THE BRIGHT FAMILY
by Constance Bright Randall Rodaway
Mary, my daughter-in law, has suggested that I write a family history. Now I am no writer, but I probably do have information that is not available from any other source, as I took a course in genetics at Peru University and I had to write up a family record. At that time all four of my grandparents were living, so I asked them many questions about my ancestors.
I found only one person who knew anything about who was born outside the United States. Christina Shoemaker Miller was born in Germany in 1780. She was the saintly Methodist lady who prayed so very earnestly that her husband, Moses Miller (born 1778) would not build a still.
When I asked Grandma Bright about her family, she said, “Write to Sue Stout in Illinois”. She was grandma’s cousin, a remarkable woman, and a minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. She learned to type after she was seventy years old. I had several very interesting letters from her, and she sent me the story about the still. Here it is as it was published in Sue Stout’s Sunday school paper.
“It was either very late in the eighteenth century or early in the nineteenth that my grandfather, Moses Miller together with his family and three orphan children, emigrated from Virginia to Ohio and settled on a tract of land about nine miles from what is now the city of Dayton, Ohio. His selection of land contained some very fine springs of water. My people were Methodists of hard Dutch ancestry. Grandfather was a millwright and soon built a gristmill to which was later added a sawmill.
In those days liquor was found in almost every pioneer home, and Grandfather seeing the ample water supply, conceived the idea of adding to his material wealth by building a house for a still. My more devout grandmother saw great danger in his proposition, and she used all her arts of persuasion to turn him from his purpose, but without avail. The men were put to work sawing lumber, and grandmother seeing that her arguments were useless, transferred her plea to the throne of the everlasting God. Though her labors were very exacting, she spent the fourth of every day in earnest prayer. She saw the work at the mill progressing day by day until the workmen were called to begin the erection of the still. That night, grandfather retired to rest as usual but in a dream he beheld a large scroll containing the names of many candidates for eternal life. With great satisfaction, he saw his own name among the rest; but just as he was about to express his joy, a tall angel standing by brushed his name from the list. Grandfather awoke with a feeling of horror coupled with the impression that if he persisted in his purpose, he would be forever lost. All the rest of the night he paced the floor, fighting the battle which, owing to my grandmother’s intercession, led him to victory. He had ample opportunity to sell the lumber, but he refused, saying that he must keep it as a reminder of his great temptation.
This story is now written out in the hope that those who read it may be led to lay hold upon the promises of the same prayer hearing God, who so graciously answered the prayers of my grandmother more than one hundred years ago.”
This praying lady would be Burt, Gale and Keith’s great, great, great grandmother.
Christina Shoemaker Miller lived to be eighty-two years old, and her mother lived to be one hundred and six. Her daughter, Rachel Miller, married James McDermed and they are Grandma Bright’s parents.
Grandma’s maiden name was Rachel Elizabeth McDermed. She was born August 10, 1840 at Elizabeth town in Marion County, Indiana, on the Brandywine. She was married January 22,1862 in Tremont, Tazewell, County, Illinois to Charles Bright whom she met at an old-fashioned apple peeling. All of the young folks of the neighborhood would have a get-together [party] and would peel and slice apples and put them out to dry to be used as food for wintertime. It was at such a gathering that my grandparents first met.
Grandpa [Charles Bright] was born April 22, 1841 at Tremont, Illinois. He was eight and one half months younger than Grandma.
In my mind’s eye, I can see them now. She was so tiny and had snappy black eyes and an abundance of long, reddish brown hair. He was well over six feet tall; a broad shouldered fellow with steel blue eyes. I remember how she used to stand under his arm to the delight of the small fry. Of their nine children every one had brown eyes and for years all of the Bright boys had only brown-eyed children. Finally, Uncle Charl got one blue eyed one. Folks used to say, “Oh yes, you have the Bright eyes.”
Many evenings I have sat with grandma, Aunt Mate and my mother around the big dining room table and cut newspapers in fancy designs, doll blankets or cut out rows of paper dolls and listened to grandma tell about catching a fawn on her way to school in Indiana and having to let it go as the old mother deer charged her. Grandma also talked of how they made the trip from Illinois to Nebraska in a covered wagon with four small girls. The youngest only a few weeks old and sleeping in a sort of hammock swung from the top of the covered wagon.
