Dunaway, Jacob MAGA © 2000-2007
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Virginia, Ill.

By: J. N. Gridley

Printed by the Enquirer

By Hon. J. N. Gridley


On Saturday the 12th day of April eighteen hundred and seven, in the County of Greene in the State of Pennsylvania, was born to Matthew and Nancy Dunaway, a son whom they named Jacob. the parents had come from New Jersey to the wild mountainous district, where hard work and close economy were necessary to keep the wolf from the door. The boy grew up in this poor section of the United States, with small chance for learning or for anything better than a hard life. He acquired what was then called a common school education, and as soon as he was old enough to look about him, and learn of his surroundings he resolved that he would not live the life of a Pennsylvania farmer. He began trading in live stock, picking up animals from the scattered farms and driving them to Pittsburg or Baltimore to the markets. He soon began to be successful in this business, when he lost all by making a sale to a Baltimore dealer who became bankrupt, and paid his creditors nothing, a fashion which has survived to these days. Jacob Dunaway then quit that business and made his way to St. Louis, about 1842, and became a stage driver. Soon after he first saw the little straggling town of Virginia, coming here as a stage driver but not to remain, as he returned to the east for a time.

In 1847, Cuthbert Robison, the father of Alexander Robison now a resident of this city, kept the best hotel in the town of Mounty Healthy, Hamilton County, Ohio. This town was midway between the cities of Hamilton and Cincinnati; a daily stage passed between these cities, making the noon stop at the hotel of Mr. Robison at Mount Healthy; Jacob Dunaway was the driver of the stage in this year of 1847, and ate his dinners at the Robison hotel. In 1856, Mr. Robison removed with his family to Morgan County, and three years later came to live in the town of Virginia; upon his arrival he was immediately recognized by Jacob Dunaway as his old Ohio landlord, and the two were good friends thereafter.

About 1849 Jacob Dunaway made his second appearance in Virginia as a stage driver, and from thence forward remained here. For a year o two he drove the stage line between Virginia and Beardstown, and Virginia and Jacksonville. That he was a young man of enterprise, who soon impressed his acquaintances with the fact that he was no ordinary man, is proven by the fact that although a newcomer, he was selected in 1850 by the democratic party of Cass County as their candidate for the office of sheriff of the County, receiving at the election that year 488 votes out of a total of one thousand and forty two cast; divided thus: John B. Fulks, 553; Jacob Dunaway 449; John E. Haskell 22; Robert Gaines 19.

Failing to become sheriff, which was very fortunate for him, he bought an interest in a mercantile establishment with D. M. Irwin, located in the Pothicary building at the southeast corner of the square on lot 102 and began selling goods for a change, in the meantime boarding at the Virginia Hotel located on Lot 82 where the Mann House now is, owned by William Armstrong, leased by Thomas and Robert Thompson. A sister of the landlords, Miss Jane Thompson, was living with, and assisting her brothers to manage the hotel business and Jacob Dunaway, finding her to be a woman of good sense and business ability, pleasing and attractive, cultivated her acquaintance so well that they were married by the Rev. N. H. Downing on the 20th day of January 1852, and seven months later he purchased the Hotel property and livery barn opposite, and went out of the mercantile business.

Soon after he purchased of Fink the stage lines between this town and Beardstown and Jacksonville, and soon extended his lines from Beardstown to Rushville. This business in the hands of Mr. Dunaway became a good one; and he soon branched out into handling live stock, making an arrangement with William Stevenson to buy and sell hogs, which soon grew into a large and lucrative trade.

Richard S. Thomas, the President of the Illinois River Railroad Company, had succeeded in inducing the farmers and business men of Cass County to believe that the stock in this enterprise would be a good paying investment. Jacob Dunaway may have believed all that was said by way of argument in favor of this proposition, but he certainly believed that the building of the Rail Road into Virginia would add materially to the value of his business interests, all centered here. He, with the others was disappointed in this expectation; the farmers gained nothing, and Dunaway gained but little. All people who lose feel like cursing somebody for their misfortune, and turn to the nearest object upon which to vent their spleen. Whether Thomas really believed all he preached, or whether he did not, made not the least difference, he soon found himself thoroughly hated, by reason of the fact that his glowing promises did not materialize. This was probably the beginning of the enmity which so grew to great proportions, between R. S. Thomas and Jacob Dunaway. Thomas tried to effect an agreement with Dunaway by which the R.R. Co. should sell tickets over the Rail Road and also over his state lines, and make periodical settlements with him for the portion of the sales to which he should be entitled. Perhaps Dunaway feared he might be a loser under such an arrangement, but, at all events he refused to make the deal. These men were also political rivals; Dunaway was a prominent and influential democrat, while Thomas was a very active and noted whig.

