Knight family papers, 1784-1960 and undated, bulk 1840s-1890s 5.5 Linear Feet — 13 boxes
Collection contains correspondence, diaries and notebooks, financial papers, legal papers, genealogical documents, printed materials, and other items pertaining to the Knight family of Natchez, Mississippi and Frederick, Maryland. Materials in the collection date from 1784 to 1960, with the bulk of the papers dating from the 1840s to the 1890s. The majority concern the personal, legal, and financial activities of John Knight (1806-1864), merchant, plantation owner, lawyer, and investor; Frances Z. S. (Beall) Knight (1813-1900), his wife; and their daughter Frances (Fanny) Beall Knight; as well as relatives, friends, and business partners, especially banker Enoch Pratt and William Beall.
Significant topics include: life in Natchez, Mississippi and Frederick, Maryland; plantations, slaves, and slavery in Mississippi and other Southern states; 19th century economic conditions, especially concerning the cotton market; banking and bank failures; U.S. politics in the 1850s and 1860s; the Civil War, especially in Maryland; reports of cholera and yellow fever outbreaks; 19th century family life; and the Knights' travels to Europe, Egypt, Turkey, and Russia from 1850 to 1864.
Genealogies chiefly relate to the descendants of Elisha Beall of Maryland. There are also two late 19th century albumen photographs of homes in West Virginia (James and Lizzie Brown's "Kingswood") and Maryland ("Beallview," the house of Elisha Beall). A few other images of the Knights are found in the Rubenstein Library's Picture File Collection.
The papers of John Knight concern his business relations with the Beall family of Maryland; his plantations in Mississippi, Hyde Park and Beverly Place, and their management; the purchases, expenses, and medical care of the enslaved people who lived and worked on those plantations; investments in cotton land in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas; economic conditions in the United States, especially concerning the cotton market; the effects of the Civil War, especially in Maryland; and the family's trips to Europe. His notebooks keep careful track of expenses and income, as well as travel. The many land deeds, indentures, slave lists, bills of purchase, and other financial and legal documents in the collection, some dating to the 1700s, chiefly relate to his activities as an attorney and landholder. Many also relate to the legal and financial activities of the Beall family, particularly to William M. Beall. John Knight was also interested in medicine, so the collection holds memoranda books and other papers with prescriptions, receipts, and instructions for medicines treating ailments of the time.
Papers of his wife, Frances (Beall) Knight, include 21 diaries and some correspondence, as well as financial and legal papers. Her diaries describe in detail life in Natchez, Mississippi, religious life, family members, visits, the weather, and health. Of particular interest are her travel diaries, which document the family's travels to Europe, with side trips to Egypt, Turkey, Russia, and other places. Her later papers deal with her financial activities as a relatively young widow, and her role as guardian of her two grandchildren, Knight and Alexandra McDannold, who lived with her after the early deaths of their parents, Fanny Knight McDannold and Thomas McDannold.
The ten diaries of Frances (Fanny) Beall Knight, the daughter of John and Frances Knight, document in some detail their trips to Europe, and details of her father's death abroad in 1864; the collection also contains some of her school and family notebooks and correspondence. Later papers refer to her husband, Thomas Alexander McDannold, who may have been the author of at least one of the anonymous notebooks in the collection, and their two children, Alexandra and John.
20th century dates in the collection refer to a typed draft of a paper on 19th century packet ships, and an article from a Maryland history magazine.