Joseph Knight, Sr., was born 3 November 1772 at Oakham, Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1809 he moved to Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York and two years later to Colesville, Broome County, New York where he remained for nineteen years. He owned a farm, a gristmill and carding machine, and according to his son, Newel, "was not rich, yet possessed enough of this world's goods to secure to himself and family the necessaries and comforts of life." His family consisted of three sons and four daughters.
While Joseph Smith was living in Harmony, Pennsylvania he was occasionally employed by Joseph Knight. Such was the friendship that developed between these two men that the younger Joseph confided in his employer the circumstances of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and the elder sent provisions from time to time for the sustenance of his friend during the translation work. When Joseph Smith obtained the Book of Mormon plates in September 1827, Knight was visiting in the Smith home in Manchester. According to Lucy Smith, her son used Knight's horse and carriage as his means of conveyance on that occasion.
Although not numbered among those present at the organization of the Church in April 1830, Joseph Knight was baptized in June of that year. His family formed the nucleus of a small branch of the Church in Colesville, New York. In 1831 he moved with the Colesville Saints to Kirtland, Ohio, and a few months later continued with them to Independence, Missouri, where he helped pioneer the Latter-day Saint settlement of that state. Joseph Knight died on 3 February 1847 at Mt. Pisgah, Iowa during the Mormon Exodus from Illinois.