Sunday, May 19, 2013

Poindexter Dunn (1834-1914)

From the June 10, 1893 edition of the New York Tribune.

   While a name like "Poindexter" usually brings to mind a freckle-faced bespectacled nerd with a pocket protector, you'd probably never guess that there was a United States Representative with "Poindexter" as a first name!  That man is one Poindexter Dunn, a five-term congressman from Arkansas who also distinguished himself as a lawyer and cotton planter in his native state. One of a great many "faceless" politicians that I've located over the years, this funnily named congressman continually stymied me out of a portrait of himself for many a year, and I eventually gave up hope that I'd locate one. 
  Earlier this year I finally managed to locate a picture of Mr. Dunn, courtesy of the ever useful Chronicling America newspaper archive. I'm proud to relate that the above portrait of Poindexter Dunn is (to my knowledge) the first picture of him to be available online, and the rarity of said portrait is only strengthened by the fact that not even the famed Congressional Biographical Directory ( has a picture of him!!!
   The son of Grey and Lydia Baucum Dunn, Poindexter Dunn was born on November 3, 1834, near Raleigh, North Carolina. The Dunn family left North Carolina when their son was about six years of age and resettled in the county of Limestone, Alabama, and it was here that Poindexter attended local schools. He later enrolled at the Jackson College in Columbia, Tennessee, graduating from here in the class of 1854
   Shortly after completing his education Dunn began pursuing a career in law and around this time removed to the county of St. Francis in Arkansas. Within a few years of his resettlement Dunn had built up a reputation as a successful cotton grower, and in 1858 was elected to a term in the Arkansas State House of Representatives. Early in his Arkansas residency Dunn married to a Ms. Ellenora (also spelled Ellanora) Patton, about whom little is known. Dunn later remarried to another Arkansas resident, Anna Fussell (1845-1901), with whom he had two daughters, Anna Mae Estes Dunn (1883-1939) and Dorothea Dunn (died as an infant in 1888.) 
  At the dawn of the Civil War in 1861, Dunn joined the ranks of the Confederacy, being elected as a company Captain, but is remarked as never seeing armed combat. Following his military service Dunn returned to his earlier law studies and in 1867 was admitted to the bar. His career as an attorney was one of marked success, with the first volume of the Biographical and Pictorial History of Arkansas denoting that Dunn's "reputation as a gifted orator soon spread beyond local barriers, and pointed him out as the coming politician of his age."
   During the early 1870s, Dunn began to immerse himself in politics, being named as a Democratic Presidential elector for Arkansas in 1872 and 1876. In the 1878 election year he mounted a campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives, and in November won the election by a vote of 8,836 (with no opposition!) Dunn won his second term in the house in 1880, defeating Republican candidate John R. Johnson by a vote of 15, 753 to 10, 407. Judging by vote totals during the time that Dunn served in Congress, he seldom faced serious opposition during his reelection bids, and during his last run for Congress in 1886 was elected without any opposition whatsoever!
   Throughout his five terms in Congress Dunn is remarked as being a thorn in the side of the large railroad companies that existed during the late 19th century. The Political Reformation of 1884, Volume 28 acknowledges that during the 1882-83 congressional term
 "due credit must be given to the men who threw themselves into the breach to save the peoples lands. During the whole vacation of Congress, the Hons. W.S. Rosecrans, of California, and Poindexter Dunn, of Arkansas,  were in Washington, and never failed to interpose an objection at the Interior Department whenever the railroads tried to take an advantage." 
   The W.S. Rosecrans mentioned in the above passage is none other than former Union General William Stark Rosecrans (1819-1898), who was elected to Congress from California in 1880. It's interesting to see that a former Union General and a Confederate Captain worked together while in Congress to curb the abuses of railroad monopolies of the period! During the latter period of his service, Dunn chaired the house committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries and was later named to a seat on the committee on Indian Depredation Claims.

From the May 10, 1893 edition of the Los Angeles Herald.

   Dunn refused to be a candidate for reelection in 1888, having served ten years as an Arkansas representative. In that same year, he removed from Arkansas to Los Angeles, California, establishing a law practice here until his relocation in 1893. Dunn was later appointed by U.S. Secretary of the Treasury John G. Carlisle to a special commission "on the prevention of frauds on the customs revue" in the New York Custom's House and Appraisers Stores. In 1895 Dunn relocated to Baton Rouge, Lousiana where he took an interest in railroad construction. He finally settled in Bowie County, Texas in 1905, and died shortly before his 80th birthday in Texarkana on October 12, 1914. He was shortly thereafter interred in the Rose Hill Cemetery in that city and was preceded in death by his second wife Ann, who had died thirteen years previously and was buried in Memphis, Tennessee.

1 comment:

  1. I believe that Mr.Poindexter married Mrs. Susan m.Fussell Pollock on January 23,1879 in St. Francis Co., Arkansas. See:this link in Family Search Records:

    Paul V. Isbell