Lawrence Bruner Biography, Cuming County, Nebraska

Cuming County Biography

Lawrence Bruner

information taken from 101st Anniversay Celebration, West Point, 1858-1958

Lawrence Bruner, son of Mr. and Mrs. Uriah Bruner, was born March 2, 1856 and died February, 1937, at the ripe old age of 81 years. He came to West Point with his parents in 1870. Back of the fine Bruner home up on the hill was a barn in which Lawrence, who was destined to become an internationally known entomologist, had a large room willed with all sorts of bugs and animals. One wall had a large space devoted to butterflies, another was devoted to soft bodied insects and still another was cluttered with beetles, bugs and worms. He even studied taxidermy and had many mounts of wild fowl and rodents. As a boy he would come home with a snake on a stick, or he would have his pocket full of beetles, much to the disgust of the rest of the family. He was fascinated by insects and he used to persuade some of the boys to go down to the Elkhorn and scour the river banks for bugs. Many folks thought of him as eccentric and he acquired the name of Bugologist.

As he became more mature, he began studying the more practical uses of his peculiar abilities and the grasshopper plagues attracted his attention. There were eight major grasshopper invasions between the years 1857 and 1874, the greatest being in July 1874. Traveling in great clouds, that darkened the skies, they destroyed entire corn fields in a single day, limbs of trees were split off from the overload of grasshoppers, they destroyed most everything in their path, even the trains were unable to move because the rails became slick then the wheels ran over them. So great was the destruction that many were forced to leave, and stories about the grasshopper days are still being told.

It was only natural then that one with his bent of mind would try to do something about these devastating grasshopper plagues. After trying certain contraptions that did not seem to meet the needs, Mr. Bruner began an intensive study of the life history of the grasshopper. After studying at the University of Nebraska, he was called to Washington, D.C., by the department of agriculture, and in 1897, the department commissioned him to a year of investigation of locusts in Argentina. His mission there attracted the attention of scientists all over the world and it was probably his greatest step toward fame as a scientist. So impressed was the government of Argentina, with his services, that it celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his arrival. And the University of Nebraska conferred an honorary degree of Bachelor of Science on him in recognition of his great achievement.

Among other things, he was assistant on the U.S. entomology commission in 1880; field agent for the U.S. department of agriculture at the University of Nebraska, 1888; entomologist for the Nebraska agricultural experiment station, 1888-90. He was instructor in 1890-95, and professor from 1895 to 1923, and became the first head of the department of agronomy at the University of Nebraska. He is the author of “Introduction of the Study of Entomology”, “Destructive Locusts of Argentina”, first report 1898, second 1900; “Locusts of Paraguay”, 1906, as well as many other reports and papers on insects and birds. He was also joint author of “New Elementary Agriculture”.

He was named as the “most distinguished Nebraskan” by the governor’s committee to represent the sate at the Panama=Pacific Exposition in 1915. West Point is proud of this illustrious son, of an illustrious family, that did so much toward the development of West Point and its cultural and spiritual activities. He was a self-made man with the innate imagination and ability of a Bruner.

He married Marcia Dewell of Little Sioux, Iowa, on Christmas Day, 1881. They had three daughters, Miss Helen Bruner, Mrs. Harry Smith and Miss Alice. Lawrence Bruner was the second of a family of nine children, all of whom grew to maturity but two. They were Amelia Monroe, Edgar F., Hudson F., Ida M. King, Lillie D., Ella J. DeBell and Amy Almy, all of whom distinguished themselves in one way or another.

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