Bunch and Cheek Families of Newton, Mississippi

The Bunch and Cheek Families of Newton, Mississippi:
Their Family History and Migration to Newton County

by Walt Meyer, Jr.

Introduction

These families are in my maternal family line.  Researching them has been a passion for the past six years.  My mother, Isobel Evelyn Bunch, was born in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, the daughter of Joseph Eugene Bunch.  He was born in Newton, Mississippi, one of sixteen children born to Joseph Henry Clay (JHC) Bunch and Margret Cheek.

The families of Erasles Fenner (RF) Bunch and George W. (GW) Cheek came to live in Newton, Mississippi sometime in the mid 1860s.  Their families were joined twice.  First, by the marriage of RF’s oldest daughter, Lucinda Elizabeth, to GW Cheek on 4 September 1860 in Greene County, Alabama1 after the death of his first wife, Elizabeth Wilkins, in March 18602.  Second, by the marriage of RF’s son, JHC Bunch, to GW’s daughter, Margret Cheek on 1 November 18663.

The Bunch Family

RF Bunch was born about 1815, the second of seven children, on a plantation in Wake County, North Carolina, to Ervin T. Bunch and Sinthy Jordan.  The will of Ervin T. Bunch lists brothers Jesse, Samuel J., and Ira Jackson and three sisters, Phereby, Riney and Aley4.

RF’s father died in 1829 when he was about 14.  His father’s will indicates RF inherited 60 acres of land, which he eventually sold to his older brother, Jesse, on 27 November 18415.  RF married Dolly Nipper on 15 October 18366.  On 9 February 1837, RF and Dolly sold 160 acres of land she had inherited from her father, John Buckner Nipper7.

RF and family remained in Wake County until shortly after the birth of JHC Bunch.  The family moved to Guilford County, North Carolina where they were enumerated in the 1850 Federal Census.  By 1860, RF and family had moved to Green County, Alabama where it appears the Bunch and Cheek families first met.  RF’s younger brother, Ira Jackson Bunch, had preceded him to Green County, Alabama, where he was married to Elizbeth M. Townsend on 6 December 1847.

The 1860 Federal Census for Forkland Precinct shows the RF Bunch family residing near Ira’s family and the family of W. C. Cheek.  I believe this family is the aunt and uncle of Margret Cheek (M. Cheek in the census), the brother of GW and the sister of Elizabeth Wilkins, GW's first wife8.

Two of RF’s sons, JHC and George T., were in the War Between the States serving in Company F, 20th Mississippi Volunteers.  JHC enlisted 11 May 1861 from Greene County, Alabama at the age of 18 and served until 9 May 18659.  He and his brother fought at the battle of Fort Donelson, Tennessee from February 14-16, 1862.  This battle on the left bank of the Cumberland River pitted about 27,000 Union troops of Ulysses S. Grant and Commodore Andrew Foote’s Ironclad gunboats against about 20,000  Confederate troops.  The Union troops prevailed, which opened up two rivers to the Union Navy and was the first major Union success of the war.  The estimated cost in lives was 500 Union dead, 1,500 Confederate dead, and 13,000 prisoners, including JHC and George T10.

Records indicate they were captured 16 February 1862 as they appear on the Roll of Prisoners of War at Camp Douglas, Illinois11.  They were sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi on 2 September 1862 to be exchanged on board the steamer John H. Done12.

JHC rejoined the war and was captured a second time when Confederate troops under General Richard Taylor were surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama on 4 May 1865.  He was paroled at Meridian, Mississippi on 9 May 186513.  Coincidentally, GW Cheek was also surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama the same day.

JHC Bunch married Margaret Cheek in November 1866 and by the 1870 Federal Census of TWP 5, Range 11, Newton County, had two children.  The 1870 Federal Census indicates that RF and Dollie’s household had no children enumerated.

