Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.


Burris H. Bunn

BURRIS H. BUNN. One of the most capable, resolute and successful citizens who ever lived in Rush County was the late Burris H. Bunn. He was perhaps pre-eminent in the field of business, but any public enterprise to which he gave his support had an ally that made the cause almost impregnable and was never discounted by the opposition. Taken all in all his was the type of forceful citizenship that redeemed Western Kansas from the hard years and made it one of the most fruitful sections of the state.

He became a resident of Rush County in March, 1876, and lived there almost continuously until his death nearly thirty years later, on September 8, 1904. Burns Harbis Bunn was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 29, 1846, but when he was a child his parents moved into West Virginia and he grew up in that district, which was then a part of Old Virginia. Much of his forceful character he undoubtedly inherited from his father.

John Bunn, his father, was a son of a veteran of the War of 1812, and his mother was Miss Elizabeth Bee. He was a New Jersey man, reared among Quakers and always retained many of the customs of that quiet sect. To the end of his life he wore the broad-brimmed block bat of the Quaker, and there was seldom a public occasion of such importance that he would doff it. But he was never thoroughly inoculated with the principle of non-resistance which is part of the Quaker doctrine. In the stormy times before the war he was loyal to the core in behalf of the integrity of the Union. He was living in Western Virginia in 1860 when the nation finally passed its judgment upon slavery. The method of voting in Virginia at the time was the viva voce balloting, in which each voter announced by word of mouth his preference. Few men had the courage to express any opinion except that of the majority, but John Bunn loudly announced his vote for Mr. Lincoln and was the only Lincoln follower in his precinct. Such independence in politics was not tolerated in those days and in that community, and not long afterward some political enemy burned down his steam saw and grist mill at New Martinsville, Virginia. By trade he was a ship carpenter. He was so zealous in behalf of the Union cause that he wanted to enlist in the army, and while his personal services were rejected he had the satisfaction of sending two sons and three sons-in-law to acquit themselves with credit under the Stars and Stripes.

John Bunn was born August 17, 1808, in Alloways Town, Salem County, New Jersey. Thrown upon his own resources when eight years of age by the death of his father, he followed the life of a sailor boy along the Atlantic Coast. In 1824, at the age of sixteen, he saw Lafayette on the occasion of his second visit to this country. To make sure of doing this he resorted to the same artifice used by Zaccheus of old, climbing not a fig tree but a gas post in front of Liberty Hall at Philadelphia. So dense was the throng that, as he related it, he had to remain there "three mortal hours" before he could descend, but, as he always concluded the story, "But I saw that great man." About that time he began an apprenticeship in the largest shipyard on the Delaware River, serving seven years to learn his trade. After getting his papers as a master ship builder he started for the West, crossing the Allegheny Mountains before a railroad had been completed into Pittsburgh. Part of his journey was made on the famous incline plane railroad from Hollidaysburg to Conemaugh. He had charge of the first dry dock at Pittsburgh. He also built steamboats at Pittsburgh and Brownsville, and many barges and flatboats at a number of towns near the head of the Ohio River. He was well known among rivermen from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. In 1855 with his family he moved from Pittsburgh to Wetzel County, Virginia, where, as noted, he lived until the fall of 1861. On Thanksgiving Day of that year the family moved to a farm in Monroe County, Ohio, and soon after the war they went to Tennessee. Not finding the people there congenial they soon returned.

John Bunn was for twenty years a resident of Kansas. From the fall of 1878 to the summer of 1882 he lived in Center Township of Rush County, and then moved to Ottawa and lived with his widowed daughter, Mrs. Lizzie Williams, until her death in the fall of 1886. After that he made his home with his son John W. and later with his daughter Mrs. Julia Barackman. He died at the Barackman home in Kansas City, Kansas, May 6, 1899. He was then in his ninety-first year. He married Selina Edith Burkheimer. She died in Ohio. Their children were: Sarah E., who died at Ottawa, Kansas, widow of Charles W. Williams; Julia A., who died at Kansas City, Kansas, wife of J. Aquilla Barackman; Burris H.; Thomas, who was a soldier in the Union army and now lives at Fort Scott, Kansas; Lina, wife of Clarence H. Lyman, of Rush Center; John W., who is connected with the Galena Oil Company at Kansas City, Missouri; and William N., with the Rook Island Railway Company at Kansas City, Kansas.

