Historical Data of the Knapp Family (as of 1984)

The following was written by Wayne P. Knapp for the Knapp family on the remembered historical data and stories around his immediate family. At the bottom of his notes are the facts that we’ve uncovered to substantiate his own family story.

The following historical data regarding the Knapp family is provided here by Wayne P. Knapp, and is based on what fragmented records that are available.

Elizabeth Brau/Brandt and Charles KnappMy grandparents on my father’s side were James Knapp and Elizabeth Brau. They bore eight children as follows: James Asa (who later became my father), Henry, Theron, Florence, Edward, Edgar, and May.

While still a baby, May was accidentally killed by an Indian at Sweetwater Divide in Wyoming. Edgar died while young.

When James Knapp died, Elizabeth remarried Charles Cunningham. Of this marriage six children were born: Ollie, Nora, Edson, Eva, Walter, and Blanche. When Charles Cunningham died, Elizabeth married the brother of her first husband, James, Charles Knapp. They were past child bearing ages and bore no children from this marriage.

Grandpa Charles Knapp was the only grandfather I ever knew. He was a small man with a large handle bar mustache. He always poured his coffee in a saucer and drank it, sucking the coffee from his mustache by protruding his lower lip and inhaling.

Of interest is the fact as given me personally by my mother, Emma Primley (married to James Asa). When Elizabeth Brau was about two years old, she was in a wagon train that was attacked by Indians. Everyone in the train was killed except her. A short time following the massacre, the famed James brothers, Jesse and Frank, came upon the scene. While surveying the area, they heard a baby crying in the underbrush nearby. Her mother, in hopes that she would not be found by Indians, probably threw the baby there. This infant was my grandmother, Elizabeth Brau. The James Brothers took the child to the farm family they knew with the identification papers they had retrieved from the carnage.

james asa knapp and emma beatrice primley 1913My parents, James Asa Knapp and Emma Beatrice Primley, were married at Crivitz, Wisconsin, on September 11, 1901. To them were born eight children as follows:

  • Allen James at Loomis, Wisconsin, September 12, 1902
  • Nora May (Nonie at Faunus, Michigan, September 28, 1904
  • Melvin Edward at Wausaukee, Wisconsin, July 28, 1906 – 1943 died in railroad accident
  • Lloyd Darrel at Cedarville, Wisconsin, April 30, 1908
  • Clayton Leroy at Wausaukee, Wisconsin, September 29, 1910 – Died May 5, 1911 at 7 months and 22 days old
  • Robert Francis at Wausaukee, Wisconsin, January 20,1913 – Died 1994, Lake Stevens, Washington
  • Wayne Primley at Wausaukee, Wisconsin, December 31, 1914 – Died 1999, Seattle, Washington
  • Maurice Glenn at Green Bay, Wisconsin, August 4, 1923

Knapp family, Melvin, Lloyd, Allen, and Nora on Lloyd's 12th birthday in Taylor Rapids, WisconsinMy mother, Emma Beatrice Primley, was born at Morgan, Wisconsin, March 19, 1886. She was fifteen years old when she married James Asa Knapp, eighteen years her senior. Her father’s name was Robert Primley. Little is known of him except that he had been a popular horse trader in his early years. He acquired a server foot ailment when my mother was a small girl and never recovered from illness as long as he lived. My mother said her father suffered unbearably before his untimely death. My mother’s mother was named Kathryn, but little else is known of her except that she was a small woman, very kind and frail.

Robert and Kathryn Primely’s family consisted of the following children: Emma, Schyler, Sherman, Sealy, Ella, Myrtle, Nora, and Arthur. All have now passed onto their rewards, as far as I know. Because of severe family hardships, brought on by my grandfather’s illness, which incapacitated him for several years before his death, Ella was adopted out while still a tiny baby. The family hardships also contributed to my mother marrying at such a young age.

The above compiled by Wayne P. Knapp
February 20, 1984

What We Really Know

Elizabeth Brau: Of Elizabeth, we really know very little. We have some records we are still trying to verify with her being born in California or elsewhere, but little in the way of fact. All we know is that she married James Asa Knapp as Elizabeth Brantt in 1866 in Dakota Territory, South Dakota, then Charles Cunningham followed by Charles Knapp, both of those marriages happening in Wisconsin, and adding confusion between two Charles and two Knapps in marriage record research. How she went from Brandt/Brandtt to Brau we are still researching.

What we do know is about Jesse James (1847-1882). If we guess that Elizabeth was at least 15 when she married James, she would have been born in 1851, making it 1853 when she was two years old. In 1853, Jesse James would have been six years old. His brother, Frank, would have been 10. Even if we fudge with the guessing game of years, Jesse and Frank teamed up in 1864 when Jesse James was 16, two years before Elizabeth was married. During their early gang years of crime, the James brothers stayed in Missouri, eventually broadening their each to Iowa and south to Texas with no evidence that the brothers were in the Dakotas or further West during their reign. Nothing adds up on this family myth.

What might be true is that Elizabeth may have traveled with her family in a wagon train through Indian territories, and maybe they were attacked, and possibly her family killed as we have no information on her parents or further back. Sometimes there is a kernel of truth in the myth, but we’re still searching.

May Knapp: We know nothing of the story of May Knapp’s death “accidentally” by an Indian.

Ella Primley: We are also researching more about the Primley family line, including little Ella who was adopted out as a baby to an unknown family.

James and Emma Knapp: jamesknapp-wiWhat we know of Emma and James Knapp is that they were a very unhappy married couple. By 1925, the two were estranged, and there is some question as to the parenthood of the youngest, Glenn Maurice, but he looks so much like the rest of the family, few doubt James was the father. Emma never remarried.

James Asa Knapp was a logger and spend the majority of his time in logging camps away from the family for great lengths of time. He did not actively participate in the raising of his younger children and few of the children saw him after they left Wisconsin for Washington State in 1930. He died in Michigan in 1950 and there is little known of the last 25 years of his life.

Emma left Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, with her family, save the oldest, to Oregon in 1930, settling in Snohomish County, Washington. She became a nurse and worked in a hospital in Monroe after many years struggling through the Depression with her family, working any job they could find. In 1943, her son, Melvin (1906-1943) died working the railroads. She died in September 1960 in Everett, Washington.

Seneca Primley: Emma’s brother, Seneca Primley was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and not mentioned in the list of children born of Robert and Kathryn Primley, causing more confusion as to their relationship, though Wayne and Robert Knapp mention their “cousin” Seneca and his wife, Mabel, as pastor of their local community church in Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, in the 1920s, referring to him as Cousin Sink.

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About Wayne Knapp

Wayne Knapp (1914-1999) was born in Wausaukee, Wisconsin, and grew up in Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, one of the last logging towns in northern Wisconsin. Son of James Asa Knapp and Emma Beatrice Primley, he moved with his family after the death of the logging industry to Oregon for a few years and then north to the Seattle area of Washington State. He married Leatha "Myrtle" Odell in 1936 in Monroe, Washington, and worked for many years for Boeing Security in Seattle. He wrote two books on his childhood in Taylor Rapids, and many poems and short stories. We are honored by the permission of his daughter, Sharon Lee, to republish his work on our site. Copyright Sharon Lee.
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19 Responses to Historical Data of the Knapp Family (as of 1984)

  1. Pingback: Reverend Seneca Primley (1871-1966) | Family History

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