JHC was a shoe and boot maker by trade.  He and several brothers learned from their father. He also farmed outside the town of Newton.  He and Margaret had sixteen children14 (another child not listed may have died at birth):

Charles H.

b. 1868

m. Lena Mae Lyles 18 Dec 1895

Mary E.

b. 1869

 

Willie B.

d. at 1 month in Oct 1870 of a brain disease

 

Margaret Virginia

b. Oct 1871

m. Sylvester Simmons 22 Dec 1892

Alonzo Tilman

b. 23 Dec 1873

m. Madge

Victoria Ann

b Apr 1875

m. Will Denton 16 Nov 1892

Glover Hiram

b. 24 May 1878

m. Bessie Weems

Joseph Eugene

b. 23 Apr 1880

m. Willie Eudora Weems 17 Jan 1901

Franklin G.

b. Feb 1884

m. Ruby

Mollie E.

b. Jun 1885

m. James Edward Chapman

Emma

b. 9 Mar 1886

m. Cicero Simmons 5 Apr 1906

Eunice O.

b. Dec 1889

m. Thomas B. Ferguson 26 Jun 1904

Ella M.

b. Jun 1892

m. Tom Henry Gibbs 1 Dec 1905

Kate Cornelia

b. Jun 1892

m. Joseph Clifton Cooper

JHC and family appear in the 1870, 1880 and 1900 Federal Census for Newton County.  An anecdotal reference is made in the Bethel Church minutes in January 1869, where it appears JHC (called Henry in the minutes) had a falling out with H. C. Simmons.  The minutes read, “Brother H. C. Simmons reported a grievance between himself and Brother Henry Bunch.  By motion the case was postponed until the next regular conference.  At the next conference (February 1869), the committee appointed to visit Brother Bunch reported by motion.  The report was received and the committee discharged.  By motion Brother Henry Bunch was excluded for not being willing to make satisfaction to Brother Simmons.”  The source of the dispute is not known, but H. C. Simmons’s son, Sylvester, later married JHC’s daughter Maggie15.

The Bunch family made several land transactions that are contained in the Newton County Courthouse, Chancery Clerk 1876-1891 index to deeds:

      Margaret E. Bunch to J. W. Guthrie; deed dated 6 May 1878 (Book 2, p. 472)

      ME & JHC Bunch to M.J.L. Hays; deed dated 20 Jun 1878 (Book 2, p. 513)

      R. F. Bunch to M. Waits and Nellie Potter; deed dated 3 Jul 1879 (Book 4, p. 24)

      JHC Bunch to A. Russell; deed dated 19 Nov 1880 (Book 2, p. 708)

      R. F. Bunch to J. L. O’Ferrell; deed dated 22 Mar 1882 (Book 6, p. 211)

      Dolly Bunch to G. W. Walton; deed dated 31 Oct 1885 (Book 7, p. 406)

JHC’s wife, Margret, died 3 Dec 1909 in Newton.  JHC would live until 8 Feb 1917.  He died in Ellisville, Mississippi, where he was staying with his son, Alonzo Tilman Bunch.  He was taken back to Newton for burial.  The funeral notice supported the 1900 census information that he and Margret had 16 children, with twelve living when he died.  Both JHC and Margret are buried in the Newton County Cemetery next to the Newton First Baptist Church16.

RF apparently died before 1885, as Dolly Bunch was living with her son, George T. in Summit, Pike County, Mississippi on 31 Oct 1885 when she sold property in Newton.  The date of her death is not known.  Her son, George T., died 18 Jul 1891.

Some of the exploits of the Bunch family were captured in the Newton Weekly Register between 1872 and 1875.  The following are transcriptions by Jean Strickland and Patricia Neal Edwards17.

    Thursday, January 18, 1872:  “A house occupied by Mr. Bunch as a shoe shop burned Saturday night.”

    Thursday, March 14, 1872: “Mr. J.H.C. Bunch is prepared to do any kind of fine work.”

    Thursday, April 25, 1872: “Jury to examine the body of a Negro boy found by Jared Watts, J.H.C. Bunch, B.T. Thompson, A.J. Brown, R.E. Wilson, A. Fisher and J.C. Wilson.”

    Thursday, August 29, 1872: “R.F. Bunch donated $10 for the proposed academy.”

    Thursday, July 31, 1873:  “George and R. F. and Sam Chapman had a little fight last Saturday evening.”

