Biography of James N. Dunbar, Hon.

Hon. James N. Dunbar. As lawyer, judge, farmer and stockraiser, Judge Dunbar has long been one of the prominent citizens of Cherokee County, and has taken an active and valuable part in local affairs. It was the confidence felt by the people in his judgment and integrity as well as his sterling reputation as a lawyer that brought about his election to the district bench, and his administration of that position has more than justified the expectations of those who supported him for the office.

Though most of his life has been spent in this section of Kansas, Judge Dunbar was born in McDonough County, Illinois, December 23, 1865. As one might expect from the name, the Dunbars are of Scotch ancestry. Members of this branch of the family immigrated from Scotland to Virginia in Colonial times. Judge Dunbar’s grandfather Daniel Dunbar, who was born in Virginia in 1791, went as a young man over the mountains into Kentucky, was a farmer in that state for many years, and died there in 1866. For a time he served as a member of the Kentucky State Militia.

The father of Judge Dunbar was W. Dunbar, who was born in Kentucky in 1816, and died in Cherokee County, Kansas, in 1877. During his early life in Kentucky he married his first wife, took up farming there, afterward lived for ten years in Brown County, Illinois, and from there moved to McDonough County. In 1869 he came to Cherokee County, Kansas, and was here about the time the Indians left and the work of progress began under the dominion of the white race. He developed a good farm, and was a highly respected citizen of the county during the rest of his life. Politically he was a republican, and was a member of the Christian Church. By his first marriage he had four children: Cynthia, now deceased; Elizabeth; Elihu, deceased; and William D., also deceased. For his second wife W. Dunbar married Maria Louise Nardin, who was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1826, and died in Cherokee County, Kansas, in 1886. She became the mother of five children, of whom Judge Dunbar is the youngest. Judge Dunbar’s oldest brother, Walter C., was born in McDonough County, Illinois, November 2, 1857, has followed the trade of carpenter, and is now living in Tulsa County, Oklahoma. He is an active republican. For his first wife Walter Dunbar married Hattie Taylor, and their children were: Lulie A., who married W. N. Jordan, a farmer in Tulsa County, Oklahoma; Clifford A., an oil worker in Tulsa County; Mary C., wife of J. Miller, a farmer in the same county; Clyde, a farmer in Tulsa County; Zoa, wife of Frank McCabe, engaged in the oil business in Tulsa County; Blanche, wife of Claude Thorpe, an oil worker in that county; and J. N., also an oil worker in the same county. For his second wife Walter Dunbar married Linda Parker, who is also deceased, and she was the mother of Ernest, Pearl and Ruby, all of whom are living at home with their father. Walter Dunbar married for his present wife Mary K. McNeill. Judge Dunbar’s oldest sister, Susie C., is the wife of W. A. LaMaster, a retired farmer in Cherokee County. The next sister, Lula J., is living at Brush. Morgan County, Colorado, the widow of Ed Brehrton, who was a farmer. David Dunbar, the other brother of Judge Dunbar, is a farmer in Cherokee County.

While growing up on a Cherokee County farm Judge Dunbar attended the local schools and furthered his literary training in the Columbus High School. The first twenty years of his life were spent on his father’s farm, and then for a time he was engaged in teaching. He also had a course in the Sedalia Business College in Missouri, and was employed in various lines of work for several years. His ambition was finally concentrated upon the law, and his early studies were carried on in the office of Fred BaSom at Columbus. Since his admission to the bar in 1892, Judge Dunbar has carried on a large and profitable practice at Columbus. In 1901-2 he served as county attorney, and he was called to fill large responsibilities when, during 1909-10, he acted as assistant attorney general of Kansas. In 1914 came his election as judge of the District Court, and he has been intrusted with the responsibilities of this office since January, 1915. Judge Dunbar is a member of the Cherokee County and State Bar Association, and is recognized as one of the ablest lawyers of Southeastern Kansas.

He has never lost the keen interest in farming which he acquired when a youth, and his home is now on a stock farm of 160 acres located at the corporate limits of Columbus, on the west side of the city. He employs this farm for the raising of general crops and first-class live stock. In politics Judge Dunbar is a democrat.

In 1893, near Muskogee, then Indian Territory, now the State of Oklahoma, he married Miss Dradie McPhail, daughter of J. B. and Ellen Roger (Ball) McPhail. Her father is a farmer, and both parents now reside in Whatcom County, Washington.

Judge and Mrs. Dunbar take great pride in their fine family of five children. Noel, who was born October 2, 1895, is now completing his last year in the Cherokee County High School. Clare, born September 1, 1901, is in the Freshman class of the high school. Owen was born September 4, 1903, and Quinton was born July 18, 1905, and Dradie, on January 28, 1908, and all these younger children are also attending school.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

1 thought on “Biography of James N. Dunbar, Hon.”

  1. Correction, spelling of Hon Judge and Mrs.Dunbars youngest son born July 18, 1905 is Quintin, not Quinton. I have documentation.

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