The Free State of Jones

Rachel Knight: Does a Photo of Her Exist?

Who is this woman?

From the cover of The Free State of Jones by Victoria Bynum

Said to be Rachel Knight

Said to be Rachel Knight

Is this really Joseph Sullivan Knight and wife?

Is this really Rachel and Newt Knight?

With help from descendants of Rachel Knight such as Dianne Walkup and Florence Blaylock, I have revisited the two photographs (see above) that I identified as being Rachel in my book, The Free State of Jones. Through Florence, I first learned that several descendants no longer believed, or had never believed, that the photograph on the book’s cover was Rachel. Well, no author likes hearing that! But, as a historian committed to publishing the truth, I knew I had to consider these opinions.

At first, I reasoned that the other photo published in my book which identifies Rachel and Newt Knight sitting side-by-side (see above) shows a woman who strongly resembles the woman in the cover photo. So, doesn’t that suggest that these are photos of Rachel, I asked? Well, after that things got even more interesting.  Several descendants, among them Dianne Walkup, reported that the couple in that photo is not Newt and Rachel at all; in fact some family members are certain that it is Newt’s son, Joseph Sullivan (Sill) Knight, sitting with one of his two wives, either Sarah Welborn or Mollie Hodges.

You know, I have never really thought that the man in that photo looked much like Newt Knight. But several Knight family members do believe that it is him, and another Knight researcher says that it doesn’t look like Newt only because he had shaved his beard off while serving in postwar politics.  So what is the truth? Perhaps readers can help.

At this point, I confess that I am pretty well persuaded that we, or at least I, simply don’t have a picture of Rachel Knight. But I would still like to know who the people in those photos are. Dianne Walkup believes that the cover portrait may be of Lessie Knight, George Ann’s daughter and Rachel’s granddaughter.* That is certainly plausible. There is a photo of a very young Lessie in The Free State of Jones in which her face appears almost identical to that of the woman in the cover photo. What do others think?

And about the photo of the couple: are there any descendants of Joseph Sullivan Knight out there who might be able to identify that photo one way or the other?

Vikki Bynum

*Update, 10/13/2014: When I visited this past spring with Knight descendant Dianne Walkup, she expressed her belief that the photo shown on the cover of The Free State of Jones, is, after all the disagreement, a true photo of Rachel Knight. Other descendants have since agreed with Dianne. Throughout all the debates over which photo—if any—is of Rachel, it’s well to remember that no one has offered definitive proof one way or the other . And so, it seems, there may always be disagreement among descendants–and that’s okay with me.

87 replies »

  1. Thanks, Jon. One of the wonderful things about the blogosphere is that nothing is written in stone, not even books that are already published!

    • Hello, my name is Becky Welch Blessing. My grandmother was born a Knight, Lillian Louise. She was daughter of EDWARD WILLIAM Knight. His father was William Russell Knight. His parents were John and Harriet Parker Knight from North Carolina. Have you come across any of these names in your research

    • I would like to ask you a question. Do you have any more information on the woman Mollie L Hodges? My Great Great Grandmother was named Sarah Rebecca Hodges. Her fathers name was Alfred Hodges. I do have a picture of her and she very much so resembles the woman in the picture with the gentlemen that you shared.

      • Thank you for your question regarding Mollie Hodges, Tanisha. I will check my files and get back to you.


      • I’m sorry, Tanisha, I was unable to find any connections between the Mollie L. Hodges who married Newt and Serena Knight’s son, Joseph Sullivan, and your ancestors, Sarah Rebecca Hodges and her son, Alfred.

        According to family genealogists, Mollie L. Hodges is the “Mary Mollie” who appears on the 1880 census of Noxubee Co., MS, as “Mollie M.,” the daughter of John D. Hodges (1834-1902) and his wife, Sarah F. Pendleton (1836-1904).

        In the 1910 census of Jury Ward 5, Washington Parish., Louisiana, a Mary Jenkins, wife of Asa Jenkins, appears to be the same “Mary Mollie Knight,” now widowed and remarried. That this “Mary Jenkins” is the same Mollie L. Hodges who previously married Joseph Sullivan Knight is indicated by the three children living in the Jenkins household: Edgar Knight, 16; J. P. Knight, 14, and Austin Knight, 12. Those names correspond to three of Mollie’s children with Joseph Sullivan: John Edgar, James P., and William Austin Knight. (Also, the Jenkins family was living next door to the family of Monroe and Laura Knight.)

        I’m sorry that I could find no links with the names you provided, but perhaps the above information will help you to determine whether there is still a connection.


      • Hi Vikki! Thank you for checking that out for me! We’ve reached the end of our line and can’t trace that last name back any further. Thank you so much for taking the time out!

  2. If the individual photo you show of an older Newton Knight, along with photos of the Collins and Valentine men, is an actual photo of Knight I would have to say that the younger man identified with the woman is not Newton Knight. A lot may change about a person, but not the eyes. In the individual photo identified as being him, he has almond shaped, very distinct, eyes. I’m no expert, but I vote no.

  3. Thanks for your astute observation, B. W. Anderson. There seems to be a fair amount of certainty among descendants that the other photo of Newt Knight, posted on my website (and on the cover of FREE STATE OF JONES), is indeed him. And, like you, I have never been impressed with the level of resemblence between the men in these two photos.

    There is yet a third photo that may help this discussion. On page 154 of FREE STATE OF JONES is a photo of Serena and Newt Knight. This picture was supplied by descendants of Jeffrey and Mollie Knight, who Serena lived with late and life, and I think it is authentic. The older Newt (his hair and beard are white) looks remarkably like the younger Newt on the book’s cover. But he doesn’t look like the beardless man seated with the woman I had identified as Rachel.

    I’ll post that third photo in the next few days. Meanwhile, I would love to hear from more of you on this.

