Summary Information
Title: Dunning McNair and Dunning Robert McNair Papers
Collection Number: DAR.1943.01
Creator: McNair family
Creator: McNair, Dunning R. (Dunning Robert)
Creator: McNair, Dunning, 1762-1825

Collection Dates: 1793-1857
Extent: 0.83 linear feet (2 boxes)

Language: English

Abstract:
The papers of Dunning McNair (1786-1824) and his son Dunning Robert McNair (1805-1860) relate to their involvement in land development and trade in western Pennsylvania. Both men were involved in government related activities; Dunning as a state legislator, while his son, Robert Dunning, ran a postal service under contract to the U.S. government. The papers contain correspondence, ledgers, and land sales agreements, some of which pertain to the Pennsylvania Population Company. Digital reproductions of the collection are available electronically by following the respective "Digitized Folder Contents" links within the finding aid.
Publisher:

ULS Archives Service Center
University of Pittsburgh Library System
7500 Thomas Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15260
412-648-3232
archives-ref@mail.pitt.edu
Date Published:

April 2007
Author:

Finding aid prepared by Angela Manella.
Revision Description:
November 2009:
Controlled access terms revised (dar)

Biography

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.

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.


Collection Scope and Content Notes

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.

Perhaps a dozen sketches of land plots are present. These materials are mostly undated, and therefore cannot be attributed to either father or son. A selection of the correspondence has been transcribed by an unknown researcher.


Arrangement

The collection is arranged in the following three series:

Series I. Dunning McNair, 1793-1824

Series II. Dunning Robert McNair, 1817-1857

Series III. Land Surveys 1798-1815


Subject Terms

Topics
  • Firearms -- Transportation -- History
  • Land use -- Pennsylvania -- History
  • Military supplies -- Transportation -- History
  • Real estate business -- Pennsylvania -- History
  • Real estate development -- Pennsylvania -- History
  • Transportation -- Kentucky -- History
  • Transportation -- Pennsylvania -- History
  • Transportation -- West Virginia -- History

Corporate Names
  • Pennsylvania Property Company.

Personal Names
  • McNair, Dunning R. (Dunning Robert)
  • McNair, Dunning, 1762-1825

Family Names
  • McNair family

Genres/Forms
  • Legislators

Category
  • Transportation

Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

No restrictions.

Acquisition Information:

Purchased from Edward S. Fickes in 1943.

Alternate Format:

Digital reproductions of the collection are available electronically by following the respective "Digitized Folder Contents" links within the finding aid.

Custodial History:

This collection was located in the Darlington Memorial Library in the University’s Cathedral of Learning until 2007 when it was moved to the ULS Archives Service Center for processing, storage, preservation and service. However, it remains in the custodianship of the ULS Special Collections Department.

Preferred Citation:

Dunning McNair and Dunning Robert McNair Papers, 1795-1857, DAR.1943.01, Darlington Collection, Special Collections Department, University of Pittsburgh

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Angela Manella in April 2007.

Copyright:

No copyright restrictions.

Bibliography:

  • Hale, R. Nelson. "The Pennsylvania Population Company" in Pennsylvania History, April 1949.


Collection Inventory

Series I. Dunning McNair, 1793-1824

Scope and Content Notes:

Dunning McNair's correspondence, business agreements, ledgers and receipts document his life as a land owner and developer in western Pennsylvania. His personal and business correspondence documents contact with his brothers and other land owners in western Pennsylvania.

Subseries 1. Correspondence, 1793-1824

Scope and Content Notes:

Dunning McNair's letters contain both personal and business correspondence. Dunning received these letters at his home at Nine Mile Run in contemporary Wilkinsburg, east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, during his service as a representative in the State Assembly. He received repeated correspondence from James Herron, who corresponded from Pittsburgh, Kentucky, and St. Louis. Dunning also received letters from James Ross and William Wilkins. A 1793 letter from John Wilkins, Jr., details the ongoing problem of Indian attacks on settlers. Dunning McNair received regular correspondence from his brothers Alexander McNair, in Lexington, Kentucky, and David McNair at Walnut Creek Farms near Pittsburgh. The letters are arranged chronologically.


Box 1
Folder 1 Correspondence, 1793-1795
Folder 2 Correspondence, 1796
Folder 3 Correspondence, 1797
Folder 4 Correspondence, 1798
Folder 5 Correspondence, 1799
Folder 6 Correspondence, 1800
Folder 7 Correspondence, 1801
Folder 8 Correspondence, 1802
Folder 9 Correspondence, 1804
Folder 10 Correspondence, 1805
Folder 11 Correspondence, 1807
Folder 12 Correspondence, 1808
Folder 13 Correspondence, 1809
Folder 14 Correspondence, 1810
Folder 15 Correspondence, 1811
Folder 16 Correspondence, 1812
Folder 17 Correspondence, 1813
Folder 18 Correspondence, 1814
Folder 19 Correspondence, 1815
Folder 20 Correspondence, 1816
Folder 21 Correspondence, 1817
Folder 22 Correspondence, 1818
Folder 23 Correspondence, 1820
Folder 24 Correspondence, 1824

Subseries 2. Agreements, Receipts and Ledgers, 1792-1823

Scope and Content Notes:

Dunning McNair created an extensive collection of agreements related to land sales, leases and rentals in Allegheny County around Pittsburgh. Some agreements contain rough sketches of land plots. These agreements shed light on the development of Wilkinsburg. The agreements and ledgers are separated and are arranged chronologically. Up to a dozen agreements are enclosed within each year. The ledgers and receipts document the business and personal finances of Dunning McNair. They trace the purchase and sale of land and goods.

