The Friends of
The Oldest Structure in Lebanon City
Property of the Historic Preservation Trust of Lebanon County
History of Light's Fort
Content Copyright 2016. The Friends of Light's Fort Committee. All Rights Reserved.
John Light (Johannes Licht), Immigrant, purchased the land on December 29, 1738, from Caspar Wistar, and wife, Katherine, of the City of Philadelphia, Brass Button Maker, for 82 pounds and 4 shillings. The Tract of land on which Light’s Fort was built, in 1742, was situated on a branch of the Quittapahilla Creek in Lancaster County (now Lebanon County) at 11th and Maple Streets. It contained 274 acres including an allowance of 6% for roads together with woods, water courses, etc.
II Henry Light, the youngest son of John the Immigrant, received the western part of the homestead, the part on which was the “Old Fort.” It seems to have been a common thing, if not a rule with the early Lights, to give the homestead to the youngest son. Henry married Barbara Landis. He was a farmer and like his brothers, prospered. He was a soldier in the Revolution – “Henry Light, Sr. in Captain John Stone’s Co., the 6th, 2nd Bat. of Lancaster Co. Militia, 5th class.” His second son, John, was in the same company and his first son, III Henry light, Jr. was in Capt. Henninger’s Company. His other sons were too young for service. He and his family were likely Mennonites, though liberal, not lacking in religion, but not as dedicated as his brother John, Jr. Henry Light (II generation) had 9 children. The youngest son was Joseph (1778-1854), known as “Big Joseph” was the third Light to occupy the “Old Fort,” now containing about 155 acres. III Joseph was married 3 times, first to IV Maria Meyer, (1795-1823) 3 children; secondly to her sister, Sara Meyer (1808-1854) 3 children; thirdly to Catherine Light nee Spickler (1806-1854) 3 children. Big Joseph was not only big in body but also big in ability to manage and acquire as proved by his extensive holdings and as revealed in his will. During his time the iron industry was installed on the land of the homestead. He sold 40 acres to Robert Coleman on the North Side.
Big Joseph willed the homestead to IV Daniel Light, the youngest son of his first wife, Maria Meyer. IV Daniel (1818-1865) was married to Barbara Sholly. Daniel was a farmer and horse dealer. He built the large brick house beside the Old Fort, dealt extensively in mules, selling to Canal Men and to farmers. His frame mule-shed, 100 feet in length, extended along the west side of Fall Alley (now North Jones Street) on the north from the drive to “Old Fort,” from 10th Street to Water Street on the south. The mules were herded, not stalled, in the building. The shed, opened in the Alley, had old time doors sawed horizontally through the middle. The barn of the “Old Fort” was south of the house, the stables facing south. On the west side was a frame wagon shed. The way (path 1 from the house to the stables was on the east side of the barn. First on the east were the cow stables, then the place for the large cider-press, and to the west, the horse stables.
The large orchard was south of the barn (Orchard Avenue derived its name from this orchard) and west of the mule shed, and extended south to the family cemetery, which for a period, became the cemetery of Salem United Brethren Church in the area of 11th and Monument Streets. The bodies have since been exhumed and removed to the Ebenezer Cemetery in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. “And the apples” explained old VI Jacob Light Kimmel. “I wish I could show those apples to the people today; Focht apples, pound apples, spice apples, sheep-nose sweet and sheep-nose red, little red sweet apples, and Rambo apples”! The apple orchard has given way to the Children’s Playground (now the Lebanon Athletic Association or L.A.A. playground at 11th and Guilford Streets) and to houses farther south.
V Joseph Gingrich (1816-1892) of Dauphin County, married to Catherine Sergen (1831-1882) the son of Nancy Anne Meyer (1787-1845) and John Gingrich (1781-1862) Purchased a half interest of the Old Fort from IV Daniel Light in 1851. In 1864 V Joseph Gingrich bought out Daniel’s remaining interest of 23 ½ perches. The Old Fort in 1930 was owned by Joseph’s son David Cameron Gingrich. Thus ends 109 consecutive years of occupancy by the Light family in this house. – excerpts from the Reverend J. G. Francis’ book, “The History of the Light Family.”
This photo shows the fort c. 1910. The photo was found on an old postcard marked "Lebanon County History A.W." - date unknown.