The Life & Times of Benjamin Bunn




Benjamin Jr was the patriarch of the Bunn clan of Southern Illinois. Up until 2010 I thought much of his life was told in our family history book. But during the summer of 2010, I met him afresh, in the small town of Jeromesville, Ohio. What follows is pieced together from the family history book, provided by my wonderful and late cousins, Joe and Louise Bunn of Olney, and the town library of Loudonville, OH.

He was born Nov. 20, 1781 during the Revolutionary War, 8 years before Washington became president, and 173 years to the day before my birth. In family lore, he did not speak of those times, but talked of his adventures with his wife Margaret Hyatt, coming to the wilderness of Ohio, and Illinois, and taming the land.

Physically he was 6'6" tall, 260 lbs. and very strong. The story was told of how he and Margaret came west to the Ohio Territory in 1809, They were with a young man named Metcalf in a covered wagon, and spent the night, after getting to the Mohican forest, by the side of the trail.



The next morning they found their horses had been taken by indians. Benjamin had his wife and Metcalf stay with the wagon while he walked alone up the trail.



Painting by LF TantilloArriving at the indian village of Mohicans, he found the horses, and as spoke several indian languages, he asked for them back. Facing the great Indian chief Mohican John, he was told he could have them back if he could beat the best of his tribe in several games. As there were 60-80 families in the village he had a lot of competition. But to Benjamins credit, he was victorious. He then talked to the Cheif about buying land there, which was agreed on.

So he returned to the wagon with the horses, and upon returning, they all settled nto itaming their land, with lots of trees to fell, swamps to drain, and log cabins to raise.



He also found an old french trapper by the name of Jerome who had an indian family, and lived with them in their pole lodges. As other setlers were arriving, Benjamin's skills as blacksmith, millwright, and pioneer farmer added to the little community. he first three years living side by side with the Mohicans was peaceful and prosperous.


Then came the War of 1812. One story was told of Hyatt, the oldest son, having to kill an indians dog that was killing his chickens. The indian told Hyatt he would come back to kill him and his family. Benjamin heard, and marched straight up to Cheif John, and after hearing the story told Benjamin he would never have a problem with that brave again. He was true to his word.

The Mohicans, who had lived in their village for 50 years, were told, forcebly, they had to leave. The indians were betrayed by some army stragelers, who stayed behind just to burn their homes. I'm sure the whole community hated what the army was doing "under orders".


During this time as other indians, not so freindly, were coming through, he helped his community to build a blockhouse, and had to bring the families inside, while fighting off the indians in the war of 1812. (A replica of the blockhouse was made for the 150th anniversary of Jeromesville).


After living a full life, raising a large family, and establishing a good home, he decided at 57, it was now too crowded. So in 1838 he moved out west to the next frontier, Illinois. Not only did he move, but took the whole family. Grandkids and all made the move, probably by covered wagon. They
ended up in Southern Illinois, which a few years later was named Olney, where he became a Methodist curcuit rider.

His grave still exists! Joe Bunn took us to it on the East side of town. We had to drive through a corn field to get to it, on top of a small rise, and between some old trees in a pioneer graveyard.

What an amazing life he had!

 Hyatt 5/8/1805-12/5/1871  Phebe Isabel 1/21/1807-9/7/1852
 Seely 9/29/1808-9/5/1845  Elizabeth 12/16/1812-8/30/1860
 Benjamin 3/19/1811-10/16/1860  Rebecca 4/30/1814-3/1/1878
 Solomon 11/22/1815-3/1889  Mary Ann 12/17/1819-5/1860
 Aaron 6/23/1817-6/7/1890  
 Silas 6/3/1823  


As a child I remember seeing a family picture at grammas house, that had been taken on a long wooden porch, with several old men with long white beards. I always wondered who they were, and no one seemed to know.

Then in 1981 I contacted a few Bunn families in Olney, trying to find out where the Bunn name had come from. To our amazement we met cousin Joe and Louise Bunn, who still lived on the original property homestead of the first Hyatt Bunn. (We named our daughter, Hester, after the first Bunn woman born in America.) Then in 1986 we took a family trip back to Olney, and got to meet Joe and Louise in person. We missed seeing Hyatt's original wood cabin by just a few years. However Joe took us to the graves of Benjamin, Margaret, east of town, and Hyatt on the backroads south of town. These pictures were taken with my cousin Alberta VanHook when we visited Olney this past summer. (That was one wild ride through the corn field!)

The only heirloom that was passed down was Benjamin's anvil, which is in the possession of my cousin, William Bunn of Normal, Illinois.