1804 Lafayette Ave.
Rocky Mount, NC 27803
(In July of 1999 Dr. Charles Lucas Jr. received a copy of this manuscript from William Doub Bennett. It an updated version of the John BRIGHT family. Mr. Bennett made changes in the original based on documentation he'd received on this family. Francis Hodges was a major contirbuter of new information to Mr. Bennett and we thank him for his efforts. Mr. Bennett has given permission for us to reproduce this document on our website. He feels strongly that descendants need to know the correct lineage. If you have documentation to add to this effort please contact Patty
In the small graveyard of St. John's Church near the little town of Grifton in eastern North Carolina a small obelisk has been erected honoring four generations of Simon Brights: Simon Bright (1706-1777), Simon Bright (1738-1799), Simon Bright (1764-1820), and Simon Bright (1792-1850). This memorial was probably erected as a result of the extensive research on the Bright family done by Mr. and Mrs. William M, Searcy of Wilmington, North Carolina, during the 1940's and 1950's.
[I believe he is referring to BRIGHT AND ALLIED FAMILIES compiled by Mr. and Mrs. W. M. Creasy. (My note Patty Day)]
This lineage of the Bright family has been widely distributed and widely accepted. It has been used by numerous people to join lineage societies such as the Colonial Dames of America, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Sons of the American Revolution. The Searcy's lineages Include very detailed information, particularly dates of birth, marriage, and death, most unusual considering the almost complete loss of county level records for the area in which the Bright's lived.
From 1746 until 1880 the records of Johnston County (from 1 46 to 1756), Dobbs County (from 1756 to 1792), and Lenoir County (1792 to 1880) were kept in or near present Kinston, North Carolina. In 1880 two disastrous court house fires destroyed all the county records in Kinston with the exception of the Grantor Index to Deeds and the Grantee Index to Deeds. Another fire in 1876 destroyed nearly all the records of Greene County. It would appear that the Searcys depended primarily on private papers and family tradition for most of their information. Apparently they did not have access to records which are now readily available at the North Carolina State Archives but were buried in dusty boxes at the time when their research was being done. Had they seen some of those records they would have realized that Simon Bright III (1764-1820) had no son named Simon, that he died in 1801, not 1820. Most of the eighteenth century material in the Searcy genealogy is wrong; most of the data prior to 1850 is suspect.
The errors in the Searcy genealogy appeared when this author was preparing membership papers for the Jamestowne Society. It is well proven that Simon Bright II married Mary Graves, grandaughter of Richard Graves. Richard Graves was the grandson of Captain Thomas Graves who was on the second boatload of settlers who came to Jamestown. The North Carolina Dictionary of Biography has a biographical sketch on Simon Bright I, Simon Bright II, and Simon Bright III. The sketch on Simon Bright III stated that he died about 1800 and reference was made to a suit tried in the New Bern District Superior Court. The suit involved the value of a slave belonging to Jesse Cobb whose home was two doors down from Simon Bright's house In Kinston, North Carolina. It is reported that in a fit of rage, Simon Bright shot and killed a slave woman who belonged to Jesse Cobb. While Cobb's suit was tried in Lenoir County, the judgment was appealed to the Superior Court in New Bern. The suit first appears on the Argument Docket for July Term, 1800 and was continued for several terms, 1 On the Argument Docket for January Term 1802 it is noted that the court was advised of the death of Simon Bright; 2 the suit was amended to make the defendant the administratrix of Simon Bright. The suit was heard at the July Term 1802 at which time Nancy Bright, the adminstratrix testified that she had administered all the money In the estate except ten pounds. 3 Jesse Cobb then amended his suit to make the heirs of Simon Bright the defendants. A scire facias issued to the heirs named the heirs of Simon Bright III. Those named in the scire facias were "James Bright, Elizabeth wife of William Lovick, James B. Hooker, Mary C. Hooker, & Nancy Hooker infants under 21 years of whom James Hooker was guardian, Richard G. Bright, Elizabeth Bright, Martha Bright, Benjamin Bright, & Sally Bright infants under twenty one years of whom James Hooker was appointed Special Guardian, and the heirs of Mary House of whom James Hooker was appointed Special Guardian." 4
Another tradition among the descendants of Simon Bright IV was that his home, which burned during this century, was the home of Simon Bright, Jr., (II), and was built on land which had been granted to him. This was supposed to have been the home in which Simon Bright's good friend Richard Caswell visited as noted in one of Caswell's letters. A study of the land grants to Brights in this area showed that at no time was land granted to Simon Bright Jr., in this area of present Lenoir County. It should be noted, from additional study, that those who had joined various lineage societies had Bright propositi that qualified them for membership, but on a different lineage from that used on their applications.
