Search for a Legend - George & Charity Hamilton Knight

Printed in the Clarke County Tribune, December 1983, Written by Mrs. Dixie Lee McRee Streeter
Submitted to Genealogy Trails by Debora Reese

 

    On the 11th of October, 1809, in Adams County, Mississippi Territory, George Knight, born the 14th of June 1786, and Charity Hamilton, bornthe 19th of March, 1791, in North Carolina or Tennessee, were united in marriage by a Mr. Vick Justice of the Peace, personal consent to the marriage being given by Andrew Hamilton, father of Charity Hamilton.

    According to family traditions, Charity Hamilton Knight was a full blood Choctaw Indian found in the woods wandering alone after a battle.  Her age was estimated at two or three years.  Andrew Hamilton put her on his horse, carried her to his home and raised her as his daughter.

    As the actions of the War of 1812 moved closer, on the 28th of September, 1811, George Knight was drafted in Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, into Isaac Townsend Company of Louisiana Regiment.  He was mustered into service at New Orleans, Louisiana, in October of 1814, serving six months and three days.

    The famous battle of New Orleans fought the 8th of January, 1815, two weeks after the peace treaty had been signed, found George Knight fighting as a private under chief command of General Andrew Jackson.  The English soundly defeated in the battle.

    Shortly after this battle on the 1st of March, 1815, Private George Knight was honorably discharged and allowed to go after receiving $49.00 in pay for his services in the militia at New Orleans, Louisiana.

   In 1800, George Knight and his wife Charity wee living in the East Baton Rouge Parish of Louisiana, along with their five children, Mary, born the 20th day of July, 1810; James W., born the 13th of April, 1812; Elizabeth, born the 12th of February, 1816; Marcus Brutus, born the 24th of March, 1818, and Willie T., born the 27th of February, 1820.

    However, always on the lookout for a new and better way of life, the Knights began making plans for the move to Clarke County, Mississippi.  A part of these plans included disposing of part of the property which George Knight still owned in Adams County, Mississippi.  According to the records of Adams County, while he was still living in Louisiana, George Knight gave a power of attorney and deed to Robert Moore, said deed being recorded the 8th of September 1824.

    By 1826, from East Baton Rouge Parish of Louisiana, the Knights loaded their growing family into wagons and moved into Marion County, Mississippi, where they briefly left their mark.

    Already George Knight's ability as a leader of his community was emerging.  On the 13th of March, 1828, in Marion County, Mississippi, he posted bond in the amount of $500.00 to fulfill the obligation for the office of Constable.

    At this time the Knights had ten slaves and were keeping three females of age 100 and upwards who were listed as free colored persons.  From other evidence, these are believed to have been Choctaw Indians that they had taken in.

    Again we find that George Knight straightened out his affairs in Adams County, Mississippi, before making the next move.  In 1929 or shortly thereafter, he gave another power of attorney.  At about the same time, he also gave Charles Whitmore a deed on some property.

    Although it is not known exactly when they made their move into the territory which was being formed into Clarke County, the first record of them being in the county was when George Knight was elected as a member of the Board of Police, the equivalent of the Board of Supervisors, at the first election in 1833.  He was also elected to serve as the first Chairman of the Board of Police.

    In 1838, George Knight was serving as the Postmaster of Chickasawhay.

    The newly formed Clarke County, Mississippi was truly a land of opportunity for the Knights.  Seizing every opportunity that came their way to obtain and purchase land, whether for the purpose of keeping it and farming it themselves or simply an investment to be bought and sold for a profit, they began building their small empire.

    George Knight was not in this alone.  As Mississippi led the way in giving women equal rights with their husbands to buy and sell property and to enter into contracts, we find that Charity Hamilton Knight stepped out and began making land transactions not only with her husband, but also on her own, as evidenced in Clarke County records.

    This was a very progressive time for these people as land was cheap and plentiful.  Furthermore, it was rich and fertile for the crops that they grew corn, some tobacco and the ever poplar cotton along with various other crops, some grown for the family's use while others were grown for trade and as a cash crop.  There was no problem with labor as they had acquired quite a number of slaves by now.

    The Indians had quietened (sic) down for the most part except for the continual stealing of cattle and horses which went on at night.  It is believed that the Knights got along well with the Indians because of Charity Hamilton Knight's own Indian lineage and by the fact that several of them, if not all, spoke the Choctaw dialect.

    By 1840, when the census was taken for Clarke County, we find that some of the children of the Knights had reached adulthood and began their own families.  None of the girls were at the home, but all of the boys with the exception of James W., were still living at home.  Everyone but Charity Hamilton Knight was was employed in agriculture.  As the Knight's children grew big enough to be of help in the fields, they had evidently decreased decreased the numbers of slaves that they owned.  Also, it is interesting to note that all this time one of the members of the household over twenty years of age could still not read or write.

The Knights oldest son, James W., and his family lived next door to the Knights.  At their house, the situation was a little different.  His children were too small to be of help in the farm work, therefore James W. Knight, himself, was the only family member employed in agriculture,  Consequently, he owned almost as many slaves as his father.  Likewise, one of the adult members of this household could not read or write.

At this time both the George Knight family and the James W. Knight family lived close to the families of the Sumrall's, Thomas, Moses, and Jacobs and the James Barber Family.

    Elizabeth, the George Knight's next to oldest daughter, had married Alexander Shepherd.

    Little is known about the period between 1840 and 1850 in the lives of the Knight family except that they consisted at a feverous pace in the sideline of acquiring and buying and selling land, whether in acreage or town lots.  Often they would sell some of these acquisitions to one of their children.  A brief search showed more than fourteen transactions during this ten year time span.  At least twenty three United States Land Grants were recorded for George Knight in Clarke County.

