Good day to all!

Did you know cattleman Joel Knight was an early settler of what became the Charlotte Harbor community?

By the early 1860s, large herds established by he and his brother Jesse roamed the open prairie north of the harbor. Born in Lowndes County, Georgia., just across the Florida line, they moved with their family to north Florida’s Levy County in 1843.

Two years later, a family patriarch, the Rev. Samuel Knight, moved his herd and family south to Hillsborough County, establishing Knight Station near today’s Plant City. Soon after Florida seceded from the union in January 1861, the brothers moved their herds farther south to the upper Myakka River to avoid confiscation by federal forces.

Joel placed his herd east of the river, Jesse’s was west. During the Civil War they drove cattle to the loading dock at Live Oak Point (Charlotte Harbor), which became known as Hickory Bluff once permanent settlers arrived. The dock was built with Jacob Summerlin and James McKay near the county pier’s current location at the end of Sibley Bay Street.

Cattle were then loaded onto McKay’s shallow draft sidewheeler, Scottish Chief, which could easily evade Union blockader, Gem of the Sea, also a sidewheeler, by passing over hidden shoals and through back channels around the numerous mangrove islands. Holding pens, a shelter and a small warehouse to sell necessities, believed built by Joel, were added near the dock.

He was also commissioned a second lieutenant in Company D of Florida’s Cow Cavalry, a special unit formed to guard against Union cattle raids. Joel’s dad, Samuel, who had served his country during the War of 1812, moved to Hickory Bluff (Charlotte Harbor) in 1868. Although resisted by residents at first, Hickory Bluff eventually became known as Charlotte Harbor, after a post office of that name was established there in 1872, signifying the entire harbor as its service area.

Joel eventually moved nearer Charlotte Harbor in 1876, but passed away just three years later at age 58. He and his wife Virginia are interred at the Charlotte Harbor Cemetery, this area’s oldest. Many of their descendants reside in Charlotte County.

“Did You Know” appears courtesy of this newspaper and the Charlotte County Historical Center Society. The Society’s mission is to help promote and preserve Charlotte County’s rich history. A family membership is only $35 and provides complimentary access to over 300 museums and technical centers nationwide. For more information, visit www.charlottecountyfl.gov/services/historical, or call 941-613-3228.

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