Bellport and the knapps

1890’s – 1912
and 1930’s – 41

It is more than highly likely that one or more members of the Joseph P. Knapp family are in the above photo of a Bellport Yacht Club regatta taken by Frances H. Toms circa 1910. and I am most certain at least one or two of their boats are present also. “The Lady Claire” “The Idler” “The Petrel” “The Intrepid” or teen ager Dodi’s motor boat named …….? For all I know that could be Sylvia T. Knapp on the dock with her daughter Claire A. Knapp. They were the last Knapps to live nearly year round in Bellport, opting for a 12 acre horse farm in Greenlawn in 1912.

Athough there are several pages throughout this site that have photos and newsclippings of the Knapps time in Bellport. (links to all of them will be at the bottom of these pages) I am adding this page as a central clearing house for all the info I have on them pertaining to their stay in Bellport for ONE SPECIFIC REASON. I am hoping that some website reader out there might have a photo or two of a gathering of folks from this time period or better yet dare I hope an actual ID’d photo of Master Joseph F. Knapp or his mother Sylvia. I have photos of Joseph P. Knapp on the dock at Bellport ,and later ones of his daughter Claire (1889-1959) as an adult, but no definitive photos of Sylvia Theresa Knapp nee Kepner 1866- 19__ or her son Joseph Fairchild Knapp (1892-1952) aka Dodi or Doty Knapp who came of age in Bellport during the early 1900’s and returned to it in the 1930’s marrying a local girl from Brookhaven, Marion H. Murdock who was the wife of local auto mechanic Milton Murdock¬†(Gardiner Murdocks son).

The fact that the Knapps lived in Bellport most summers and part time winters from 1894 – 1912 and were very socially prominent and active (Joseph Palmer Knapp was a founder of the Bellport Golf Course in 1899 and probably involved with the Yacht Club in 1906 , I find it hard to believe that no “positively identifiable” photos were ever taken of them during this time of almost two decades (second only to their 34 years at their highly secluded 200 acre estate in Mastic Beach) There seems to be many of their friends and associates still being published in books and articles … eg. the Motts, the Otis’, the Edeys, etc. In all that time you know somebody broke out a Brownie! whether covering a social event or just a personal snapshot.

This photo circa 1903 – 05 is most likely Joseph P. Knapp on the dock at either the Wyandotte or Goldthwaite

Hotels or at the yacht club he helped to build.


The boy at the extreme left is the right age (11- 13) to be his son Joseph F. Knapp, as is the girl on the far right who resembles and seems to be the right age ( 13 -15 ) for his daughter Claire at the time. If this is them, it is highly likely their mother Sylvia is among these ladies. J P and Sylvia divorced in 1904. Sylvia continued to return to Bellport in the summers with her children and by 1910 was also spending the fall & spring there until 1912.


“Brook Farm”

Mr. John L. B. Mott was one of the four partners with Joseph P. Knapp to build the original Bellport Golf Club. The Mott home on South Country Road is now The Gateway Theatre. The last place that Sylvia & Claire Knapp lived in was in very close proximity to the Mott Home & William Langley’s “Ol Kentuck” Estate according to the 1910 census. The photo below was taken in 1900

B&W photos from Bellport Village & Brookhaven Hamlet by Victor Principe

The seldom seen rear side of The Standford White room (west wing) This part of the home burned down in 1962

The former Mott home as it looks in 2004, The Knapps last residence in Bellport may of been the home below which is directly across from it on South Country Road.

Still checking with Lee Snead the current owner as to when his place was built. It could of been the last home the Knapps had in Bellport. The reason is: It is right on the border of Col. Wm H Langley’s ” Old Kentuck” estate location and this is where where Sylvia and Claire were enumerated in the 1910 Census.

Langley’s “Old Kentuck” Sylvia & Claire Knapp’s Neighbor

94 years and a change of seasons. Here is where “Brook Farm ” derived it’s name. Mott Brook in a 1910 postcard & frozen in time February 2004 by Marty Van Lith’s digital camera. It is aka Mott’s Creek. It runs on the east side of the estate and flows south into “Old Kentuck” under South Country Road where it was known as Langley’s creek and from there into Bellport bay






July 21, 1894

This pretty town is almost crowded with Brooklyn and New York people. In fact it is the most prosperous season we have ever had. The class of people summering here are of the sort calculated to benifit the town. Nearly all the cottagers have arrived. Senator Otis is at his cottage “Near The Bay” He is taking great comfort with his yacht The Climax which is a fast racer. Frank Otis his brother is showing off his fine horses to good advatage. He has several that are hard to beat. He is now at The Locusts. Joseph Knapp who is summering here takes his daily drives behind a team of elegant horses. J. B. Mott who drives a Tally- Ho is now entertaining several friends. He has the only private banquet hall in Bellport……..