Although the scire facias from the New Bern District Superior Court killed the membership application for the Jamestowne Society through the Bright family, research continued to determine the true ancestry of Simon Bright IV. The first member of this family in North Carolina, found to date, was John Bright.
1 John Bright(1) was living in present Hyde County on the west side of the Matchapungo (present Pungo) River by 1705 when John Lawson surveyed his land. 5 Although it is likely he was there earlier, no proof has been found. While it has been suggested that he came from from Lower Nofolk County in Virginia and was probably related to the Brights who settled in Currituck County, no proof has been located. It should be noted that the home of John Bright was not too far from an area of Hyde County known as New Currituck which was settled by people who had removed from Currituck County, supposedly because of mosquito infestation of the area. John Bright was one of those who petitioned in 1706 for the formation of Wickham Precinct (present Hyde County). 6 The tax list of 1714 shows that John Bright had an estate valued at 150 pounds, which was one of the highest valuations in the precinct. 7 The 1718 tax list shows that he had a tract of 250 acres on Blades Creek, the east side of Pungo river, and 342 acres on the west side of Pungo River for which he held grants and that he had had another 668 acres surveyed on the west side of Pungo River. 8 It should be noted that the record of these grants has not survived. In 1717 he was also paying tax on 4 polls. 9 A 1715 tax list includes the name of John Bright who was charged for three polls and his sons, Henry, James, and Richard were each charged for one poll. John Bright, Jr., is listed immediately following his father, but is not charged a poll tax. 10
John Bright's will was written 9 January 1720; there is no probate date. In his will he named his sons: Henry, Richard, Simon, James, William, and John. He also named a daughter, Mary wife of William Wynn and a daughter Lydia Bright. He left his home plantation to his wife, Elisabeth, for her life or widowhood. After her death the plantation was then to be divided between his sons: Simon, James, William, and John. He left 250 acres on Slades Creek to his son Richard and left 342 acres on Matchapungo Creek to his son Henry. 11 It is not known whether John Bright had been married more than once. His widow, Elisabeth, later married a Handcock and died in Craven County, North Carolina, leaving a will written 20 January 1743/44 and probated 20 June 1744. In this will she left bequests to her sons Simon and William Bright and to a daughter, Ledlay Handcock, as well as bequests to her two grandaughters: Eiizabeth and Mary Handcock. Among the witnesses were Francis Hodges, later shown to be a brother-in-law of Simon Bright (1). 12 The children of John Bright were:
i. Henry Bright
2 Richard Bright(John1) remained in Hyde County and wrote his will on 28 November 1731 which was probated at March Term 1731/32. He left bequests to his sons James and Simon Bright. 13 This Simon Bright could have been the Simon Bright who later appears in the records of Bladen County, North Carolina. No further study has been of this family. The children of Richard Bright were:
i. James Bright
3 Simon Bright (John') was probably born about 1695. His name first appears on a list of claims paid in Hyde County which was examined by Tobias Knight on 12 January 1711/12. 14 On this list he was paid for 177 days service. It would appear that these claims were charges for participation in the Tuscarora Indian War. From his listing it may be presumed he was at least sixteen years of age. Simon Bright (1) was well settled in Craven County, North Carolina, by 1725 when he was sued by Thomas Henderson. The suit concerned Simon Bright's failure to produce one hundred barrels of tar by the date agreed upon. 15 Henderson later dropped the suit. 16 Simon Bright (I) acquired land on Clubfoot Swamp on the south side of Neuse River and on the north side of Neuse River along Briery Branch and Loosing Swamp. 17 The location of his homeplace is not known. In 1731 Simon Bright (I) was appointed a Justice of the Craven County Court. 18 For a biographical sketch of Simon Bright (I) the reader is referred to Norfh Carolina Dicfionary ofBiography. While the sketch states that Simon Bright married Mary Reel, daughter of Peter Reel, this statement must be in error. Peter Reel wrote his will on 19 November 1739, and it was probated on 24 November 1739. In his will, Peter Reel named daughters Mary and Elizabeth. He also stated that they were not to receive their inheritance until they come of age. He further defined that they would come of age at the age of twelve, indicating that both daughters are under age: twelve in 1739. 19 Others have stated that Simon Bright married Mary Graves, daughter of Richard Graves. This researcher has found no record providing the given name of Simon Bright's wife.
