Benjamin F. Bruner
Saturday, June 10, 1939
Founder Of “Brunertown” Succumbs After Long Illness
Seminole Freedman Born Eleven Years Before Emancipation
With the passing of Benjamin F. Bruner, 87 year old Seminole Freedman and founder of “Brunertown”, last week, Oklahoma lost another one of her native sons whose activities during the territorial days contributed to the colorful history of the state.
Bruner died May 31 at the family home in Holdenville. Funeral services were held at the Mt. Zion Baptist church in Seminole, Sunday June 4. The body was interred at Turkey Creek Cemetery.
Bruner was born on the banks of the Washita River a few miles from Calvin eleven years before freedom. His mother and father were natives of the Indian Country. As a boy he attended the missions set up by white church goers for the education of Negroes and Indians.
Soon after the Civil War, the Bruner family founded “Brunertown” a community that still bears the name of the founder. Shortly afterwards, Bruner then a young man married Jeanetta Shields and to this union were born 3 children.
In 1880, Bruner and his wife separated and he entered Hampton Institute in Virginia, where he studied for five years. Returning to the territory in 1885 he taught school until 1890 when he married Ellen Rentie. Six children were born to this union.
After his second marriage, Bruner established a home on his freedom allotment nears Earlsboro where he lived for fifteen years. During that time he served as a member of the Seminole Indian Council. In 1905 he moved to Holdenville, then an open country, where he became a “land baron” controlling 640 acres, representing an allotment to his wife and children.
On this allotment, Bruner built a $9000 home which was included among Oklahoma’s land marks as long as it stood. For the sharecroppers and other Negroes in the section he built a school. He donated the land and then built the Unity Baptist church, although he had joined the Presbyterian church at Hampton, he had never been baptized, and it was one of the pleasurable moments to recall his baptism in the church he built. He served continuously on the deacon board of that church.
Survivors are a wife, Ellen Bruner, Holdenville; two sons, Jack Bruner, Seminole, and Edgar Bruner, Holdenville; three daughters, Ivory Hampton, Okmulgee, Leona Corbett and Edna Stewart, Tulsa; a brother, Tom J. Bruner, Holdenville; a sister, Annie Payne, Seminole.
-obituary courtesy of Charles Gibson, Benjamin Bruner’s great-grandson