Once a Knight is Enough

Knight Genealogy

by Laura Knight


The Murder of Sarah Jane Butler Knight

James Monroe Knight (1823-1892), son of Francis Alexander Knight and Saleta Lowther Knight, and Sarah Jane Butler (1833-1891), were married in 1853 in Wilkinson County, Georgia. After 38 years of marriage and at least six children, the 58 year-old Mrs. Knight was brutally murdered and their home burned down to cover the crime. The following are the gruesome details as published in the press of the day. The photo below is of part of the family and their home before the tragedy.

Sarah Butler Knight



November 13, 1891

Macon Telegraph


After Robbing the House of Mr. J.M. Knight, Some scoundrel Kills Mrs. Knight and Burns Her Up in the House.

Irwinton, Ga. Nov. 12-(Special) – The Irwinton World will contain the following tomorrow:

 The most horrible crime ever committed in this county occurred last Wednesday morning about 10 o'clock, six miles from this town.

 Mrs. J.M. Knight, a prosperous farmer's wife, was the victim.

Never has such indignation and excitement prevailed in this section.

 Mrs. J.M. Knight was brutally murdered and a torch applied to the house to shield the crime of the villains.


 Mr. Knight and two of his sons were off at a neighbor's about three-quarters of a mile, grinding cane, leaving Mrs. Knight at home to attend to domestic affairs.

 While at the mill grinding cane, the male members of the family were attracted by a heavy volume of smoke in the direction of their home. They hurried to the scene, reaching there only in time to see the wife and mother lying upon her face upon the floor of the kitchen, with an outstretched arm surrounded by the angry flames. She was no doubt dead, and every effort to rescue the body proved fruitless. The entire dwelling and kitchen were in flames, and the framework was tumbling in.


 A rush for water was made, but the framing around the well was found to be burning. The fire about the well was soon extinguished, and water was then continually applied to the spot where the body of Mrs. Knight was last seen in order to prevent her bones from burning.


 By a continuous application of water to this one spot, the bones of the victim were prevented from being burned into ashes. As soon as possible they were raked from the hot ashes and placed in a heap upon a sheet on a box, where they were tenderly cared for by friends of the family.


 Every indication points to foul play. The hair of this lady was gathered up together with the bones. Upon investigation by Dr. J.S. Wood of this place, the hair was found to be clotted with blood, which prevented it from burning. It is supposed that the blood was caused by a heavy blow upon the back of the head.

Submitted by Terry D. McLeod

November 14, 1891

Atlanta Constitution


A Terrible Crime Reported from Wilkinson County


And the House, with Her Dead Body, Burned, in Order to Hide All Trace of the Crime

Irwinton, Ga., November 13 (Special) News reached here of one of the most brutal murders that has occurred in this county for many years.

Mrs. J.M. Knight, the wife of a prosperous farming living about five miles from this place, was murdered in her house, which was afterwards robbed, and burned to the ground.

  The Curling Smoke

  Early in the morning Mr. J.M. Knight, accompanied by his two grown sons, went over to a neighbor's living about three-quarters of a mile away, to assist in make syrup. At 10 o'clock they saw smoke in the direction of their home and they left immediately, reaching home in time to find it enveloped in flames.

The Murder Discovered

   Rushing into the house, they found the body of Mrs Knight lying in a pool of blood, but the flames had gained such headway that they were unable to reach the body. There it remained until the house was burned. Several trunks had been rifled and their contents scattered over the rooms. A pair of pants that were saved had been robbed of a small amount of money which had been left in the pockets.

The Work of Burglars

  Its is supposed that after Mr. Knight and his sons had left, the burglar entered the house, but was surprised by Mrs. Knight, returning from the cowpen, where she had been milking; and that the burglar killed her and burned the house in order to hide all proof of his guilt.

   A hatchet and chisel which had been left by Mr. Knight on the porch were missing. The hatchet was found near the body of Mrs. Knight and the chisel near one of the trunks.

Taken from the Ruins

    A part of gentlemen from this place went over to the scene of the tragedy. The remains of Mrs. Knight were taken from the ruins. Nearly the entire body was consumed, except a part of her back and head. Her hair being clotted with blood, was not burned.