  4. I am the great, great, great granddaughter of Newt Knight. and from my knowledge, this is most likely not Rachel Knight. I remember a picture my great aunt Donia Knight showed me from an old photo album while visiting down in Soso, Mississippi. And the picture she showed me was of a very dark skinned black woman. This woman looks more biracial, or mutiracial. Now, supposedly Newt had his children from his white wife procreate with the children he had from his black mistress to keep his blood line more pure. So there is no telling who the woman in this photo is. What I find to be highly suspect, is that I have this woman’s eyes and a similar nose.

    • Adeili, I so appreciate your taking the time to provide an insider’s opinion about the alleged Rachel Knight photo.

      From what you are saying, it sounds like that photo may be of a descendant of the interracial marriages that occurred between two of Newt and Serena’s children and two of Rachel’s children. (i.e., the marriages of George Madison (Matt) Knight to Fanny Knight, and Martha Ann Eliza (Mollie) Knight to Jeffrey Early Knight.) Alternatively, I have always thought that the woman in this picture looked a lot like Newt and Georgeanne Knight’s imputed daughter, Lessie (to compare, see photo on page 155 of FREE STATE OF JONES).

      Whatever the case, you are one of the only people who has ever contacted me to say they once saw an actual picture identified as Rachel, and that that picture was of a very dark-skinned woman who looked nothing like the picture reprinted here (and displayed on the front of my book, FREE STATE OF JONES). Thank you so much for taking the time!


      p.s. I’m intrigued with your remark that the woman also resembles you–can you provide more details on which Knight line you are descended from?

      • I too am a descendant of newt knight from his marriage with Rachel and the pictures my great aunt Iola ( Knight) stalworth showed me was of a very dark skinned black woman as well.

  5. I am also becoming more and more intrigued by the various comments asserting in this and other articles I have been reading over the past 20 years or so. I am also a descendent of Newt Knight but from his desendant line with Rachel.

    I am a multiracial female and Ms. Bynam met my father Benny at one of the family reunions. It is true the second set of photos is not Rachel and Newt which was also indentified in your book. I am not sure who the female is but the man is Hinchie Knight, my great grandfather, Oree Knight’s father, who is my grandfather.

    Many people have attempted to assert that Rachel was of an african descent — however, the line in which I come through is not what is been framed in most descriptions of Rachel – my father, his father and his great grand father (Rachel’s son) are fair skinned – straight or wavy hair descendents. The photo posted as the New photo of Rachel Knight is very interesting. While I understand the need for some individuals in our family to not want to admit it there are definitely two lines of kinship between us and Newt’s first family. And that whatever photo they attempt to “reveal” as the true photo of my ancester — it will never change the fact that we are blood relatives!

  6. Thanks for joining this debate over the photos, Benita!

    It’s nice to meet you here, and I do remember meeting your father, Benny, at one of the Knight-Boothe family reunions. You are also Florence Blaylock’s niece, right?

    When you say two lines of kinship between “us and Newt’s first family,” can you explain exactly what you mean? Do you mean because Newt and Serena’s children, Matt and Molly, married two of Rachel’s children, Fannie and Jeffrey? That of course created two lines. But then there’s also the line created by Newt and Rachel themselves, which I believe would be Hinchie’s line, correct? And there is also the line traced to Newt and Rachel’s daughter Georgeanne (John Howard, Anna, Grace, and Lessie belong to this one). So really, aren’t there four lines that trace directly back to Newt Knight and Rachel Knight?

    Your observation that the man in the photo of the couple is Hinchie Knight is a new addition to our quest to identify that photo. Anyone else have any comments or opinions on his identity or that of the woman next to him?


    • My head hurts. There are so many family blood lines to follow that have been mixed with the others. Its hard to keep up. It’s very interesting though. I am of mixed race myself. I just watched the movie, “Free State of Jones” which bought me here to this website.

      • Michael, I’m so glad you found Renegade South! Did you enjoy the movie? Are you a descendant or do you have Jones County connections? Let us know what you think of the site.

  7. It is my pleasure to meet you as well. Good point, there are four lines. Yes, I am their niece. And I’m through Rachel and Newt’s line as Hinchie is my great a grandfather. The photo of Hinchie and the other woman is confirmed with my aunts, Dorothy and Florence.

    • That’s great! Now, if we can just identify the woman in that photo . . . . this is one area where I can’t make any judgments at all, since it’s a matter of family knowledge and opinion. I’m so glad that several of you are coming forth with your opinions. And tell your Aunt Dorothy and Florence that I said hello!


  8. Hi Vikki,

    Florence and I visited a couple in Hot Coffee maybe two years ago who can identify the people in the photo. I cannot recall her name but she has this picture in her store. I am inclined to believe that she said it was Sill Knight and his wife.

    I don’t believe that my cousin Florence can actually identify any of the photos in Anna’s box of photos in that few if any had anything written on them.


    • Yvonne,
      Thanks for adding your perspective on the photo of the couple that I think we all now agree is NOT a picture of Newt And Rachel. I am inclined to believe it may indeed be Sill (Joseph Sullivan) Knight, Newt and Serena’s son, since you are the second person to suggest that it is. I sure would like to know who the woman is–she looks somewhat Native American to me; what do others think? Unlike his siblings, Mollie and Matt, Sill did not marry a child of Rachel–is that one of wives from his two marriages?


  9. Newton raised his children by Rachel and George Ann as white. They did not mix racially with blacks and therefore it is hard for me to believe that Anna would have accepted her lot as a black woman if the Seventh Day Adventist Church had not deemed her “Negro”. My Aunt Octavia (John Floyd’s daughter) and Aunt Ollie (Diane Walkup’s grandmother) did not consider themselves black until they moved out of Soso to Kelly Settlement in North Forrest County and that is a fact.


    • Very interesting, Yvonne; I so appreciate the work you have done in gathering family memories. The different ways in which the multiracial Knights identified themselves is so revealing about racial identity in the segregated U.S., and it makes the effort to divide people along lines of “white” or “black” an impossible task (the point I tried to make in my earlier post on the “one drop rule” of race.)

