Oberlin College Archives

FRED R. BUNKER (1859-1946)

PAPERS, 1835-1975, n.d.


This finding guide was prepared by the
Alabama Department of Archives and History
and refers to microfilm owned by the Oberlin College Archives.

The Reverend Fred Robert Bunker (1859-1946) was a Congregational minister and a missionary to Africa. Rev. Bunker was graduated in 1887 from Olivet College, Olivet, Michigan, and was ordained in 1889. Through his involvement with the Student Volunteer Movement of the Young Men's Christian Association, Bunker met Isabel Helen Richards (1865-1950), a student volunteer for the Young Women's Christian Association. They were married in 1891. Under the auspices of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the Bunkers immediately sailed to Africa to serve as missionaries. The Bunkers were initially stationed at Mt. Silinda, Southern Rhodesia, where they remained for many years. Following their assignment at Mt. Silinda, the Bunkers relocated in 1904 to Beira, Mozambique and in 1911 to Durban, South Africa. In 1917, after nearly three decades of service at various mission stations in Southern Africa and Mozambique, the Bunkers returned to the United States. The Bunker family resided in Oberlin, Ohio and Wilton, Connecticut, as well as various other locations throughout New England. After his return to the U.S. and even after his retirement in 1940, Fred Bunker continued to work with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to promote and to fund mission work in Africa. After his death in 1946, his daughter, Edith Bunker Davis (1900-1991), carried on the family's commitment to mission work. Davis, with help from several other family members, created the Bunker Family Scholarship Fund which provided financial assistance to young scholars in Africa. She also became involved in supporting African students who had come to the U.S. to pursue their education. The evolution of missionary work in Southern Africa, due greatly to the efforts of the Bunker family and others similarly focused, is traced through the correspondence and writings of the Bunker family.

Series 1: Autobiographical/Biographical Materials, 1930-1961

This series contains autobiographical and biographical sketches of Fred R. Bunker, a passport, and several items relating to his death. The autobiographical work details Bunker's religious beginnings and provides genealogical information. The sketch also includes numerous biographical additions from Bunker's daughter, Edith Bunker Davis. The biographical sketch, written by Davis for the Bunker Family Scholarship Fund and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, traces the missionary activities of Fred and Belle Bunker. Beginning with Fred and Belle's meeting in college, the work chronicles their missionary activities throughout Southern Africa. Davis included many quotes from her father's correspondence and diaries. The passport contains a photograph and a physical description of Bunker, as well as documentation of the countries visited. The items relating to Fred R. Bunker's death include an obituary, a telegram, and an order for a memorial service. Arranged chronologically.

Roll 1
1930-1961           Box 1   Folder 1        Frame   0014

Series 2: Materials Relating to Missionary Activities, 1835-1952

This series contains minutes, correspondence, papers, extracts and clippings from published works, and maps. The material in this series pertains primarily to the American Zulu Mission and Portuguese East Africa. Other topics highlighted include European influence, the history of the region, forced labor and slavery, and African cultures and customs. The maps depict various areas of Southern Africa, including routes taken by missionaries. Many of the maps are in color and several are handdrawn. Arranged chronologically.

Roll 1
1835-1952           Box 1   Folder 2        Frame 00081
1835-1952           Box 1   Folder 3        Frame 00155
1835-1952           Box 1   Folder 4        Frame 00304

Series 3: Fred R. Bunker Diaries, 1887-1941

This series contains twenty-three diaries of Fred R. Bunker and an edited version of an 1892 diary. The diaries begin in 1887 when Bunker was the State Secretary of the Y.M.C.A. in Michigan. The following diaries document trips to Africa, Europe, and North America. Topics discussed in the diaries include detailed accounts of expeditions and missionary activities in Africa, as well as daily activities in the United States. Also found in this series is an edited version of several 1892 diary entries, compiled by Edith Bunker Davis. Arranged chronologically.

