Knott of Lebanon/Governor's Homesite

Historical Markers #728 and #1341, one in Lebanon and the other in Marion County, note the accomplishments of J. Proctor Knott, a U.S. congressman and governor of Kentucky.

Knott was born in 1830 near Raywick in what would become Marion County. He was educated at schools in Marion County, Shelby County, and Breckinridge County, and then moved to Missouri in 1850. He studied law in Missouri and was admitted to the bar in 1851.

Knott was elected to the Missouri state legislature and was appointed as that state’s attorney general in 1858. In 1862, Knott returned to Kentucky due to his moderate secessionist sympathies and his unwillingness to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States while living in Missouri. Upon his return to Kentucky, Knott opened a law office in Lebanon. As a strong Democrat, his positions proved to be beneficial in post-Civil War Kentucky, which had embraced that party's politics. As a dedicated Democrat, Knott was elected to six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. His first phase as a congressman lasted from 1867-1871, and he returned to the House from 1875 to 1881. While in office, Knott opposed Radical Reconstruction.

In 1883, Knott became Kentucky's governor. In 1887, after his term, he practiced law in Frankfort and was elected to the state constitutional convention in 1890. He taught law at Centre College in Danville in the 1890s and, in 1902, retired from public service to his home near Lebanon. Knott's country home, Lea Rigg, burned that August, so he moved to a residence in town. He died in 1911 and was buried in Lebanon.

After Knott's country home burned he donated the land to be used as the Proctor Knott Chautauqua Association. The Chautauqua movement was an adult education initiative that started in the late nineteenth century and emphasized locally sponsored lectures, music, and dramatic entertainments. Chautauqua flourished into the twentieth century, but the rise of automobiles, radio, motion pictures, and sports entertainment the movement rapidly declined.

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