    Thursday, September 18, 1873:  “Chancery notice: G.W. Cheek dec’d, John B. Check, Adm’r. To: J. H. and Margret Bunch and Thomas J. Cheek of Garden Valley, Smith Co. Texas, Adolphus and Sarah Laird and Erasmus and Nancy Laird of Van Buren, Crawford Co., Arkansas”

    Thursday, June 25, 1874: “R.F. has received a stock of calf skins and is prepared to do work.”

    Thursday, June 10, 1875:  “J.H.C. Bunch has opened a shoe shop on Front Street.”

Joseph Eugene Bunch was born in Newton County, Mississippi on 23 April 1880, the seventh child of JHC Bunch and Margret Cheek.  “Grandpa Bunch was born and raised on a cotton plantation.  They had to work very hard, especially during the spring, fall and summer.  In winter they had plenty of work, but not as much.  When Grandpa was a young boy there were no dentists where he lived.  There was an Indian man who came around about once a month.  Grandpa used to sit down on a stump and the Indian would pull his teeth, if any needed pulling.”18

Joseph Eugene Bunch married Willie Eudora Weems on 17 January 1901 in Scott County, Mississippi.  A month earlier, his brother, Glover Hiram, married Willie’s sister, Sallie C. Weems.

Bunch, Joseph Eugene and Willie Eudora Weems

Joseph Eugene and Willie Eudora (Weems) Bunch

Joseph “Joe” and Willie “Will” had thirteen children, with many of the family choosing to use their middle name rather than their first.  These were:

Nettye Leona

 

George Henry

“Henry”

Lissa Marie

“Marie

Willie Eugene

“Eugene”

Bertie Marguerite

“Marguerite”

Agnes Winnie

“Winnie”

Juliette

 

Norma Faye

“Faye”

Gertrude

 

Malcom Ernest

 

Martha Josephine

“Josephine”

Evelyn Isobel

“Isobel” or “Dixie”

One of my cousins, Ina Margaret Smith, remembers “Uncle Joe” coming to Newton County to spend a week or so with his sister Maggie Bunch Simmons.  He would visit with his other brothers and sisters who lived nearby.

The Cheek Family

George W. (GW) Cheek was born in Orange County, North Carolina about 1823, one of eight children of John Cheek and Jane “Jinsey” Williams.  John Cheek died 24 February 1848 intestate and estate papers list GW’s siblings as James, David M., Boroughs, William, Jasper, Malinda and Martha Ann.

Based on the birth date of GW’s oldest son, John Burroughs Cheek (2 Jul 1846), GW was married about 1845 to Elizabeth Wilkins19.  These Cheek and Wilkins families appear to have intermarried twice more, with GW’s sister marrying Duncan Wilkins and GW’s brother marrying Margaret Wilkins.

GW and family remained in Orange County until at least 1854, based on various court documents related to the probate of GW’s father and Elizabeth’s father, John Wilkins.  Court records indicate that GW owned about 202 acres of land adjacent to Lazarus and William Cole on the waters of the Eno River in Orange County.  A biographical sketch of GW’s oldest son indicates, “his parents, George W. and Elizabeth Cheek, were the parents of eight children and moved to Alabama and in 1863 emigrated to Newton, Mississippi.”20

The 1860 Federal Census (June 1860) shows the GW Cheek family living in the Forkland District of Greene County, Alabama with seven children.  His occupation is listed as plantation manager for James Cole.  GW’s first wife, Elizabeth, had died in March 1860 (Federal Mortality Schedule) and it appears Margret Cheek was living with her Aunt and Uncle near the RF and Ira Bunch families.

On 4 September 1860, GW married RF’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth Bunch, who appears with the GW family in the 1870 Federal Census.

GW enlisted in the Confederate service on 2 May 1864 at Enterprise, Mississippi, and was part of Captain D. M. Rogers company of Reserve Forces of Mississippi.  His company was surrendered by General Richard Taylor on 4 May 1865 at Citronelle, Alabama and GW was paroled 9 May 1865 at Meridian, Mississippi, the same date as his future son-in-law, JHC Bunch.

