Dunning McNair and Dunning Robert McNair Papers

What's online?

The entire collection is scanned and online.

What’s in the entire collection?

Dunning McNair's papers consist of approximately 450 items of correspondence, legal agreements, accounts and receipts. This collection relates to the rapid expansion of land sale and development in the decade following the Revolutionary War. The papers include manuscript maps of land plots. Although specific geography is not indicated, it is likely that these plots are in or around the modern Wilkinsburg Township in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. These manuscripts describe life on the frontier. Dunning was well known in his day, and the collection includes letters from William Wilkins, Ebenezer Denny, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, Henry Marie Brackenridge and Alexander Addison.

Dunning McNair's papers also detail his involvement in the development of western Pennsylvania. The collection includes Dunning's correspondence with the Pennsylvania Population Company from 1796 to 1815. Transportation was another of Dunning's business interests; one letter details a contract with the United States Government to transport munitions and other supplies to Erie in 1801, and another shows that he transported military equipment for General Wilkinson. Some correspondence also relate to early stage coach lines in the region.

Dunning Robert McNair's papers from 1835 to 1840 contain letters, financial statements, bids for carrying mail, and contracts for transporting guns and supplies for the United States Army. Some papers contain information concerning the stage lines in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

About Dunning McNair

Dunning (Dunnen) McNair was born July 23, 1762 to a Scottish and Irish family in West Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. McNair was an officer in the Pennsylvania state militia. Later as a state legislator in Pennsylvania, he introduced a bill to abolish slavery. In 1788, he settled with his wife, Anne Stewart, near Rippeyville east of Pittsburgh. Dunning and Anne had six children. McNair purchased 266 acres in various lots and built his mansion, Dumpling Hall.

Dunning was an agent of the Pennsylvania Property Company, also called the Pennsylvania Population Company, in both Pittsburgh and the Erie Triangle. The Pennsylvania Population Company was backed by eastern financial interests. From 1792 to 1812, the company purchased frontier lands from the government, leased them to farmers for development, and then resold the lands at a higher price. By 1790, Dunning had drawn the first plan of lots for the proposed settlement of McNairsville around Dumpling Manor. In the mid 1800s, the lands of former Rippeyville and McNairsville grew into Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. The new city was named for the prominent family of John Wilkins.

About Dunning Robert McNair

Dunning McNair's fourth son, Dunning Robert McNair, born ca. 1805, married Catherine Steele and moved to Louisville, Kentucky. Dunning Robert was contracted by the U.S. government for the mail service in Kentucky, where he was also a lawyer and county treasurer. He was also involved in the transport of mercantile goods and guns. Later, Dunning Robert and his family relocated to Washington, DC, where he was a pioneer developer of transportation and trade west of the Alleghenies.

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