Pittsboro names park after former owner, farmer


PITTSBORO — The Pittsboro Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Monday to name the park under construction in the Vineyard Park community the Knight Farm Community Park.

The land where the community is being built is the former farm of Tony and Eliza Knight, Black farmers who were born before the Civil War — 1853 and 1856, respectively. Though it’s not known where they were raised, the Knights, along with their eight children, were listed on the 1900 Census as living Pittsboro. The couple proceeded to acquire more than 100 acres at the site over the next 20 years, building a home and multiple farm buildings.

The Fred Knight house as photographed in 1984 and included in 'The Architectural History of Chatham County NC.'

After the elder Knight’s deaths, the house was then sold at auction to cover debts. In 1924, their son, Fred, was able to pull together the $762.50 required to repurchase the land. The home Fred Knight built was included in the book, “The Architectural History of Chatham County NC,” published in 1991. Fred Knight was described in the book as “a farmer and sawmiller of apparent substance.” Fred Knight’s grandson, George Michael Knight, still lives in Pittsboro on Firetower Road, adjacent to the Vineyard Park community.

For these reasons, both the executive committee of the Chatham County Historical Association and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PARAB), recommended naming the park for the Knight family in its recommendations.

Other recommendations

The process for naming new Pittsboro parks is a new one. The Pittsboro board put a process in place just a few weeks ago to formalize how new parks were named. This was a result of Chatham Park, the developer for the Vineyard Park community and the Chatham Park development, wishing to donate the first of seven parks to the town per previous agreement. The board asked for names to be submitted to PARAB which would then whittle the options down to three recommendations to offer to the board for any new park.

With such a truncated timeline — just over two weeks — PARAB quickly developed a plan for getting public input, compiling and reviewing names and ranking recommendations. The group met three times, publicized the process through local and public media, conducted research and had numerous conversations and emails with members of the community to gain a more thorough knowledge of the suggestions.

Though the Knight Farm Community Park was the group’s first choice, there were two others. The second was Rabbit Run, an allusion to the county’s rich history with the Chatham rabbit combined with the word “run” to include the physical benefits of exercise.

The final option was to name the park after life-long resident, Archie Cross. Cross was a well-known and beloved resident of Pittsboro. He was in the first integrated graduating class of Northwood High School and was inducted into the Northwood Hall of Fame with other members of the 1971 Chargers football team. Several residents wrote to the group suggesting naming the park in honor of Cross, who lived most of his life on nearby Firetower Road.

The Pittsboro board had a brief discussion on the names before moving forward. Both Commissioner Michael Fiocco and Mayor Pro-Tem Pamela Baldwin noted a preference for naming the park after Cross, though both recognized the significance of the Knight family as well. Commissioner Jay Farrell, who noted he attended school with both Cross and George Michael Knight, said he thought both were worthy of the distinction. But he also felt the land’s previous owners seemed the most appropriate. That sentiment was shared by Commissioners John Bonitz and Kyle Shipp.

The vote was unanimous.

Shipp noted that he believed it was important to keep track of the other name suggestions and felt that there should be another opportunity to honor Cross in the park system. PARAB chairman Stephanie Bass said that there were other opportunities in the future to consider honoring others in Pittsboro, like Cross, with names of facilities and amenities in the system.

The park is expected to be complete this fall. It will be a public park and accessible to all residents.

Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.


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