Bethena Ellen “Ella” (Vawter) Robison letter, 1935

The following letter was hand-written by Bethena Ellen “Ella” (Vawter) Robinson (1857-1942) to her cousin Blanche Elizabeth Lytle (1884-1971). Ella was the daughter of Mary Elizabeth Bright (1837-1907), who was the daughter of  Caleb Bright (1800-1864).

Curt Bright, 2012

P.S. Please excuse these awful (ink) blots. I can’t help it I guess, but you will overlook it, I know.
B.E.R. I am named for Aunt Bethena and Ellen.

Wakarusa, Kansas
December 11th, 1935

Dear Cousin Blanch,

Amy requested me to write you and to give you some information about Grandma (Keziah) and Grandpa (Caleb) Bright. I hardly know where to begin. There is so much I’d love to tell you if I could see you face to face. However I am glad you are interested in our ancestors. I am very proud of them myself.

I have copied Grandma’s record for you from her old bible which came to my mother and which she gave me. There are blanks in it I can’t fill. I hope you will appreciate it, and I am sure you will.

I remember things that happened in my childhood very distinctly, though I am now 78 years old. I loved Grandpa very dearly, but I was so young when Grandpa died that I can’t remember much previous to that time. He loved children. He was not a big man, but was quite heavy set, something like Uncle Cape (Caleb). I think he was English. He worked at the fishery at Pamlico Sound or Albarwarf Sound on the coast of North Carolina in his boyhood. I’m not sure which sound. He later (much later, I suppose) worked on river boats between Pittsburg and New Orleans.

Grandma was large and strong. They had 11 children. I do not find any record of where they married, but I expect they met at Janesville, Ohio, as it was a trading post on the river. Her loom was built of heavy hewed timbers and she wove linen and jeans and linsey for their clothes . Or course they wore well. She wove sheets, pillow slips, tablecloths, towels and her underwear of the coarser flex called tow. She wove cloth for shirts and pants for the men for summer wear. They were plainly made and the styles did not change often.

She belonged to the Christian (Campbellite) Church. If we went there Sunday morning we would find her reading her testament which had large type. She worried over things that went wrong that she could not help. She was always kind to us children. In the attic, I have seen her large tin reflectors, which she used for baking bread before the fireplace. She made monstrous loaves of salt rising bread, but I didn’t like salt rising bread very well.

She had an old fashioned garden with herbs like sage, thyme and sweet marjoram in it, and many lovely flowers. The big barn was built of very heavy hewed timbers. It had a threshing floor for flailing out the grain. I well remember the fine big horses there.

Jane Gray has written a book called “Betty Jane”, from his grandfather’s diary. In it he tells of “Big John Bennet” who came with his family and moved 30 miles further in the wilderness. Grandma was one of that family. My great grandfather and your great, great grandfather. The renegade Simon party who caused the Indian raid at Jamesville County, caused John Bennet to bring his family to the fort for safety. Harry Bennet (Grandma’s brother) was killed in that raid. He died with his head in Betty Jane’s lap.
She was the Elizabeth Jane who you read about in your history.

Grandma lived a most useful life. It is a great wonder how she could live through so much and do so much. I call her a double pioneer.

I have very happy memories of them. Things had changed a lot before I came along, of course. All of this will be hard for you to decipher. I can’t write as well as I did once, not steady enough. But I am glad to do it for you. I’m glad you are interested.

I loved Aunt Rachel since the first time I saw her when she was mopping floors at Grandma’s. I am so sorry about her affliction. So sorry she must suffer at the end of a wonderful, fine life. My life has been so filled. I have been able to see you kinfolks as often as I’d like.

Jo is failing faster than I do, though he is 10 month younger. I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and that we may meet again sometime.

Best wishes to everyone. Love too.
Cousin Ella R.

