By Jessica Gorman
The Fuller-White home featured on “In With The Old” was once the home of Mrs. Alma Bright Fuller. There is another house in Minden that is connected to Mrs. Fuller and her family. It stands on Shreveport Road, probably overlooked by most for its historic value. You may know it as the Babb Place or the Killen home, but it was originally known as the Bright Place.
Rev. Dr. Johnson Eaton Bright was born in Virginia in 1807. He was married to Sarah Belle Slack in March 1834 while he was enrolled at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Sarah was the daughter of Rev. Elijah Slack who was a noted mathematician and chemistry professor. He served as one of the first vice-presidents of Princeton University.
The Bright family lived in Tennessee. Dr. Bright was an educator and Presbyterian minister. In 1852, he became the first president of the Odd Fellows Female Collegiate Institute in Trenton, Tennessee. This school was used as a hospital during the Civil War before it was destroyed by fire. It was not rebuilt.
In 1866, Dr. Bright moved with his family to Minden. Here, he served simultaneously as president of the Minden Female College and pastor of the Minden Presbyterian Church. He was referred to as “a scholar of rare attainments, and a minister of great celebrity.” His brother-in-law, S.L. Slack, had previously headed the female college. Mr. Slack was described as a man of “zeal, energy, and ability” and is credited with obtaining the funds to construct the main buildings of the school. (These buildings stood upon the hill overlooking the Fuller-White home when it was built by Dr. S. J. Harrell in 1905.)
An interesting story is told about Dr. Bright during his time in Minden. In 1868, a young man had died and at the moment of his death, he professed his Catholic faith. It is assumed that no Catholic priest was available. There was apparently some concern over reports that Dr. Bright “sprinkled him before he died” and then participated in the Catholic burial service. It was also mentioned that he had previously performed an Episcopal marriage ceremony. It would seem that Dr. Bright must have felt a responsibility to serve the residents of his community regardless of their religion. A response was issued claiming that Dr. Bright “and his members in Minden have only Catholic baptism and ordination” as “the father and the founder of the Presbyterian Society, was a Catholic priest, and all the first members of the Society were Catholics – never were rebaptised!”
In 1871, Dr. Bright returned to Tennessee where he became the first president of Jackson Presbyterian High School for Young Ladies when it opened in September of that year. Shortly before his death, he moved again, back to Louisiana where he served the Red River Presbytery before once again returning to Tennessee. He and his wife died, about a month apart, in the fall of 1878, reportedly of yellow fever.
Clarence Bright, son of J.E. Bright, remained in Minden. He was a farmer, civil engineer, and was named parish surveyor of Webster Parish when it was created in 1871. He performed surveying and engineering work for construction of railroads in North Louisiana. It is not known exactly when the house was constructed, but the Bright family had a large farm of over 300 acres located just west of Minden. For a time, their home was the only house on the road between Minden and Murrell’s Point on Dorcheat, now Dixie Inn.
In 1880, the Bright Place was sold to another prominent Webster Parish citizen, John Sidney Killen, who served as state representative when Webster Parish was formed. The home still stands on Shreveport Road across from Neta’s BBQ.
(Jessica Gorman is the Executive Director for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum, Webster Parish Historian, and an avid genealogist.)