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Families of Lafayette County


submitted by Bill Kemp

The name BRIGHT is both English and German coming from Old German "beorht" meaning bright or brilliant. According to The 1964 Report on Surnames in the Social Security Account Number File, it is the 708th most common name of the 2,000 listed. 37,405 persons have this name.

Our BRIGHT family, ca 1808, lived in Alston, Cumberland County, England. Counties in England were reorganized in 1974 and Cumberland County became part of the new County of Cumbria. Cumberland County was in northwest England on the border with Scotland. It is part of the English Lake district. It is heavily wooded with farming, mining and fishing making up the majority of industries. Alston is on the eastern edge of the County and is noted for its lead and silver mines, some of which have been worked since the 12th century.

Some of the notable historical events in the County were:

a) About 122-126 The Roman Emperor Hadrian constructed the great wall complex between Wallsend in Northumber-land and Bowness-on-Solway, a distance of 73.5 miles and defended the west coast by a string of strong forts and signal towers. The Roman occupation was chiefly military with Luguvalium (Carlisle) as the main civil settlement.

b) The King of Scots controlled the area in 1068, at the time of the Battle of Hastings, and it formed no part of William the Congueror's kingdom.

c) The County of Cumberland came into existence about 1177. Conflict with Scotland was a regular feature of life.

d) Edward I, "the hammer of the Scots" died at Burgh-by-Sands, near Carlisle, in 1307 while preparing an assault on Scotland.

e) During the Wars of the Roses, the prevailing sympathy in Cumberland was with the Lancaster House.

f) James V, King of Scotland and father of Mary, Queen of Scots, died after hearing of the defeat at Solway Moss in 1542.

g) Mary, Queen of Scots, began her long journey to her execution in Fotheringay in 1587 from Carlisle in 1568.

Cumberland County began to be known to England as a whole about 1745 when roads were built and trade improved. It became "fashionable" to visit the Lake District..

Alston is a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district in Cumberland. The parish is also designated Alston Moor and is in the Diocese of Durham. The sub-district and the district of Alston are co-extensive with the parish. The parish also in-cludes the chapelries of Garrigill and Nenthead. In 1842 Al-ston Parish was 40,000 acres and contained 4604 inhabitants. It is situated on the declivity of a steep hill, in a narrow valley near the confluence of the rivers Nent and South Tyne over which there is a neat stone bridge. It is 29 miles ESE from Carlisle in an area of high moorish uplands. Its houses are irregular built chiefly of stone with slate roofs. The area has extensive lead mines with abundant silver and copper found in the lead ore. The Roman road called the
Maiden-way crosses the western part of the parish and a little below the bridge over the Tyne river are the foundations of an ancient fortress surrounded by a moat.

Nenthead is a village and a chapelry in the Alston Parish, Cumberland County. It lies 4 miles SE of Alston and had a population of 500 people in 1842. Its name comes from lying near the source of the Nent River. At the time, most people were employed in the lead mines owned by the London Lead Company. Both Alston and Nenthead had places of worship for the Primitive Methodists. Based on Church records the BRIGHTs were members of the Primitive Methodist church which represented a non-conformist church in relationship to the Church of England. Primitive Methodists (along with Weslyan and United) comprised one of the three branches of Methodism which combined in 1932.

There are Parish records of Brights in Alston as early as 1773. The earliest record found that tie the BRIGHTs of Alston with the BRIGHTs of Lafayette County, Wisconsin is the christening record of Leonard BRIGHT, father of Matthew Richardson BRIGHT, christened SEPTEMBER of 1809 in Alston. He was probably born 3 July 1809.

Leonard married Catherine RICHARDSON 17 January 1828 in Alston. It was witnessed by Mary BRIGHT and John Pattinson. Family sources say Catherine was from the Grampian Area of Scotland but no records have been found to confirm this. Catherine's obituary states she was born in Cumberland County, England. There were RICHARDSONs living in the Nenthead area, however, and it seems more likely that Catherine's parents lived here at the time of the marriage but may have emigrated Scotland.