Proof of the wife of Simon Bright (I) may possibly be found in a study of Francls Hodges. On 27 February 1773, Robert Hamilton petitioned the Court of Claims for a resurvey of land he had purchased from Simon Bright, Senr. In his petition, he referred to Francis Hodges as the uncle of Simon Bright the Younger. 20 Most Hodges researchers feel that Simon Bright (I) married a sister of Francis Hodges. At this writing, this line of research has not been pursued. 21 However, it should be noted that James Bright, son of Simon Bright (I) named one son Francis H. Bright and a second son James H. Bright. With the surviving records it would be reasonable to presume that the "H." was for "Hodges." There are only two known children of Simon Bright (I): Simon Bright, Jr., (ii) and James Bright. It has been suggested that a William Bright, who died in Dobbs County In 1782, could have been a third son. Francis Harper is supposed to have married an Elizabeth Bright who most researchers feel was a daughter of Simon Bright (I). No proof has been found of this relationship. The Searcy [Creasy? my note Patty Day] genealogy has erroneously equated the will of Simon Bright (II) as the will of Simon Bright (I). Proof of the author of the will is provided in the paragraph on Simon Bright (II).
The children of Simon Bright were:
6 i. Simon Bright, Jr,
4 James Bright (John1) wrote his will in Hyde County on 29 March 1735. There is no probate date of the will. His widow, Ann, was his sole devisee 22 . She may have been the Ann Bright who appeared later in Craven county, North Carolina. No study has been made of this family.
6 Simon Bright , Jr., (II) (Simon2, John1) is suggested to
have been born about 1734. About 1758 deeds from the elder Simon
Bright to Simon and James Bright were recorded. 25 Proof
of parentage is found in a land grant issued on 3 March 1759 to Simon
Bright son of Col. Bright.
Proof that this is the will of Simon Bright, Jr., is found in several court records. In 1774, Simon Bright petitoned for a grant to be issued to his son, Graves Bright, for land which Richard Graves had had surveyed but for which he had not received a grant. 30 This land was left to Graves Bright by Richard Graves's will. 31 In a summons to Simon Bright from the Court of Claims, concerning his petition, he is addressed as "Simon Bright Junior." 32 In his will, Simon Bright Junior left his son, Simon, 200 acres on Briery Branch. In 1788, Simon Bright (III) filed an ejectment suit against his mother, Mary Graves Bright, to gain possession of the land. In his petition, Simon Bright (III) stated that the land was granted to his grandfather, Simon Bright, in 1739. 33 Simon Bright's wife, Mary Graves Bright, died in the 1830's when she was about ninety years of age. 34 The children of Simon Bright, Jr., were:
8 i. Simon Bright
7 James Bright (Simon2, John1 ) was apparently born after his brother, Simon Bright (II). When the survey was made for a grant for Simon Bright, Jr., for land granted 30 January 1773, James Bright was one of the chain bearers and was designated "Capt. James Bright." He served as captain of one the Dobbs County militia companies from 1771 to 1774. 35 For some reason, James Bright dropped out of the political picture during the 1770s and 1780s. In 1780, the warrant to the surveyor being issued on 25 February 1780, James Bright made an entry for a land grant. 36 This proves he had taken the oath of allegiance to the State 37 and qualifies him as a propositus for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution. By 1809 a James Bright was a Justice of Peace for Lenoir County 38 and by 1811 he was Clerk of Court for Lenoir County, although whether this James Bright was the brother or the son of Simon Bright II is not known.. 39 He served as Clerk of Court until 1819. 40 He apparently died that year as his name does not appear in the 1820 Census of Lenoir County. About 1815 four deeds from James Bright were recorded at the same time, It would appear that he was dividing part of his lands among his children. These deeds were recorded in Deed Book 24 of Lenior County: a deed from James Bright, Sr., to James H, Bright on page 58, to Francis H. Bright on page 59, to Simon Bright on page 59, and to Mary Pridgen & others on page 60. 41 Later deeds show James H. Bright and Francis H. Bright selling their land. 42
The Searcy (sic) genealogy states that Simon Bright (III) died in 1820 when in fact he died in 1801. It also states that his wife was Sarah Green when the records give her name as Nancy. It also states that Mary (Bright) Pridgen was his daughter when the records indicate she was the daughter of the above James Bright. It also states that Simon Bright (IV) was his son when the records prove he was a son of the above James Bright. The writer feels that those listed in the Searcy (sic) genealogy as children of Simon Bright (III) were actually children of the above James Bright. This would mean that the wife of James Bright was Sarah Green. And it appears that his children were:
13 i. Mary Bright
8 Simon Bright (III) (Simon3, Simon2, John1 ) was probably born about 1767. He died in the fall of 8801. He was not yet sixteen when the tax list of 1769 was taken 43 . Although the 1800 Census lists him as being aged twenty six to under forty five, 44 he had probably only turned twenty one when he filed suit against his mother for his land, While Simon Bright (III) had a house in Kinston, North Carolina,' 45 his home plantation was in present Greene County.' 46 At his death, the widow of Simon Bright (III) was named Nancy. 47 In the 1800 Census Nancy is listed as being under the age of twenty six. In the suit instituted by Jesse Cobb, Cobb had a scire facias issued to the heirs of Simon Bright (III) so that his lands could levied upon to pay the judgment. The scire facias lists the siblings and children of daceased siblings of Simon Bright (III). The 1800 census lists no children in his household and some of those on the list can be identified as children of Simon Bright, Jr. Those listed in the scire facias were James Bright, Elizabeth the wife of William Lovick, James B. Hooker, Mary C. Hooker, & Nancy Hooker infants under 21 of whom James Hooker is guardian, Richard G. Bright, Elizabeth Bright, Martha Bright, Benjamin Bright, & Sally Bright infants under twenty one years of whom James Hooker is guardian, heirs of Mary House decd, of whom James Bright is appointed special guardian.
