Erie County (PA) Genealogy

Family Histories & Biographies

Captain John B. Dunlap


The biography below was found on your web master's hard drive as a scanned image. It is believed to be from Nelson's History of Erie County. The short biography has been transcribed and is posted below.


Captain John B. Dunlap, harbor master of the port of Erie, was born in Erie, April 4, 1834, and is a son of Captain James and Mary (Boyd) Dunlap.  His father was a native of McKean Township, Erie County, and his mother was born at the foot of the Cumberland mountains in Maryland. Mr. Dunlap first settled in Erie County on what is now known as the Ripley farm; Mrs. Rebecca Dunlap settled on a farm in McKean township, now owned by Jackson Koehler. James Dunlap was a carpenter and contractor, the firm name for many years James and John Dunlap. They built many of the earlier structures in Erie, including the First Baptist Church and the First Presbyterian Church. He was engaged by Tracy & Courtright to go to Dunkirk, N. Y., on important contracts in the harbor long before the New York and Erie R. R. was built. He was commissioned a captain of militia by Governor Porter in 1827, served the city of Erie for six years as a member of the city council, and was harbor master for several years.  He was a trustee and deacon of the First Baptist Church for many years. 

The family consisted of seven children: George (deceased), Jane (deceased), John B., Thomas J., Helen (Mrs. Jonas Bowers, of Erie), Frank (deceased), and Alliene V. (deceased, who was the wife of C. H. Harvey, D.P.S., of Erie).

Capt. John Dunlap, son of James Dunlap, was educated in the public schools of Erie and the Erie Academy. He also attended the private school of Miss Mary Coover, who afterward be­came the wife of Hon. Michael C. Kerr, ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives. When a mere lad he ran away from home and for some time drove a team on the Erie canal, later becoming captain of a canal boat. In 1848 he shipped on the revenue cutter Erie, then commanded by Capt. Daniel Dobbins. After a year the Erie went out of commission and he remained for one year aboard its successor, the Ingram. He then entered the merchant service with Captain Thomas Perrin, and continued three years.  He was promoted to mate on board the schooner Sea Gill, owned by Andrew Scott and commanded by Captain P. Murphy, and remained a year.  His father having, in company with Mr. George J. Morton, purchased the schooner Armada, he acted as captain of her until 1861.

He was appointed acting ensign by Captain Carter, commander of the man-of-war Michigan, and ordered to Cairo, Ill., where he was examined and ordered to New Albany, Ind., where he joined the gunboat Tus­cumbia, of the Mississippi squadron, whose part in the reduction of Vicksburg and other important naval movements of that war are matters of history. After returning from the war he engaged in the contracting and building business with his father, and after the death of the latter continued the business alone. In 1874 he entered into partnership with Mr. J. Louis Linn, with whom he remained until the death of Mr. Linn, after which he again became sole proprietor of the business, which he continued until 1890, when he retired from active business life. In that year he was made harbor master, the duties of which position he has since faithfully discharged.

In 1876 Captain Dunlap had charge of the raising of the famous flag-ship Lawrence, and taking her to the Centennial at Philadelphia. The captain was married April 25, 1854, to Miss Susan, daughter of Capt. John Spires, of Erie.  Of the children who were the issue of that marriage, two survive: Martha (Mrs. George Crocker), and Ida (Mrs. Jackson Koehler), both of Erie. Captain Dunlap is a member of the G.A.R., the A. O. U. W. and the Elks. In his political views he has always been a staunch Democrat.


This page was last updated on  Sunday, December 2, 2007 .

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