born December 14, 1879 in St. Louis, Missouri and spent his childhood there and in Natchez, Mississippi. He moved to Kansas City, Kansas at 17; shortly thereafter, Knapper served with the 23rd Kansas Regiment in Cuba during the Spanish American War. After returning to Kansas, he became a police patrolman. In 1921, Knapper began Thomas Knapper & Co. Booksellers, which sold books by African American authors, second hand theological books, and Masonic works. Two years later, in 1923, Knapper was ordained at the Eighth Street Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas, which his father, Rev. Thomas Knapper, Sr., founded as the Rose Hill Baptist Church.

In 1933, Knapper married Tillie Parker Moss. Tillie Parker was born March 12, 1875 in Lexington, Missouri. She taught in both Lexington and Lee's Summit, Missouri. In 1906 she moved to Kansas City, Kansas as the bride of Will Moss, where she was among the first African American beauticians. After Moss died, Tillie opened Tillie Moss' Cottage Tea Room and, later, became a matron at Western University. During this time, she organized the first Women's Better Government League in Kansas City, KS. After marrying Knapper, Tillie was co-owner of Knapper's book store.

Both Thomas and Tillie were active in the community. Thomas Knapper was a member of a number of Masonic groups, including the I. B. Blackburn Lodge and the Orient Consistory. He was a board member of the Wyandotte Chamber of Commerce and of Douglass State Bank where he also acted as Director. He also served as Second Vice President of the local NAACP chapter. Tillie was also active in various Masonic groups, including the Star of Bethlehem (of which she was a Matron) and the Mary Magdalene Court. She also was a Past President of the Parliamentary and Culture Club and the Interdenominational Ministers Wives Alliance of Greater Kansas City.

The couple had a son, Peter Verlon, and two daughters, Mary Ella and Barbara. Barbara Knapper graduated from Sumner High School, with honors, and then attended the University of Kansas, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree. She then earned a Master of Arts from Columbia University, New York, and graduated from the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, in church music. Barbara also holds an Educational Specialist Degree and a certificate for Elementary School Principal. She worked for nine years as a third and fourth grade teacher in Kansas City, KS and then worked for 33 years in the Kansas City, MO school system, where she served as Program Director for the Extended Day Kindergarten program. Barbara published a number of articles and was active in a number of professional and civic organizations, such as the Choristers Guild. She married Lenel Mason.

Rev. Thomas Knapper died in 1952; Tillie was 102 when she died in 1977. Barbara Knapper Mason died in 1999.


1 Linear Feet (3 document cases + 2 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The Reverend Thomas Knapper family papers date from 1920 to 1983 and are arranged by family member. Folder arrangement within each family member's papers is alphabetical. Family members represented in the collection include Thomas Knapper, Tillie Knapper, and Barbara Knapper Mason. Oversize manuscript materials are located at RH MS Q152.

Photographs from the Reverend Thomas Knapper family papers are located at RH MS-P 688, RH MS-P 688(f), and RH MS-P 688(ff).

Physical Location

RH MS 688

Physical Location

RH MS-P 688

Physical Location

RH MS-P 688(f)

Physical Location

RH MS-P 688(ff)

Physical Location

RH MS Q152

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, Barbara Knapper Mason, 1986, 1995.

Guide to the Reverend Thomas Knapper Family Collection
Reverend Thomas Knapper family papers
Finding aid prepared by mbw, 2006; revised by cl, 2010; revised by skt, 2010. Finding aid encoded by mbw, 2006; revised by skt, 2010.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Support for the processing of this Collection was provided by the Dana and Sue Anderson African American Collecting Program Endowment Fund.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Reverend Thomas Knapper family papers, Kansas Collection, RH MS 688, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States