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Diana, Goddess of the Hunt for Ancestors!
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A Walk about Steitztown, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania
Source:  P.C. Croll. 1895.  Ancient and Historic Landmarks in the Lebanon Valley. Lutheran Publ. Soc., Philadelphia (online at HeritageQuest at Genealogy.com).

My interest, here, is in the immigrant, John LIGHT, and the matter of just how many Johannes/Johann/John LICHTs/LIGHTs were living in early "Steitztown" (now Lebanon), Lebanon Co., PA.  I considered just excerpting the facts from this chapter of Croll's book, but then decided, for the sake of context, to transcribe the whole thing (except the poem at the end), despite the fact that Croll is a boring wind-bag of a writer.  I've bold-faced the names, so you can easily skip the drivel.

The most important part of the chapter is the German tombstone readings, from which I have done my best to roughly extract the data.  If you know German better than I do, and you see I've made an error of substance, please don't hesitate to bring it to my attention.


EVERY one of my readers knows, or should know, that Lebanon was founded by Mr. George Steitz.  He was a German, who before 1738 (according to a deed of that date mentioning his name and location here) settled here along the Quittapahilla on a tract of over 365 acres, covering the old part of the city, for which he received a patent from the Proprietaries of the province, dated May 22, 1753.  Though there probably had been some town lots sold before Steitz laid out a part of his farm into building lots about the year 1750, this "laying out of the town" and sale of lots was the beginning of Lebanon.  The enterprising German gave his town the beautiful Scripture name it now bears, possibly borrowed from or suggested by his Moravian brethren, whose Scriptural nomenclature stamped itself upon several of the townships of this county.  It is more likely, however, that the township had been changed from Quittapahilla to Lebanon before the Moravians located here, and that the town's name was suggested by that of the township.  Be that as it may, it is certain that, in spite of this naming, for a long time the village was known by the name of its founder, and that for



half a century after its beginning, the surrounding community did its shopping and frolicking and horse- racing and fighting in "Steitze-town."

We want to-day to take a walk around this old burg and see its outlying homes and other landmarks that guarded the old place before ever this century was born, or the village of Steitz had grown into the since enterprising maiden city of Lebanon.  After this historic circum- navigation, we trust the walls, like those of Jericho, will fall, or the gates open, to let my army of explorers enter and behold the treasures of historic wealth buried within.

Having in my last letter led my readers to peep into the Peter Kucher house, who must have been Steitz's nearest eastern neighbor, we will go northward from here and surround the place by constant turns to our left.  The old town-plots show John Light (Licht) to have owned the land north of Kucher, or east and north of the present city limits.  We presume that the original deed of this property finds the name of Casper Wister, "the brass- button maker of Philadelphia," to have been the "party of the first part," inasmuch as it is known that he had first taken up from the Proprietaries the land immediately north of the Quittapahilla, the land that long separeted Steitztown from North Lebanon, which latter village, at the opening of the Union Canal, rivaled its southern neighbor in business thrift and growth, and for some time bade fair to excel it in its strides towards a municipality.  It seems not


yet to have forgiven its rival for stealing the march on it, inasmuch as it prefers to remain "independent," though the growing "Steitze" has stretched itself in well-graded streets, lined with homes, to its very doors.

Whether John Light had a house east of the city, or whether there were two John Light homesteads on the confines of this town, the writer cannot tell.  He knows of the old Light home, northwest of town, and will presently lead his readers thither.  But it would seem that one famiy of Lights had resided east of our city, as the old family burial-plot is found here, which seems more distant than was common from the house, if indeed the "Light Fort" was the first and only Light homestead.*  At all events, it is in the eastern portion of the farm where the Lights buried their dead.  The family plot is found between Weidman and Lehman streets, east of Third, near to or part of what used to be the old Fair Grounds.  It is, however, stripped of every vestige of fence or ornamentation.  Only a number of old gravestones, several of them broken, mark the sepulture of this pious ancestry of our large family of Lights.  The question has come up to the writer, whether these ancestors have served nothing better at the hands of their present generation of prosperous descendants, than to be treated with the gross neglect and forgetfulness apparent in these neglected

*The author has recently learned that there was another Light homestead, east of Lebanon, last the property of Felix Light, a descendant, before it was replaced by the Penn'a Bolt and Nut Works.

