Abia Taylor Lightner, Sr.

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Abia Taylor Lightner, Sr.

Birthdate: (65)
Birthplace: Lancaster, PA, United States
Death: February 12, 1867 (65)
Kern, CA, United States
Place of Burial: Keyesville, Kern, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Adam Lightner, Sr. and Mary Pollly Lightner
Husband of Jemima Snelling Lightner
Father of Diana Taylor Barrows; Sarah Ann Lightner; Isaac Abia Lightner; William Lightner; Daniel S. Lightner and 3 others
Brother of Lydia Ann Lightner; Samuel Lightner; Rachel Meeks; Isaac Newton Lightner; Adam Lightner, Jr. and 5 others

Occupation: cabinet maker, grist mill operator, rancher
Managed by: Della Dale Smith-Pistelli
Last Updated:

About Abia Taylor Lightner, Sr.

Abia (or Abiah in some texts) Taylor Lightner was the son of Adam Lightner and wife Mary Trout. He was born September 27, 1801 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He married Jemima Snelling on July 1, 1830 in Lafayette County, Missouri. Jemima (1809-1896) was the daughter of William Snelling and Sarah Scott. They had 8 children (some sources say nine children).

Abiah, Jemima and seven children traveled to California by covered wagon from Missouri in 1849, settling first in Santa Clara County and later moving south. He was successful at gold mining in Keyesville, California, before settling in Walker’s Basin in 1858. His daughter, Lavinia, married Walker Rankin and they started Rankin Ranch, which is still in operation today in Walker's Basin near Caliente, CA. See Lavinia's profile for more details.

Abia died February 12, 1867, in Kern County, California, in a wagon accident. He fell from his wagon and was run over by his team of horses, dying from the injuries sustained. He was buried at Keyesville Cemetery, Keyesville, Kern County. There are two biographical sketches of Abia's life at the end of this overview.

Children of Abiah Taylor Lightner and wife Jemima Snelling:

  • Diana Taylor LIghtner, 1831-1917, born in Missouri, married Joseph Franklin Barrows and had 9 children, died in Oregon.
  • Sarahann Lightner, 1832-1836, born and died in Missouri.
  • Isaac Lightner, 1835-1903, born in Missouri, married Elizabeth Easley, one child, died in California
  • William Lightner, 1837-1876, born in Missouri, married (1) cousin Francis Combs, 7 children. Married (2) Helen Marr Atchison, no known children. William died in California.
  • Daniel Snelling, 1839-?, born in Missouri, married Jane Ann Dunlap, 4 children, believed to have died in South America.
  • Mary Florida Lightner, 1845-1924, born in Missouri, married Daniel Waggoner Walser, 7 children, died in California.
  • Lavenia Estella Lightner, 1847-1948, born in Missouri, married Walter Rankin, 7 children, died in California.
  • Abia Taylor Lightner, Jr., 1850-1936, born and died in California, married (1) Ida B. Packard who died in childbirth, 1 daughter. Married (2) Rectina Morrell, 2 children.


Below is information taken from a book by Wallace Melvin Morgan, History of Kern County, California, with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present. This was found on Ancestry.com: http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/20952894/person/1236434301

ABIA TAYLOR LIGHTNER — Genealogical records indicate that during the eighteenth century three brothers, William A., John and Nathaniel Lightner, crossed the ocean from Holland to America and settled in Pennsylvania, where the last-named devoted the remainder of his life to farming in Lancaster county.

Capt. Abia Taylor Lightner, son of Nathaniel, was born in that county in October of 1801 and at a very early age became a pioneer of Missouri , where at Independence he married Miss Jemima S. Snelling, a native of Louisville , KY , born in September, 1809. The Snelling family is of Welsh lineage.

During 1849 her aged mother and two brothers, Daniel and Benjamin Snelling. started across the plains, but in the course of the tedious journey the mother died at the age of about eighty-nine years. The brothers continued on their way, settled in California and became men of some local prominence, Benjamin being the founder of the village of Snelling, in Merced county.

Having decided to try his fortunes in the west, Captain Lightner outfitted at Independence, MO, and during June of 1849 started as captain of a train that journeyed with ox-teams along the southern route through New Mexico and Arizona. More than six months were spent on the way and often in the lonely road they were in great danger from the Indians, but they traveled well armed, each family taking a large supply of guns and ammunition.

The twenty wagons comprising the train were under his guidance as train master and were drawn by oxen, while milk cows were taken along, not only in order that milk and butter might be obtained for daily use, but also to be used for motive power in case of accident to the oxen or to furnish beef if needed. In every respect the expedition was well equipped, hence they escaped many of the privations that befell other bands of Argonauts.

A brief stop was made near the present site of Pomona in Los Angeles county, and there on New Year's day of 1850, the numerical importance of the expedition was enhanced by the birth of Abia Taylor Lightner, Jr.

Proceeding to the coast and thence northward, the travelers finally separated at Alviso, Santa Clara county, where the captain took up land one and one-half miles from Santa Clara and engaged not only in farming, but also in teaming for James Lick. During the mining excitement on the Kern river he made a trip of investigation and decided to remove to the location.

As early as 1856 he bought on that river near Keyesville a mine later known as the Mammoth and also built a quartz mill, where he not only utilized rock from his own mine, but also engaged in custom work. The family established their home at Keyesville during 1857, but the following year, the milling and mining not proving profitable, he purchased the claim and stock owned by Bob Wilson in Walker' s Basin and removed his wife and children to the new location.