      BTW, in my chapter on the Knight Community (ch. 6) in the forthcoming LONG SHADOW OF THE CIVIL WAR, I suggest that Anna Knight may have intended, like her sister Lessie, to identify as white, but was thwarted by the dust-up that occurred in the 1890s at the Adventist Graysville Academy in Tennessee when some white parents protested that she was a “mulatto.” (for readers: Anna herself described this event in her autobiography, MISSISSIPPI GIRL.; I discuss it in FREE STATE OF JONES, p. 163, as well). I’m glad to have that hypothesis reinforced by your remarks


  10. Back to the photo of Sill Knight, Newt’s son. According to my research, Newt raised his family, black and white together. The woman in the photo could possibly be one of his half siblings in that she does favor one of the Knight women. She is not Rachel and she is not Anna, but who?

  11. That’s a good point, Yvonne. It would be fun to sit down with Florence’s pile of photos and make comparisons of this photo with others–although I doubt a consensus would emerge!


  12. I have a photo taken 10/26/08 of the graves of W.J.Collins and Eboline Valintine Collins and if you would like to I will send e-mail.

    Yours Truly: Richard Graves

  13. Hi Vikki, this is Adeili Potts. We spoke before about whether those were the photos of Newt Knight and Rachel. I do not know about Newt, but I spoke to a relative of mine, Teresa Knight, and she agrees with me that this was not the actual photo of Rachel. She too was able to see the actual photo of Rachel in her childhood, and agrees that indeed she was a very dark skinned black woman. Our Aunt, Donia Knight who passed away in 2002, was the only one we know of who possesed this photo of Rachel. We have to search out the relatives who took her photo albums after she passed away, and get the photo. I believe Donia did not have any children so it will most likely be a more distant relative that has it. I will be happy to share it with you if I am fortunate enough to find it.

  14. Hello Adeili, and thanks for revisiting Renegade South. You and your relative’s description of that photo from your Aunt Donia’s album reinforces Yvonne’s contention that she, too, heard from the old folks that Rachel was not a particularly light-skinned woman. It would be wonderful if you located Donia’s photo album and found the photo in question!

    Hope to hear from you again.


  15. Yvoone Bivins

    I am a decendent of the Knight family. I recently requested information on Issac and Harriet Ward Knight. His children were John, Tim, Bell, Frank, and Jessie. Daughters Nellie, Phyliss, Till, and Hat. The ladies names could be a nickname, no one’s sure. Do you know of any documents stating such?

    I would be greatly appreaciative if you would get back with me on this. My e-mail is I’ve been reading some of the posting regarding “Renegade South”. I learned a lot that I’ve never heard, and I’m sure the rest of the family didn’t know either. If you have any more, I’d like to read what you have. I hope that if you have the time, please post some more.

    There’s going to be a Knight family reunion in July of 2011 in Soso,Ms . It would be nice to meet some more of the Knight family. Thanh you and have a nice day. Ronnie White

    • I just reviewed your request for information about descendents of Harriet’s family. I am a second great grandson of Harriet through her son Joseph S Broomfield. You may already have this information by now, if you do have it, just delete this email.

      Andy Knight father’s name was Daniel T Knight. Daniel is also said to be the father of several other (Samuel, Joanne & Mary) of Harriet’s children and I suspect that Daniel also was the father of some of Harriet’s other children not mentioned here.

      According to the Census from 1870–1910, Harriet had 16 known children. In the 1870 Census they were enumerated with Harriet’s mother, Phillis Carter, hence all of their last names were listed as Carter. The names in parenthesis are known last names that were used by her children. They were listed as follows:

      1870 Census (Jones County, MS record for Phillis Carter, page 14 of 28, line #1)

      Claiborne (Graves) abt.1859
      Isaac abt.1860
      Andy (Knight) abt.1861
      Lewis abt 1863
      Jackson abt.1864
      Joseph (Broomfield) abt.1865,
      Samuel (Knight) abt.1867

      In the 1880 Census, they were again enumerated with Harriet’s mother, but her last name has changed from Carter to Knight and everyone in her household was listed as Knight’s. Isaac and Samuel from the 1870 Census were not listed under Phillis household in 1880. Phillis household in 1880 was listed as follows:

      1880 Census (Jones County, MS record for Fillis Knight, page 12 of 26, line #1)

      Clabe (Graves) abt.1859
      Jackson abt.1864
      Lewis abt 1863
      Andy (Knight) abt.1861
      Joseph (Broomfield) abt.1865,
      Joan (Knight) abt. 1880
      Mary (Knight) abt. 1884
      Emeline (Knight) abt. 1886
      Bell (Ward) abt. 1878

      The 1900 Census shows Harriet had married Ike Ward. Their household consisted of the following children:

      1900 Census (Jones County, MS record for Ike Ward, page 32 of 53, line #61)

      Bell Ward Oct 1878
      Frank Ward Jul 1884
      Hattie Apr 1886
      Jessie May 1888
      Phillis Aug 1889
      Nellie Jane Jul 1891
      Barnes, William May 1880 (Ike & Harriet’s Grandson)

      1910 Census (Jones County, MS record for Ike & Harriette Ward, page 49 of 52, line #22)

      Jessie May 1888
      Phillis Aug 1889
      Nellie Jane Jul 1891
      John Knight abt. 1891 (Ike & Harriet’s Grandson)
      Tim Knight abt. 1892 (Ike & Harriet’s Grandson)

      My GGF, Joseph S. Broomfield, was the brother to all of Harriet’s children. Not only did Harriet’s off springs play an important role in establishing Mount Pleasant Church, some of them (Luther & Viola Knight) donated land for the building of the Seventh Day Adventist Church where Rachel Ann Knight established her school in Soso and the M.T.P. and S.D.A. Cemetery.

