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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


GUS KNIGHT The career of Gus Knight, one of the best-known men of San Bernardino County, reads like a romance, and yet in this case, as in so many others, "truth is stranger than fiction." Coming into this region when it was a desert wilderness, Mr. Knight not only has passed through all of the stages of its development, but has brought about many of them, and to his courage, energy, foresight and splendid business management is directly due the establishment and expansion of Knight's Camp in Bear Valley, one of the best and most renowned American mountain resorts, to which people come from all over the civilized world.  

Mr. Knight is a native son of the county, having been born at San Bernardino May 4, 1861, the family home being on the present site of the Santa Fe depot. He is a son of Augustus (known as Gus) Knight, who was born in Maine, in 1831, and Elizabeth Knight, who was born in England in 1835, and when she was fourteen years old her parents brought her to the United States. In 1860 Augustus Knight and his wife were married at San Bernardino, to which place he had journeyed from Maine in an ox cart, encountering Indians by the way and passed through a number of exciting incidents. He stopped for a time in Humboldt County, California, and was there engaged in prospecting, for this was in 1852, when the gold excitement was at its height and men came West in search of the precious metal, not then realizing that the great state held many other riches aside from that lure which was to give it its name of "Golden." From Humboldt County he traveled down the coast to the San Bernardino Valley. His wife crossed the plains by way of Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1852, her parents with their ox team forming part of an immigrant train. While he was prospecting he discovered the Temescal tin mine in Temescal Canyon, and this has been operated off and on ever since. He was also interested in timbering, and conducted this line of business for several years in the Mill Seeley Flats, and built the first saw-mill to manufacture shingles at B and Fourth streets, San Bernardino, operating it in partnership with Doctor Dickey, and they floated the shingle logs down to the mill. Another venture of his from 1862 to 1864 was the operating of a state line to Arizona, but he then abandoned it, as there was not sufficient patronage to justify the expense and risk of attack from the numerous hostile Indians. In 1874 he built a hotel at Gold Mountain, and conducted it for two years, and was also engaged in the stock business and desert freighting, continuing the last two occupations until his death. He and his wife had two children, his namesake son and a daughter, Belle, who was the younger of the two. She was born July 26, ^863, and is now the wife of J. R. Metcalf, an orange grower and business man of San Bernardino.  

Educated in the public and private schools of San Bernardino, Gus Knight rapidly acquired a working knowledge of the fundamentals, and when only thirteen years old began to be self-supporting as an associate with his father in the cattle business in Bear Valley, and from that early age has been identified with the development of this region. In 1888 he and John Metcalf built the first hotel, which be- came the widely-famed Pine Knot Hotel, and he soon brought out his partner and conducted it alone until 1910, when he sold it to Charles Henry. In the meanwhile, through his enterprise and fore- sight, he built a splendid and enduring monument to himself and his times, a mountain resort of world-renown. In 1902 he started what he named Knight's Camp in Bear Valley, erecting cabins, and improving the buildings later on, developing the various features, until it attained to remarkable proportions and fame, and this, too, he sold, in 1919, retaining only some selected lots and his mountain home. Mr. Knight made other investments, in 1897 purchasing fifteen acres on Base Line, and this he set to orange trees, and in 1920 he built his beautiful modern home overlooking the Line Valley, with the San Bernardino Mountains at his very door. This is one of the most beautiful spots in the entire country, and Mr. Knight takes great pleasure in the wonderful landscape spread out before him.  

Mr. Knight has been married twice, his first wife having been Miss Nancy C. Henry. By this marriage he has two children, namely: James H. Knight, who is a resident of Los Angeles, California, is married and has one son Freemont ; and Charles H., who is a resident of Big Bear, where he owns and operates a garage and auto- mobile business. He also is married, and has two children, Thomas and Charlotte. In 1913 Mr. Knight married Mary C. Workman, a daughter of Joseph Workman, a pioneer of Los Angeles. Mrs. Knight's grandfather. William Workman, founded the first bank of Los Angeles, known as the Workman & Temple Bank. It was located in the Temple Block, Los Angeles.  

Out of Mr. Knight's development of his hotel and camp grew another industry that he carried on for years, and that was road building, and his efforts in this line have made it possible for thousands of people to view in comfort the grandeurs of this wonderful mountain country, and brought to it many of tourists who otherwise would have been deterred on account of the hardships. While he has reaped a fortune from his various projects, he has earned all he has and deserves more than most men his prosperity and the plaudits of his fellow citizens, for he has bestowed upon others through his developments and through his public spirit much more than he has secured for himself.

History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011