Guide to the Dunning McNair and Dunning Robert McNair Papers, 1793-1857 DAR.1943.01

ULS Archives & Special Collections

Summary Information

Repository
ULS Archives & Special Collections
Title
Dunning McNair and Dunning Robert McNair Papers
Creator
McNair family
Creator
McNair, Dunning R. (Dunning Robert)
Creator
McNair, Dunning, 1762-1825
Collection Number
DAR.1943.01
Date [inclusive]
1793-1857
Extent
0.83 linear feet (2 boxes)
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 this collection are available online.

Preferred Citation

Dunning McNair and Dunning Robert McNair Papers, 1795-1857, DAR.1943.01, Darlington Collection, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

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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.

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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.

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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

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

ULS Archives & Special Collections, April 2007

University of Pittsburgh Library System
Archives & Special Collections
Website: library.pitt.edu/archives-special-collections
412-648-3232 (ASC) | 412-648-8190 (Hillman)
Contact Us: www.library.pitt.edu/ask-archivist

Revision Description

 Controlled access terms revised (dar) November 2009

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Copyright

No copyright restrictions.

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.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Edward S. Fickes in 1943.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Angela Manella in April 2007.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of this collection are available online.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Pennsylvania Property Company.

Family Name(s)

  • McNair family

Genre(s)

  • Legislators

Personal Name(s)

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

Subject(s)

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

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Previous Citation

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

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Bibliography

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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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
Land Surveys, 1798-1815 44

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.

Online
  Folder
Transcripts, undated 45
Online

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