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Jesse Knight - Founder of Raymond

Raymond History Book 1902 - 1967
Roundup pages 30 -32

As the 20th Century dawned, money from Jesse Knight's mines was pouring into his coffers and he began looking around for a favorable opportunity to exercise his stewardship. At this time he was impressed by President Lorenzo Snow's New Year's Greeting to the World. In this message the President of the Mormon Church said:

"Men and women of wealth, use your riches to give employment to the laborer. Take the idle from the crowded centres of population and place them on untilled areas that await the hand of industry. Unlock your vaults, unloose your purses and embark in enterprises that will give work to the unemployed and relieve the wretchedness that leads to vice and crime around you. Make others happy and you will be happy yourselves."

Many propositions had been made to Mr. Knight to invest his money, but none appealed to him until he heard about Canada, Apostle John W. Taylor and Charles McCarthy of Cardston, Alberta came to see him and told him of the fertile lands of Southern Alberta and urged him to buy some of the thousands of acres. The project impressed him. He could see the possibility of using his money to magnify his "stewardship", for it was only as a steward, he believed, that wealth came to him.

Early in January, 1901, he sent his two sons to Canada to survey the situation. The result was they bought 30,000 acres of land and set to work to stock it. Later in the year Jesse Knight met them in Stirling, Alberta. As he travelled over the beautiful green prairies he was greatly impressed. Within a few days he had a clear idea of what he wanted to do. He would build a sugar factory that would give employment to Latter Day Saints and others who wished to settle in this favorable land.

On July 10, 1901, he purchased 22,600 acres of land from the Canadian Northwest Irrigation company and Alberta Railroad and Irrigation Company through their agent Hon. C. A Magrath. He also agreed to build a sugar factory and guaranteed it with a pledge of $50,000. Such was the faith and courage of this man.

Following the signing of the contract a town site was located, dedicated, and named Raymond after Jesse Knight's oldest son. Mr. Knight insisted that in the town deeds, that the land was not to harbor a saloon or be used for any immoral purposes. He wished Raymond to be, so to speak, a sanctuary where families could be reared in a religious and wholesome environment.

The generosity of Mr. Knight was legend. He built a fence north of the town site so that the settlers' stock and horses could have free pasturage and not stray far away. He gave the job of plowing 3,000 acres of sod to the people to help provide them with ready cash. He piped water from a spring two miles away into Town at his own expense of $8,000. Sensing the need of a church, he built one and donated to the Latter Day Saints in December, 1901.

It was difficult for the Canadian officials to understand Mr. Knight and his motives. On one occasion he was asked by them what impelled him to spend so much money in Alberta, and in answer he drew from his pocket the proclamation issued by President Lorenzo Snow. After reading it to them he said, "Gentlemen, this was a direct message to me, and it is also a message to you and to every employer and man of wealth.

Mr. C. A. Magrath had this to say, Lieutenant-Governor Forget at Regina, to whom, at his request, I sent my file of papers October 2, 1903, showing the various steps in bringing about the beet sugar culture into Southern Alberta, replied, "I have read the whole with much interest and I wonder more than ever at the spirit of enterprise displayed by the promoter - the Knights - in establishing such an industry in a new country, and I sincerely wish them every possible success."

Then Mr. Magrath expressed it was his opinion that Southern Alberta should never forget what it owes to Jesse Knight, because, he said, I happen to know from actual efforts, how impossible it was to get capital interested in such an enterprise in a new and sparsely settled country like our northwest until Mr. Knight came along. I question if there would be a sugar beet grown in Alberta today if it were not for Jesse Knight and the good will that existed between his Church leaders and our Irrigation Company.

Mr. Magrath further stated, "Mr. Knight was the most unusual man I have ever met, a man of the finest integrity. I would describe him as a poor man's friend. He believed in visions, which I understood is a doctrine of the Mormon Church. He is a mining prospector in Utah, and it has been stated that the mine which brought him very considerable wealth came to him through a vision in effect that if he had the courage to continue prospecting he would be rewarded but that he should use his wealth largely for the good of the people, which I believe he did."

"Raymond Sugar Factory was not built as a commercial enterprise so much as for the benefit of the settlers in the surrounding country," said Mr. Magrath.

To honor Mr. Knight, the first Church School that was build in Canada by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was erected in Raymond and named The Knight Academy. Time vindicates the wisdom and benevolence of this great man.

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Mary Tollestrup