  No clue to the perpetrator of this fiendish act has been found as yet.

  The murderer made off with about one hundred dollars.

November 19, 1891

Atlanta Constitution

   A reward of $250 was offered for the murder of Mrs. James Knight, which occurred in Wilkinson county, on November 11th.  The circumstances of this murder are particularly horrible. Some unknown fiend set fire to the house of Mr. James M. Knight, a well known citizen of the county named, last week

The house was burned down, and in it Mrs. James  Knight was burned to death. A communication giving the horrible details of the affair was received yesterday at the executive, and in it the opinions expressed that the house was first robbed and then burned down. The family of Mrs. Knight has raised $500, which is offered for the capture of the fiend. The county officials added $250, and the $250 offered by the governor makes a smug reward of $1,000.

December 16, 1891

The Weekly Telegraph

WERE LOOKING FOR A ROPE SO HALL WAS SPEEDED AWAY TO THE MACON JAIL. Alleged Murderer of Mrs. Knight Burned to Death- Butchered Her and Burned the House - Tried to Kill the Officers.

  There is a man in the Bibb county jail who narrowly escaped lynching at the hands of the people of Irwinton yesterday.

  Fox Hall, a negro charged with the murder of Mrs. Jane Knight, on November 11, last, one of the most atrocious crimes ever committed in Wilkinson county.

  Mrs. Knight was murdered at her home about eight miles from Iwinton on November 11, last, by having her head chopped open with an axe. The murdered then robbed the house and set fire to it, but the building was saved and the body of the murdered lady recovered.

    The murdered escaped, but since then the officers and citizens of the county have been persistent in their efforts to ferret out the fiend.

   Fox Hall was suspected from the first. Another Negro saw him sneaking through the cane patch near by just before the house was set on fire.

  Shortly after the fire broke out Fox Hall was seen leaving the premises. Several days before the murder he went to the house at different times ostensibly on business, and it is believed hen then found out that Mr. Knight had a considerable sum of money there.

  About $80 of this money was stolen by the murderer.

  Hall spent money freely after the murder, although it was known that he had only marketed two bales of cotton, a large portion of the proceeds of which he paid out at the time.

  These circumstances, which were brought out from time to time, led Sheriff Fontaine (Fountain) to order the arrest of Hall, and Friday night Deputy Simpson, Mr. H. T. Hogan and Pete Palethorpe of Macon, sent to the negro's home about a half miles of the scene of the murder.


  Here another came near being added to Hall's crimes, for as soon as he recognized the officers he sprang for his gun and fired twice. One of the loads narrowly missed Deputy Simpson and Detective Palethorpe narrowly escaped the other. Hall then ran to a rear door and escaped.

  The officers at once put bloodhounds on his track and hunted him all night and until yesterday morning.

   At about 11 o'clock yesterday morning Sheriff Fontaine was called from his residence and was surprised to confront Fox Hall, who stated that he wished to surrender. He was taken at once to the jail, but as soon as it became known around town that Fox Hall had been arrested feeling began to spring up, and trouble was feared.

  Sheriff Fontaine discovered it and at once slipped his man away and brought him to Macon.


  Hall stoutly affirms his innocence, but he can give no account of himself. On November 11 he claims to have been in two or three different places, whereas the contrary has been proven.

  In regard to his actions in shooting at the officers on Friday night he says he feared being lynched, in that he had heard that Mr. Hogan, who was a brother-in-law of the murdered lady, had said that he would hang Hall when captured.

  He says he went at once to surrender as soon as he thought it was safe to enter the town.

  Sheriff Fontaine believes firmly in the guilt of Hall, and says all the evidence necessary to hang him is available.

Submitted by Terry D. McLeod


December 23, 1891

The Weekly Telegraph

New from Irwinton.

Irwinton, Dec. 15.  (Special) Last Friday night an attempt was made to arrest Fox Hall for the murder of Mrs. James Knight, but he outran the posse and Saturday morning he gave up to the sheriff. If there is any proof sufficient to convict him, it is not know to the public.


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