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Mini Bios of People of Scots Descent

This biography was submitted by Sandy Spradling, E-mail address: <>

History of Greenbrier County 
J. R. Cole 
Lewisburg, WV 1917 
p. 269-272


Mathew Dunbar, the ancestor of the Dunbars in Monroe and Greenbrier counties  by that name, was a dashing Scotchman, and he was born on the Firth of Forth, Scotland, in 1764. With the dauntless courage of a pioneer, he left his native country and embarked for America, not yet having attained his age. After reaching the American coast, he at once set out for the forests of western Virginia, where settlers were scarce but very bold. He located in Monroe county, a place he reached without the aid of posts or roads and where he built a trading post.

In due time he became a wooer, finding his maiden the fair Mary Ellen Herbert, nestled in a little cottage up in the Alleghanies. She was the daughter of John Herbert, who did not at first consent to the marriage project, but true love alwavs finds a way whether the parents do or not. Mr. Dunbar traded in ginseng and furs, which he hauled to Lewisburg, then a thriving little village. On the return from one of those trips he and his team of horses were drowned at Ronceverte while trying to ford the swollen stream. His driver, however, escaped. Mr. Dunbar left a widow and six children. His widow was kicked by a colt and left an invalid for life. The children were Mathew, William, John, Margaret, Andrew and James. 

Mathew, the eldest son, was a judge on the circuit bench in Monroe county and had the reputation of being an upright and learned judge. John, the third son, born in 1794, was the immediate ancestor of the Greenbrier Dunbars. John Spade, a Hessian, was the great-grandfather of John Dunbar on his mother's side. He was a brewer of Hesse. He was drafted for the army to aid the English in their war against America, but he was not found with the troops when ready to sail for America. He was drafted the second time, but again hid; but when drafted the third time he saved his life by coming across, but he deserted and fought with the Continentals for American freedom. After the war John Spade married Mary Magdalena Shafer, a German maid he had met in the Valley of Virginia. John Dunbar married their daughter, Eva. She was born in Monroe county in i8oo and died in Summers county, West Virginia, n 1859.

John Dunbar, who was left an orphan when five years old, moved to Summers county, where upon arriving at the age of manhood there enriched himself by securing a comfortable home. He was a small, sandy-haired, sandy-complexioned man, very industrious and very strong. He died in i866 at the age of seventy-two years. He left five sons, George, Mathew, William, Hiram and John, and six daughters, Elizabeth, Isabel, Mary, Margaret, Catherine and Ellen. William H. Dunbar, son of John, was born April 24, 1829, in the county of Monroe. Until he was sixteen years of age he remained on the old Dunbar place and taught school when a very young man. In 1857 he married Hannah A. Hedrick, at Asbury, W. Va., who was then a very businesslike young girl of eighteen. The early death of her father had developed many cares on her young shoulders, but she executed them with neatness and dispatch. William H. Dunbar, at the outbreak of the Civil war, was living in Greenbrier county. At that time he was elected captain of a company of militia. His battalion was ordered on a forced march to Little Sewell Mountain. William H. Dunbar and Hannah A. Hedrick were married at Asbury, W. Va., in 1857. There were twelve children. The first born, James Johnson, died in childhood, and Mary Emma in infancy; William Oliver, the eldest living, passed away at sixteen years of age; Henry at nineteen years, one of the victims of the boiler explosion in the Livesay woodlands. The year of 1897 will always be remembered as the saddest time ever experienced in the little town of Frankford, when so many homes were desolated. David Berkely, the youngest of the family, took sick in New Mexico and was brought home by his brothers as far as Ronceverte General Hospital, where he died September 14, 1911.

Of the remaining children, Sallie married J. F. Van Stavern, of Monroe county. They are now engaged in the mercantile business at Spring Creek, W. Va. They have one child, Lois, who is in Staunton attending school. Jennie S. married W. F. Knapp, of Lewisburg. They moved to Morgantown when Mr. Knapp died. His widow and three children still reside there. Mary Gray married William Reynolds Thatcher and lives in Paxton, Ill. Oliver was graduated from the West Virginia University. He engaged in agriculture and was county agent for Doddridge county last year. Forrest will graduate this year if his country does not take him before the expiration of this school year. Ruth, the youngest, is attending school at Morgantown. C. W. Dunbar married Miss Dollie Ransbarger and lives on his farm at Caldwell. John married Miss Lena Layton, of Virginia. They have seven children living. Three have passed away, the eldest as he was entering young manhood, the other two in infancy. Frank married Miss Ella Grose. They have three children. Frank is practicing law in Columbus, Ohio, where he has made his home for several years. Marion married Miss Minnie Crickenberger. They have six living children. They reside in Lewisburg.

Jesse married Miss Almyra Wheeler, of New York State. They have three children and live in Norwalk, Conn. Jesse is a lawyer and was appointed prosecuting attorney for his district last year, but his country needed him, so he gave up his loved work, left his dearly loved home and family to serve his country. He is, or was, lieutenant in the Coast Artillery, Fort Terry, N. Y. We have reason to believe that he is now on his way to France.

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