Thomas owned a newspaper, and to offset its influence, Dunaway procured the establishment of an opposition journal, and the political warfare waxed hot through these sheets. As the bitterness increased Thomas devised a scheme to injure the business of Dunaway and Henry S. Savage and Henry Murray, two warm friends of Thomas united to help him. Jesse Dunaway, a brother of Jacob Dunaway, was in his employ, in the conduct of the hotel and stage lines. A bargain was made with Jesse Dunaway, by which the latter was installed in the old N. B. Thompson residence at the southwest corner of the west square, as the keeper of a rival hotel; a stage line was then established with headquarters at the new hotel, and an effort began to take from Jacob Dunaway his business. Competition commenced and continued until Thomas advertised to take passengers to Beardstown or to Jacksonville over the stage line free of charge; this was met by the offer of Dunaway to take the passengers free and furnish them a dinner in the bargain. As Dunaway had the contract to carry the U.S. mails, he soon broke down the Thomas effort to supplant him, and the west end hotel and stage business was short-lived. In the meantime the newspaper war became personal between these fighting characters; Dunaway began a series of articles against Thomas, charging him with "stealing the widow's mite and the orphan's substance," and inviting Thomas to a controversy. After the second of these articles was published by Dunaway, Thomas replied with a charge that Jacob Dunaway had embezzled the proceeds of the sale of a drove of cattle belonging to the father and brother of Jacob Dunaway, and that he brought the money, a thousand dollars to Illinois. Dunaway replied to this by beginning an action for libel against Thomas at the December term 1860 of the Circuit Court of Cass County. The suit was removed to Morgan County and there the case was tried, Dummer and Judge Logan of Springfield assisting Thomas, who was himself a lawyer, and Pollard and Ross appearing for Dunaway. Thomas produced Jesse Dunaway who swore that Jacob Dunaway got the money, but he did not that he brought it to Illinois. As the story ran the cattle were put in the hands of Jacob Dunaway to sell, and it was his business to get the money. Then Thomas offered to prove by Dr. Schooley that Jacob Dunaway brought money to Illinois shortly after the cattle transaction, but the court would not admit that testimony. Then Dunaway offered Dr. Tate as a witness who testified that Jesse Dunaway had told him (Tate) after the Thomas article was published that the statements were all untrue. The next move in the case was to bring eleven witnesses to swear the character of Dr. Tate for truth and veracity was bad, and that the 11 witnesses would not believe him on oath. These witnesses appeared and testified that the character of Dr. Tate for truth and veracity was good and that they (the seventeen men) would believe him on oath. It may well be imagined that this was a most bitterly fought lawsuit. The jury found a verdict in favor of Dunaway for three thousand dollars, and the case was carried to the Supreme Court, which held that if Thomas believed the charges he made were true, that the damages found against him should be less, than they should be if the publication was made, knowing the charge to be untrue. That view of the law was not made sufficiently clear to the jury, in the opinion of the higher Court, and the cause was sent back for a new trial. It was not tried again, however, a compromise being effected between the parties.

About the year 1862, Jacob Dunaway entered into partnership with Jacob Ward for the buying and selling of cattle. Ward was a wealthy farmer, living some three miles south of Virginia on the Jacksonville road. He was an old settler, a man of excellent judgement and a successful money maker. He was a member of the Cass County commissioners court for a term and filled the office to the satisfaction of the people. Cattle were bought in large numbers and brought into the county and delivered to the farmers, who fed them at an agreed price, per pound, for the gain the animals made and when fattened were shipped to market. Jacob Dunaway had in his employ his nephew Allen Dunaway, his brother James Dunaway, his friend William Milstead, and others. Under this contract many thousand cattle were bought and sold, and the business ran along until about 1865, when the partners disagreed and each began a law suit against the other. Before the time came to try these suits, the parties concluded to refer a settlement between them to the decision of William E. Milstead, who was a shrewd business man and a warm friend of each of the disputants, he having been in the employ of Ward as a farmhand when he was a boy. Milstead heard the evidence, but before he made his decision, the parties concluded not to allow the matter to proceed farther and Jacob Ward began a chancery proceeding for an accounting and settlement in the Circuit Court. His attorney was Garland Pollard assisted by Henry E. Dummer and Dunaway was represented by Henry B. McClure, of Jacksonville, who was the most painstaking lawyer the writer ever knew. The case dragged on from year to year. Edward P. Kirby, of Jacksonville, took the evidence. As Jacob Dunaway had had the management of the business; had employed and paid the help, and knew all the details from beginning to end, while, on the other hand Mr. Ward had entrusted the management to Dunaway, the result might have been known to a certainty from the beginning; Mr. Ward was unable to establish anything wrong in the account; the case went against him, and the costs thousands of dollars, were saddled upon him, which were paid the year of his death.

