05: Dr. Thomas Montgomery Lightfoot

Dr.Thomas Montgomery Lightfoot (1865 – 1959 and Mrs. Lightfoot

Dr. Lightfoot was a teacher and naturalist who was said to hold doctorates in six fields of the natural sciences.[25] He completed both his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees at Swarthmore College, and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1893. In 1891 and 1892 he was a student assistant in geology and mineralogy at the University of Pennsylvania, and from 1892-1894 an instructor at Boys’ High School in Reading, Penn­sylvania. In 1894 he went to Central High School of Philadelphia as a physics instructor, where in 1900 he was promoted to assistant professor of physical science. He came to Nelson in 1894 to live at Schoolhouse Farm. [Read another article on this website this property].

Thomas Montgomery Lightfoot came from a family many of whose members were extremely knowledgeable about their environment and who, as Quakers, cared deeply about preserving their heritage. They were surveyors, naturalists, and historians who played an important role in mapping and identifying the flora and fauna of the Pennsylvania territory.

Examples of Dr. Lightfoot’s interests are numerous and varied. Between 1887 and 1895, Dr. Lightfoot lectured on the topic of economic geology at a winter lecture series sponsored by the Academy of Natural Sciences Committee on Instructions and Lectures, in connection with the Ludwick Institute (Christopher Ludwick Foundation). This institute was founded in 1799 “for the schooling and education gratis, of poor children of all denominations, in the city and the liberties of Philadelphia, without exception to the country, extraction, or religious principles of their parents or friends.”[26] The Academy still retains his “Correspondence pertaining to the History of Ornithology” in its historical collection. “He was known internationally for his work in plant taxonomy and was a civil engineer and cartographer, who made the first official map of Pennsylvania.”[27] In 1888 Dr. Lightfoot’s A Treatise on our Local Geology was published by the Natural Sciences Library, and in 1948 Dr. Lightfoot’s extensive genealogical research on the Quaker families who settled in Maiden Creek, Pennsylvania, was donated to the Swarthmore Library and is held in a separate collection titled “Genealogical Charts of Descendants of Maiden Creek Meeting.”[28]

Dr. Lightfoot was also an active, and highly regarded, participant in the life of Nelson. In 1917 he and Mrs. Lightfoot served on the committee to plan the celebration of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the first settlement of Nelson in 1767. In A History of Nelson, New Hampshire, Parke Struthers states that “Dr. Thomas met his fellow Nelsonians on an equal footing, a trait in human relations reserved for only the Great.”[29]

Pamela White, in addition to being the Milbanks’ granddaughter, is also the great-granddaughter of Thomas Montgomery Lightfoot. She lives in Nelson with her husband, Warren Hammack, and both are active in town affairs, with Warren presently serving as a selectman. Before moving to Nelson permanently, they operated a theatre in Kentucky which maintained an active production schedule for their regional audiences. Warren both directs and acts in productions for the Pe­terborough Players. In 2007 their anthology, World Premieres from Horse Cave Theatre: Plays by Kentucky Writers, was published by Motes Books. It contains fourteen plays about Kentucky or written by a Kentucky author or both, all of which had their world premieres at Horse Cave Theatre.

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