Monday, February 10, 2014

Romanzo Norton Bunn (1829-1909)

From the "Notable Men of Wisconsin", published 1902.

    A New Yorker by birth, Romanzo Norton Bunn later removed to Wisconsin in the 1850s and shortly after his resettlement began what would become a lengthy career in Wisconsin political circles, serving a term as district attorney of Trempealeau County and later was elected to the state legislature. He would gain further prominence as U.S. District Judge for Wisconsin's Western District, serving on the bench for nearly three decades. 
   The son of Peter and Polly Ann Jackson Bunn, Romanzo N. Bunn was born in the village of South Hartwick in Otsego County, New York on September 24, 1829. He removed with his family to Cattaraugus County, New York at age three, where they established a home in the village of Mansfield. Young Romanzo engaged in farm work as a young man and later began attending the Springville Academy at age sixteen, while also teaching school during the winter time, plying his trade at schoolhouses in the villages of East Otto, Yorkshire and Waverly, New York. He would go on to enroll at the Oberlin College in Ohio and studied here for one year. While in Ohio he began the study of law in the city of Elyria and later returned to Cattaraugus County to complete his studies in the law office of William H. Wood of Ellicottville, who was later to serve a term in the New York State Assembly.
  After practicing law with William Wood in Ellicottville for about one year, Bunn experienced a case of wanderlust and removed west in 1854, settling first in Sparta, Wisconsin and a few months later relocated to Galesville in Trempealeau County. Shortly before his removal to Wisconsin Bunn had married in New York to Sarah Purdy (1832-1918) and this couple later became the parents to six children, who are listed as follows in order of birth: Charles Wilson (born 1855), Mary (1857-1919), Channing Bunn (1861-1864), George Lincoln (1865-1918), John Marshall (1867-1924) and Fannie Bunn (born 1870). Of these children, George Lincoln Bunn and John Marshall Bunn followed in their father's stead, going on to distinguished careers in public service, with George serving as an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court (1911-1917) and dean of the St. Paul School of Law. John Marshall Bunn would eventually become a prominent attorney in the Spokane, Washington area.
   Despite being a resident of Wisconsin for a short period Romanzo Bunn quickly advanced to prominence in local law circles, being elected as District Attorney for Trempealeau County. He served from 1857-58 and in the following year won election as one of that county's representatives to the Wisconsin General Assembly, where he served for one term. After leaving the legislature Bunn returned to private practice and removed back to Sparta, where he had first settled after coming to Wisconsin with his wife. He continued along this route until 1868, when in that year he was elected as Judge for Wisconsin's Sixth Judicial Circuit. He served a term of six years and was reelected in 1874, holding his seat until 1877. In 1872 Bunn served as a Presidential Elector on the Republican ticket, casting his vote for Ulysses Grant.

                                 Romanzo Bunn, from the"History of the Bunn Family of America", 1928.

   Bunn's reputation as one of Wisconsin's foremost legal figures reached its apex in 1877 when he was selected by President Rutherford Hayes to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. This vacancy had come about with the death of sitting judge James Campbell Hopkins, who had died in September of that year. Bunn's name had been put forward for the post by both of Wisconsin's U.S. Senators, as well as a number of state attorneys and fellow judges. Confirmed in October of 1877, Bunn would serve on the bench until his retirement at age 76 in 1905, having logged 28 years of service on the court.
  Aside from his judicial service to Wisconsin, Judge Bunn was described by the Historical Gazetteer and Biographical Memorial of Cattaraugus County as a well-read man with a penchant for reading Shakespeare, noting that he was:
"A man of fine literary taste and culture, and spends many leisure hours in his carefully selected private library of several thousand volumes. Perhaps his greatest pleasure is in studying and comparing the different versions of plays of his favorite writer, Shakespeare, of whose works he is exceedingly fond and has more than a dozen editions. He is frequently invited to lecture before the students of Madison University and the literary societies of Madison on some literary subject, and always responds with something interesting to the most cultivated listener."
   Romanzo Norton Bunn spent the remainder of his retirement residing in Madison, where he died on January 25, 1909 at age 79. He was interred at the Forest Hill Cemetery in that city and was survived his wife Sarah, who, following her death in 1918, was buried at the same cemetery as her husband. 

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