Tribute to Willie Knapp • 1923-2001
Barrington Historian

Born in 1923 at his parent's home on Knapp Road in Barrington, Wilfred ("Willie") Knapp devoted much of his life to the collection of historical artifacts and documents, most of which were related to his ancestors who were early settlers. Willie's interest in history began as a young boy when he attended District 9 school, a couple of miles from his home. At the small country school he was an avid reader, especially of everything on American history and Native Americans. Willie's life long interest in Native American artifacts was undoubtedly influenced by his Great Uncle Ed Sprague, who worked a neighboring farm, and collected many arrowheads as he worked the fields with his horses. Ed Sprague's collection was eventually to become part of Willie's magnificent collection. (One time while Willie was picking grapes with his sisters, he stooped down to pick up an arrowhead. When one of his sisters asked how he managed to find them so easily, he said, "It's easy" as he stooped down to pick up another!)

Willie's interest in history was further stimulated by visits to his home by his father's first cousin, Augusta Knapp Jeffreys, who had traced the family ancestry to the Mayflower. In later life Willie was to join the Massachusetts Mayflower Society and received a special award for conducting original research on his Mayflower line.

An avid genealogical researcher and reader of New England historical journals, he was able to trace seven distinct lines back from his father to the Mayflower.

For many years Willie was Barrington Town Historian. His knowledge of Barrington history was closely entwined with his extensive research on his own ancestry., since several Barrington pioneer families were his grandparents: Crosbys, McDowells, Knapps, Kenyons, Lords, and Fintons.

His interest in history and his passion for collecting historical artifacts became so well known that eventually friends and relatives and even casual acquaintances would bring artifacts and documents to him for safe keeping. Willie's  contribution to the preservation of local history was recognized in 1998 by the Yates County Genealogical and Historical Society when they awarded him the prestigious Potter Award.

Willie passed away in February of 2001 following a stroke. He is greatly missed and loved by all who knew him. He was buried in the old Knapp burial ground on Keuka Vista Road, just a few feet away from his third great grandparents Matthew and Mary Knapp, who settled just a mile or so away in 1805, and his third great grandmother, Rachel Hopkins, a descendent of the Mayflower's Stephen Hopkins.

contributed by Steve Knapp

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