Knox residents prefer rural character

To the Editor:

Knox residents who responded to the “Visioning” town survey indicated most of us value the rural character of Knox. Amy Pokorny, the Knox town board member responsible for the survey, also reported many residents wish Knox could be like it was in the old days. Most would agree that Knox had a “rural character” in the 1800s.

In 1865, the population of Knox was 1,809, about 900 fewer than the current population, according to resources on The 1866 Beers map shows population centers with their own post offices in Knoxville, East Township, West Township, and Peoria (partly in West Berne).

Most of these hamlets, as well as Lee’s Corner, had a store, church, school, and blacksmith shop nearby. Taverns, inns, and hotels were numerous.

Knoxville, the center of the town, had two blacksmith shops, three stores, a public school, two churches, a carpenter, a tanner, a doctor, and a lawyer in its business district. The Knoxville Academy provided higher education to students from far and wide.

While most families were dependent on farming for a living, men could also work in nearby grain and saw mills, as well as a tannery. Small factories for making pillboxes were spread around the town. Over the years, hundreds of residents made millions of pillboxes to supplement their farming income.

In the 1900s, Knox started a library.

The Young Woman’s Summer Camp located in Cassidy’s Castle by Old Stage Road provided a country living experience to hundreds of working city women each year.

In the 1930s, Knox Cave could attract one thousand visitors on a weekend, and its roller-skating rink provided a place for local young people to work and relax. Lee’s Corners had a horse race track. Merrymen’s Tea House earned a national reputation for its food and service.

In my opinion, a town with rural character, like Knox in the old days, is a community with wide-open spaces used for farming and recreation. And, like Knox in 1860, it also provides the basic services residents need to thrive.

In contrast, Knox currently has no stores, no post office, no library, no gas station, and is down to just one restaurant. I interpret the survey results to indicate that town officials should strive to build up services for the residents, but recent actions show this does not seem to be the case.

If the town authorities had closed all the blacksmith shops in 1860, I have no doubt that the residents would have resurrected their tin horns and calico in protest.

People in charge in Knox are now doing their best to put a well-established towing service in Knox out of business, dragging us even farther from the rural character of old-time Knox. I wonder if those of us who desire a true, largely self-sufficient, rural community will blow their tins horns in protest.

John Elberfeld

Editor’s note: Knox residents may still participate in the “visioning” survey for the town by contacting Amy Pokorny online at or by phone at 618-5376.

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