They were accompanied to Nebraska by Jim Roberts, one of grandma’s nephews. Jim was the son of her oldest sister, Christine. Grandma was the youngest of a family of nine children.
Later, Jim’s brother, Charley Roberts, came to Nebraska. He and his wife, Jennie Skeen, settled near Nemaha. I remember them very well. They were about grandma and grandpa’s age, maybe a little younger. Their son, Clyde, was a cashier in the bank at Stella, Nebraska when I was in high school. They had other children, Lockie, Pearl and Ole, as I remember. They used to come to Grandpa’s often and my folks visited them near Nemaha.
Grandpa and grandma arrived in Nebraska May 10, 1869. The day the golden spike was driven in the Union Pacific Railroad in Utah. They stayed with Lewis [Luke] Fisher; a first cousin of grandpa’s until they could build a house to live in. Luke Fisher was the father of Mrs. Olive Kimsey, Mrs. Joe Wagner, Mrs. Larimore, Mrs. John Higgins and George Fisher. These folks all lived around Stella, Nebraska at one time. Mrs. Higgins is Mrs. Roger Img’s grandmother and George Fisher’s son, Dwight Fisher is married to a dear friend of mine, Lillie Lewis, and they live in Grand Junction, Colorado. You see, all of these folks are “sorta” shirttail relations.
Grandma used to take walks with my cousins and me in the grove, which used to be north of the house. There we fashioned doll blankets out of cottonwood leaves, pinning them together with stems of leaves or little twigs and she would tell about the Indians who passed by their door each spring and fall as they made the trek north or south. How they used to beg for food or anything else they saw. One day they were jabbering among themselves and pointing to grandma’s hair. She thought they were going to scalp her, but they were only admiring her long auburn hair. One time one of the Indians was especially persistent in his begging and grandma “sicced” one of the dogs on him. The dog came back with a piece of the Indian’s legging in his mouth.
Grandma used to gather willow twigs, take the bark off and soak them in a tub of water to make them pliable and then she wove beautiful baskets with them.
Grandpa used to drive a lumber wagon to Brownville or St. Deroin with wheat to have ground into flour.
The following is another story of grandma’s. Her brother Moses Miller McDermed was to be married. He had a new suit for the occasion but he got typhoid fever and died. He was buried in his wedding suit. He was twenty-one years old. I used to think that story was so sad.
I have heard grandpa tell of the year of the great grasshopper invasion. Swarms of grasshoppers flew in, darkening the sky and eating every green thing, even clothes hanging on the line. After the hoppers left, some folks replanted corn, but it was too late for it to mature. Grandpa bought a bunch of cattle and bought soft corn at a low price to feed them and that year he made money.
Somehow, grandma’s mother, Grandma (Rachel Miller McDermed) and her unmarried son, Jimmy, came to Nebraska. They lived in the section across the road west from grandpa’s and north a half mile or so and back in the field. I remember a bunch of us children walking up there on Sunday afternoons. The buildings were gone, but trees marked the place where they had been.
One time in the early days thieves broke into Grandma McDermed’s house. They were looking for money that Grandma has hidden in a shoe blacking box. Grandma and Uncle Jimmy wouldn’t tell where it was, so they choked grandma and beat Uncle Jimmy over the head with the butt of a revolver. I think they finally got the money but Uncle Jimmy was never right in the head after that. He always thought thieves were after him. He imagined Uncle Clarence was one of them and sometimes Uncle Clarence would come running home from school with Uncle Jimmy in hot pursuit.
Jimmy always thought my dad was his friend and would protect him. I’ve heard dad tell how he came home late one night and heard someone breathing under his bed. He reached down at the side and grabbed Uncle Jimmy by the wrist. Uncle Jimmy had a corn knife in his hand. Later, Uncle Jimmy went to California. He was married, but he was always queer. He is buried at Long Beach, California.
