Early Bronaugh Residents

Fonburg Family

This family was in Bronaugh very early and was featured in the 1887 History of Vernon County.

From History of Vernon County, Missouri. 1887, p. 776.


(Farmer, Stock-raiser and Wood Grower, Section 33, Post-office, Arcadia, Kas.).

Without detriment to other citizens of Vernon County, it may with truth be said that no more worthy citizen has ever made his home in this portion of the county, and none are more deserving of honorable mention than John Fonburg. The following brief facts will serve to give an idea at least of the manner in which his successful life has been spent. Of foreign nativity, he was born November 17, 1836, in Switzerland, the son of Lewis Fonburg (of French origin) and wife, the latter also of Swiss birth. John remained in his native country until some twelve years of age, when with his father he emigrated to the United States, settling first in Cook county, Ill. in 1849. In growing up he was made familiar with the details of agricultural life, and this occupation he continued to follow for some time, later entering the employ of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, in which he continued four years. The three following years were passed in steam boating on the Mississippi, and after this he resumed farming in Illinois, remaining so engaged for five years in Macoupin County, Tn. 1861 he was married to Miss Francis Genser, originally from Germany, and in 1867 they removed from their Illinois home to Vernon County, Mo., where they have since resided. Mr. F. has from that time to the present devoted himself to his chosen calling, and during this period has become recognized as among the county’s substantial citizens. He owns a fine farm of 320 acres, well improved, the surroundings of which indicate the good farmer that he is. His convenient, commodious buildings are kept in good repair, as is, indeed, everything about the place. One thing to which he gives no little attention, and one so universally neglected by the average farmer, is the raising of small fruits. Such has been Mr. F.’s career in life; commencing without means (he himself says he was without a dollar when he married) he has by his energy and the aid of his estimable wife and worthy family, secured a comfortable competency and desirable home — the abode of taste and refinement. He and his wife have been blessed with a family of six children: Charles E., Henry P., Leona B., John B., James M. and Frank Albert. Mr. Fonburg stands today one of the industrious, intelligent and public—spirited men of this section. He is well informed on all subjects, and a man with whom it is a pleasure to meet.

As mentioned in the above biography, the Fonburg's arrived in Vernon County right after the Civil War. The family was listed in the 1870 census living in Moundville Township with their surname spelled "Fonburgh":

The 1870 census also listed John's brother, "Isadore" Fonburg, living nearby (Next to the James McKill family):

Perhaps the earliest mention of a Fonburg in Vernon County is when "Isadon Fonburge" had married Mary Jane Etter (Book A, p. 95) on August 12, 1867

By the 1880 census the famiies had moved a short distance west into Harrison Township:

The 1880 census also listed John's brother living nearby (can anyone explain why he was called James in this census?):

On January 10, 1887, Miss Hattie Labherz, 15-year-old niece of Charles I. Fonburg died of diphtheria. She was buried at McKill Cemetery in Harrison Township. The Bronaugh Journal spelled her last name Lehberg. It appears that Hattie was a daughter of Theordore and Amelia Lebherz. In the 1880 Cook County, Illinois census, Amelia was age 34 and born in Switzerland - probably a sister of Charles I. Fonburg since Hattie was his niece.

H. Pierce Fonburg (son of John) married Miss Ella Taylor on June 19, 1892, in Vernon County. Holman Lee Fonburg, the two-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Pierce Fonburg died tragically on September 29, 1896. Mrs. Fonburg had gone outside to get some wood for the cookstove and left the little boy in the house alone. Mr. Fonburg had whittled a corncob pipe attached to a stick for his son to play with. While his mother was outdoors, he attempted to light the pipe and in the process, his clothing caught fire. His clothes quickly ignited and his mother heard him screaming. She ran in and tried to use a blanket to smother the flames. Then she threw a bucket of water on the boy. He had been terribly burned and lingered in severe pain for several hours. Before long he died. He was buried at McKill Cemetery. It had been a tragic year for the Fonburgs. Their one-year-old son Willard Taylor Fonburg had died January 21, 1896.