      Harriet’s off springs of Soso village also obtained land grants from the federal government and brought the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge to Soso, MS. The lodge, located in the right rear of Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, still flourishes today. Rev Percy Moore was pastor at the church in December 1985 when I recorded the following information from a plaque to the entrance of the lodge:

      MT. Lebanon Lodge No. 269
      Organized 1902 Joe Broomfield W.M.
      R.B. 1962 R. Mc Cullen W.M.
      John Knight S.W.
      A.D. Shelby J.W.
      C. Knight Sect.
      J.W. Ward T.Y.
      Other Shelby Treas.
      John Keys Com.
      S. Buckley Com.

      It seems to me that these people enjoyed their freedom and prospered after slavery and beyond the Reconstruction period to became self reliant.

      I have many documents about Harriet’s descendents and photos of many of their headstones for those who are buried in M.T.P./S.D.A. Cemetery and the Mount Vernon Church Cemetery located in Soso, MS which is where Harriet & Ike are buried.

      Does anyone know if there is any significant to having the shed over Harriet’s grave? The reason I am asking is because it is slowly falling apart and I would like to replace it (with family approval) with a metallic shed that can stand the elements a little better.

      Finally, I am all about inclusion and I totally agree with Yvonne about getting over the obstacles, imagined or real.

      • Wiley,
        In reference to the grave houses you mentioned in your comment. I remember these from my youth. I believe (and this is my opinion) that they were built to keep the grave safe from the elements as well as offering a place for relatives to visit out of the sun and rain. There may be more to it than that, but if so… it appears to have been lost over the years.
        B.W. Anderson

      • Hello Wiley,

        My Name is Barry Knight from Erie, Pa. My Great Grandfather was Tim Knight abt. 1892 (Ike & Harriet’s Grandson) (Joans son), and My Grandfather, who is still alive Is Major Knight (Now 87 years old). There are several hundred to possilbly 1000 peolple in just this area alone who are Knight’s or Page’s who are all related.

      • Hello Wiley,

        I have been going over and over these notes on this forum and I am 1000000% positive that:

        Daniel T Knight & Grandma Harriett are the parents of Joanne Knight, “Papa “Tim” & Unkle John were her two sons that no one knows who their father was! It’s been a huge family secret for years that no one will talk about!

        Ike Ward is not their biological Grandfather! Grandama Harriet already had 6-8 children before she hooked up with Ike Ward. I am no Expert, however, Here in Erie, Pa, I have done extensive research on the matter.

        Our Bloodline is as follows.

        Daniel T Knight & Grandma Harriett Great Great Great Grandmother & Father

        Joanne Great Great Grandmother
        Papa Tim Great Grandfather
        Major Knight (My Grandfather who just passed away December (2015)
        Romeo Knight (my Dad) who passed away August 27th, 2003

  16. Ronnie,

    Yvonne Bivins has not responded to queries on Renegade South for quite some time. I wish that I could help you with your questions, but I am not familiar with Issac and Harriet Ward Knight. I’m sure that attending the Knight family reunion will be very rewarding and help you to make further contact with the family.

    Best of luck,

  17. Vikki, excerpts from your book and things I have read online from your posts are very interesting! I am 39 years old and a direct Knight descendant from the Knights of Soso, MS. My great-grandfather was Tim Knight (I believe he died in Soso in 1965 or so), although I’m unsure if he is the same Tim Knight that Ronnie White (who is apparently my distant cousin!) mentions above. Tim’s kids, most of whom migrated to Erie, Pennsylvania (where I was born and raised and still live right now) from Soso back in the 1940s or 1950s or so, are Major (my grandfather, still alive at 85 yrs old), Leonard (deceased), Gettie (deceased), Inez (pretty sure she’s deceased), Owee (nickname, I’m sure, still very much alive!), Georgann (still alive living in Georgia) and Bobo (nickname, still alive living in San Bernardino, CA, I believe). Major’s kids are Romeo (my father, died 7 years ago), Roddy Tyrone (my uncle, still alive), and Valentino (my uncle, died in late 1993). Most of my great aunts and uncles have at least several kids (and most were born in the Erie, PA area), so my first and 2nd cousins (once removed and beyond!) are too numerous to even mention! I have tons of cousins named “Knight” right here in Erie whom I have never even met!

    Over the years I have been to several Knight family reunions around the country (several of them here in Erie), and the few programs I have seen over the years showing photos of my great-great-great grandmother, whom I believe was Rachel, show a dark-skinned woman who does not look like the lady on your book’s cover (although that lady definitely looks like a great many of my distant lady relatives!).

    Just thought I’d comment and say thanks for your work and insights. Any relatives of the Knight family from Soso are well aware of their relatives who live in Northwest Pennsylvania, especially since my grandfather and his siblings still visit Soso from time to time, I believe.

    • Scotty Knight,

      What an interesting message! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I have heard many times of the Knights who moved up to northwest Pennsylvania, but to my knowledge I’ve not had contact with any of them until now. It’s my understanding that Davis Knight briefly lived up there too, but did not remain long.

      I’m very curious about who the parents of your ancestor, Tim Knight, were. Maybe some of the other Knight descendants can answer that question. I’m also fascinated by your description of Rachel from photos you have seen on reunion programs. Do any of those images of her still exist? If so, I would love to post one here on Renegade South! I think we can agree at this point that the picture on the cover of my book, Free State of Jones, is not Rachel.

      Hope to hear more from you,

    • Scotty,
      I am also a great granddaughter of Tim Knight. My grandmother, spelled Ines Knight is still much alive at 84 years old. Aunt Owee’s ( nickname) real name is Iola. Hope you make the reunion in 2017 in Erie so that you can meet all of us.

