From A Biographical History of Central
Kansas, Vol. II, p. 1381
published by The Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago & New York, 1902
J. D. Bright
The prominent citizen of Rice County, Kansas, whose name is the title of this article, has been identified with the settlement, growth and development of his part of the state of Kansas and with some of its important business interests and the manner in which he has discharged all responsibilities has commended him to his fellow citizens so strongly that they have called to him to the important office of county clerk, which he is filling with a degree of ability and efficiency that promises well for his continuance in it should he desire to retain it.
J D Bright, whose residence is at Little River, one of Rice County’s flourishing little towns, was born in Pendleton county, West Virginia, January 19, 1846, a son of William and Susan (Miller) Bright, who were born and married in Virginia. William Bright was the son of Peter and Elizabeth (Grim) Bright. Peter Bright was born in Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Grim in Virginia. The father of Peter Bright was a soldier in the German army who took “French leave” and came to America, locating in Pennsylvania, where he was a pioneer and where he married and reared a family and lived out his days. Peter Bright passed his childhood and youth in Pennsylvania and when quite a young man went to Virginia. His children were named as follows: John, David, Samuel, Azariah, William (father of J D Bright), Mathew, Elizabeth (Mrs. Beverly), and Mary (Mrs. Kyle).
William Bright was reared to farm work and after his marriage settled on a farm in West Virginia, where he brought up his family. During the period of our Civil war he was in sympathy with the Union cause, but maintained a strict neutrality until early in the struggle he was drafted into the Confederate army. Upon his refusal to serve he was put under guard and was forced to do duty with the militia, from which he soon afterward deserted. In revenge for that action Confederate sympathizers burned his home and destroyed much of his property and soon afterward he cast his lot with the Federals, by whom he was employed to guide troops to the mountains of Virginia and Maryland, and after the close of the war he was the recipient from the state of Maryland of a medal for gallant and meritorious service. He had many times endangered his life for the flag of his country, but he did not consider it safe to return to his old home, and located in Grant county, West Virginia, where he yet lives. During his active life he worked from time to time as a cooper and as a carpenter, but gave most of his time to farming. He was a worthy member of the Lutheran church.
William Bright was born in 1819, and Susan Miller, who became his wife, was born in 1821, and died in February, 1899. Mrs. Bright was a daughter of John and Elizabeth (Eye) Miller, natives of Virginia, and her father was a prominent farmer who saw service at Norfolk, Virginia, in the war of 1812, and died in Virginia in 1864, more than ninety years old. John and Elizabeth (Eye) Miller had children as follows: John H, who died in Virginia; and Susan, who was the mother of the immediate subject of this sketch. His wife, Elizabeth, died comparatively young, and he married Hannah Kiester, who bore him three daughters named Elizabeth, Lavina and Christina. William and Susan (Miller) Bright had two children: Susan E, who married a Mr. Probst, and died in Virginia in 1870, leaving a daughter and a son, named Lovisa and William A, respectively, and J D Bright, of Little River, Kansas.
J D Bright was reared at his birthplace in Virginia, now West Virginia, and remained under the parental roof until he was seventeen years old, when, in 1863, he was made a prisoner by the Confederates and sent to Belle Isle prison, at Richmond, Virginia, where he was offered his liberty if he would enter the Confederate army. After a month he and two others, who were Union sympathizers, were conscripted and forced to join the Confederate army at Orange Court House, Virginia. The next day he managed to get away and make his way back toward his former home and for five days he suffered terribly from cold and hunger. He did not dare return to his home but hid himself in the mountains, where he remained for eight months, sleeping at night between two logs, which were his only protection from storm and cold and wind. In August, 1864, in company with his sister he escaped on horseback to the Union lines, where he volunteered as a private in the Eleventh Regiment, Virginia Volunteer Infantry, in which organization he fought for the stars and stripes until the close of the war, experiencing many hardships and taking part in many hotly contested engagements. In one of the battles in the valley of Virginia he received a bullet wound in the right thigh; at Cedar Creek he received a minie ball in his right breast and later he was again wounded, but not seriously, in the right arm. At the time of Lee’s surrender he was with his command on the state line between Virginia and Maryland. He was mustered out of the service at New Creek, West Virginia, and with an honorable discharge and his pay he returned to his former home, where he remained until 1868.
