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McLean County, Illinois
History and Genealogy



DR. CURTIS KNIGHT, one of the best known and most reliable citizens of McLean County, came to the Prairie State in 1863, from Kentucky. He was born in Westmoreland, N. H., on the 18th of January, 1816. His father, also Curtis by name, was a gentleman farmer of New England ancestry, who came to America prior to the Revolutionary War, and settled in Massachusetts. The first representative of the family in this country was Jonathan Knight, an Englishman, who made settlement in Massachusetts. He was the father of only one child, the great-grandfather of our subject, who, after he grew to manhood, in his native State, married Miss Dudley, who was closely related to the first Governor of Massachusetts. This lady lived to the advanced age of 103 years, and died in Piermont, in Grafton Co. N. H., as also did her husband, at the age of seventy-five years.

Jonathan Knight became a prominent physician in that locality, and was looked up to as a leader among the men of his county. His son Curtis, the father of our subject, was born in Westmoreland, N. H., and there grew to manhood, being reared to farming pursuits. He afterward removed to Cornish, N.H., and was married to Miss Betsey Atwood, a New Hampshire lady, and lived there in the latter named State until 1846. They then removed to Illinois, and settled on a farm near Blackberry, Kane County, where the father passed the remainder of his days, his death taking place about 1850, when he was sixty-two years of age. He was a man of great energy and industry, and improved a farm from a tract of uncultivated land, so that his widow was left in comfortable circumstances; she is now residing with her daughter, Mrs. Maria Fonvard, at Elkhart, Ind., whose husband is connected with a foundry in that place. The mother of our subject has now arrived at the advanced age of eighty-nine years, and is a bright and intelligent old lady, who retains her natural faculties to a remarkable degree.

Curtis Knight was the eldest of twelve children born to his parents, seven sons and five daughters, all of whom are living with the exception of two, a son and daughter. They are all married and comfortably settled in homes of their own. Our subject was reared to farming pursuits, and educated at Piermont Academy. In 1834 he set out in life on his own account, first coming to New York City, and after a tour of some of the Western States landed in Bourbon County, Ky. Before leaving his native State he had had some experience as a teacher, and after arriving in Kentucky again took up the profession which he followed there for three years.

From Bourbon Mr. Knight removed to Clark County, and in due time was married to Miss Polly A. Emerson, a native of the latter county, and who bore him three children, one son and two daughters, all now married: Mary became the wife of Schuyler Thompson, of McLean County, Ill., and is now living in Bloomington Township: James P. married Miss Mildred Stagner, and is farming in the latter named township; Sarah married Rufus Oldham, a farmer of Clark County, Ky. The mother of these children died in the latter named State and county, at the age of thirty years.

In the meantime Mr. Knight had been in Jackson County, Mo., where he engaged in farming for three years before returning to Clark County, Ky., and before the death of his wife, and he had also, an opportunity afforded, gained considerable information in dentistry. After the death of his first wife he began practicing, and was thus occupied for two years in Clark and Marion Counties. He had been successful in his business transactions and at this time purchased a farm in Madison County, Ky., upon which he located, and on the 4th of September, 1850, was married to Mrs. Emily (Cornelison) Ballard, a native of Madison County, Ky., who was born in 1821. She was reared and educated in her native county, where her father had settled at an early day, and was one of the prominent citizens of the county, in which he was proprietor of a valuable plantation. Mrs. Knight was educated and accomplished, and has always occupied a high position in society.

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Knight located upon the farm, and our subject followed his self-appointed trade as a local dentist until 1863. The Civil War being then in progress, he came North to evade the hostile attitude of the Secessionists, himself being a radical Republican. He voted for Fremont for President while in Kentucky, and when the National Convention assembled at Chicago on the 10th of May, 1860, and nominated Abraham Lincoln for President, he was present as a delegate and voted and worked for the great Illinoisian. After he returned home from the convention he began to arrange with other loyal citizens for the raising of a home guard and the organization of Union clubs, and was President of the one in Madison County. Under his supervision these clubs or companies finally became the means of holding in check Morgan [ed., John Hunt Morgan] and Zollicoffer [ed., Felix Kirk Zollicoffer], who were then threatening the peace and security of that section of country. The life of our subject was frequently threatened, and after a time he deemed it expedient to remove North. As one of the Home Guards he was at the battles of Wildcat [ed., Camp Wildcat or Wildcat Mountain] and Richmond, and was subjected to great loss and annoyance of all kinds; his horses were stolen, and his property greatly damaged by Morgan's raiders. After coming North one of his sons joined the regular army, and did good service in battle for the Union.

After coming to Illinois Dr. Knight purchased eighty acres of land in Bloomington Township, where he established a permanent home and which he has since occupied. Both the Doctor and his excellent lady are prominently connected with the Christian Church at Shirley, and our subject in politics is as thoroughly reliable as he was during the days of the "late unpleasantness."

Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887), 257. Transcribed by Judy Rosella Edwards.


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