The 1967 Trip Back to Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin

The 1967 Trip Back to Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin

This is a paper describing the trip back to Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, by Knapp brothers, Wayne and Robert. It’s a beautiful piece that describes the now lost-to-time logging community and the landmarks that shaped their lives growing up there.

Wayne and Robert Knapp playing alongside the Peshtigo River, Taylor Rapids, Wiscson, c1920It’s a wonderful satisfying feeling to have successfully accomplished the long trip back to the eastern part of the country, the beautiful sights, mountains, planes, rivers and lakes, to a little space of land that is so small it would barely make a dot on the map: Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin.

Why would anyone be so fond of the small insignificant piece of property. Thirty-seven years ago and more, it was the home and birthplace of the writer of these pages, and there he lived with his brothers, sister, and mother for several years. This was where we went to school, learn to read and write and figure, also to work and realize the value of money.

After so many years, changes have taken place to a very great degree, therefore various places were difficult to identify, although the actual grounds had not changed. The trees have grown so tall and thick, and reforestation put thousands of trees were open plains were before. Sadness fills the hearts of those who gazed once more upon the intimate old home place where so many years ago this place and the surrounding countryside was filled with song and laughter, as boys grew up together.

Where the house stood, there is nothing but the trees that were planted by a parent, and tiny seedling Balsam Firs cover the area. Every sign of the building is gone. Rotted away. Just a few old relics in a trash pile, tin cans, old and worn out tubs, and buckets, parts of this and that, only mere guesswork to tell one what they may or may not have been. Tiny spruce and pine trees are planted almost everywhere even in the old garden spots that were created by horse and by hand.

It’s strange and almost uncanny. So very many people have their home place to return to in later years, a chance to see the old homestead, and nothing much is thought or voiced. But with these two brothers revisiting the past, it seemed to be a different feeling: a greater longing for ones they recall in the past. It was really great after all these years for these two with their wives to again look around and traverse once more over these favorite grounds.

Much is to be said for the brother who furnished the new car and busied himself with the task of driving all the way so the other could have the full benefit of sights to be seen and things to be enjoyed. This was greatly appreciated. Too bad so many of the old sights are gone. These shall always be remembered here, however, as loved ones who played a great part in their youthful happiness, and made them feel secure when they truly were not.

I have often wondered how come we were so fortunate us to have the mother we had, though for sometime now the memory of her is all we have had.

Robert and Wayne Knapp in grasses outside log cabin in Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin

The past lives of Robert and Wayne were not what most people would consider as being the brightest, far from it. Usually good times followed the bad times, much like the sunshine follows the rain, but as a rule that was generally more sunshine than stormy times, enough to cause them to want to relive their lives of the past and again enjoy some of the experiences that cause them so much happiness when they were boys. Although this would be an impossibility, and somehow even a farfetched idea, to be able to return to the old place and to review and renew the old memories was truly a great experience.

Just to stand quietly after darkness fell and listen to the stillness. Not a sound that the roar of Strong Falls on the Peshtigo River, a mile away, or possibly the weird noises of the crickets.

Picture now where Robert and Wayne stood looking over the old remains of what once was their home sweet home. They babble all the time, a constant flow of conversation, pointing and looking at certain places and things. Close to tears at times, so very close to tears many times as there are certain things are looked at, discussed, and proof was accepted.

To look at the spot where the house stood from the road is really quite a heart breaker. The old trees that were planted around the house by loving hands are now tall and big, dwarfing the two men. In a few years, the old home a spot will be altogether buried from view.

Many of the well known landmarks and familiar spots are already beyond recognition though most of the original roads remain the same. The greats and plain country is covered with 25 to 30 years old pines, and it really throws one off when trying to spot certain identifying places. The miles and miles of plain and bear hill country are now covered with tall growth.

Old Kentucky Town, after years and years of absence, what a pitiful sight. Places where the cows used to roam for feed and horses stomped at the flies, the old school grounds – nothing but the shape of the property and concrete foundation, and a lone concrete flagpole base. On the school grounds, wild pin cherries and choke cherries grow well, even inside the foundation, large cherry trees yield their sour fruit. The apple trees that once yielded lovely sweet fruit have gone to seedlings and are hardly fit for human consumption. However the broken limbs explain that the black bear, common in that part, have made this a feeding place.

