SHIRLEY - The Midwest and parts of the world changed after Isaac Funk moved to Shirley in 1824. "Funk relatives wanted to teach people what they learned about farming," said Rey Jannusch, a Funk descendent.
But the education was limited to farming. The Funks helped introduce Illinois Wesleyan University, the Chicago Union Stockyards, electricity, telephone service, gasoline engines, and even a well-known artist to the Midwest and the world.
Here are some of the accomplishments of family members:
- Isaac Funk was the first to start cattle-feeding operations in the Midwest. He took cattle and hogs to the east to sell and used the money to buy more land, cattle and feed corn. He drove more cattle more often than anyone else.
- Isaac Funk was referred to as the livestock market of the Midwest by the pioneers of the time.
- Isaac Funk and Abraham Lincoln brought the Chicago Alton Railroad to the area, sidetracking it from its planned route through Peoria.
- LaFayette Funk had international records in horse and cattle breeding.
- Issac and his brother Absalom built the first meat-packing house in Chicago - then known as Fort Dearborn.
- LaFayette Funk was the co-founder and boss of the Chicago Union Stockyards.
- He also was superintendent of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, known as the Columbian Exposition after Christopher Columbus. It was the biggest fair in the world and the only one to make a major profit.
- The Chicago World's Fair was the first major use of alternating current power in the world. Alternating current now is the standard form of electricity in homes.
- LaFayette Funk introduced artist Alfred Montgomery to the world at the Chicago World's Fair. Montgomery gave Funk paintings in return for lodging at his Prairie Home.
- Isaac Funk was one of the founders of IWU.
- DeLoss Funk, son of LaFayette Funk, created a power plant for the homestead after earning a degree in agriculture at University of Illinois in 1905. The plant allowed the farm to have a lighted tennis court and garden fountain with colored lights. The farm became known as the "city on the prairie." DeLoss also built power plants for neighbors.
- DeLoss wired all the Funk farms for telephone service. It was one of the first rural telephone companies in the United States.
- DeLoss invented his first automobile in 1902. Shortly after, he invented his first race car.
- Eugene Duncan Funk, another son of LaFayette, founded Funk Bros. Seeds in 1901 after studying the theory of genetics at Yale University and the practical application in Europe.
- Eugene traveled to India in 1902 and taught residents farming and improved breeds of wheat.
- Eugene and Dr. Jim Holbert created the first commercial corn hybrid in 1916.
- The Funk family brought the first modern soybean crushing plant to the Midwest.
- Antoinette Leland Funk was voted the best lawyer in Chicago in 1905. Antoinette was married to a grandson of Isaac Funk.