Multiracial Families/Communities

Another Multiethnic Knight Family: This one from Tennessee

When Steve Tatum recently contacted me about his Knight ancestors (see here), I assumed we would quickly locate a link between his branch and that of Jones County. There were two key similarities: the appearance of the name “Newton,” as in Joseph Newton Knight, and the intermarriage of this Knight with Rebecca Jenkins, a woman of mixed ethnic ancestry.

The photo that Steve sent certainly gave me pause; it wasn’t Jones County’s Newt and Rachel, but it was eerily suggestive of them:

Rebecca Jenkins and Joseph Newton Knight

Rebecca Jenkins and Joseph Newton Knight

In fact, however, Yvonne Bivins and I have searched our records and found no links between this Tennessee couple and the multiracial Knights of Jones County, Mississippi (specifically Newton and Rachel Knight). Nevertheless, the similarities are intriguing, and I am posting Steve’s information on his family in hopes that Knight family historians from near and far might recognize a link to their own ancestry and volunteer more information about these particular Knights.

The following are Steve’s own words about his ancestors:

All I know is that when my grandmother, Bradie (Knight) went to Red Boiling Springs (Macon County), Tennessee, she made mention of a relation to her father (Walter Houston Knight). The name she mentioned was “Newt” Knight. I thought that was an odd name until I understood later that it was short for “Newton”; this was long before any research or information was available on the Internet.

“Newt” & Rebecca Knight were the parents of Walter Houston Knight who was my paternal grandmother’s father. I remember standing by my great grandfather (Walter’s) bedside when I was a young boy, we called him “Pappy” Knight. (Walter H. Knight was born in 1880, married to Pennsylvania Piper (Knight) b. 6 Apr 1874 -d. 26 Dec 1939.

My grandmother was so dark skinned with her olive complexion, that we used to question her a lot about it and she would always say that her family was always called “Black Dutch.” I always suspected that she had either Native American or African American ancestry or a combination of the two. Which would all make sense if she is indeed from the Joseph Newton Knight line. She always made mention of her first true love being a “Gypsy” boy, which would have been taboo in a traditional southern “white” family in those days.

This mix of races could also be the very reason that it is difficult to find any written records as well. I know that many would attempt to conceal any interracial mix in the early days, particularly in the “old south” unless it was to their advantage to be connected with those of a different race, This still stands true today with some of the older folks there.

I know in some cases, for example, African-Americans marrying a Native American would mean they automatically became “free persons of color”, so there was probably much of that going on between the Blacks, Cherokee, Choctaw, etc.

Walter Knight, photo courtesy of Steve Tatum

Walter Houston Knight, photo courtesy of Steve Tatum

If any of  you recognize this line and have additional information or insights to offer, please consider adding a comment!


28 replies »

  1. Hey,

    This might sound strange, but my grandmother maiden name is Knight. Our family is from Central and northern Mississippi. My family has the same cheek bones, nose, eyes , and hair. I know we have some indian in our family but that’s about it. I was searching for family members or just info on my histroy. The know on the picture of the woman and boy stand out so much in my family i had to e-mail you. Well let me know if you have anymore to tell or we can tell each other.

    • My grandfather’s name was knight which is my madian name now. I heard he had indian I. His family also as his parents both where almost full blood. His name was Paul daniel knight sr

  2. Hello Cardale,

    I hope that we can help you connect with your Knight ancestors. The Knight post that you commented on, however, appears to be a branch from Tennessee that is unrelated to the Mississippi branch discussed in several other posts, and which was descended from Newt, Serena, Rachel, and George Ann Knight.

    If you can provide a bit more information about your family–names, dates, etc.–perhaps we can find a link for you, either to the Mississippi or perhaps the Tennessee branches discussed here on Renegade South.

    Thanks for posting!


  3. I am retired and my hobby is photography. I am interested in family research. I woluld be glad to do research and especially photography of head stones in a radius of 100 miles of Birmingham Alabama. I would need reimbursement of expenses. Please contact me at

  4. Her great grand mother was American Indian. This area in Tennessee is one of the first to open up to the settlers, as they came, in via Kentucky. And several of these families claim Indian Ancestry. Only a few can be proven, but her grandmother is one that can be., although she does not appear on the Daws Rolls.

    Anyone interested in sharing information on the Knight’s of
    Macon, Smith, of Trousdale Co. Tennessee may contact me at: Sharon

    • Sorry, Scot, but I do not. Perhaps Steve Tatum or another member from this family can provide that information.


  5. PENNSYLVANIA PIPER, b. April 06, 1874, Tennessee; d. December 26, 1939, Smith County, Tennessee;

    m. (1) WILLIS T. DILLEHAY, October 07, 1894, Smith
    County, Tennessee; b. December 28, 1872, Tennessee;
    d. March 29, 1901, Smith County, Tennessee;

    m. (2) WALTER HOUSTON KNIGHT, July 24, 1902, Smith County,
    Tennessee; b. November 1880, Macon County, Tennessee; d. October 21, 1959,

    • Here’s more info on Joseph Newton Knight and Rebecca Jenkins Knight from their Death Certificates:
      (originally posted by Mary Knight)

      Joseph Newton “Newt” Knight b. Dec. 31, 1855 (DC April 1858) Smith Co. TN d. Sept. 21, 1933, 821 Lischey Ave, Nashville, Davidson Co. TN. Burial Sept. 22, 1933, Red Boiling Springs, TN. Was living with his son Walter H. Knight at the time of his death. Age 75y 5m.