Newton County estate records show that GW amassed over 200 acres of land before his death in 1870.  Records of Federal Excise Taxes at Newton Station (Division 15, District 2) provide some insight into his farm’s output:21

 

 

Valuation

Tax

April 1866

cotton

$2,430

$75.90

 

cotton

422

12.69

 

 

 

 

October 1866

cotton

306

15.18

GW Cheek is mentioned several times in A. J. Brown’s History of Newton County from 1834-1894.22

    (On page 172 in response to a planned march through Newton by former slaves) “After he [Judge Watts] closed, G. W. Cheek, a plain farmer, not accustomed to making speeches, rose and in a few sentences told them not to come, dared them to come, told them the consequences—they did not come.  All praise to both men, but they looked at it from different standpoints.”

    (On page 352) “There has never been but one white man killed in the town—that was G. W. Cheek, in 1870.”

I have not been able to determine the details of GW’s death but plan to search Mississippi newspapers from that period.  I am just beginning research of my Great Grandmother’s siblings.

NOTES

  1. Newton County, Mississippi estate records of George W. Cheek dated August 13, 1877 list Georgia and Molly Cheek as minor heirs (FHL8991177).  The 1880 Federal Census for Newton, Mississippi shows Georgia and Mary Cheek listed as grandchildren of RF and Dollie Bunch.
  2. Orange County, North Carolina March term 1849 probate records for John Wilkins indicates heir “Elizabeth married to George Cheek.  A November term 1846 petition lists “Betsy wife of George Cheek.”  (FHL2069636 Estate Records 1754-1944 for Orange County, North Carolina.
  3. Information provided by Ina Margaret Smith, Newton County, Mississippi Historical and Genealogical Society.
  4. Copy of Will of Ervin Bunch dated 11 May 1829, Wake County, North Carolina (NC Archives).
  5. Deed Book 15, p.33: 27 November 1841, Rastus F. Bunch to Jesse Bunch “sold to Jesse two tracts of land, each tract being the portion which descends to me by the will of my father Irvin Bunch late of this county.”—signed Rastus Fenner Bunch.
  6. Copy of Marriage Bond of RF Bunch and Dolly Nipper, Wake County, North Carolina (NC archives).
  7. Deed Book 12, p. 476: 9 February 1837, Erasles F. Bunch and Dolly Bunch sold to John Harrison 106 acres “it being the tract of land owned and passed by Buckner Nipper late of this county and which has accrued to us by inheritance from the estate of the said Buckner Nipper.”
  8. William Cheek married Margaret Wilkins 8 December 1853 in Orange County, North Carolina.
  9. Consolidated Service Record for Joseph H. C. Bunch, NARA M 269.
  10. American Civil War Summaries from Ancestry.com [database on-line, Provo, Utah.  The Generations Network, Inc., 1999]
  11. Roll of Prisoners of War, Camp Douglas, Illinois.
  12. Consolidated Service Record for Joseph H. C. Bunch, NARA M 269.
  13. Consolidated Service Record for Joseph H. C. Bunch, NARA M 269.
  14. Information provided by Ina Margaret Smith, Newton County, Mississippi Historical and Genealogical Society.
  15. Information provided by Myrtis S. Craft in email 1 November 2004.
  16. Newton County, Mississippi Cemetery Census 1782-1995.
  17. Newton County, Mississippi Newspaper Items 1872-1875.  SPA Manuscript by Jean Strickland and Patricia N. Edwards.
  18. From an interview with my Mother, Isobel Evelyn Bunch Meyer.
  19. Orange County, North Carolina, March term 1849 probate records for John Wilkins indicates heir “Elizabeth married to George Cheek.”  A November term 1846 petition lists “Betsy, wife of George Cheek.”  (FHL 2069636 Estate Records 1754-1944 for Orange County, North Carolina.
  20. Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Western Arkansas, Goodspeed Publishers, 1891, “History of Conway County”.
  21. IRS records for Mississippi (FHL1578482).
  22. A. J. Brown, History of Newton, County from 1834-1894, Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, Louisiana, 1998.

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