The first known European documentation of the area in and around what is now Knightdale was by English explorer John Lawson in about 1700. At that time the lands along the Neuse River were populated by various tribes of the Tuscarora Indians. Hired by the Lords Proprietors of the Colony, Lawson's journey began at Charleston, SC. His circuitous route through the Carolinas and the book 'A New Voyage to Carolina,' describing his 'Journal of a Thousand Miles' became the standard upon which future exploration of the Carolinas was based. Lawson's book celebrated th 300th anniversary of its publication in 2009.
Settlement by the English officially began in 1730 when John Hinton was granted lands by the King of England and headed west, finally settling in what would one day be called Knightdale. This hardy woodsman erected the first dwelling built by white man in the Knightdale area. Although Hinton's land holdings were vast, he settled in an area near the Neuse River, not far from where Hodge Road and Old Faison Road now intersect.
Today, three of Hinton's seven plantation homes in the Knightdale area are still intact -- The Oak, Midway, and Beaver Dam.
Following the Civil War, as North Carolina residents began to rebuild, the City of Raleigh's population boom resulted in Wake County's division of the county into townships. Much of Hinton's property east of Raleigh and across the Neuse River would become a part of St. Matthews Township. This is the area that would eventually become the town of Knightdale.
Near the end of the 19th century, many local citizens recognized the need to establish a town. Among them was Henry Haywood Knight, who donated some of his vast land holdings to the Norfolk and Southern Railroad Company in the hopes that a railroad would come to the area. Unfortunately, Knight did not quite live to see the railroad in the town that would bear his name. When it did eventually arrive in 1904, life and commerce began to move at a much faster pace. Many of the older homes in Knightdale were built specifically for a growing number of railroad workers and their families. Today, the railroad station-master's house still exists along the tracks on Railroad Street.
A new town is born...
In 1910, following the arrival of the railroad, Knightdale's first medical doctor, James Roberts Hester, moved to the community. The new community also had the need for dry goods and hardware. To fill this need, families like the Robertsons, who opened up a store on First Avenue, built businesses along the primary streets in town. Soon a bank opened its doors. As a result of the increased activity, Knightdale received its Articles of Incorporation from the North Carolina Legislature on March 9, 1927.
After incorporation, many other businesses moved into town, including a farmer's cooperative, a barber shop and several small grills.
Suddenly, in the early morning hours of February 7, 1940, downtown Knightdale's growth almost came to a standstill when a fire erupted in Robertson's Store. Virtually the entire town turned out to fight the flames that threatened the entire downtown business district. Citizen bucket brigades fought valiantly but unsuccessfully and Robertson's, along with a number of other businesses and homes, were lost. Undaunted, the people of Knightdale went about rebuilding their proud downtown business district.
Spurred by the baby boom following World War II, the population grew at a steady pace. The rise in popularity of the automobile eventually diminished the importance of the railroad in the lives of the people of Knightdale. Since the 1960s, new businesses in Knightdale have primarily located along Highway 64 (now called Knightdale Boulevard), which was widened to four lanes in the 1970s.
In the late 1980s the Town, with funding from EPA, the state and some large land owners, built the Mingo Creek sewer outfall, connecting to the City of Raleigh. This sewer opened up development on the south side of Knightdale Boulevard. Between 1990 and 2000, Knightdale's popluation increased from 1,700 to more than 6,000 residents.
Over the past 10 years, Knightdale has continued to experience tremendous change. According to the official 2009 estimate from the US Census Burear, Knightdale has been the 15th fastest growing municipality in North Carolina since 200.
Our growth rate has only accelerated with the completion, in 2005, of the U.S. 64 Bypass and the recent completion in 2007 of I-540. The town is proactively planning for this growth, seeking to attract quality growth and promote economic development opportunities.
Even with all of this growth, Knightdale leaders have assisted in maintaining the small-town charm and family atmosphere that has made it a great place to live, work, and raise a family. Knightdal residents are able to enjoy the cultural, athletic, recreational, and shopping benefits of a large metrpolitan area, while at the same time maintaining the sense of community that can only be experienced in a small town.
Knightdale Historical Society