The Simon Bright Family  

As a leading patriot during the difficult years of the American Revolution and as the first governor of the new state, Richard Caswell is richly deserving of the renewed interest in his life and career that the recent discovery of his final resting place has aroused. His many achievements, often involving great personal sacrifice, certainly deserve to be remembered. However, like others who have emerged as leaders in difficult times, Caswell was fortunate to have been surrounded by numerous friends and allies who were also committed to the cause of American independence. Of these, few were more important than Caswell's neighbor and good friend, Captain Simon Bright (ca 1734-1776), whose early elevation to positions of leadership in his county and state reveal the esteem in which the governor and his contemporaries held him. Bright's important contributions to the patriot cause would likely have been even greater had an early death not cut short his service to his country. As one of the first justices for Dobbs County, as a founder of the town of Kinston, and as sheriff of Dobbs on two separate occasions, the role Bright played in the region's development can hardly be overstated.. His abilities as a military leader were proved when during the War of the Regulation (1771) he served as captain of a detachment of the Dobbs militia which fought in the Battle of Alamance. Over the next few years, as Britain's colonies moved toward their break from the mother country, he became increasingly active in the state's political life. Elected as a delegate from Dobbs County to each of the first five provincial congresses, he attended all but all but the third (Hillsborough, 20 August-20 Sept, 1775) when, as a commander in the North Carolina Continental Line, he was urged by Caswell to remain in the field in order to prepare for the rapidly developing struggle with Britain. Though an illness sufficiently serious to have prompted Bright to make his will (23 November, 1775) may have kept him from accompanying Dobbs troops to Moore's Creek (February, 1776), he had recovered sufficiently by the following spring to accompany Caswell to the fourth provincial congress (Halifax, 4 April-14 May, 1776). Bright's finest hour may have come at that assemblage, when he and more than eighty additional delegates drafted the Halifax Resolves, thus making North Carolina the first of Britain's American colonies to declare its independence. Over the summer, his health again worsened, forcing him to resign his military command, though he had improved sufficiently by the fall to represent his county at the fifth congress (Halifax, 12 Nov.-23 Dec., 1776), at which time the first constitution of the new state was drafted. At that same congress, Richard Caswell was appointed governor, subject to the convening of the new state legislature. The endorsement of his good friend for this important post was likely Bright's last contribution to the new state. Returning home to Dobbs, his illness suddenly worsened, and he died.[1]

While Captain Simon Bright's contributions to his county, state, and young nation are well-known, an accurate history and genealogy of the Bright family has only recently begun to emerge. With most of the records of old Dobbs County destroyed by courthouse fires, later generations of Brights, eager to claim descent from so distinguished an individual, have found it easy enough to do so. Traditional genealogies have thus been based on the assumption that of the several Simon Brights found in the records of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the original was the famous Captain Simon, with each of the Simons in later generations being a son of the Simon in the preceding. More recently, however, evidence has been unearthed which raises some important questions about the accuracy of this assumption. This evidence, along with a critical reassessment of what was already known, has led to a major revision of earlier claims and raised some new questions as well.

The following study will focus largely on three issues currently of interest to Bright researchers. First, while the Bright family can trace its roots well back into the seventeenth century, the family to which Captain Simon Bright's mother belonged has only recently been determined by the discovery of an important new document. Second, a closer look at the older documentation has raised an interesting new question: Was Simon Bright's only wife Mary Graves, as older genealogies have assumed, or did he have an earlier wife by whom he fathered one or more of his children? Finally, this study also addresses the question that is likely of most interest to those who claim descent from this man: Are Simon and Mary Graves Bright the ancestors of present-day Lenoir County Brights, or is this long-standing assumption now in need of revision?

Before beginning let me add that my comments on the errors found in existing studies of the Simon Bright family are not intended to disparage the work of earlier researchers, as I hope this work will not be disparaged when any errors which it may contain have come to light. While earlier studies may have failed to provide the correct answer to every question, they often managed to clear up much confusion and fill in many gaps in the Bright genealogy. By so doing they have made my own research much easier and at the same time demonstrated an important genealogical truth: A family's history is a work in progress; each researcher makes his own contributions and, inevitably, his own mistakes.

The "Real" Mother of Simon Bright was not a "Reel"

Dr. Charles Holloman was the first to point the way toward a more accurate history of the Bright family. From entries which he discovered in the Grantor-Grantee indices of old Dobbs County deeds, the only documents to survive the disastrous courthouse fires of the nineteenth century, he found proof that the celebrated Captain Simon Bright discussed above was Simon Bright Jr., and not Simon Sr., as traditionally believed. Older genealogies which ignored or glossed over problems with chronology had confused the accomplishments of these two men, assuming that the will drawn-up by Simon Bright in 1775 was the will of the first individual of that name. It is to Holloman's credit that he was able to distinguish between these two men, to determine the approximate date of the birth and death of each, and to sort out their achievements.[2]

On 6 June, 1739, Simon Bright Sr. was granted six hundred and forty acres of land on the Briery swamp a few miles north of a low bluff on the Neuse called Atkins' Bank on which the town of Kingston would be established some twenty-three years later.[3] Simon was the son of John and Elizabeth Hill Bright, who moved from south-eastern Virginia to the Albemarle and Pamlico region of Carolina in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. Both John and Elizabeth left wills, which prove this relationship. However, it has proved far more difficult to determine is the identity of Simon Sr.'s wife, something obviously of great interest to Bright researchers since this woman would have been the mother of his more celebrated son, Captain Simon Bright Jr. Holloman believed her to be Mary Reel, the daughter of Peter Reel, an early Huguenot settler of Craven County. He apparently basing this claim on the fact that Reel named Simon Bright as his executor when he wrote his will in 1739. While there may well be a link between the Bright and the Reel families that has yet to be established, more recent research has disproved Holloman's claim.[4]

A major breakthrough came in the 1990's when a document discovered in the North Carolina State Archives provided an important clue to the identity of Simon Bright Sr.'s wife. This document was drawn up in Dobbs County in 1773 to support a claim made by Robert Hamilton to a tract of land then in dispute between Hamilton and Simon Bright. Hamilton pointed out that his claim was based on a survey made thirty-two years earlier by one Francis Hodges. He then added that Hodges was "the uncle of Simon Bright the younger,"[5] perhaps to convey to the court his conviction that Hodges, as Bright's relative, would have made every effort to insure that Bright was not shorted in the original survey. Obviously, this document is invaluable to Bright researchers since it establishes a family relationship between Simon Bright Jr. and Francis Hodges, though the precise way in which Francis was an uncle to Simon is not clear. Did Simon Bright Sr. marry a sister of Francis Hodges, did Francis marry a sister of Simon Sr., or did these two men marry women who were sisters? Any of these possibilities would have resulted in Francis Hodges becoming the uncle of Simon Bright Jr., or "Simon Bright the younger," as he is referred to in this document. More research on Francis Hodges was thus necessary before this question could be answered.

The Hodges, like the Brights, immigrated to Virginia from England in the seventeenth century, settling first in lower Norfolk County.[6] Like the Brights, some branches of this family later moved southward into the Albemarle and Pamlico regions of North Carolina. In 1734, Francis Hodges was one of the witnesses to the will of Joseph Abington in Currituck County, a part of the Albemarle where several Brights had settled as well.[7] By 1744, Francis, like Simon Bright Sr., had moved still farther south and west into the Neuse valley and was living in Craven County, where he witnessed the will of Simon's mother, Elizabeth Handcock, and then proved this will for probate a few months later.[8] The following year, on 11 April, 1745, royal governor Gabriel Johnston granted Francis Hodges two hundred acres of land ". . joyning a survey of Simon Bright on the north side of Briery Swamp and running down the branch below the said survey for the complement."[9] In that same year, the Craven County court appointed both Francis and Simon as two of the three men commissioned with the task of dividing the estate of Robert Colley among his heirs.[10] Thus the names of Francis Hodges and Simon Bright Sr. are frequently linked in the Craven County records, something that is hardly surprising when one considers their close family relationship.