During the Civil War, if you were drafted and had reasons why you didn’t want to go and had the money, you could hire someone to go in your place. Grandpa was married and had two small children, so he paid some fellow a $1, 000 to go in his place. This was never talked about. It was supposed to be something to be ashamed of, but I have never heard the story.
Grandpa Bright’s family were all large people. They said some of the sisters came visiting and they put one chair behind the other in the lumber wagon so they could ride. They were too big to sit side by side.
Grandpa’s father, Caleb Bright was born March 10, 1800 and died October 10, 1864. His wife was Keziah Bennet, born January 5, 1805 and died on January 20, 1876. They had eleven children. Grandpa was the eight.
Some of the family moved to Wakarusa, Kansas, which is near Topeka. One of grandpa’s sisters married a Vawter and her daughter, Ama married a man whose last name was Perry. She often came to grandma’s. She said she come to Aunt Rachel’s for a good rest and she got it too. My parents used to visit Ama’s son, Wayland and his wife, Maude near Wakarusa. Wayland had a sister, Junia. There was another family in the vicinity by the name of Robinson or Robertson. The Mrs. was grandma’s niece, I think.
Keziah and Bethena were both female names used frequently in the Bright family.
Grandpa had a brother, Levi who lived in Shubert. He had three children whom I knew: Keziah (Kiz) Farmer, Ernest and Ed. Ernest had two nice daughters, one taught math in Shubert High School for years. Ed’s children were rather slow learners. I remember a time when I was substituting in the third grade in the Stella school, one of Ed’s granddaughters who was as tall as I and in third grade told me that her mother said I was some of their relation and it was true.
Other members of grandpa’s family settled in western Nebraska. Uncle Alf, Uncle Cape (Caleb) and perhaps others. I have lost all track of them. In fact, I never knew them.
Now, as to grandpa and grandma’s own children. First there was Aunt Loll, really Laura Jane, born July 19, 1863 and died March 4, 1952. She married Rankin Lytle. They moved to Oklahoma in the early 1900’s. Their children were:
Blanche, who married a Roy Wilson. Roy died August 4, 1959. Blanche lived in Auburn, Nebraska. They had one son, Lawrence, who married a Mary Lou Phillips. He, too is dead. He was a florist and Mary Lou continues with the florist shop in David City, Nebraska. Their daughter Beth is married and has twin daughters and a son. Blanche died July 13, 1971.
Edna who married Elmer Mercer. They had one son, Ralph, who lived in Texas. He is married and has a family. Edna is dead.
Madge, who married Ora Thompson and had two sons, Merle who is dead and Charles who is married but has no children. He lives near Auburn as do Madge and Ora.
Amy who married Marshall Moore. She had eight children, some of them still living and some dead. Her husband is dead. Some of her girls are nurses.
Lawrence, who married Vera Nichols. They had five children. They lived near Tulsa. He died of pneumonia.
Porter, who married Anna Heckenlively. They had no children. He was killed in an oil well accident. He had his arm caught in a spinner, jerked it out at the shoulder, and he bled to death. This happened in Texas.
Bard who was married and had an adopted daughter. He died of a heart attack in Texas.
Minnie who married Lloyd McCutcheon. They had two daughters and lived in California. She died of a tumor of the brain.
Glenn who was killed when a team of mules ran away. He was walking behind them with the lines tied around his waist. He was not killed outright but died soon afterwards. He was nineteen years old.
Aunt Mate (Mary Alice) was next. She never married. She used to sew for all the nieces, popped corn for the children, helped with the milking, etc. She died nine days after grandma passed on. She was always busy. She loved Edith like her own daughter and yet she seemed melancholy to me. She was born January 2, 1865 and died May 22, 1939.
Aunt Cad (Clarissa Ellen) was born January 28, 1867 and died November 5, 1960. She married William Steadman. They had one child, Helen who lives near Verdon and her son, Richard has a large family of children. Helen died of cancer. Uncle Bill, who died of carbon monoxide gas. He was putting on chains in a garage and the doors were closed with his car motor running.