Goodman Park, Peshtigo River, Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin 2006 by Lorelle VanFossenTraveling down the old right of way for the coal burning locomotive that once was the road, one follows along the dark waters of the friendly Peshtigo River, every ripple is a sweet song to the ears of Robert and Wayne. This water speaks to these men in a way no one but they would understand.

“I am still here, fellas. I have patiently waited as I knew you boys couldn’t stay away forever! I sang my tune alone for so many years and now I am so happy, just to have you cast your eyes upon my splendor and lend your years to the sound of my rugged old waters tossing and splashing over the jagged rocks.”

The abutment and the rocky incline to the river, the trail from there up the hill to the Primley Place, the old river bed did very little changing. At Camp 7, the muddy boat landing stays the same, the same old smell, and of course, the rocks and rapids change very little. Some, it seems had undoubtably been forgotten. Once more their eyes rested on the island in the river, places where play in childhood branded a spot in their memory that time will not erase.

Outlining a few of the outstanding spots of interest on the Peshtigo River, we must not overlook the turbulent waters that swirled by Old Camp 8, over the rocks and on through the lowest spots to tumble as it meandered south to pass Camp 9 and Camp 7. Copper Rapids was between Camp 9 and Camp 8, though the reasons for this name was not disclosed to the writer, but like so many things that the writer could not obtain for putting on paper, he will be content just to put down what was most important to him.

The river storms over the small drop at the abutment, singing its gleeful song, and on below to the “Suckerhole,” a spot where the suckers were gathered by the bag full for food in the early days, along with trout that kept our table full.

After this, the river kind of lulls through more faster water, over rocks, round turns, and through a narrow deep spot at the bridge. Then its roar begins as it piles itself wildly over Strong Falls, now known as Goodman Park. While it doesn’t look as fearsome as it once did, having survived the great rivers, lakes, and waters of Puget Sound, this was always a fascinating place and rather dangerous, as rocks were always wet and slippery, and to fall in meant certain death.

Several beauty spots remain between there and Pancake Island, through the Grassy Place on down, swirling and hurdling past Camp 15 and across the plains is out of sight to those who lived at Taylor Rapids.

These old spots mentioned meant much only to Robert and Wayne who lived, fished, hunted, and trapped, played, worked, learned, and enjoyed the Peshtigo at Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin.

To review this place after thirty-seven years and still be able to recognize old trails, old roads, old swimming holes, old fishing spots, and other various places of so much importance is indeed a grand thing.

Minor and major injuries, plus time, and the fact that life in general has had its toll, has branded the elder of the two brothers with thin and graying hair. Instead of sprinting here and there, he limps along, toddling painfully on surgery scared knees. His belly pooches out at the bottom, and his legs bow from the excess weight he carries ungracefully from table to bed, and bed to table, with perhaps a hesitation on the pot frequently. Can’t exercise as that’s too painful. The job calls for very little or no action, and the food is good, and his appetite better, so there you are. A man made of part pain, scar, excuses, regret, and memories. For a while, let’s just treasure the memories as the two brothers stand together looking back.

Yours truly, the Author,

Robert F. Knapp

October 17, 1967

10:00 AM

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Robert F. Knapp (1913-1994)

About Robert F. Knapp (1913-1994)

Robert F. Knapp was born Wausaukee, Wisconsin, in 1913, and moved with his family to the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s. His father, James Asa Knapp Jr., worked in the logging camps and rarely spent much time with his eight children. Eventually, James and the children's mother, Emma Beatrice Primley, divorced and Emma packed up the family and headed west. Robert grew up working odd jobs in logging camps, railroad camps, on farms, and taking what work could come his way until finding steady work and a home with his wife, Evelyn, in Monroe and Lake Stevens, Washington. He had four children and many grandchildren. Robert left behind a legacy of stories and poems written for a creative writing class throughout 1960-1980, writing of life growing up in Northern Wisconsin and the struggles to find work with a huge family to support through the Depression. Permission to reprint this has been graciously granted by the family of Robert F. Knapp with the hope that you will enjoy reading about the life and times of this amazing man.
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One Response to The 1967 Trip Back to Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin

  1. Pingback: Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, The Town That Vanished | Family History

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