A Giant Friend Has Passed From Among Us

Canton Aultman steam engine

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12302 N. Prairie Road Nashville, Illinois 62263

Lyman Knapp operating his 1892 Canton Aultman steam engine at the 1988 Pawnee Show. He valued this rare engine for its unique design instead of collector popularity.

On June 17, 1998, Lyman Knapp was laid to rest in Blackwell, Oklahoma. The church was filled to capacity with admiring friends, including those from several states around Oklahoma.

Lyman was active in farming all his life and was a past chairman of the American Agriculture Movement. He was a member of the Horseless Carriage Club of America, The Old Settlers Club, The Sons of the American Revolution, The Auburn-Card-Duesenberg Club, Two Cylinder Club, Case Heritage Club, The Top of Oklahoma Historical Society, and the Tonkawa Historical Society. He was a past officer of the Oklahoma Steam Threshing and Gas Engine Association, The Model T Club, and Cher-O-Kan. He was also noted for building the Rix-Knapp Crawler tractor in the 1960s, the only tractor ever built in Oklahoma.

Lyman leaves his wife, Myrle, two daughters, Evelyn and Carolyn, one adopted daughter, April, seven grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren.

The pastor included in the service several people from the congregation to speak of Lyman's widely known life. There were three from the congregation who gave heartfelt comments on Lyman's great help and leadership to the American agriculture cause on the Washington, D.C. level, on the state level, and on the local level. Those efforts were well expressed with great and emotional thanks to Lyman Knapp.

From the pulpit there were also three, beginning with Chady Atteberry's sister, Mrs. Eugenia Fultz, of Wichita. She spoke of living near Lyman during childhood times and covered events of their growing up, a period when Lyman's character already stood out so clearly. She also spoke of events of some years thereafter.

Then Chady spoke from notes, but in detail, about a full life of associating with Lyman. There were many memories and historical points about Lyman that began during the early years, of Lyman's education, and of the early cars that he appreciated and drove. There was the well-known period when Lyman and his brother Elliott 'Bud' were farming together. Their tractors included a Cat 60 and an early Model E 30-60 Oil-Pull, which helped build a military base in World War II.

The marriage to Myrle started with their honeymoon, traveling in a fine Auburn car that the family still has which they drove on both their 50th and their 60th wedding anniversaries. Lyman and Myrle were completely devoted to each other throughout their marriage of 62 years. They were a great inspiration to many.

Chady spoke of many early interests and activities that he and Lyman shared in finding historic steam engines and cars, plus the purchases and restorations that took place. Much of this was about the Auburn, including the early 1909 model that Lyman had and the late, very high performance V-12 Auburns, the big limousines and the famous Speedster, both of which Lyman owned.

He spoke of the widespread activities Lyman had in Kansas with Harold Ottaway and Herb Ottaway in the joint efforts to put on those well-known early Wichita shows at Joyland Park. In addition, there was the vast history of Lyman's activities in the first Oklahoma shows that were followed by the Pawnee shows through May 1998.

Following Chady, I had the honor to make these points:

We are gathered here to honor Lyman Knapp, to express our deep respect for Lyman Knapp, and to share our long and deep friendship with Lyman Knapp.

Lyman is closely linked to Oklahoma history. First, through the Historical Oklahoma Land Run of 1893, in which his father participated, then, that is followed by Lyman's life we all know so well.

Lyman understood the importance of our heritage and he greatly respected it. He was one of the original people who knew the importance of preserving the developmental history of machinery. Of the first were Henry Ford of Michigan and LeRoy Blaker of Ohio, and about the same time, men in other states such as Lyman Knapp. He emphasized the steam history that gave us the Industrial Revolution, which changed everything. Then, he carried on through the development of automobiles and tractors.

On the eastern edge of Nebraska, in Nebraska City, a special event in 1862 took place during the westward migration. Mainly, there were only steamboats and locomotives, but there was an effort made to design and build a steam tractor for hauling freight wagons to Colorado and west, in place of using horses. It had the possibility of great improvements!

Lyman was quite familiar with that event and his strong interest came out. He hauled a steam engine from Blackwell to Nebraska City and he participated in their 100th anniversary celebration, bringing his family along. That is a kind of interest and effort we rarely see.

As Chady covered so well, Lyman and Myrle started out and shared special interests in fine vintage cars all these years. Lyman didn't just collect cars, as we so often see. He fully understood the importance of quality design, of good engineering design, and of styling. Lyman had a great admiration for, and often spoke of, those historic, fantastic Duesenbergs. He was widely known and respected among many in that field. The hobby in steam, tractors, and cars has grown fantastically and there were many laughs along the way.

I first met Lyman nearly 50 years ago, when we lived in Oklahoma City. June and I went to the State Fair all dressed up! She had on a dress with fancy embroidery frills on the sleeves, neck, waist and the hem. It was already dark and we saw a steam engine, so we walked over. There was Lyman and an older man and we began to visit about the engine. Soon, Lyman spoke of seeing it run. Lyman's helper opened the throttle and a big shower of condensed steam droplets, all filled with black coal soot, fell on it! June never did get those many black spots out of her lovely dress! However, that was the start of a deep and long friendship.

As years passed, we shared many new ideas and thoughts. Some were patents.

We have quite often seen a well-educated graduate engineer who can fully understand the math and technical aspects of a machine, while he does not properly understand the practical side, or the application details and needs. Lyman fully understood and could see both, exactly, whether the machine was on rubber tires, or whether it was on tracks.

After a few years, he and I became partners in a new tractor development concept. For a few years, Lyman tested many of the design aspects himself on his farm. The idea of a high-speed track concept on a farm tractor proved out very well. We tackled a major project in the usual way that Lyman could see as 'anything is possible.'

We were years ahead of our time. Today, there is a rising market for the Rubber Track concept and it is true that the basic features Lyman Knapp understood so enthusiastically well are far superior to anything on the market today. Someday, in the future, this fact will be widely known.

We, here, can only speak of some high points in Lyman's full and respected life.

I am thankful to have visited Lyman nearly three weeks ago in the hospital. He didn't speak much, but kept shaking my hand a long time. I told him of the Pawnee Threshing Show that day he wasn't there, when his 25 Russell performed while six pitchers fed in the bundles. Suddenly, one pitchfork went through the machine with lots of commotion and noise, but all kept going full blast! He clearly chuckled and laughed, but could not speak.

Above all our memories and comments, Lyman was a true gentleman of scriptural character. He rarely, if ever, got angry. He was proud of his family. He was widely respected and loved!!

We all know the Beautiful Messiah, that famous Christmas oratorio by George Frederick Handel as the bass soloist sings, 'When the Trumpet Shall Sound.' The music and words refer to the Christian doctrine around the world that speaks of the place the great God provided.

Surely we can say, 'Lyman Knapp is there!'