Gambling is the curse of this age. It has been denominated a disease by some philosophers; if they are right, the disease should be classed with cancer which it so much resembles. Its germs permeate all classes and conditions; it is found in all climes and among all people. The zealous female, inspired with the zeal of the christian to convert the world to Christ, sails over the high seas to the remote islands and finds prospective converts, without clothing, and confirmed gamblers. The common gambling dens exist in all cities and large towns, and in the smaller places the games are played in box cars and upon fair grounds, or in the lofts of livery barns. The merchant church member, who stays out of gambling dens for fear of detection, will buy up pumpkins, and offer prizes to his liberal patrons if they can guess the number of the seeds within the shells. Christian women form clubs, and meet on periodical occasions to play cards for prizes, which consist of plated ware and such like commodities; after they have settled the matter of the winning of these prizes, it is in order for them to pass resolutions calling on the mayor of the town to enforce the ordinances against gambling, so that their losing husbands and brothers will have more money which they can get to pay fro the next set of prizes for their club. If their minister cries out against their sin of gambling, they get angry and wish him to resign his place or let him alone and "preach the gospel". Nearly every little town the size of Virginia has its "Board of Trade, headquarters" more properly denominated bucket-shops; here one may find a lot of farmers who ought to be in their fields like honest men, "buying" or "selling" oats, or corn, or short-ribs or some other commodity, hoping some sucker at the other end of the line may guess wrong, and lose. The Illinois November hog, standing amidst a surplus of corn, thinks his master a most benevolent gentleman for dealing so generously with him; within six weeks when the master has his knife in the throat of the poor beast, his liberality is explained. the master of the head department of the bucket-shop game, throw out the bait, which is grabbed up by the ignorant suckers; when they get "fat" enough to suit the taste of the fellows who put prices up or down according to their own sweet will, they rake in the suckers and take all they have and strip off their skin, just as the hog feeders do with poor ignorant grunters. It is impossible to squeeze out a tear of sympathy for these victims, for they were hoping to ____ some other fellow to the other end. A man who acquires the gambling habit, becomes worthless for any legitimate sober business; he wants something for nothing. Slow but sure gains are too dull for him, he craves excitement. A gambling merchant would not employ a gambler, as a clerk in his establishment, if he knew it. A careful man would not become the surety for a gambler, if he knew he had the disease. Very like the gambler is the speculator or plunger.

In 1870 Jacob Dunaway was a gentleman of leisure, out of active business life. He was the owner of the Virginia Mills, the hotel, the livery barn and other rent producing properties; in 1867, he built and completed a good and substantial two-story residence on lot 98 in the city, (now owned by James Graves) in which he and his family lived comfortably at their ease with an ample revenue to support them in excellent style. He often told this writer, that any man who would begin and continuously follow up the business of buying and shipping cattle would become a bankrupt; in support of his opinion, he would cite the cases of many and many a man from John T. Alexander, the famous cattle king, down to the small dealer. Then he would say that only the shrewd man knew when to quit the business; that he and Ward who made money, quit at the right time. But Jacob Dunaway had the gambling or speculative fever in his blood. His disposition was so uneasy and nervous, that he could not content himself to take life easy, with a plenty for himself and family. He must get out once more into active life. He induced Phillip A. Buracker,, a prosperous and wealthy farmer, and Samuel H. Petefish, a retired farmer and banker, both of whom should have known, and did know better, to engage with him in the cattle buying and shipping business. Dunaway took upon himself the management of it, and in a few short years he was landed into the United States Bankrupt Court, a ruined man. He was stripped of his property, and at his age could not hope to rise again. In disgust he went to the state of Kansas, but soon becoming dissatisfied with life there, returned to Virginia, where he spent the remaining days of his life, in the house belonging to his wife, and dependent upon her, for every penny he expended.

