Putnam County


No history of Putnam county would be complete without mention of Luther Dickinson Gunn, who is the most venerable citizen residing within its borders. His life record began in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, July 28, 1814. His father, Luther Gunn, was born in Montague, Massachusetts, in September, 1782, and died when his son Luther was but a week old. The mother, who bore the maiden name of Delia Dickinson, was born in Whately, Massachusetts, December 6, 1792, and died in Greenfield, Massachusetts, February 7, 1881. The paternal grandparents were Nathaniel and Hannah (Montague) Gunn and the maternal grandparents were Jehu and Eleanor (Pomeroy) Dickinson. Luther Gunn, Sr., was a physician by profession and was practicing at the time of his death. His wife was then taken to the home of her parents and later she married Levi Gunn, a second cousin of her first husband, and made her home at Conway, Massachusetts. By her first marriage she had two children: Sarah, born August 26, 1812; and Luther, born July 28, 1814. By the second marriage there were eight children.

Luther Dickinson Gunn spent his boyhood days in Conway, Massachusetts, to the age of sixteen years, living with his mother and step-father. In the meantime he acquired a good common school education and when a youth of sixteen he began learning the trade of a carpenter and joiner under John Howland, remaining in his service until twenty-one years of age, at which time his employer gave him a set of bench tools, consisting of three planes and a hammer, all of which were made by Mr. Gunn while he was working for Mr. Howland. The employer also took him to a store to be fitted out with a suit of clothes. There were two grades of cloth on display and Mr. Gunn was told that if he would go back and work another month he would receive wages for his services and a suit made of the better material. This he did. He was in very limited financial circumstances, so much so that when on his twenty-first birthday, wishing to treat the boys to root beer, he had to borrow twenty-five cents of his mother in order to make the purchase. He worked for three months at twenty dollars per month in order to secure money enough to bring him to Illinois.

Hearing that Colonel Ware, a merchant of Hennepin, was going to New York to buy goods, Mr. Gunn arranged to meet him in the metropolis and with him returned to Hennepin. They traveled down the Ohio and up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers to Hennepin. While on the trip the ship lost a rudder and was disabled. A carpenter was asked for among the passengers and Mr. Gunn, having his tools with him, volunteered to make the repairs and did so. On arriving at Hennepin he was first employed to build a kitchen for Mr. Ware, with whom he had made the trip. He then began work at the carpenter's trade, which he followed for several years. Even after he began farming he still did considerable building, and was thus closely associated with industrial interests in the county at an early day.

On the 14th of November, 1839, Mr. Gunn was united in marriage to Miss Emirancy Collins, who was born in Granville, Washington county, New York, October 15, 1822. She was a daughter of Joel S. and Sally (Sprague) Collins. The father was born in Massachusetts and removed to Chestertown, New York, when Mrs. Gunn was but six years of age. There he died three years later. His wife was born in Stratton, Vermont, and died at the age of forty-seven years. After losing her first husband she became the wife of Amos Dewey, of Hartford, New York. When Mrs. Gunn was a maiden of fourteen summers she came to Putnam county with her mother and step-father, who located on a farm southwest of Granville. When her father died she was left an inheritance of about three hundred dollars, and with this she and her husband purchased eighty acres of land southwest of Granville. Not a furrow had been turned or an improvement made upon the farm. Mr. Gunn bought trees, chopped them down, hewed out the timber and had the lumber sawed at a horsepower sawmill north of Granville, and from this he built his house. The young couple moved into it before the doors were hung or the windows put in, and they lived in that primitive home until after all of their children but one were born. In 1866 they sold the property and purchased a farm of one hundred and seventy acres of land east of Granville, where they resided until about fourteen years ago, when, retiring permanently from the farm, they took up their abode in the village. Mr. Gunn, however, still owns that property in addition to a comfortable residence in town. Starting out in life as he did, without capital save his willing hands and strong determination, the success that he has achieved is due entirely to his own labors. He was ever an industrious, energetic man and worked hard in order to gain a start. Now he is in possession of a comfortable competence which enables him to live retired and to provide himself and his wife with many of those things which add to the comfort of life.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Gunn have been born fifteen children. Joel C., who was born December 1, 1840, was married and removed to Iowa, where he died about two years ago. Francis E., born November 30, 1842, died in infancy. Amos D., born March 14, 1843, is married and has a family and follows carpentering at Index, Washington. Levi P. died at the age of thirteen months. Fannie Ellen, born January 27, 1846, is the wife of Baxter A. Dickinson, a resident of Chicago. Lucy Caroline, born June 28, 1847, is the wife of Charles Ware, a resident of Downs, Kansas. Mary A., born December 1, 1849, became the wife of Beecher Newport, a resident of Granville township, and died February 22, 1883. Luther H., who was born November 24, 1851, died January 24, 1852. Esther Eveline, born October 31, 1853, is the wife of C. H. Tan Wormer, of California. Sarah E., born April 1, 1856, is the wife of Lyman Parmalee, of Osborne City, Kansas. Ellen T. is the wife of James Packingham, of Granville. Delia M. died in infancy. Henry D., born April 1, 1863, is now living at Startup, Washington. Nellie Louise is at home. Clara P. is the wife of George Sucher, an attorney at law of Peoria.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Gunn have been church members from early life. They assisted in organizing the Presbyterian church at Union Grove in 1839 and attended services there when rough planks were used as seats. All the work for that church was donated and the brick was made on the ground. At length there occurred a division in the church and Mr. and Mrs. Gunn joined the Wesleyan Methodist church, but are now members and regular attendants at the Congregational church and Sunday-school in Granville, while their daughter Nellie has been leader of the choir for several years. Mr. Gunn has been a republican since the formation of the party, and has also frequently voted the prohibition ticket. He has served as school director, but otherwise has held no office, nor has he desired political preferment. He is the oldest man in Putnam county, while his wife, who is eighty-four years of age, is the second oldest lady so far as known. Both are well preserved mentally and physically, enjoying fair health, while both have good memories. They can relate many interesting incidents of the early pioneer times, and, like most of the other settlers of the period, they came to the middle west empty handed and had a hard struggle to establish a home and gain a start, in life here. They were cut off from the advantages of the older east, owing to the lack of railroad facilities, and they experienced all the privations and hardships incident to the settlement of the frontier; but they possessed the courageous spirit characteristic of those who founded this great commonwealth, and in Putnam county they soon became widely and favorably known and are justly deserving of prominent mention in this volume.

Source: Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois authored by John Spencer Burt and W. E. Hawthorne in 1907, page 226.

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