BY GEORGE W. KNIGHT
WHEN the Santa Fe Railway in the summer of 1898 made its preliminary survey through this part of Contra Costa
County the town of Knightsen was founded. In the fall of the same year the road bed was graded, and late in 1899
the company began to lay its track. In the spring of 1900 passenger and freight trains began to run. The first
building erected in the new town was the company's section house, and this was soon followed by the railroad station,
with a pumping plant to supply the locomotives with water.
In the winter of 1899-1900 I received my commission as postmaster, and immediately proceeded to put up a building
to be occupied by the new postoffice and grocery, the first store in Knightsen. The postoffice is still in the
same building. I continued as postmaster for thirteen years.
The shipment of milk by the dairy farmers of this section is considerable. The daily average since the advent of
the railroad is about twenty five hundred gallons. Stone Brothers were the first to engage in this industry to
any extent. At present there are five other dairies shipping through this station - those of Fox, Bridgford, Burrows,
Emerson, and Hotchkiss - and it is likely that in the near future the milk output at this point will be greatly
Knightsen being an inland town grows slowly, but new improvements are being added from time to time. In 1913 electric
lights were installed, which gave a decided addition to the town's importance New dwellings are being constructed.
A general merchandise store, a blacksmith shop, a garage, and a saloon comprise the business district.
It is said that the local Santa Fe station has shown a wonderful record in recent months, especially in December,
1916, its business at that time being larger than at any other period in the history of Knightsen. This is greatly
due to the shipping of celery and general farm produce. This section has advanced rapidly in this line recently.
Knightsen is situated in a rich agricultural district, and doubtless will be an important shipping point in the
In the early days several extensive experiments in sericulture were made in this county. That the mulberry will
grow here, and that the worm will do well, admit of no question. The trees made a wonderful growth, and the silk
produced was of superior quality.
Many years ago Mr. Sellers, near Iron House Landing, planted a large field in mulberry trees, which made a fine
growth and produced a great quantity of leaves for feeding A place was fitted up for a feeding room for the worms,
and the business was carried on quite successfully. At the county fair in 1878 Mrs. Sellers exhibited cocoons and
silkworms that attracted much attention from visitors.
The silkworm is a very delicate animal, and it is subject in Europe to many diseases, most of them directly traceable
to climatic influences from which this State is exempt. Climate is a matter of vast importance to the breeder of
the silkworm, and nowhere is it more favorable than in Contra Costa County. The worms are exceedingly healthy and
prolific, the cocoons large, the fiber strong and fine, the mulberry luxuriant in growth and hardy The colds of
forty five degrees, the heats of one hundred degrees, the thunder storms, and the summer rains, which frequently
prove fatal in France and Italy, are almost unknown in our coast valleys. In Europe, even when there is no rain,
there are many damp, cloudy days that prevent the evaporation of the dew, and if there is any moisture on the leaves
the worms sicken and die. It is customary in Europe to feed three or four times a day, with leaves plucked off
separately; but in California they may be fed but twice, or even once, with sprouts, each cut having a number of
leaves on it. They increase at the rate of a hundred fold at each generation. The female generally lays from two
hundred to three hundred eggs, and it may be assumed that two hundred worms will survive and make cocoons; and
as the females are about half, the total number may be multiplied by one hundred, to represent the increase.
Two crops of cocoons are raised in the year, in May and July, a season during which the atmosphere of California
is almost free from clouds, there being neither thunder storms nor wet, cold spells, to check the progress of the
cocoons or to injure the mulberry leaf, such vicissitudes being not only destructive of the health of the worms,
but fatal to the quality of silk they produce.
Some years ago the State of California, with the view of establishing the business of silk making as one of its
fixed pursuits, offered a premium of two hundred and fifty dollars for every five thousand mulberry trees, to be
paid when they were two years old, and a premium of three hundred dollars for every one hundred thousand cocoons.
The business, for various reasons, has not proved profitable, largely for the want of energetic capital to engage
in the manufacture.