Further research of the Craven records shows that Francis Hodges married Frances Carruthers, the daughter of John Carruthers, a New Bern merchant. This marriage is proved by John Carruthers' 1751 will, in which he made bequests to both his daughter and her husband, mentioning each by name.[11] A few years earlier, in 1745, Francis had declared headright in Craven, listing six white males in his household. He thus appears to have had several young sons by the time this will was written.[12] Thus at no time during the 1730's and 1740's would it appear that Francis was married to a sister of Simon Bright Sr. Since John Carruthers' will mentions no daughter who was married to a Bright, we can also be certain that Francis and Simon did not marry sisters. Thus Francis Hodges could have been an uncle of Simon Bright Jr. only if Simon Sr. had married Francis's sister. To date, the given name of this woman, who was the mother of one of Dobbs County's most famous residents, has not been determined.[13]

The Wife (or Wives?) of Simon Bright Jr

Simon Bright Jr. married Mary Graves, whose family was already well-established in the lower Neuse valley by the time the Brights arrived. Mary's paternal grandfather, Richard Graves (1674-1730), was descended from one of the oldest families in Virginia and, like many Virginians of his era, Graves eventually moved southward to the North Carolina tidewater in order to pursue his interest in the maritime trade. Not long afterward he became Deputy Surveyor for the young colony, and it was in this capacity that he accepted a commission in 1713 from Robert Turner to lay out the town of Beaufort on land which Turner had purchased from Farnifold Green. When Green was killed by Indians the following year, Richard Graves married his widow Hannah. Their son, Thomas Graves, married Turner's daughter Sarah, with whom he had several children, one of whom was Mary Graves Bright.[14]

Simon and Mary Graves Bright made their home on the land on the Briery swamp that had been granted to Simon's father, Simon Sr. This made them residents of that part of Craven which had become in 1746 Johnston and then, in 1759, Dobbs County. Early Bright genealogies usually place Simon and Mary's marriage no later than the mid-1750's, but this has been proved incorrect. We know now that Thomas Graves died shortly before 6 July, 1767, at which time his daughter Mary, who was still legally a minor and unmarried, appeared in the Craven County court and chose as her guardian Farnifold Green, her father's half-brother through the marriage of her grandmother Hannah to the earlier Farnifold.[15] Mary must have been a rather mature minor in 1767, since her approximate age as determined from federal censuses many decades later indicates that she could have been born no later than 1750.[16] Shortly after her court appearance, she married Simon Bright, Jr. and became eligible to claim a few slaves set aside for her in her father's estate.[17]

Simon's age, like Mary's, can not be determined with precision. However, since he was deeded land by his father in 1758, and was holding public office within a year or two of that date, researchers have assumed that he reached the age of twenty-one about that time. This would place his birth probably no later than 1737, and perhaps a few years earlier, thus making him at least thirty years old at the time of his marriage to Mary. Since thirty was rather old for a male in colonial America to marry for the first time, some Bright researchers believe there is a strong possibility that Simon may have had an earlier wife.[18] This, at least, is a theory that is sufficiently plausible to require further consideration.

In addition to Simon's age at the time of his marriage to Mary, a careful reading of his will also suggests that he may have had an earlier wife. In that will, Simon names seven children, listed in the following order: sons Simon, Graves, and James followed by daughters Mary, Nancy, Sally, and Elizabeth.[19] Yet at the time he wrote this will in November, 1775, Simon and Mary Graves Bright had been married only eight years. One is immediately struck by the realization that seven is a large number of children for one woman to give birth to in that span of time. Granted, such a feat is possible, and perhaps would be more credible if we knew that twins were included in this number,[20] or that Mary, following the custom of women of her social status in that era, engaged a slave as a wet nurse, since women who do not nurse their own infants often have shorter intervals between pregnancies. Still, such remarkable fertility is unusual enough to make one wonder if all of the children named by Simon Jr. in his will were Mary's children as well.

Since children were nearly always listed in wills by age, with males often though not always preceding females, it is likely that Simon Jr's will lists his children in this manner. It is thus safe to assume that the males appear in the order of their birth, as do the females, though it is possible that some of the females were older than some of the males who precede them. Unfortunately, from the existing records we can establish an approximate date of birth for only one of these children, James, the youngest son, who in the 1820's moved from Lenoir County to the Florida territory, where he died on 29 June, 1840, in his seventy-first year.[21] Thus James Bright would have been born some time in the year before 29 June, 1770. Graves, if older, would have been born the previous year, 1768-69, while Simon could have been born no earlier than April or May of 1768,[22] and not a great deal later than that date. This means that Mary Graves Bright would have given birth to three children, all male, in the first three years of her marriage, followed by four daughters over the next five years. Again, this is possible, but is it likely?

Graves and James can easily be identified as Mary's children, but her relationship to Simon III, the oldest of Simon Jr's sons, is less certain. In his will, Simon clearly attaches restrictions to Mary's most important bequest, two hundred and forty acres of his plantation on the Briery, of which she was to receive the use ". . . during the term of her natural life and no longer."[23] After her death, this land was to go to Simon III. Thus Mary could not dispose of this property, nor could she bequeath it to any of the remaining children mentioned in the will, as Simon Jr might have feared she would do if Simon III were not her son. On the other hand, even if Simon III were Mary's son, the restriction may still have been included if Simon Jr. believed that Mary, like most young widows, would remarry and perhaps leave part of this land to any children she might have by her future husband. Thus the above clause can not be cited as evidence that Simon III was or was not Mary Graves Bright's son.[24]

Holloman states that while Simon III was a minor when his father died in December, 1776, ". . . he reached his majority shortly thereafter, in time to become one of the executors of his father's will."[25] If this statement is true, then Simon III could not possibly have been a son of Mary Graves Bright, since he would have been less than ten years old when that will was probated in January, 1777. However, more recent research has proved a great deal of the information in Holloman's article incorrect, and to date no documentary evidence has been found to support this claim. Simon Jr's will clearly names his friends Richard Caswell and John Cooke, and his brother James Bright, as executors.[26] Nor is Simon III mentioned as an executor when the will was presented for probate. Taken alone, Holloman's statement is insufficient to prove that Simon III was born before the marriage of Simon Bright Jr. and Mary Graves took place, which would have made him the son of Simon Jr. by an earlier wife.

Holloman calculated the approximate date of birth for Simon Bright Jr by determining in what year he began to engage in legal transactions and hold public office, which would indicate that he had attained the age of twenty-one. The same might be done for his son. On 2 July, 1787, Simon Bright III witnessed the will of Richard Caswell, and this date is less than twenty years from the date Simon Jr. married Mary Graves. If Mary was Simon III's mother, he would have been at most barely nineteen years old.[27] Was this old enough to serve as a witness to a legal document? Possibly, since witnessing a will would not have been the equivalent of serving as a party to a legal contract, especially if the other witness, James Bright, was of age, and while Simon III's brother James would have still been a minor, the James Bright who witnessed this will may well have been the brother, rather than the son, of Capt. Simon Bright Jr, in which case he would have been of legal age.

