BLOOMINGTON, IL — To honor the 200-year impact of the Funk family in McLean County — including the establishment of Illinois Wesleyan University — University Archivist & Special Collections Librarian Liz Bloodworth will speak on a panel during a celebration at Funk Farms on Saturday, June 22. 

The free event will recognize the history of the family and the farm, located 10 miles south of Bloomington at 5959 N. 1100 East Rd. in Shirley. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., guests can enjoy live music, a retail vendor market, food vendors and activities for children. More information is available at

Archivist Liz Bloodworth with Funk Farms 200th Celebration Logo
University Archivist & Special Collections Librarian Liz Bloodworth will speak on a panel during the 200th anniversary celebration at Funk Farms in Shirley on Saturday, June 22. 

Patriarch Isaac Funk arrived in McLean County in 1824 before acquiring 22,000 acres of farmland. He became one of the region's most prominent agricultural businessmen during his lifetime. His descendants formed Funk Bros Seed Company, producing specialty corn varieties to ward off diseases and produce higher yield. The family harvested maple sugar, opening the first commercial maple “sirup” facility at Funks Grove in 1891, which is still in production today.  

Isaac Funk was also among the 30 founders of Illinois Wesleyan in 1850. Upon his death in 1865, the University received a $10,000 bequest from Funk's estate in order to establish the Isaac Funk Professorship in Agriculture. The Funk Professorship was not only the first endowed professorship in the University's history, but also the first endowed professorship in the state of Illinois.

Bloodworth will speak on a panel about a new book authored by journalist Chris Bodenner chronicling the history of the Funk family titled, “Pioneers Built from the Soil Up: How the Funk Family Shaped American History.” 

“As IWU’s University Archivist, I plan to highlight the role that the Funk family, and specifically Isaac Funk as one of the University’s founders, played in the history of the institution as well as in the development of higher education throughout the state,” said Bloodworth. 

Funk served in Illinois legislature and was a friend of Abraham Lincoln, campaigning for his election. Funk and Lincoln advocated to bring the Chicago & Alton Railroad through Bloomington-Normal. Other members of the Funk family helped establish Northwestern University and Chicago’s Union Stock Yards.

Bloodworth added that other programs at the event will provide entertaining “stories and hijinks” about the Funk family, including tales of pioneer survival, court battles and innovation. 

“Local history does not happen in a vacuum,” said Bloodworth. “Instead, local history can shed light on larger events happening throughout the country and even the world. Celebrating the Funk family entails sharing the story of a local farming family that grew in influence to become leaders in the field of agriculture. By understanding the history of the area, we can better understand the events of today and the contributions our community has made over time.”