Sedgwick County, Kansas 1870.
The great southern cattle drives still headed north out of Texas, fording the Ninnescah River on their way to Wichita, the railroad and the eastern markets. Buffalo still roamed the Kansas plains. The Osage Trust Lands were opened for settlement, but it was still two more years until the Osage finally ceded their rights to Kansas lands.
Philip Bright, an enterprising former Union soldier from Pennsylvania, took up a homestead claim straddling the Ninnescah River one mile west of present-day Clearwater in Sedgwick County. There he built a dugout and kept a diary. After first visiting her brother Hiram in Indiana, Philip's sister Abbie came to visit. While there, she acquired 160 acres as an investment. She too kept a diary.
Edwards Historical Atlas, Sedgwick County, Ninnescah Township 1882
Abbie decided to stay and taught school. She was paid the handsome sum of $40 a month with $2 for room and board. School commenced in October after the fall harvest and was for a period of 4 months. Like many schools, it stood at a a lonely crossroads, a simple wooden structure with a single door and three windows on each length of the building. When time and money allowed, a steeple with a bell was built. Abbie's schoolhouse probably had none. As the winter was approaching, someone dumped a pile of soft coal before the schoolhouse to heat the single black stove.
|One room school, Sedgwick County Kansas circa 1870-1880, photo Kansas Memory|
She began her term with 11 students, noting that more would join the group once the corn was harvested. She counted among her students "waifs" who had been sent from the east to be adopted by local families.
In 1873, Abbie married William M. Achenbach, a school teacher and farmer. The couple lived in Tama County, Iowa near Gladbrook. They had three daughters.
|Abbie Bright, circa 1870-1873|
[Note. Some grammatical and spelling changes, a few additions. The diary can be found online, Kansas Historical Society]
Dec. 19. Did not get home Friday. So no mail for over a week. The boys went to town, and I sent letters along to be mailed. No one seems anxious for the mail but I. Last Saturday was my twenty-second birthday. Age creeps on, but I fear it does not bring the expected wisdom with it. Last Saturday, I spent the day sewing and answering letters. The other week when I was up home, I made of a black and green wool goods, a suit for little Oakley, and he is to wear it when he has his picture taken. This is a snowy Monday. There are but six scholars at school.
Dec. 20. Yesterday p.m. Mr. Woods came for his children, and I had a sled ride home. Coleman Butler brought us all up this morning. The sleighing is good. It is so cold it will last some time. We are all invited to a party to night. Bess [Belle Butler] and I would rather stay home but to please the boys I expect we will go.
Dec. 21. We went to the party last night. James Hunter came around this way for us. There were seven in the sled, and we had a merry time. More boys there, as usually at their merry makings, than girls--and I danced until my ankles hurt. I do not like to refuse any one. Some lack polish, but they are mostly well-meaning, up right boys. There are to be several other parties soon, but I shan't go. I feel too stupid next day. It is very cold--only six scholars to day.
Dec. 23. I shall leave school out early today and go home. I'll have a cold ride, but am so anxious for mail. There was a party last night, but I would not go. This morning I ate breakfast standing by the cookstove, and started to school when some were still in bed. I like to have the room good and warm when the children come. Have a good stove and plenty of coal. The kitchen is a leanto, and cold. This morning I washed at one end, and by the time I wiped my face, and walked to the other end to comb, my hair was frozen. I am glad my hair is shingled [often short and curled, in Abbie's case long, popular during the Civil War], it don't take much combing, and another cold morning I will not wet it.
Dec. 28, 1870. Christmas is past. I spent it at my brother's home with the children, and a plenty of apples, nuts, popcorn, homemade candy and cider. I had a pleasant time. It was so cold Mrs. Bee did not want me to come up Friday, but I was determined to go. She gave me a pair of drawers to wear, that were made out of a blanket, and they kept me warm, except my feet, which were frost bitten a little. If women rode crosswise like men, how much warmer and better it would be. Kit seemed to like the outing, and traveled well. There was no school Monday. I came down by way of Fees Hall in the p.m. When I turned the corner there, a team came up behind me to pass, but Kit would not let them pass. She started to run, and run she did for three miles, with the team close behind us. A little way from Mrs. Bees they turned off, and Kit slacked up. That was the fasted riding I ever did. They say Kit never lets a team pass her.
Jan. 2, 1871 Did not go home last Friday as I had school Saturday to make up for Monday. Went to church at Grows Grove yesterday. When we came back Mr. De Terk was here. He gave me a pair of kid-lined gloves, with fur at the wrists, very nice. They are a philopena forfeit. [As philopena is game in which a person, on finding a double-kernelled almond or nut, may offer the second kernel to another person and demand a playful forfeit from that person to be paid on their next meeting.] There is a sort of craze, playing philopena around here. The snow is gone and so is the sleighing. One evening last week we spent at Moffit's home. Their little girls come to school.