Leonard and Catherine must have moved to Nenthead shortly after the marriage because the Church records show three children being born there: Elizabeth, (a male), and Sarah. The male child may have been named Henry William. The same source states that a family story tells of one child dying on the boat trip to America and being buried at sea. They probably immigrated to America about 1832. In 1840 they were in W. Brunswick Township, Schuyl-kill County, Pennsylvania. According to the 1860 Federal Census three children were born in Pennsylvania; Thomas Henry, Leonard and Emanuel. An older child John is not accounted for in the Census
but is believed to have been born in America in 1834. Leonard BRIGHT may have had a brother who also immigrated to America. Federal Census Indices of 1830 and 1840 list several William BRIGHTs living in Pennsylvania. By 1842 both families had moved to Shullsburg, Lafayette County, Wisconsin. They were probably attracted by the lead mines and/or land avail-ability.   One family story says Leonard worked as a liveryman in Shullsburg. Leonard died ca 1848 from a broken collarbone after inflammation set in. He had been helping John fix a broken dump truck. The family story says he weighed about 210 pounds. The Bright gravestone in Evergreen Cemetery lists him as being buried there. He left Catherine to care for their four small children still at home. The 1860 Census also showed that Sarah had moved home with two small children.
She must have left or been abandoned by her husband John Hodges. She was divorced from him in 1856 and remarried William Brown the same year. Court records indicate John Griffin was appointed guardian for John BRIGHT on 27 April 1850 just before his 16th birthday. There is no reason stated why a guardian was appointed but evidently it was not unusual if a mother was unable to provide for the child. There is also a family story which says that John died in Long Range Colorado after driving a four horse team there. This is plausible since there were mines in Colorado. Catherine must have worked as a mid wife since she is listed as one on the very first recorded birth in Lafayette County - 30 July 1860.

The Federal Census shows that a niece - Fannie RICHARDSON, age 26 and born in Wisconsin, was living with the BRIGHTs in 1880. Catherine BRIGHT died Sunday, 26 Feb 1882, of congestion of the lungs. in Shullsburg and is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery there. She was about 74 years of age. It is believed she was born 10 Jan 1809. She had been active in forming the Primitive Methodist Episcopal Church in Shullsburg in 1845. Her obituary says she was a good Christian, always ready and willing to give a helping hand or a cheering word to those in distress. She left four sons and one daughter.

Matthew Richardson BRIGHT was born 3 July 1846. He was the last of eleven children and may have been a twin. He grew up in Shullsburg. During the Civil War he enlisted in Company G of the 46th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment on 7 Feb 1865. He may have run away from home to enlist. This regiment was organized late in the War and did not leave Wisconsin until 5 March 1865, They went to Athens, Alabama and engaged in guarding the Nashville and Decatur Railroad. They were mustered out on 27 September 1865 in Nashville arriving back in Wisconsin 2 October 1865. His service record shows he enlisted at age 18. He had blue eyes, sandy hair and was 5'6" tall with the occupation of farmer.

The returned to Shullsburg where he married Bridget Adelia MORRISSEY on 23 November 1870.
Bridget had been born in County Waterford, Ireland. Leonard BRIGHT, his brother, was best man and Bridget CUMMINGS was Maid of Honor. The MORRISSEYs owned property near the BRIGHTs. Their first child Mary Ellen (Nellie) was born in Shullsburg, 24 July 1871. They moved to Marquette, Michigan for about six months, then to Champion, Michigan before settling in Michigamme, Marquette County, about 1873.

Three children were born in Michigamme:

Catherine Marie (Kate) b. 10 April 1874
Anna Adelia (Dee) b.3 November 1877
Matthew Richardson (Matt) b. 22 October 1879

The father Matthew worked awhile as a carpenter then as a miner. He died 20 March 1881, of double pneumonia contacted while working in the Dalliba Mine. Bridget BRIGHT, according to affidavits in his pension file, felt he had been considerably weakened due to exposure and hardship during the war. He was 33 years of age when he died, a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and affiliated with the Episcopal Church. He is buried in Michigamme.

There is not much known about Matthew's other brothers and sisters. Thomas, Leonard and Willaim remained in the Shullsburg area but the others apparently left. Thomas Henry BRIGHT was 5'10" tall with brown hair, blue eyes and a blonde complexion. He also fought in the Civil War enlisting in April 1861 in Company I of the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry Regiment. This regiment was more familiarly called the Shullsburg Light Guard and was the first company to volunteer from Lafayette County. It had originally enlisted for the First Regiment but this was filled so it was mustered into the Third Regiment. This regiment saw considerable action in the war fighting in the Shenandoah Valley, guarding trains during 2nd Bull Run and fighting in the Battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Thomas was promoted to Corporal 14 Sept 1861 and then to 1st Sergeant on 13 May 1863. He was detached for recruiting duty from 4 Dec 1863 - Feb 1864 and was mustered out in Georgia 1 July 1864. The war had left him an invalid. Pension records show he suffered from chronic diarrhea and indigestion which he contacted in Georgia in 1863. He was unable to do manual labor and his health problems grew progressively worse. He became prematurely old and one affidavit stated he had some addiction to drink. When he enlisted he listed his occupation as a miner. The 1880 Federal Census lists his occupation as deputy sheriff and one pension record indicated he may have served in the State Legislature. At the time of his
death on 31 December 1893 he was Mayor of Shullsburg and the Street Commissioner. He never married. His brothers William and Leonard survived him. He is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery along with his mother and several other family members including, it is believed, members of William and Sarah BRIGHT's family.

Leonard BRIGHT was born 8 Nov 1838 in Pennsylvania. The 1860 Census lists his occupation as Blacksmith. Family accounts say he was deferred from the draft due to a defect in his right eye and general ill health. According to his obituary (12 Dec 1901) he was married three times. His first wife was named Jane (possibly RAW) and she was 20 in the 1860 Census. His second wife's name is not known but they may have had some children (Charles, Julia and Kittie). Charles and Julia are listed in the 1870 Census and Charles and Kittie moved to O'Neil, Holt County, Nebraska in 1900. Leonard's third wife was Elizabeth Percival(b. 30 Jan 1854; d. 5 Aug 1899). They were married 3 Aug 1873, and had four children according to correspondence with Alice K.

William BRIGHT was born 24 Sept 1842 in Shullsburg. He was the eighth of eleven children. He married Mary BURGESS on 29 May 1883 and they had four children.



BRIGHTs buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Shullsburg, Wisconsin:

BRIGHT - Grandmother Catherine 1809-1882
Grandfather Leonard 1809-1848

T. H. BRIGHT 1st SGT, Co. I, 3 Wis Inf
Willie BRIGHT 1887-1889
Robert BRIGHT Born 1845

BRIGHT - William Bright 1842-1932
Mary, his wife 1863-1925

BRIGHT - Leonard

Elizabeth (Uncertain as to where tombstones are)


From Affidavits in Matthew R. BRIGHT's Pension file:

Affidavit of P. Girard, Pastor of Sacred Heart:...that Mary Catherine, daughter of Mathew Bright and Bridget Delia Morrissey, was baptized 19 April 1876, at Sacred Heart Parish in Champion, sponsors were Willaim Flermard and Anna Mansfield. (A later Baptismal Certificate shows the correct name to be Catherine Mary).

Affidavit of Mary T. Canning: ...that Matthew Bright, son of Mathew and Delia was baptized 2 Nov 1879, at Sacred Heart Parish in Champion, sponsors were Mary T. Canning and Thomas Morrissey.



1832 - 1888 m (1) John Hodges (Odgers)   (2) William Brown

Daughter of Leonard BRIGHT and Catherine RICHARDSON

Sarah was born in Nenthead, Cumberland County, England on 12 March 1832.. She was the second of children of Leonard and Catherine BRIGHT. She immigrated with her parents in about 1836 settleing in Pennsylvania and then moving to Shullsburg, Lafayette County, Wisconsin in about 1842.

She married John Hodges or Odgers on 19 Feb1848. They lived together only about two years before he deserted her and left for California with no intentions of returning. She was left with two small children and survived with the help of relatives. She was living with her mother in 1850. She obtained a divorce in 1856 and married William BROWN, 7 Dec 1856, in Shullsburg.


State of Wisconsin Circuit Court October Term AD 1856

In Equity

Sarah Hodges


John Hodges Divorce

I, John K. Williams, Special Court Comissioner, duly appointed and authorized by an order entered herein to take the testimony herein on the part of said Complainant do hereby report to the Honorable Court that on the 23rd day of October AD 1856 I caused notice to be given toCatherine Bright and Mary Ann Newton to appear as witnesses in said cause before me and that on the said day the said Catherine Bright and Mary Ann Newton did appear before me and that I caused their testimony to be reduced to writing to be subscribed by .......... and being both dulysworn by me did depose and say as follows;

Catherine Bright did depose and say that she is acquainted with the complainant and defendant in the above entitled cause, that Sarah Hodges, the said complainant is her daughter - that said Sarah Hodges was married to said John Hodges on the 19 of February 1847 in the Town of Shullsburg, Lafayette County, Wisconsin by Thomas J______ , a Justice of the Peace of said county - That they cohabitated as husband and wife about two years - that the complainant has two children by said marriage - Mary Jane Hodges aged about eight years and Elizabeth Ann Hodges aged about seven years - that the complainant has resided in Shullsburg, Lafayette
County and State of Wisconsin, the last year. That said defendant John Hodges left for the State of California six years ago last March and has not returned. That said defendant left complainant without any means of support when he .....away from home - that for the last five years the said Defendant has utterly neglected and refused to provide anything for the support and maintenance for the said Complainant or family. That the said Complainant has supported herself and family by her own labor and assistance of relatives. That from letters from California and from persons who had seen the Defendant in California, she had frequently heard that he said he never intended to return to Wisconsin or to live with the Complainant again. That for the last five years the Defendant has wholly neglected , abandoned and deserted said Complainant. That the Defendant was very (.........) .before leaving for California and was frequently intoxicated and the Defendant bears the reputation from persons who have seen him in California of being very intemperate now.  That she believes Defendant is still in California. That the Complainant always after said marriage and until the Defendant left her behaved toward him like an affectionate and dutiful wife. further  says not

/s/ Catherine Bright
subscribed before me this 23rd Day of October, 1856.

Deposition of Mary Ann Newton

Mary Ann Newton did depose and say that she is acquainted with the Complainant and Defendant in the above stated cause. That she knew the parties to cohabitate together as husband and wife for about two years. That the said Defendant left the Complainant and went to California as she is informed and believes about six years ago last March and has not yet returned. That she knows that the said Complainant has for the last five years supported herself & family by her own labor and by the assistance of her mother and friends without receiving any aid or assistance from her said husband as she believes. That she has been informed by persons who have seen the said Defendant in California that he the said Defendant never intended to return to this State. That
Deponent has heard the relatives of said Defendant state the he never intended to live with said Complainant again and that he said Defendant had written to her to that effect. That said Complainant lived in said County for the last thirteen years and lives here now and further says not.

Subscribed before me this 25th day of October.


Letter from Catherine (Kitty) Richardson BRIGHT
Dated: between 1873 and 1882 Written to her son and daughter in law:

Matthew Richardson BRIGHT and Bridget Adelia MORRISSEY who were living in Michigamme, Michigan at the time.


Dear son and daughter received your letter and  Ì Was glad to hear that you are All well but sorry to hear that Your mother was sick but hope she is better. well i am As  well as i can expect Thomas Is about the same very slim  William henry is well Down Nothing this five weeks thear Is  no  work but prospectin. And thea cannot make much at That William Brown and family Is all well his sister hannah varty Is dead buried to day sunday Leonard is not very well for over a weak  his family is all well he got could but he is better Thomas Raw  and family is well Sarah Bright and family is well. Samson family  is all well. Robert mireid Billy [werams?} sister Leonard Walton  and family is Well Mary [Osburn?] and family Is well I would like to see you all but thear no work hear Now to make a leven I do not know What folks will do if times do not change you wanted  to know if kate was with me She went home last June I could Not a fore to keep a giral Monday 15 Most all the young men  left hear Som to california and som to colorado And som  to iowa to the railrod William henry will get ____today if  he can geat som washing Well I would like to have you All hear if thear was any chance To make a leven but if times geat better I let you know I hope thea will John Higney family is well thear is a house put in whear the barn stood and thea liv thear clos by I must close at thime By sen our love to all kiss the dear little children for me god bless you all your mother good by to you  all at this time Rit soon, hard for to wright

CORRECTED COPY (Interpreted by Bill Kemp).

Dear son and daughter I received your letter and was glad  to hear that you are all well but sorry to hear that your mother  was sick but I hope she is better. Well I am as well as I can  expect. Thomas is about the same, very slim. William Henry is well. Done nothing these five weeks. There is no work but prospecting and they cannot make much at that. William Brown  and family is all well. His sister Hannah varty(?) is dead  buried today, Sunday. [ to date of letter] Leonard is not  very well for over 9 week his family is all well he got cold but he is better. Thomas Raw and family is well. Sarah Bright and  family is well. Samson family is all well. Robert married Billy Werams(?} sister. Leonard Walton and family is well.   Mary Osburn(?) and family is well. I
would like to see you  all but there is no work here now to make a living. I do  not know what folks will do if times do not change.  You wanted to know if Kate was with me, she went home last June.  I could not afford to keep a girl. Monday 15 Most  all the young men have left here.   Some to California and some to Colorado and some to Iowa to the railroad. William Henry will get [___?___]today if he can get some washing.  Well,I would like to have you all here if there was any chance to  make a living but if times get better I will let you know. I hope they will. John Higney family is well. There is a house put in where the barn stood and they live there
close by. So I  must close at this time. Bye, sending our love to all Kiss the dear little children  for me God bless you all, your mother  good by to you all at this time Write soon, hard for me to write


Letter from Catherine Richardson BRIGHT to her son and daughter in law

Mathew and Bridget Adelia(MORRISSEY)BRIGHTin Michigamme, Michigan (date of letter 1878 was confirmed because Susan Morgan mentioned in letter was married March 4 1878)

Original Letter  (Sorry, I lost part of the original letter when I translated the e-mail that was sent to me.)

Dear son and daughter

i received Your welcome letter and was  glad to hear that you was well   All in all the family well   I am well as I can expect I love all My work but the boys help me all thea can well Thomas is about the same he is never well All vase has to take sum madison William henry is well digin with William swinbank and john and our Leonard but thea dow not make much menral is  sixteen dolers

CORRECTED COPY (Interpreted by Bill Kemp).

Shullsburg March the 4 (1878)  

Dear son and daughter, I received your welcome letter and was glad to hear you were well.  All in all the family is well.   I am as well as can be expected.  I love all my work but the boys  help me all they can. Well Thomas is at about the same. He is never well. Always has to take some medicine. William Henry is well digging with William Swinbank and John and our Leonard but they do not make much.  Mineral is sixteen dollars __ thousand  and dry bone ten dollars a ton.  Not one half what it was last summer but it is better than nothing for there no ____ no____ about here.  William Henry got some grulin last fall and got in his wood. We never had so much wood on hand.  If we had to bought it, I do not know how we would got is for the times is so bad but they are trying hard to get railroad through here. If it comes it will make work for the men.  If it dont come men will have to start somewhere. Leonard and family is well. He says he wrote to  you and you never answered it.  William Brown and family is all well. Little  Matthew was sick last week but he is better. They say Joseph  and William is young men digging and going in for raising stock They are hard working boys.  Thomas Raw youngest child died.  It was four months old. It was sick two weeks. Old Miss Raw is dead.  Last I heard from Emanuels girl she was well They are keeping a bording house in Dubuque  (?). Well I had letter from John.  He said for me to write to Silas Shipe and he would let me know where he as   I wrote to answer. I will
try again. Mary
Osburn looks well. She does her own work this long time.  Leonard Walton wife had another son.  Margaret Bright is married and had little girl.   Robert Sampson is married and gone to Nebraska. Susan Morgan married this morning logging Steve Morgan married  four months ___well.  I had no letter from Libby.  Sarah Bright  family is all well.  PoleÏsons sold out and gone to farming 2 mile and a half from the point. Now when you wrote you did not say  what Mathew was doing or what the wages is there. I have feared about you for I am sure  it kee me riese through the day and night I cannot see to write.  I tried often but could not see so the boys is both away to so I been all day writing these few lines you must 2 or three for my one.  John Higned family is well  we are I must close this by sending my love to you all   father and mother and family and kiss the three children for me.  God bless them all   so by at this time.

Your loving  Catherine Bright
God bless you all.

Misc. info
transcribed by Dori Leekley
Leonard Elizabath Percival / Perciball Aug 3, 1873 Leonard Catharine ? . .
William Mary Burgess May 29, 1884 Lanyard Catharine ? . .
William Sarah ? . . . . .
Annie Katherine . . . . April 26, 1900 .
Berniece Mildred . . . . Dec 13, 1911 .
Genevia Lucinda . . . . Feb 4, 1909 .
Laura Frank L. Rowe Nov 20, 1912 William Mary Burgess May 1, 1890 .
Carrie John Roper, Jr. Mar 18, 1909 William Mary Burgess . .
Hannah Jonathan Hodgson June 18, 1902 Leonard Elizabath Percival . .
Elizabeth Ben Fields . . . . .
Margaret Jackson C. Lee Oct 21, 1877 William Sarah ? . .
Mary William Brown . . . . .
Eliza Francis Johns Dec 19, 1855 . . . .
Emma Jane George B. Bennett Feb 28, 1870 Jacob Amanda Wells . .
Mary Ann Ralph Hodgson Sept 18, 1870 William Sarah ? . .
Sarah John Rogers Feb 21, 1848 . . . .
Duane Everett Ellen Mary Bisegger . . . . .
Jacob Amanda Wells . . . . .
. . . . . . .
. . . . . . .
. . . . . . .

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