Transciber's Note:  Johannes LICHT & Anna LANDIS (see tombstone readings below), are said to have had a son, Felix LIGHT (1767-1841).

graves.  Surely some simple mark of respect is due the memory of these early pioneers, who paved the way to the success and prosperity a later generation is reaping.  A litttle blooming shrubbery were more becoming than a heap of rocks and debris; an enclosure of paling more fiting than a "commons" of stumps, and a few flowers on Decoration Day more appropriate than a decoration of cast-away tin cans and other rubbish by the desecrating neighbors.  Oh! when will all men learn that veneration and self-respect that shows itself in keeping green the graves of the beloved dead, and step softly over the mouldering bones of their ancestors?  Oh! when will Lebanon, as a municipality, gain authority enough to prevent the theft and vandalism that discourages such suggested improvements that would otherwise oft be prompted by grateful hearts!*

Our visit discovered here half a dozen barely legibly inscribed tombstones.  A few of them are broken off and defaced.  It is a wonder anything is left of them after a century's exposure to time, weather and vandal-

*Scarcely had the above wish found a voice in this weeky correspondence before one of the many descendants of these Light ancestors, a faithful and venerating scion, Mr. Asaph S. Light, editor of the Lebanon Courier, and the present postmaster of Lebanon, instituted measures to have the mouldering bones of these ancestors taken up from these uninviting surroundings and reverently reinterred in the Ebenezer cemetery, about a mile to the northwest of town.  Hence a week after this chapter was originally written this old burial plot was no more.

ism.  The following are fac-similes of a few, in which of the spelling and doubling letters and figures are peculiar, the latter indicated by a horizontal line over the letter to be doubled.  The first is of red sandstone, others limestone or marble:

Hier Ruhet
Johannes Licht, ift ge-
bohren den 6 december
1720. Er ift ein Sohn des
Johannes und Maria Licht, ist gestorben
6ten abril 1798. fein
alder war 7 Jahr
4 monat.
en in 
inder Ehe 48 Jahr
11 Monat. Gebohren
11 Kinder Wovon
noch 9 am leben 6 Söhne
3 Töchter. Gestorben
4 May 1798 Ihr
alter war 67 Jahr
6 Monat 3 Wochen
2 Tage.
Hier Ruhet im tod
Er war gebohren im Iahr
1726 den 21ten Febr. Lebte
mit seiner frau Anna inder
Eh. 48 Iahr 11 monat. Zevgte
11 Kinder Wovon noch 9
Leben 6 Sohn v. 3 tochter
Starb den 11ten Martz 1806
Ist alt worden 80 Iahr
2 Woche & 3 Tage.

Liebe die Mich wird erwecken
Aus dem grab der sterblichkeit
Liebe die mich wird bedecken
Mit der Kron der herlichkeit
Liebe dir ergeb ich mich
Dein zu bleiben ewiglich.

There is another stone, with an epithaph to the memory of still another John Licht, born 29th of December, 1767, died 10th of January, 1814.  The relationship is very likely that of son to the Johannes Licht of stones No. 3 and No. 2, who, from the agreement in length of married life and the number of children, must have been man and wife.  The one of stone No. 1 must have been a brother of same name or, possibly a cousin to the one of No. 3.  Did one live east of town near this burial plot and the other northwest of town?  The writer can not tell, only in the early history of

Transcriber's footnote:  the horizontal line was above the "7," not below it, but there's no way to create such a character in HTML.
Rough translation of stones (by DGM).

Essentials of Stone No. 1

Here Lies
Johannes Licht
born 6 December 1720
Son of
Johannes & Maria Licht
died 6 April 1798
age 77 years 4 months

Essentials of Stone No. 2

wife of 48 years
11 months
Birthed 11 Children
9 still living
6 sons
3 daughters
died 4 May 1798
age 67 years
6 months 3 weeks
2 days

Essentials of Stone No. 3

here rests in death
born 21 Feb 1726
Left wife Anna
married 48 years 11 months
had 11 children
9 still living
6 sons and 3 daughters
died 11 Mar 1806
aged 80 years, 2 weeks, 3 days

It is quite clear that there were at least four Johannes LICHTs in this family graveyard.  In chronological order, they were:

1) Johannes & Maria, parents of the one born 6 Dec 1720;
2) Johannes, born 6 Dec 1720;
3) Johannes, born 21 Feb 1726, wife Anna; and
4) Johannes, born 29 Dec 1767 (mentioned in text).
Croll suggests that the two born in the 1720s might be brothers, but this seems highly unlikely.  If they had saint's name Johann, yes as all brothers will have the same saint's name but not as Johannes.  As for the couple, Johannes & Anna (LANDIS) LICHT, being the parents of the Johannes born in 1767, this is said not to be the case; this Johannes is said to be the son of Martin & Anna (PFEIFFER) LICHT/LIGHT.

Steitztown the land east and north of the borough was marked as the farm of John Light.  We know that one of these lived a little west of the corner of tenth and Maple streets, where the old hip-roofed stone fort, constituting his abode, and erected in 1742, is still standing.  We shall go to see it now.



On our way to this landmark, however, let us take a peep into the old Lutheran parochial school-house, which formerly stood at the northeast corner of the Salem Lutheran cemetery, on Eighth street,  until about fifty years ago.  Its use having been displaced by the public school system, it was removed hither by a 


Mr. John Harris, who turned it into a dwelling house.  It is a log building, now weather-boarded and slightly changed.  It is the present property of Mr. Charles Swope, and is located on Canal street, alongside of the stone quarry at the east end, and is at present unoccupied.  The rear door double, like a shutter is the same that gave entrance and exit to the young Lutheran urchins of seventy-five years ago.  It bears the marks of their jack-knives to this very day.  If it could speak, what a story of woe and hardship it doubtless could relate, as one generation after another of young Germans were there graduated in their A B C's, Psalters, Catechisms, and hickory birches.

