In 1870 a man named Colman patented a wheel which had a bucket shaped very much like that of the present Pelton, Bucket, the stream splitting and curving off to each side. Hefor lack of means did not develop the idea.
Mr. Knight made several improvements in 1872 by using a curved iron bucket and having the discharge towards the center and to one side. Knight also found that the round nozzle did not fill general requirements. From these water wheels sprang the present Knight Wheel" 'In 1875 the first wheel of present design was placed at the Lincoln Mine at Sutter Creek, and from that time various improvements have been made in the size.
Over a number of years Knight's work led to his patenting of a cast iron, high speed, water wheel which became the fore runner of the Pelton Wheel design.
The Knight Water Wheel catalogs of the 1890s show that more than 300 wheels had been produced and were in wide use all over the western United States. It was claimed that Knight wheels were being used to power over 2000 stamps in quartz mills. Knight also produced a water "motor" which was a small water wheel enclosed in a cast iron housing, ready to be attached to a high pressure water source.
About 1866, Mr. Knight, in common with others, made water wheels entirely out of wood The buckets were shaped likesaw teeth, and wooden flanges covered the sides of the bucket to confine the water; a round nozzle was used and the general results were considered at the time highly satisfactory.
After 1883 the Knight Water Wheel experienced heavy competition from the Pelton Water Wheel. Although Knight had been the acknowledged leader, Lester Pelton design was being tried in northern mines of the Mother Lode and some felt it was a better design. In 1883 the Idaho mine in Grass Valley decided to settle the issue by inviting Knight, Pelton and two other wheel producers to Grass Valley to conduct tests of comparable wheels.
Information, photographs courtesy of the Amador County Archives, The Historical Marker Database, the Chronicling America Database, and the Library of Congress