PHILO DUNNING. The subject of this sketch was born March 23, A. D., 1819, in Webster, Monroe Co., N.Y. He was the son of Gerard DUNNING, a substantial farmer of Monroe County. His mothers' name previous to her married was Polly HICKS. Philo's early advantages of scholastic discipline were only such as the common schools afforded to farmer boys of the period, generally consisting of a short term in the winter, the balance of his time being occupied in performing the laborious tasks of the farm. The first use he made of his independence on attaining his majority, was to shake off all the associations of home, and take up his line of march for the West, toward which even then the "course of empire" became to point the way.
He reached Madison, in 1840. For about two years he worked at whatever his hands could find to do, which afforded the means of subsistence, and the hope of laying up "something for a wet day." His labors were directed to a single purpose, the consummation of a cherished aim, and that was the purchase of a home for himself and the future bride, who in the distant East awaited his return to claim her willing hand. In order to accomplish his hope, he practiced the most rigid economy, often denying himself the pleasure of corresponding with his Eastern friends, because each letter in those days cost 25 cents postage in hard money. In 1842 he had already realized a sum sufficient to enter 120 acres of land, upon which he worked, keeping bachelor's hall, and boarding himself, until 1844, when he returned to his native place for the purpose of claiming his promised bride. He was married at Webster, N.Y., on Sept. 27, 1844, to Miss Sophia GOODENOW, and with his wife soon returned to Wisconsin. In 1845 he exchanged his farm for a saw-mill near Madison. This exchange proved to be a profitable one for him, and laid the foundation of that handsome competency which has placed him among the "solid business men" of Madison.
It was the lucky "tide of his affairs," taken at the flood, and led him on to fortune. While operating his saw-mill, and with money saved from its profits, he purchased a tract of land near the village (now city) of Madison. Upon this land he built himself a neat and comfortable house, in which he resided for twenty-years and would have still resided there but for the implacable locomotive, which insisted upon sweeping with its defiant scream in front of his very door.
In 1855, Mr. DUNNING went into business in the city of Madison, in the grocery and druggist line, and such is still his occupation, being the senior member of the well-known firm of DUNNING & SUMNER. In 1853-54, he was Treasurer of Dane County, and in the fall of 1873 he was elected to represent the Madison District in the Assembly by a very flattering majority. He made a very efficient and popular member of the Legislature. His pleasing social manners, generous qualities, and always cheerful mien, made him a favorite with his associates in the assembly. But two children have been born unto him , a son and a daughter, the latter only surviving. She is happily married to Mr. Edwin SUMNER, his partner in business. Although not a member of any church, Mr. DUNNING is a liberal patron of the Congregational society. In politics, he has always been an ardent, but at the same time a liberal Democrat. In conclusion, it is proper and just to add, that, in his business pursuits, Mr. DUNNING has always maintained an unsullied character for probity and honor. He is enterprising, but at the same time careful and prudent, and as a consequence, amid all the revolutions and panics that have swept thousands into the financial vortex of bankruptcy, his credit and the credit of his firm have never rested under even a momentary cloud.
In all the other relations of life, as a husband, father, friend and citizen, his character is stained by no blemish, darkened by no reproach, while a naturally cheerful heart exerts a constant influence upon his social manners, making him an always pleasant and agreeable companion.
Transcribed and contributed to this site by Carol