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Brightwell Documents, Manuscripts, Reports, etc.

of north Arkansas

1857 - 1889

Written For His Grand-Daughter
Frances Irene Brightwell McSpadden

{by Mr. Lynn McSpadden, ca 1986}

Cover page; Brightwell Families of north Arkansas; by Lynn McSpadden; ca 1986

{contents page}


The following contains brief notes and table of contents for this very incomplete look at the Brightwell family tree.


Information here is very sketchy and contains mostly just a few names that may be useful in more research.  If anyone can connect any of those names to Leonard and Nancy Brightwell, please let me know!


These are the earliest Brightwells I have been able to tie to my direct line.  It is possible that a Sally Brightwell, listed in the 1830 Meigs County census, is the mother of Leonard.  I would be happy to send Xerox copies of records referring to Leonard that I obtained from the Meigs County clerk to anyone who wants them.


I have found the greatest amount of information about William, Elgin, and Gainum, thanks to the research of Stanley Harmon in the National Archives.  Their records and descendants are being added to almost weekly.


Much of the information here is from Stanley Harmon's research.  Other information came from various Civil War articles in the Independence County Chronicle.


More information about this era is already available and will be added to the paper soon.  Anyone who has information about the descendants of William{,} Elgin, or Gainum, please let me hear from you.


These are my direct ancestors, and some additional information has been gathered about them and will be added shortly. Any information and/or clues would be helpful.  I am especially interested in a complete listing of their descendants.  If you have any information, please let me hear from you!

{Mr.} Lynn McSpadden
Brightwell Family Research
{address deleted for privacy}
Mtn. View, AR
Phone {number deleted for privacy}

Contents page; Brightwell Families of north Arkansas; by Lynn McSpadden; ca 1986

{page 1}


    We know almost nothing about our line of the Brightwell families before the 1830s.  What country did they come from?  Why?  How, where and when did they arrive in America?  What professions and occupations did they follow?

    We do know that during the Revolutionary War at least five Brightwell men served our country.  Their family connection to our particular line of Brightwells is unknown.  The men were:  Anderson Brightwell, Pvt., VA; John Brightwell, Pvt., VA Regiment (3, 5, 7); Leonard Brightwell, VA [he could possibly be an ancestor of our Leonard Brightwell]; Robert Brightwell, a private in John Reed's command, PA Volunteers; and William Brightwell, 7th VA Regiment.

    The pension applications following the War of 1812 indicate that a Sally Crittenden Brightwell applied for widow's benefits based upon her husband's service.  He was Barnet Brightwell of Richmond, VA (Henrico County).  He had served from August 30, 1814 to February 22, 1815 in the 38th US Infantry.  He was married to Sally February 17, 1821 in Henrico County.  He died in 1840; Sally died in 1893.

    Another Brightwell, Barnett, also served in the War of 1812.  He married Judith W. Boatwright in Prince Edward County, VA on December 10, 1812, and served in the militia from 8-30-1814 to 2-22-1815. Barnett died in 1855.  Since the dates of military service are identical for Barnet and Barnett, and the former died in 1840, the latter in 1855, it is likely that these men were father and son.

    Many of the Brightwells obviously remained in Virginia where their descendants may still be found in 1986.  Wilson Wallace, a Brightwell descendant and relative of ours now living near Dallas, says there are Brightwells living today in the following Virginia counties:  Prince Edward, Louisa, Spotsylvania and King William.

Page 1; Brightwell Families of north Arkansas; by Lynn McSpadden; ca 1986

{page 2}

    In the late 1700s the movement of the frontier led many Virginians to move southward into eastern Tennessee, into lands technically owned by the Cherokee Indians.  Sometime around 1817-19 the pressure of the settlers on the Cherokee led to a substantial purchase of lands from them.  This action opened the floodgates and the flow of new white settlers quickly populated eastern Tennessee.  Not all the Cherokee people were forced to move from the area.

    The Cherokee were primarily very civilized farmers by this time in history.  They lived in log cabins like those of the whites who were replacing them.  By about 1830 Sequoyah had invented a Cherokee alphabet that was easy to learn, and they had established their own newspaper, the Phoenix.  Intermarriage with the whites was not at all uncommon.  In fact, John Ross, their principal chief for many years, was seven-eighths white.