According to McKill Cemetery records, Charlie I. Fonburg's wife, Mary J. Fonburg died on January 25, 1892. They apparently had not had any children. He then re-married the next year. The marriage record shows that I. Fonburg of Bronaugh married Miss Martha Cochran of Bellamy on March 5, 1893 in Dover Township, Vernon County. Second wife, Martha M. Fonburg, then died August 17, 1899, and was also buried at McKill Cemetery. So the 1900 Harrison Township census, both John and Charley (Isadore/James) Fonburg were listed as widowers. The census reads:

Charles I. Fonburg died on May 6, 1901, at the age of 55. He was buried beside his wives. Nancy Thompson found that the Vernon Co Probate Index shows the Isador Fonburg probate filed June 4, 1901 with minor children Dora and William (the young children of Charlie I. and his second wife Martha.) Although confusing, it appears that Charles I., James, Isadore, Isador and Isadon Fonburg are all the same person.

The 1900 census for John Fonburg listed:

  • John Fonburg, born November 1838 in Switzerland - widower
  • Lora Lion, born September 1881 in Texas, boarder
  • Mary Lion, born November 1890 in New Mexico, boarder

Strangely, it appears that although John Fonburg stated that he was a widower - he was not. In nearby Bourbon County, Kansas, the following family was enumerated living in Ft. Scott:

  • David Baker born in March 1863 in Iowa
  • Leona Baker, born in June 1868 in Missouri (Leona and David had married in 1891)
  • Francis Fonburg, born in April 1838 in Germany, mother-in-law (Francis was said to be widowed) It was also noted that she had had six children and all survived.

So both John and his wife Francis were enumerated in the 1900 census and they referred to themselves as widower and widow. However, it is obvious that both were still living so neither of those was correct. The census did not say divorced. However, on January 11, 1902, John Fonburg of Nevada went to Adair County, Missouri where he married Miss Laura Lyon of Kirksville, Adair County. This is obviously the young Lora Lion who at age eighteen was listed as a boarder with John in the 1900 census in Harrison Township.

In 1905 there was a Kansas State Census and ex-wife Francis was still living with her daughter and son-in-law:

  • David Baker, age 42, born Iowa - groceryman
  • Leona Baker, age 39, born Missouri
  • Francis Fonburg, age 66, born in Germany
  • Ellen Fonburg, age 36, born in Kansas

John Fonburg died January 27, 1906, and was buried at McKill Cemetery. John's will was filed in Vernon County. Heirs listed in the will are widow Lora and children, Leona (Baker), John B., Pierce, Edward, James and Albert.

The 1925 Kansas State Census listed 86 year old Francis Fonburg living in Ft. Scott with her daughter and son-in-law. However, by the 1930 census, David and Leona were still living in Ft. Scott, but there was no mention of Francis. There is no evidence that Francis was buried at McKill.

Other Fonburg descendants continued to live in Harrison Township.

Henry Pierce Fonburg died September 12, 1935. His death certificate listed his birth date as July 8, 1886, at Carlinsville, Illinois and it lists his wife as Ella Taylor. It also tells that his death was by suicide at home and says "hung self". He was buried at McKill Cemetery beside his father. See obituary at right.

John B. Fonburg, died April 18, 1939, at home. His death certificate tells that he had been born September 4, 1871, in Vernon County and that his wife's name was "Manda" Burden (this is plain on the death certificate, but she was definitely listed as Maude on several census records). John B. had married Maud Burden of Engleville, Crawford County Missouri on January 11, 1899 in Jasper County, MO. Unlike most of the other Fonburg's, John B. was buried at Shiloh Cemetery just across the Barton County line to the south of Harrison Township.

John Fonburg's death notice from the January 27, 1906, Nevada Daily Mail tells that he was living on West Allison Street in Nevada at the time of his death. He was sixty nine. It tells that his remains were taken to Bronaugh for burial. He was buried west of Bronaugh at McKill.

A few months later, in April 1906, Mrs. John Fonburg was in California on her way to visit her brother who was on the faculty at Stanford. Mrs. Fonburg was staying at a hotel at the time of the great San Francisco earthquake. The hotel was destroyed but Mrs. Fonburg survived. Will put a clipping about it below.

April 24, 1906 Nevada Daily Mail

John Fonburg
Grave Markers from McKill Cemetery

Left: John Fonburg, November 17, 1836 - January 27, 1906

Below: Pierce Fonburg, 1866 - 1925 and Ella Fonburg, 1871 - 1943


Pierce and Ella Fonburg

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