The eastern Daviess County community of Knottsville was on the old Indian trail from Vincennes, IN to Hartford and went by several colorful names before it became knows as Knottsville. The first settlement there was called Goreham and was 1 ½ miles east of where Knottsville was eventually built. At one time it had a post office—the only one in that section of the county, second only to the post office in Yellow Banks. A town was staked off, some buildings erected, and the community was named for a resident, Thomas Goreham. A voting place was established there.
The village that became Knottsville was laid out in 1836 by William R. Griffith and James Millay. For the first few years, it was called the “Grocery”, “Blacksmith Shop”, and “Heart’s Delight”. But, when Griffin was elected to the state legislature, he had the town named Knottsville. That was to honor Leonard Knott, who had built the first house there in 1827 and was the town blacksmith. The name Knottsville endured.
Millay ran the first store in Knottsville. Other early settlers included B.J. McDaniel, William Higdon, L.T. Brown, and Mrs. Mary Drury. By the 1880’s, the village of Knottsville included two general stores, a drug store, a shoe shop, a wagon shop, two undertaker parlors, a flour mill, saw and grist mills, and three tobacco factories. Many Native Americans lived in that section of Daviess County in earlier years, and a large hill six miles east of Knottsville, now in Hancock County, was named Indian Hill because of the stone houses or huts that had been erected there.
Valentine Felty Husk was the first settler of the Knottsville precinct. He came from Virginia to Yellow Banks in 1796, and a few years later moved up the river to the mouth of Pup Creek. He stayed there awhile, then in 1804 followed the Indian trail inland and settled on the Knottsville-Yelvington Road. Shortly thereafter, George Raleigh, Charles, and Benjamin Duncan came from Nelson County. James Adams settled in a spot about four miles northwest of Knottsville. The Smeathers and Bell families arrived soon afterward.
The first religious service in the precinct was conducted by a preacher named Craig in the house of Benjamin Duncan in 1808. Knottsville was the cradle of the county’s first Catholic community, and the Knottsville precinct would draw hundreds of early settlers to the popular religious revivals every year at the nearby campgrounds. The first priest to visit the section was Father Elisha Durbin, who came once a month from Union County. St. Lawrence, the oldest Catholic Church in Daviess County, was started in 1821 in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ezekiel Henning on Aull Road east of Knottsville. A log church was built in 1831 and Father John Wathen became the first resident pastor in 1833. In 1839, a brick church was built. It was replaced in 1870 with the present church, which was dedicated in 1872.
Coal mining became an important activity in the Knottsville area late in the 19th century, and this activity continues to the present. At first the mines were “slope” mines, burrowing into coal seams exposed on hillsides. Improved mining techniques later led to strip mining, which greatly reduced mining employment. Always a strong Catholic community, Knottsville youngsters were prone to intermarry with Catholic families from Whitesville, according to Judge Gene Lanham, a descendent of early settlers. The Mary Carrico parochial school and the Bishop Soeneker Nursing home continue the tradition of strong Catholic influence in the shaping of the abiding closeness of the people of Knottsville.
Businesses in Knottsville
Reference to an article by Glenn Hodges