Roll 1
1887                Box 2   Folder 1        Frame 	00429              
1891                Box 2   Folder 2        Frame 	00466
1892                Box 2   Folder 3        Frame	00654
1892                Box 2   Folder 4        Frame	00720
Roll 2
1895                Box 2   Folder 5        Frame	00013
1908                Box 2   Folder 6        Frame	00041
1911                Box 2   Folder 7        Frame	00063
1926                Box 3   Folder 1        Frame 	00101
1927                Box 3   Folder 2        Frame	00194
1928                Box 3   Folder 3        Frame	00352
1929                Box 3   Folder 4        Frame	00512
1930                Box 4   Folder 1        Frame	00697
Roll 3
1931                Box 4   Folder 2        Frame	00014
1932                Box 4   Folder 3        Frame	00203
1933                Box 4   Folder 4        Frame	00390
1934                Box 5   Folder 1        Frame	00577
Roll 4
1935                Box 5   Folder 2        Frame 	00013
1936                Box 5   Folder 3        Frame	00204
1937                Box 6   Folder 1        Frame	00398
1938                Box 6   Folder 2        Frame	00595
Roll 5
1939                Box 6   Folder 3        Frame	00013
1940                Box 6   Folder 4        Frame	00193
1941                Box 7   Folder 1        Frame	00378
1892 [ed. version]  Box 7   Folder 1        Frame	00547 

Series 4: Belle H. Bunker Diaries, 1892-1895

This series contains four diaries of Belle H. Bunker and an edited typescript of her 1892 diary. The four diaries chronicle her daily experiences as a missionary in Africa and provide detailed accounts of various expeditions. Also in this series is an edited version of Belle's diary from 14 June to 12 July 1892, compiled by Edith Bunker Davis. Arranged chronologically.

Roll 5
1892-1893           Box 8   Folder 1        Frame	00618
1893                Box 8   Folder 2        Frame	00656
1893-1894           Box 8   Folder 3        Frame 	00729
1895                Box 8   Folder 4        Frame  00765
1892 [ed. version]  Box 9   Folder 1        Frame	00838

Series 5: Fred R. Bunker Correspondence, 1891-1945, n.d.

This series consists of letters to and from Fred Bunker as well as copies of correspondence between others. The correspondence begins in 1891 with Bunker's voyage to Africa and continues detailing his involvement with mission work through 1945. In addition to tracing the evolution of mission work in Africa, this series covers many topics, including descriptions of voyages and expeditions, initial and continuing impressions of Africa and the native peoples, African politics, opposition to missions by local authorities, and management of missions and mission schools. The correspondence also documents Bunker's continuing involvement with mission work after his return to the U.S., projects of the American Board and the Fairfield Association, and daily activities of the Bunker family and other missionaries. Frequent correspondents include C. Kamba Simango, Pierre Loze, Ernest W. Riggs, Mabel E. Emerson, William G. T. N'como, Emory Ross, Wilfrid Bunker, and Enoch F. Bell. Arranged chronologically.

Roll 6
1891-1899           Box 9   Folder 2        Frame	00017
1900-1909           Box 9   Folder 3        Frame	00171
1910-1919           Box 9   Folder 4        Frame 	00250
1920-1929           Box 9   Folder 5        Frame	00324
1930-1933           Box 9   Folder 6        Frame	00404
1934-1937           Box 9   Folder 7        
1938                Box 10  Folder 1           
1939                Box 10  Folder 2
Roll 7
1940-1945           Box 10  Folder 3        Frame	00013
n.d.                Box 10  Folder 4        Frame	00173

Series 6: Edith Bunker Davis Correspondence, 1945-1973

This series contains letters to and from Davis as well as copies of correspondence between others. The items in this series continue to detail the evolution of mission work in Southern Africa. Although Edith never served as a missionary to Africa, her correspondence indicates her intense involvement with mission work, especially concerning financial matters. Primary topics in this series concern funding for mission work, the Bunker Family Scholarship, and the American education of an African student, Ignatius Tapera. Circular letters from missionary families in the field describe daily life in Africa and progress of the mission schools and hospitals. Frequent correspondents include John and Dorothy Marsh, William G. T. N'como, John A. Reuling, George H. Paltridge, Frank Meacham, Charlotte Webb, Ignatius Tapera, Louise F. Torrence, Mary Jane Bennett, Alma L. Cooke, Philip M. Widenhouse, and several members of the Bunker family. Arranged chronologically.