    It is in the above setting that we find the earliest Brightwells that we can authenticate as our line of the family.  The 1830 US Census of Rhea County, Tennessee, lists a Leonard Brightwell.  The census that year names only the head-of-household, the number of males and females, and their age groups.  Leonard's household included one male and three females under five years of age; two males (Elgin and Gainum, as we shall see) and one female ages 5-10; one male (William) and one female ages 10-15; one female age 15-20; Leonard's age was 30-40 and his wife was 40-50.

    Sometime after 1830 Leonard and his family moved across the river to Meigs County (north of Chattanooga in eastern Tennessee).  Leonard died sometime around 1838 or 1839.  His will was recorded by the Meigs County court in Decatur:

Page 2; Brightwell Families of north Arkansas; by Lynn McSpadden; ca 1986

{page 3}

    "Leonard Brightwell, Last Will & Testament.  Will dated May 18th 1836 State of Tennessee Meigs County was this 5th March 1838 Duly proven in open court by Samuel Fitz Gerald and Elizabeth Wilson the subscribing witnesses thereto . . . sayeth that they are personall {sic} acquainted with Leonard Brightwell and that he signed sealed and delivered the same in their presence to be his act and last will and testament for the purposes therein . . . the day and date above written and was ordered that said Will be recorded.

    "In testimony where of I William Kerr Clerk of the County Court have hereunto set my hand and affisced {sic} my private seal not having an official seal at office in Decatur the day and date above written. [signed] William Kerr, Clerk."

    Leonard possibly was ill at the time the will was written and filed.  A little more than four months later, the same court recorded another official transaction for him.  The date was July 22, 1838:

    "Leonard Brightwell to Elgin Wilson.  There was an obligation from Leonard Brightwell to Elgin Wilson, dated the 1st day of March 1837 for a lease on a certain piece of Land in Meigs County, duly proven before me Wm Kerr, Clerk of the County Court for said county, by the oaths of the subscribing witnesses thereof.  Whereupon the same is certified let it be registered.  Wm Kerr Clerk, by his deputy Wm M. Rogers."

    There is a possibility that Leonard had already died, having failed to pay the lease, and Elgin Wilson may have been claiming payment from his estate.  There is a strong probability that Elgin and Elizabeth Wilson were the parents of Leonard's wife Nancy.  On Tuesday, July 2, 1839 the same court ordered Nancy Brightwell to "attend the next term of this court and give bond and security as executive {sic} of the last will and testament of Leonard Brightwell, deceased."  A copy of the will itself has not been located.

Page 3; Brightwell Families of north Arkansas; by Lynn McSpadden; ca 1986

{page 4}

    Leonard and Nancy Brightwell had at least ten known children, as shown in 1840 and 1850 TN census records and various collections of family records.  In the listing below note that two of the children are in all probability named after Elgin and Elizabeth Wilson.  Nancy, incidentally, was born in North Carolina.

Children of Leonard and Nancy Brightwell

1. William E. b. 1819 m. Martha Knight
d. 1872
2. Elgin b. 1822 m. 1st Elizabeth Armstrong
d. 1898

m. 2nd Mary J. Houser

3. Gainum M. b. 1821-24 m. Nancy Walker
d. 1869
4. Milly Ann b. ? m. Ebenezer Houser
d. ?
5. John Haden b. ? m. Sarah F. Thompson
d. ?
6. Elizabeth Jane

7. Mary Evelyn

8. Leety C. b. 1834 m. Paul Bunch

9. Matilda C. b. 1838 m. John Moore

10. Jefferson b. 1939
{sic ?s/b 1839 ?}
m. 1st Mahaley Armstrong{m.} 1858

m. 2nd Margaret Whitmore{m.} 1868

m. 3rd Freda Cloninger{m.} 1871

    All of these children were born in Tennessee.  Jefferson was born in 1839, so Leonard died sometime in 1838 or early 1839.  Jefferson was still in Meigs County in 1860, and it is possible that several more of the family remained in Tennessee after the 1850 census was taken.  John Haden Brightwell possibly moved to Arkansas, because his widow Sarah was living near other Brightwells in what is now Stone County in 1860-1870 era.  Milly Ann Brightwell Houser was also living near them as a widow by at least 1870.  The three oldest sons have been the easiest of the children to trace, for they had war records.

Page 4; Brightwell Families of north Arkansas; by Lynn McSpadden; ca 1986

Pages 5 to 10 Pages 11 to 15

Copy submitted by Avlyn Dodd Conley. Permission to reprint here by Lynn McSpadden.
Online transcription by Susan Shields Sasek. My notes, etc. are in curly brackets { }.

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Page Updated on: 17 Apr 2004 Page Visitors: c. Susan Shields Sasek