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February 24, 2009

Peter Bruner: Slave, Soldier and Celebrated Oxford Citizen

 

Graduate Student Blake Vaughan giving his presentation on Peter Bruner
Graduate Student Blake Vaughan gives his presentation on Peter Bruner

Overcoming years of slavery, voluntary service in the Union Army, and decades of manual labor, Peter Bruner’s life is a story worth telling and re-telling. In celebration of Bruner’s long life and Black History Month, McGuffey Museum and Miami’s Department of History co-sponsored in February “Peter Bruner: An Informal Discussion of His Life and Times.” Presented by Blake Vaughan, a master’s candidate in history and a graduate student aide at McGuffey Museum, the Bicentennial program in MacMillan Hall’s Great Room on Miami’s Oxford campus attracted over 75 students, faculty, guests and descendants of Peter Bruner.  Among the descendants was Thomas Kelley, a native of Oxford and Bruner’s grandson.  Bruner (1845-1938) was born a slave in Clark County, Kentucky, and after enduring years of corporal punishment he finally escaped in 1864 and enlisted in the United States Colored Troops. Following his discharge from the Union Army, Bruner came to Oxford in 1866 where he would live the rest of his life.  While raising five children with his wife Fannie Procton, Bruner held the distinction of working for Western Female Seminary, Oxford College and Miami University.

 

Thomas Kelley, grandson of Peter Bruner and Oxford native, with silver goblet presented to his grandfather. Dated March 10, 1893
Peter Bruner's top hat
Thomas Kelley, grandson of Peter Bruner and Oxford native, with silver goblet presented to his grandfather. Dated March 10, 1893
Peter Bruner's top hat, part of the McGuffey Musuem Collection
 
L-R: Janice McClain, Bradley McClain (Bruner descendant), Blake Vaughan, Marilyn Kelley Dowdell (Bruner great-granddaughter), and Thomas Kelley (Bruner grandson)
L-R  Janice McClain, Bradley McClain (Bruner descendant), Blake Vaughan, Marilyn Kelley Dowdell (Bruner great-granddaughter), and Thomas Kelley (Bruner grandson)

 

Click here to read the Oxford Press article on Peter Bruner.

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