Aunt Coe (Cora Viola) was born January 3, 1869 and died October 23, 1970. Her home was in Falls City. She was the baby in the cradle when the family came to Nebraska. Her husband was Chester Evans, a Welshman. They lived for years on a farm near Shubert. They had four children Myrle who taught in a University for awhile and then became an efficiency expert for McCormich-Deering in Chicago. He met his wife at the University of Nebraska. Her name was Bernice Stevenson and her home was in Wymore, Nebraska. They have two married sons, Durwood and George. They both have children. George married a Catholic girl.
Ralph Evans was Aunt Coe’s second son. He married Carmen Jones of the Prairie Union neighborhood. Prairie Union is a rural Baptist Church between Stella and Shubert, one mile north of the highway. He went to Agriculture College and was a farmer. He later worked in the ASC office. They had four children, Herbert Landon, Arthur Burton, Margery and Ralph Victor. All of them married. Landon and Burton have each been married twice. Landon lives in California, Burton lives in Oregon. Victor and Margery both teach school in Topeka, Kansas. Margery’s husband’s name is Teel. He is a preacher’s son. In fact, his father was in charge of my dad’s funeral. Ralph died May 30, 1977.
Frank, the youngest son married Alta Davis from Humboldt. Frank was in World War I and he and Dave Way of Syracuse were good friends and army buddies. Frank and Alta had one child, Keith. He is in some sort of atomic energy work. He married a Catholic girl and has seven children Keith Rodaway met them in Pittsburgh. They did not get too well acquainted as Keith Evans was being transferred to New York state and left soon after Keith Rodaway met him. Alta died January 24, 1978.
Mildred was Aunt Coe’s only daughter. She was a little over a year older than I. She was very small, and had Grandma Bright’s beautiful auburn hair. She was always frail as a child. Mildred had a leakage of the heart. Her brothers used to carry her to school “piggyback”. As a young woman she was in better health, always gay and easy to get along with. We have had some marvelous times together. I used to stay all night with her, and we would take all sorts of things upstairs to eat, including some peppermint to take if we got a stomachache. Ralph was going with Carmen then, and Mildred knew where he kept his love letters. For shame, we had a high time reading them. Once, Carmen wrote that she was making a pair of pillowcases, and she thought how happy they would be when they could lay their heads on them together. To us, that was real “rich stuff”. When Frank dropped in a minute on his way to bed, what a scramble to hide the evidence. Mildred married Gordon Teall, another Teall who was a preacher’s son, but no relation to Margery’s husband. Gordon was a dentist. I remember when he was in school in Kansas City, he brought a veterinary student friend home with him and Mildred and I shocked the natives by riding through Shubert on the back of their motorcycles.
Mildred and Gordon’s marriage ended in divorce. She remarried. That time she was married to a man much younger than herself. I fear the marriage was not a happy one. Mildred died several years ago.
The youngest of grandpa and grandma’s daughters was Aunt Ame (Amy Catherine) born in 1871 and died September 19, 1972. She married John Evans, a brother of Aunt Coe’s husband. They lived on the old Steadman homestead near Stella and Aunt Ame made her home with them.
Alberta was born December 1898. She had beautiful golden hair and big, gray eyes with long lashes. She, too, was gay and happy and easy to get along with. I remember visiting school in Shubert with her. We rode back and forth in a buggy and how she would sing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart, I’m in Love with You,” and “I’d Love in Loveland with a Girl Like You”, two popular songs of the day. I never hear them that I don’t think about Alberta.
My dad, mother and I drove up to Stella from Pomona, Kansas, in a spring wagon one fall. Dad picked apples for Uncle John who had the first commercial apple orchard in that part of the country. (Later they became very numerous) My mother helped Aunt Ame cook for the apple pickers, 20 or 30 men. Uncle John put up a big tent where the men ate and slept. (I know they slept there, but I’m not sure whether they ate in the tent or in the house). I remember how the fellows used to sing at night. Sometimes you wished they would “shut-up” and go to sleep.
