dr. wm. f. buckner: from orphanage to medical school

William Fredrick (Fred) BUCKNER — listed as “Carl Fred” BUCKNER in the 1880 U.S. Census of his parents’ household — was just nine when his mother, my paternal great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth FASIG (1848-1886), was struck ill one Illinois winter night.

“Richard and Mary Elizabeth Buckner were living on their farm between West Union and Martinsville in Clark County, Illinois… …Mary Elizabeth, became ill while visiting friends on a nearby farm on Dec. 20, 1886, and died on December 24. Dora and Lula were taken to the home of [their maternal grandparents] Christian and Catharine Fasig. The boys, except Homer, were taken to a soldiers orphanage at Normal, Illinois, where Edward died at the age of two. Edward’s grave has never been located. Homer was taken by the family of Jacob Serwise. …”[1]

Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home at Normal, Illinois (front) [2]

Nevertheless, Fred (Dec. 16, 1877 Marshall, Clark County, Illinois – Nov. 4, 1967 Watseka, Iroquois County, Illinois; buried Oak Hill Cemetery (Plot: 6s), Watseka) graduated two & a half decades later, in 1911, from Chicago College of Medicine & Surgery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.[3]

On June 15, 1904, in Hoopeston, Vermillion County, Illinois, Dr. Fred married Nora/Norah E. MURRAY (Jan. 7, 1881 Illinois-Jan. 1, 1976; Oak Hill Cemetery (Plot: 6s)), daughter of Samuel P. MURRAY & Minerva J. UNKNOWN. The 1920 U.S. Federal Census shows the couple living in Belmont, Iroquois County, Illinois, with daughter “Elizabeth M. BUCKNER,” age 14, Fred practicing medicine.

I have no family photos of Dr. Fred but, his World War II Draft Card describes him as 5′ 8″ & 152 pounds, with brown eyes, gray hair and a ruddy complexion.

Dr. Fred’s obituary from Commercial News (Danville, Illinois) Saturday 4 November 1967:

Retired Physician Dies at 89

“Watseka (CNS) – Dr. W. F. Buckner, 89, retired Watseka physician and civic leader, died this morning (Nov. 4, 1967) at the Iroquois Resident Home. He had been in ill health.

“Dr. Buckner was a charter member of the Watseka Kiwanis Club and was one of founders of the Watseka Building & Loan Association, which he served as a director. He was director emeritus at the time of his death.

“He was also a member of Masonic Lodge 446 AF & AM, Danville Consistory, and Mohammed Shrine at Peoria.

“Dr. Buckner was a past commander and member of American Legion Post 23 at Watseka, and a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7450.

“A former member of the Republican Central Committee, he was a member and honorary official board member of the First Methodist Church at Watseka. He also served as a church trustee many years.

“Dr. Buckner was a member of the Iroquois Hospital staff until his retirement several years ago. He held memberships in the Iroquois County and Illinois State Medical Societies.

“Born Dec. 16, 1877 in Clark County, he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Buckner. He married Nora Murray at Hoopeston on June 15, 1904. She survives.

“Also surviving are a daughter, Mrs. Alfred (Mildred) Hess of Rochester, N.Y.; a brother, Perry of Sheldon; and several nieces and nephews.

“Dr. Buckner taught school in Germantown section of Danville around 1900.

“He received his M.D. degree in 1911 from Chicago School of Medicine. He moved to Crescent City and later Watseka that same year. Dr. Buckner had practiced in Watseka until his retirement.

“He served in an overseas base hospital in France during World War I.

“The body is at the Segur Funeral Home where arrangements are incomplete.”[4]


To the best of my knowledge, William Fred had these six siblings:

  • Dora Elizabeth (BUCKNER) HINCH (June 24, 1873 Clark County, Illinois – Mar. 17, 1959 McFarland Nursing Home, Rolla, Phelps County, Missouri; buried I. O. O. F. Memorial Cemetery, Sullivan, Franklin County, Misouri);
  • Perry Comadore BUCKNER (Aug. 18, 1875 Clark County, Illinois – Oct. 9, 1969 Happy Siesta Nursing Home, Sheldon, Iroquois County, Illinois; Bethel (aka Wiseman) Cemetery, Alvin, Vermilion County, Illinois);
  • Edward BUCKNER (BETWEEN 1880-’86 – AFTER 1886);
  • Lula E. (Dolly) (BUCKNER) SMITH (May 3, 1880 Illinois – Sept. 16, 1966 Scales Convalescent Home, Dearborn, Wayne County, Michigan);
  • My grandfather, Jesse Grant (Grant) BUCKNER (June 20, 1882 Melrose, Clark County, Illinois – Sept. 30, 1941 Missouri Baptist Hospital, St Louis, St Louis County, Missouri; Valhalla Cemetery, St Louis); &,
  • Dr. Homer Meade BUCKNER (July 10, 1886 Clark County, Illinois – Aug. 5, 1971 Dodgeville, Iowa County, Wisconsin; East Side Cemetery, Dodgeville).


Dr. William Fredrick (Fred) BUCKNER’s Grave Marker[5]

Nora/Norah E. (MURRAY) BUCKNER’s Grave Marker[6]


1. Marshall, Illinois, Historical Society: letter from Ellen (ROWE) ZSCHAU to Bill WATSON: Phyllis (WATSON) SNIDER, 2001.

2. CardCow.com, “Vintage Postcards & Collectibles,” at https://www.cardcow.com/244735/soldiers-orphans-home-normal-illinois/ , accessed June 13, 2016.

3. “Illinois State Board of Health Official Register of Legally Qualified Physicians, March 1915,” Illinois State Board of Health (Schnepp & Barnes, State Printers: Springfield, IL), at https://archive.org/details/officialregister00illi as of June 13, 2016.

4. Ancestry.com, Nadine Millman, originally shared on 16 Jan 2015, at http://mv.ancestry.com/viewer/94e1e913-92e2-46c8-91d4-040843183f48/74419833/36345070140?_phsrc=MRC6887&usePUBJs=true , accessed June 13, 2016.

5. FindAGrave.com — photo contributed by Steven Baker — at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Buckner&GSiman=1&GScid=107239&GRid=20521251& , June 13, 2016.

6. FindAGrave.com — photo contributed by Steven Baker — at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Buckner&GSiman=1&GScid=107239&GRid=20521250& , June 13, 2016.

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