|Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary|
At a Glance
This collection is arranged in one series in chronological order.
Scope and Contents
This collection contains a manuscript handwritten by Reverend John Dunbar, circa 1836, describing his missionary experiences in his first two years living among the Pawnee. This collection also contains two letters from J. Frederick Fitseben, Jr., Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Ithaca, NY, to Professor John Brown Dunbar, son of Reverend John Dunbar. The first letter requests information regarding Reverend Dunbar's missionary work and photographs to include in the church's Centennial book, and in the second letter thanks Professor Dunbar for his contributions.
Burke Library record group:
Missionary Research Library Archives: MRL10, North America
Using the Collection
Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Conditions Governing Use
Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Information concerning copyright, fair use, and reproduction requests can be consulted at Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office.
Item description, MRL 10: John Dunbar Papers, circa 1836-1904, box #, folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
MRL 12: American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions records, 1878-1958, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
Auburn Theological Seminary records: American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions records, 1878-1958, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
RG4302.AM: John Dunbar, 1804-1857 papers, The Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln, Nebraska.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Material was cataloged by Lynn A. Grove on 1988-08-02. Metal clips and staples were removed from materials and folded items were flattened. Materials were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes. Any items in an advanced state of deterioration were placed in Mylar envelopes. The finding aid was created by Kristen Leigh Southworth and Brigette C. Kamsler in 2013 with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation, and edited by Leah Edelman in 2020.
2020-07-16 PDF converted to EAD and description updated by Leah Edelman.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
John Dunbar was born on March 7, 1804 in Palmer, Massachusetts. He graduated from Williams College in 1832 and from Auburn Theological Seminary in 1834. On May 5, 1834, four days after his ordination as a Presbyterian minister, Dunbar joined Rev. Samuel Parker and Mr. Samuel Allis on a journey to locate a site for a mission on behalf of First Presbyterian Church in Ithaca, NY and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). They had been instructed to cross the Rocky Mountains to the Nez Perce, but by the time they reached St. Louis, the traders that they were to travel with had already left. Dunbar and Allis headed instead to Bellevue, Sarpy County, Nebraska, guided by Indian Agent John Dougherty, to work as missionaries among the Pawnee. Dunbar often accompanied the biannual buffalo hunts. The ABCFM became concerned about the amount of time he was spending on hunts rather than establishing a permanent mission station, but Dunbar assured them of the importance of learning the Pawnee language and customs.
In 1836 Dunbar traveled to Hadley, Massachusetts to oversee the printing of a seventy-four page elementary school book in the Pawnee language, of which 500 copies were printed. On January 12, 1837 he married Esther Smith and together they returned to Bellevue for work as housekeepers in an old trading house until 1841, when they moved into the Pawnee villages along with several other missionaries. The Pawnee's resistance to Christianity and the increasing hostility by the Lakota led to the abandonment of the mission on April 17, 1846. Dunbar and his wife moved to Missouri and then to Kansas. They had seven children. John Dunbar died in Kansas on November 1, 1857.