There was nothing doubtful about the patriotism and loyalty of the sons of John Bunn in the issue between slavery and freedom and they joined in the struggle of the Civil war. Burris H. Bunn was not more than fifteen years of age when that war started, and in August, 1862, he secured acceptance of his own services and became a member of Company C of the Fifteenth West Virginia Volunteer Infantry. During part of his military service he was under the famous cavalry leader, General Sheridan. In the battle of Cedar Creek, when General Sheridan made his famous ride familiar to every American schoolboy, Mr. Bunn was desperately wounded and left on the field for dead. He recovered, and rejoined his company and continued in service until his honorable discharge on June 14, 1865. He was mustered out with the rank of sergeant of his company and declined a captaincy.

While he was growing up in West Virginia he had practically no opportunity to attend school. Public schools were not known in his part of the state, and the war coming on when he was a boy he was content to learn life largely by practical experience and observation. His mind from boyhood ran conspicuously to business. After coming out of the army he had some experience in merchandising and was also a book salesman, and in that field showed exceptional ability.

For several years Mr. Bunn lived at Columbus, Ohio, and there did some work as a contractor and builder. One of his contracts was placing the corrugated iron on the hospital for the insane at Columbus. On coming out to Kansas Mr. Bunn took a homestead 1 1/2 miles from Rush Center, which was then the county seat. Some miles away a cluster of dugouts marked the site and gave the only importance to LaCrosse, which finally won the honor of the county seat. In coming to Kansas Mr. Bunn traveled by rail as far as Hays City. He had limited capital and his experience as a carpenter served him well in the critical days of homesteading. While proving up his land he worked as a carpenter, and sometimes sought employment as far east as Kansas City and again at Denver. When Rush Center attained some importance as a trading point he sold goods for a time, and then engaged in the real estate business. There never was a man who had a more exact and perfect knowledge of the lands of Rush County than Mr. Bunn, and real estate operations were his chief line of effort for many years.

During the controversy over the location of the county seat he was first and foremost as a leader of the Rush Center forces. He was ready to do any practical work connected with the success of the movement and was also wise in his counsel. After the Supreme Court and the Legislature finally determined LaCrosse as the county seat he continued to live in Rush Center, but in 1902 removed to LaCrosse. As a land man he had charge of the lands of the J. B. Watkins Mortgage Company, the Phillips and Chaney lands, and those of the Arkansas Valley people, all of whom had investments in this part of the state. He was also agent for various non-resident land owners, and attended to the matter of renting and the management of such properties.

He not only knew the economic and business conditions of Western Kansas, but was as well acquainted with its politics as any ether man, and for many years was a power in the republican party in his section of the state. He rarely missed either local or state conventions, for a number of years served as chairman of the Rush County Committee and was also on the State Committee from his county. From 1887 to 1889 he was postmaster of Rush Center. During the legislative war in 1893 he was appointed postmaster of the "Douglass House" at Topeka, and was the only republican appointee who served throughout the course of that Legislature. He had previously been clerk for Senator White in the Legislature, and acquired a very extensive acquaintance among the republican leaders of Kansas. Mr. Bunn was a member of Apollo Commandery No. 16 of the Knight Templar Masons at Larned, and was a past master of his lodge at Rush Center, No. 215, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. While not a church man, he gave generously to encourage church work.