From the time Virginia lost the county seat at the election held in the year ____, its people had hoped to one day regain it. The fact that this town was very near the geographical center of the county, while Beardstown was at the extreme west end, served as an excellent argument in favor of its return here, but several subsequent efforts, had resulted in failure. In 1865, Jacob Dunaway and others established at Virginia the Farmer's National Bank, which brought to the town the business of many large farmers who had kept their funds in the Jacksonville banks. the time had come for another periodical spell of building, as these building booms come and go in all towns; with the establishment of the bank, came the platting of the new addition to the town of Barden and Wood; the rapid sale of town lots, and new buildings began to arise in rapid succession. At that time Beardstown had been suffering from a long period of financial depression; Judge Dummer and Garland Pollard the leading attorneys of the county had disposed of their property and left the place. The old time prosperity of the city which had been built up by reason of the river trade, had so fallen off, that many of the leaders in business life had lost and gone. The failure of the Leonard bank about that time was a severe blow to the place. The Park Hotel, which had been a good property had become so worthless, that the owner had turned it over to Andy Maxwell rent free with the furniture included, and as late as 1867 and 1868, he was paying but $300 per year rent for it. The boom occasioned by the establishment of the railroad shops had not yet begun. The chance to get the county seat removed seemed to have arrived. In 1870, the new constitution of the state was adopted which provided that a county seat might be removed to a point nearer the center if a majority vote of the county so determined, but to remove it to a point further from the center a three-fifths vote should be required. This was encouraging to the Virginia people as they concluded that in case they could effect a removal and the erection of county buildings, they could retain the seat of justice here indefinitely.

An election was arranged to be held upon the 12th day of November, 1872 Jacob Dunaway had been the Virginia leader in the battles with Beardstown. He knew the strength of the enemy, better than any other man here. He formed a plan of battle; he proposed to build and offer to the people of a county a court house. He knew that there was a court house and jail at Beardstown, which had answered the purpose for many years, and that after the result of the proposed election should be announced, next move would be preparation of county buildings; that if Virginia would prepare the court house free to those outside of the town, that many voters near the half way mark between the two cities, would vote for removal who otherwise would vote against it. This plan of Dunaway met with little favor at first, it was objected that a city had no power to build a court house; to this Dunaway responded "yes, but we can build a city hall and let the county use it". He kept to work hammering the idea into those who would listen to him; they knew that he was a far seeing and skillful fighter, and at length he had his way. The building was contracted for and built in time to offer it to the people for their temple of justice for 99 years. The election was a terrible battle; the result was a majority upon the returns of but 128, but under the law a majority of all the voters was necessary to effect a removal. Many who should have voted for removal voted against it. Even the election officers who resided in the adjoining precinct of Monroe precinct refused to vote either way, and were counted against Virginia. After the case had been tried in the Circuit Court, and then went to the Supreme Court; after all the sifting was done, there remained but eight majority in favor of Virginia. But for the following in the lead of Jacob Dunaway the election would have been lost, and the succeeding growth of the city of Beardstown would have resulted in the erection of permanent county buildings in that city , and the people of this day and generation would have never seen the seat of justice in the town of Virginia. Except for Jacob Dunaway, the seat of justice would have remained in the city by the river.

When the people of Township Seventeen, Range Ten defeated the proposition of taxing themselves the sum of $15,000 to aid in the extending of the Peoria Rail Road to Jacksonville in 1868, it was Jacob Dunaway who was the loudest to object to this donation; after its defeat, the company refused to extend the line through the city, but built along the section line, and erected the depot a half mile from town; a few years later, when the Springfield road was located and built through here Jacob Dunaway in order to prevent the establishment of a union depot at the junction of the two roads, went to work, and persuaded the town to donate one thousand dollars toward the building of the present depot; since that time the Peoria R.R. officials have proposed to the officers of the other road, the consolidation of the business at the junction, the latter have refused for the reason that the town of Virginia had paid for the depot and it ought not be moved. For this enterprise the credit belongs to Jacob Dunaway, and to no other.

In appearance, Jacob Dunaway was tall, some six feet in height, weighing about 180 pounds; light hair and large light blue eyes. He was a very forceful man. He was a born leader. he had no use for the man who would not listen to him, and be guided by his opinion; he was exact in his business methods; was prompt in the payment of his obligations; would never give up the pursuit of anything he wished to accomplish, so long as there was a ghost of a chance to succeed. He was on several occasions chosen as the Treasurer of the city; at one time was the President of the Board of Trustees. In all these positions he discharged his duties with honesty and ability.

His financial reverses, hereinbefore described, sorely affected him; he became sour and morose in his manner, shunned society. he certainly had reason to think that Fate had treated him harshly, and he died a disappointed and unhappy man.

In his family relations Jacob Dunaway was a model; he was a kind indulgent husband and father. He was a good neighbor; he was an example of industry, perseverance, and economy. If he had been well educated he would have become a noted man, had his life been cast in a large city, instead of being spent in a small country town.

Jacob Dunaway died in this city on Friday, March 13, 1891, aged one month less than 74 years; he was survived by his wife (still living) and by five sons and one daughter. He was buried at Walnut Ridge Cemetery, by a large gathering of his friends and neighbors. "After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well."