CAPTAIN ALFRED S. LIGHTNER,
retired river mau since 1910, and a resident of Randolph, Illinois, at intermittent periods since 1885, but continuously since his retirement, is a man of wide experiences and one of the most interesting men to be found in his section of the country. For fifty-six years he was in the river service, a part of that time extending back to the ante-bellum days, and covering several years of the old regime in the days of Sam Clemens, Horace Bixby and the high-tide of navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. From “cub” pilot to captain is the experience of Captain Lightner, and he has seen diversity of service from first to last that is replete with thrilling and often amusing incidents.
Alfred S. Lightuer was born at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on March 2:3, 1835. His father, Levi L. Lightner, settled in Cape Girardeau when there were only five white families in the place, and he built the first brick house there. He Was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, in 1806, and he came down the Ohio river on a keel boat as an emigrant to a new country. He engaged in traffic with the Indians in and about the Cape for some time, and then crossed over to Illinois and engaged in milling, cutting lumber out of the dense and virgin forests of Alexander county, in which place he took a prominent part in the affairs of the county during its formative period. With the high water of 1844 he returned to the Missouri side of the river. Coming again to Illinois, he joined Jonathan Freeman and platted the town of Thebes. He was mainly instrumental in removing the county seat from Old Unity to Thebes, and in causing the erection of the old court house which still looks out upon the “Father of Waters' from its lofty site and calls attention to its one time importance when, as a public forum, it gave echo to the voices of some of the most brilliant of Illinois men. Levi Lightner was essentially a leader in political thought and action. In those early days he held many important public offices, and in them all served capably and significantly. He was circuit clerk, county judge and school commissioner. He was first a Whig in his political convictions, but later embraced Democracy, and he was an acquaintance of General Logan, John Simons, John Daugherty, Watt Webb and a Mr. Baker, all attorneys and all leading citizens of the state just previous to and during the rebellion. He was a man of ripe judgment, an able adviser, and a thorough master of legal forms, and his office was a popular rendezvous for persons seeking services along legal and official lines. He was a singularly attractive man, being well informed on the topics of the day and was a brilliant conversationalist. Mr. Lightner was first
married to a lady of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and five children were born of their union. They were Matilda, Louisa, Julia, Elizabeth and John, all deceased. The second wife of Mr. Lightner was Eleanor Shelby a daughter of Dr. Shelby, of Nashville, Tennessee, and a niece of ExGovernor Shelby of that state. The issue of their union were Alfred S., of this review, and Levi L., the latter of whom served in the United States navy during the Civil war and was a pilot and master on the Mississippi river for many years after the close of the war. He passed away at Thebes.
Alfred S. Lightner spent his boyhood chiefly in Thebes, the family home, and there he received an ordinary common school education. In 1854 he went on the river as a “cub” pilot with Pilot John L. Harbinson on the steamer “Bunker Hill” from St. Louis to Cairo and Paducah. He subsequently became captain of the steamer ''George Aibree” in 1856. Later he was pilot of the “Tom Jones,” of the “Atlanta,” the “Philadelphia,” the “James H. Lucas,” the ''Platte Valle,” the ''G. W. Graham,” the “John H. Dickey,” the “First City of Alton,” the “City of Cairo” the “Marble City,” and the “John D. Perry.” He was captain of the “Adam Jacobs,” the “Emma C. Elliott,” the “Buckeye State,” the steamer “Oakland,” the “Hill City,” the “Georgie Lee,” and the “Stacker Lee,” which ended his river service in 1910.
During the. rebellion Captain Lightuer was captain of the fleet steamer “Illinois,” which transported some of General Grant 's men from Bird Point to Fort Henry, his vessel having on board the Twentieth Illinois and the Eighth Missouri Infantry, in the command of Colonels Marsh and Marion L. Smith. After the fall of Fort Henry he took his vessel around to Fort Donelson and later up the river to Pittsburgh Landing. Some months later he was an officer of the steamer Bonicord, carrying troops to Island No. 10 and Fort Pillow, and at other time he was in the transport service of the government. During all these years he never met with an accident or saw a boat in distress, although he passed over the spot within a few hours where the steamer “Sultan,” commanded by Captain Cass. L. Mason, went down with its hundreds of Union soldiers.
During these years Captain Lightner had maintained a home for his his family in St. Louis, but he became anxious to remove his growing family away from the city into the country, and he accordingly exchanged his city property for the General Miller farm near Percy, Illinois, which has represented the family home since 1885. There he makes his home now, after his family have reached years of manhood and womanhood and have passed out into the world to be makers of history on their own accounts in the various walks of life. The Captain is a man of homelike instincts and enjoys to the utmost the pleasure of a happy home after his half century of fresh-water sailing. He has no interest in politics save as a voter of the Democratie ticket on occasions, and he cast his first presidential vote for Millard Fillmore and his last one for W. J. Bryan.
Captain Lightner has been twice married. His first wife was Miss Amanda M. Crouse, whom he married in St. Louis on April 12, 1859. She was a daughter of Samuel Crouse, of Zanesville, Ohio, and she died in St. Louis. She was the mother of A. Shelby, who died unmarried; Lena Leota, the wife of August Heman, a prominent contractor of St. Louis; Mollie B., who married J. C. Heman, also a member of the firm of the Heman Construction Company, of that city; Lillian A., the wife of Charles B. Griffin, who is with the Great Northern Railway Company at Havre, Montana; William L., a railroad employe at Salt
Lake, Utah; and Minnie, of New York, The second wife of Captain Lightner was Mrs. Elizabeth Pollock, the widow of Dr. Pollock, of Chester, Illinois. Her father was an old settler of Kaskaskia. Her children are John Pollock and Ada, the latter of whom is the wife of David B. Cooper. No children have been born of the Captain's second marriage.