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Around Town: The women's club that could

January 18, 2012|By Anita S. Brenner

As a past president of the Thursday Club, I am privy to bits of its history. The club, according to our records, began like this: “Upon invitation sent by Mrs. Jesse Knight, interested women of our valley met at her home in October 1912 and formed this club with a membership limited to twenty-five. Monthly meetings were held at the homes of members.”

One problem with the Thursday Club records is that the women always used their husband’s names. Mrs. Charles Pate. Mrs. N.A. Maynard. Mrs. S.J. Evans. Those are the names of some of the early presidents. It would be nice to know more about these ladies.

The founder, Mrs. Jesse Knight, was the club’s third president. She was born Elizabeth Lily Knight in 1845, the daughter of John Pleasant Lilly and Amanda Hardin in Gentryville, Mo. She was the second of 10 children. Elizabeth was 16 years old when the Civil War started. As a result, she had little formal education, but became a school teacher after the war.

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While teaching at a country school, she met future husband, Jesse Knight, another country teacher, at a spelling bee. It was love at first sight.

The Knights moved around the Midwest, eventually to a farm in Alanthus Grove, Mo. The family consisted of their four surviving and one adopted child.

Seeking new vistas, in 1886 the Knights traveled by covered wagon to Pasadena. At that time, Pasadena was not yet a city. It was not yet a town. Pasadena had dirt roads. Pasadena had no sidewalks. There was one dry-goods store and only two grocery stores.

A few months later, the real estate market crashed and there was high unemployment. All hope of business opportunities in Pasadena vanished.

Jesse Knight had a solution. It was his idea to move to the wilds of La Cañada. Elizabeth initially objected, but soon relented. The Knights bought a 100-acre tract, formerly known as the Haskell Ranch. The year was 1887.

One nearby rancher was Will D. Gould, a Vermont-born lawyer and a Michigan grad who had moved to Los Angeles to practice law.

One day, streets would be named after the Knights, the Goulds and the Haskells, but in 1887, the valley had a one-room school house, which unfortunately caught on fire in 1893. A 14-year-old named Lem Veilex would be tried as an adult for burning down the school. Although the jury was unable to reach a verdict and the case was dismissed, no one has ever named any streets after the Veilex family.

More people began to move west.

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