The earliest record found to date of a legal transaction to which Simon III was a party, rather than a witness, is 1 January, 1788. At that time, he leased to John Goodlette for seven years the two hundred and forty acres of the land on the Briery swamp which had been granted to his grandfather, Simon Sr., nearly fifty years earlier. One month later he promptly evicted Goodlette, who brought suit for breach of their agreement. After going through the Lenoir County court, the case was appealed to the District Superior Court in New Bern. Since Mary Graves Bright held a life estate in this land, the court ruled that she currently held legal title, and she was summoned to appear.[28]

If Simon III were the son of Mary, he could not yet have reached his twentieth birthday when he leased this land to Goodlette,[29] and while age nineteen might have been old enough to serve as a witness to a will, would it have been old enough to engage in a legal transaction? Once again the answer must be "perhaps," since Simon III may have been acting not for himself but in behalf of Mary, who held a life estate in the property. One year later, in 1789, Simon was elected as a representative from Dobbs County to the North Carolina legislature, as well as a delegate from Dobbs to the constitutional convention in Hillsborough, and in 1790 he was appointed to fill the seat in the state Senate left vacant by the death of Richard Caswell.[30] These would have been weighty responsibilities for someone who had barely attained his majority, and one is inclined to wonder if Simon III might not have been at least a few years older than the minimum legal age of twenty-one. If so, he could not have been the son of Mary Graves Bright. On the other hand, as the oldest son and namesake of a man whose memory was greatly revered in the region, and as a staunch federalist in a county in which federalism was confronting a serious challenge, Simon, though barely of legal age, may well have commanded a respect and confidence from many citizens of Dobbs that would ordinarily have been reserved for a more seasoned statesman. It is thus quite possible that he did not reach his twenty-first birthday until 1789, in which case he was almost certainly the son of Mary Graves Bright.

To restate the question: Was Simon Bright Jr. married to another wife before he married Mary Graves and, if so, to which of his children, if any, did this woman give birth? At present this question can not be answered with certainty, since evidence can be cited and arguments constructed both to support and to refute the existence of an earlier marriage. Until proof is discovered, one can only conclude that there is a very strong possibility that Simon Bright Jr. did have an earlier wife by whom he fathered Simon III, though this is a possibility which must continue to remain only a theory. At present, Mary Graves is the only proved wife of Simon Bright Jr., and the only woman who is known to have born his children.[31]

The Descendants of Simon and Mary Graves Bright (Those who are, those who aren't, and those who think they are but aren't!)

Most members of the Bright family whose roots are in Lenoir County can easily trace their descent from Simon Bright IV (1793-1850), a well-known ante bellum planter who married Rachel Dawson (1803-1863) with whom he had several sons and daughters. Descendants of this couple have believed traditionally that this Simon was the son of Simon III, and thus the fourth in a direct line of Simon Brights that went back to Simon Sr. Recently, a closer look at the existing documentation on Simon III's life has uncovered evidence that refutes this assumption.

First, the federal census of 1800 shows Simon Bright III as heading a household which included only himself and one adult female, who appears to be his wife. No children are listed, yet Simon IV (b. 1793) was still a small child at the time this census was taken and would almost certainly have been living with his parents.[32] More conclusive evidence can be found by again consulting the records of the New Bern District Superior Court to which another case involving Simon III was appealed from the lower court in Lenoir County. Depositions found among the trial papers provide interesting details of an event that is well-known to all Bright researchers, as well as to most individuals familiar with the early history of Kinston.

In September, 1799, Simon Bright III shocked his family, neighbors, and friends by suddenly flying into a fit of rage and shooting a slave woman in the streets of Kinston. Witnesses claimed that Bright was convinced that someone's slave had been stealing his turkeys, though he made no effort to determine who that slave might be. Instead, he chose to act on impulse, seizing his gun and rushing out of his house, and then shooting the first slave he encountered. That slave, who died of her wounds a few days later, turned out to be an elderly woman belonging to Jesse Cobb. Cobb immediately filed suit against Bright for damages and the case eventually found its way to the New Bern District Superior Court, where it was continued for several terms. When Simon III died in 1802 the matter was not yet settled, and Cobb refused to abandon his suit, naming Bright's heirs as the new defendants.[33]

Court papers filed in 1804 in the case of Jesse Cobb vs. the heirs of Simon Bright have provided the key to deciphering the Bright genealogy. Holloman, who discovered these papers, correctly identified two of the heirs listed in them as Simon III's brother and sister, James Bright and Elizabeth Bright Lovick, now known to have been his only siblings still living in that year. Holloman assumed that the remaining heirs, all of whom were listed as minors with a guardian, were Simon III's children, but failed to note that none of them was named Simon, though that would have been enough to prove that Simon Bright III was not the father of Simon Bright IV.[34] In fact, a careful consideration of the names of these heirs has revealed that they were not Simon III's children at all, but rather his nieces and nephews--specifically the children of his brother Graves, who had died the previous year (1803), and his sisters Mary and Nancy, both of whom were also deceased. Lacking any offspring of his own, Simon III's heirs were thus his siblings and the children of deceased siblings.[35]

If Simon III was not the father of Simon Bright IV, and through him the ancestor of later generations of Lenoir County Brights, then who was? Could another of Simon and Mary Graves Bright's sons have been this ancestor? Graves Bright, who lived in Glasgow (now Greene) County where he served as sheriff in the 1790's, died in 1803, leaving two young sons and three daughters who are listed among their uncle's heirs in these court papers, but neither of these sons was named Simon, as has been noted.[36] James Bright (b. 1769/70) was old enough to have fathered Simon IV (b. 1793), but none of his several sons were named Simon, nor was James married until 1796, three years after Simon IV was born.[37] Thus Captain Simon Bright Jr., one of old Dobbs County's most illustrious citizens, has no lineal descendants living in that area today who bear his name.[38]

A careful consideration of this evidence leads one to conclude that the father of Simon Bright IV was almost certainly James Bright, the brother of Simon Jr. who was named as one of the executors of Simon's will.[39] This James is often referred to in the scant surviving records as James Sr. to distinguish him from his nephew, the youngest son of Simon Jr., who is discussed above. This James Bright married Sarah Green and lived on Wheat Swamp, where he operated a grist mill.[40] James was younger than Simon Jr. and is listed as living with his father in a Dobbs County tax roll of 1769.[41] Two years later, in 1771, he was old enough to serve as the captain of a militia company, and his name appears in various legal transactions in both Dobbs and Lenoir County until the 1810's.[42] In the federal censuses of 1790, 1800, and 1810 James, whose birth can be determined as sometime before 1755, appears to have several children in his household.[43] Consecutive entries found in the Grantee-Grantor index for the years between 1815 and 1820 show him deeding land to several other Brights, who were very likely these children, now grown to adulthood. One of them was Simon Bright (surely Simon IV), another was Francis H. Bright (likely named for James' uncle, Francis Hodges), and still another James H. Bright. Later entries show both Francis H. and James H. selling land.[44] Since their names disappear from the record shortly thereafter, it is possible that they, like so many others from the region, may have moved to the newly opened cotton lands in the states farther south and west. Since James Bright's name does not appear in the census of 1820, he likely died before that year.[45]

And she alone survived to tell the tale . . . .

The genealogist must maintain complete objectivity. Hours of painstaking research is wasted if the resulting evidence is manipulated in order to yield the conclusions the researcher wishes to reach, rather than those which the evidence supports. However, the good genealogist should also be a good historian, and as such be able to view those whose lives he has linked in the context of their era, something that requires much more subjectivity. I have thus chosen to conclude with a closer, more historical look at one of the individuals whose name has appeared frequently in this study--Mary Graves Bright. Her longevity and her important role in the early history of the Bright family, combined with the more substantial though by no means abundant documentation available on her life, would appear to make her the logical choice.

