By Kris Leonhardt
In 1905, 20 men labored the days away forging a right-of-way to extend the Foster & Northeastern Railroad (F&NE) from Shilling north to the city of Owen. That year the line only made it as far as the community of Bright situated on County Highway N, just 3-1/2 miles east of Longwood. For a time, Bright remained the end of the line.
Each day, the train would travel from Fairchild to Bright where it would reach a turntable. From there, freight and mail were unloaded and new cargo was loaded and the train was reversed for its return trip.
The community of Bright was named for pioneer Halbert A.Bright. Bright was a native of Nova Scotia who immigrated to the United States in 1844 with his parents. Bright became a very successful businessman in the Black River Falls area, where he served as a stockholder in the Island Mill Lumber Company and the First National Bank, as well as serving as mayor for 12years.
In 1868, he formed a 24-year partnership with Levi Withee and operated a lumbering company in the Owen-Withee area. Bright also worked in the area in real estate and farming and owned two farms in the Green Grove township.
The farms operated to supply food to the men working for Bright. The “East Farm” was located on the northeast corner of the County Highway P and County Highway N intersection and the “West Farm” was located on the northwest corner of the Cardinal Avenue and County Highway N intersection, both in the town of Green Grove.
In 1905, H.A. Bright made his residency in the area as the F&NE reached Bright. The Bright home was built on the north side of the highway just west of the railroad tracks. The home was elegant for its time and was the highlight of the village.
An entry from the Wisconsin Valley Library Service Clark County History Buffs website speaks of the majestic residence: “The focal point of the village was the elegant brick home of H. A. and Anna Bright. The two story house had tall ceilings, large rooms with tall wide windows, cornerfireplace in the living room, running water with an indoor bath, big front and back porches, a clothes line on an open deck connected to the house, and a woodshed with a covered walkway to the house. The house had accommodations fortravelers who needed overnight lodging.”
In 1906, construction was completed on the right-of-way for the F&NE to provide service to Owen where it could obtain a connection tothe Wisconsin Central Railway; however, general service did not begin until March 1907.
On March 11, 1907, the 8:15 a.m. stop at the Bright station provided passenger service to Owen, with arrival scheduled for 8:35 a.m. At that time the passenger rate was reduced from five cents to four cents per mile. The five mile trip would cost a total of 20 cents for the trip there.
In addition to the train station, the village of Bright also consisted of a cheese factory, which sat on the north side of the highway and east of the tracks. Just north of the Bright home, which sat to the west of the tracks on the north side of the highway, there was a saw mill and cheese boxfactory owned by Bright.
A blacksmith shop was situated to the west of the Bright residence and further to the west, on the east corner of the Cardinal Avenue intersection, contained the Bright Creamery.
On the south side of the highway and west of the tracks and landing, stood three company boarding houses and a horse barn, as well as a general store and post office.
The post office had been created in January of 1902 and ran until March 1913. Records show Richard M. Harswill as the first postmaster atthe location.
The first community school was constructed and opened for its first term in the spring of 1894. The school was constructed on the corner of County Highway D and County Highway N and named Bright School after the local lumberman.
As the population grew, a second school was built in 1924 to the northeast of the first school. This school became North Bright School and the original school was referred to as South Bright School.
Entertainment in the area included trips to the horse races in nearby Longwood and watching the local Bright ball team in action. Brightwas well-known in the area for their accomplished ball team, which other teams feared to compete against.
The railroad was abandoned in 1926 and the tracks later removed. Little remains of the bustling village today.
The Sentinel is looking for more photos and information on Clark County ghost towns. If you would have anything you would like to share,please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kris Leonhardt, 104 E.Second St., Marshfield, WI, 54449.
The Sentinel & Rural News covers the news and events of Clark County and southern Taylor County, as well as regional news that affects those areas.