  18. To Scotty Knight:

    Your great-grandmother was Harriet Carter Ward. Her parents were Phyllis Knight and Andy Carter, slaves owned by John “Jackie” Knight (Will of John Knight, Collins, Covington County, MS, September 4, 1860 states – Estate auctioned March 20, 1861. “To my daughter, Altimarah Brumfield, I do will and bequeath a certain Negro girl named Harriet on her paying to the estate two hunded dollars ….” [The Family of John “Jackie” Knight and Keziah Davis Knight, 1773 – 1985. Printed by Robert and Delores Knight Vinson, Magee, MS, 1985]). John Knight’s grandson, Daniel Thomas Knight had an illicit relationship with Harriet resulting in the birth of Andy, Joann, Sam and Mary. Joann later marriet Jackson “Jack” Musgrove who was the son of John Mattison “Mat” Musgrove. All of these were “white negroes”, but were not raised isolated from their darker skinned kin-folk and therefore became what the locals call “the Black Knight’s”. Andy married a woman named Rose Ann Bruce. Sam married Rachel’s daughter by Newton Knight, Martha Ann. Mary married George Coleman.

  19. This past summer, descendants of Rachel and Newton Knight had a family reunion in Soso, Mississippi. Next summer, descendants of Harriet Carter and Isaac Ward will have a family reunion in Soso, Mississippi.

    Because Newton raised his children by Rachel as white and lived isolated from other blacks and did not mix socially, it created a strong resentment between the two families that still exist today.

    Both of these families descend from slaves that belonged to John “Jackie” Knight who had children by his sons and grandsons, thus the surname Knight.

    These people need to get over it.

  20. Vikki and Yvonne, amazing, thank you both! If one of you could tell me, who was Daniel Thomas Knight’s father? Was it Newt Knight or one of Newt’s brothers? If a brother, what was the brother’s name? I guess ultimately I want to know if Newt was my great x3 grandfather or my great x3 uncle! Based on what Yvonne stated about the separate reunions taking place, it sounds as if Newt would have been my uncle.

    Before I continue, let me digress for a second and make a correction to my original post. My great Aunt Inez (Tim Knight’s daughter/my grandfather Major’s sister) is still very much alive, although she is convalescing at a nursing home here in Erie County, PA).

    Vikki, pardon my going on long here, but you had mentioned you were interested in who my Papa Tim’s people were. And to further validate what Yvonne stated about my people, I should mention that a few minutes ago I literally just hung up the phone with my Aunt Owee (another of Tim Knight’s surviving daughters/my grandfather Major’s sister) to pick her brain. She confirms that Harriet Ward is in fact her great-grandmother (which would make her my great x3 grandmother). She also confirms that Harriet Ward is the lady on the Knight family reunion program’s cover that I remember from the mid-1990s or so years (held here in Erie). So I was mistaken, this apparently was NOT a photo of Rachel Knight on that program – although the picture I remember seeing was a dark-skinned lady who is definitely NOT the lady on Vikki’s book cover.

    Vikki, my Aunt Owee was floored when I told her about you and your book and this website! She told me she has multiple copies of that program with Harriet Ward on the cover and that I can have one. I’m going to pick it up from her in a day or so and scan the image so I can share it with you and everyone else who visits your site and would like to see it. If you would, please e-mail me so I can share the image with you (and feel free to post it for everyone else if it doesn’t pose any problems for you).

    Owee mentioned and remembers very well “Grandma Joann” and “Uncle Andy” and their other two siblings, so it sounds like Tim Knight’s father (ostensibly, in the sense that he was married to Joann) would have been Jack Musgrove. But amazingly, Owee told me that my grandfather Tim Knight did NOT know who his father was! When he was asked, Owee told me that Papa Tim would always tell people his father was “Ike.” Well, Owee informed me that “Ike” was Ike Ward, Harriet’s later husband after the Civil War was over. She said that Papa Tim referred to his grandfather Ike as his daddy because that was all he ever knew (about who raised him)!

    If in fact Jack Musgrove was Papa Tim’s biological father, how come Tim never took the last name Musgrove (I’m asking this rhetorically)? It’s funny, because I had heard years ago that we Knight’s descended from Papa Tim’s line should have actually had the last name Musgrove instead of Knight! I never put much credence into that, however.

    A lot is unclear, but I certainly would like to find out who my Grandpa Tim’s biological father was. Is it possible Tim was Grandma Joann’s son from a relationship (prior to Jack Musgrove) with another of John/Daniel Knight’s offspring with the last name Knight, and that’s why we kept the surname?

    Owee tells me that Grandma Joann died (I think she said in Soso) right around the time my father Romeo Knight was born, which was January of 1947.

    Finally, I’d like to mention that my only son’s name is John Christopher Knight! I love to brag about him, he’s such a good boy. He just turned 10 years old 4 days ago. Amazing that when I named him I had no idea that I’d chosen a name that matched the ultimate patriarch of our family, John Knight!

  21. Scotty, between you and Yvonne, we are certainly learning a great deal about the Daniel Thomas Knight and Harriet Carter Ward line. I’m always fascinated by how fast family history can become buried; yet, there are usually a few kinfolk who not only know the truth, but are willing to say it out loud.

    I hope that Yvonne or others can answer your interesting questions about the Ward-Knight-Musgrove connections. I can tell you that Daniel Thomas Knight was the son of James “Dry” Knight, and the grandson of John “Jackie” Knight. Newt was the son of James’s brother, Albert, making Daniel Thomas and Newt Knight first cousins.

    Please do scan me the program that contains Harriet’s photo; I would love to add it to Renegade South.

    Great to hear from you–and, Yvonne, thanks for sharing your knowledge once again!


  22. Scotty and Vikki,

    It is a fact that the father of Joann’s children was a white man whose identity went to the grave with her and all the old folks when she died in January 1950. Pearlie Musgrove Knight whose mother was Mary Lee Knight says that no one in the family would say who the mystery father was and would get threatened with punishment when they would ask. Pearlie was born in 1912 in Soso and is the source of much my oral research.


