Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson

KNIGHT, BENJAMIN (1836-1905)

History of the state of California and biographical record of Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo Counties, James Miller Guinn

Photograph of Benjamin Knight
Benjamin Knight

Dr. Benjamin Knight (State Senator), now serving his fourth year as district attorney of Santa Cruz county, is one of the youngest and most promising of the men who have filled this position, and he is also one of the most erudite of the native sons who are promoting the legal prestige of the community. He was born in this county August 28, 1874, a son of Dr. B. Knight, and grandson of Benjamin and Amy (Ballou) Knight. The grandparents were born in Rhode Island, in which state had settled the immigrating New England ancestors many years before, and the Ballou family, no less representative of eastern tradition and conservative worth, claimed among its members immediate associates of Roger Williams. The grandfather was a machinist by trade, and while on a mining expedition to California in 1850, built the first log house on the site of Nevada City. Two years later he returned to Rhode Island, but in 1872 came with his wife to the coast, his remaining years being spent at the home of his son, Dr. B. Knight. There his death occurred in 1883, at the age of eighty years, his wife surviving him until 1895, at the good old age of ninety-one. Their children were: Obadiah M., Marcy G., Mary B., Noah M., Dr. Benjamin, Amy, Lucina, Thomas and Lucretia.

Dr. Benjamin Knight was born in Mansfield, Tolland county, Conn., October 16, 1836, and was educated at the Providence Conference Seminary, at East Greenwich, R. I. Previous to the Civil war he had engaged in teaching, and had begun to study medicine with Drs. Howard Okie and Wilcox, but with the demand for his services as a soldier he enlisted in Company I, First Massachusetts Cavalry, and served twenty-one months. His regiment was principally engaged in South Carolina, and after the cessation of hostilities he returned to his former home and resumed his previous occupations. The same year as his graduation from the Harvard Medical School, he married, April 8, 1869, Lydia A. Killey, daughter of James E. Killey, of Manton, R. I., and forthwith started out on a wedding trip to Santa Cruz, Cal. Possessed of remarkable general ability, Dr. Knight has not only built up a large and lucrative practice, but has proved himself a politician of large resource and unquestioned popularity. He accomplished good results while a member of the city school board, and in 1879 was the unsuccessful candidate for the assembly. This slight disappointment was more than counteracted in 1882, when he was elected joint senator from Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties, and he further served as senator in 1883, was in the extra session of March, 1884, the regular session of 1885, and the extra session of 1885, held during July, August and September. He was elected president pro tem. at the regular session of 1885, and also served as chairman of the hospital committee, later being appointed by Governor Stoneman as one of the five commissioners who located the Agnew Asylum. He was also chairman of the finance committee of the session of 1885. Dr. Knight is a man of great public spirit, large heart, and high professional standing. He is fraternally connected with the Masons, the Odd Fellows and the United Workmen, and is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. To himself and wife have been born four children, viz.: Edith, the wife of W. E. Dodge and the mother of one son, Charles P. Dodge; Ida, the wife of J. F. Stack; B. K.; and Mary A., deceased at the age of seven.

After completing the course at the grammar school, Benjamin K. Knight entered the law office of Carl E. Lindsay, and was admitted to the bar September 2, 1895. Not content with the grammar school training, he attended a law school for a few months, and finally graduated from the law department of the Ann Arbor College (Michigan) in 1895. Returning to Santa Cruz, he entered the law office with Mr. Lindsay, which association was most amicably and satisfactorily continued up to the time that Mr. Knight succeeded Mr. Lindsay as district attorney. Mr. Knight is variously associated with the fraternal and social organizations in the city, is secretary of the Elks Club, and a member and past president of the Native Sons of the Golden West. Fraternally he is connected with the Knights of Pythias, the Foresters and the Eagles, and he is a member and regular attendant of the Episcopal Church. Mrs. Knight, who was formerly Helen Bliss of San Jose, is the mother of two children, Benjamin B. and Marion

Santa Cruz Sentinel (June 24, 1876)

Dr. Benjamin Knight, formerly of this place, is about to engage in the practice of Medicine at Laramie City Wyoming Territory. Dr. Knight is a graduate of Harvard College, was for five years city physician of Santa Cruz, and when failing health forced him to leave here he was among the leading physicians of the county.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (November 19, 1896)

On Wednesday Ben Knight heroically rescued a baby from a mud puddle on Vie St. The baby had been thrown from a buggy and the mother’s screams attracted Ben. It seems that the lady was about to enter buggy when the horse gave a sudden start, causing the baby to be thrown out.

Santa Cruz Surf (June 2, 1905)

Death of Benj. Knight MD
The End Came at Half Past Nine O’clock This Morning

After many days of waiting and suffering, 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.

Few men came to the final hour with such keen consciousness of their situation.

For years the doctor had been aware that a fatal disease was upon him and he arranged all his business affairs with the end in view and later all the details of his funeral and the disposition of his effects. With celebration he retired from the world and watched the inevitable ebbing of his physical strength.

Dr. Knight was born in Mansfield Conn. October 16, 1836. On September 14, 1861, he enlisted with two brothers, Noah and Thomas in Company I of the First Massachusetts Cavalry. His regiment was sent for service to the islands off the South Carolina coast, where it participated in the battle of Pocotelago and other engagements. His health failed and he was discharged in February 20, 1863. His brothers however, continued in the service to the close of the war.

He had been engaged in teaching prior to the war, and when he regained his health he resumed teaching meanwhile studying medicine with Dr. Oakey of Providence, RI and later attending medical lectures at Harvard University. He received his diploma as a physician in 1869. In the same month he married Miss Lydia A. Killey of Manton, RI. and departed on his wedding for California. He had two sisters in this state at the time Mrs. Plant and Mrs. Thurber.

In 1872 his father and mother followed him to Santa Cruz and in 1891 his brother Noah came from Wyoming where he had been interested with the Doctor in wool growing.

An appreciation of Dr. Knight's public career appeared in the SURF a few weeks since, after he had retired from active life.

His family, born in Santa Cruz, consists of two daughters, Mrs. Edith Dodge, Mrs. Ida Stack (now traveling in Europe) and one son, Benjamin Killey Knight, District Attorney of this county.

The funeral which will be private will be held on Sunday.

Editorial Notes from Robert L. Nelson

The home of Dr. Knight's parents was in Rhode Island, having but a temporary residence in Tolland County, Connecticut at the time of his birth. He was, therefore, reared in Rhode Island and educated in the Providence Conference Seminary at East Greenwich. After leaving the seminary he taught school and was thus employed in Mansfield Massachusetts at the outbreak of the Civil war.

In 1882 Dr. Knight was elected joint State senator from Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey Counties. He served as senator in 1883, in the extra session in March. He was elected president pro tem at the regular session of 1885, served as chairman of the Hospital Committee in 1883 and 1885, and also as chairman of the finance Committee, 1885. Dr. Knight was elected upon the Democratic ticket. In 1879 he was the Democratic candidate for the Assembly, but was defeated by a nominee of the combined Workingmen's and New Constitution parties. Dr. Knight has no affiliation with any religious body, although Mrs. Knight is a member of the Episcopal Church

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