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James Kightley / Kiteley

James Kightley, named after his aunt, Margaret Jeames, was born in or near London, England in 1735. His aunt raised him and educated him for the Church of England ministry. About the year 1760, James frequently attended meetings near London under the ministry of George Whitfield, a co-worker of John Welsey. As a result, he became "much thoughtful" concerning his religious life.

During this time of perplexity, delicate health induced him to go to America. He located in Wilmington, Delaware, and engaged in teaching. Here he became associated with the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. His health having improved, James returned to England in 1767 to bring his sister out to the Americas, but unfortunately she was buried the day before he returned. Shortly after his return to Wilmington, he married Elizabeth Wood, daughter of Dr. Nathan Wood. He joined the Society of Friends and was appointed a preacher. For three years after his return, he taught at a large school in Wilmington. This is believed to be the "Benjamin Ferris School".

In the year 1770, James "declined school teaching and purchased a tract of land in York County, Pa., and moved thither". Here his four children, Isaac, Deborah, Tamar and Gulielma (Julielma) were born. During the American Revolution which broke out in 1774, the Quakers, whose conscience forbade them to contribute to the war, had much of their goods seized from them. James appears to have suffered severely in this respect. After the war, York became the capital of the young Republic for a time. Confusion, greed, and other evils were rampant as an aftermath of the war. James decided to move his family to a more wholesome environment. Having heard of two settlements in the northern part of Pennsylvania, James visited them. On a Sabbath day, he attended a Friends Meeting at Muncy. He felt so much at home, he decided to move his family to that district. Having acquired an unimproved bush farm a little north of Muncy, one mile west of Hughesville on the Lime Ridge Road, he set out with his family on July 5th, 1780, for their new and permanent home.

In July of 1790 James commenced his Journal, in which he gave an account of his life up to that date. The Journal is in the Quaker Archives at Swarthmore College, but sadly the first four pages are missing. James continued to make entries in his journal until 1820. From this journal, we learn that the frail London scholar of thirty years before, was felling trees, grubbing stumps, clearing brush, herding sheep, tending his crops, following his laden horse from the flour mill, and trudging through drifts and mire to teach little children and "raw young men". James was described as "a slender, small man, dignified in mien, wearing a smooth hat with low crown and wide brim". He was the first regular teacher in the Muncy Valley. One winter, James taught school in his own home, where he also frequently held night school. He seems to have been a very devout man, often kneeling to pray while at work in his fields.

Five times during his first ten years at Hughesville, he journeyed to Philadelphia to attend the Friends Quarterly Meeting, sometimes on horseback, but more often on foot. This would be a journey of 180 to 220 miles one way. He apparently crossed the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg, and the roads in those early days were not easily passable. James writes as being exceedingly fatigued on these journeys.

James' wife, Elizabeth, was an unusually gifted woman of great tact, and very clever at repartee. She was in great demand in sickness and trouble and was quite skilled as a nurse (her father was a doctor and she apparently learned from him). Elizabeth was also a designated preacher and frequently visited outlying districts. She rode to Meetings on horseback when she was ninety years old.

In their old age, James and Elizabeth lived with their daughter Deborah, who had married Benjamin Warner, a farmer in the district. James died in 1827, aged ninety-two. Elizabeth died in 1839, aged ninety-six. The are buried side by side in the Friends cemetery at Pennsdale. Natural stones mark their graves. They have weathered greatly, and one stone has split and lost a section. They were set up-right in cement footings in 1994.

The spelling of the surname has gradually changed from "Kightley" on the Marriage Certificate in 1769 to "Kiteley" in the 1800s, with many variances in-between.

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