Lemon House and Coal Mine
Historic Structures Report (Part I—Historical Data)
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No one knows why young John Lemon, born 1761, left northern Ireland as a young boy and settled in the new world. Perhaps agents for the ships of the Atlantic trade persuaded his parents that the lad's future lay in America and they bonded him over to a guardian and employer in the new land, promising the boy's labor in exchange for his passage. Perhaps John was a headstrong adventurous youth who looked to the sea, enlisted in the Navy, and jumped ship in Philadelphia. Whether it was desperation or excitement, he found himself as part of a great wave of immigrants from Ulster to North America prior to the Revolution. He settled in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, and in September, 1775, enlisted in the 12th Pennsylvania Regiment and fought with Washington in at least seven battles, according to his own testimony submitted in support of a government pension. He testified to participation at the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Springfield, Brandywine, Germantown, Paoli, and Monmouth. During that procession of conflicts he received seven wounds. At Monmouth he suffered wounds in both head and left leg. It is strange that a Scot of Ulster fought against the King of England when most of his brethren were loyalists. It is doubly surprising that John Lemon survived the war with such a record of injury. Certainly he was an uncommon man for having stayed with the revolutionary forces for the duration of the struggle -- a conflict during which most men served no longer than three months and desertions were frequent. He was discharged in 1783 and probably returned to his home in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, but no more than a decade passed before the spirit of adventure seized him once more. He enlisted in 1793 with "Mad" Anthony Wayne and accompanied him on his expedition against the Indians of the old northwest. Lemon assisted in the construction of Fort Wayne and, it is believed, fought at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. In 1796 he attended Wayne's funeral. [1]

Little is known of John Lemon's son, Neal, except that he, like his father, sought the adventure of war and participated in the War of 1812. Neal Lemon continued to reside in Huntingdon County and his eldest son, Samuel, was born there. Samuel married Jean Moore, the daughter of Robert Moore, an emigrant from Scotland, and Elizabeth Bell of Huntingdon. Soon after his marriage (the date is unknown) Samuel and his wife moved to the "Summit," the general location of the present day, Lemon House. [2]

The Lemons occupied a tract of land warranted to Thomas Bond, December 20, 1784 and surveyed June 21, 1788. [3] This tract subsequently fell into the hands of David and Margaret Williams of Ohio who deeded their interest to Samuel Lemon in 1826. [4] This is the earliest reference to Samuel Lemon's owning and, perhaps, occupying the grounds around the present-day Lemon House. A map of 1817 does exist that shows several structures in the vicinity but without identification of owners or occupiers. [5] The tax records of Cambria County from 1810 to 1826 do not carry a Samuel Lemon. He is listed as neither owner nor resident freeman. The tax assessment record of 1826 is the first that reveals his ownership and this fact squares nicely with the deed of the same year. He owned twenty-eight acres of which he had cleared twenty. He owned one horse, two head of cattle, and operated a tavern. At three dollars per acre his land was valued at $84., his occupation at $75., and remaining property, presumably livestock and structures charged at $60. for a grand total of $219. [6] The site Lemon selected for his establishment was well calculated. It lay along the recently improved route of the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh wagon road at the highest summit level of the road and a good place to stop and rest. It was also located in close proximity to the suspected route of the rail link of the Pennsylvania Canal across the Alleghenies.

Samuel Lemon was determined to reap the rewards of the furor raging among the states in their haste to capture the trade and travel of the frontier. Pennsylvania's entry into the field was the Pennsylvania Canal System from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. It competed with New York's Erie Canal and Maryland's National Road and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. 1826 was too early for Lemon to have known the precise route of the rail portage even though the State of Pennsylvania had committed itself to the Canal system by that time. It was not until March 21, 1831, that the law was passed authorizing the Board of Canal Commissioners to begin construction of the Portage Railroad. Later that year a number of engineering reports determining the precise route were accepted. W. Milnor Roberts surveyed and located plane no. 6 in the spring of 1831. [7] Construction contracts were negotiated in 1831 and 1832. [8]

Although it is clear from the tax records of Cambria County that Samuel Lemon was operating a tavern at what would prove to be a lucrative junction, it would be difficult to argue that he had constructed the present-day stone mansion between 1826 and 1830. At that time, Lemon could not have had enough information about the route of the road bed to have located his stone home and tavern so profitably close to the tract as he did. Indeed, tradition ascribes to the construction of the mansion no date earlier than 1830 which is the most frequently cited year. [9] Since it is not until 1831 that plane no. 6 was surveyed, it does not seem likely that Lemon completed his stone tavern-home before 1832. In fact a large increase in the taxable valuation of his property in 1835 suggests a date of 1834. [10]

An obituary for Samuel Lemon appeared in a Local Newspaper of 1867. It stated that, "on the completion of the Portage Railroad, Mr. Lemon built the large stone house at what was then called the 'head of Plane No. 6.'" [11] There is, therefore, no definite date for the construction of the Lemon House, but it seems to be safe to assign the building of the structure to the early 1830's.

Pictorial evidence certainly assigns the Lemon House to the period of the early portage, 1834-50. Illustration No. 4 is a copy print of a photograph probably taken in the mid-1840's. That date is indicated by what seems to be two sections of a four-section boat introduced in 1842. The Lemon House appears in the left background. The Storm painting (Illustration No. 5) also shows the Lemon House but Storm did not produce his work until the 1890's although he may have based his painting on earlier sketches. It is generally regarded that Storm was well acquainted with the Portage Railroad having been raised in the vicinity.

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Last Updated: 03-Nov-2009