The Knights of Boca Grande are not entirely sure which branch of the family they are descended from. Abel and Peter Knight both immigrated to the colonies in the 1600s. Peter arrived in Virginia in 1620. Abel came to Pennsylvania with William Penn in 1682. They are believed to have been cousins.
The confusion pops up because of the frequent use of the name John in the family. In generation after generation, the name pops up.
One of the many Johns settled in Georgia after fighting in the Revolutionary War. His son applied for a Spanish land grant in Florida, and settled in Fernandina Beach with his daughter, son and slaves. Two years later, he asked to be released from the grant, since he was losing his eyesight. He returned to Georgia where he was given a $400 pension for service in the Revolutionary Army.
John’s son, Joel, served in the Indian Wars, and for his service received a land grant in Charlotte Harbor. The Civil War disrupted the Florida cattle trade with Cuba. Not only was Florida blockaded, but Union troops made raids into the state to destroy the cattle so that the Confederacy could not use them for food. Gen. Braxton Bragg formed the 1st Florida Cavalry, known as the “Cow Cavalry.” Joel was a member of the Cavalry, a 2nd Lieutenant. They often conducted massive cattle drives from south Florida north to the port city of Jacksonville.View More images >>
After the war, he moved to his land grant in Charlotte Harbor. His son was Andrew J. Knight II. Andrew was involved in real estate in Tampa, cattle ranching in Charlotte Harbor and the renewed trade with Cuba.
He was a partner in the Clark and Knight Hardware Store, which would later become Knight and Wall Hardware. He was also instrumental in bringing Cuban cigar factories to Ybor. T.S. Knight was known as the unofficial mayor of Charlotte Harbor. He helped to build a local dock to ship cattle from Charlotte Harbor to Jacksonville, Mobile, New Orleans and points beyond. George Knight, the great-grandfather of the Knights at today’s presentation, moved to Gasparilla Island in 1906.
He came to work on the trestle, but stayed on after the job was finished. He brought his family to live at Journey's End. For years, they lived there and acted as caretakers for the property. The Knight brothers, Johns Sr., Harold and Francis, bought a piece of land on the island where the Inn Marina is today. They started repairing and building boats out of the backs of their trucks, but soon had a shop built. The brothers put in tracks and used an old Packard to put boats in the water and take them back out. The Mary was the first boat they built, and each one after that got a little bit better, as the family refined their technique.
Everything was hand machined, with the exception of the paint, nails and engine. The Knight brothers did not only know how to build a boat, they knew how to handle one.
Before SeaTow, when a boat was in trouble the Knights were called to help. During WWII, planes that went down in the Gulf had what were called crash boats. Whenever there was a plane crash, the Knights were called to rescue the survivors.
The Knight family underwent a religious conversion during WWII. Staunch Methodists since before the family came to the colonies, the Knights were members of the local church. One Sunday, the preacher got up in front of the congregation and announced that the men fighting in Europe were committing a sin. By the next Sunday, all of the family members were attending the Baptist church.
As Samuel Knight was the first Methodist preacher in southwest Florida, this was a huge change. For a while, Johns Knight Jr. was the sheriff on Gasparilla Island. After he retired and joined the family boatbuilding business, they tore down the small jail and began to transport prisoners to Fort Myers. These days, the Knight family is scattered around Charlotte Harbor.
This weekend, on Saturday, the Historical Society is hosting an old-fashioned penny social at the Community Center. There will be games, raffles, live music, a trivia contest and food. Lots of food. It starts at 1 p.m.
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