William Gunder, Arcanum’s Founder

This article about the Gunder family is dedicated to William (Bill) Gunder, the great grandson of the Founder of Arcanum.

William “Bill” Gunder   –  1930-2015

Local Author and Historian 

 Bill was a founding member of the Arcanum Wayne Trail Historical Society.  He served as director and most importantly as historian.  He worked endlessly to document and record the history of Arcanum.   Through his dedication to preserving Arcanum history he worked to have digitized thousands of local photos, reference materials and papers of the late Anita Short.  He helped in establishing the reference and genealogy library along with Annette Stewart.  The information was published to the AWTHS web site by Bill and the books and materials were cataloged by Annette. Bill and Anita  both  assembled volumes of information, each publishing several books.                                                                                                                                                               Bill developed an interest in local history after discovering that his great-grandfather, William Gunder, was the founder of Arcanum, Ohio.  He grew up believing that no Gunder relatives existed and had been searching since 1975 for the date and place of his grandfather’s death.  During this research he discovered that his grandfather, William Gunder Jr., was the youngest son of the Founder of Arcanum and was able to identify hundreds of family members.                                                                                                 

William Gunder, The Founder

We learn of the Gunder family history through William Gunder’s book “The Secret Town”.  This is where we also obtained information for this article regarding the log house site and the founding of the town of Arcanum. 

In 1816, William came to Preble County, Ohio with his brother, Peter. Their sister, Caroline was living already near Ithaca, Ohio. William was in the employment of Martin Rice. It was here that he met his daughter, Nancy. Nancy’s sister was Dicea Rice, who later married John Colville, the Founder of Ithaca.

Through his treks into Darke County he explored the countryside looking for a homestead. During this time, he first purchased in Section 8 and built a log cabin on the land. (on early maps, would be Little’s Road close to Arcanum-Hollansburg Road).

  He first built along Millers Fork in section 8.  He married Nancy Rice in 1821.  In 1829 William and Nancy purchased lot #11 in Ft. Jefferson, Ohio.  They were pioneer residents of the town.  During this time he was enlarging the log cabin to move his family back to Twin Township and harvesting more trees from the wooded, swampy land.  William Gunder then bought substantial amount of land in section 5 and 4 in Twin Township. This property would become the first plat of the Village of Arcanum. A new three room log house was built near the southeast corner of the southwest quarter of section 4. That property would be the 105 North Street address today.

William then purchased the rest of section 8 and by now he owned a complete section of Twin Township.

William’s wife died in 1849, after the birth of William. At that time, there was a cholera epidemic in the area.   He then married Huldah Loy in Preble County.  William and Nancy had 14  children. 

William and Nancy are both buried at the Ithaca Cemetery. William’s stone was a dedicated historic site by AWTHS. William died in 1863 and is located in the back of the old part of the Ithaca Cemetery in Twin Township off of St. Rt. 503. 

105 North Street is the site of the Founder of Arcanum, William and Nancy (Rice) Gunder’s , log house back in 1833. 

In later years, this was the home of the late William (Bill) Gunder, the great grandson of the original founder until his passing in 2015.   

The property had returned to the ownership of the Gunder family in the late 1960’s when Marion and Emma Alice Gunder purchased the home.  Marion was the brother of Bill Gunder.  

This was a designated historic property by AWTHS. A marker was placed years back on the home.

We encourage you to purchase or read the book “The Secret Town” by William (Bill) Gunder. The book is available for purchase through AWTHS and our web site. The book is also available to view at the AWTHS library and other public libraries in the area.

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