December 1, 2014
Bunker Boots and Shoes
by Barbara Schock
From time to time, descriptions of Galesburg residents will be included in “Sandburg's Hometown.” Carl Sandburg probably knew of them even though the individuals were not mentioned in his writings. The city on the prairie was a collation of businessmen, farmers, industrialists, and the many immigrants who had settled there.
Dwight W. Bunker operated a boot and shoe store at 132 East Main Street. He opened the store in 1876 and built a reputation for quality merchandise and good service. Patrons could purchase handcrafted shoes, if they desired.
Bunker was born in Lake County, Ohio, November 4, 1846. His parents, Samuel and Silvia Walton Bunker, moved to Knox County when he was two years old. At the age of fourteen, he went to Wataga and enlisted in the 45th Illinois Infantry Regiment on October 20, 1861. There were seventy-nine men from Knox County in the regiment.
The 45th participated in the battles of Forts Henry (February 6th) and Donelson (February 16th) and the battle of Shiloh on April 6th and 7th , 1862. Private Bunker was wounded on the second day of the battle. The commander of his regiment had mistaken an advancing rebel force as a Union regiment. The young soldiers were cut down with rifle fire. A mini ball tore away about 1 ½ inches of Bunker's lower ribs and part of his elbow on the left side. Another bullet lodged in his left shoulder and he carried it the rest of his life. He was left on the battlefield and wandered for several days, finally seeking refuge in an old tent.
After a week had passed, he was found and taken to a hospital in St. Louis. His father brought Dwight back to Henderson and the family nursed him back to health. Dwight had served one day short of a year in the Union Army.
After recovering, young Bunker went to Kansas and worked as a teamster and helped build some two hundred miles of the Union Pacific Railroad. On May 31, 1873, Bunker married Mary Isabelle Carpenter.
In 1874, they returned to Galesburg and he opened a general store. He started the boot and shoe store several years later. Bunker was very active in the Grand Army of the Republic, the Civil War veterans organization. He was an officer in the state G.A.R. at the time of his death on November 4, 1897. The doctors assumed a blood clot had formed at the site of the shoulder wound and had been carried to the brain. He was fifty-one years old.
The Bunkers had a son and a daughter. The son was given his father's first name along with his mother's surname. Dwight C. Bunker continued to operate the shoe store after his father's death. It was the oldest shoe store in Galesburg when he sold it in 1923. Then he became the custodian of city parks.
After World War I, golf became an enthusiasm for many men in Galesburg. Dwight C. Bunker became an expert at the game. He designed and built a golf course next to Lincoln Park on the north side of Galesburg. Teams of horses were used to grade and shape the rolling landscape into greens and fairways, and yes, bunkers too. Subsequently, it was named in his honor. Bunker also made many improvements to Lincoln Park: a pavilion, clay tennis courts, a wading pool and flower gardens. After the city of Galesburg leased Lake Storey from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, Bunker made improvements there as well. The parks were very popular with the citizens of the area.
Dwight C. Bunker died
November 7, 1936, in his home and was buried
in Hope Cemetery in the family plot. Several
years later, the Galesburg Woman's Club placed
a bench in Lincoln Park in memory of Mr.
Bunker. It is still there.