The Rev. George H. McKnight came to Springfield from Madison, Indiana, November 6, 1859. Bishop Manton Eastburn instituted him rector of Christ Church, Bishop Henry W. Lee preaching the sermon at the service. Mr. McKnight was a very scholarly man. He was considered an authority on questions pertaining to church creed or doctrine. He was one of those who changed vestments before preaching. It was a great mystery to certain interested children in the congregation just when and how he effected this change.
         On April 26, 1861, Mr. McKnight was called upon to perform a very unpleasant duty. A young man, Alexander Desmanteau, by name, while under the influence of liquor, committed a most brutal murder. He was imprisoned in the old jail on State Street and condemned to death, by hanging, a sentence rarely pronounced in Massachusetts. The case aroused a great deal of sympathy in the city, for the young man, while awaiting trial and sentence had devoted many hours to religious reading, and as a result his penitence and conversion seemed perfectly sincere.
         Desmanteau showed decided leaning toward the Episcopal faith; so much so, that Mr. McKnight received a certain amount of publicity in connection with the affair, as noted in the Springfield Republican, April 15, 1861: "Some inquiry has been made as to why the chaplain of the jail did not administer the sacrament to the prisoner, Desmanteau. It was simply because the prisoner desired to receive it at the hands of an Episcopal clergyman. To set the matter right, Rev. Mr. McKnight has given Rev. Mr. Jordan a letter stating the fact,


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