August 11, 1894

Life at this charming resort has been gay during the past week. The principal attractions are now sailing and fishing and these are thoroughly enjoyed. Bellport prides itself upon the number of pretty yachts that dot it’s harbor.The harbor is without exception the prettiest along the south side. Yachting is followed by everybody. Among those who own yachts are Capt Oscar Dole, The Edith S, General Varian, The J. A. King, Steven Van Rensellar, The Brandy & Soda, Doctor Mandeville the steam yacht Magnetcia, Joseph Knapp ,The Idler, Senator James Otis, The Climax, F. A. Otis, The No Name ……


August 8, 1898

Among those who drive at Bellport are : Adolph Schroeder at team, William Platt Pepper a team, Prof. Jacobsen a team, Dr. Manderville who has a fine stable of blooded stock, J. E. Brown, J. P. Knapp, Charles Osborne, George Drost, J L B Mott, Fred Edey, Frank Otis, R. H. Davis and others


March 28, 1899

Bellport_LI The project of establishing a golf course in this place is being seriously considered, and it’s realization at an early date is promising. James P. Knapp (sic) * and C. E. Osborn recently visited the village to examine property with a view of choosing a favorable site. They decided that the tract lying south of the main road and extending to the bay shore was the most eligible.

*This would not be the first or last time the papers would call him James P. Knapp


April 21, 1901

The Bellport Golf course is in excellent condition considering the short time the club has been in existence, this being it’s third season. The turf on the fair green is firm andthe putting greens are smooth and quick It was originated in 1899 by cheif promotors Messrs. Joseph P. Knapp, John B. Mott and Fred Edey. In point of beauty this course is one of the most charming on the island.


May 26, 1899

ALBANY May 25 – The Bellport Golf Club of Bellport L. I. was incorporated today with the Secratary of State. The Directors are: George H. Barnes* of Brooklyn, Fred Edey, John Mott, Frank A. Otis, and Joseph P. Knapp of Bellport.

Note G H Barnes esq.1862-1925 was a Knapp family friend and avid golfer. He was guest at Antoinette Knapp’s wedding in 1885 and was an usher for J P ‘s wedding in 1886.


July 24, 1904

BELLPORT- Yachting is ranking precedent above all other outdoor sports at this resort, among the clever handlers of yachts being many young women. Among some of the yachtsmen are J. P. Knapp, R. G. Rowley, A. B. Boyd, and George Droste. The links of the Bellport Golf Club continue to be crowded on Saturday afternoons. The idea of uniting the golf and yachting clubs and bringing them under a country club is finding remarkable favor here.


June 6, 1909

BELLPORT L.I With the opening of the Bellport Golf Club about the middle of June this popular resort will be launched upon another season of Summer pastime and pleasure. Never before in it’s history has it started with better prospects. The large tennis courts of the club, as well as the magnificent golf links comprise more than 50 acres, fronting directly on the Great South Bay have been put in first class condition. That historic old hostelry the Mallard Inn has had it’s name changed to the Bell Inn in honor of the late Capt. Bell, it’s builder and from whom Bellport takes it’s name.

Among the cottagers who have opened their Summer homes here are Mrs Fred Edey, Mrs. Joseph Knapp, J. L. B. Mott, Mrs Walter Cook, G. F. Droste, Mr and Mrs Charles W. Osborn, and Dr. J. P. Crowell …….


August 14, 1910

BELLPORT AUGUST 13 1910 – ……women seem to know more about yacht racing than men at this resort. In almost every race they usually come out the winner. Such is the fact as when it is not blowing a gale. In the last race for the one design class boats Miss Marion Young crossed the finish line first, followed by Miss Claire Knapp, Miss Ethel B Ketcham and Miss Emily Boyd……….


Two Princeton Youths Exhausted When Rescued In Great South Bay

June 21, 1911

Thomas Dixon Jr. son of a Southern writer and Joseph F. Knapp were rescued from the Great South Bay yesterday morning after they had been clinging to the keel of a capsized catboat for five hours. When their cries were heard they were on the verge of exhaustion and could of held on only a few minutes longer they said.

Knapp has been entertaining Dixon, a classmate in Princeton in his parent’s summer home. On Tuesday evening the two went out on the Great South Bay in Knapp’s motor boat, The Lady Dixon. The two had dinner at Smith’s Point, but when they started home about 8 O’clock in the evening, they found the engine would not run, so they hired a small catboat in which they started home.

Two miles off of Bellport a squall struck the small craft and over it went. The shore was too far away for either youth to attempt to swim it so they clung to the boat. Frequently they tried to climb up on it but their clothing caused them to slip back.

The water was cold and the young men soon became numb with cold. Their fingers became cramped and they feared they would soon lose their hold upon the boat. The wind blew them slowly toward Bellport and at intervals they shouted for help. Shortly after midnite Capt Charles Rice a life saver at the Wyandotte Hotel, Bellport heard their shouts and puttting out in his motor boat rescued the boys. Both fainted from exhaustion after being pulled into his boat.

