Posts Tagged ‘Willard Bunnell’
The Carpenter Gothic Revival style Bunnell House captures the interest of people driving buy along the Mississippi River near Homer on US. Highway 61. The home’s simple, but yet ornate and unpainted board structure was constructed in the 1850’s by Willard Bunnell, one of Winona County’s first settlers. Bunnell made his money through development and the timber industry. The distinctive home is on the National Register of Historic Places “for having state-level significance in the themes of architecture, commerce, and exploration/settlement. ” The home was Minnesota’s first permanent white home south of St. Paul and Bunnell’s second home, his first being a log cabin he built after receiving permission from Chief Wapasha III to build a log cabin on the west bank of the Mississippi.
Lafayette Bunnel, Willard’s younger brother, also made the journey westward to the Minnesota Territory from Homer, New York. Lafayette’s life was filled with a variety of unique adventures that took eventually him far from southeast Minnesota. He was a soldier and doctor in the War with Mexico and later in the Civil War where he served with Minnesota’s Company K. During the Gold Rush era he traveled to California and joined Mariposa Battalion, the first non-Indians to enter Yosemite Valley. Bunnell is credited for naming the Valley. He later returned to the home where he wrote his account of discovering Yosemite; he died at the Bunnell home in 1903. It was fun to find his account of the discovery in the Library of Congress Collections.
The home is now property of the Winona County Historical Society. Lafayette’s life, as told through his memories, is the subject of an enjoyable, sometimes humorous, and very informative short play presented this summer in the historic home’s living/ dining room. The play is produced by the Historical Society and Theatre Du Mississippi.
I had no idea that someone who lived within walking distance of my home had a role so significant in the establishment of our national parks! What’s in your back yard?
Primary and Secondary Sources
- Discovery of the Yosemite, and the Indian war of 1851, which led to that event. By Lafayette Houghton Bunnell
- Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920 (A Library of Congress Collection)
- Bunnelll-Bonnell Family History
- Lafayette Bunnell
- Willard Bunnell House
- Wapasha Praire to Winona: Winona’s Early History
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