Roll 7
1945-1949           Box 10  Folder 5        Frame	00231
1950-1953           Box 11  Folder 1        Frame	00325
1954-1959           Box 11  Folder 2        
1960-1969           Box 11  Folder 3        Frame	00601
1970-1973           Box 11  Folder 4        
n.d.                Box 11  Folder 5        Frame	00817

Series 7: C. Kamba Simango Correspondence & Related Materials, 1914-1948, n.d.

All items in this series are copies of records from the Hampton Institute Archives. Access to this series is for the convenience of researchers, who must comply fully with the regulations of the archival program at Hampton Institute.

C. Kamba Simango, of the Ndau tribe in Portuguese East Africa was employed by Fred R. Bunker for several months in Natal. Afterwards Simango entered Hampton Institute in Virginia, from which he was graduated in 1919. He then earned his bachelor's degree in 1924 from Columbia University in New York City. After a brief period of study in Portugal, Simango returned to Southern Africa as a missionary and educator. The correspondence includes letters to and from Simango as well as correspondence between others concerning Simango. Topics discussed in the correspondence relate to Simango's educational experience at Hampton Institute, career opportunities in the U.S. and in Africa, Simango's time of study in Portugal, family matters, teaching career at Mt. Silinda, and events at Hampton Institute. Items of interest include several biographical sketches, a wedding announcement, photographs, African folk stories, writings concerning African religious beliefs and the program from Simango's graduation ceremony. Arranged chronologically.

Roll 8
1914-1948, n.d.     Box 11  Folder 6        Frame 00014

Series 8: Works of Fred R. Bunker, 1919-ca. 1945, n.d.

This series contains publications, reports, sketches, and other works produced or compiled by Fred R. Bunker, all pertaining to Africa. Topics covered in these works include several histories of South Africa, histories of various African missions, the work of early female missionaries, Bunker's experiences in Africa, the influences of Hampton Institute in Africa, hunting and exploring expeditions, forced labor, biographical sketches of C. Kamba Simango and the Bunker family, a compilation of entries from Dr. David Livingstone's journals, and texts concerning Bunker's lantern slides. Arranged chronologically.

Roll 8
1919-ca. 1945, n.d.  Box 11  Folder 7       Frame	00134
n.d.                 Box 11  Folder 8

Series 9: Reference Files, ca.1880s-1975, n.d.

This series consists of publications, reports, essays, newspaper clippings, minutes, biographical sketches and manuscripts. All items concern Africa and/or mission work. Specific topics found in this series include mission activities, American Board activities, Christianity in Africa, mission hospitals, schools and churches, race relations, employment and forced labor, political activities, Kathleen Easmon-Simango, and the Bunker family. Also in this series are several issues of East Africa Advance (later titled The Advance of the Rhodesia Mission). A noteworthy item in this series is a fifty-five page manuscript by Dorothy Richards Rhinehardt, detailing her childhood experiences from 1900 to 1908, as the daughter of a missionary in Inhambane. Arranged chronologically.

Roll 8
ca. 1880s-1908      Box 12  Folder 1        Frame	00433
1911 - ca. 1936     Box 12  Folder 2         
ca. 1937-1943       Box 12  Folder 3
Roll 9
1944-1975           Box 12  Folder 4        
n.d.                Box 12  Folder 5        
n.d.                Box 12  Folder 6        

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Last updated: 30 July 1996