The world in which Mary Graves grew up was a different world from the one her grandmother, Hannah Kent (b. ca 1675), had known as a child. In the late seventeenth-century, the northern part of the colony of Carolina was only sparsely settled by a handful of Virginians who had trickled southward into the region of the Albemarle Sound. By 1750, the colony had a new name--North Carolina--and its population of nearly 50,000 was growing rapidly.[46] Still, the region was little more than a frontier and, as in all frontier societies, males would have made up a sizeable majority of the population.[47] Women were thus in great demand, and a young woman such as Mary Graves, who came from a well-established and propertied family, could very likely have had her choice of any number of suitors. Her family, of course, would have guided her selection, but Mary's own feelings would not have been entirely ignored. That both she and her family found Simon Bright Jr. an acceptable match suggests that Simon's assets, both physical and financial, set him apart from most other men.[48]

Before the wedding could take place, Simon Bright Sr., as father of the young man seeking Mary's hand, would have written to Mary's father or guardian praising Mary's virtues and expressing his pleasure at the prospect of the match. He also would have stated what settlements he intended to make upon his son to insure Mary's financial security. Since the couple later made their home on the Briery, a portion of that land and the use, if not ownership, of a few slaves were likely a part of the settlement. Mary's father would then have responded with a letter as well, stating what he was willing to contribute to the match.[49] This is the reason that Thomas Graves, who appears to have died very shortly before Mary became Simon's wife, set aside three slaves in his estate who were to go to her when she married.[50]

Once Mary had established herself on the Briery as Simon's wife, her life was given over to managing her household and caring for her rapidly growing family. Here she was more fortunate than most Dobbs women, since she and Simon owned at least a few slaves.[51] Goods that could not be made on the plantation, such as Mary's pewter tableware, might be imported from New Bern, but for its basic needs the Briery was largely self-sufficient. A small amount of tobacco was grown and exported in hogsheads, but the mainstay of life was Indian corn, wheat and rye. Rice could also be grown in low-lying fields that lined small streams and creeks; slaves recently brought from Africa were especially skilled in the cultivation of this crop. A few cows and sheep provided milk, butter and wool. Pork was a staple, appearing in some form at nearly every meal, though venison and other game offered some variety. In spring, a shad caught from a seine beach on the Neuse provided a much-anticipated delicacy.[52]

Mary maintained as much contact as possible with her family and friends in New Bern, worrying greatly about them when the hurricane of 1769 destroyed large parts of the town and caused tremendous damage in Dobbs as well.[53] However, her numerous pregnancies made travel difficult, so visits to New Bern were rare. She thus had few chances to enjoy the more sophisticated social life that had begun to develop in the town after it was selected to be the capital of the colony and Tryon built his palace there.[54] It is more likely that her sisters made the trip to the Briery to visit her, particularly Elizabeth, who was childless and therefore enjoyed greater mobility.[55] During the later stages of her pregnancies and during her confinements, Mary ceased to perform her more demanding chores and spent her time spinning wool and flax, or reading a book from the family's small library.[56]

Church, though not attended as regularly as in New Bern, offered an opportunity to visit with other families in the area, though the Anglican faith in which Mary and Simon had been brought up had strong competition in Dobbs. The Baptists had moved into the region, and their numbers were growing rapidly; in fact, they had already established a congregation on Wheat Swamp, only a few miles north of the Briery.[57] Their highly individualistic faith, free of the liturgy and ritual of Anglicanism, seemed to appeal to many residents of the area. Mary and Simon, however, had strong ties to the established church; Simon's father had taken the lead in carving out two new parishes in the Neuse valley,[58] and by 1770 Simon himself was serving on the vestry of a new Anglican chapel about to be constructed at Little Goshen, in northern Dobbs.[59] But church did not provide Mary with her only chance to mingle with friends. When the demands of household duties and her frequent childbearing did not interfere, she exchanged visits with the wives of her neighbors, such as the Caswells, or the Cobbs, where the conversation ranged from topics as light and pleasant as what the ladies of New Bern were wearing that season[60] to as dark and troubling as the scandal surrounding another Dobbs woman, Sarah Wiggins, who stood accused of giving birth to an infant by one of her father's slaves, and then murdering it with her own hands.[61]

As the revolution approached, the pace of life on the Briery picked up considerably. Since Simon had served as both a justice and a sheriff of Dobbs, the duties of those offices had always kept him near the center of local affairs and made heavy demands on his time. Mary had thus grown accustomed to his frequent absences. But now his political arena had expanded, and the demands of public life were growing much more onerous. New assemblies called "provincial congresses" were being convened in the colony without the approval of the crown, and as a delegate from Dobbs to the first two such assemblies, Simon was away from home for much longer periods of time. Then, in the spring of 1775, came news of open clashes with the British in the northern colonies. Visitors to the Briery increased, and talk of independence was in the air, a prospect which Mary found both exciting and a bit frightening at the same time. Most of the men in the Dobbs militia companies supported the patriot cause, and they stood prepared to defend their state should an invasion come. Simon, however, was a more seasoned warrior, who had led a company into battle during the War of the Regulation four years earlier. Now he was given command of a battalion in the North Carolina Continental Line, which he was busily readying for the journey northward to join General Washington.[62]

Then, in the fall of 1775, Simon fell gravely ill, so ill that he wrote his will and prepared Mary for the worse. All winter, he remained at the Briery, nursed slowly back to health by Mary and a few slave women. It was largely Mary's pleas that kept Simon from leaving his sick bed on that cold morning in February, 1776, when the men from Dobbs began their trek to Moore's Creek.[63] She pled with him again only two months later, in April, when he decided to make the long overland trip to Halifax for the fourth provincial congress. By this time, however, Simon's health had improved, and the weather had turned warmer. He was accustomed to spending much of his life outdoors, and he was tired of being housebound, surrounded by crying babies, and by women who constantly fussed over him. Now that he was stronger, his passion for politics had been rekindled, and this time Mary's pleas were to no avail. When Simon's health again worsened in the summer, and he reluctantly agreed to relinquish his military command, Mary, though committed to the patriot cause, could only feel relief. Then, to her consternation, just as the November damp set in and the weather turned colder, Simon announced yet another journey. Once again he mounted his horse and rode the seventy-five miles to Halifax, where at the fifth provincial congress he helped to draft a constitution for the new state of North Carolina, of which his good friend Richard Caswell was named acting governor. Afterward, in the late December cold, he rode home to the Briery, more seriously ill than ever, and within two weeks Mary had entered the final and lengthiest stage of her life--widowhood.[64]

Death came early to Simon Bright Jr., even for an era in which most life spans were far shorter than at present. His life lasted approximately forty years. Most of his children would die young as well. Of the seven, only James and Elizabeth lived to an old age.[65] Both Simon III and Graves were in their thirties when they died, and three of their sisters, Mary, Nancy, and Sally, appear to have been no older.[66] Thus the longevity of Mary Graves Bright, who lived into her ninth decade, appears as remarkable as her ability to bear offspring. Equally remarkable is the length of her widowhood, since in colonial America widows--especially widows of childbearing age--nearly always remarried. Indeed, Mary's own grandmother, Hannah Kent, was married and widowed four times, leaving children from each of her marriages except the last.[67] Mary Graves Bright, however, never remarried, though she would have been no more than thirty years old when Simon died, and thus still young enough to have born more offspring. (Many more, had she continued to bear them as rapidly as she appears to have born them in the past!) Instead, she chose to live out the remainder of her long life as a widow on the same land that had been granted to her husband's father nearly a century before her death.[68] One can only speculate why she made this choice, since a woman with her resources would likely have had several opportunities to remarry. Perhaps she enjoyed the control over her assets that would have been relinquished to, or shared with, a husband had she remarried. Records survive of several transactions in Craven County involving properties which she inherited from her father, and they suggest that Mary was quite capable of handling her own affairs.[69] Or perhaps her children and grandchildren discouraged her from choosing another mate, fearing that a second family would jeopardize a patrimony which they coveted for themselves. It is also possible that as Mary grew older she came to enjoy the status conferred upon her as the widow of a man whose memory was greatly revered in the community, and feared this status might be lost if she married again. But it is equally possible that her reasons were less calculated, stemming instead from a genuine devotion to Simon that was as strong during the many years of her widowhood as it had been during the few years of her marriage.[70]

In the decades that followed the revolution, old friends faded from the scene, their ranks thinned by death and personal misfortune. The Caswells, like the Brights, lost many of their members to an early death. In addition, Richard Caswell's willingness to assume personal responsibility for many of the expenses of the Revolution which the state should have paid led to the financial ruin of his family and to a lessening of its prominence in the area,[71] and while Mary must have sympathized with the Caswells, she must have also felt great relief. Simon and Richard had been good friends; secretly, she must have wondered if her husband, had he lived longer, might not have followed the governor into debt, mortgaging the Briery and his other assets to meet the expenses of the war and the new government. Perhaps Simon's early death had spared the Brights the fate of Caswell's heirs.

