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Dunham, Joseph M.
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Dunham, Joseph M.
Contributed by Barbara
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Source: Past and Present of Pike County, Page 487-488


Joseph M. Dunham, at one time closely associated with agricultural interests but now living a retired life in Pittsfield, was born in New Salem township, Pike county, on the 17th of May, 1859, his parents being the Rev. Abel and Rachel (Harden) Dunham. The father's birth occurred in Harrison county, Ohio, on the 17th of July, 1819, and his parents were William and Mary (Chaney) Dunham. Lewis Dunham, the great-grandfather of our subject, was a soldier of the Revolutionary war and met all the hardships and privations that fell to the lot of the brave men who won American liberty. At times the army was reduced almost to starvation, but the troops persevered and at length victory crowned the arms of the colonists and the establishment of the republic was an assured fact.

William Dunham, the grandfather, was a native of Maryland, in which state the days of his boyhood and youth were passed. Having reached adult age he married Miss Mary Chaney, who was of Scotch lineage, and some years later they removed to Ohio, settling in Harrison county when it was a wild and undeveloped district. They cast in their lot with its pioneer residents and aided in its reclamation for the uses of civilization. In the spring of 1845 they came to Illinois, taking up their abode in what is now Griggsville township, where they spent their remaining days. William Dunham died September 15, 1845, and his wife passed away on the 2d of November, 1852.

Rev. Abel Dunham spent the days of his boyhood and youth amid pioneer environments in Harrison county, Ohio, and when he had reached his majority he sought a companion and helpmate for life's journey. He wooed and won Miss Rachel Harden, who was born in Jefferson county, Ohio, March 7, 1816. At the time of his marriage his sale capital was one dollar and one cent and the dollar was given to the minister who performed the marriage ceremony, while after the infair a little nephew was made the happy recipient of the penny. Thus empty-handed, but with courageous purpose and willing hands, the young couple started out in life. Mr. Dunham devoting his attention to farming on a small scale in his native county, when, feeling that he might have better business opportunities in the middle west he removed to Pike county, where he went to work in earnest. His unremitting diligence formed the basis of his prosperity and his labors were ably supplemented by the faithful efforts of his estimable wife. Thus he accumulated over six hundred acres of valuable land together with other property in this part of the state. In 1840 his wife became a member of the United Brethren church and was a most earnest and faithful worker. She frequently spoke in the meetings of the church and her words, fraught with the true spirit of religion and with intense purpose, thrilled her hearers and had a beneficial influence on many lives. For some years prior to her death she was an invalid, but her mental faculties were unimpaired and she retained her consciousness up to the last, bidding her friends farewell and speaking to them words of Christian cheer, comfort and advice. She passed away Sunday, February 28, 1886, in the full assurance of a life to come. Ten children were born of that marriage. Following the death of his first wife Rev. Dunham was married to Mrs. Sarah J. Brown, nee Anderson, who was born near Hillsboro, in Highland county, Ohio, August 23, 1840. Mr. Dunham was a prominent abolitionist, doing everything in his power to suppress slavery, and when the republican party was organized to prevent its further extension he became one of its stalwart advocates. Later he was again connected with a party of reform-the prohibitionist, for he was an earnest advocate of the cause of temperance and in fact his influence was ever given on the side of progress and improvement and for the amelioration of the hard conditions of human life. He died August 18, 1899, leaving behind him the priceless heritage of an untarnished name and an example that is indeed well worthy of emulation.

Joseph M. Dunham was educated in the common schools of New Salem township and in Griggsville. He remained at home until eighteen years of age, continuing upon his father's farm for five years, and since that time has lived upon land of his own. His farming interests today cover two hundred and sixty acres of fine and productive land in New Salem township under a high state of cultivation and improvement with all modern equipments and accessories. He built thereon a beautiful residence, but has now retired from the active management of the farm, removing to Pittsfield on the 30th of August, 1905, while his land is leased to his sons. He always carried on general farming and stock-raising, making a specialty of hogs, and in both branches of his business he met with success that in the course of time brought him a capital sufficient to enable him to enjoy a well earned rest at the present time. He rents a fine home where he resides on East Washington street.

On the 30th of October, 1877, Mr. Dunham was united in marriage to Miss Eldora Koontz, who was born February 14, 1860, and is a native of Schuyler county, Illinois, and a daughter of William and Catherine (Stambaugh) Koontz. The father was a farmer, stone-mason and contractor. In the family were fifteen children, eight of whom reached years of maturity, but only three are now living, namely: Mrs. Dunham; David Koontz, who resides in East St. Louis, Illinois; and William Koontz, who is living near Camden, Illinois. The parents are both deceased, the mother passing away in 1875, while the father's death occurred in 1888.

Mr. and Mrs. Dunham have become the parents of seven children. Harry H., the eldest, born August 24, 1878, married Ida Pence and is a farmer living in New Salem township. They have two children, Paul and Lena. Nellie L. Dunham, born October 13, 1880, attended the country schools and has been educated in music. William R., born January 7, 1883, is living upon the old home farm in New Salem township. David C., born October 22, 1884, is living on the old homestead in New Salem township. Samuel K., born April 30, 1887, is living at home and attends the high school in Pittsfield. Nora E., born May 19, 1892, and Cloyd W., February 2, 1897, are at home.

Mr. Dunham is a democrat who keeps well informed on the questions and issues of the day but has never been active as an office-seeker, although he has served as school trustee. He belongs to the Modern Woodmen camp at New Salem and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and he and his wife and their children are members of the United Brethren church. A worthy representative of one of the pioneer families of Pike county, the name of Dunham has been known here - and honorably so - for many years and Joseph M. Dunham of this review is a worthy representative of the family. He well deserves the success which has come to him and which enables him now to live in well earned ease.

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