Santa Cruz County History - People

A Walk Through Time: Doctor Benjamin K. Knight and Family
by Janet Krassow and
by Randy Krassow

Doctor Knight and his family were among the most prominent residents of Santa Cruz County during its first century. Not only did they occupy numerous important positions in the community, but they were held in the highest esteem by the citizenry.

It has been said that the measure of a man's worth are the friends he leaves behind. If so, Doctor Knight should be judged by the opening lines of his obituary, which ran in the Santa Cruz Surf on June 2, 1905. It read: "Dr. Benj. Knight, the beloved husband and father, the faithful physician, the friend of thousands, former State Senator, and school trustee, passed away this morning."

Photograph of the Memorial for Benjamin K. Knight
The Memorial for Benjamin K. Knight

Doctor Knight was born in Mansfield, Connecticut on October 16, 1836, and his parents took him to their native Rhode Island while still an infant. It was there that he was reared and received his early education, afterwards teaching school until the outbreak of the Civil War. He enlisted in Company I, of the first Massachusetts Cavalry. His regiment was sent into service in South Carolina where they participated in the battle of Pocotelago and other engagements.

At the end of the war, he enrolled at Harvard Medical School and received his diploma as a physician in 1869. In the same month, he married and set out for Santa Cruz where he was to practice medicine for the remainder of his life, serving 14 years as the county physician.

Dr. Knight was also a man of strong political convictions and ran for office on a number of occasions. He was elected State Senator in 1883 and was appointed President Pro Tem of that body.

Dr. Knight and his wife Lydia were people of culture and refinement, and they supported the arts in every way possible, including the construction of the famous Santa Cruz Opera House, which was dubbed Knight's Opera House. But what he is most often remembered for, is the many acts of charity that he performed for his patients, having donated his services to many a needy families.

The Knight children were successful in their own right. Benjamin Knight Jr. was the longtime District Attorney as well as a school trustee. Daughters, Edith and Ida were both prominent educators.

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