During these same years--the two decades that followed the American Revolution--Mary found herself living in a violent part of the new state. Though a few residents of Dobbs had remained loyal to the crown during the revolution, a large majority of them had supported the patriot cause. Now those same residents were bitterly divided, as federalists struggled with anti-federalists over the question of whether to ratify the proposed constitution. Many of them, having just won their independence from what they believed had been an oppressive British government, now asked themselves if they wished to replace that government with another one here at home that might one day prove just as oppressive. While the Brights were strong federalists, many in Dobbs were equally strong in their anti-federalist sentiments.[72] Mary's son Graves was especially caught up in this conflict. Between 1788 and 1790, when the struggle over ratification of the new constitution was at its height, he on more than one occasion was involved in quarrels and disagreements that led to physical assaults, some of which were sufficiently serious to make their way from the Dobbs court to the district court in New Bern.[73] Dobbs County was especially prone to strife, so much so that in 1791 the North Carolina legislature abolished it and created two new counties in its place. Mary's home on the Briery fell into what had been the southern portion of Dobbs, now called Lenoir to honor one of the state's revolutionary leaders. Kingston, called Kinston since the revolution, became its county seat. The northern half of Dobbs was called Glasgow,[74] and Graves, whose Shepard wife belonged to one of the most prominent families in this region, became its sheriff. The feuding here continued for several years after the ratification of the federal constitution, fuelled by the growing scandal surrounding the very man from whom the county had been named, James Glasgow.[75]

Political dissent was not the only cause of violence. In such an atmosphere,even small family disagreements could cause tempers to flare and lead to terrible consequences. Mary's close neighbor of many years, Elizabeth Parrott, suffered a personal tragedy of this nature on a June day in 1798, when her youngest sons, Joshua and Simon,[76] began to quarrel as they worked together in a field of rye. A struggle followed; Elizabeth sent for another son, and then attempted to step between them. However, the two brothers continued to fight until Simon finally delivered a blow to Joshua's side so severe that he died within the hour.[77]

Mary's ties to family and friends were not only severed by death and personal misfortunes. By the early 1800's the soil of the Neuse valley, after nearly a century of cultivation, was beginning to wear out. Many families thus made the decision to move to the new lands just opening up in states farther south and west. As early as the 1780's Simon's cousin, Joshua Hodges, had moved to Georgia taking his many sons and daughters with him.[78] By the 1820's, three of Elizabeth Parrott's sons and grandsons had relocated to the Darlington district of South Carolina, to which her youngest son, Simon, would also later move.[79] In 1823, Mary's only surviving son, James, moved to the new Florida territory, where he established a plantation called Villambrosa several miles east of the old Spanish town of Pensacola.[80] Even richer lands were opening in the new states of Alabama and Mississippi, where huge fortunes were waiting to be made in a crop almost unknown to the area in Mary's younger years, cotton. Those who moved to these states often wrote letters to friends and family still living in Lenoir, describing the bounty that awaited them if they joined the exodus. Nearly every family with whom Mary was acquainted saw at least one of its members make this trek, and some of them, particularly the Whitfields and the Crooms, acquired great wealth.[81] Still another native of Lenoir who left for the better lands to the south and west, William D. Moseley, was elected to serve as the first governor of Florida when that territory became a state in 1845.[82]

Among Mary's contemporaries, few friends or relatives survived to offer her their companion- ship in the closing years of her life. Her childless sister, Elizabeth Graves Henry, had died in Craven in 1824 at the age of 80,[83] leaving Mary a portion of her estate.[84] Elizabeth Parrott who, like Mary, was also an elderly widow, had died some years earlier as well.[85] Another close neighbor and a loyal federalist, William Arendell, whose lands bordered those Caswell had once owned, died in 1822 at the age of seventy-six.[86] Of the younger generation, her daughter Elizabeth still lived in the area, and her grandson, Mortimer Bright (1804-1846), had returned from Florida by 1830 and was also living near-by.[87] There were children of her deceased daughters in the area as well.[88]

Mary Graves Bright is found last in the federal census of 1830, between eighty and ninety years of age, still sufficiently independent to be heading her own household, which by this time included no one save herself and several slaves. She died in June, 1832,[89] still faithful to the Anglican tradition which so many of her generation had abandoned with their loyalty to the crown, and still faithful through more than fifty years to the memory of her first and only husband, Simon Bright.

Francis R. Hodges

Professor of History

Florida Southern College


[1] For a good if brief discussion of the career of Simon Bright Jr see Charles R. Holloman DNCB, I. 226-27. Holloman's article is based on a careful assessment of the available evidence, and I disagree with him on only one point. He states that Bright was unable to attend the second provincial congress, held in Hillsborough in April, 1775. This April congress was the second and it convened in New Bern. The third convened in Hillsborough in August, 1775. The five provincial congresses were one-house assemblies independent of British colonial authority that met between August of 1774 and December of 1776. Each county sent delegates to them. See William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006), pp 40-41.

[2] Holloman, DNCB, 225-26 says that Simon Bright Sr's greatest contribution to the region were in the fields of religion and education, particularly the founding of new Anglican parishes. He estimates the date of Simon Sr's birth as ca 1702. William D. Bennett, "The Bright Family of Lenoir and Greene Counties, NC" (Unpublished Paper, 1994) gives it as ca 1695 based on evidence that Bright was in the militia during the Tuscarora Wars (1711-1715). This work is cited hereafter as Bennett.

[3]I have not seen a copy of this grant, but it is referred to in a later deed recording the sale of a portion of this land by Simon Sr's grandson, James Bright. See Lovit Hines Collection.. 2. James Bright Jr. to William Tull. 20 July, 1796 Abstracted and transcribed by Martha M. Marble for USGen Archives. Lenoir County, NC. This is a collection of Dobbs and Lenoir County deeds re-registered after the courthouse fires.

[4] J. Bryan Grimes, Abstract of North Carolina Wills, 1690-1760 (Raleigh, NC, 1910, p. 309. Will of Peter Reel. Craven County, NC. Bennett shows that both of Reel's daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, were minors when this will was written and could not have been married at the time.

[5] NCSA, Loose Papers of Secretary of State, 727.4. Dobbs County, NC. Petition of Robert Hamilton for re-survey. Transcribed by Francis R. Hodges for USGen Archives, Dobbs County, NC. See also the discussion in Bennett, who should be credited with discovering this document.

[6]The best discussion of the genealogy of early Hodges of Norfolk County is found in Frances Sutherland Hudson, We Cousins. (San Benito, TX. 1957). Most Hodges of that region are descended from Roger and Mary Manning Hodges, who were married ca 1669. There is a Francis Hodges among their descendants who was living in the early eighteenth century, but it is not clear from Hudson's discussion if this could have been the Francis who later moved to Craven

[7] NCSA. Currituck County Wills. Will of Joseph Abington. 2 May, 1734. At this date, Currituck County included much of the land south of the Albemarle sound now found in Dare, Tyrrell, and parts of Hyde counties. This would include the land along Matchapungo Creek, where John Bright settled.

