Family History Mystery: In Search of Ella’s Father

I have a family history mystery in my family tree. Chances are you have some of your own. This mystery involves my Great-Great-Grandmother, Ella Belle Bunch. Although she passed away 20 years before I was born, I regret that many people living today had the chance to ask a few questions and resolve the mystery. Now, it is a real challenge. (Soap Box Moment: Ask questions!)

Paging Mr. Franklin Bunch

Margaret Susan Inman was born in York County, South Carolina around 1838 to Levi Aaron Inman and Elizabeth Wilkie. She married Franklin Bunch in 1859 and had 2 children: Samuel, born in 1860, and Martha, born in 1862. According to tradition, Margaret’s husband, Franklin, was killed in the Civil War in 1863. My next step in this research would normally be to look at Civil War records including Pension records. I have done some of this, but I have not done a reasonably exhaustive search. What I have learned is that there were quite a few Franklin Bunch’s fighting for the Confederacy. I have more work to do if I intend to solve this family history mystery.

I would like to learn more about Mr. Franklin Bunch because I know almost nothing about him. South Carolina ancestry can do this sometimes because of the massive records losses over the years. Here is a bit of what I do know.

Evidence supporting Franklin Bunch and his family

I have a possible match with a Franklin Bunch, age 18, in the 1850 Census living in York, South Carolina with Catherine Bunch (age 60) and Mary Bunch (age 28).  All 3 reportedly born in North Carolina.  I also have a Franklin Bunch, age 27 in York, South Carolina in the 1860 Census. Ancestry.com has an index of a marriage between E.F. Bunch to Margaret Susan Inman in York, South Carolina 29 March 1859. Original source documents have been very difficult to locate.

Franklin Bunch in 1850 Census

1850 US Census York, South Carolina

1860-census-franklin-bunch

1860 US Census York, South Carolina

Evaluating conflicting evidence

You may notice that the these families are not an exact match, but there is evidence to suggest that they are the same family unit. This is one of the tasks of a genealogist: evaluating conflicting evidence. Franklin’s age is a year off between the 2 census records – this is reasonable. Catharine is off by 7 years. This is questionable, but definitely possible.

Whereas she appears as a 60-year-old woman in 1850, she has suddenly aged to 77 in 1860. What could explain this? Perhaps she wasn’t home when the census taker came around in 1850, and her children either did not know her exact age or didn’t want to report it. Or perhaps by 1860 she had reached a certain age where she was willing to “brag” about her advanced years, whereas before she wanted to “hedge” a bit.

Mary is a challenge here. We have a Mary aged 28 in 1850 and a Mary aged 27 in 1860. Likely these are not the same person. However, there is also a “Polly Bunch” in 1860. Polly was a common nickname for Mary. So “Polly” aged 40 could be the same Mary we saw in 1850. At this point, I am not willing to make any final conclusions. However, I suspect that Polly is Mary and the “new” Mary is actually Franklin’s wife. I need to find additional evidence to corroborate these preliminary conclusions.

Family History Mystery, Part 2

Despite knowing very little about Franklin Bunch, the lack of information is not the real mystery. Oh sure, I want to figure him out and determine if Catharine and Mary are really related to him. And who is his father, after all? But the real family history mystery lies in Margaret Inman Bunch’s third child, Ella Belle Bunch. Ella Belle was born in 1875 or 1877. She used the surname Bunch throughout her life. It appears on her marriage certificate and is listed as her maiden name on her husband’s death certificate.

Marriage Certificate between Ella B. Bunch and D. Henry Zufelt

Marriage Certificate between Ella B. Bunch and D. Henry Zufelt

However, if Franklin Bunch died in the Civil War around 1863, how did he father a child in 1875? It is possible that Margaret remarried a new Mr. Bunch, but I have found no evidence. In fact, I have not yet been able to locate them in the 1870 or 1880 censuses. What I have been able to glean has come primarily through cluster genealogy research. In order to learn more about Ella I researched her siblings, her mother, and her mother’s family.

Margaret Susan Inman (1837-1909)

After the death of Franklin, his wife, Margaret, appears to have stayed in and around Yorkville, York, South Carolina. Both her parents had passed on by the time she reached her 30th birthday, but she seems to have stayed close to her older sister, Catherine. In fact, it was probably Catherine that introduced her to Mormon missionaries in 1882. Elder W. C. Burton and Elder John Easton were laboring in this area during this time period. They established the Kings Mountain Branch of the Church in this year. Kings Mountain (York County, SC) was the location of a decisive victory by the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Although I have found no official record that mentions the name of the Elders that baptized Margaret and her family, it is likely that it was Elder Burton and Elder Easton.

Baptism of Margaret Susan Bunch and her children

Margaret Susan Inman Bunch was baptized on 7 February 1882. Two of her three children were baptized shortly thereafter.

