Walter Knight, of Salem

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Walter Knight, of Salem

Also Known As: "Old Knight"
Birthdate: (66)
Birthplace: Staplegrove, Somerset, England
Death: circa 1653 (58-74)
of, Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts
Immediate Family:

Son of Isaac Knight and Elizabeth Knight
Husband of Elizabeth Knight and Ruth Knight
Father of Francis Knight and Mary Osborne

Occupation: Explorer; carpenter
Managed by: Gwyneth McNeil
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Walter Knight, of Salem

Walter Knight

  • Birth: About 1587, of Staplegrove, Somerset, England
  • Death: about 1653, perhaps in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
  • Parents: Isaac Knight, Mrs. Isaac Knight
  • Wife: Elizabeth, Ruth Gray


Reported to have been in Nantucket in 1622, Salem in 1625, Duxbury in 1638 and Boston in 1643. He was a carpenter and called "Old Knight".

From New England Historical and Genealogical Register, The, Volume 142, April 1988, page 109-110.

Walter Knight, born about 1587 in Staplegrove, Somerset, England, married first Elizabeth in England, second Ruth Gray, daughter of Thomas Gray, in 1635; at Nantascot in 1621; Cape Ann 1635, labelled a "frequent liar" in Boston in 1642

From New England Historical and Genealogical Register, The, Volume 79, October 1925, page 445.

Thomas Harvey of Cohannett, yeoman, aged 21 years or thereabouts, deposed and said that he, the deponent, "having a bond or writing under the hand and seale of Walter Knight carpenter whereby the said Walter Knight stood endebted in the sume of five pounds sterl' unto Mr. Christopher Derby wch was payd for his passage over the wch five pounds is to payd unto Mr. Richard Derby here [at Plymouth]: as this deponent was reading the same (at the sd Knights request) in the ship as they came over The said Walter Knight snatched the said bond or writing out of this deponents hands and imediately tore the same into peeces." (Plymouth Colony Records, Deeds, vol. 1, pp. 38-39.)

Walter Knight is covered in The Great Migration Begins. His entry is in volume II, pages 1139-1142.

According to that source, he arrived "by 1626" -- no more specific arrival information was confirmed. Anderson calls his origins "unknown" ..... There is some basis for positing an origin in Somerset, Dorset or Devon, and there is an account that refers to him and other early settlers at Cape Ann as "Dorchester merchants."

As for a wife, Anderson did not find a name and says "the claim that she was Ruth Gray is an unsupported guess." However, he was married to someone by 1642, as on 28 February 1642/3 he was "presented for not living with his wife." As to children, Anderson says "None recorded."


Walter was among the early pre Great Migration settlers to New England. By his association with Conant, and his location in Naumkeag and Cape Ann, it is fairly safe to assume that he was there in connection with the early Cod fishing interests of John White's Dorchester Company. As seen by the excerpts below he was not one of the Puritans that later settled in the Salem, first with Endicott and later with Winthrop.

I descend from Walter Knight's daug. Elizabeth who married John Fairfield.

History of Salem Vol. 1 - pages 86 & 87 - The Old Planters.

It is not known how many persons constituted the colony, either at Cape Ann or Naumkeag. Walter Knight , 6 born about 1587, a carpenter, was one of the Episcopalians at Nantasket in 1622, and removed to cape Ann with Conant in 1625,

6Walter Knight removed to Boston about 1643, and was living there as late as 1653. He was litigious, often appearing in court as a party or witness, and in 1642 was complained of for being a frequent liar and for glorying in his and his wife's illicit relations before their marriage.

In 1642 and 1643 he was complained of for not living with his wife. In each of these criminal prosecutions he was discharged. In 1644, he was called "old Knight."

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Walter Knight, of Salem's Timeline

Staplegrove, Somerset, England
September 9, 1617
Age 30
July 14, 1620
Age 33
Age 66
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts