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Abbie Bright papers

Creator: Bright, Abbie, 1848-1926

Date: 1861-1994 (bulk 1861-1903)

Level of Description: Coll./Record Group

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: Manuscripts Collection 293

Unit ID: 40293

Biographical sketch: Teacher, Kansas pioneer, wife. Of Danville, Pa.; Sedgwick County, Kan.; Gladbrook, Iowa. Married William M. Achenback in 1873.

Abstract: Letters and diaries pertaining to Abbie Bright's moves to Kansas & Iowa and real estate transactions in Kansas. She lived in Sedgwick County near Clearwater. Includes letters primarily between Abbie and Philip Bright concerning Philip's Civil War activities; migration to Kansas, Wyoming & Arizona; and his murder in Arizona.

Space Required/Quantity: 0.42 cubic feet

Title (Main title): Abbie Bright papers

Titles (Other):

  • Papers
  • Abbie Bright collection


Biog. Sketch (Full):

Abbie Bright was born to Peter and Mary (Evans) Bright on a farm near Danville, Pennsylvania, on December 17, 1848. The Bright farm was a prosperous one and was well known in the community for the size and variety of its fruit orchards.

Abbie had three brothers; Dennis, Hiram and Philip, all of whom enlisted in the army when the Civil War broke out. Dennis and Philip were both wounded, and Hiram contracted a disease which allowed for his early discharge. Abbie had three sisters, Rebecca, Peninah, and Mary, all of who aided the war effort, along with their mother, in the form of hospital work.

At the age of fifteen, Abbie attended school at the Danville Institute, not far from her home. Following a brief stint at teaching, she later attended Keystone State Normal School in 1867 (now Kutztown University), which had just opened its doors the previous year. She spent one year at Keystone Normal. Then she went back to teaching at “the Blue's School.” Two years later, she back to Keystone Normal. It was while there for the second time that she decided to journey west.

For a young woman to travel extensively on her own was a radical undertaking in the nineteenth century. Distant travel alone was not unusual for men at the time, but for women it was virtually unheard of. In order to cope with this situation, Philip recommended to her to “behave as a lady and you will be treated as one.”

Abbie's brother Hiram had already established a home in Indiana, and Abbie arrived there in early September of 1870. It was at this point that her diary began.

At about the same time that Philip moved to Kansas and had taken up a claim near present-day Clearwater in Sedgwick County. Not long after visiting Hiram, Abbie continued on to see Philip in south central Kansas. While there, she acquired 160 acres as an investment.

Subsequent biographical data is not known in great detail. Letters concerning Philip's death follow in the chronological listing of correspondence. We do know that Abbie married William M. Achenback in 1873 and settled in Gladbrook, Iowa, with her husband.

Philip Bright did not settle permanently in Kansas. He did accumulate a substantial amount of money, and moved on to Texas and then to Arizona by 1873. Unfortunately for him, he indiscreetly let too many people know about the money he was carrying with him, he was murdered in his sleep, and his money was stolen.

Scope and Content

Scope and content:

This collection contains a fairly wide range of manuscript material, including several letters to and from a variety of people, as well as a variety of types of material. The two principal individuals featured in this collection are Abbie Bright and her brother, Philip Bright. The two most significant aspects of this collection are the diaries of these two individuals and a series of letters which are, for the most part, to and from these two people concerning their families and the Civil War.

Philip and his brothers, Dennis and Hiram Bright all served in the Civil War, and many of the letters contained herein concern their wartime activities. There are also letters to and from other individuals who were involved in the war. These writings make a significant contribution to Civil War research.

Other letters pertain to Philip and Abbie Bright's westward migration. Philip moved to Wyoming, Kansas, Texas, and Arizona. Unfortunately for Philip Bright, his life came to a tragic end in 1873 when he was murdered and the money he carried with him stolen. The August 7, 1873, letter, written by Dennis Bright, concerns the investigation of his murder and burial.

Some of the letters in the Correspondence Series include typed transcriptions. These are marked with asterisks in the container list. There are two typed letters for which the original letters are not included in this manuscript collection. These are listed in bold type in the container list. The researcher is provided with a working copy of these letters. The originals will remain in storage.

