Robert Gunyon and Fanny (Craven) Gunyon in Wauwatosa
In the 1853-1855 period, a handsome Italianate stone and cream brick residence with some Greek Revival touches was built for Robert and Fanny Gunyon on a 160+ acre farm in the Town of Wauwatosa, west of the city of Milwaukee. Its location today is in the Arlington Gardens neighborhood, surrounded by other homes, at 7927 West Appleton Avenue, Milwaukee. The 1860 Census enumerated Robert, 43, and Fannie, 39, living in the Town of Wauwatosa where Robert was farming. His real estate was worth $9,500. Living with them was Elizabeth Whitehead, 31, born in Scotland, no occupation listed.
More about the Gunyons and their house appeared in an article, “Judge Derek Mosley’s 160-Year-Old Home: The municipal judge’s home is unique — just one of just 38 in town built before the Civil War,” published online as a House Confidential at UrbanMilwaukee.com. For example, Robert was described as owner of “a lumber mill and was cranking out 10,000 boards a day in 1850 for the construction of the Lisbon Plank Road.” In fact, Robert was one of five men who opened the sale of stock for Lisbon Plank Road construction, on 20 Dec 1849 at Chestnut Street House. There was a short-lived plank road craze, soon snuffed out by the arrival of the railroads for moving people and goods.
The Varied Careers of Robert Gunyon
Robert Gunyon is also recorded as a grocer with a store at 45 Chestnut Street, according to Milwaukee History, Vols 9-11, by Milwaukee County Historical Society. There is no date for his store in the book, but a 1865 Milwaukee Directory shows him at that address. So Robert had an enterprise in the general area of Benjamin Church home, west of Milwaukee River. Remember that it was Benjamin’s son John Benjamin Church who married Margaret Legard Gunyon on 10 Sep 1879 in Milwaukee.
As noted earlier, Robert and Fanny went back to Yorkshire some time in 1865, returning in August with Fanny’s niece Margaret Ledgar, later Legard, whom they adopted. The 1870 Census enumerated them together in Milwaukee, with Robert’s occupation lumber merchant. City directories show that his lumber yard was “on the point” at the foot of Cherry Street. One imagines that Robert met Benjamin Church, a pioneer carpenter, builder and father of John Benjamin Church, at this time if not earlier. The Benjamin Church house was on 4th between Cherry and Galena streets.
Robert had one more change in his active career. Between 1874-1878, he was listed in city directories with the business Gunyon, Cryderman & Pollow, tanners, 492 Canal. His partners were Jacob Cryderman, residence 753 7th Street, and John A. Pollow, residence 609 4th Street. Leather tanning was a big business in Milwaukee. How intriguing that Robert got into the leather industry, his father-in-law being a leather currier in Yorkshire.
After that, Robert apparently retired from active business. Milwaukee city directories show Robert and Fanny Gunyon residing at 710 Walnut Street, at least from 1874 until their deaths. Walnut is six blocks north of Cherry Street. John and Maggie Church lived at 714 Galena in 1891, three blocks south of the Gunyons.
Robert Gunyon in Politics
As we’ve seen, several Milwaukee history books mention Robert Gunyon. In another one, he is listed as Rob. Gunyon with men in new political party that had the motto “free soil, free speech, free labor, free men.” This was the Free Soil Party, active from 1848 to 1852, that opposed the expansion of slavery into the country’s western territories. This mention is in the 1871 book Milwaukee written in German by Rudolph A. Koss. The book also mentions the shop of Rob. Gunyon in Chestnutstraße or Chestnut Street.
The final phase of Robert and Fanny’s story — in which Margaret also played a role — was perhaps the most dramatic. We’ll tell it in the fourth and last installment of this family history mystery resolved, coming soon.
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