Records from Ella Vawter Robinson
Warkarusa, Kansas

Caleb Bright – Born March 16th 1800 – Died Oct. 10th 1864
Keziah Bright – Born January 5th 1804 – Dec. 20th 1876
Bethena Bright – Born August 20th 1826 – Dec. 30th 1856
John T. Bright – Born Feb 18th 1828 – Died Feb. 21st 1853
Elizabeth Ellen Bright – Born Oct. 28th 1829 – Nov. 11th 1856
Isaac Bright _Born April 25th 1831 – Died in war 1864
Harvey Bright – July 4th 1834 – May 28th 1887
Mary Bright – March 12th 1837 – March 13th 1907 (1901)
Charles Bright – April 22 1841 – August 31, 1931
Alfred Bright – March 16 1839
Levi Bright – May 30th 1843 –
Anna Bright – Nov. 4th 1845 – April 16th 1848
Caleb Bright – March 12th 1849

B.F. Vawter – Born Feb. 10th 1835
Mary Bright – March 12th 1837
Married Sept. 29th 1856
Bethena Ellen Vawter Born Dec. 16th 1857
N. Robinson Born Dec 26th 1858
Married Aug. 11th 1880
Amy C. Vawter – Born Aug. 10th 1859
Parker W. Perry – Sept. 29th 1856 – Died March 14th 1914
Married Dec. 9th 1880
Charles Henry Vawter – Born Dec 28th 1861
C. Ecker – Married –

December 11, 1935

This is a record I have taken from Grandpa Bright’s old bible which was my
mothers, and she gave it to me. I hope this will interest you.

Caleb Bright was born Mar. 16th, 1800 Died Oct.10th, 1864
Kezia Bright – Jan. 2nd or 5th, 1804 – Dec. 20th 1876
Bethena Bright – Aug. 20th, 1826 – Dec. 30th 1856
John F. Bright – Feb. 18th, 1828 – Feb. 20th, 1853
Elizabeth Ellen Bright – Oct. 28th, 1829- Died Nov. 11th, 1856
Isac Bright – April 25th, 1831- 1864
Harvy Bright – July 9th or 4th, 1834 – May 28th, 1887
Mary Bright – March 12th, 1837 – March 13th, 1907
Alfred Bright – March 16th, 1839 – 1851
Charles Bright – April 22, 1841 – July 31, 1931
Levi Bright – May 30th, 1843
Anna or Ama Bright – Nov. 4th or 9th, 1845 – Died April 16th, 1848
Caleb Bright – March 2nd or 12th, 1849

There is no record of the time of their marriage given. When Aunt Bethena was a child in arms, they (Caleb and Kezia) put all their worldly possessions on 2 horses and both rode the same horses carrying the baby. They settled about 18 miles southeast of Peoria, Illinois. Peoria then was a trading post with Indians. They had to go to Peoria for sale to use.

The home was hewn out of the wilderness’ heavy timber. The first house was built of logs. Later a house of bricks was built. Grandma cooked by a fireplace. Cook stoves were unknown.

Grandma was the daughter of John Bennet, who moved into Ohio at Janesville on the Ohio River. He moved his family 30 miles out from the port Janesville into the wilderness. Indians were not always friendly then, and sometimes they had to come into the fort for safety.

Grandpa lived in North Carolina, and while a boy he worked in the fisheries of either Pamlico Sound or Abesndorf Sound on the coast. I think he was English. Later he worked on boats running from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. Probably met Grandma at Janesville.

They were real pioneers. Soon after getting settled, Grandma’s brother, Nathaniel Bennet, settled near them. Many others came to build homes and boarded with Grandma. She baked bread every day. There was plenty of game for meat. Grandma wove all the cloth they used out of wool and flex. They had to corral the sheep and hogs with the cows on account of wolves. I do not know how they got the cows, sheep and hogs, but I well remember the home, barn, orchard, milk houses and the good times there when I was young.

I remember your grandma (Aunt Rachel) when she came here a bride, and your grandpa (my uncle Charlie). Soon they had their own cabin built of “logs and shakes” with paunchier floor! We always adored your grandparents, Uncle Charlie and Aunt Rachel. There was an Indian battle on the Mackinaw after they moved there. I have picked up as many arrow heads on my first home on the Mackinaw. Grandma was afraid of Indians, but they were always friendly with her.

Please excuse blots and mistakes.
Ella Robinson


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