  • Samuel A. Bunch (b. 17 January 1860) – Baptized on 17 February 1882
  • Martha Susan Bunch (b. 28 February 1862) – Baptized on 17 February 1882
  • Ella Belle (Wood?) Bunch (b. 25 November 1877) – Was not old enough to be baptized

About 20 members of Margaret’s extended family formed a nucleus of the Kings Mountain Branch. Among these were Catherine Inman Gordon (Margaret’s sister) and her husband, Moses Moore Gordon. At least 7 of their 13 children, their spouses, and many grandchildren were all baptized between January 27, 1882 and March 11, 1882 (with a few stragglers later in the year). Moses Moore Gordon moved his family to Utah in 1888 because they were persecuted for their Mormon religion. He is listed in the book Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah. It is reported that they were chased by mobs and hid out for 3 days in the woods until they could take the train from Spartanburg, South Carolina to Utah.

Fleeing Persecution

This event probably coincided with an 1888 directive from John Hamilton Morgan, President of the Southern States Mission, advising the Saints of the Kings Mountain Branch to move West. Saints from the South had been gathering in the San Luis Valley of Conejos County, Colorado since 1878. The first town, Manassa, was plotted out on February 21, 1878 by Bro. Jensen, a Danish saint who had been called on a Mission from his home in Sanpete County, Utah to help establish the new settlements in Colorado. Manassa, La Jara, and Sanford are settlements which still exist today. It is assumed that Margaret S. and her 3 children moved to Colorado in 1888 with other Saints from North and South Carolina .

It is here that I found a small clue about Ella’s parentage. Margaret Susan and her 3 children are all listed in a 1909 Member List of the Manassa Ward, San Luis Stake although it is likely that all of them had moved away at least 10 years prior. The website where this was located is either down or has been moved. However, it is still available through the “Wayback Machine” – a service of the Internet Archive. This members list includes important information about each member’s birth date, birthplace, and parentage. It is here that “Eller B. Bunch” is listed with a birth date of 25 November 1875 and that her father’s name is Robert Wood.

Farming in the desert

Probably around 1895 the Bunch family moved south to New Mexico and Arizona Territory. They may have emigrated with Martha (Ella’s older sister) and her husband, Felix Brakefield, or followed shortly thereafter. One of Martha and Felix’s children was born in Graham County, Arizona in 1894, then in 1897 they had a child born in Grant, New Mexico. The family seemed to stay close together as they moved around the territory of the desert Southwest. Graham County, Arizona is just across the border from Grant County, New Mexico. Certainly by 1897 Ella Belle was in Graham County, Arizona.

It is here in Safford that Ella Belle “Bunch” married David Henry Zufelt on 24 July 1897. The 1900 Census lists the young family to the east of Safford in Red Rock, Grant, New Mexico Territory. Red Rock (or “Redrock”) was a small settlement on the Gila River west of Silver City, New Mexico. Ella’s mother, Margaret, is listed with the family in the 1900 census in New Mexico. They seemed to have moved back and forth between New Mexico and Arizona.

Although this was mining territory (silver and then primarily copper), census records show the family were farmers and laborers. Their oldest (Samuel M) was born in 1897 in New Mexico. David Henry (born in 1898) was born in Safford, Arizona. Richard (born 1903), Emma (born 1906) and Ruby (born 1911) were born in Duncan, Arizona. Ella’s husband, D. Henry Zufelt was born in Sevier County, Utah in 1871.

Conclusion

I still haven’t completely solved this family history mystery. However, by employing methods of cluster genealogy I was able to track this family from South Carolina to Colorado to New Mexico and Arizona. Church records revealed a clue that Ella’s father could be Robert Wood instead of Franklin Bunch. This is also a great example of where understanding geography is helpful. Seeing these locations on a map makes it easy to see that moving from New Mexico to Arizona to New Mexico was merely a matter of miles and not a great journey.

I intend to do additional research on this line to uncover more information about the elusive Franklin Bunch as well as Robert Wood.

What family history mystery are you working on?

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3 Comments

  1. Carol Brand

    Reply

    Hi David. In reading over your extensive report on my grandmother Ella Belle, I feel I should input some of what I remember being told by my mom Ruby. She was positive that her family never served in the Civil War. And that Franklin (which she said was her grandfather) died of typhoid fever along with I believe Samuel.
    Also my son, Michael, has done a lot of work as well on this line and could probably help with the solving of the mystery.

    • Reply

      Carol, thanks for the input! Please ask Michael to connect with me so he can share what he knows. One of the reasons for posting the “family history mystery” is to find someone who knows more than I do!

  2. Sharon Saviane

    Reply

    Your research is very interesting David and it reinforces the need to share stories and research with family because the way one person views a sequence of events could be totally different from another, reinforcing the need for “fresh eyes”.

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