THE KNAPPS GO EAST
So what brought the Knapps from Brooklyn 65 miles east to the Mastic area? From the colonial times up till the early 1900's most families that settled there came from local marriages. Raynor, Hallock, Smith, Nicoll, Penney, Woodhull, Floyd, and Lawrence are some of the major names that fill the census records. I would guess it was Joseph Palmer Knapp's passion for hunting and fishing. There were several large hunting lodges and game preserves on Long Island during the Victorian age and turn of the century. One was located on Carmans River where Southaven Park sits today. I would say it might be a safe bet Joseph Palmer Knapp was there perhaps with his many business associates from the publishing and financial world of New York City when he decided to have a hunting lodge of his own.
The earliest land transactions I have found (so far) that Joseph Palmer was involved with, was 1894. When he leased what appears to be the entire Carmans River and the land around it from the four remaining Tangier Smith brothers and sisters; William E. T., Clarence G. T., Martha T. and Eugenie A. T.
I say remaining as none ever married and Miss Eugenie who died in 1954 was the very last of the Tangier Smiths. Her will called for the Manor Of St George to be donated and maintained as a park and museum.
The lease is written in longhand on several pieces of legal paper and it's for "gunning rights of every kind and description" Joseph renewed these leases up till 1899. The boundaries are described as "the whole width of Carmans or Connecticut River ( as it was originally known) that is situated in the township of Brookhaven , south of the "going over" (bridge) on South Country Road and North of The Squassocks Dock (which I haven't found the location of yet) The rent was $50.00 per year. If you want, You can read the actual lease by clicking here.
I'm sure Joseph Palmer started purchasing Mastic area land around that time or not long after that, either personally or through his many corporations, I just haven't had the time to devote to that search as I want to concentrate on the Mansion in Mastic Beach and how it came to be. When you visit The Register Of Deeds page with me you will get an inkling of how time consuming and vast land searches and transactions can get. Acting on a tip from Van Field I found this newspaper article from the Patchogue Advance dated 1917. Other than calling him James Palmer Knapp and not getting specific as to the exact location of this property, I found the article very interesting.
Joseph Palmer Knapp and his first wife Sylvia Kepner Knapp had a son Joseph Fairchid born Feb 3, 1892 named for his grandfather and a daughter Claire Antoinette born October 23, 1889. Antoinette's middle name was that of her aunt Antoinette, the senior J . F.'s daughter whose wedding at the Knapp Brooklyn Mansion is described in detail here.
In tracing the property where the mansion stood I was able to go back as far as 1862 when Charles Jeffery Smith and Henry Nicoll and his wife Anna drew up a boundary agreement there , using Locust and Cedar posts as markers. Later streets would appear there with those names. ( A later deed mentioned in this transaction shows it going back to 1839 and being the property of Elizabeth Smith) But the Smiths owned everything to start with, so which member had what land is a moot point or perhaps a Smith's Point! Well The Knapp's acquire this property from Frank Lawrence who was living in Providence RI and most likely inherited it. (Anna Nicoll Lawrence dies in 1911) Then on October 2, 1916 the lucky new landowner is according to the deed........ DRUMROLL PLEASE...... Joseph Fairchild Knapp! So J. F. K. Jr. as I affectionately like to refer to him, is now a land baron at the tender age of 24. Having acquired a fine piece of waterfront property with some fine homes already on it what does he immediately do? Celebrate? hopefully so, but he does something else too..... two days later, he transfers it to none other than his older sister Claire. Perhaps it was an early birthday gift as October 23 and her 27th year was but weeks away. One of the deeds refers to her then as a spinster!