Ever since then the place has been occupied by members of the family and is now owned by one of his daughters, Mrs. Walker Rankin. While hauling a load of hay, February 12, 1867 , from Walker' s Basin to Havilah, then the county seat, he fell from the wagon and was run over by the team and killed. At the time of the accident he was alone and when found life was extinct. The widow remained at the old homestead until her death in 1896, devoted to the doctrines of the Baptist Church and a generous contributor to denominational work, her interest and gifts continued until her demise; her daughters have exhibited the same intense loyalty to Baptist tenets.

There were nine children in the parental family. but two of these died in Missouri prior to the date of the westward migration. Isaac died at Walker' s Basin in 1906, and William passed away in Calaveras County January 3, 1907, while Daniel S. died in Costa Rica, Central America in 1909. ___________________________________________________________________

Kern County Biographies


Submitted by Carolyn Feroben

This file is part of the California Genealogy & History Archives http://calarchives4u.com/

There was not a pioneer of Kern County who lived a more active and exemplary life, and left a posterity a more honorable name than the late Abia T. Lightner, a man of great ambition, strength of character and keen sense of honor. As a pioneer citizen his influence was most salutary in shaping and regulating the social and civil affairs of the community in which he lived, developed a goodly estate and reared a large family.


He was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, October 27, 1801. His father, Adam Lightner, was a merchant of Lancaster, of German ancestry, and a member of the German Lutheran Church. Abia T. Lightner removed to Ohio and located near Cincinnati, where, about one year, he conducted a cabinet-making shop. Later, in 1819, he removed to La Fayette County, Missouri, and located about twelve miles from the present town of Lexington, and continued the cabinet making business.

Here he married, July 1, 1830, Miss Jemima S., daughter of William and Sara (Scott) Snelling. Mrs. Lightner was born September 6, 1809, at Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky. William Snelling, her father, was a planter and a trader, and did an extensive business, purchasing, transporting and selling merchandise between Hopkinsville and New Orleans, navigating the Cumberland, Ohio and Mississippi rivers. His plantation, on which he kept a number of slaves, was one of the best in that region of the county, and there he lived in affluence and reared his family of five sons and five daughters, all of whom lived to maturity. He died in the prime of life, at Natchez. Mississippi, of yellow fever while on one of his return trips from New Orleans.

After this sad event, the mother, three sons and two daughters (Mrs. Lightner being the youngest and the only one single) removed to La Fayette County, Missouri. William Snelling was a native of Virginia, born on the Potomac river, near the city of Washington. At the age of fifteen he became a soldier in the Revolutionary war, and fought all through that conflict. His father, also named William, was a school mate and an intimate friend of George Washington.

After his marriage, Abia Lightner engaged in the grist and saw milling business at Lexington, on a large scale, and accumulated a good property. He suffered a severe loss of this fine property by fire, and his misfortune, together with ill health, turned his thoughts and face toward California. He, accordingly, with his wife and six children, crossed the plains in 1849, entering this State by the southern route. He located at San Jose, Santa Clara County, where he engaged in teaming and dealing extensively in hay and grain, his business extending between San Jose, San Francisco and Sacramento.

Later, he removed to the little town of Santa Clara and leased and conducted a Baptist Seminary hiring the teachers and assuming full control of the institution. Several years afterward he turned the lease over to other parties, closed out all his interest in that county and came to Kern county in 1855. He was one of the first miners at Keysville and gave that camp its name.

In the fall of 1858, after having mined at that point about three years without success, he removed with his family to Walker's Basin and purchased the ranch, with all its improvements, of Robert Wilson. There he lived the life of an industrious, conscientious and hospitable citizen until his death. He left home early one morning with a team and load of hay for Havilah mining camp, and by some mishap was probably thrown from the load and crushed beneath the wheels of this wagon in descending a hill, and evidently died almost instantly. This occurred on the 12th of February, 1867.

Mrs. Lightner survives him and graces the old home (now in possession of William Lightner) as only an aged, faithful and loving mother ripe with the experience of a useful and eventful life, can honor the household of a son.


Of their children seven are living, namely: Diana, born April 3, 1831, is the widow of Frank Barrows, and lives with her family at Bandon, Oregon; Isaac, born July 6, 1835, is a mechanic, and resides at Napa, California; William, born September 11, 1837, owns and lives on the homestead; Daniel S., born July 17,1839, is engaged in the milling business at Tehachapi, this county; Mary F., born July 6, 1845, is the wife of D. W. Walker, of Walker's Basin; Lavinia, now Mrs. Walker Rankin, also of Walker's Basin, was born October 17, 1847; and Abia T., of Bakersfield, this county, was born January 1, 1850, is Assessor of the county and is a leading business man.

Memorial and Biographical History of the counties of Fresno, Tulare and Kern, California, Chicago, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1892 - page 385-387

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Abia Taylor Lightner, Sr.'s Timeline

October 22, 1801
Lancaster, PA, United States
April 3, 1831
Age 29
Lexington, Lafayette, Missouri, United States
Age 30
July 6, 1835
Age 33
Lexington, Lafayette, Missouri, United States
September 11, 1837
Age 35
Lexington, Lafayette, Missouri, United States
July 17, 1839
Age 37
Lafayette, Missouri, United States
July 6, 1845
Age 43
Lafayette, MO, United States
October 17, 1847
Age 45
Clay, MO, United States
January 1, 1850
Age 48
Pomona, Los Angeles, California, United States