In 1901, a group of Catholic men gathered in St. Augustine, Florida under the leadership of William O. Boutwell to consider membership in the Knights. On October 13 Supreme Knight Edward L. Hearn instituted First Florida Council 611, with Boutwell as Grand Knight. Within the year, three other councils, Jacksonville Council 648 (later changed in name to Father Michael Maher Council), Tampa Council 667, and Pensacola Council 778 were established.
In the early 20th century, the Catholic faith in Florida was largely centered in St. Augustine, Jacksonville, Tampa, and Pensacola. Catholic men of those cities fought bigotry, atheism, and ignorance. Father Maher, Chancellor of the Diocese of St. Augustine, was the first Florida priest to become a Knight.
With the chartering of a fifth council Florida became a “Jurisdiction” and the first State convention was convened in St, Augustine; Boutwell, then Territorial Deputy, was unanimously elected first State Deputy.
Father Michael J. Curley, of DeLand, served as Chaplain of First Florida Council and as State Chaplain. He was consecrated as Bishop of St. Augustine and, later, as Archbishop of Baltimore. Father Patrick Barry, a charter member of Council 648, became Bishop of St. Augustine.
Many priests have given of their time and effort to the order.
During World War I, the Knights of Columbus set up centers to help U. S. service men, in much the same way as the YMCA had.
The National Catholic War Council and the Knights of Columbus set up huts to help provide for the needs of Catholic soldiers. The Florida Knights participated in these efforts and there was a K. of C. Center at Camp Jackson, at Jacksonville, in 1917. With many of these huts in the United States and in France, the order became well known for these efforts.
The picture of one hut in France with a large sign reading “EVERYONE WELCOME, EVERYTHING FREE” is still a source of pride to Brother Knights.
The Florida Knights promote activities designed to help children. They sponsor Spelling Bees and basketball free throw contests, and altar server awards. They support seminarians, young men studying for the priesthood. They support the Pope,
Cardinals, and Bishops whenever they can. Each council in Florida runs a Handicapped Drive and all the money collected is donated to the mentally challenged and handicapped citizens in the council area.
A young man from South Florida, started a Run For Life several years ago. Along with several other young men they ran from Homestead to St. Augustine in an effort to collect funds that are turned over to the Knights of Columbus Charities, which disperses the funds to homes who give aid to unwed mothers and abused women.