THE BRUNK MORGANS
BORN December 22, 1804 in Miami County, Ohio, George Brunk is recognized as the first person to bring Morgans into Illinois, and the first in his family to raise the breed. He walked to Illinois in the summer of 1821 with two neighbor boys about his age (17). They entered Illinois by way of Fort Dearborn (Chicago) and followed the Illinois River to Sangamon County, the same year that Sangamon County came into legal existance.
The Indian danger in central Illinois had been resolved by two treaties—at Edwardsville in 1818 and Forst Harrison in 1819—that paid off the Kickapoo and started them toward the other side of the Mississippi River. The treaties gave the Indians local hunting rights for several years. George Brunk, according to an account he wrote for “Personal Recollections of Old Settlers” in 1859, hunted with two of the Kickapoo chiefs, Bassena and Joe Muney.
George entered 80 acres of land in Cotton Hill Township, about 12 miles southeast of Springfield and slightly over 2 miles southwest of Rochester—making him one of the first settlers in Sangamon County. (The first white settler, Robert Pulliam, arrived in Sangamon County in the fall of 1817, four years earlier. He settled a few miles west of Cotton Hill near the present day of Glenarm.) Brunk eventually entered more land, buying a total of 696 acres from the federal government for $1.25 an acre. The deed bore the signature of Martin Van Buren, a first cousin of George Brunk.
Brunk built a log cabin and in 1824 returned to Ohio to get his mother, brother, sisters and step–father (Thomas Royal). They came to Illinois in a covered wagon with two Morgan horses, the first of the Brunk Morgans. The one called “Old Mousey” later gave the children of George Brunk many happy hours on her back, and thus began a love affair with the Morgan breed that has lasted until the present.
In his personal recollections, George Brunk relates that in 1826, he and a friend went to work in the lead mines for $4.00 a day on Fever River near Galena. While there, he participated in a scrimage with the Winnebago Indians. He returned to Sangamon County in the fall of 1828.
Brunk married Mary Boyd, the first of his three wives, and in 1829 completed one of the first stone houses with the limestone quarried near Horse Creek just one mile from his house. The limestone used for the construction of the State Capital in Springfield in the 1830’s was quarried from the same location. Stonemasons from St. Louis built the house, working only during the summer months, on his Cotton Hill Farm. The farm is still owned by the Brunk family. The farm was named Cotton Hill after settlers from Kentucky brought cotton seed with them and planted it on an adjoining hill.
The most famouse visitor to the old Brunk house was President Martin Van Buren during his visit to Springfield in June, 1842. Van Buren came to Springfield because he recognized it as a strategic political and geographical point in the country and hoped it would help his political comeback. It was said that feeling the sophisticated Van Buren might have found Brunk’s accomodations rather crude, the Springfield delegation attempted to suitably entertain him.
Another interesting aspect concerning the early years at Brunk’s Cotton Hill Farm was the arrival of Vachel Lindsay, the great Illinois poet. Mr. Lindsay’s father operated his office for “humans and animals” for approximately eight years in quarters attached to the house.
Lindsay came to Cotton Hill in 1867 at the age of 23. He had been studying medicine on his own in his native Kentucky and had spent 1 year at Miami Medical College at Cincinnati, Ohio. He stayed for 2 years at Cotton Hill and then returned to Miami Medical College from which he graduated in 1869. Then he resumed his practice at Cotton Hill.
A more serious association between the Brunks and Morgan Horses began in 1893, when Joseph Chase Brunk (George’s son) heard of a dispersal sale of Morgans at Two Rivers Stock Farm in Nashville, Tennessee. Joseph’s middle name was in honor of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary, who was a boyhood chum of George Brunk. Joseph C. Brunk, J. C. as he was known, purchased the entire lot of Morgans from the Two Rivers Stock Farm with a thousand dollar loan, and these were the foundation of the present Brunk Morgans. There were eight mares and two stallions. The two stalliions Brunk purchased were Chilco 4513, a son of Ben Franklin and Morgan Rupert 3987. Chetco was a direct descendant of one of Justin Morgan’s most outstanding grandsons, Blackhawk. This foundation stock was exceedingly long lived. One of the mares, Lucy, lived to be 42 years old. When she died, J. C. Brunk fastened her bones together and they stood in the barn for several years.
So the business of raising Morgans began. The Brunks raised their own horses, the only purchase being an occasional stud. Among these stallions were listed some of the greats of the Morgan breed. Jubilee DeJarnette was purchased, a son of Jubilee Lambert by Daniel Lambert out of a great show mare Lady DeJarnette by Indian Chief by Blood’s Black Hawk.
Close to 60 foals were dropped at Cotton Hill Farm in a two year period by Jubilee DeJarnette, including Daisy DeJarnette who lived to be 34. Most Brunk mares trace to this dark bay mare, foaled in 1903.
Jubilee DeJarnette was sold to a breeder in the Western United States. A colt of his last years, Troubadour, was to leave a lasting impression on the breed when his son, Troubladour of Willowmoor, was purchased for use at the U.S. Government Farm at Middlebury, Vermont, thus returning to New England the blood of the great “lady” and her sire, Indian Chief.
