Jesse Knight was one of relatively few Mormon mining magnates in the West. Poor throughout his youth, he was handsomely rewarded for his diligence as a prospector with the discovery of the famous Humbug mine in the Tintic Mining District near Eureka, Utah, in 1886. As the Humbug proved profitable, he acquired other mines in the vicinity, including the Uncle Sam, Beck Tunnel, Iron Blossom, and Colorado.
Knight is significant in western mining and entrepreneurial history because in several important ways he differed from the typical "robber baron" capitalists of the late-nineteenth-century Gilded Age. His success, like theirs, depended upon the skillful acquisition and management of such business variables as claims, labor, capital, technology, and government services, and also upon the development of cost-efficient integrated enterprises, such as the Knight Investment Company. However, he also owned more patented mining claims in the Intermountain West than did his Gentile counterparts, and he was not inclined to engage in stock manipulation like many other mining entrepreneurs and railroad barons. Moreover, his business methods, especially when dealing with his working men, were far more paternalistic and benevolent than those of the typical big businessmen of the era. While other company town and mine owners often exploited their workers, Knight treated his workers very fairly in his company town of Knightville, Utah, which he equipped with a meetinghouse, amusement hall, and school instead of the usual hedonistic establishments of mining camp life.