  23. Yvonne, thank you for the insight into my great-grandfather Tim Knight’s father. I stopped by my Aunt Owee’s house after work today and she gave me a lot more information about Papa Tim and his siblings (whole and half). To the best of her knowledge, Tim and John Knight were my great-great grandmother Joann’s only kids by the “mystery father” you mentioned, while Tim and John’s half-siblings who used the surname Musgrove (apparently all offspring of Joann’s husband Jack Musgrove) were Matthew, Andrew (not to be confused with Andy Knight, Joann’s brother – also a child of Harriet Carter Knight Ward), Willis, Sammy, Alson (not sure of spelling), Alene (not sure of spelling) and Vandora.

    Also, you are probably more accurate with Joann’s date of death being 1950, as Owee told me she knew it was possibly the same year or a few years after my dad Romeo Knight was born, which was 1947.

    Owee says Papa Tim (and probably all of his siblings) referred to Isaac (“Ike”) as “Pap” and Harriet Carter Knight Ward as “Mammy.”

    Papa Tim’s wife and mother of my grandfather Major Knight and Aunt Owee and all their siblings was Myrtle Whiting Knight, who died around 1951 here in Erie. She had been sick with cancer for awhile, so the family brought her up north to Erie to seek treatment, but she died within a few weeks of getting here. Papa Tim was born around 1892 in Soso and died of natural causes in his sleep in Erie (correcting my earlier post regarding his place of death) in 1965 just before Christmas. His body was returned to Soso a few days later and he was laid to rest there on Christmas Day that year. Apparently Papa Tim visited Erie on quite a few occasions, but it’s funny, long before my mother and father married in 1967, they lived near each other as kids (the Knights and a few other families pretty much took over West 16th and West 18th Streets in Erie!), but she recalls only meeting/seeing Papa Tim once.

    Vikki, I have in my possession some fantastic pictures that Aunt Owee “loaned” me, including that program cover picture of Harriet Carter Knight Ward sitting with Ike Ward in front of their house in Soso. Please e-mail me at and I’ll send it to you. I don’t know if Grandma Harriet looks at all like Newt Knight’s wife Rachel, but you’ll definitely find that she doesn’t look at all like the lady on your book’s cover!

    Feel free to post it here for all of my extended Knight relatives and anyone else to enjoy, and thanks again for all of your research and insights!

  24. Vikki and Yvonne, thanks again, I got the e-mails you sent! The picture of Ike Ward and Harriet Carter Knight Ward that Yvonne sent us is the one I have in my possession, so there’s no need for me to send it to you. Aunt Owee said her memory had some gaps, and Yvonne’s research and copy of some pages from the program adds the fill-in for Papa Tim’s siblings, children, aunts and uncles.

    Now, if only some court filing/records/birth certificate could be found for Papa Tim, that would possibly answer the ULTIMATE question of who his father really was. Perhaps we’ll never know, but it’s fascinating discovering all these facts about the extended family nonetheless.

    I have other amazing photos of Papa Tim and his siblings and aunts and uncles that I’ll share with you soon!

    • Is there a DNA project for the Knight descendants? If so, it should help answer some of these questions about the Ward or Musgrove. Good luck on your journey of discovery.

  25. I am seeking a copy of this book for my father for Christamas.

    [The Family of John “Jackie” Knight and Keziah Davis Knight, 1773 – 1985. Printed by Robert and Delores Knight Vinson, Magee, MS, 1985

    Do you know of anyone who would be willing to sale, or if I could order a reprint?

    Thank you,
    Jennifer Odom

  26. I know of no copies of this out-of-print Knight family history that are available for sale. Perhaps a reader can help Jennifer?


  27. in response yes it surely has to be a photo of rachel on the book, I have that book and when I show amazed friends the first repsonse frome them is the resemblence of the facial feature that I share with her I currently live in california my farther was Harold Knight Sr. he passed away a few years back. I carry that book with me in my backpack whereever I go. I’m proud to be a Knight and being who I am has made a difference on the way I view my life , my experiences, people are facinated with this history, the details and stories are truely a romance with the life that once was shared by my ancestors and split them apart at their souls and hearts. It sad to think that alot of people deny their identity but I embrace it, history is who we are as much as time is the fire we burn, live now ,except the reality that souls are put in the bodies of men and women by the Father and when we cast down and reject his good works we have murdered our only hope

  28. Dear Harold,

    Thank you for your heartfelt response to the discussion of Rachel Knight and the photograph in question. I am always struck by how deeply the descendants of this family feel their connections to the past, despite the divisions that have kept many apart from one another.

    Would you care to share your line of descent with readers of Renegade South?


  29. I have found an actual photo of Racel Knight in an article written by James R. Kelly, Jr. who is Vice President for instruction, and a history instructor at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi. The article was posted in 2009 on an online publication of The Mississipi Historical Society.
    I thought you might like the article. It can be found by following either one of these links,

    Newton Knight and the Legend of the Free State of Jones … Most people believed the man who pulled the trigger was Newt Knight. The house is said to be haunted. 2009 photograph by James R. Kelly Jr. ……/newton-knight-and-the-legend-of-the-free-state-of- jones

    This is the only actual photo that I know of.

  30. Thanks for your comment, Neil. The photo you cite may indeed be of Rachel, but there is no proof of that.

    Herman Welborn showed me that photo back when I was still researching the Free State of Jones for my book. At that time, several descendants of Rachel told me that they believed it to be a photo of Rachel’s daughter, Martha.

    The fact is, we have no definitive proof that a photo of Rachel exists, and we’re not likely to get such proof at this point. Descendants are still divided in their opinions about whether one does, and if so, which one is the “actual” one.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t speculate and form opinions, however, and that’s why I wrote this essay.


