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The Bunns

            Lewis Bunn (1805 - 1886) came to Bloomington in 1833 and immediately set to business making plows. It must have been disheartening when he made the same plows that cut through the earth of Ohio and found that they simply would not cut through the Illinois prairie. He had received his training in Ohio, where he had served an apprenticeship for four years before qualifying as a blacksmith. The development of a plow that would cut and “scour” (the soil would fall away from the metal) took eleven years of toil and sweat by Lewis Bunn and Oliver Ellsworth. Once they were successful, farmers came long distances just to buy the scouring plow Bunn and Ellsworth developed. The business grew until 1859, when Bunn and Ellsworth went into partnership with Abram Brokaw.


             Lewis Bunn was married to Margery Haines in 1831, a daughter of Benjamin Haines, and she died in 1845 leaving four children. Bunn remarried but all the children of his second marriage died as infants or small children. The ties between the early settlers were often strengthened through common hardships. When Abram Brokaw first came to Bloomington in 1836, a single young man, he boarded with the Bunn’s for seven years. In later years Brokaw recalled how carefully Margery Haines Bunn had nursed him through a serious sickness. He made a large donation to Illinois Wesleyan University in their memory.


             Lewis’ son, Thomas Jefferson Bunn (1832 – 1915) lived in Bloomington from the age of about one year and told stories of growing up in a rough pioneer town. He was interviewed by Madame Annette in 1899 and described Bloomington as a “log cabin village, with nearly all the buildings on Front Street.”  He recalled that “Saturday was a general holiday, when everybody came in town from miles around, and there was a regulation routine of sports carried out as faithfully as a modern concert program.” The first event was the display of the farm horses in a parade around the courthouse square. The second event was a foot race and then a game of “town ball,” which was a precursor of baseball. The fourth and all important event was the fight before dinner. “There were four or five old families living round the grove that had family strifes from one cause or another, and settled they must be pugilistically, as it were.  . . . They never had to be urged, rather waited their ‘chance’ to settle the neighborhood difficulties.” TJ Bunn declined to name names, excusing himself on the account that these men had risen to political heights and put those differences behind them. 


             TJ Bunn followed the printing trade and became president of the Bulletin, but then found his place in banking. He was also part of a consortium of three men who financed the search for coal in Bloomington after the city’s efforts in that vein had failed. They established the first coal mine, and found a good water source for the city at the same time. He was elected mayor twice, in 1871 and 1877.


             Henry Clay Bunn (1795 – 1853) came to McLean County and brought his family. Many of his descendants remained in McLean County, a few living here today. Henry’s son John Wesley (1816 – 1872) was a farmer near the Mackinaw in McLean County. He had two daughters who remained in McLean County: Lucy Bell Bunn and Emma Bunn. Lucy married Thomas Lyons, a farmer in Martin Township and their daughter, Mary married Robert Cross, a drayman in McLean County. Emma, married David Horney of Colfax and her two sons, Reid and Warren Horney both attended the University of Illinois. Both served in WWI, Reid as a flying instructor at Chanute Field. Warren was later a teacher specializing in agricultural science. Both of these men died outside Illinois. Their sister Gladys received teaching degrees from ISU and Northwestern and taught for 44 years.


              Isaac Kersey Bunn (1832 – 1897), another son of Henry Clay Bunn, was as inventive a pioneer of Illinois as ever lived. He was a very successful farmer and known for his inventive genius and mastery of veterinary skills. Many years before anyone else had thought of it, Isaac Bunn was placing rings in the noses of swine to prevent rooting. He also invented a “checkrower” for the planting of corn in perfectly straight rows. He made his own nails and horseshoes and other farm implements as well. Isaac married Ruth Ann Waldon and their children were raised at their farm near Twin Grove.


             The family of Isaac Kersey’s son John Lewis (1856 – 1927)  had truly tragic stories. John Lewis’ son Charles (1886 – 1937) commited suicide outside the Arrowsmith WPA garage on Christmas Day, 1937 and Charles’ wife died in the Peoria State Hospital in 1941. Their daughter, Winifred lived in Michigan, where her three brothers also lived after their father’s death, but tragically, in 1939 Winifred also committed suicide, leaving behind a husband and three sons. Charles youngest daughter, Barbara, was an orphan at the Girls Industrial Home in Bloomington in the 1940 census. She occasionally visited her Aunt Kate in Arrowsmith, but it is unknown whether she ever had a home again. None of Isaac Kersey's descendants live in McLean County, unless Barbara married and had children here. Other descendants of Isaac Kersey emigrated to South Dakota, Missouri, Texas and Minnesota.         


              If you are related to these people, you can claim kinship with an interesting family!


Nellie Bunn Loos

Barbara Bunn

Hazel Cross Simpson

              To read a biography of Thomas Jefferson Bunn follow the link below to the McLean County Museum of History's website.

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