Mr. Bunn married at Marietta, Ohio, Miss Zipporah A. Daniels at Marietta, Ohio, February 3, 1868. She came out to Kansas with him and died at Rush Center in December, 1882. They were the parents of five children, four of whom survived their mother. Garnett, the eldest, was married to Charles W. Batchelder and died at LaCrosse, leaving six children, five girls and one boy. These children were placed under the guardianship of Mr. Bunn, their grandfather, and homes were found for four of them among Rush County people. Myrtie M., the oldest, now Mrs. Bert Casagranda, has lived principally in Colorado, but with her husband is now located at Cosmopolis, Washington. Gertrude G. adopted by Mr. and Mrs. John Timken, ex-county treasurer and representative, was married to Edward A. Rages, a school teacher, who is now principal of the grade schools at Abbyville, Kansas. They have a two-year old daughter, Rebecca Opal. Forrest F. Batchelder, the third child, is a rancher and stock buyer at Owanka, South Dakota. He married Alice E. McLin, of that state, and they have four children, three boys and one girl, named Robert F., John H., C. Forrest, and Bernice L. Rose H. was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Lyman, of Rush Center. She is a graduate of the schools there and has proved a very successful teacher in the county. Nelle M. was brought up in the family of J. B. Kleihege, excounty commissioner, new deceased. She attended both Lawrence and Kinsley High schools, and is now married to Homer A. George, and they are located on a farm six miles north of Kinsley. Beryl M., the youngest of the Batchelder children, was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Schloemor, and is now the wife of Newton W. Jones, of LaCrosse.

Mary, the second child of Mr. Bunn, died in young girlhood, in 1886. J. Ralph is now an implement salesman with home at Sterling, Kansas. He married Miss Nellie M. Hallock, daughter of the late Judge Clinton Hallock of La Crosse. Their large family of children are named Clinton H., Robert L., May E., Paul C., Rolland V., Nellie J. (who died in the fall of 1916), Ruth E., Maud C. and Helen Frances. Clinton Harbis Bunn, the oldest of these children, when just past his nineteenth birthday, voluntarily enlisted May 1, 1917, in the regular army, and at present holds rank as first class private in Company Fourteen, Coast Artillery, stationed at Fort Ruger, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands. Burris Clay, the youngest of Mr. Bunn's children, is a traveling man.

June 1, 1886, at Buffalo Grove, Iowa, Mr. Bunn married for his second wife Miss Florence A. Norris. Mrs. Bunn was born at Cedar City, Iowa, a daughter of Lafayette and Harriet E. (King) Norris. Her father was born in Erie County, New York, April 12, 1834, the youngest of fifteen children. His parents were John Spencer and Lydia (George) Norris, both of New England ancestry, the latter being descended from Thomas Wortley, an Englishman of noble birth who settled in Weare, New Hampshire, in 1751, and who with his four stalwart sons participated in the French and Indian war as well as that of the American Revolution. Thomas Wortley died in 1800, at the age of 106 years. Members of the George and Norris families also took part in the early colonial conflicts, while John Spencer Norris was a veteran of the War of 1812 and had a son, Henry Harrison Norris, who died in the Mexican war.

Lafayette Norris grew up from early childhood in Marshall County, Indiana, where he lost his parents when he was twelve or thirteen years old. His education began with the meager advantages afforded by the common schools of that time but later he attended high school at South Bend and a college in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was a teacher in that state, learned the carpenter's trade, and in 1856 went to Blackhawk County, Iowa. In that year he married Miss Harriet E. King, a native of Mount Vernon, Ohio. Her father was Joseph King, a native of New Jersey and veteran of the War of 1812. Her mother was Nancy Starkey, of Saybrook, Connecticut, a descendant of the Puritans. Mr. Norris continued teaching, farming and work at his trade, and in the spring of 1874 moved to Buffalo Grove, Iowa, where his chief interests for many years were stock raising and dairying. In 1894 he moved to the new Oklahoma country, twelve miles west of Enid. His wife died in Oklahoma January 11, 1904. In March, 1905, he married Mrs. Charity V. Phelps. Lafayette Norris died at Goltry, Oklahoma, October 27, 1918, in his eighty-fifth year. His was an extremely busy life, and among other activities he was identified with church work as a minister of the Adventist faith for many years, and for a time was associate editor of a paper published under the auspices of that denomination. Always a staunch republican, nomination for the Legislature was offered him in 1898, which he declined. The cause of temperance found in him a most earnest worker for many years. Lafayette Norris was the father of eleven children, six of whom grew up and married and they and eighteen grandchildren survived him. His six children were: Mrs. Bunn, who was born October 9, 1860; Ida L., wife of Charles W. Dix, of Wichita, Kansas; Eunice J., a graduate of the Kansas State Normal, who was principal of the high school at Argentine, the high school at Norton and at Atwood, Kansas, served as secretary of the Sixth District Teachers' Association, and is now the wife of Alva H. Pearson, of Los Angeles, California; George S. Norris is a farmer at Lahoma, Oklahoma; Asa W. lives at Lorraine, Alberta, Canada; and Leonard H., at Bozeman, Montana.