Folder 25 Agreements, 1795
Folder 26 Agreements, 1796
Folder 27 Agreements, 1797
Folder 28 Agreements, 1798
Folder 29 Agreements, 1799
Folder 30 Agreements, 1801
Folder 31 Agreements, 1802
Folder 32 Agreements, 1803
Folder 33 Agreements, 1804
Folder 34 Agreements, 1805
Folder 35 Agreements, 1806
Folder 36 Agreements, 1807
Folder 37 Agreements, 1808
Folder 38 Agreements, 1813
Folder 39 Agreements, 1814
Folder 40 Agreements, 1815
Folder 41 Agreements, 1816
Folder 42 Agreements, 1818
Folder 43 Agreements, 1819
Folder 44 Agreements, 1822
Folder 45 Receipts and Ledgers, 1792-1798
Folder 46 Receipts and Ledgers, 1800-1809
Folder 47 Receipts and Ledgers, 1800-1809
Folder 48 Receipts and Ledgers, 1811-1815
Folder 49 Receipts and Ledgers, 1816-1823

Series II. Dunning Robert McNair, 1817-1857

Scope and Content Notes:

The papers of Dunning Robert McNair carry on the legacy of his father in western Pennsylvania. They also document his relocation to Kentucky and his postal contract with the United States government. Personal correspondence from family members and professional correspondence with the government describe his life as an entrepreneur.

Subseries 1. Correspondence, 1817-1857

Scope and Content Notes:

Dunning Robert McNair received business and personal letters near Pittsburgh until 1840. While in Wilkinsburg, Dunning Robert received letters from his brother, George H. McNair of St. Louis, and his father's friend William Wilkins. Later, living in Kentucky, he received correspondence from the Post Office Department. Dunning Robert also received letters from his wife, Kittie, his daughter, Annie, and his son, William McNair. The letters are arranged chronologically.


Box 2
Folder 1 Correspondence, 1817
Folder 2 Correspondence, 1818
Folder 3 Correspondence, 1819
Folder 4 Correspondence, 1820
Folder 5 Correspondence, 1821
Folder 6 Correspondence, 1822
Folder 7 Correspondence, 1823
Folder 8 Correspondence, 1824
Folder 9 Correspondence, 1825
Folder 10 Correspondence, 1826
Folder 11 Correspondence, 1829
Folder 12 Correspondence, 1830
Folder 13 Correspondence, 1832
Folder 14 Correspondence, 1833
Folder 15 Correspondence, 1834
Folder 16 Correspondence, 1835
Folder 17 Correspondence, 1836
Folder 18 Correspondence, 1837
Folder 19 Correspondence, 1838
Folder 20 Correspondence, 1839
Folder 21 Correspondence, 1841
Folder 22 Correspondence, 1844
Folder 23 Correspondence, 1848
Folder 24 Correspondence, 1849
Folder 25 Correspondence, 1850
Folder 26 Correspondence, 1851
Folder 27 Correspondence, 1856
Folder 28 Correspondence, 1857
Folder 29 Correspondence, undated
Folder 30 Correspondence, undated

Subseries 2. Agreements, Receipts and Ledgers, 1825-1848

Scope and Content Notes:

Dunning Robert McNair's collection of agreements also related to land sales, leases and rentals in Allegheny County. Some agreements are inscribed with rough sketches of land plots. These ledgers and receipts document the business and personal finances of Dunning Robert McNair; they trace the purchase and sale of land and goods. The agreements and ledgers are separated and are arranged chronologically.

Folder 31 Agreements, 1825
Folder 32 Agreements, 1826
Folder 33 Agreements, 1828
Folder 34 Agreements, 1831
Folder 35 Agreements, 1832
Folder 36 Agreements, 1838
Folder 37 Receipts and Ledgers, 1833-1839
Folder 38 Receipts and Ledgers, 1841-1848
Folder 39 Receipts and Ledgers, undated
Folder 40 Receipts and Ledgers, undated
Folder 41 Receipts and Ledgers, undated
Folder 42 Receipts and Ledgers, undated
Folder 43 Receipts and Ledgers, undated

Series III. Land Surveys, 1798-1815

Scope and Content Notes:

These manuscript maps of land plots most likely relate to land leased and sold in agreements made with Dunning and Dunning Robert McNair. Although specific geography is not indicated, it is likely that these plots are in or around the modern Wilkinsburg in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Folder 44 Land Surveys, 1798-1815

This is a small collection of typewritten transcriptions. Random correspondence of Dunning and Dunning Robert McNair, along with a ledger, have been transcribed by an unknown researcher.

Folder 45 Transcripts, undated