Monday, November 26, 2018

Not Leaving Anything to Guesswork

The postcard came with a note on the back: "I gess you know who this is." Fortunately, someone thought it better to not leave any doubts as to the answer, and, as typical of the Knapp family photographs rescued from a northern California antique shop, had scrawled the response on the face of the picture.

The photograph was of a young William Knapponly this son of William Malphus Knapp, like his father a generation previously, went by his middle name. Milton, son of Malphus, was born after his family moved halfway across the continent from Kansas to Washington. The location where the Knapp family chose to livea farm in rural Klickitat Countywas home in 1900 to his parents and five older siblings, plus one of his father's many siblings, Cornelius Knapp. I suspect that was not the only Knapp sibling to follow William Malphus Knapp's cross-country move.

William Milton Knapp made his appearance in the Knapp household early in 1903. He wasn't there long before his family decided to pull up stakes and return to the midwestthis time to Major County, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, not long after their arrival in Chester, Oklahoma, Milton's father died at age forty in 1908. By then, the younger William was barely five years of age.

The next few years saw Milton first in the household of his widowed mother and her father, Samuel Hoover, in 1910, and then ten years later, likely in the same home, living with his mother and step-father, George Banfill, in 1920.

Not long after that, Milton Knapp struck out on his own, marrying Agnes Lillian Houser in nearby Dewey County on March 21, 1922. By the time of the next census, the young couple was still living in Major County, but by then, they were joined by their two sons and a daughter. Come 1940, the family score edged upward to boys 3, girls 1 in the Milton Knapp household. By then, though, the family had been living in Alamosa County, Colorado for five yearsa place which they continued to call home, apparently, until Milton's death on Christmas day in 1979.

The photo I found in that antique shop was one of a young Milton Knapp, though it's hard to determine just when the picture was taken. The postcard came labeled, "William Milton Knapp, born Dot, Wash Jan 27 1904."

Dot, apparently now considered a ghost town, was in or near Klickitat County, Washingtonthe place where the Knapps lived for only a few short years. It's likely that Milton barely remembered that location from his early childhood, and judging by the outdoor scenery behind him in this photo, that was hardly the scene you'd expect in tiny Dot.

In this photo, Milton was possibly in his late teens or early twentiesperhaps, judging by his outfit, posing for this picture at the time of a special occasion. If we ever find a descendant who is interested in receiving this photo postcard, perhaps we'll have the opportunity to learn a bit more about any event prompting the taking of this picture. 

Above: Photograph of a young William Milton Knapp, undated; found in a Sonora, California, antique shop; currently in possession of the author until claimed by a descendant of this family.


  1. It is an AZO postcard with Triangles up and down in the stamp box. That dates it 1918 -1930. I will guess it marks some occasion...High School Graduation maybe around 1922??

    1. Interesting you bring up 1922, Far Side. That's when Milton and Agnes were married, on March 21 at the courthouse in Dewey County, Oklahoma. Do you suppose that could be it? At that time, he would have been 19.

    2. I bet this is a High School Graduation photo about 1921 or 1920.


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