Chapter Member donates $67,000 to help restore Joseph Knight Sr. home and Visitors Center
Cotton Mission Chapter member Charlie Clayton is a historian who puts his money where his interests are. A proud descendent of the Joseph Knight Sr. pioneer family, he has spent the last ten years working to honor his heritage in numerous ways. A recent interest has been restoring the Joseph Knight Sr. 1815 Ancestral Farm House in Ninevah New York.
The Knight family was baptized shortly after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized. In September 1830 the Knight farm became home to the Colesville Branch, recognized as the one of the first branches of the LDS Church. Many baptisms (including that of Emma Smith) took place in the Pickerel Pond on the Knight property. The events which unfolded here were the humble beginnings of a kingdom which would go on to fill the world.
HOW CHARLIE GOT INVOLVED
Some years ago Charlie learned that the old Joseph Knight Sr. home had been acquired after years of neglect. Upon learning its history, the new owners, Raphael Mecham and Steve Glenn, sought to restore it and reached out for help from the Knight family. $5000 was raised initially, hardly enough to even begin the massive restoration project. Charlie recognized the importance of the homesite to LDS history, and after his initial donation, he was called on again and again for help. In all, Charlie has donated over $67,000 to the restoration project.
“If they need something they call me,” Charlie said. “I’ve paid for the siding, paid to have a new well dug, bought the air conditioning, washer and dryer and lots more.”
Now years later, the home is beautifully restored with nice walkways and monuments in place. The LDS church even has missionaries housed there from May to October each year to act as guides for the many visitors. Elder Richard and Sister Cindy Morrey are the current resident LDS missionaries. They are assisted by docents who live in the nearby historic Josiah Stowell home.
This past month Charlie was able to visit the home, where he stayed for a few days and was honored by the owners who have now organized a non-profit for the home.
“Bring your work gloves and check book,” Charlie was told. And sure enough, he shoveled gravel, laid blocks and helped build a new walkway while he was there—and wrote out another check.
Today, tourists and even bus tours stop to learn about this historic place. On a sign outside the now-restored Knight farmhouse visitors can read the names of original members of the Colesville Branch. Among those are 58 of Charlie Clayton’s ancestors who are blessed with over 13,000 descendents.
OTHER HISTORICAL PROJECTS FINANCED
In addition to the Knight Farmhouse restoration, Charlie has provided help for many other worthwhile projects. Over the past years he has contributed thousands of dollars to our Cotton Mission Chapter Scholarship fund, helping many students get to college.
He has been recognized by the LDS Church for donating over 300 important papers and items to the Church Historical department, most relating to the Jacob Hamblin home, where his mother was raised. He has also donated $140,000 and hundreds of hours toward construction of the Samuel Knight Santa Clara History Museum, and has worked tirelessly as a docent.
Currently you can often find Charlie at the Santa Clara Cemetery where he spends countless hours as a volunteer tending the grounds. Recently he personally paid for many new grave stones and assisted in locating many lost graves. Over Memorial Day he placed hundreds of American flags.
“People who visit the cemetary are very surprised,” Charlie said. “They tell me their ancestor’s name and I can show them from memory right where they are buried.”
Charlie also recently provided $17,500 funding for a beautiful new Santa Clara Veteran’s Memorial, adjacent to the cemetery with engraved Pavers, monuments, and flags flying high over the city. In the process he has carefully catalogued a record of war veterans and made a large scrapbook in their honor.
No wonder Charles Lee Clayton was recently named volunteer of the year for Santa Clara and rode as the Grand Marshal in the Swiss Days parade.
As a chapter we can all appreciate Charlie’s example of remembering our pioneers not just in word but also in deed.