Kate Knox helped establish county’s welfare system

Shortly before her birth on July 28, 1887, in Dallas County, Texas, Kate Clayton Oliver’s father William Clayton died. Kate and her mother, Elizabeth, moved to Montgomery, Alabama, to be near Elizabeth’s sister, Sarah Johnson. When Kate was only six years old, she lost her mother and was raised by her Aunt Sarah. As a child prodigy on the piano, Kate was given the opportunity to study in New York City.

Kate married John Welch in 1903; they had two sons, Jack and Clayton. On October 16, 1912, Kate married Oscar Jennings Knox. She became involved in the drive for women to obtain the right to vote. Following their victory, Kate was offered the opportunity to run for the Alabama legislature, but declined. If she had run and won, Kate would have been the first woman in Alabama history to hold public office. Before moving from Alabama to Kissimmee, Florida, in 1921, Kate and Oscar added two more sons to the family, Jennings and Robert.  

Kate and Oscar owned and operated the Arcade Hotel, later known as the Brahman Inn. Active in civic organizations, Kate was also a correspondent for the “Osceola Sentinel” for eight years during the late 1940s through the 1950s. The first welfare system in Osceola County was begun with Kate’s assistance. In 1941, Oscar died; Kate later lost the two sons from her first marriage – Clayton in 1950 and Jack in 1952.

Active in the United Daughters of the Confederacy, St. John’s Episcopal Church and the Osceola County Historical Society, Kate Knox was chosen by Beta Sigma Phi Sorority as the first “First Lady of the Year” for Osceola County, Florida, in 1956. Known for her elegant teas, bridge parties and social functions when living at the Arcade Hotel, Kate believed using real butter was the most important thing in cooking. Even after moving to Aldersgate, a retirement community now known as Good Samaritan, Kate continued to entertain, always having tea or a chicken salad sandwich ready for guests who dropped in.

In 1978, Kate was chosen Ms. Nursing Home of Central Florida. At the age of 95, Kate passed away on February 15, 1983, and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Kissimmee next to her husband Oscar and two sons. Kate was featured in Osceola History’s 2020 Dine with the Departed event earlier this month.

Written by Anza Bast

Sources:  Ancestry.com; “Orlando Sentinel” May 13, 1956, May 26, 1978; “Osceola Sun” September 25, 1974