[8] NCSA, Craven County Wills, Will of Elizabeth Handcock. 20 January, 1743/44. Transcribed for USGen Archives by Francis R. Hodges. Craven County, NC. I have examined the signatures on both the Abington and the Handcock wills and have found them to be very similar, thus supporting the likelihood that the same Francis Hodges witnessed both of these documents.

[9]NCSA, Office of Secretary of State. Land Grants. 0275. Gabriel Johnston to Francis Hodges. 11 April, 1745. Francis later sold this land and appears to have settled a few miles farther north, near Wheat Swamp, though the Brights continued to live on the Briery for many years. An entry in the Grantor-Grantee Index,, Book 6 (1758-1765) shows Francis Hodges deeding land to John Parrott, who moved into the area from Bertie County about that time. We know that the Parrotts and the Brights were close neighbors in later years. Other deeds in the Craven records show that Francis had earlier sold land in the area to Benjamin Blackledge and John Rice.

[10]NCSA, Craven County Court Records, March, 1745. The third person was Edwarad Fitzpatrick. Francis Stringer was the executor of Colley's will. 

[11]NCSA, Craven County Wills. Will of John Carruthers. 20 September, 1751. Transcribed by Francis R. Hodges for USGen Archives, Craven County, NC. To his daughter Frances Hodges, John left ". . .one negro girl cald Calina. . . and all the cattal I have yhousing at the Francis Hodges cowpen." John Carruthers appears to have had some interest in the maritime trade. The wife mentioned in his will is Content Bangs, who belonged to an old and quite prominent Puritan family of Barnstable, Massachusetts. A brother of Content, Jonathan Bangs, also moved to the New Bern area in the 1730's and married John's sister, Abiah Carruthers. The mother of John's children, however, was not Content Bangs but Sarah Jones, an earlier wife, whose roots also went back to lower Norfolk County.

[12] CRNC, IV, 345. A Dobbs County tax roll drawn-up in 1769 lists Francis Hodges, Sr. and four other Hodges, Joshua, Francis, John, and Richard. I think these were Francis Sr's son, now grown to adulthood. The oldest was Joshua Hodges, who was born in 1736, as proved by Bible records and other documentary evidence which has survived in the state of Georgia, to which Joshua and his family moved shortly after the American Revolution. One of Joshua's grandsons was named Joseph Carruthers Hodges, probably to honor a brother of Joshua's mother, Frances Carruthers. Another was named "Bright Pearcel Hodges." See Georgia Genealogical Magazine, "Bible Records of Joseph Hodges," (July, 1966), 2, 1391-92.

[13] In his will, Simon Bright lists four daughters, Mary, Nancy, Sally, and Elizabeth, presumably in the order of their birth. Naming patterns among eighteenth-century British favored naming the second daughter after the father's mother, which suggests that Simon's mother may have been named Nancy Hodges. Nancy is also the only one of these four names that is not found in the family of Simon's wife, Mary Graves.

[14]Charles L. Paul, "Colonial Beaufort," NCHR 42 (1965), 139.

[15]NCSA, Craven County Court Records. Minutes of 6 July, 1767. "Miss Mary Graves, a minor came into court and made choice of Farnifold Green as her guardian." I am indebted to Rose Parks of Avery, TX, for this information.

[16]The federal census of 1830, the last in which Mary's name appears, gives her age as between eighty and ninety years.

[17]NCSA, Craven County Deeds, Book 19. "Marriage settlement of Simon Bright to Mary Graves, daughter of Thomas Graves, following slaves reserved for use of aforesaid Mary viz. Selene, Cuffy and Fan" This entry is not dated but obviously occurred after Mary had appeared in court

[18]Holloman, DNCB, 226, estimates the year of his birth ca 1734. I believe it may have been a few yeas later, but likely no earlier.

[19]NCSA, Dobbs County Wills, Will of Simon Bright. Written 23 November, 1775. Probated 10 January, 1777. Transcribed by Francis R. Hodges for USGen Archives, Dobbs County, NC.

[20]Simon's son, James Bright, was the father of twins, and twins also occurred in later generations of Brights. See JBBR.. Transcribed by Martha M. Marble for USGen Archives. Lenoir County, NC. Original in possession of Mrs. Marian Colmant, Birmingham, AL.

[21]JBBR. James' sister Elizabeth who married William Lovick was buried 3 Nov, 1844. See Records of St. Mary's Episcopal Church. Kinston, NC. Transcribed by Guy Potts for USGen Archives. Lenoir County, NC. Since she was the youngest of Simon and Mary Graves Bright's children, Elizabeth was likely an infant at the time of her father wrote his will (23 November, 1775).. This would have made her no more than seventy years old when she died, and possibly a little younger.

[22] This date was determined by assuming that Mary married Simon very shortly after her court appearance on 6 July, 1767. See above, p. 4

[23] The Will of Simon Bright.

[24]Put another way, Simon Jr. would have had reason to restrict Mary's control of this land for the length of her natural life whether she was the mother of Simon III or whether she was not. He could have ended her use of the land at the time she remarried, but he chose not to make this stipulation.

[25]Holloman, DNCB, 227. He also says that Simon III fought in the revolution and then served in the Dobbs militia afterward, but he may have confused the records of this Simon with another Simon Bright who lived in Bladen County (perhaps a descendant of another son of John and Elizabeth Bright) and who has been proved to have fought in that struggle. Simon III may have served in the militia, since males much younger than twenty-one were permitted to do so, though I have seen his name on no Dobbs County militia rolls.

[26]Will of Simon Bright.

[27] See the will of Richard Caswell. Transcribed by Clair Hadley for USGen Web Archhives, Dobbs County, NC. See above, p. 6 for the earliest possible birth date of Simon Bright III if he were the son of Mary Graves Bright. Documents from the early 1780's reveal that Simon Bright was a chainbearer on a few occasions when land was surveyed, but a teenaged boy could have legitimately performed that task, which did not require that one be of legal age.

[28]Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr. Abstracts of the New Bern District Court. Loose Estate Papers (1994), p. 14. Bennett says this suit was brought by Simon III against Mary Bright, but it appears instead that Mary was summoned because she held title to this land for life. See the will of Simon Bright. Simon III may have been acting as Mary's agent when he leased the land, in which case he may not have been twenty-one, thus requiring her appearance in court. The verdict, not given until 1792, was against Mary, not Simon, and she appealed it, giving her sons Graves and James as securities for the bond. Simon III's actions toward Goodlette appear rather impulsive and unwarranted, but, as later events in his life would prove, he was not an individual who always acted prudently.

[29] See above, p. 6

[30]Holloman, DNCB, 227. The Dobbs delegation to the constitutional convention was not seated because of the irregularities in how it was selected.

[31]A fascinating scrap of information discovered too late to be pursued in this study is a statement by William Caswell that he had an "Uncle Bright." See NCSA, Private Collection 193.24., John G. Blount Survey and Field Notebooks, 1776, Matthew Hill Survey Book.. Transcribed by Russell King for the USGen Archives, Lenoir County, NC. William, who was born in 1754, was the only child of Richard Caswell and his first wife, Mary McIlwean. If this claim is true, then either Richard or Mary must have had a sister, lost to the records, who was the first wife of Simon Bright Jr.

[32]Simon III cannot be located in the federal census of 1790 for Dobbs County. Mary Bright is heading a household in that year, as is her son Graves, but Simon III does not appear to be living in either of their households, nor in that of James Bright, who appears to be the brother, rather than the son, of Simon Jr.

[33] Bennett discusses the details of this case. I have seen only transcriptions made by Holloman of some of the papers filed in this case. Charles R. Holloman to Francis R. Hodges Private Correspondence. 23 July, 1976.