I brought my schoolbooks along and studied on my own and sometimes visited school with Alberta. Effie was in school in Peru at the time. Alberta became ill. Uncle John and Aunt Ame had her in Omaha in the Clarkson Hospital where everything possible was done for her, but she died when she was sixteen years old. She had leukemia.
Uncle John died many years later. T’was then that Aunt Ame came to make her home with Effie and Bert. They had no children.
Uncle Norm (Norman Sylvester) born in 1873 and died March of 1956, was the first of the Bright sons. His wife’s name was Myrtle. The had two children, Lloyd and Ferrell. They each married and had children, left their mates and offspring and remarried. Ferrell had three husbands. She died of cancer. She was eight and one half months younger than I. After Aunt Myrtle died (diabetes), Uncle Norm married a widow lady, Lily Pond. She lived in Shubert.
Uncle Charl (Charles Edward) was born October 28, 1877 and died April 21, 1963. His first wife was Leota Timmerman. They had one daughter, Edith, and she married Vern McKinney. They had one daughter, Vernelle. They all live in Arizona. Edith is a little older than I am. (February to September). Aunt Leota died when Edith was nine years old. Uncle Charl and Edith came to live with Grandpa, Grandma and Aunt Mate. Aunt Mate was a second mother to Edith. When Edith was sixteen, Uncle Charl married Florence Hayward of DuBois, Nebraska. They had four children John Bright, Salem Nebraska; Myron Bright, Humboldt; Rachel Kunze, Humboldt; and Franklin Bright, Verdon, Nebraska. John has a daughter; Myron, a son and a daughter; Rachel has two sons. Myron’s wife, Dorothy died May 7, 1973. Franklin has a family but I don’t know how many.
Next came my dad, Arthur Leslie, born September 10, 1880 and died December 11, 1951. He married Carlie Marts on October 11, 1899. I was born on September 19, 1900. You know my history. I married Ira Randall on January 26, 1921. We had two sons, Burt born January 26, 1922 and Gale, born November 10,1923. We were divorced on April 21, 1930. I married Ivan Rodaway on May 22, 1932. We had one son, Keith born August 30, 1933. I shall write about my immediate family later. My mother died September 26, 1919. Dad married Hazel Swank of Gentry, Arkansas in April 1921.
After my mother died, Dad had a sale and sold all of his livestock and farming equipment. He went to work for Frank Evans in a garage in Shubert. That fall he met some fellows from Arkansas who were in Nebraska husking corn. He went to Arkansas with them and met Hazel, who was a sister to one of the corn shuckers.
Hazel and Dad had two children Max, born October 17, 1922 and Ellene born February 4, 1924. They were both born in Arkansas, but they later moved to Nebraska and lived in the little house, 4 rooms now, on Grandpa’s farm. Then they finally moved to California, Chualar, near Salinas. Here Hazel died in 1941 or 1942. She had cancer. She was over nineteen years younger than my dad, and from January 13 to September 19th older than I.
Max married Larean McWhetley and has two daughters Peggy, who is engaged to Bert Hollanader, and Barbara, who recently married Richard Schweitzar. They all live near Salinas, California. Max is a contractor. He has built many beautiful homes and other buildings near or in Salinas.
Ellene married W. Harold Munger, Jr. He was stationed in California in the Second World War. His home was in Ohio, but the family had lived in Michigan at one time. They had two children William III, a senior in high school and Constance Marie, my namesake, who is in the seventh grade. Bud, the husband, works as a contractor with Max. Ellene does office work and Max’s wife, clerks in a ready to wear store. They live near Salinas.
The last of the Charles Bright family was Uncle Clarence. [Clarence Eugene] He was born December 6, 1882. The others used to call him “the kid”. He died July 15, 1956. Clarence’s wife was Minnie Timmerman, as sister of Uncle Charl’s first wife. They had five children Norma lives near Fall City. She has been married twice and has one married child. Robert was married and had two children, living in California. Don, who is married and lives on Grandpa’s home place [he and Neil own it], had polio when he was only a few weeks old, and, while he has been physically handicapped all of his life, he is an excellent farmer in spite of his handicap. Neil lives in the Prairie Union neighborhood. He married Jeanette Williams, a local Prairie Union girl. They had two sons and two daughters. Nedra, Uncle Clarence’s youngest, is now Mrs. Ray Stivick and lives in Dawson. Her husband is a brother of Myron Bright’s wife, Dot. They have several children.