  31. Hello Everybody,
    This may sound Strange.I don’t care if folks think I’m Crazy.I want everybody to go get all the Batman memorabilia they can. I’m going to tell you why, I believe Mr. Stan Lee of D.C.Marvel Comics depicted our Family Hero Capt. Newton Knight and Rachel Knight as The Dark Knight in his Batman Trilogy. It’s all there People.All the Characters are significant in his research in History.Carefully observe the script also in the Batman Begins Movie. Even in the Song Seal Sings tells it. “The Kiss form the Rose on the Grave” Makes sense.

    P/S Get this message out to the whole Family we how are his Kin truly own the copyrights to the Batman Character and I intend to pursue this legally. How odd it is for them to come here to New Orleans and Film their next Movie?Now that the” State of Jones” Book come out Really” The Honey Island Swamp” where I live and” Davis Landing “Talk about Ghost You Think?I think I have a Riddle me this good argument in court the Jones County Scouts Renegade South Knight Riders Ride Again!

    The only one left here in the Swamps to keep up the legacy.
    Victoria M. Sandrock

  32. Hello Again,
    I got an Idea for you Besides doing research and diggin up bones. Why, don’t we put our money where our mouth is and fulfill our Capt. Newton Knights Legacy. Attach our organization with the Anna Knight Foundation and obtain a Federal Grant to Help the oppressed ever since 1860.with an Advocacy Project for proper Legal Representation Called In-house Inmate Advocacy Program. I.I.A.P.Working with the Local Law Enforcement Offices and Local Jails up and down the South Eastern Division.We can screen Inmates who we can get back into Mainstream society after Rehabilitation,For JOBS!Run THE Petition Back to Congress saying the Program Works.And then Capt. Newton Knight and his Company will get their Commemoration Congressional Medals of Honor given by the President Obama to their Descendants.He will finally have his much needed Rest.
    Tell this to Henry Louis Gates who Helped write our Family Book he’s invited and Stan Lee of D.C.Marvel Comics.And we won’t be serving Beer to discuse our Family History.
    Sined Victoria M Sandrock

    • Hi Victoria,

      It’s clear that you have some very complex ideas and plans for the Newt Knight legacy that are too complicated for the parameters of this blogsite. How about if I ask interested people to contact you personally? We could arrange that in one of two ways. You could give me permission to give interested individuals your email address if they contact me privately. Or, you could provide your email address publicly on this site. I don’t recommend the latter, and I am happy to direct people your way in private if you like. Just let me know.


  33. Hi, My name is Maggie Finley I am Harriet Carter Ward’s GGGrandaughter, my GGrandmother was Matilda Ward Speed and Nealer Speed,Dean,Rhodes was my Grandmother. I was born and reared in Soso, Miss. I am very excited to know how large my family tree is , you see I grew up knowing some of these old timers and most of them close Kin, when I got old enough to date I soon decovered every boy’s name I mentioned was related to me. When I asked my daddy or gmother how we were related they would say honey its to complicated or they would get started and stop talking. I really didn’t take my gmother or daddy seriously about being kendrick to most of the people in this community so I dated anyway. I could never figure out why there was such haltiness between some of these ken folks, yea I said the word and thats exactly what it was and as one old timer stated we all just need to get alone before we all are gone. I think we should have a Real Reunion spend more time planning, inviting, and just thanking God we have each other no matter who your mother and father were or is. God Bless Maggie

  34. My husband’s grandfather was a Thomas Knight who fathered two children with Queenie Reed (born 1880), their names are Herbert (Hubbord born 1898 or 99, census1900), and Frederick Douglas Knight born 1901 in Clarke, MS. Queenie married Henry Mills. Thomas Knight lived and worked in Hattiesburg and family say that there were cousins in Ellisville. Thomas Knight moved to Chicago and died sometime in the 60’s. I am trying to make the connection between these Knights and my Thomas Knight. Douglas was a fair skinned man who could have passed but did not. Queenie died in December of 1972 in Clarke Mississippi. Any information would be helpful.

  35. I’m not a descendant of anyone mentioned in Free State of Jones, so not having a stake in the matter, I can offer something that may help in narrowing identification.

    You mentioned that the original image of the lady on the cover–and on page 111–is a tintype. Tintypes, which were produced from 1854 through the turn-of-the-century, peaked in the mid-1860s and gradually declined. The sitter’s clothing is consistent with what’s seen in the 1870s for women. I feel confident that the image on page 111 is from the 1870s. If I had to pinpoint it, I’d say mid-1870s.

    As I was saying in another post, narrowing the date helps you establish parameters of who it can or can not be.


    • Brian,

      Thank you so much for your personally neutral observations about this particular photo. Rachel Knight was born in 1840, so the mid-1870s would certainly fit the appearance of the young woman portrayed, and reinforce in turn that she could be Rachel. Alas, members of the Knight family continue to disagree over whether it is truly a photo of Rachel, and probably always will.

      I have seen the metallic original firsthand, but some who have also seen it call it a “ferrotype” rather than a tintype. Am I correct in my understanding that ferrotypes and tintypes are the same thing?


      • Yes, they are the same. “Ferrotype” is the proper name of the process that was invented, but all became commonly known as “tintypes.”

        Daguerreotypes, the first process, is also on metal, but they are always distinguishable because they have a mirror-like appearance. You have to hold them at an angle to the light to see the image. They date from 1839 to the 1860s, but peaked about the early-1850s. They’re usually found enclosed in cases, and you hardly see them in person these days unless you go to a museum. There are very few daguerreotypes of Piney Woods settlers. They were expensive and one would have to go to Jackson, Natchez, or New Orleans to have them made. Thus, a majority of daguerreotypes are of upper class citizens. Luckily, one of Robert Magee has survived.

        Ambrotypes, 1854-1860s, are on glass plates. The back of the glass was painted black to make the image appear “positive.” They, too, are always found in cases. You start to see more people from this part of MS in ambrotypes, but still rare.

