By Allyssa Blake
The JKB on BYU campus was built in 1960. The building is named after Jesse Knight and houses classes from many departments at BYU. Most people know this much about the building, but what about the man it’s named after?
Jesse Knight grew up in poverty. But as an adult, Knight had an interest in mining. He was prospecting a piece of land when he heard a voice say, “This country is for Mormons.” Knight took this as a calling to financially support the Church (which was steeped in debt at the time) through his mining efforts. He found a property and offered an expert miner, who was not impressed with it, a portion of the property. This man told Knight that he wanted nothing to do with an “old humbug like this.” Undeterred, Knight claimed the land and affectionately named it The Humbug.
It took many years for the mine to prove profitable. He told his son once, “We are going to have all the money that we want as soon as we are in a position to handle it properly. We will someday save the credit of the Church.” His son responded with doubt, but Jesse insisted, “I don’t want to quarrel with you about it, but I never had anything come to me with greater force than the impression that came to me at this time.”
Knight’s impression wasn’t wrong. The Humbug became a profitable mine, making Knight a very wealthy man. He acquired other mines and founded the Knight Investment Company, becoming a multimillionaire. He was known as “The Mormon Mining Wizard.”
How did this mining wizard affect BYU? Knight not only helped the Church financially, but he also helped BYU as well. He made large contributions to the university, even giving it most of the land that it now owns. He donated a total of $500,000 to BYU during his life, and left a generous endowment for the school after he passed away. These donations came to the school at a critical time. Because of the school’s financial struggles, some believed the university wouldn’t last. Thanks to “Uncle Jesse,” as some called him due to his generous nature, Brigham Young University lives. Let’s make Uncle Jesse proud by carrying on his tradition of hard work and service.
Hunter, J. Michael, “Jesse Knight and His Humbug Mine” (2004). All Faculty Publications. Paper 1405. http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/facpub/1405