Crawford County, Iowa, IAGenWeb


Z. T. Dunham

A member of one of the well known pioneer families of Crawford county and a highly successful farmer, Z. T. Dunham is recognized as one of the fortunate citizens of Iowa. He lives on the farm upon which he was reared, it being one of the most beautiful places in this part of the state, widely known as the Pioneer Stock Farm.

He was born in Maquoketa, Jackson county, Iowa, December 17, 1849, a son of Cornelius Dunham, Sr., and Margaret Scott (Miller) Dunham. The father was a native of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and his father was born in England and engaged in fishing on the coast of Cape Cod.

Cornelius Dunham, Sr., was the youngest son in a family of nine children and appears to have been of a roving disposition in his early years. He left home before arriving at manhood and traveled extensively through the eastern states and Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Virginia and the Carolinas, arriving in Iowa early in the '40s. He began farming near Maquoketa and continued there until 1849, when in company with Franklin Prentice he came to Crawford county in a prairie schooner drawn by oxen, being the first white man to locate in this county. He made his home for two and one-half years in East Boyer township, and then removed to a place on section 33, Boyer township, which became the family homestead.

He shipped the first hogs and cattle to Chicago in 1861 that were sent out of this county. In November of that year he started with about two hundred head of hogs and twenty head of cattle to drive to Marshalltown, the nearest railroad point. Upon loading his animals he found that he had only two carloads of hogs, the others having escaped in the course of'the drive, but none of the cattle were missing. At another time he went with a boatload of dressed hogs to St. Louis and while in that city the river froze up so that it became necessary for him to return home overland. He purchased a pony, which he rode on the return journey, sleeping out at night in the woods.

One day he met a band of Indians, from whom he purchased a pair of moccasins as he was sadly in need of covering for his feet. Shortly afterward, as he continued homeward, a second band of Indians came in sight who proved to be hostile to the tribe which he had left behind a short time previously. They recognized the moccasins as having been made by their enemies and at once gave evidence of great excitement. Understanding the Indian nature from frequent contact with the red men, Mr. Dunham instantly removed his moccasins from his feet and handed them to the Indians.

They immediately cut the moccasins to pieces but replaced them with another pair equally as good and the traveler resumed his journey in safety. He became one of the principal men in this section of the state and at the time of his death, which occurred in 1865, he was the owner of thirty-three hundred acres of land, which in his opinion as an extensive traveler was as rich as any that could be found in the United States. He was in full sympathy with the republican party and before the war was an outspoken abolitionist. He also was in sympathy with the Methodist church, of which he was a member in his early manhood.

Cornelius Dunham, Sr., was twice married and four children by his first marriage grew to maturity, John A., Louisa, Sophronia and Cornelius Jr., all of whom are now deceased. Five children were born of the union of Cornelius and Margaret Dunham, namely: Margaret, who is now the wife of J. N. Obanion, of Boyer township; Martha, who is now living at Dunlap, Iowa; Samuel, of Braydentown, Florida: Jasper, who died in infancy; and Z. T., of this review.

The first husband of Mrs. Dunham was Samuel Miller and five children were born of this union: James, Elizabeth, Mary Jane, George, and one who died in infancy. Mary Jane went away with the Mormons and was married to a member of that organization, nothing more ever having been heard of her until after her death.

Z. T. Dunham received his early education mainly at home under a private tutor. Subsequently he attended a seminary in Illinois. He has always continued upon the old homestead, which is endeared to him by many associations. He is now the owner of eight hundred and eighty acres, most of which is under a high state of cultivation. He has made many improvements upon the farm, including a modem residence provided with all desirable facilities and a large brick barn, which is one of the notable buildings in this part of the county. He has attained an enviable reputation as a breeder of polled Durham cattle and was a charter member of an organization in 1889 whose members devote their attention to this breed.

In 1871 Mr. Dunham was united in marriage to Miss Emma Lane, a native of Illinois, and seven children were born to them: Artz L., now living in Boyer township; Clifford S., who is connected with the musical department of the Colorado State University at Boulder, Colorado; Carrie Widney, of Morrison, Illinois; R. W., at home; C. A., who lives with his brother, Artz L.; Jennie Margaret, who is attending college at Cedar Falls, Iowa; and Frederick, deceased.

Mr. Dunham has witnessed the marvelous development in Crawford county - a portion of the state which was largely unoccupied when he was a youth and is now one of the richest sections of Iowa. He has assisted very materially in bringing about this great transformation. Politically he gives his support to the republican party, belonging to that branch of the organization known as the "standpatters." He has not sought the honors or emoluments of public life but has served in various township offices, In religious belief he gives his adherence to the Methodist Episcopal church and has faithfully served for many years as a member of the board of trustees of the local organization.

Source: History of Crawford County, Iowa. Vol. II. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1911.