Posted tagged ‘Harvey E. Light’

Hero Highlight – Harvey E. Light, Co. E, 10th Michigan Cavalry

January 7, 2012

A visit to Major Harvey E. Light’s grave always draws a captive audience when Audrey Johnson and I give our annual Pittsford Cemetery tour in May.  However, this year we managed to elicit gasps from the crowd when it was announced that a descendant of Major Light was in our midst.  Doug Light, Harvey’s great-great grandson, had traveled from his home in Texas to attend the tour.  This was Doug’s first trip to Pittsford, where he had come to pay tribute to the man so many admired.

Harvey E. Light’s story began in 1834, when he was born at Fishkill-on-the-Hudson, the first child of blacksmith James Light and his wife, Maria Devine.  The family moved to Fairport when Harvey was an infant.  At a young age, Harvey left school to help support the family by working on the farm of Jesse Whitney, currently the location of the Fairport Baptist Home.  He also worked on the Webster farm in Pittsford.    Harvey may have met his future wife, Mary Helen Shepard, during this time.  Mary Helen’s father, Sylvester Shepard, was an early settler to Pittsford with his brother, William Shepard.

In 1852, James sold his land in Fairport to Daniel B. DeLand and moved the family, now consisting of nine children, to Greenville, Michigan.  Harvey followed the family to Michigan in the mid-1850s where he worked as a nurseryman.  Eventually, he bought his own farm and expanded his nursery business to include 300 acres of pine trees.  Harvey returned to New York in 1861 to wed Mary Helen Shepard at the First Presbyterian Church in Pittsford.  Together, they traveled to Michigan where Harvey was elected Sheriff of Montcalm County.

Soon after the birth of his first child in July 1863, Harvey was given permission to raise a company to join in the war effort.  He hired a bugler, a snare drummer and a bass drummer to help “drum up” interest in the war enlistment meetings which were held throughout the area.  Company E, 10th Michigan Cavalry went off to war with the newly commissioned Captain Harvey E. Light at its helm.

Major Harvey E. Light, 10th Michigan Cavalry

Much of Harvey’s time with the 10th Michigan Cavalry was spent in the Knoxville, Tennessee, area.  After a time, Harvey was sent back to Michigan to recruit more men.  He must have been quite persuasive, for he managed to enlist his brother Dewitt to join Co. E.  Younger brothers Edward and George served in the 8th Michigan Infantry.  Amazingly, all four Light boys survived the war.  Harvey E. Light was promoted to Major before mustering out on November 11, 1865.

Four more sons and a daughter were born to the Lights in the years following the Civil War.  The family moved to Massachusetts in 1873, where Harvey had purchased a foundry, but returned to Pittsford several years later.  They lived on the Shepard family homestead on East Avenue, which has since been razed.  Harvey was very active in the community, serving throughout the years as an active member of the First Presbyterian church, a census taker, Grange member and Commander of the G.A.R. EJ Tyler Post #288, an organization composed of Civil War veterans.

Harvey continued to live on his farm after the death of his wife in 1902.  It was there that Major Harvey E. Light died on September 17, 1921.  He was buried at Pittsford Cemetery on his 87th birthday.  A newspaper article announcing Major Harvey E. Light’s death stated that “…in his character were to be found, in a large degree, the attributes of the gentlemen of the old school – courtesy, politeness, thoughtfulness for the welfare and successfulness of others, combined with sterling integrity…the example to be found in his life is one that might well be emulated by the young men of this generation.”

This article was originally published in the Fall 2011 issue of the Historic Pittsford newsletter.

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Marching On

January 1, 2012

The year 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War.  In such a momentous year, I was given the opportunity to discuss the lives of our local Civil War soldiers to audiences in schools, churches, historical societies and cemeteries.

The first ever serial, in which I told the tale of A Wicked Affair:  The Lives of John Jay White and Edward F. Clum, ran in July and August on Illuminated History.  The saga lent itself well to the serial format, and it is something I would like to explore again in the future.  Through the other months of this busy year, Illuminated History highlighted the secretive – and controversial – uses of Civil War quilts, spotlighted Civil War soldier James Austen and even heralded a visit to the Perinton Historical Society by President Ulysses S. Grant, as portrayed by historian Steve Trimm of Grant Cottage.

