History. Hospitality. Courage.
Almost 200 years ago the Bunker’s family led the way in Hastings, many times during adversity, with quality people serving quality people. Almost 200 years later, the family at Bunker’s Smokehouse & Grille seeks to do the same by honoring a rich history with quality people serving quality people providing a wonderful dining experience.
In 1836 Eurotas P. Hastings, president of the Bank of Michigan, sold to Philo Dibble, Lansing Kingsbury and Cornelius Kendall a large tract of land in Barry County. The county-seat had already been located in the county but there were no settlers in the area of the land these gentlemen purchased. Their desire was to take advantage of the river and abundance of timber by starting a sawmill. They organized the Hastings Company and sent men to erect the sawmill on the creek just south of the present flour mill.
Shortly after, they engaged Slocum H. Bunker to come with his family to feed and house the men during the construction of the mill. Slocum used his new relationships to build a log cabin and to enter into other areas of business including a “house of entertainment”. As the mill grew and land was cleared the Hastings Company determined to lay out a village.
Although Slocum did not plan on staying in the area after the mill was completed he did in fact remain and was rightly considered the first settler in Hastings. He organized Hastings as a Township March 6, 1837 becoming its first Supervisor. On March 11, 1871 Hastings was officially incorporated as the City of Hastings.
In 1839, hearing of Slocum’s success and what a fine place Slocum and his family had landed, Slocum’s brother Thomas joined the Bunker family and began helping with the primitive hotel and other interests. Shortly after, Thomas became Barry County’s first clerk.
In 1839 the village advanced when two gentlemen originally involved in the Hasting Company, built a grist mill. The grist mill created more employment and Slocum was hired as the miller and to manage the business and his other interests grew as well.
The first birth in Hastings is believed to be Slocum’s child who unfortunately died soon after birth. Slocum and his wife eventually returned to Battle Creek where they were from, living there until Slocum’s death.
Slocum, his brother Thomas and the Bunker family developed a reputation of being smart hardworking honest people who helped others along the way as they could. They saw struggles including the death of Slocum’s child, spotted fever and men leaving families for the Mexican American War in 1847. They provided much needed boarding and meals for the men in the saw and grist mill operations and those affected by disease and the war. They played key roles in the development of the little Village of Hastings and their mark can be seen on some of the old buildings around town as well as in photos at the City Library.
Present – The COVID situation has created many challenges for businesses and particularly hard hit has been the restaurant industry. In 2020 two businessmen from Lowell found themselves inadvertently in the restaurant business when their tenant, a restaurant, was closed due to COVID, and was not able to reopen.
The location where Bunker’s Smokehouse & Grille is, is actually three buildings all dating back to the 1800’s. Over the years, each one as well as collectively, have seen various uses but the constant has been they have always been an important part of historic downtown Hastings at the intersection of Jefferson and Court Streets.
The businessmen felt a commitment to carry on and began the journey of branding and hiring quality people. Delving into the history of Hastings brought clarity to the process. Almost 200 years ago the Bunker’s family led the way in Hastings, many times during adversity, with quality people serving quality people. Almost 200 years later, the family at Bunker’s Smokehouse & Grille seeks to do the same by honoring a rich history with quality people serving quality people providing a wonderful dining experience.