Beginning in 1868 Mr. Bright spent four years in traveling and prospecting, finally stopping in Illinois, where, in 1874, he married and began farming on rented land. In 1876 he removed to Kansas and filed on a homestead claim in Union township, Rice county, where he improved a good farm and lived until 1882, when he located at Little River, where the year before he had erected a building and started a boarding house, in which he accommodated men engaged in the completion of the railroad there. In 1882 he became one of the first merchants in the town, and traded successfully until he closed out his business to engage in a grain and livestock enterprise, in which he continued until 1887, when he opened a real-estate and loan office. A few months later he bought a general store, which he managed for a year until financial stringency made the business unprofitable, and he then removed his stock of goods to Salem, Nebraska, where he was a general merchant for four years. In 1892 he sold out his business in Salem and returned to Little River, where he was a salesman in a store for five years.
In 1896 Mr. Bright was elected county clerk of Rice county. He was re-elected to that office in 1898 and again in 1900. During the first three years of his incumbency of the office he lived at Lyons, but he then returned to Little River, where he has since made his home. Before his election to this important office, he filled many responsible township and city offices, among them those of township clerk and township treasurer and member of the common council and mayor of Little River. In 1882 he bought seven acres of land adjoining the village of Little River, which is now included within the corporate limits of that town, on which, in 1892, he built a residence which he has since remodeled and enlarged until it is in every way attractive and comfortable. He has good barns and outbuildings and his house is surrounded by fruit and shade trees. He has erected some other buildings in the village and has in many ways been a promoter of the prosperity of the place, and he has bought back his original homestead farm and is regarded as one of the substantial men of the town.
Mr. Bright is a broad-minded man of much public spirit and he has acquitted himself admirably in every public office to which he has been called. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, of the Grand Army of the Republic, of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Daughters of Rebeckah, and of the Knights of Pythias, and of the Knights and Ladies of Security. Like a majority of the pioneers who went to Kansas he arrived there with much to gain and little to lose. He was the owner of a team and a few household goods, but owed three hundred dollars, and at this time many evidences of his worldly success are visible to the most casual observer. His first wife, whom he married in Illinois, was Miss Alice Barstow, a native of Ohio, and a daughter of Andrew Barstow, who removed to Illinois from Ohio, and in 1883, from Illinois to Kansas, locating at Little River, where he farmed for some years until he removed to Hutchinson, where he is a manufacturer of tombstones. Mr. Barstow was twice married. By his first wife he had children named: Alice, John, Martha, who married J Hope; Perry and George. By his second marriage he had a daughter named Lorena. J D and Alice (Barstow) Bright had two children: Isafene M, who married S P Plank, acting deputy clerk of Rice county; and Lloyd S, who is a painter. Mrs. Bright, who was a consistent member of the Wesleyan Methodist church, died in September, 1882. In 1884 Mr. Bright married Hester (Matter) Betts, a childless widow, daughter of John Matter, a native of Indiana, who, after living for a time in Wisconsin, removed to Kansas, where he was a successful farmer until his retirement from active life and who is now a citizen of Lyons. Mr. Matter had children as follows: Hester, Riley, Martha (Mrs. Burnahin), Maggie, John A, and Harvey. Mr. and Mrs. Matter are members of the United Brethern church. By his second wife, who died in 1897, and who is remembered as a model wife and mother, and an active member of the Methodist Episcopal church, Mr. Bright had four children: Bliss B B, Hazel D, Glen W, and Lester A. Mr. Bright’s present wife, who is a member of the Presbyterian church, was Miss Buckles, daughter of Jacob Buckles, and widow of a Mr. Pratt, who died leaving two children, William Pratt, of Salina, Kansas; and Claude Pratt, who is a member of his mother’s household. Jacob Buckles was born in Indiana and was an early settler in Rice county, Kansas, where he improved a good farm and where he lived out his days. Before locating in Rice county, he had lived some years in Saline county, and had improved a farm near Salina. He married Mrs. Schoonover, a widow, who bore him children named James, Lewis and a daughter who is now Mrs. Bright. By her former husband Mrs. Buckles had children named Mary, Susan, Ella, Ida and Harrison Schoonover. Mr. Bright has no issue by his last marriage.