A good place to start if you want to know what this website is generaly about.
However many “facts” found here were subject to change as I dug deeper and learned a great deal more
THE KNAPPS LIVED HERE
After many months of trying to piece this story together from Nashville, Tennessee and being led down many blind alleys, I was able to go back to Long Island in late August of 2001 for two weeks to really look into things. Armed with new info and leads from friends, supporters, and newcomers who have been reading the web site, I think I made a whole lot of progress. The next few pages will show you some of the photos and documents I accumulated on this trip that will become a foundation for what will hopefully be a book on a very substantial, and interesting American Family, who for a brief time lived in my home town. The Knapps actually unified it by selling off their estate that sat right in the middle of a new developing area called Mastic Beach, NY. For those who come here without knowing how I got involved in this, I would suggest you read the short story of “The Mansion” and look at my previous pages on The Knapps
The trip in many ways passed my expectations in new discoveries about The Knapps who quietly enjoyed their wealth and prominence and managed to keep a low profile. I have to say I need to thank a lot of individuals who made this trip a success. First off I need to thank my old high school pal and former bandmember of The Del Fi’s, Kenny Vitellaro of Shirley, NY. Without Kenny’s hospitality and assistance with transportation etc. this trip would of not been possible….his enthusiam in helping me see this through is unsurpassed. Others that have been a big support in many different ways are childhood friends Larry Schulz and his Mom Estelle, George Barnes, Doug Percoco, Donald Denning,and Adolph Almasy and Bob LaCentra. Long Island historians Jim York, Marty”that’s history” Himes, Van Field and Mac Titmus. Can’t forget “Bob” the retired lawyer I met at The Suffolk County Register of Deeds. And the new friends from around the world who have contacted me via the internet.
Others who have contacted me via the internet with tid bits and support like Bob and Linda Cassidy, former Mastic Beach residents, who grew up in the shadow of the Knapp mansion when I did.
From the great state of Maine, crackerjack investigator Susan Silvestri. From the great state of North Carolina, where Joseph Palmer Knapp had a huge effect on many peoples lives, Marty Holland and Roy Sawyer. And from sunny Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, Merrilyn Rathbun. Yes there’s lot’s of new info to follow, but first a little history……
On my first full day there Kenny Vitellaro and I set out in his “new” 1949 Hudson Commodore. Our first stop was The Manor Of St. George, right around the corner from his house. This is where everything starts in Brookhaven Township as at one time starting in 1688 the Tangier Smith family owned most of it, from the Long Island Sound to The Great South Bay including the land on the bottom of the Great South Bay. As they began to sell it off, to colonial history makers, the Smith’s became one of Long Island’s first realtors.
Those are cannons overlooking the bay. An early battle of the Revolutinary War took place at The Manor
One of the Smith’s first customers was Richard Floyd who purchased 4,400 acres a few miles to the east of the manor in an area known as Mastic Neck. Richard’s son Nicoll built a house there in 1723 that would become the birthplace of his son William (signer of The Declaration Of Independence) and is known today as The William Floyd Estate. I made my first visit to The Floyd Estate when I was around 4 years old, and that visit probably is greatly responsible for my continuing interest today in old homes and history. That and the discovery a short time after of a mansion right in my own back yard, one I would get very attached to…… The Knapp Estate.
The William Floyd Estate
photo: Harvey Weber
Long Island People Places Past & Present
For a place that became labeled and developed as “blue collar”, the Mastic area certainly did not start out that way. There were just a handful of wealthy and prominent landowners who through the colonial years intermarried. The most prominent names starting from the 18th century are Smith, Floyd, Nicoll & Woodhull. In the 19th century, Robert and Lawrence. A look through the history books and area cemeterys reveal many combinations of these names.
During the Victorian age a new group of prominent people discover Mastic as a beautiful place to vacation, live and build a fine home. That would be the Dana’s and the Knapp’s .
There is a Revolutionary war era cemetery on Neighborhood Rd (formerly Birch Rd) over in section 1 of Mastic Beach. General Nathanial Woodhull is buried there. He was one of the first casualities in the Battle Of Long Island in 1776. He was married to William Floyd’s daughter Ruth. The Woodhull’s had a home about a 1/4 mile from the cemetary. It too became a casualty of neglect and in 1938 was torn down. The thing I remember most about the Woodhull graveyard was the Memorial Day services they held there. The parade down Neighborhood Road would end up with the American Legion firing their rifles in the a salute. This was the only time the big iron gates were open and the older kids would scramble in before they were locked back up to look for empty rifle cartridges. On this trip I would find a newspaper account of the very first ceremony held there ironicaly in 1938. That year would be a pivotal one for many things I would yet discover. Let me apologise in advance for the poor quality of the micro copy. Center Moriches Library is still using an outdated and worn out thermal printer hooked up to their micro film reader. The Librarians there seemed as frustrated with it as I was , but I was feeding it quarters. It’s the worst one I ever used. In contrast The Patchogue library which is in the same system uses computer printers hooked up to their readers
THE MORICHES TRIBUNE JUNE 2 1938
Mastic Beach Holds Parade and Service At
Police Called To Woodhull Mansion
I find it a tad ironic that they honor the General and at the same time you have people carting off timbers from his home so someone can build high dollar one in Southampton. Also notice that “services” were held at Paul Schulte’s Tavern previous to marching. It’s called getting oiled. Paul Schulte played a PIVOTAL ROLE in many Mastic Beach activities involving the Knapp’s and others. He was the first buisnessman in town and known as “The Mayor Of Mastic Beach”
As Kenny and I tooled around that day in his Hudson, we drove over to Corn Court in section 1 to try and figure out where Nathanial Woodhull’s house might of stood. Kenny always thought it was the old house that was right behind the cemetary, but I said no. According to what I found out Nathanial lived on Corn Ct and old maps from the late 1800’s show a Mrs. Joseph Baily Lawrence living near where the cemetery is. So we stopped there to look and lo and behold for the first time in 50 years there was no lock on the gate. In we went and much was revealed. Headstones are like small history books and they are really there for the living. I knew that the Knapp’s bought the property from the Lawrence’s and that the Lawrence’s bought it from Charles Jeffery Smith. All the old late1800’s and early 1900’s maps show residences of C J Smith and Lawrence all over the property the Knapp Mansion occupied. I also knew that two fine houses that are still standing very strong, were probably built in the mid 1800’s by C J Smith. One is what we called The Dermondy house for the occupants that lived in it when I lived there. It’s on Locust Drive just across the road from where the Knapp Mansion stood, a second house was about a 1/4 mile to the south on the same road. It originally faced the bay but in 1960 according to Jim York the owners turned it 90 degrees sideways so the front faces west. It is known today as The Muse House. Here’s some of what we found inside the gates surrounding General Nathanial Woodhull and family.
Charles Jeffery Smith & His Wife Letitia Jane are here
As is Joseph Baily Lawrence & His wife Elizabeth Woodhull
All In The Family….Anna Nicoll Lawrence
There is a good deal of intermarriage with Nicoll,Smith,Floyd and Lawrence in this cemetary
The Lawrences are the family the Knapp’s would aquire the 166 Acres that became
the Knapp Estate in 1916 and eventualy it would become the last sections of Mastic Beach in 1938