    In 1850, only the three youngest boys of the family, Isaac, George A. and John were living at home, helping their father with the farming.  At this time the value of the real estate owned by George and Charity Hamilton Knight was placed at $2,000.00.  At this time they were living next to the James H. Barber family in Beat 2 of DeSoto.

    Education was important to this family as both sons, George A. and John at the age of 21 and 19, had attended school within the year.

    This must have been the peak period of their lives and acquisitions of the Knights as their property and good fortune were soon to take a different turn.  By the 26th of April 1852, their house along with all their valuables therein had burned.

    In 1860, all the children of George and Charity Hamilton Knight had left home and branched out on their own, some living nearby, taking the same skills of acquiring land that they had learned from their parents.  Their real estate at this time was valued at $4,200.000, while their personal property was valued at $5,500.00.  At this time the George Knight family seemed to have made another move, this time to Quitman.

    James W. Knight, George Knight's oldest son, and his wife A. E., age 40, and their six children were living in DeSoto where he was engaged in the mercantile business.  His real estate was valued at $8,000.00 and his personal property was valued at $4,000.00.

    Elizabeth, the next to oldest daughter, and her husband, Alexander Shepherd, age 44, and their thirteen children were living next to the Thomas S. Stephens family in DeSoto.

    About ten houses down from his brother, James W. Knight, the George Knight's next to oldest son, Marcus Brutus Knight, and his wife, Martha R. (Patsy), age 38 were living with their sic children.  Marcus Brutus Knight was farming, holding real estates in the amount of $3,000.00, while his personal property was valued at $10,250.00  He was also listed as living in DeSoto.

    George A. Knight, the fifth oldest son, and his wife, Sarah A. Sloane, age 32, married on about the 4th of December 1856, were living at Quitman with their three children.  George A. Knight was listed as a farmer with real estate valued at $3,000.00 and personal property valued at $10,515.00.

    This is the last glimpse of property and good times for the George Knight family as clouds of war were already brewing in the nation, beginning to form what would lead to that awful period of times in our history when friends and family would be torn apart, scattered and would return to pick up the broken pieces, and some never to return.  The Knight family was no exception.  Always ready to be leaders in their community, they took their place and supported the Confederacy with all they had, their goods, their money and their sons, all of whom appear to have served in the Confederacy.

    After this time, nothing was ever the same in any way.  Almost everything that the Knights had loved and held dear and valuable to them was gone.

    Likewise, on the 6th day of September 1869, George Knight, age 83, a mason, died in Clarke County, Mississippi, leaving his wife Charity Hamilton Knight, to survive with the aid of her remaining children and grandchildren.  George Knight left a will, but buried in a coffin which cost $7.50.

    The next few years must have been very trying for Charity Hamilton Knight.  All that was left of the once large estate was about two hundred acres of land located about three miles west of DeSoto where their residence was and a small stock of horses, cattle, hogs, and sheep, some farming equipment, and some unpaid debts due.  George Knight, his personal estate having an estimated value of $500.00.

    On the 12th of August, 1872, Charity Hamilton Knight, whose post office address was Shubuta, filed her Declaration of a Widow for pension for the War of 1812.  Charity Knight's signature on the declaration was witnessed by a Mr. Weems and A. R. Shepherd, of DeSoto, her grandson.

    Before she ever received her pension, Charity Hamilton Knight, a family heroine, joined her husband in death on the 12th of June 1873, at the age of 82.  Like her husband, she was buried in a coffin costing $7.50, with and additional $7.50 being paid for her burial expense.

    There are at least two or more different theories about where the Knights are buried.  Regretfully, there are no markers to prove which is correct.  One idea is that they are buried in unmarked graves in the southwest corner of the cemetery at the West Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, just past the community of Knight's Valley.

    Another idea is that they were originally buried somewhere else along the Chickasawhay River and that when the land was donated by the Knight family for the purpose of a cemetery, they were dug up and moved to the DeSoto cemetery, where they are buried in the brick tombs on the front southwest corner of the cemetery.

    They could even be buried in one of the lost neglected cemeteries somewhere along the Chickasawhay River or somewhere along the old Shubuta road that went to Quitman.

    Although the confirmed final resting place of their bodies has been lost and is not known, these people have not been lost and are certainly not forgotten.  They have left their mark on Clarke County in the name of the community Knight's Valley, and in the name of the Knight's Valley Baptist Church established around 1897, and still in existence today, holding services on the land which was donated by members of the Knight family for the purpose of establishing and building a church.

Furthermore, not only are their memories alive today in the hearts and lives of their many descendents, but the Indian heritage of Charity Hamilton Knight lives on in characteristics looks and a quest to find and preserve the past heritage not only for the sixth and seventh generations, but also for all the future generations to come.

    A grandfather, proud of his Indian heritage, although taught as a small child to never reveal his Indian "blood" because of the prejudice against Indians which was active until the past seventy-five years told his family stories to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  In telling us about Charity Hamilton, as she was always called in the family, he taught us to be proud that we had Indian blood in us no matter how minute it was.

    Another thing that he taught us was to love the land and the beauty and strength that it holds.  he never wanted any cedars, dogwoods, holly, etc. cut from it.  He always taught us to take care of the land because he believed that a person's land would be something that no one could take from them.  Although he lived to accumulate and piece together a nice estate of his own, he always talked about what they had back in Mississippi.  There was always a longing and desire to go back and find out about it.

    These stories and ideas told a granddaughter and her children created a love for the land and inspired a burning desire to find Charity hamilton who married a Knight.  Surely, I've found her!

 

(Top left picture of Charity Hamilton Knight, Picture on left of George & Charity Hamilton Knight with two of their children, Mary and James)

 

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