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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Kentucky Farris-Bunnell Connection

George Farris, one of the blog's biggest supporters, sent some comments regarding his personal special interest in the Kentucky Joseph Bunnells. They are fascinating and worthy of sharing since many of us can relate to what he says about names repeating in families. In my family the name Marion has been used for generations for both men and women, including an uncle, my mother, daughter and a niece, with its origin traced back to the McClellands settling in Marion County, Illinois.

George writes: 

The name Joseph Bunnell/Bonnell has been a key to my own research regarding my Bunnell ancestry at two key points.  

First, my great-grandfather died before I was born but I knew that his name was Joseph Bunnell Farris. My grandfather was also named Joseph and I inherited Joseph as my middle name.  But no one in my family knew where the Bunnell middle name came from.  

When I became interested in genealogy I soon found that my Farris line was the hardest one to track and it took me many years to make much progress on it.  When I finally was able to zero in on the Farrises in Green County Kentucky in the early 1800s, I became aware of the Bunnells around them (Jeremiah and Peter in Barren/Hart County and William Jr. in Hardin County), but still had no indication of any connection with them.  

The second point occurred years later, when I found a document that sparked a new interest in the Bunnells.  

While I was researching Mercer County records at the Kentucky Archives, I uncovered a Circuit Court record from 1802. William Farris, my 3rd great-grandfather and John Farris, his brother, had filed assault charges against a man in Mercer County.  The interesting aspect to me was finding the witnesses listed included Joseph Bunnell, William Bunnell (Jr.), and Williams Bunnell's wife Mary.   

One of the few children of William Bunnell, Sr. for whom we have documented evidence of the relationship through the marriage bond is Anne Bunnell Farris who married John Farris in Albemarle County, VA in 1785. 

That circuit court document spiked my interest in pursuing the Kentucky Bunnells and led me to conclude that Mary Bunnell must have been my 3rd great grandmother, William Farris's wife, sister to John Farris's wife Anne.  Since then DNA matches have provided further confirmation of it. 
As we began to list the presumed children of William BunnellSr., interesting pattern emerged.  It became clear that almost all of the children of William and Mary/Polly Farris were named after her Bunnell siblings–including my great-great-grandfather Jeremiah Farris, his brother David, and a younger brother Joseph Bunnell Farris born at the time they lived in Green County, Kentucky.  

Those three, among others, later lived in Fulton County, Illinois, and were three of the Mounted Rangers from Fulton County who were involved in the Battle on Sycamore Creek in Ogle County, Illinois, on May 14, 1832, during the Black Hawk War. (Later it was branded as "Stillman's Run" or Stillman's Defeat.) Twelve of the men of that company were killed in the battle — including Joseph B. Farris.  

Ten of those killed were buried the next day in a mass grave at the battle site by a company from Sangamon County that included Abraham Lincoln. This was the first of several encounters between Jeremiah Farris and Abraham Lincoln (but that's another story). George writes more about this fight and his family's reported relationship with the future president in his columns found here.

A battle monument was erected in 1901 and there are individual monuments for the ten Rangers (photos from Wikipedia).

A few months later Jeremiah and Rosanna Farris had a son and named him Joseph Bunnell Farris after his recently deceased uncle.  He was my great grandfather–which brings us back to the beginning of this summary and my first point.


  1. My name is Jeremy Lee Bunnell I was born April 6th 1976 . I'm a Marine and Army Veteran. I fought in Kwoust province Afghanistan in 2009-2010. I was born at Dukes Hospital in Peru Indiana.

    1. Thank you for your service. My grandfather was John Earl Bunnell of Frankfort, Indiana. His father was Moses K. Bunnell also of Frankfort, IN.

    2. My grandfather's name was Ronald Bunnell
      Peru Indiana

    3. That's my grandpa as well