[34]Holloman, DNCB, 227. Bennett was the first to point this out

[35]I came to this conclusion after carefully considering the names of the heirs, most of whom I determined were minors since Joseph P. Hooker was named as their guardian for the purpose of the litigation. Five of the children belonged to Graves Bight, and four to a sister who had married a Hooker (Nancy). The others were identified as the heirs of a sister who had married a House (Mary).

[36]Richard G. Bright is listed as one of the minor heirs of Simon III. This Richard is the son of Graves Bright, who married Catherine Shepard and lived in Glasgow (now Greene) County, of which he was sheriff in the 1790s. Richard is found living there in the census of 1820 with a wife and one female under age 10 in his household. He served a term in the North Carolina legislature and then died in 1824 while still young. See his obituary in the North Carolina Star (Tarboro, NC) 13 February, 1824. Transcribed by Roger Kammerer for the USGen Archives, Greene County, NC. The surname "Bright" does not appear in any federal census of Greene County after 1820.

[37] JBBR James married Elizabeth Lovick on 13 June, 1796.

[38] There are however descendants still living in the area through some of Simon Jr's daughters, one of whom married a Hooker, another a House, and still another a Lovick.

[39] To date, James is the only proved child of Simon Bright Sr. and his Hodges wife other than Simon Jr. Holloman, DNCB, 226. says a William Bright who lived in the area may have been another, and Rose Parks makes a strong case for a Mary Bright who married Benjamin Herring being his daughter as well. A persistent tradition that another daughter, Elizabeth, married Francis Harper Sr. is not supported by any documentation and is thus unreliable.

[40] Private Correspondence. Charles R. Holloman to Francis R. Hodges. 23 July, 1976. Bennett says that James married Sarah Green, whom earlier genealogies claimed as the wife off Simon III, but Simon III's wife, as revealed in the trial papers, was named Nancy.

[41] List of Dobbs County Taxables. 1769. Transcribed by Jerome Tew for USGenWebArchives, Dobbs County, NC.

[42] Capt. James Brights Co. Dobb County Militia Roll. February, 1771. Transcribed by Lori Price Cobb for USGenWeb. DobbsCoArchives.. The company clerk was Richard Hodges, who was probably James's first cousin.

[43] Federal Census of 1790, Dobbs County, NC. Federal Censuses of 1800 and 1810. Lenoir County, NC.

[44] Grantee-Grantor Indices, Lenoir County, NC. Book 24, 1810-1819. Transcribed by Martha Marble for USGenWeb. Lenoir County Archives Site..

[45] Federal Census of 1820. Lenoir County, NC.

[46] Hugh T. Lefler and William S. Powell, Colonial North Carolina: A History (New York, 1973), pp. 88-89 provide figures for the colony's rapidly growing population in the decades before the revolution.


[48] David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. (New York, 1989). pp. 207-214 has an excellent discussion of courtship, marriage and most other customs and practices in the colonial South.

[49] An excellent example of the procedure related above is found in the letters that have survived from another old Dobbs County family, the Murphreys, whose plantation, the Beare Garden, lay several miles north of the Briery on the Contentnea. See "The Murphrey Letters, 1768-1776," Letter from Captain John Murphrey to Drewry Aldridge, 3 July, 1768. Letter from Drewry Aldridge,Sr. to Captain John Murphrey, 1 Oct. 1768 Transcribed by Ernest Murphrey for USGen Archives. Greene County, NC.

[50] See ftn. 17.

[51] Simon Bright Jr's will mentions no slaves, but from a notice that appeared after his death we know that he owned them. See North Carolina Gazette, New Bern, NC, Sept 12, 19, and 26, in which is found a notice advertising a sale of a part of Simon's estate, including the hiring out for one year of ". . .two likely negro boys and a girl." Mary, of course, brought three slaves with her from New Bern when she married. In the census of 1790, at which time 29% of Dobbs County's population was slave, Mary owned eight. In 1830, the last federal census taken in her life time, slaves made-up 51% of Lenoir County's population and Mary owned seventeen.

[52]See the will of Simon Bright, which mentions bequests of pewter utensils, cows, sheep, and hogs made to Simon's wife and children. For the best account of the county's resources a few decades later, agricultural and otherwise, see the well-known letter of John Washington on Lenoir County in "Twelve North Carolina Counties in 1810-1811," NCHR, VI (April, 1929).

[53]For two good contemporary accounts of this storm see "Murphrey Letters," Gale Murphrey to John Murphrey. 14 Sept. 1769. See also the letter of Alexander Steward to the Secretary. 6 Dec. 1769. ECU, Joyner Library, Elizabeth Moore Collection, 322.44 Transcribed by Florence Fulford Moore for USGen Archives, Craven County.

[54] Alonzo Dill, "Eighteenth Century New Bern, A History of the Town and Craven County, 1700-1800," Part VI, "New Bern as Colonial Capital,": NCHR, 23, (April, 1946), 141-171. See also "Murphrey Letters," Gale Murphrey to John Murhrey, 10 Sept., 1770 which describes some of the festivities in New Bern during these years, including a ball at Tryon's Palace.

[55] Elizabeth was present in November, 1775, when she served as a witness to Simon Bright's will. See the Will of Simon Bright.

[56]North Carolina Gazette, Sept. 12, 19, 26, 1777. Among the items in Simon's estate to be put up for auction was a small library of books. Also, I think Mary would have spun flax as well as wool since in his will Simon leaves a "linnen wheel" to each of his two oldest daughters..

[57] NC Historical Marker, US Highway 258. Wheat Swamp Church. The date of this church's founding is given as 1763, though some push it as far back as the 1750's.

[58] See ftn 2

[59] "Murphrey Letters," Capt. John Murphrey to Murphrey Dickson, 2 June, 1770.

[60] Gale Murphrey ponders this question in "Murphrey Letters," Gale Murphrey to John Murphrey. 10 Sept., 1770.

[61] NCSA. SSCR. SS 313. Miscellaneous Slave Papers. Transcribed by Rose Parks for USGen Web Archives., Lenoir County, NC. Sarah, who was the daughter of Benjamin and Mary Bright Herring, may have been Simon's niece.

[62] See above, p. 1

[63] Holloman, DNCB, 226-27 makes no mention of Bright's presence at Moore's Creek. I think he was still too ill to have taken part. His name does not appear on any of the lists of Dobbs troops who fought in that battle.

[64] My account of these years, and especially the final year of Simon's life, closely follows the chronology established by Holloman, DNCB, 226-27. The details which I have included are admittedly not found in the official record, but I wanted to present events from what I believe would have been Mary's point of view. The fifth provincial congress adjourned 23 Dec, 1776, and Simon Bright's will was probated 10 Jan, 1777. He thus died between these two dates, perhaps en route from Halifax to the Briery or very shortly after his arrival.

[65] See ftn. 22

[66]Mary and Nancy are identified as deceased in the court papers filed in Jesse Cobb's suit against their uncle Simon III. See ftn. 35. The third daughter, Sally (Sarah), is not mentioned in these papers, nor are any of her heirs . Tradition says that Sarah Bright married Joseph Hardee and had children, one of whom was Bright Hardee (b. 1802). Sarah must have been deceased as well by the time these papers were drawn-up (1804), but if she were Bright Hardee's mother, then he should have been listed as an heir. For this reason, one might question if Simon's daughter Sally was the same Sarah Bright who married Joseph Hardee.

[67]Will of Farnifold Greene. Bath County, NC. Transcribed by Florence Fulford Moore for USGen Archives. Craven County, NC. See Ms. Moore's attached genealogical note on Hannah Kent.

[68] This is the same land granted to Simon Bright Sr in 1739. See above, p. 3. Mary died in 1832, ninety-three years later. She had been willed a life estate in this land, and that life turned out to be a long one indeed.

