(Courier staff photo by Collin Overton)
(Courier staff photo by Collin Overton)
By PEGGY VLEREBOME

Courier staff writer

Oil portraits of infamous Madison resident Jesse D. Bright and his wife, Mary Turpin Bright, arrived at the Jefferson County Historical Society on Thursday and were excitedly uncrated Friday by John Nyberg, executive director of the historical society. The portraits were donated by descendant Harriet Sayre Noyes and shipped from Connecticut. Nyberg estimated that the portraits were painted around 1850, have had some restoration work and are not in their original frames. A piece of paper in an envelope in the shipping crate said they were painted by Washington, D.C., artist George Peter Alexander Healey, whose many portraits included presidents and senators. Bright, a U.S. senator from Indiana for 17 years, was the only U.S. Senator expelled from the Senate for being a Southern sympathizer during the Civil War. Bright, who was born in 1812 in New York state and later moved to Madison with his family, practiced law in Madison after being admitted to the bar in 1831. He was elected probate judge in 1834, appointed U.S. Marshal in 1841, was a state senator for one term in 1841 and was elected Indiana lieutenant governor in 1843. Two years later Indiana sent him to the U.S. Senate. After being expelled in 1862, he tried to get appointed to the seat but was turned down by the legislature. He moved to Kentucky and became a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives. Later he moved to Maryland, where he died in 1875 at the age of 62. While he lived in Madison, he was building his immense political strength by rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies. One of his most public feuds included his vow to put Madison Courier editor Michael C. Garber out of business, but his attempt to drive out an independent press failed. A few months later, a Bright ally stabbed Garber with a chisel, critically injuring him, but Garber recovered.