Note : As in all news items facts and typos can always sneak in. A check with Princeton Alumni Association found no records of Joseph F. Knapp ever enrolled there. ???? Hard Cold Facts are: Tom Dixon was in the class of 1914. Dixon would eventualy marry Joe’s sister, Claire Knapp in 1942… The motor boat may of also been called The Lady Claire, as there was a Lady Claire sailboat at Bellport. But then Tom had a sister Louise that Joe Knapp may of named his motor boat for ??? …. as I said on several other pages the Knapp – Dixon relationship goes way back. It would be great to find photos of Bellport boats in this era with their names readable. It would be great to find a photo of Bellportian Captain Charles Rice too as if it weren’t for him the Knapp Mansion in Mastic Beach most likely would of never existed and Claire Knapp would of had to marry someone else other than Tom Dixon…….


by “W. F. G.”

W.F.G. (does anyone know who that was?) wrote a regular column for the Advance in the early 20th century on the goings on in Bellport. Here are some items that involved The Knapps.

SEPT 24, 1909 : Joseph F. Knapp Jr. has a sure enough wireless …..Edward Boyston is building an airship at the Wyandotte Garage…

Note: Dodi was 17 years old in 1909, he would later put his wireless training to good use on his Mastic Beach estate in WWI. I don’t know if Dodi knew Ed but he would start flying out at Mastic Beach in the spring of 1917. I discovered his wireless equipment in one of his M B estate barns about 1952, the year he passed away in Hampton Bays.

JAN 14, 1910: Mrs. Sylvia Knapp and Miss Claire Knapp have closed their cottage here for a few weeks.

Note: A trip to Paris perhaps? …guess not …. Back so soon?

FEB 4, 1910 : The slush, mud. rain,wind, sleet and snow of last Saturday did not deter Miss Rich and Miss Knapp from their daily horse-back rides

APRIL 8, 1910: Mrs. Sylvia Knapp has opened her cottage for the summer

SEPT 10, 1910 : Saturday’s race at Babylon resulted in a victory for Mr. Messeroles one designer. Miss Knapp’s “Lady Claire” was second…

Note sailing from Bellport to Babylon is quite a journey

NOV 11, 1910 : Miss Claire Knapp recently entertained a large company at a birthday celebration

Note : Claire turned 21 on October 23. 1910

MAY 19, 1911: …Miss Knapp has some fine horses out on the roads these days.

Note: And Zulal was one of them

JUNE 23, 1911 : Saturday afternoon Do-do (sic) Knapp and his friend Mr. Dixen(sic) of Virginia went over to Smith’s Point in Mr. Knapp’s motor boat. The engine refusing to work, a small sailboat was borrowed for the return trip home. When in the middle of the bay the boat capsized. The young men clung to the boat and called for help as long as their strength lasted. Their calling was heard by Mr. Stack in Brookhaven who telephoned the Wyandotte. Capt. Charles Rice went out in his power boat and after searching in the dark, finally found them. Having been in the water from five thirty till nine thirty they were exhausted. The friend of Mr. Knapp was revived with great difficult as he had been unconscious sometime before the rescue.

This account of the rescue of Joe & Tom is most interesting to me. It is the only time I have ever seen his nickname Dodi or Doty used in print albeit hopefully typoed by the Advance. Wonder what the word around town was when Do-do appeared in print? Also there are discrepancies as to the date and time lines as it was reported in the New York Times just two days prior….. would love to know the whole story and which one was right.

The Arcadia Press Images Of America series has been of a great help in my research. They all contain a nice collection of post card and personal photos and each book is individual authored by someone who has an attachment to the area. In addition to this one, I have books from them on Southampton, Greenlawn, Patchogue, Manhattan etc. These photos below are from the above Victor Principe book.

Unidentified Caddy 1902

This serious young fellow who is unidentified in the photo supplied by Emily Czaja, most likely carried the weight a time or two for Knapp, Edey, Otis, Barnes, and Mott as well as many more. A video interview with 99 year old Ernie Maler of East Patchogue produced by Marty Van Lith, this past spring revealed much about a caddies lot on the 9 hole course , as Ernie followed his older brothers and became one in 1917 at age 12. Then they earned 25 cents a round. Ernie a caretakers son, who became a Lawyer, graduated from Patchogue High and NYU. He is one of twelve children and will turn 100 years old this April 24th 2005!


Who do you suppose is out on the greens in this pic? The Clubhouse was turned into a combination Golf and Yacht club in 1906 then moved in 1921 up to the west side of Academy street, where it was remodeled into a private home. I believe it is still there.


This photo was taken in 1912 The last year Sylvia & Claire Knapp lived in Bellport .

Claire’s brother Joseph F. Knapp would re appear in town briefly circa late 1930’s-1940

after he sold off his Mastic Beach estate. He may of lived aboard his yacht there.

Bellport Golf Club

August 1912