William Bunnell/Bonnell (ca.1740 – ca.1805)
(probable 4th gr.grandfather of GJF)

The progenitor of most of the the Bunnell/Bonnell families in America was a William Bunnell, native of Cheshire, England, who came to New Haven, CT, in 1638. He was a farmer and tanner in West Haven and married Anna Wilmot, daughter of Benjamin Wilmot of New Haven in 1640. They had five children. Numerous lines of descent from this couple have been documented. There are several variants of the spelling of the name in different places and different branches of the family. The most common are Bonnell and Bunnell.

The William Bunnell addressed here was born in New Jersey in the1740s, is mentioned in one record in Windsor Township, Middlesex County , NJ in 1763 and first shows up in Virginia records in Loudoun County VA tithables lists in 1768 through 1771 along with a Samuel Bunnell. From DNA analysis from known male line descendants William was apparently a descendant of the original William Bunnell of New Haven CT. The lineage is: William Bunnell/Ann Wilmot -> Nathaniel/Susannah Whitehead -> Samuel/Susannah ->Samuel/? -> William. There are numerous records of a Samuel Bunnell, Sr. and Samuel. Jr. from Woodbridge, NJ where Samuel. Jr. was born in 1707, through 1767 in Windsor Township, Middlesex County, NJ. By 1768, William and one of the Samuels, presumably his father, were in Loudoun County, VA where they remained through 1771. Another Samuel, probably a brother of William, was still in NJ in 1770 where he was in debtors prison in Middlesex County.

The next records of William and Samuel Bonnell are in Spotsylvania County VA as witnesses to a deed in 1772, as co-administrators of the estate of Jacob Wright in 1777, and as signers of a petition in 1777. This is the last record involving Samuel, but William shows up as signer of a petition in 1779 and in the 1782 and 1783 Spotsylvania County tax lists and in a marriage record of one of his daughters in Albemarle County in 1785. By 1787 he had settled in Rockbridge County VA where he remained for seven years through 1794, then he was in adjacent Botetourt County VA through 1797 before migrating to Kentucky, probably during the summer of 1798. He appears in tax lists and other records in Mercer County, KY, from 1799 through 1805. His signature on marriage bonds for three of his children is spelled Bonnel, but elsewhere within the same documents, as well as others, the name is spelled Bunnell. Some of his descendants use the Bonnell spelling and some Bunnell. The only mention of his wife that has been found is in a list of witnesses in a legal action in Botetourt County, VA in 1797 which doesn't list her name.

While very little is known about William Bunnell, he had numerous children who are better documented and who later spread from Mercer County and migrated through several other states. One of his known children (from the marriage bond) was Anne Bunnell who married John Farris in 1785 in Albemarle County VA. This John Farris was a brother of William Farris, my gr.gr.gr.grandfather, and they migrated from Hanover County VA through Virginia to Mercer and Green Counties KY and later to Franklin County IL. William Farris was married before 1790 in VA, but the marriage record has not yet been found. The close interaction of the William Farris family with several of the Bunnell families over many years, plus the naming of the Farris children, indicates that his wife (my gr.gr.gr.grandmother) was also probably one of the children of William Bunnell. In deed records in Franklin County IL she is listed as “Polly”, the common nickname for Mary.

There are no death or will records for William Bunnell that have been found in Kentucky, but it is likely that he died about 1805 or shortly thereafter. Over the next several years most of his children and their families left Mercer County. At that time there were three unmarried children and two of these showed up in Barren and Adair Counties not far from some of the other Bunnell families. So it is possible that William also left Mercer Co. before he died.

The only records that have been found specifically naming “Polly” Farris, assumed to be a daughter of William Bunnell, are two deed records in Franklin County IL. The last of these was in September, 1832, and it appears that she died soon after that – as did William Farris who died before December, 1833.

Probable Children of William Bunnell

Anne Bunnell : married John Farris in 1785, Albemarle Co. VA; probably died after 1828 in Franklin Co. IL

Mary “Polly” Bunnell: married William Farris before 1790, VA; died 1832/1833 Franklin Co. IL

Rebecca Bunnell: married Joseph Lyon, 1792, Rockbridge Co. VA; died Hardin Co. KY after 1836

Jonathan Bonnell: married Rebecca Dean, died 1859 Platte Co. MO

Samuel Bunnell: married Elizabeth Sutterfield; died ~1848 in Mercer Co. KY

John Bunnell: appears in the 1800 and 1801 tax lists in Mercer Co. KY; nothing more is known about him

Jeremiah Bunnell: married Rebecca Hardin, died 1832 in Hart Co. KY

Joseph Bonnell: married Martha McGrath 1813, lived in Jessamine Co. KY and Howard Co. MO

William Bunnell: married Mary Allin 1802, Mercer Co. KY; died 1862 Hardin Co. KY

Peter Bunnell: married Susannah Erwin 1810, Green Co. KY; married Harriett Harlow 1852 Barren Co. KY; died 1868 Hart Co. KY

Susannah Bunnell: married John Handy, 1809, Barren Co. KY; died after 1870, probably in Gentry Co. MO

David Bunnell: Lived in several places and was married 4 times; died in Jackson Co. KS, 20 February 1878.


George J. Farris
revised April 2018

© Copyright 2016, George J. Farris, All rights reserved.