HON. CHRIS BONNIN, the representative
of Shawano county in the State Legislature, and the leading merchant of
Bonduel, Wis., is a native of central Germany, born February 18, 1853.
His father, William Bonnin, was the owner of a small tract of land in Germany
and supported his family by day's labor. In 1857, after a voyage of seventeen
weeks, he arrived in the United States, locating in Washington county,
Wis., where he lived until 1860, removing then to New London, this State.
At that time there were no railroads to New London, and they made the journey
by boat from Oshkosh. The father has since resided in that locality, and
the mother there died in 1894. Of their family five children are yet living.
In politics the father is a Democrat, and in religious belief a Lutheran.
Mr. Bonnin, the subject of this sketch, acquired his education
in the district schools, and during his early boyhood began to work for
neighboring farmers. He was also employed in the lumber woods and on the
river, following any honest pursuit that would gain him a living. Thus
his time was passed until after he had arrived at man's estate. He then
chose as a companion and helpmeet on life's journey Miss Doratha Bussian,
a native of Outagamie county, Wis., where their marriage was celebrated
in 1877. They located upon a farm and lived in the vicinity of New London
for two years, after which they located near Clintonville, Wis.; but after
a short time they made a home near Centralia. Returning to New London,
Mr. Bonnin lived with his parents for a time, and subsequently went to
Shiocton, Outagamie county, where he was engaged in the restaurant business.
In 1882 he embarked in merchandising in Slabtown, Shawano county, but the
same year came to Bonduel, and resumed the same line of business. He bought
out a store which his predecessors had failed to make a paying one, and
from the beginning met with success, securing an extensive trade, and now
having one of the largest and most prosperous mercantile establishments
in Shawano county outside of the county seat. The business was at first
located in a small frame building, but in 1884 the town was visited by
a disastrous fire and his store and much of his stock was destroyed. With
characteristic energy he began to rebuild, and erected the present substantial
and commodious business room, which is now taxed to the utmost in order
to accommodate his large trade. To Mr. and Mrs. Bonnin have been born six
children who are yet living, namely: Ernest, Henrietta, Emma, Lottia, Celia
and Rosetta. They have also lost two children.
While prominently identified with the Republican party in his
town and County, it might be said that Mr. Bonnin's sympathies were at
one time with the Democracy, yet when he arrived at the age when the right
of franchise was granted him he allied himself with the Republican party,
and has since been one of its stalwart advocates and leaders in this locality.
He has frequently been called to serve in public office, having been assessor
of Liberty township, Outagamie county, while for four years he was treasurer
of Hartland township, Shawano county, and for several years past has been
justice of the peace. He was chairman of Hartland township for one year,
and in 1894 was re-elected, but resigned in order to enter upon his duties
as State Representative, and today he is a leading member of the House.
His own educational privileges were limited, and he was thus made to realize
the advantage of good schools, which he has always endeavored to secure
in the community in which he lives. He did effective service in the
interest of education while acting as clerk of School District No. 1, for
four years. His untiring energy and practical business ability are
exerted in public office to the benefit of the positions with which he
is connected. He has also served as postmaster of Bonduel for three years.
He has represented the leading insurance companies of the United States,
and also served as emigrant agent for this locality.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Bonnin are members of the Lutheran Church.
His natural intellectual ability has been developed by years experience,
and on matters of business he is frequently consulted by men who are many
years his senior and who rely implicitly upon his sound judgment.
His own business career has been one of success, in which he has never
adopted questionable methods or unfair means to further his interests.
He is ever ready to encourage or assist any movement that is calculated
to prove of public benefit and he has a wide acquaintance, and enjoys the
confidence of all with whom he has been brought in contact.