The folder containing Abbie's diary actually holds what appear to be two diaries. One is more of an autobiography which takes up the form of a diary part way through. At one point, the author reveals that she wrote that volume partly from the memory of her childhood and teenage years and subsequently with the aid of a diary. The other item in the folder is a collection of loose leaf pages which may have been the original diary from which the other work was compiled. “Roughing It On Her Kansas Claim: The Diary of Abbie Bright, 1870 - 1871,” published in the autumn and winter 1971 issues of The Kansas Historical Quarterly, also appears in the microfilm copy of this collection, roll MF 691.06, available through interlibrary loan. A digitized copy of the diary text is on the Kansas State Historical Society’s web site at http://www.kshs.org/publicat/khq/1971/71_3_snell.htm.

The collection begins with the correspondence (arranged chronologically); followed by a small series of other, more miscellaneous, items (also arranged chronologically); then Abbie's and Philip's diaries (Philip's diary is quite small and contains little information; moreover, some of the pages are blurred and illegible); then a much later series relating to the publication of the Abbie Bright diary in The Kansas Historical Quarterly in autumn and winter issues of 1971.

The microfilm, duplicate rolls MF 691.06 and MF 4648, contains only the Abbie Bright diaries and not the other papers of the collection.

Newsbank, Inc./Readex started a project in 1995 to microfilm a large collection of diaries of American women. The Kansas State Historical Society participated in that part of the project known as “American Women's Diaries: Segment 3, Western Women.” Abbie Bright’s diary is one of the diaries from the manuscript collections of the Kansas State Historical Society which was included in this project. Both the original Kansas State Historical Society microfilm, MF 691.06, and the “American Women's Diaries” microfilm, MF 4648, of Abbie Bright's diary are available through interlibrary loan.

Contents: Ser. 1. Correspondence, 1861-1903 -- ser. 2. Single date items, other than correspondence, 1870-1878 -- ser. 3. Diaries, 1870-1872 -- ser. 4. Letters and maps pertaining to the Abbie Bright diary, 1970-1994.

Portions of Collection Separately Described:

Specific Contents Identified:

Headings or descriptors assigned to subsections of the material, for example labels on a particular box or group of boxes.

  • Diary
  • Folder 8: 1878 land grant
  • On Kansas Memory (http://www.kansasmemory.org/locate.php?categories=4905&query=Abbie+Bright&restrict=all) and on microfilm (MF 4648). Diary published in KHQ.

Related Records or Collections

Other Finding Aid/Index: Finding aid available from the Kansas Historical Society (Topeka) and on its website, http://www.kshs.org/p/abbie-bright-papers/13986

Index Terms


    Clearwater (Kan.)
    Sedgwick County (Kan.)
    United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
    Bright, Abbie, 1848-1926
    Bright, Philip T., d. 1873
    Pioneers -- Kansas -- Sedgwick County
    Women pioneers -- Kansas -- Sedgwick County
    American diaries -- Kansas -- Sedgwick County
    Frontier and pioneer life -- Kansas -- Sedgwick County
    Real property -- Kansas -- Sedgwick County
    Murder -- Arizona

Creators and Contributors

Additional Information for Researchers

Use and reproduction:

This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).

The user is cautioned that the publication of the contents of this microfilm may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights. These rights are derived from the principal of common law, affirmed in the 1976 copyright act, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof for the duration of the copyright. Unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right, the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself. It is the responsibility of the author or his or her publisher to secure permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing.

Ownership/Custodial Hist.: Collection inherited by Abbie Bright's grandson.

Add'l physical form:

Also available via Kansas Memory, Electronic resource. Topeka, Kan. : Kansas State Historical Society, 2007. View full text online: http://www.kansasmemory.org/locate.php?categories=4905-11667&

Abbie Bright diary, 1870-1871: Also available on microfilm, roll MF 691.06 or MF 4648. The microfilm contains only the Abbie Bright diaries and not the other papers of the collection.

Abbie Bright diary, 1870-1871: Published in The Kansas historical quarterly -- v. 37 (1971); also available on the Internet: http://www.kshs.org/publicat/khq/1971/71_3_snell.htm

Cite as: Citations referring to this collection should include the Abbie Bright Papers, 1861-1971, the series title, the microfilm roll number or web URL if appropriate, and the Kansas State Historical Society, Library and Archives Division.

Action note: Processed by Robert A. McInnes, 1996.