Thursday, April 4, 2013

Daniel D. Lightner, the Abolitionist and the great Google find

Daniel Dinkle Lightner and Polly Seward (sitting). Elvira Lightner (Hull) Allen and her daughter Mary Florence Hull Johnson. Taken 1879. Courtesy Bertha F. Johnson Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.
I recently wrote about my 3rd great grandmother, Louann Lightner, as part of my ongoing series of posts about my 32 great grandparents. While researching Louann for my post, I became curious about her father, Daniel D. Lightner.
I knew that Daniel was born in Virginia in 1810 and lived the bulk of his life in Ohio, where he died in 1888. I also was aware that he was involved in politics, but like so many ancestors I didn't know anything about the real Daniel Lightner. So I turned to my good friend Google. My first hit for Daniel was a biography in the Biographical Sketches of the Members of the Forty-First General Assembly of the State of Indiana, printed in 1861. The biography stated that Daniel was born May 21, 1810 in Rockingham County, Virginia. He moved to Indiana with his family when he was 15 and spent his adult life as a preacher, farmer, merchant, mason, Freemason, school teacher, post master and state representative. There was also a listing for a biography of Daniel's son, Seward, that gave more information. 

To learn more about Daniel I decided to research his other children in an attempt to "backdoor" my research.
I started with his oldest child, Elvira Lightner. A Google search revealed that Elvira married Moses Hull, a prominent minister and spiritualist. It also revealed a lucky find: The Bertha F. Johnson Papers, an archival collection located in the Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass. Dr. Bertha Johnson was Elvira's granddaughter and she donated a photo (seen above) and the story of her grandparents and great-grandparents to the College.  What Bertha shared was a letter, written by her mother Elvira, that recalls her memories of her parents' role as abolitionists. Does it get any better than a find like this? 

Stay tuned for Daniel's story in the next installment.

  • Sutherland, James. Biographical sketches of the members of the forty-first general assembly of the State of Indiana with that of the State officers and judiciary. Indianapolis Journal Co., 1861. Daniel D. Lightner Biography, pages 137-138. Original: The New York Public Library, digitized Feb 7, 2008.
  • Goodspeed (Firm), publishers. Pictorial and Biographical Record of La Porte, Porter, Lake and Starke Counties, Indiana: Containing Biographical and Genealogical Records of Leading Men, Women and Prominent Families of the Counties Named, and Other Portions of the State. Seward Lightner biography, pgs. 472-473, 1894. Original: The New York Public Library, digitized Feb. 7, 2008.


Beth Lee Southworth said...

I'm anxious to hear the rest of the story, Heather. Great, great find!

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Thanks, Beth! I was pretty excited about it. It's also interesting to here about that time of history through the eyes of someone that lived it. Stayed tuned!

Debi Austen said...

No, it doesn't get any better than a find like this - congrats! And I can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful story. Daniel D. Lightner had an older brother also born in Virginia, his name was Elias Lightner born 1797. Elias son and grandson moved to Michigan during the Civil War. As late as the 1890s Daniel was alive and would come and visit my great-grandfather, his great-nephew at the family farm. I am the fourth generation that lives on this farm. My great-aunt, my grandfather's sister, was born in 1886 and died in 1989. I knew her well and she knew your ancestor Daniel. I have a picture of him too. In his honor he had a nephew, great-nephew, and great-great nephew named after him and they lived in Michigan. Google is wonderful.

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Anonymous, Thank you so much for the comment and the extra information! I would love to talk more. If you happen to see this post please email me at h.roelker at