I could write reams about the various ones, but I shall resist the temptation and tell you about Grandpa and Grandma and their home.
I never remember Grandpa ever working in the field. He used to do lots of truck gardening, but he always had someone in the little house to do the farming – first my dad and mother, then Uncle Clarence and Aunt Minnie, Uncle Charl and Florence, Edith and Vern McKenney, and my dad and Hazel. Grandpa died when Dad and Hazel were living there. Grandpa always had lots of watermelons. He had a big cart, which he filled with melons on Saturday and hauled them to the house where they were put in tubs of cold water until Sunday. Then all the clan would gather for a feast.
Grandma never knew how many to prepare dinner for on Sunday. No one ever let her know they were coming. They just came. The long table in the dining room was set and plates taken off or added as needed. No matter how many came, there was plenty of good food for everyone and no one ever brought any food with them. In the middle of the afternoon the young folks would raid the pantry. Very little was left when they got through.
When I was little the dinning room and kitchen were combined. There was a corner in this room where we children could hang a blanket and partition off a room. The closet under the stairs was a room thus made, and there were plenty of things to dress up in. There were old dresses, skirts and petticoats for those who were supposed to be young ladies. Waists were there and sleeves could be used for legs. Those were for young men that particular day.
Later, a kitchen and screened-in-porch were added to the house and many years later, the pantry became the bathroom. To this day, you can imagine you can detect the odor of pies, cakes and cookies in this room.
Grandpa was a great reader. There was always his rocking chair, pipe and book. He was a big man – six feet and four inches tall and weighted about two hundred and forty pounds and had steel blue eyes.
At one time, he had thought about acquiring more land. In fact, he wrote back home to Illinois to try to borrow some money to use for that purpose. They wrote him that if he would come back to Illinois they would loan him all the money he wanted, but they had no money for the Indians to carry off or to blow away. After that he never seemed to care to increase his holdings. He owned 160 acres of the best farmland in Richardson County, Nebraska. (1983, still owned by his grandsons). It cost him $1,000. He bought it from the man who had homesteaded it. He made a good living and had money to loan to others. He was very contented and completely satisfied.
He never went any place. He said the children could all come home to see him. After Grandpa was gone, some of the family took Grandma to her first picture show. She spent her 92nd birthday with us at Unadilla, but as long as Grandpa was living she stayed home with him.
Grandma was always busy. She pieced quilts, knitted, darned, patched, read books, cleaned and cooked. She had a little step stool she used to reach up into cupboards. She was only four feet and eleven inches tall and weighted about ninety pounds Grandma often said the Lord let her live to care for Grandpa in his last sickness. She scarcely ever left his side.
Grandma lived to nearly 99 years old. She died May 13, 1939. She would have been 99 on August 10 of that year. When she was in her 80’s she had two very serious bouts with pneumonia. They had a graduate nurse come each time to care for her. I guess her heart pulled her through. Dr. Shooks said, “that old heart was good for another 100 years.”
Neither Grandpa nor Grandma were ever baptized. Their daughters all worked in the church, but their sons never did. I know they both believed in God. I have often heard Grandma express her faith. Blessing was always said before a meal. It was always the same. “Our Dear Heavenly Father we thank thee for the many mercies and blessings thou hast bestowed upon us, guide us and direct us thru life, as in heaven, we ask it in they name, Amen.” I wish they had been baptized, not that baptism alone saves anyone, but for me I would certainly want to be baptized. I am glad God is merciful. He understands and He is the Judge.
My dad was at Ellene’s during his last illness. He died of cancer, as did his second wife, Hazel. Dad was quite remorseful during his illness and asked to be baptized, which he was by Ellen’s Lutheran minister. Dad said he would have done many things differently if he had his life to live over.
Constance Bright Rodaway
July 29, 1964
A 100th birthday party for Constance was held in Nebraska, on September 3, 2000.