Mrs. Bunn spent her early life in Iowa, attended high school there, also the Manchester Academy, and was a successful teacher for ten years in the states of Iowa, Indiana and Kansas. The late Mr. Bunn was very active in the Grand Army of the Republic circles and Mrs. Bunn has long been identified with the Woman's Relief Corps. She first joined Dahlgren Woman's Relief Corps No. 57 at Rush Center in 1890, and in 1903 transferred her membership to LaCrosse Woman's Relief Corps No. 241. She is past department treasurer of the order for Kansas, past department patriotic instructor, and has served on the executive board and as delegate to state and national conventions.

She takes a keen and lively interest in all things civic and political. She is an extensive newspaper and magazine reader, a lover of good literature, including poetry. While the family resided at Lawrence for the purpose of university privileges from 1909 to 1916, she was made a member of the Review Club, in which she held the offices of secretary, press reporter and lastly as one of the executive committee. She also united with the Unitarian Church there, and still holds membership in it. She is a charter member of LaCrosse Chapter No. 216 of the Eastern Star, as was her husband, and of La Crosse Degree of Honor No. 55. She is also a member of the LaCrosse Women's Christian Temperance Union. Since their return from Lawrence both Mrs. Bunn and her daughter, Zippa L., have been elected to membership in the LaCrosse Review Club, the only literary organization in the town. Mrs. Bunn and her daughter have also been deeply interested in all war work activities. Mrs. Bunn has served as member of the executive board of the Rush County Red Cross Chapter at LaCrosse, while her daughter has been publicity director for the same. Above all she is interested in her home town. She was one of the factors in supporting the Barnard Library movement at LaCrosse. Under the charter for that institution Mrs. Louise Groves Bellport is president, Miss Zippa L. Bunn is corresponding secretary, and Mrs. Florence A. Bunn is treasurer. She has also served on the County High School Board and was secretary when the board was legislated out of office.

Mrs. Bunn is the mother of two children, both of whom have shown unusual capacity for their chosen work, and her son has distinguished himself as an American soldier in the great war. Zippa Lorraine, the daughter, is a graduate of the LaCrosse High School and of the University of Kansas with the class of 1913, and for a number of years has taught in high schools. She has taught principally in the high schools of Ransom, Wakeeney and Ness City, Kansas.

Paul King, the son, completed the LaCrosse High School course in the same year as his sister, graduated in the engineering department of the University of Kansas, 1914, and was later employed by the Interstate Commerce Commission on the making of physical valuation of railways in the United States. When America entered the great world conflict he decided as a matter of conscientious duty to enlist. Though exempt from military service because of holding second place in his work—that of recorder—he visited a recruiting station at his earliest convenence[sic] at Denver on October 4, 1917. He was sent immediately to Fort Lognn, thence a few days later to Camp Devens, Massachusetts, and placed in Company A, Twenty-Ninth Engineers. The last of October, 1917, saw him transported overseas. Thus he had been in active service fully a year when the war closed. In that time he rose from the ranks by successive promotions and on September 8, 1918, was commissioned lieutenant. For a while he was at headquarters of the Third Army Corps. He has received high commendation for his work along the line of topography. He was released from duty overseas and returned home on January 22, 1919. He has since been recalled to his former position with the Interstate Commerce Commission.


Pages 2271-2274.


Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.

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