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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

BONSON, Richard

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Family History: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=breamefford&id=I17277

BONSON, Richard. (Yorkshire, England, Oct. 23, 1814--Dubuque, IA, Feb. 2, 1883). Bonson came with his father's family to Dubuque in 1834. His mother died of CHOLERA while coming up the river. Mr. Bonson's father, Richard WALLER, and John H. Roundtree, erected near Platteville the first blast furnace ever built in the United States. In 1836, they built three furnaces, one at Mineral Point,one on the East Fork of the Fever River, and one near Dubuque, at Rockdale. In 1880 two of these furnaces were still operated. Their company of twelve was found to be too large and unprofitable, so they dissolved and worked in smaller companies. (1)

In the early days of mining, there were many complications in locating claims. A committee of twenty-five was appointed as arbitrators to settle the disputes. From this committee was appointed an executive committee of three, consisting of T. Davis, James LANGWORTHY and Bonson. They made the maps of the claims and settled all disputes. Their decision was final. Bonson was later involved in mercantile businesses. (2)

Bonson was twice elected as Representative to the State Legislature and served as member of the Board of County Supervisors. For several years he served as the State Inspector of Banks. (3)

In 1838, Mr. Bonson was married to Miss Jane Burton, from Derbyshire, England; she died in 1866 leaving two children-Mrs. Priscilla Morgan and Mrs. Mary Ellen Simplot. In 1868, Mr. Bonson married Mrs. Harriet Pierson, formerly Miss Harriet Watts,from Manchester, England; they had three children-two sons, Robert BONSON and William Watts BONSON, who graduated from Columbia Law School and practiced law in Dubuque in the firm of Bonson and Bonson, and one daughter, Annie Watts.

Burnage Villa (1951) Photo courtesy: Robert E. Bonson
Richard and Harriet in front of "Burnage Villa" in 1881. Photo courtesy: Robert E. Bonson
"Burnage Villa" in 1979. Photo courtesy: Robert E. Bonson
On June 11, 1877 Richard Bonson purchased property and a house from Caleb H. BOOTH. Renovations needed were more expensive than expected. The following year he and his wife Harriet completed work on “Burnage Villa”, the Italianate Revival style brick home named after Burnage Lane in Manchester, England where Harriet had lived. This home and the land surrounding it became FOUNTAIN PARK in 2001. (4)



1. Portrait and Biographical Record of Dubuque, Jones and Clayton Counties, Iowa. Chicago: Chapman Publishing Company, 1894, p. 261

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Bonson, Robert E. The Bonson DiariesSelf-published and available at the CARNEGIE-STOUT PUBLIC LIBRARY

Goodspeed, Weston Arthur, History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911, p. 643