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Abbie Bright Papers

Abbie BrightManuscript Collection No. 293



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

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 /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.

Contents List

Volume: 0.2 ft. (1 box)

Series 1: Correspondence

Date: From: At: Addressee:  
n.d. D. Smedley Faisons Station, Philip Bright  
1861 Jun 29 Dennis Bright Camp Reynolds, Mother  
1862 Dec 21 Philip Bright Beaufort Harbor, NC Friends near  
*[1862?] Dec 1 Philip Bright "Front of Richmond" Friends near  
1863 Jan 18 Philip Bright Point Lookout Friends near  
1864 Oct 29 Philip Bright Front of Richmond Friend Mary  
1864 Nov 27 Joseph Rose Fortress Monroe, Friend  
1864 Dec 21 Philip Bright Beaufort Harbor Friends near  
1865 Feb 23 Philip Bright Hampton Hospital Rebecca [Bright]  
1865 Apr 15 Philip Bright Hampton Hospital Rebecca [Bright]  
1865 Apr 20 Harry Monroe Pleasant Valley, MD Miss E. V.  
*1865 May 5 Philip Bright Hampton Hospital Peninah [Bright]  
*1868 Sept 22 Philip Bright Wyoming D.T. Hiram [Bright]  
*n.d. Philip Bright Wyoming D.T. Mary [Bright]  
(ca. 1868 Sept)        
*1871 Mar 12 Philip Bright Wichita, KS Abbie [Bright]  
1871 May 28 Abbie Bright? Ninnescah River, KS Mary [Bright]  
1872 Dec 5 William Ross Clearwater, KS Abbie Bright  
1873 Apr 6 Philip Bright Fort Wingate, NM Abbie Bright  
1873 Apr 24 Lizzie Ross Clearwater, KS Abbie [Bright]  
*1873 May 16 Philip Bright Phoenix, AZ Cousin Mary &  
1873 Aug 7 Dennis Bright Phoenix, AZ Folks at home
1873 Oct 12 William Ross Clearwater, KS Abbie Achenback
*1873 Oct 22 Abbie Achenback Danville, PA Hiram Bright
1901 Jan 30 Abbie Achenback Gladbrook, IA N. M. Sawyer
1901 Dec 5 George McQuillan Clearwater, KS Abbie Achenback
1901 Dec 21 George McQuillan Clearwater, KS Abbie Achenback
ca. 1901 George McQuillan Clearwater, KS Abbie Achenback
1902 Jan 20 George McQuillan Clearwater, KS Abbie Achenback
1903 Jun 2 George McQuillan Clearwater, KS Abbie Achenback

* = exists also in typescript form.
Bold = exists in typescript form only.

Series 2: Single-date items, other than correspondence

n.d. Drawing of Camp of 15th Reg. on Elk Fork.
*1870 Aug 10 Notes of W[illiam] Ross.
1878 Feb 14 Land patent written out by J. A. Williamson at
  Washington, DC, to the late Philip Bright.

* = exists also in typescript form.

Series 3: Diaries

(originals microfilmed on duplicate rolls MF 691.06 and MF 4846; published in The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 37 (1971); and digitized on the Kansas State Historical Society’s web site beginning at /publicat/khq/1971/71_3_snell.htm).

A) Abbie Bright diary, Sept. 1870 - Dec. 1871.
1. Autobiography/diary.
2. Diary on loose-leaf pages.
3. Diary as published in The Kansas Historical Quarterly, 1971 autumn and winter issues.

B) Philip Bright diary, 1870 - 1872.

Series 4: Letters and maps, 1970-1994, pertaining to the Abbie Bright diary.

These materials were generated in preparation for the publication of Abbie Bright's diary in The Kansas Historical Quarterly, autumn and winter 1971 issues.

Notes Pertaining to Microfilm

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.

Additional Information for Researchers


Mr. and Mrs. Donald G. Fairchild donated this collection to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1970. Donald Fairchild is Abbie Bright's grandson.


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.

Copyright Notice

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.

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Date of processing

June 1996