        Tintypes (Ferrotypes) replaced both from 1854-1900s because it was cheaper and easier. They are on little metal plates, and quite common. As stated earlier, they’re most often seen from 1860s-1870s. Fortunately for the yeomanry of the Piney Woods, the cheap cost and efficiency of the process allowed for itenerant ferrotypists to travel through these counties on a constant basis. They often photographed people in their yards beside their homes. If it’s not in a case or paper sleeve, you can often see in the edges where a sheet or quilt was hung behind them for a backdrop. Some of the tintypists would set up tents.

        Beginning in the 1860s, the printing-out process came onto the scene and overtook all of the others. The negative was a glass plate, and multiple copies could then be made onto paper, which was then mounted on card stock. These are the little carte-de-visite and cabinet card photos we commonly see from the late-1800s in our collections.

        Regarding the tintype in question, another thing most valuable to the researcher trying to make identification is provenance. Provenance can’t be overlooked. You must try to trace the chain of ownership. Who owned it last, and why? You keep going–who had it before that person, and why? The answers can be quite helpful.

        One other thing strikes me about this image. It’s very rare to see persons of color in the earlier image processes, and I would say particularly from the Piney Woods.

      • Brian,

        Thanks for the clarification of types of metal photos. As for provenance of those photos, well, easier said than done. Very few that I’ve been shown were identified by name at the time the photo was taken, and most are copies, not originals. When five people have a copy of the same photo and can’t agree on who it is or even where the photo came from originally, an author is left to sift through opinions. Of course, not all opinions are equal, and one tends to favor those expressed by the closest kinfolk.

        In regard to the photo in question, which appears on both the cover of Free State of Jones and within, its original tintype was found in the bible of Anna Knight, Rachel Knight’s granddaughter, by the descendant of Rachel and Newt who now owns Anna’s papers.

        I agree that such a photo seems rare for its time, and for that reason I think it might indeed be Rachel Knight. She was, after all, a central person in the life of Newton Knight, an important state and local political figure (love him or hate him) during the 1870s.

        That, however, is only my opinion, not provenance. I leave it to Rachel’s descendants to draw their own conclusions.


  36. Greetings,

    I am a descendant of Harriet Carter Knight Ward and Ike Ward. Their daughter Hettie Ward is my gg grandmother. Hettie married Bigy Musgrove through which I sping. Therefore, I also descend from Rose Holifield Musgrove whom Ike Ward fathered his oldest child before his union with Harriet Carter Knight Ward. Does anyone know anything or the whereabouts of Ike and Harriet’s other children? Rose also had several other children with Matt Musgrove. I do not know anything else about those children or their offspring. I am however in touch with a gg grandson of Matt Musgrove who is a white Musgrove.Additionally, I would love to connect with anyone from the Dean family who are siblings of Ike Ward…descendants of his mother. Thanks

    Eunice Smith

    • Hello Eunice. My gggrandmother was the daugther of Ike and Harriet Ward. My name is Maggie Dean born in Soso, living in Birmingham,Alabama. Please feelo free to contact me at my email address. Have a good day.

      • Maggie, for privacy reasons, your email address only appears on this blog if you include it within your message. You may choose to provide it in a comment, or I can privately send it, with your permission, to individuals who express an interest on this thread in having private communication with you (I’m happy to do that).

        Thanks for posting,
        Vikki, Moderator

    • I’m a descent or Harriet, her daughter Joann’s son Tim knight is my great grandma Velma’s father. My great grandmother passed away after giving birth to her third child ( my grandmother ) Bobbie Moffett.

  37. I can say for certain that a picture does exsist of Newt and Rachel Knight as we use it bi-annually on our family reunion T shirts. The two pictures look nothing alike to me.

  38. I’m the Great Great Great Granddaughter of Newton Knight. I don’t understand why the American Native side is not in these stories. My Pa Knight was Cherokee. My family is upset.

    • Brenda,
      The discussion here has been about whether the photo is truly of Rachel, not about her ethnic identity. But please feel free to add whatever information you have about Rachel’s Native American ancestry.


  39. Hi Vikki,

    My wife’s great grand father name is Turner Knight. The 1920 record for Louisiana says that he was born in Mississippi. All other records show he was farmer. Turner was born around 1895. I wasnt able to find his mother’s name but I think it is more that a coincidence that his name is Turner Knight and not relate to either Serena, Rachel, or Newton Knight.I am curious of any possible relations or if you know of any Knights that moved to Louisiana.


  40. Vikki, Rachel and Newton are my fourth great grandparents. I have never seen a photo of Rachel. If you are able to ever identify a photo of her, please let me know. In the meantime I will keep searching for one.

  41. I have been looking through my family history and I’m trying to find out more about each relative but there’s one I just can’t seem to find anywhere. My search for my GG Aunt has brought me here because she was married to Albert Jackson Knight. Her name is listed on the family tree my Aunt put together as “Milliner Floreed (Reedy) Young”, born 1869 in Rusk County, TX. to Samuel Young and Mary Frances Gray. Any information you may have would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Sherry Lynn Huffman McAlister

    • Thanks for your query, Sherry. Are you sure that your Albert Jackson Knight belongs to the John “Jacky” Knight line? I have perused a few of the Jacky Knight family genealogies and don’t find any Alberts with the middle name “Jackson,” nor do I find any who married a woman who fits the description of your GG Aunt.


  42. How many children did Rachael Knight have? I watched the movie and I saw the one child. She has been having children since her teens?

    • Thanks for your question, Vanessa. Yes, Rachel began having children during her teens, when she was raped by her Georgia slave master or some other white man. Her first child was George Ann, born to her when she was about 14 years old.

      The other nine children identified as Rachel’s are Rosette, Jeffrey, Edmund, Fannie, Martha Ann, Stewart, Floyd, Augusta, and John Madison (Hinchie). Newt Knight is identified as the father of the last five children.


    • Thanks, RJ,

      Some researchers are convinced that the photo used in this article is Rachel, but others believe it is a photo of Rachel’s daughter, Martha. No one knows for certain.


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