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Father and Sons Tragedies – Pleasant Valley, Larned, Pawnee County, Kansas


Throughout our life, we experience many emotions; happiness, anger, sadness, and joy, but sometimes there is an event that would be defined as a tragedy.


Jacob Brunk was out hunting rabbits with a friend. To cover more ground, the pair split up with Brunk walking on the ice of Pawnee Creek. His companion heard a shot and went to find Jacob. He found Jacob lying unconscious. Jacob’s grandson, Lester, who was seven years old, drowned in Pawnee Creek. Jacob’s son and Lester’s father, John, died of heart trouble at the age of 42.


Their story begins with the birth of Jacob Brunk in 1844 in Roanoke County, Virginia. He grew up there and on October 8, 1866, he married Frances Margaret Kinzie. The couple moved to Illinois where their eight children were born. Jacob and Frances followed two of their children to eastern Kansas and Pawnee County at the turn of the century.


Lester was the seven-year-old son of John A. and Ida May Brunk. Mrs. Brunk and a neighbor Mrs. McCant took their sons to the Pawnee Creek for fishing. Lester and another young boy, Bob Parry, were walking and wading in the creek. Suddenly, the pair disappeared as they had stepped into a hole. The women rushed over and were able to save Bob Parry, but by that time the current had overcome Lester and he was gone in an instant.1 Lester died on July 6, 1909.


On January 12, 1912, Jacob went rabbit hunting. His companion, Lee Ainsworth, heard a gun being fired and went to find Jacob. He was lying in the snow on the frozen creek. Mr. Ainsworth assumed that Jacob had fallen, broken his nose, and was stunned from the fall. He built a fire, took off almost all of his clothes, and dressed Jacob in them. He started walking to the nearest farm. Help arrived and they saw Jacob still sitting by the fire. He was taken immediately to the closest farm. The rescuers took off his cap and found a bloodied wound on the back of his head. Jacob never regained consciousness.2


John Albert Brunk was born in 1874 in Illinois. He came to Kansas with his parents at the age of six. In 1898, he married Ida May Weaver. They were blessed with eight children with their second son, Lester, drowning in 1909. John had been experiencing heart issues for two years before his death. His heart gave out and John died on April 7, 1917. He left Ida a widow with five children ranging in age from two years old to seventeen years old.

All three are buried in Pleasant Valley Cemetery.


The rest of the story: Mr. Ainsworth theorized that Jacob shot a rabbit and lost his footing on the steep bank which caused the wound on the back of his head. He was able to rise and start walking back to town but collapsed.3


Within a few moments of the women screaming and attempting to rescue Lester, a crowd arrived, and they searched for three hours. Lester’s body was recovered.

1The Tiller and Toiler (Larned, Kansas) 9 Jul 1909 p. 1

2The Tiller and Toiler (Larned, Kansas) 12 Jan 1912 p. 4

3TheTiller and Toiler (Larned, Kansas) 12 Jan 1912 p. 4

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