Jesse Knight was born in 1845 near Nauvoo, Illinois, the son of Newel and Lydia G. Knight, early converts to the Mormon faith. In 1850, with his widowed mother, Jesse traveled by wagon across the plains to Salt Lake City where the family remained until 1858 when orders came to move south ahead of the Utah Expedition.
Jesse spent the rest of his childhood and his teen years in Provo, Utah, where he lived with his mother and later with an older brother. He worked as a teamster in most of the jobs he had and grew to young manhood in the environment of the logging camp, mining camp, and cattle town, with occasional Mormon connections.
In 1869 he married Amanda McEwan and to this union were born five children, two sons and three daughters, with the first and the last children - daughters, being born in Provo and the rest on the Knight ranch in Payson, Utah.
For many years Jesse Knight ranched and farmed in Payson, often herding sheep or cattle in the mountainous area of the Tintic, Utah, mining region. He became enamoured of the idea to find great wealth himself and shortly before 1890 he found a mine, the June-Bug, which he almost immediately sold.
This whetted his appetite and in 1896 he, through what he believed direct inspiration from God, found the Humbug Mine. Rapidly he exploited this and other mines in the area which he acquired, and ultimately took $13,000,000 worth of ore from the mines on the Godiva Mountain, site of Humbug Mine.
Until shortly before his great strike of 1896, Jesse Knight had completely avoided any connection with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but through the healing of his daughter, his faith was renewed in his ancestral faith. He felt badly about the years he had neglected his church duties and with his new-found fortune, he began to repay his Church and his neighbors the best way he could.
He began his task by giving money to the Brigham Young Academy/University. Over the years almost a half million dollars was given to this institution. He assisted the Church at a critical juncture by loaning it $10,000 to pay interest on a debt. He saved several Church leaders from embarrassment and possible legal penalties by paying their debts. He founded three towns, Raymond, Alberta, Knightville and Storrs, Utah. He financed sugar companies in Utah and Alberta. He delved into irrigation companies, grain elevators, and railroads. He kept up the Provo Woolen Mills for many years.
When Jesse Knight died in 1921, he left a rich heritage of service to his descendents, but little money. He had expanded and extended far beyond his financial resources to help others. Today, little if any of the fortune remains, but Jesse Knight is well remembered as a great miner, an industrialist and philanthropist—Utah's Great Commoner, he was called.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Reese, Gary Fuller, "Uncle Jesse: the Story of Jesse Knight, Miner, Industrialist, Philanthropist" (1961). All Theses and Dissertations. 5064.
Jesse Knight, 1845-1921