The joy I receive from researching these local heroes is expanded tenfold every time I hear from one of their descendants.  In 2011, I was fortunate to be in contact with no less than four descendants of Major Harvey E. Light – Doug, Crystal, Mary & Glenn.  Each descendant had different information about the Light family to share with me.  On May 21, 2011, I received a wonderful gift.  Major Harvey Light’s great-great grandson, Doug, flew from Texas to attend my Pittsford Cemetery tour.  This was Doug’s first trip to Pittsford, where he had come to pay tribute to the man so many admired.  A visit to Major Light’s grave during our tour always draws a captive audience, since he is the highest-ranking Civil War soldier buried at the cemetery and he lived an extraordinary life.  At the gravesite, I gave my usual talk about Major Light and his family.  However, I managed to elicit gasps from the crowd after the talk when I said that, for the first time ever, we had a descendant of the Major in our midst.  I then introduced Doug to the group.  One of the most touching moments of my career as a historian was watching Doug place the flag at his great-great grandfather’s grave.

My hope for 2012 is to find time to post more articles on Illuminated History, to continue to contribute updates to Illuminated History Facebook, to persevere in my quest to locate more information about these Civil War heroes and to share that research with anyone who will listen.  Thank you for your continued interest in the lives of the men whose sacrifices may have occurred one hundred and fifty years ago, but whose spirits march on.

Pittsford Cemetery Tour – Saturday, May 15, 2010 – 10:00 a.m.

May 11, 2010

Pittsford Cemetery Cannon and Flagpole

Pittsford Cemetery Tour – Saturday, May 15, 2010 – 10:00 a.m.

 

As I prepare for my upcoming tour of Pittsford Cemetery in Pittsford, New York, I am constantly amazed at the incredible lives led by the people who lived in our own neighborhoods.  Today, few Pittsford residents know the names of Major Harvey E. Light or John Buckley Bacon.  Yet these men were instrumental in shaping Pittsford into the village it is today.

On this year’s tour, we will once again discuss Harvey Light and John Bacon.  The Ambrose boys will also feature prominently.  Their rich Civil War history is too interesting to forget.  We will speak of some new soldiers as well.  The stories of Henry L. Mueller and his descendants, who fought in the Spanish-American War and World War I, will be told.  You’ll hear of Monroe County, New York’s “most decorated soldier” of World War II, Franklin Clarke Retchless, Jr.

Our tour begins Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. in the Pittsford Cemetery, which has two entrances on Washington Road, opposite Golf Avenue.  Please meet at the flagpole.  Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for rain.  I look forward to seeing some old friends, and meeting many new friends!

 

Illuminations

January 20, 2010

Thank you to everyone who attended my Illuminated History:  The Civil War Soldiers of Perinton presentation last night at the Fairport Library.  I was overwhelmed by the positive response, and the genuine interest in my Civil War boys and our Civil War nurse, Mary Jewett Telford.

Mary Jewett Telford, courtesy Floris A. Lent

Mary Jewett Telford, courtesy Floris A. Lent

It was a pleasure speaking with so many of you before and after the presentation:  Brian Burkhart, who is diligently tracking the men of the 108th New York Volunteer Infantry;  Herb Swingle, who created quite a stir with his connection of John Wilkes Booth to the Rochester area;  Gary Maybee, who shared with me the story of his own Civil War treasures; and Melissa Talma, who took the time to write me an eloquent email expressing her enthusiasm for my project and for learning more about our Civil War heroes.

The heroes illuminated last night included:

George B. Wiltsie, courtesy Jason Puckett

George B. Wiltsie (1837-1865), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Died of typhoid fever contracted as a result of starvation at Salisbury Prison.  Buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Kingsley Brownell (1845-1924), 21st New York Cavalry.  Seriously wounded outside Martinsburg, WV and forced to ride 9 miles as a POW before being paroled 8 months later.  Buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Major Harvey E. Light (1834-1921), 10th Michigan Cavalry.  Major Harvey survived the war and became a prominent citizen in the Pittsford community.  Buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Mary Jewett Telford (1839-1906), Civil War nurse.  Served at Hospital No. 8 in Nashville, TN.  Nurse, author, suffragette, editor and charter member of the Woman’s Relief Corps.  Buried at South Perinton Cemetery.

Other Civil War soldiers mentioned during the presentation were:

William B. Lyke (1839-1904), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Captured, along with George B. Wiltsie, at Reams Station.  Died in 1904, age 65.

Kingsley Brownell, courtesy Mark A. Lannan

Kingsley Brownell, courtesy Mark A. Lannan

Albert E. Lyke (1841-1933), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Shot through the jaw at Spotsylvania.  Took his first plane ride in 1928, at age 87.  Died at age 92.

Edward H. Lyke (c 1843-1864), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Brother of William B. and Albert E. Lyke.  Mortally wounded at Petersburg.

Henry Root (c 1845-1899), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Drummer boy.  Drowned in 1899 after suffering a seizure and falling into the water while fishing.

Jerome Brownell (1843-1921), 108th New York Volunteer Infantry.  Brother of Kingsley Brownell.  Wounded at Gettysburg.

