A Railroad Tragedy Poem – Melvin Knapp 1906-1943

The following is the poem and story of the death of Wayne’s brother, Melvin Edward Knapp, born July 28, 1906, Wausaukee, Wisconsin, and died of a train accident November 28, 1943. He was married to Helen Griffiths, July 28, 1906, and left behind three children, Pat, Ila, and Irene. For more information on our Knapp family, see our Nicholas Knapp Descendents Family Tree.

by Wayne Knapp

Ed and Lloyd, Melvin, Emma, Glenn (baby), and Nora Knapp in Goodman, Wisconsin c1924In the fall of nineteen forty-three,
While “the war” was at it’s peak,
A freight train, loaded with war supplies,
Was fueled, and headed east.

From Seattle, this mighty juggernaut,
Roared swiftly on her way;
Carrying government top priority,
she was not to be delayed!

At night, the headlight cast it’s beam,
Probing the rails ahead,
While the powerful railroad train gained speed,
With it’s firebox glowing red:

Through the cascade tunnel, and eastern plains,
The big train thundered on,
Through Ritzville, and into Idaho,
She pushed steadily along.

Melvin Knapp with his favorite horse, Bonnie, Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin c1920Meanwhile, at the Calder Station,
In Idaho’s mountain chain,
A brave Milwaukee section boss
had fears he couldn’t restrain!

Three times, he’d asked assurance,
That the rail line would be clear;
Three times the word was given,
that he’d nothing there to fear.

So with his happy section crew,
They sped along the tracks —
But Wait! What’s that? A whistle’s sound?
There was no time to turn back!

Around the bend came the speeding freight,
With it’s whistle’s open wide!
“Jump off — and hurry,
And save your lives!” The frantic foreman cried!

The workers jumped, their lives were spared;
But the foreman vainly tried,
To save the speeder they’d ridden on;
And for this — the poor man died!

For the speeder was smashed – struck from behind!
And the foreman was pitched to the ground!
His head split open on the jagged rocks!
It was there his body was found!

Melvin Knapp fishing on the Peshtigo River, Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, c 1920sNow this story is true — and I’m sad to relate,
That the foreman was a brother of mine!
And besides his three children, and a sweet loving wife,
He left mother and kin folks behind.

I pay tribute to him, for a man never lived,
More thoughtful, unselfish, and kind,
Than that foreman, and father, and brother so dear,
That worked for the Milwaukee Line!

Handwritten Note: To Red and Anita from Wayne P. Knapp circa 1975-1985

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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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2 Responses to A Railroad Tragedy Poem – Melvin Knapp 1906-1943

  1. Pingback: Historical Data of the Knapp Family (as of 1984) | Family History

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