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Dunham, Abel
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Dunham, Abel
Contributed by Barbara
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Source: Past and Present of Pike County, Page 601-602


Abel Dunham, who since 1893 has resided in the village of New Salem but superintends the operation of his farm, was born in Ohio on the 7th of April, 1843, his parents being Lewis and Sarah Ann (Nelson) Dunham. His paternal grandfather was William Dunham, a native of Maryland, and the great-grandfather was of English birth, becoming the founder of the family in America. William Dunham was reared to the occupation of farming and was married to Miss Mary Chaney, who was also a native of Maryland and her parents, like the Dunhams came to this country about the time of the Revolutionary war. Mr. and Mrs. William Dunham lived in Maryland and Ohio until about the year 1845, but in the evening of life were residents of Illinois, where Mr. Dunham purchased a small farm in Griggsville township. There he died at the age of three score years and ten. His wife survived him for a number of years and also passed away on the old homestead on section 17, Griggsville township, at an advanced age. Both were active and devoted members of the United Presbyterian church and were people of strong religious faith, doing all in their power to promote the work of the church and extend its influence. They had a large family of children, of whom Lewis Dunham was the eldest.

The birth of Lewis Dunham occurred in Maryland, September 12, 1802, and he died at his home in New Salem township, September 14, 1866. His early life was passed in the state of his nativity, where he acquired his education. His marriage was probably celebrated in Ohio and he began his business life there as a farmer and cooper, making his home in that state until 1844, when in the month of April he came to Illinois. Three years later he settled on land of his own in New Salem township and was there successfully engaged in general farming. He was in limited financial circumstances at the time of his arrival in this county, but he became a comparatively wealthy man and improved a valuable farm of two hundred and sixty acres. He was a useful citizen of the township and an active and conscientious worker in the United Brethren church. He was widely known for his truthfulness, his industry and other valuable traits of character, which won for him the esteem of the community and the confidence of all with whom he was associated in business or social relations. In politics he was a stalwart democrat and his fellow townsmen, recognizing his worth and ability frequently called him to local office. His wife bore the maiden name of Sarah A. Nelson and was a native of Maryland. Her parents were Elisha and Mary (Stringer) Nelson, who were also natives of Maryland and are thought to have been of Scotch lineage. They were farming people and after their marriage lived in Maryland, but later removed to Harrison county, Ohio, where they resided until 1842, when they came to Illinois, spending their remaining days upon a farm which Mr. Nelson owned in New Salem township, Pike county. They were members of the United Brethren church for many years and were earnest Christian people. Their daughter, Sarah Nelson, who became the mother of Abel Dunham, was born in April, 1807, and was reared in Maryland and Ohio. She came to Illinois with her husband, whom she survived for several years, passing away when more than eighty years of age. She, too, was a consistent member of the United Brethren church and her Christian faith permeated her entire life and shaped her conduct toward those with whom she came in contact. She was the mother of nineteen children, nine of whom are still living. Her death occurred September 5, 1887, and her memory is yet cherished by many who knew her.

Abel Dunham acquired a limited education in the common schools but much of his time was devoted to farm labor and throughout his entire life he has been connected with agricultural interests. He purchased his first tract of land in 1867, becoming the owner of a farm in New Salem township and since that time he has continuously owned and operated farm property. He removed to New Salem in 1893 and he now employs a man to cultivate the fields, but superintends the farm work himself. He owns three hundred acres of productive and valuable land in New Salem township, which is well improved, while the fields have been brought to a high state of cultivation. All of the improvements upon the property stand as a monument to the enterprise and labor of Mr. Dunham, who has as fine a farm as can be found in the county, with good buildings upon it, the latest improved machinery and every evidence of careful and practical supervision. He is well known as an extensive stock owner and buys, feeds and sells stock. His residence in New Salem is one of the fine homes of the town.

In 1864 Mr. Dunham was united in marriage to Miss Laura Temple, a native of Illinois, and unto them was born a daughter, Lenora, who married Frank Holdridge. They reside in Hannibal, Missouri, and have one child, Nellie. Mrs. Dunham departed this life in the fall of 1866 and on the 26th of August, 1867. Mr. Dunham was married to Miss Emily Cobb, who was born in Chautauqua county, New York, and was a daughter of James and Mary (Hale) Cobb, a direct descendant of Sir Nathan Hale, of England. She came west to Pike county in her early girlhood. She had a brother who established and afterward edited the Barry Adage, remaining its proprietor for some time. Her father was a stock-buyer and also a farmer and was serving as deputy sheriff of Pike county at the time of his death.

Mr. Dunham is an advocate of democratic principles and votes for the men pledged to support the party. For several years he served as supervisor of New Salem township. He belongs to the Masonic lodge at New Salem and his wife is a member of the Methodist church. In the community where they reside they are esteemed because of genuine worth, social natures and kindly manner, and Mr. Dunham ranks with the leading and prominent business men of the county. In connection with the superintendence of his farming interests he is also president of the Illinois Valley Bank of Griggsville, which position he has occupied since its establishment in 1902. This is a state bank, capitalized for twenty-five thousand dollars and George Carnes is vice-president and Fred Farrand cashier. Mr. Dunham is watchful of business opportunities and his judgment is seldom at error in business matters. He has advanced steadily through his own efforts, regarding all obstacles and difficulties in his path as an impetus for renewed effort and his business integrity and genuine worth make him a popular and honored citizen.

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Submitted: 07/02/09

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