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Walter Knott

Walter Knott (b. 1889 - d. 1981), farmer, creator of Knott's Berry Farm amusement park.

In the 1920s, Walter Knott was an somewhat unsuccessful farmer, whose fortunes changed when he nursed several abandoned berry plants back to health. The hybrid boysenberry, named after its creator, Rudolph Boysen, was a cross between a blackberry, red raspberry and loganberry. The huge berries were a hit, and the Knott family sold berries, preserves and pies from a Buena Park, California roadside stand. In 1934, Knott's wife Cordelia (née Hornaday, b.1890 - d. 1974) began serving fried chicken dinners, and within a few years, lines outside the restaurant were often several hours long. To entertain the waiting crowds, Walter built a Ghost Town in 1940, using buildings relocated from old west towns.

Even after Disneyland opened in 1955-- a mere 11 miles away -- Knott's Berry Farm continued to thrive. Additions to the farm included a narrow gauge locomotive, a San Francisco cable car, a Pan-for-Gold attraction, the Calico Mine Train dark ride and the world's first log flume ride. In 1968, the Knott family fenced the farm, charged admission for the first time, and Knott's officially became an amusement park.

Because of his interest in American pioneer history, Knott purchased and restored the real silver mining ghost town of Calico in 1951. In 1966, he deeded Calico to San Bernardino County, California.

Walter remained active in the operation of Knott's Berry Farm until the death of Cordelia in 1974, at which point he turned his attention toward right-wing political causes, leaving day-to-day park operations to his children. He lived in a modest house inside the park until his death in 1981.