James Richard Bruner
A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans

JAMES RICHARD BRUNER is a successful farmer near Amy, in Lane County, and homesteaded his claim in that county in 1886. His experiences have the distinctive flavor of pioneer things, and are an important contribution to the annals of Western Kansas. However, he has lived much of his life outside the state, has had a long career, is a veteran of the great war between the states, and it will therefore be proper to start this sketch back at the time of his birth.

He was born in Floyd County, Indiana, October 31, 1839. That was his home until 1849, when his parents moved to Schuyler County, Illinois. As a boy there he received most of his education in the country schools. His father, Lemuel Bruner, was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, in 1818, and in that locality he married Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson. Both died in Schuyler County. Lemuel Bruner was a farmer, a man of quiet demeanor, and throughout his life never became identified with any social organization, not even a church. He and his wife had three sons: James Richard, Martin (who died young), and Zachariah. The latter died while a soldier in the Fiftieth Illinois Regiment at St. Joseph, Missouri. The mother, by her first marriage, had a daughter, Margaret Johnson, who married Henry Clark, of Schuyler County, Illinois.

James R. Bruner had grown to young manhood when he first enlisted in the Union army from Schuyler County, Illinois. He enlisted in 1862 and went out with Company C of the One Hundred Nineteenth Illinois Infantry under Captain Greer and Colonel Kinney. He and his comrades were trained in Camp Butler, Illinois, but he was discharged from the regiment before seeing field service. Later he enlisted in Company K of the One Hundred Fifty-first Illinois Infantry, under Captain Sutton and Colonel Woodall. He was sent to Macon, Georgia, and was placed in Steadman's Division of the Fourteenth Corps. Marching and guard duty were the severest service he saw, and when in the heart of the Confederacy he witnessed the surrender of a portion of the Confederate army at Kingston, Georgia. He was at Columbus, Georgia, when the war ended, but his regiment was not returned to Camp Butler until February, 1866. There he was given his honorable discharge.

Following the war Mr. Bruner lived with his parents until his marriage and then started out farming for himself. He was moderately prosperous as an Illinois farmer, and had a place of forty acres, which he sold after coming to Kansas and when he required the money which it brought for his immediate necessities.

Mr. Bruner arrived in Lane County in the spring of 1886. He selected his location by entering the northwest quarter of section 14, township 18, range 30. About the middle of February he brought a carload of goods, including household equipment, three horses and wagon and implements. For the reception of his family he built a sod house containing only one room. It was a large room, 16 by 18 feet, but as it had to shelter six persons there was little space to spare. He subsequently improved these accommodations by building a two-room soddy with sod roof. He plastered it himself with native lime.

At the outset of his farming experience he put in a spring crop of cane and millet. The following fall he gathered a fair yield of corn, and he continued his experiments with corn and feed stuff for some years. There were seasons when his land produced practically nothing, and he and his son had to go outside to get work. They worked here and there over the country, and his son spent one summer with the Santa Fe Railway near Garden City and another year as a farm hand in Dickinson County.

Mr. Bruner first began sowing wheat about 1888. However, it was three years before he harvested a profitable crop. The next year he also had a fair yield, and for several years succeeding, except in 1893, he raised considerable quantities of barley and feed, in addition to wheat. During the lean years, which were so frequent and often successive in the experiences of the Western Kansas farmer, he was compelled to incur debts for groceries and other supplies, but it is to his credit, and a very exceptional record, that he never mortgaged his farm. During the early years it is said that Kansas raised a bigger crop of mortgages than anything else, and it is certainly a tribute to the thrift of Mr. Bruner and his family that he avoided this necessity. By close economy his minor debts were taken care of, and about 1900 he was in a position to strengthen his position as a land holder.

For the first quarter section which he added to his homestead he paid $200. Three hundred dollars was the price of another quarter, while the next required an outlay of $700. His last quarter section was obtained under a tax title and cost $115. In 1917 he added still another quarter at a cost of $3,000. These various additions give him six quarter sections in a body, and a half section of this is under cultivation. He and his family do all the farming without requiring outside help. In the meantime he has provided those other things which serve to bring his farm up to the high standards of Kansas rural homes. In 1899 he built his substantial residence of seven rooms, and in 1903 he put up a barn sufficient to shelter all his stock. There are other improvements, and the entire group is well arranged and ordered for special efficiency in handling the various problems of farm work.

After coming to Lane County Mr. Bruner helped organize his home school district and assisted in the buildling[sic] of the first schoolhouse, which was constructed of sod. The teacher who dedicated this temple of learning was Mr. Rosebrough. Mr. Bruner has served as justice of the peace of Blaine township, and was township treasurer for six years. He was brought up under republican influence, though he cast his first presidential vote for Stephen A. Douglas in Illinois, and in 1864, while a soldier in Georgia, he voted for Abraham Lincoln. He and his wife are church people, give their influence to moral and spiritual uplift, and Mr. Bruner was affiliated with Dighton Post of the Grand Army of the Republic until that post was disbanded because of the passing of the veterans who were its members.

In Schuyler County, Illinois, April 5, 1871, Mr. Bruner married Miss Mary A. Siglar. She is a daughter of Samuel and Sarah J. (Cruise) )Siglar. Her father was born in Licking County, Ohio, moved to Illinois when Mrs. Bruner was a child, and spent his life as a farmer. He was born in 1818 and died in Schuyler County, while his wife passed away in Fulton County, Illinois. Their children were: Catherine, widow of Leander Comstock and living at Lewiston, Illinois; Mrs. Bruner, who was born January 6, 1849; William, who died in Fulton County, Illinois; John, a resident of Lewiston, Illinois; Charles, of Schuyler County; Clara, who married Lewis Craig, of Peoria, Illinois.

Since coming to Lane County Mr. and Mrs. Bruner have had the good fortune to live among their own children and to see numerous grandchildren growing up about them. The oldest of their children is Luther J., a prosperous farmer of Lane County, who married Cora Painter, their children being Beulah, Cornelia, Neva, and Homer J. The daughter Elizabeth, married George Brooks, of Bliss, Oklahoma, and they are the parents of Bessie May, Chester, Hazel, Marie, Leah and Burton. Gertie is the wife of Clarence Smith, of Amy, Kansas, and is the mother of Velma May, Lela, Vinton, Floyd, Mary, and Esteline. Herman is still on the home farm with his parents. Charity became the wife of William McAechern, of Sumner County, Kansas. Amy, the youngest, is the wife of Ernest Reid, of Stanley, Kansas, and has two children, Melvin and Ruby.

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


Copyright 2006 Judi Gilker; all rights reserved. 

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