Jacob Telford (1833-1905), 15th Indiana Infantry.  Husband of Mary Jewett Telford.  Wounded at Murfreesboro, TN.

John H. Thurmon (1843-1919), 2nd Missouri Cavalry.  The only Confederate soldier buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Harvey E. Light, courtesy Doug Light

Harvey E. Light, courtesy Doug Light

Special thanks to descendants Martha Jewett, Evan Marshall, Clay Feeter, Floris A. Lent, Jason Puckett, Mark A. Lannan and Doug Light for supplying me with photos and information about their heroic ancestors.  I very much appreciate the services of Laurie T. Hall who taped the presentation, Charles Profitt as tech guy, Margaret Pilaroscia of the Fairport Library and Alan Keukelaar of the Perinton Historical Society.

There are many more illuminations to come!  Please check my “Cemetery Tours and Presentations” page for information about upcoming events.

Pittsford Cemetery Civil War Tour

May 16, 2009
Sergeant John Buckley Bacon, 4th Wisconsin Cavalry

Sergeant John Buckley Bacon, 4th Wisconsin Cavalry

Thank you to everyone who attended our first Civil War Soldiers of Pittsford tour at Pittsford Cemetery this morning! It was an indescribable feeling for me to be able to illuminate the stories of these soldiers, many of which have never been told before.

We began the tour with LaFayette Congdon, then discussed Major Harvey E. Light and his brother-in-law  Theodore Shepard.  After moving down the hill, the Ambrose boys – Robert, Richard, Frederick and Edward – were next, the highlight being Richard’s stint in the Dry Tortugas.  Heading back up the incline, we stopped by the grave of Matthew P. Ewing, founder of the Vacuum Oil Company which many years later morphed into Exxon-Mobil.  James R. Chamberlin, owner of Chamberlin Rubber Company, was our next soldier, followed by John B. Bacon of the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry.  From JB Bacon, we headed east to Nathan and William Cook to discuss their heartbreaking stories.  George B. Wiltsie was mentioned after the Cook boys.  Charles Tillotson and his death at Antietam came next.  From there, we continued heading east, past the grave of Matthias L. Lord, assistant surgeon of the 140th NY, and on to Kingsley Brownell.  Our tour concluded with John H. Thurmon, the Confederate soldier from Missouri.  Sadly, we were not able to visit the graves of Frank D. Tibbitts or Jeffrey N. Birdsall, as planned, due to the rain.

I really appreciate the fact that so many of you stayed out in the rain to hear the stories of these men’s lives.  Your questions and comments made the experience fun for the entire group.  Your feedback is greatly appreciated!  Please feel free to leave a comment or email me directly at vprofitt@rochester.rr.com.

Check back here in the future for information about upcoming cemetery tours and presentations highlighting more of Pittsford’s hometown heroes!

During the tour we briefly discussed Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was sentenced to imprisonment at Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas for his alleged part in the Lincoln conspiracy.  The name of the movie starring Dennis Weaver is The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd, which was a TV movie from 1980.  The DVD is not available through Blockbuster or through the Monroe County library system, but it is listed for sale on Amazon.com.

Chamberlin Rubber Company – Still Going Strong After 144 Years!

May 7, 2009
Captain James R. Chamberlin

Captain James R. Chamberlin, courtesy of Bill Lanigan, owner of Chamberlin Rubber Company

Last week, I was stunned to discover that the Chamberlin Rubber Company, which was founded by one of my Civil War boys – James R. Chamberlin – was still in existence 144 years later!

Today, I had the opportunity to tour Chamberlin Rubber with the current owner, Bill Lanigan.  Mr. Lanigan graciously allowed me access to photographs, stock certificates, newspaper articles and other bits of fascinating memorabilia about Chamberlin Rubber.  There was a receipt dated April 1, 1867.  Stock certificates signed by James R. Chamberlin himself.  But the ultimate item for me was seeing a photo of James Chamberlin in his Civil War uniform.

James R. Chamberlin enlisted in Co. A of the 3rd New York Cavalry on August 31, 1861.  He was wounded several times throughout his service, and finally mustered out in August of 1864 as a Captain.  James is the second highest ranking officer buried at Pittsford Cemetery, after Major Harvey E. Light.  After the war, James started the Chamberlin Rubber Company.  It was in his family until the 1970s when his great-grandson, James B. Little, sold it to the Lanigan family who continues to run it to this day. 

James R. Chamberlin is featured on my upcoming Civil War Soldiers of Pittsford walking tour of Pittsford Cemetery on May 16th. 

I would like to express my gratitude to Bill Lanigan, owner of Chamberlin Rubber Company, for taking the time to discuss his company’s history with me.  His generosity is very much appreciated.  Check out Chamberlin Rubber Company’s official website listed on my Blogroll.


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