I kid you not

Because of my obtaining a piece of the front page of The Independent from 1921 the other day, I decided to post it here along with a related snippet of "The Knapps Lived Here" manuscript from Chapter 31 __ Currituck ....Moving To The Country that I was writing just a week or so ago . Special thanks to new Knappster friend and surprise_ surprise, Tennessee neighbor Kay M. Sheppard for the front page photo and entire article from the actual newspaper ____ Got to love "The Internets" as it makes all this possible.

from Chapter 31:...............Word got around locally about a new millionaire owner of Mackay Island who was spending money hand over fist making improvements and it wasn’t long before possibly smelling a story that news reporters came calling to see what was going on over there. One of those reporters was W . O. Saunders a fellow who wrote and published his own weekly newspaper called The Independent in a tiny town with the big name of Elizabeth City. ( Story goes that Elizabeth town was already taken so the founding father and son in law had to call it Elizabeth City) It seems that W.O. Saunders was quite the character with a nose for different kind of stories. In the 1960’s his son Keith published a book now long out of print about his Dad’s human interest stories and of course I found this one to be quite human and interesting too.

I’m paraphrasing Keith Saunders here except for the quotes___ my comments are in italics ____ Mackay Island was only about 25 miles away from Elizabeth city, so when my Dad heard about this new millionaire owner buying about 5000 acres of it, he wandered over there looking for a story. The owner wasn’t there and no one seemed to know much about him. They just told my Dad his name was “Mister Knapp” and they had an idea that he was in the calendar business. (once low profile__ always low profile) Some called him “Knapp The Calendar Man”

As my Dad roamed about the island he took note of the beautiful home, boats, the shooting equipment, ( I guess someone let him in the door?) and that about 50 acres was freshly cleared and put in condition for farming. There was a new very fine dairy barn, piggery, and poultry house but no pigs, poultry or cows to speak of. One of the caretakers who was showing Dad around said “Mr. Knapp was going to buy some thoroughbred cows up north and ship them down later” He went on to say they had a lot cattle on the land right now but they are all scrubs and mostly bulls. “I believe actually we got 42 head in all but there ain’t but two cows in the lot.” “For Gosh Sake !” Dad said “What is this man doing with a herd of forty bulls and two cows?” __ “Well he doesn’t know they’re mostly all bulls, you see it was this way. There’s a lot of underbrush on this here island and Mr. Knapp had the idea that a lot of cattle turned loose on the place would clear up the underbrush. He told us to go over to the mainland and buy some scrub cattle and turn ‘em loose over here. It seems that the folks on the mainland who had scrubs to sell didn’t want to sell anything but bulls. We see now that we made a mistake. Those forty bulls spend all their time fighting over the two cows; the bulls are fighting all day and night back up in the woods.”

Now W. O. found this merely to be amusing and he didn’t think too much more about it until he got back to his office and reached for his Who’s Who In America. There he found some enlightning basics about the “calendar man” Who’s who very complete listing told him this new farmer Mister Knapp was the son of Joseph F. Knapp founder and former president of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and that he himself was chairman of the board of Metropolitan which was at that time probably the greatest financial institution on earth. He also found that the calendar business was just an incidental part of the American Lithographic Co of who his new found farmer - islander was also the head of. It went on to tell him that the calendar man was also the principal owner of P. F. Collier & Son inc publishers of American Magazine, Woman’s Home Companion, Farm & Fireside and Collier’s Weekly.

Keith goes on to say " even all that didn’t mean any more to my father than any other very rich man who happened upon an out of the way place where the shooting was good and was spending barrels of money trying to make it livable." ( Saunders description of Knapps place sounded a little more than LIVABLE to me?) It was the fact that Mr. Knapp was incidentally identified with Farm & Fireside, one of the oldest farm journals in America, that inspired W. O. to write this story

“ Who is Joseph Palmer Knapp? he is a native of Brooklyn, NY born May 14, 1864, chairman of the board of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. , a member of Columbia University Club, The Players Club, The Bankers Club, New York Yacht Club, The Links and Westminster Kennel clubs and active president of American Lithographing (sic) Co. ---

Also as the head of the big magazine publishing house of P . F. Collier and Son, he is incidentally principal owner of Farm & Fireside, one of the oldest and most widely read farm journals in America. Mr. Knapp contemplates an experiment on Mackay Island that will enable him to put into practice some of the fine theories that his Farm & Fireside editors have been trying to drum into the heads of American yokelry for many years. Mr. Knapp is planning a model farm on Mackay Island , in the heart of Currituck sound. He will engage in mixed farming, producing both field crops and livestock, But his initial herd, consisting of forty bulls and two cows is causing his retainers on the island much loss of sleep. The ratio of cows to bulls being only one to twenty, the bulls are fighting day and night for the possession of each cow. The pawings, snortings and bellowings of two score bulls on that otherwise peaceful island makes the night hideous. And the small human population that Mr. Knapp has domiciled on the island is fearful that the sex crazy bulls. tired of fighting among themselves, will turn upon them and rend them with horns and hooves. But the principal owner of Farm & Fireside the great American farm monthly is proceeding blithely with his plans to become a gentleman farmer.”

That was all of the article Keith reprinted in his book, but he went on to say there was at least another columns worth of foolishness lampooning the adventurings of a fine gentleman who really was only casually interested in his farm publication. After reading his own proofs W. O. had second thoughts about printing it, thinking he might offend Mr. Knapp, who would then never subscribe to the Independent. But Saunders went ahead and not only did he find out that Mr. Knapp was a good sport, he also found that Joe Knapp had a fine sense of humour and thoroughly enjoyed it. He even bought extra copies of the paper to send to his friends back in New York so they could also enjoy the laugh at his own expense.

I have also read elsewhere about this article and that Saunders included to mention that of the local folks who only heard about Knapp, they regarded him as just another Northern millionaire sportsman, who had taken up another portion of their hunting grounds, but that of those who had actually met ‘the calendar man”, found him to be plain, lovable, generous, hearty, democratic and a neighborly fellow who had not been dehumanized by reason of his great wealth. He also pointed out that Mr. Knapp had a payroll to the locals of $2,000.00 per month, paid $15.000.00 a year in local property taxes, and that the amount of ducks Mr. Knapp and his guests will kill in a season could not diminish the supply very much in over a 100 years.

and that was just the beginning of a respect the very "Independent Man" W. O. Saunders would have for one Joseph Palmer Knapp over the years.... there will be much more about it in the book .....


Courtesy of Kay Sheppard


W. O. Saunders

from book "The Independent Man" by Keith Saunders


Knapp's "Big Place" In Currituck, NC

Red Letter Days & "Knapp The Calendar Man"

The Independent Sept 23, 1921

The Knapps Lived Here