Always looking for ways to improve his stock, J. C. Brunk in 1906 and 1910 sent a box car load of mares to Charles Reade 3953 standing at Columbia, Missouri. This beautiful bred Morgan stallion was very popular with trotting and saddle horse breeders. He was registered in the Standard Bred Registry on his redord of 2:14 1/14, and was honored after his death with a number in the American Saddler Bred Stud Book. This fine Ethan Allen grandson had wonderful speed and action. Me. Brunk again returned some of the breed’s finest blood to the Morgan registries when he alone took advantage of Charles Reade to produce Morgans.
This cross of Jubilee De Jarnette daughters to Charles Reade gave the Brunks the best horses up to that time. Stawn Reade, Gov. Reade, Major Reade, Mrs. Lewis, Ruby Reade, and Daisy Reade were notable results of this cross.
Joseph Brunk first saw Knox Morgan at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904. Frank Chandler of Montpelier, Vermont, exhibited his famous horse over a large field. Mr. Brunk exhibited the Champion mare, Senata 02303. Brunk and Chandler became friends and years later, when Chandler decided to sell his Morgans, he would let Knox Morgan go only to Mr. Brunk. Knox was 24. He was kept at Cotton Hill Farm until his death at the age of 28. He sired 30 colts for Mr. Brunk.
J. C.’s son Roy Brunk started showing Morgans at the age of 11 at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. He said that his biggest thrill came as he led the Sweepstakes Champion mare back to her stall. Senata by Senator by Morgan Rubert, out of Daisy by Billy Bodette, possessed a great number of crosses to Justin Morgan.
Over the years, the Brunks liked to keep a stallion with crosses to Senata since her prolific line reads like a Morgan who’s–who. Senata is considered by a large number of people to be the finest example of a Morgan mare in her era. A show mare considered tops by all the best judges of her day, she was a solid, typey mare with a sweet disposition. Her name appears now on the pedigrees of more Morgans across this country than any other mare in the breed’s history. To compile a list of the prolific family she founded would take pages.
Although the Brunk Morgan knowledge is outstanding, Brunk luck has played a part, too. One time “J. C.” traded a short–horned cow to a man in Iowa for a Morgan colt sight unseen. The colt was Go–Hawk, later one of the leading sires at Cotton Hill, the sire of Flyhawk.
Roy Brunk recalled seeing as many as 25 head of Morgans working the 800 acres at Cotton Hill Farm. J. C. Brunk sold many Morgans, 25–50 a year, as yearlings and 2–year olds, mostly as gelded calts. The farm listed 150 head of Morgans in 1911. The same Morgans that worked the fields were shown from coast to coast and won most all major awards at one time or another, a feat of which the Brunk Morgans are still capable at the present time.
J. C. Brunk, in almost every instance, stayed with his established line of breeding. One exception was the above mentioned Go–Hawk. The other was Tiffany by Mansfield, a colt purchased from the Government. A number of good Brunk Morgans have descended from this chestnut horse. The bay horse Tarron, from Africal Maid, was one of the sons of Tiffany to leave his mark, as the sire of Roy Brunk’s many times grand champion stallion Congo.
When Joseph Brunk died in 1935, his horses and lands were divided among his three sons and two daughters.
J. C.’s son Roy continued to raise Morgans at Cotton Hill Farm until his death in 1983. His daughter, Clara Mayes, and grandaughters now carry on the family tradition at Cotton Hill. Joseph’s daughter, Helen Greenwalt, produced a large number of fine, showy Morgans at her Highview Farm in nearby Pawnee, Illinois, just south of Cotton Hill Farm. Another son, Thomas Talbott, raised his Morgans on the part of the Brunk lands that Jubilee King, Senata’s most famous son, was foaled on. Today, his wife Edna continues to raise Morgans on the farm that Joseph Brunk’s wife, Minnie, brought as her dowry.
The bloodline of the Morgans owned by various family members ae all so similar that they can hardly be used for each other’s stallions. To get around this, Brunk mares are sometimes bred to outside stallions and the colts used as sires.
It is impossible to say how many Morgans have sprung from the Brunk blood. It is possible to say, however, that no other family has come anywhere near having the impact upon the breed as has this remarkable family. It is difficult for the Brunks to find an outside stallion that does not trace on at least one side to the blood of Cotton Hill Farm. Brunk horses have been sold from coast to coast, to South America, to the Bahamas, Canada, Cuba, China and Europe. To the present day, a large percentage of Grand National Champions have Brunk breeding in their pedigrees.
A line of Morgans nearly one hundred years old has evolved from 8 to 10 Vermont bred mares and two of the breed’s good stallions, Chetco and Morgan Rupert. Jubilee De Jarnette, the stylish Charles Reade, grand old Knox Morgan, beautiful little Senata, and others such as Jubilee King, Go–Hawk, Tiffany and Congo are all woven into the tapestry of the Brunk family until this day, and into the tapestry of the Morgan registry forever.