9 Graves Bright (Simon 3 , Simon 2 , John 1 ) was probably born about 1757. He was under age when his father petitioned for a land grant in his name in 1774. 48 Although Graves Bright and his cousin, Richard Fonvllle, received a grant for land on 11 March 1775, 49 the petition could have been submitted by Fonville if Graves were underage. Graves Bright lived in Glasgow (now Greene) County. 50 which he represented in the House of Commons in 1795, and where he served as sheriff from 1794 to 1798, 52 On 6 September, 1789, he married Catherine Sheppard, daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth Ruffin Sheppard . Graves Bright died in the fall of 1803. 53
The children of Graves and Catherine Sheppard Bright were:
i. Richard Graves Bright, This son was likely named for his father, and is probably the Richard G. Bright whose death is recorded in the following obituary: He would have likely been less than thirty-five years old at the time he died. [Died. Greene Co. on 21st Ultimate, Richard G. BRIGHT, Esq., a member of the House of Commons in our last General Assembly. (NC Star, Feb. 13, 1824)]
10 James Bright (Simon 3 , Simon 2 , John 1 ) was born in 1769. He died 29 June1840 and his Bible states he was in his 71st year at the time of his death. James Bright married Elizabeth Lovick on 15 June 1796. She died on 15 August 1858 at age eighty one. Their children were: Henry Bright born 2 August 1797, Ann Heritage Bright born 22 August 1799, Thomas Graves Bright born 10 October 1801, Mortimer Bright born 27 June 1804 and died 11 November 1846 in Florida, Emma Bright born 17 February 1807 and died 23 August 1889 in Pensacola, Fl, Sally Bright born 9 April 1809, Lucius Montgomery Bright born 14 January 1814, Mary Caroline and Henry Augustus Bright (twins) born 15 January 1817, and Alexander Henderson Bright born 1 September 1819. 54 During the 1800's James Bright moved to the panhandle off Florida and some of his descendants moved into Alabama. No further research was done on this family. The children of James Bright were:
12 Elizabeth Bnght (Simon 3 , Simon 2 , John 1 ) married William Lovick
13 Mary Bright (James 3 , Simon 2 , John 1 ) is apparently the Mary Bright who married Henry Thomas Pridgen, Jr.. Thomas Pridgen served during the War of 1812 as a colonel. His home was on Tysons Marsh about five miles from Snow Hill. Thomas and Mary Bright Pridgen had a son, Gray Ruffin Pridgen. Gray Ruffin Pridgen was born 19 July 1803 and died 25 November 1866. He married Mary Sugg, daughter of Aquilla and Nancy Hill Sugg, on 10 May 1830. Mary Sugg Pridgen was born 14 September 1803 and died 14 July 1873, 55 Their children were:
This is the end of the manuscript. The notes and references will be posted as soon as I get them ready .
[Bond Date:19 Jul 1812, Craven Co., Bond #:000030513 , Bondsman:,Samuel Wiggins Witness: J G Stanly, Clerk of Court -Patty Day ]
In the federal census of 1850, not a single family named Bright was living in Greene County, while in that same census, only one family is listed with that name in Lenoir County. This is the family of Rachel Bright, the widow of Simon Bright IV who had died a year earlier. Simon Bright Jr. (the famous Captain Simon Bright) thus has no descendants in the male line living in this region.