      Son of Avery Knight & Katie Willis

      Rebecca Jenkins b. October 04, 1855 (DC April 5, 1853) Smith Co. TN d. Aug. 31, 1942, Nashville, Davidson County, TN. Burial Sept. 1, 1942, Red Boiling Springs, TN. She died at the Davidson County Hospital where she had been for 3 yrs. Age 89y 4m 26d

      The Death Certificate gives Rebecca’s father as Joseph Jenkins and mother unknown. The informant was her son Walter H. Knight (my Great Grandfather, Walter Houston Knight-see photo) and apparently he didn’t know who her parents were.

      As Vikki pointed out to me earlier, the birth years (1855) are the same for both so that would indicate that the photo of them posted here was a composite of two separate photos at different times as Rebecca (“Becca”) appears to be so much younger than Joseph (“Newt”).

      My father recalls visiting Rebecca as a young boy while she was in the sanitarium in Nashville. He said “she was Indian”. She had “lost her mind”, which my Dad said was probably Alzheimer’s disease and it was common then to put people with unexplained mental disorders in a sanitarium.

      • Can you give us Steve Tatums e- mail please. We are also the direct descendants of this family and would love to connect with him.

  6. Thanks for posting this additional information on the Joseph Newton Knight and Rebecca Jenkins family, Steve!


  7. I am doing research on my paternal grandmother Socia Beatrice Knight. She was born in Indianola, Mississippi around 1910. She stated that her father was Joe Knight, White and that her Mother was a combo of African and Native American. She could not produce any documentation but stated that she had a brother Joe Knight Jr and a couple of other siblings. She passed away out here in California circa 1983.
    Is it possible that anyone could be aware of my grandmother?

    Thank you

  8. Walter Houston Knight was my great-grandfather. My grandmother, his youngest daughter,Virgie Mae Knight married Joe Edgar Hudson and lived in Red Boiling Springs,TN They were the parents of my father, Henry Haley Hudson, who was the eldest of six children … all deceased now. I am the oldest of 24 cousins.
    I have been to Pappy Knight’s grave site recently.
    My son is working on the Hudson and Knight geneologies. He has quite a bit of information if you’d like to know what he’s learned please contact me and I’ll put you in touch with him.


    • Judy,
      I am Billy Joe Carlile’s daughter, he asked me to contact you, he would love to speak to you. I think you all are cousins.

  9. Judy,
    Thanks for the post. Walter Houston Knight was also my great- grandfather. My grandmother was Bradie Knight (Virgie’s sister).

    • Hey Steven!

      I was just googling names when I came across this website and article. I am Virgie, one of the grandchildren of Virgie & Edgar Hudson. Your grandmother was my greataunt Bradie! I remember she used to wear a lot of hats! I used to see her and uncle Murray at my grandmother’s birthday reuniouns when I was a kid!

      My mother was Freda, and her sister got part of her name from Pennsylvania. Her name was Louvania (no lie), aunt Lou to us. Pennsylvania Piper also had a sister by the name of Cinncinatti (no really that was what I was told).My mother always said there was indian in our family I just don’t remember which line if it was the Hudson or the Knight. I do remember her saying their last name was Morn? Hope this of some help. Virgie

      • Sorry I’ve taken years to respond. I remember when I was a kid visiting aunt Virgie and uncle Edgar, those were special times. I miss them so much. Those visits are forever in my mind as favorite times of my childhood. I went by my middle name back then which is “Kirk” ,Steven is my first name. I miss Red Boiling Springs, and Tennessee. I’m living in Seattle these days. Thanks for your post on this Renegade South website. It’s good to cross paths with family. Take care – Steven Kirk Tatum

  10. Hello
    My father is Billy Joe Carlile, which is the son of Avo Knight (Carlile), which is the daughter of Walter and Pennsylvania Knight.
    My father would love to talk to anyone with any information. Please email me and I will get you his phone number.
    Stephanie Carlile

  11. I was sooo excited to find this info I’m doing genealogy for my husband his mothers maiden name is knight and Joseph and Rebecca happen to be her great great grandparents her father is David Avery knight is father is Maude h knight is father is Avery Jefferson knight and his father is newton knight

    • So glad you found this post, Amanda, and thanks for sharing your information with readers; hopefully someone will now discover your comment, and increase their family knowledge!


    • So glad you found this post, Amanda, and thanks for sharing your information with readers; hopefully someone will now discover your comment, and increase their family knowledge!


  12. Hello. I am looming for information on Joe knight that married Mary Shaffer in 1899. He is my ggg-grandfather and Mary I s my ggg-grandmother they were married in Jefferson County, TN. If you have any information please e-mail me and Thank You.

  13. My grandmother was Lilian May Knight and was born in Clay, Ky in 1880. She is supposed to be Cherokee. I’m trying to find more of her history.

  14. Is Claricey Knight who was married to David Drury Gibson/Gipson, in Claiborne co, TN related to any of these people?

  15. Hello! I am trying to find a link to my Cherokee heritage. My great great grandmother on my father’s side was Georgia Ann Clinard (Knight) 1852 – 1933. She had married Robert Calvin Clinard 1849-1917. Her father was Andrew Peter Knight Sr. 1820 – 1856. Her mother was Hester Knight (Arrington) 1817 – ? Andrew was the son of Allen Noel Knight. 1776 – 1850. Trying to find a connection the Knights mentioned above and, in particular, native american ancestors.
    Any help is apprecaited.

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