Ingham County Biographical Sketches

R. R. Bullen


Among the honored names in the archives of Aurelius township, none occurs more frequently than that of Bullen, and none is more closely interwoven into the political and material growth and development of the township.

The subject of this brief memorial biography, during the early history of the country was one of the active factors in its organization. R. R. Bullen was a native of Worchester in the Old Bay State, where he was born September 14, 1806. He bore the given name of his father, Reuben, who was born in the town of Pomfret in the Land of Steady Habits. Reuben Bullen, Sr., married Miss Tanison Leavens, and to them were born four children, of which our subject was the eldest son.

In the year of 1824, the elder Bullen with his family took up his residence in Wayne county, New York, where he lived until the date of his death in 1845, being in his sixty-eighth year. It is recorded of him that he was a successful farmer and a valuable citizen and identified himself prominently with Wayne county.

R. R. Bullen, at the age of twenty years left the parental home to win for himself a name and a place in the world, having fortified himself with a good common school education. In the year of 1838, he found employment at Wilkesbarre, Penn. It was at this time that the Pennsylvania canal was being constructed, and he obtained a position as foreman over a gang of laborers. For years following, up to 1835, he was variously employed, and it may be inferred from his subsequent history that he made good use of his time and by his habits of frugality he laid by a nucleus to his late holdings.

The important event in his life was solmnized in his marriage in 1835 to Miss Elizabeth Vandenburg. In October the year following, he arrived in Detroit with his family and temporal belongings. They proceeded as far as Ann Arbor, then little more than a country village. Leaving the family, he plunged into the great almost unbroken forest, he found his way to Ingham county, and located eighty-three acres of land upon section 4 and commenced to carve out for himself and family a home. The following spring he made a permanent settlement upon the tract.

But two families had preceeded him into the corporate limits of the township. The following from the History of Ingham County, published in 1880, referring to the experiences of those early years will be read with interest: --
The pioneer life of Mr. Bullen was one of hardship and many privations, but a robust constitution and resolute will overcame obstacles. Those living at this day may have a faint conception of what pioneers had to contend with, without roads, mills or bridges, and for supplies were frequently obliged to go to Ann Arbor, a portion of the distance through an almost unbroken forest, with roads that would now be considered impassable. The following incident is related to show the difference between going to mill in 1836 and 1880. The first grist taken to mill by Mr. Bullen was thrashed over a barrel, the bundles being bound small for the purpose, and as there were no conveniences for winnowing the wheat, it was taken in the chaff by a bark canoe to Eaton Rapids where there was a fanning mill. It was then ground, placed in the boat which he poled down the river to Columbia, from which place Mr. Bullen carried it on his back to his home, a distance of some five miles, through the woods. In the organization of the town in 1838, Mr. Bullen took a prominent part. He was member of the first town board, and has since occupied many positions of trust and responsibility. He has represented Aurelius upon the Board of Supervisors for a number of terms, and for many years was Justice of the Peace. To Mr. and Mrs. Bullen were born eight children: George, Richard J., James T., Phoebe A., Susan, Joseph, John E., and Samuel. Of those deceased, George W., the eldest son was born August 18, 1837, married Lodema Wright in 1867, to this union was born Frank W., now a practicing physician at Eveleth, Wisconsin. Mr. Bullen died January 23, 1878; Mr. Bullen was the first white child born in Aurelius township; Phoebe A., born January 2, 1844, followed the occupation of a teacher, died February 18, 1867; Samuel died in infancy.

Mr. Bullen, while yet in middle life, was bereft of his wife, leaving him with a large family of young children, and while he never again married, he kept the family together and maintained a home till they were grown to man and womanhood. He passed away December 23, 1882, leaving to his family the rich legacy of an upright and useful life.

Taken from:
"Past and Present of the City of Lansing and Ingham County, Michigan", by Albert E. Cowles.
Published by The Michigan Historical Publishing Association Lansing, MICH., 1905.
Pages 552-553


Michigan Biographies Project

Sondra Higbee