Charles Knight

Biography courteously provided by Joyce Riedinger, Delaware County Coordinator.


CHARLES KNIGHT, a highly intelligent and influential citizen of Hancock, Delaware County, was born April 8, 1826. His father, John Knight, was born in 1780, in Philadelphia, and his grandfather, who was also John Knight, was born in the same city in 1750. The Knight family are of English descent, having probably come to this company with William Penn, and have long been prominently identified with the affairs of the Quaker city. The records of the family may be found on the books of Christ's (Episcopal) Church, on Second Street. Henry Knight, great-grandfather of Charles, was born on June 10,1726. He married Elizabeth Hardin, who was also of Philadelphia. And they raised a large family. Their son, John was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. And was at the battle of Monmouth, after which he lay on the field all night, contracting a disease from which he never recovered. He died in 1786, when but thirty-six year old. His wife was Mary Coran, a native of the Quaker City. And they had three children, two of whom, William and John Jr. grew to manhood.

William Knight was a sailing-master in the United States Navy. His commission is now in the possession of his nephew Charles, who is justly proud of such an uncle. It reads as follows:

"Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, to all who shall see these presents, greeting: Know ye that, reposing special trust and confidence in the valor, fidelity, and abilities of William Knight, I do appoint him Sailing Master in the Navy of the United States. He is therefore carefully and diligently to discharge the duty of a Sailing Master by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging. And I do strictly charge and require all officers, seamen and others under his command to be obedient to his orders as a Sailing Master and he is to observe and follow such orders and directions from time to time as he shall receive from me or the future President of the United States of America, or the superior officer set over him according to the rules and discipline of the Navy. This warrant to continue in force during the pleasure of the President of the United States for the time being To take rank from the second of October 1799. Given under my hand at the city of Washington, the twenty-seventh day of December 1802, and the twenty-seventh year of the independence of the United States.

                  (Signed)  THOMAS JEFFERSON.

   "By command of the President of the United States, 
                                              "R.Smith

    "Registered in the Navy Office,
                     "Samuel T. Anderson"

The following is an extract from an interesting letter, written by William Knight to his mother while he was on board the United States steamship "Macedonian" at New London, Conn., then blockaded by the British, and is dated August 1, 1814, that being the anniversary of his birth: ---

"On Monday last we fitted out an expedition, consisting of four whale boats, eight officers, and twenty men. We lost one boat, and captured three officers and five men, no lives being lost on either side. The boats returned on Friday, the one that was lost being from this ship. On Tuesday, early in the morning, it being very foggy weather, our boat lost sight of the other three, and the officer in charge ordered our men to pull in for the westward. In doing so they came in sight of a seventy-four and they immediately pulled the other way, and, seeing a lighthouse, they used every exertion to get between the ships and the shore. They proceeded on for some time, but the men became weary, having pulled all night and the officer thought it prudent to pull to the shore and pull the boat up, which they did. At daybreak they found themselves within gunshot of several ships of war, and, abandoning the boat, took to the woods. Soon after they saw a boat pull off from one of the ships, and land three officers, who went to the house of Mr. Gardner to whom the island belongs. Our officer, seeing this, immediately made for the boat where he captured five men, and then went to the house where he took Lieutenants Dance and Hope and one midshipman. We had two midshipmen and six men. After taking the eight Englishmen, our o officer found himself in a disagreeable position, without a boat and on an island. The Englishmen were ignorant of this, and our officer ordered them to sign their parole or go with him to Long Island. They hesitated some time, for to be taken prisoners by equal numbers would not do, but after serious consultation, and rather than go to Long Island, they signed their parole. The next business for our men was to look out for a boat. The ship saw their boat was taken, and manned five boats, which they sent toward the shore. By Mr. Gardiner's house we found a boat hauled on the land, which we quickly launched, and made our escape to Sag Harbor, being joined by the three American boats, who also arrived at the harbor. The commanding officer was then a lieutenant, who brought another whale boat for our use, and hauled the boats across a neck of land about six miles westward of the English ships, and on Friday arrived here all right."

William Knight was aboard the United States frigate "Philadelphia" when she ran aground and was lost in the Bay of Tripoli. There were three hundred and eleven souls on board the frigate, and they were taken on shore and put in a building formerly occupied by a United States consul. They were kept as slaves for two years by the bashaw of Tripoli, and then were redeemed for sixty thousand dollars by the United States government. A part of the ransom was paid in pine timber cut on the Preston property at Stockport, run to Philadelphia and shipped to Tripoli. After a long, useful, and eventful sea life, Mr. Knight was transferred to the navy yard in Philadelphia, where he died in 1834, aged fifty-nine.

John Knight, Jr., the father of Charles, was about eleven years old when he came to Delaware County from Philadelphia, and settled on the farm of Judge Preston. He could remember the surrender of Cornwallis, and had seen Washington. He was one of the first settlers of the Delaware Valley, and always followed the river as a lumberman, being also a farmer. His first wife was Rebecca Jenkins, a sister of Judge Preston's wife, and by her he had two children--- William and Daniel. She died in 1804, and in 1806, he married Esther G. Sands. They were the parents of ten children, seven of whom grew to maturity, namely: John; Richard; Edward, who was lost in the woods at the age of four years, his remains not being discovered until the next summer; Mary; Hannah; George; Henry; Rebecca; Elizabeth and Charles. Mary died at the age of fourteen, and three others died within a few days of one another, of a prevalent disease. John Knight, Jr., was the first Supervisor of Hancock, and held the respect of his townsmen throughout his life. He was a Whig, and both he and his wife were members of the Methodist Episcopal church. He died of a fever, April 9, 1843, at the age of sixty-two. And his wife survived him nineteen years, dying November 7, 1862.

Charles Knight was born on the farm he now occupies, and where he has spent the greater part of his life. At the time of his birth the family occupied the log cabin erected by his father when he came on the land in 1810. He was educated in the district school in the town of Hancock, and when but seventeen years old he was left fatherless, since which time he has depended on his own exertions. December 3, 1856, Mr. Knight married Rachel C. Calder, daughter of Alexander and Affa (Waldron) Calder, of Greene County, New York. They have six children, namely: W. DeMilt, a resident of Pueblo, Col., who has two children; Effie M., wife of L.B. Dole of Hancock, who has five children; Cora A. who was the wife of the Rev. Francis M. Turrentine, and died in May, 1889, leaving one child; Alma E. living at home with her father; Charles C., a resident of Pueblo, Col.; and Ida M., wife of Julian W. Gould of Hancock. Charles C. is a surveyor and civil engineer. He was on the Denver and Rio Grande and Mexican Southern Railways, and was highly recommended by the division engineer for roads of difficult construction. Mrs. Knight died December 8, 1887, having been throughout her life a member of the Methodist Episcopal church.

Mr. Knight has been School Trustee for thirty consecutive years, and was Road Commissioner for a long while. He is a member of the Good Templars Lodge, and a man of high standing in the esteem of his fellow townsmen, being upright in all his dealings.


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