Biography of Major William H. Bright
Oneida County, NY Biographies





Major William H. Bright whose death occurred in Rome June 4, 1894, is remembered by many as one of the valiant soldiers of the Civil war and in times of peace as one of the most capable and worthy public officials Oneida county has known. He was born at Richland, Oswego county, New York, in 1842. In 1852 he removed with his father to Wisconsin and there gained his early education attending public school in winter and working on the farm in summer. In August, 1862, in response to his country's call, he enlisted as a private in the Twenty second Wisconsin Volunteers to serve for the Union. He soon afterward proceeded with his regiment to the front and participated in many of the leading movements and battles of the Army of the West. He was captured in one of the engagements and was taken to Richmond, Virginia, where he was confined for a time in Libby prison before being exchanged. After returning to his regiment he took part in the Atlanta campaign and on the 20th of July, 1864, was severely wounded in front of Atlanta at the battle of Peach Tree Creek. His arm was shattered by a ball which it is believed also passed through his body. He found his way alone to the rear where he fell. Thought to be dead, he was carried away and laid with the fallen, but one of the officers of his company came back at night and found him alive, though almost at the point of death; his conditon was so serious that the surgeons believed him to be beyond hope of recovery and they refused to dress his wounds. The officer insisted, however, that the surgeons should give him the proper attention and although it was necessary to amputate his right arm he survived the operation. An idea may be gained as to the extent of his injuries when it is stated that he was obliged to remain in the hospital until August 27, 1865. After receiving his honorable discharge he returned home and later became a student of Madison, now Colgate University, at Hamilton, New York. He pursued the full classical course and was graduated in 1870, delivering the classical oration on Commencement day. He entered the office of Judge Charles Mason of Utica where he pursued the study of law and in due course of time was admitted to practice in this state, showing from the beginning of his professional career an ability which gave brilliant promise as to his future. In 1878 he was elected special county judge to succeed Judge R. O. Jones, but resigned before the close of his term in order to resume legal practice. After the death of Judge Mason, clerk of the United States circuit court, Major Bright was appointed to that position, the duties of which he faithfully discharged for about four years. He also served as United States commissioner and was filling this office when he was elected surrogate in 1889, assuming his new responsibilities January 1, 1890. He performed his work so faithfully that he was generally recognized as one of the best surrogates the county had ever known.

On the 8th of June, 1882, at Rome, Major Bright was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth R. Huntington and to them two sons were born, Edward Huntington and Thomas Cruttenden Bright. Major Bright was a man of great public spirit and unquestioned integrity and uprightness of character. He willingly offered his life in defense of the republic and the sacrifices he made in the cause of the Union served only to increase his love for his native land. It was mainly through his exertions that the Soldiers' Monument was erected at Utica. He was a valued member of Bacon Post, G. A. R., of Utica, and of the Alumni Association of Colgate University, serving as president of the latter organization. He was also a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity with which he became identified in his college days. On account of his many genial characteristics and his personal worth he was greatly esteemed by the people of Oneida county and his memory is cherished as a precious heritage which time cannot obliterate.

From:
History of Oneida County, New York
From 1700 to the present time
of some of its prominent men and pioneers.
By: Henry J. Cookinham
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago 1912


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