[69] See, for example, Craven County Deeds, Book 27, p. 46, 11 October, 1786. Also Book 32, 13 Nov, 1796. Transcribed by Martha M. Mewborn for USGen Web. Craven County, NC. Mary apparently inherited a good bit of property in New Bern jointly with her three sisters, Elizabeth Henry, Ann Ellis, and Hannah Jones.

[70] For a good discussion of widowhood in preindustrial society see Marry E. Wiesner, Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 73-78. The colonial and revolutionary South, of course, was a different part of the world than western Europe, but I think the issues that a widow would have pondered when attempting to decide whether to remarry would have been similar in both regions, and perhaps still are.

[71] On Caswell's financial problems in the years following the revolution, see the section on
Caswell's estate in "The Story of Richard Caswell," Heritage of Lenoir County

[72] Holloman, DNCB, 227 states in his biographical sketch of Simon Bright III that federalists held a very slim majority in the county. The violence in Dobbs at the time of the ratification of the federal constitution is well known. Federalists, fearing an anti-federalist victory, seized the ballot box before the votes could be counted for delegates to the constitutional convention in 1788. The federalists sent a delegation to the convention in Hillsborough in spite of this, but the convention refused to seat it. See ftn. 28. Newspapers in other parts of the nation reported on the turbulence in the county.

[73] See NBDC. Miscellaneous Abstractions, 1788-1790. Transcribed and abstracted by Francis R. Hodges for USGen Archives. Dobbs County, NC. If one skims the records of the criminal proceedings of this court, one is struck by how many of the cases heard there were appealed from Dobbs and, after 1791, from Lenoir and Glasgow.

[74]The county was divided by an act of the North Carolina legislature on 21 January, 1792. Violence and corruption were particularly rampart in the northern half of the county (present-day Greene), and the legislature thought that upholding the law in that region would be easier if a separate court was established there.

[75]For a very brief discussion of James Glasgow's alleged land fraud crimes see Russell Koonts, "A County Name Changes," Tar Heel Junior Historian, 44, 1-3. By 1799, Glasgow had been disgraced and the county named in his honor eight years earlier now became Greene, to honor revolutionary war general Nathaniel Greene.

[76]Simon B. Parrott (Nov 1776-Sept 1860) appears to have been named to honor Elizabeth and John Parrott's famous neighbor, Simon Bright, whose death occurred only a month or two after Simon was born. In 1803, he married Bramley Murphrey (1785-1861), a granddaughter of Capt. John Murphrey who owned the "Beare Garden." Simon and Bramley Parrott were the grandparents of my great-grandfather, Simon Hodges (1832-1897), who was named in honor of his grandfather.--FRH

[77] NBDC. 206.326.4. Part 18, Folder 1798. Transcribed for USGen Archives by Sue Guptill. Lenoir County. Elizabeth was the widow of John Parrott (d. 1791). See above, ftn. 10. Depositions taken in this case offer a vivid account of what transpired. Elizabeth was careful to point out that no weapons had been involved, and the only blows exchanged were those of the bare fist. She also insisted that Joshua had given the first blow, and that he had forgiven Simon before he died. Since she also deposed that "no other white person" was present, we can assume that she sent a slave to fetch her other son, Benjamin. Simon left the area for several days, but soon returned and was never prosecuted for his deed. Such a death would today likely be termed "involuntary manslaughter."

[78] See ftn. 12.

[79] See the various Parrott wills, Bible records, and estate inventory transcribed for USGen Web. Darlington County, SC.. See particularly the will and estate inventory of Simon B. Parrott. 15 August 1860. Codicil 18 August 1859. Transcribed for USGen Archives by Francis R. Hodges. Darlington County, SC. Simon's name appears in the federal census of 1830 for Lenoir County, but by 1840 he was in Darlington County, SC. He was thus past fifty years old when he relocated, as was Mary's son, James Bright, when he left Lenoir County for Florida. Joshua Hodges (1736-1809) was also approximately fifty years old when he moved to Georgia in the 1780's. Immigration was thus not limited to those young men who were just beginning to seek their fortunes.

[80]See above, p. 6

[81]The Croom family who moved to Florida from Lenoir County to Tallahassee, Florida, has been the subject of a recent book. See William W. Rogers and Erica R. Clark, The Croom Family of Goodwin Plantation: Land, Litigation, and Southern Lives (Athens, GA, 1999).

[82] Charlton W. Tebeau, A History of Florida (Miami, 1973), p. 172. In her will, Elizabeth Henry leaves five hundred dollars to "Elizabeth Mosely, granddaughter of my sister Bright." Craven County Wills. Will of Elizabeth Henry. 26 February, 1809. Transcribed by Martha M. Marble for US Gen Archives, Craven County, NC. One of the daughters of Graves Bright named as an heir of Simon III in the 1804 trial papers was named Elizabeth, and this may be the granddaughter to whom the will refers. The identity of her Mosely husband has not been established, to my knowledge. See above, p 9.

[83] Burial Records of Christ Episcopal Church. New Bern, NC. Transcribed by Maratha M. Marble for USGen Archives. Craven County Archives

[84]Will of Elizabeth Henry. From the wording of this will, Elizabeth appears to have been a woman of strong opinions and convictions. She begins the document with the phrase "I mean this to be my last will and testament," then goes on to designate several household effects to specific friends and relatives. She also makes provisions for the freeing of several of her slaves. In a codicil added 1 December 1820 she specifies that after her estate was settled, the residue was to go to the Episcopal Church in New Bern. More interesting is another codicil dated 22 December, 1822, in which she revoked her bequests to James Bright, her nephew, and to two of his daughters, designating that what they were to have received should go instead to James' mother Mary, so that Mary could buy his interest in the land on which she was living. This is close to the time James was preparing to move to the Florida territory, and Elizabeth knew that he would likely be selling his Lenoir County lands, which she wanted to make sure Mary would be able to purchase. Perhaps she was also a little angry that Mary's last surviving son appeared to be abandoning his mother in her old age. She ends this codicil by making a provision for the care of one of her slaves for the remainder of that slave's life.

[85]Elizabeth Parrott is listed as a head of household in the federal census of 1800, and she may have been living with one of her children thereafter.

[86] See Will of William Arendell. Transcribed from an earlier transcription by Francis R. Hodges for USGen Archives. Lenoir County, NC. William Arendell is my 4th great-grandfather through four different lines of my family, since each of my father's four grandparents was his great-grandchild. His youngest daughter, Persis Arendell (1793-1852) married Jacob Parrott Jr (1791-1856), a grandson of Elizabeth and John Parrott.,  FRH

[87]Elizabeth married William Lovick, whose sister, also named Elizabeth, married James Bright. In 1826-27, Mortimer Bright served as sheriff of Washington County, in the Florida territory. See William W. Rogers and James M. Denham, Florida Sheriffs: A History, (Tallahassee, 2001), p. 309. He must have returned to North Carolina shortly thereafter, since he appears as a head of household in Lenoir County in the federal census of 1830. On Mary's other grandchildren, see ftn .59. Mortimer married his double--first cousin, Frances (Fannie) Lovick.

[88] See above, p. 10. Also note 35.

[89] Records of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kinston, NC.

C RNC Colonial Records of North Carolina
DNCB Dictionary of North Carolina Biography
JBBR James Bright Bible Records
NBDC Records of the New Bern District Superior Court
NCSA North Carolina Department of Archives and History
NBDC Records of the New Bern District Superior Court

NOTE: The best single discussion of the first three Simon Brights is by Charles R. Holloman in Powell, William S., ed. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 1 (December, 1979). 225-27, though there several genealogical errors in these studies, particularly in that of Simon Bright III. For revisions, see the more recent study by William D. Bennett, "The Bright Family of Lenoir and Greene Counties, NC," (Unpublished Paper, 1994) cited as "Bennett" throughout this work. Other sources consulted can be found in the notes attached to this work. A more detailed bibliography can also be furnished upon request.

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