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WmKnightComm25TG 092416Stryker Civil War hero remembered a century after his death

By Lucas Bechtol, Bryan Times Reporter
Used by permission

     One hundred years ago, Stryker buried a local war hero. On Saturday, he was honored nearly 100 years to the day of his death.
     William Knight, a Stryker native, was a veteran of the Civil War and took part in the famous Andrews Raid in which several Union soldiers stole a Confederate locomotive. He survived and became one of the first recipients of the Medal of Honor.WmKnightComm1b 092416
     On Saturday (Sept. 24, 2016), community members gathered for a daylong celebration and remembrance of Knight, which included several talks from Jonathan Scott (shown at left), curator of the Southern Museum in Georgia.
     Another aspect was a ceremony at his gravesite at Oakwood Cemetery, where a new American flag was hoisted and a special Medal of Honor flag was raised beside Knight’s grave.
     “I wonder what (Knight) would be thinking knowing that a group of people have gathered 100 years from the time he passed, still remembering what he did in the Civil War and remembering that group of people who put their lives on the line,” said Bill Priest (shown below right), a trustee with the Stryker Area Heritage Council. “I often found that people don’t always know they are making history when they chose to volunteer.”WmKnightComm31RC 092416
     Even Knight, Priest said, thought he would get an easy assignment and not have to do much in the war.
     However, he said when Knight was called to action for the mission, he rose to the occasion.
     “He had a lot of obstacles to do it and he placed his life on the line many times during that whole mission and, once captured, he continued,” Priest said. “What I think today is a wonderful example of is how we don’t forget what people have done so we can be free. I think it’s great that we still remember the sacrifices people made and what they did.”
     Local historian Don Allison (shown below left) said the state, the county and Stryker can be proud to call Knight one of their own.
     “His death was a sad time in Stryker,” Allison said. “The village paid its last respects to a venerable man, a friend, a neighbor, a valued citizen.”
     He said Knight “put Stryker on the map,” as he was known throughout the country for the raid and would often travel to give lectures on the “Great Locomotive Chase.”WmKnightComm11b 092416
     For Allison, a Civil War enthusiast who has published books about the war, growing up not far from Knight’s home helped kindle his interest in the period.
     “I was a frequent visitor to his home as a child. It was the home of family friends and I still remember as a youngster being fascinated to see William J. Knight’s signature on the property’s abstract,” he said.
     Knight had been a neighbor to Allison’s ancestors and, in fact, Allison actually shared a neighbor with Knight, “though half a century apart.”
     “Ralph Dilts, who was an old man when I was a child, had been as a young man a next-door neighbor to Mr. Knight, whom he thought of as Bill Knight,” Allison said. “Ralph remembered Bill as a friendly, likable, down-to-Earth neighbor and I distinctly remember him telling me how Knight’s beard would split in two in a stiff breeze.”WmKnightComm10b 092416
     As an adult, Allison said he has even greater admiration for Knight, appreciating him as someone who didn’t seek out glory, but rather was thrown into a life-threatening situation and responded to it.
     Priest said “a boatload” of people worked hard to put together Saturday’s remembrance of Knight.
     After Allison’s speech, a new American flag on a new flagpole was raised by the Bryan Veterans of Foreign Wars, accompanied by a 21-gun salute (VFW Honor Guard pictured on left).
     A special Medal of Honor flag was then raised beside Knight’s gravestone (shown below right), WmKnightComm40RC 092416with four re-enactors of the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry (which Allison said was the infantry Knight was a part of) shooting off three volleys once the flag was raised (shown at top of page).
     The ceremony concluded with the playing of Taps.
     “At the Southern Museum we are all about increasing the memory of the Great Locomotive Chase to people who are both familiar and unfamiliar with it and having an audience that is already enraptured with the story of William Knight really provided a great opportunity to increase the knowledge from the southern perspective and also to shed more light on what, exactly, Knight did,” Scott, the museum curator, said.
     Scott also said the “very fascinated crowd” had many questions for him.
     “Clearly, there is a huge interest in the story of Andrew’s Raid from citizens here in Stryker,” Scott said.

     SAHC would like to thank Todd Grisier, Richard Cooley and Bill Priest for allowing us to use their photos of the event on this website.

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Jonathan Scott, curator of the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia, gave a presentation in the morning about the famous Locomotive Chase and in the afternoon, he delighted crowds by speaking about the train.

Steve Hageman of Defiance points to some of the items that would have been used by soldiers in the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Co. E, while his fellow re-enactors Doug Benson of Sidney (left) and James Shanks of Bowling Green (right) stand by their tent that was erected by the depot..

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Children who attended the event got to play some games typical for Civil War time. Here Katie Shanks (bottom right) shows Ava and Elizabeth Ingall from Temperence, MI (on right) the game of Mancalla, while her brother, Robert (standing), and sister, Rebecca, watch.

Members of the G.A.R. were present at William Knight’s funeral service 100 years ago. These five represented the members who attended those many years ago, complete with wardrobes of the day. Here they gathered at the depot before going to the cemetery before the commemoration. From left to right are: John Manore of Sylvania, Peg Siler of Bryan, Dennis Charles of Rutland, VT, Michael Sutton of Edon, and Bob Bauer of Montpelier.

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SAHC President Terry Wieland (left) welcomed the crowd to the commemoration ceremonies at the cemetery while SAHC Trustee Bill Priest (right), who served as the emcee of the event, began with an invocation.

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Local Civil War historian and one of the planners of the event Don Allison talked about William Knight, the funeral for him 100 years before and what it was like growing up in the town where he lived much of his life.

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Members of the Bryan VFW raise the American flag on a new flagpole installed by Knight’s grave while Fred Grisier (left), a SAHC trustee and one of the commemoration planners, watches.

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An Honor Guard of re-enactors of the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Co. E, the company to which William Knight belonged during his military service, provide a salute in his memory.

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Some of the crowd dispersing after the commemoration.

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Bruce Zigler (right) one of the planners of the commemoration along with G.A.R. portrayer John Manore prepare to raise the new Medal of Honor flag to fly over the grave of William Knight on the newly installed flagpole while the rest of the G.A.R. re-enactors stand by.

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Past Commander John Martin of the Bryan VFW plays “Taps” at the end of the commemoration.

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Many people had to look twice, because they were sure William Knight had shown up for the special event. Harold A. George from Lakewood, OH came dressed as William Knight. The author, lecturer and Civil War re-enactor proved to be popular with anyone taking photographs.

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Jonathan Scott, curator of the Southern Museum, answers some questions from attendees after his second presentation.

SAHC President Terry Wieland welcomed those who came to the Stryker American Legion after the ceremonies for a second talk by Jonathan Scott and a movie.

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Steve Knipp from Ridgeville Corners holds a Colt revolving rifle in a display representing the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry at the Legion hall. His display included a reproduction of their battle flag.

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Items about the Great Locomotive Chase and William Knight artifacts were on display at the Stryker American Legion Post.

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Fred Grisier of Styrker (left) SAHC Trustee and one of the planners of the commemoration, answers questions from Austin Ingalls in front of a display of The General.

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Copies of the backdrops William Knight used in his talks about the Great Locomotive Chase were available to see on loan from the Williams County Historical Society.