But we repair to the Light Fort.  Few of our citizens may know or remember that there is such an historic landmark so near.  It is hid away from sight by other buildings as you go out Tenth street.  You want to turn west on Maple at this point, and then it will soon appear to view, just across the canal to the south.  In 1738, "the brass-button maker" sold to John Light several hundred acres of land, who erected upon it, in 1742, the stone dwelling and fortification here alluded to.  It is the best specimen near town of the style of roofing adopted in those days for larger buildings.  The custom is Hollandish, and the style of roof generally termed the Dutch hipped- or broken-roof.  This is quite a massive structure, and has a checkered history of refuge from the savages, of the worship of God, of domestic toil and struggle, and of liquor distilling. 


The first owner, Mr. Light, was a Mennonite in religion, who opened his house for religious services, and it was so employed once a month for a long period.  This community must have abounded with Mennonites in that early day, as quite a congregation is said to have assembled here.  But the house was also built as a fortification against the Indian savages.  It is provided with a deep, arched cellar, into which subterranean refuge a flight of stone steps still leads the way from the inside.  Hither the neighbors were often compelled to repair, to find shelter from their enraged, insatiable foes.  Sixty families took refuge in it at one time.  Because of these retreats for safety, it received the name it has borne ever since, that of "Old Fort."  We recently visited the building, but found the older part of the house rifled and deserted by all except a flock of English sparrows, a saucy-looking goat, and a family of colored folks, the last of whom occupy a few dreary-looking rooms.  The writer has strong suspicious that during the best days of canal navigation this building was used as a warehouse.

The attacks made upon the whites by the Indians remind us of a record made in the Hebron Diary concering a cruel murder of one of that flock, which occurred in Bethel, May, 1757.  The mangled body was brought to Hebron for burial, and had we then stood where I have led my army of explorers in this chapter, in the north of town, we might have seen the funeral procession, a large throng, pass this place on their way to burial.  The following record is preserved


in the church annals of the Hebron Moravians: "May the 16th, 1757, John Spittler, Jr., was attacked and killed by murderous Indians, not far from his house at Swatara.  He was in the 38th year of his age, and settled the preceding year, in April, at the Swatara.  His greatly mangled corpse was brought hither on the 17th of May, and accompanied by a large concourse of people, was buried here on our graveyard."  Mr. Spittler was son-in-law to Mr. Jacob Meylin, whose relatives are still abounding in the county.

But we must hasten on and complete our circumference of the old town.  Of course, we are only after the ancient, and are going in imagination "in ye olden time."  Hence we have no trouble with cinder-banks and furnaces and canal-ditches and planing-mills and engirdling railroads; we can just take our walk across John Light's meadow and some grassy fields, past the fine old farm houses of Martin and Barbara Funck (who now sleep, side by side with his parents, in a private burial-plot near by, within an environment of cinder banks, stone quarries, smoking furnaces and puffing engines, he born Dec. 22, 1766, and died Feb. 17, 1838; she born Dec. 10, 1773, and died Jan. 15, 1853; while his parents' tombs show Martin Funck, Sr., to have been born Jan'y 30, 1732, and died Dec. 19, 1796, and his wife, Judith Funckin, to have been born Jan'y 19, 1732, and died March 4, 1812) still standing, the one erected in 1810, and the other in 1824.  Soon after passing these landmarks we cross the Quittapahilla on the


west of town, to where George Gloninger's old home has long kept its watch on this stream which historic homestead we shall visit at length in a later trip and from here wheel to the south and be ready to take a glance at the spot where, before the middle of the last century, was already found a church in common use by the Lutherans and Reformed known as the "Grubben Church."  This spot is about two miles south of the town center, on property owned by Mr. Jacob Brubaker.  But we have not time to abide here, where Revs. Conrad Templeman and J. Casper Stoever first dispensed the Holy Gospel of the Son of God to their pioneer flocks of German Reformed and Lutherans respectively.  We must bring our march to a close, and prepare by another intermissions of a week's rest and waiting to enter the city from the same direction the rebels invaded our Keystone state in 1863 and 1864 from the south.  We prefer to enter the old town of Steitz from this direction, along the cornwall pike once a plank road because from this point of the compass and along this celebrated and well-kept highway came the man who, more than any other one man, changed Steitztown into Lebanon Mr. Robert H. Coleman.  We will close this chapter by quoting a poem that was written and read by one of our most gifted and energetic citizens at a banquet, given some years since in honor of this second builder of our city, who did more for Lebanon in promoting its second growth than George Steitz ever did in laying its foundations...


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