I struggle with how to present this ancestor to you. He is not my favorite, and yet, there are a few details of his life that make my ears perk (or my eyes gleam), and it just makes me want to know MORE. It makes me want to say “THAT’s the family member I want to meet. HE’s the one I want to sit down with and interview! I want to know MORE, I want to know WHY he made the choices that he made, and I want to know about what he experienced in his lifetime.”

Thomas Lighthill, my 5th great-grandfather, was born 25 June 1766 (maybe 1767), probably in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Johan George Lichtenberger (Thank you greatgrandpa for instituting that name change.) He married Miss Jemima Kitchen around 1792 in Pennsylvania where they settled and started their family.

There is a story that Thomas was an Indian Fighter under a General Harner. The story goes that he was wounded in his chest from a sabre, the weapon breaking off in his body. Thomas proceeded to kill the enemy and recovered from his injury – supposedly with the point of the sabre still incased inside his sternum. (Really?  Come on now!)

We do know that Thomas and his family resided in Cranberry Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania. He bought 100 acres of land there on the county line with Beaver County from Mr. John Kane in 1807. In the 1820 census, he was still in Beaver County, and in 1821 he was taxed there with 217 acres of land and livestock. After that, things get interesting.

In 1827, his son is showing as being taxed in Beaver County, and Thomas is no longer there. He shows up again in 1830 back in neighboring Butler County with “Barbary Crile”, several older children, and 2 children that are under the age of five. But where is his wife Jemima?

In 1830, she was living with her son George and his family, NOT with her husband Thomas.

Yes…the question “Why?” is ringing out loud and strong.

There is a rumor that Thomas had left Jemima for a younger woman. “Younger” being a relative term considering that Thomas was 64 at the time of the 1830 census and Barbary Crile was about 32 years old. Thomas and Jemima never divorced, but it was certainly a scandal at the time as Thomas now resided just “down the road” with Barbary, where they stayed in Cranberry Township for almost 25 years. They raised 7 sons and one daughter before they moved to Decatur, Iowa.

The two of them spent the rest of their days there in Iowa, Thomas living to the ripe age of….104 (yikes!), dying on 3 October, 1871. His obituary appeared in The Weekly Citizen (Centerville, Iowa) on 21 October 1871:


The Leon Journal reports the death of a centurian. “Thomas Lighthill, whose death occurred Oct. 2d, 1871, was born in what is now known as the city of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in the year 1767, consequently he was 104 years old; perhaps the oldest man in Southern Iowa, if not in the State. Father Lighthill lived in or near Pittsburg for 88 years then moved to Decatur county, Iowa, and settled on Grand River, and remained there till his death. The deceased was temperate in his diet, made but little use of liquor, but was a great slave to tobacco, having made use of it from a boy.

Thomas and Barbary were buried in OakHill Cemetery, Decatur County, Iowa. Thomas’ stone claims that he was over 105 years old, as well as the husband of “B. Lighthill”. “Barbara” (per her stone) died 14 Aug 1881


Thomas & Barbara Lighthill – findagrave.com

And what happened to Jemima? Good question. Her son, George, moved to Putnam County, Ohio, and there is a rumor that she moved with him. I, unfortunately, have not been able to locate her. She remains a mystery to me at this time.