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Dunbar's of Arizona
Account written by Monica Dunbar Smith
based upon public records and oral history

     Thomas & John O. Dunbar of Arizona were early pioneers who arrived in the Tres Alamos/Tombstone area circa 1876. Another brother William settled in Prescott, AZ. Their parents were Honora Evans & Michael Dunbar who originally came from Ireland to New Brunswick, Canada then to Calais; and to Bangor, Maine. Thomas (1841-1892) was the first of the line born in the USA. Since he came from a family of lumbermen, Thomas went west to Ft. Union, NM during the Civil War in the 1860s where he served as the civilian foreman at the fort’s lumberyard. While there, he met & married Agnes Burgett (1850-1886) who was attending school at a convent near Las Vegas, NM.
     Thomas & Agnes along with their firstborn son, Edward William (1871-1915), arrived at Tres Alamos, Arizona Territory along the San Pedro River where he selected his cattle ranch. Later, he sent for his kid brother John (1853-1923) to join him at the ranch. They were certainly not fearful of frontier living for this was an area known as the “graveyard of the San Pedro” due to the many vicious Apache and military encounters. There, as the largest rancher in the area, he was appointed Postmaster and Stage Stop operator. This, and the boarding house they ran, was later known as Dunbar’s Station.




(Right)- Edward William Dunbar Snr.


Thomas A. Dunbar Jr.

     In 1881, Thomas was elected to the House of Representatives in the AZ Territorial Legislature, and referred to as the “father of Cochise County” after he introduced a Bill to establish a new county in the SE corner of the state. He also took a particular interest in agriculture & mining & was described as “an honest legislator and a man of excellent Judgment,” who was pushing legislation to control the “cowboy problem.” Thomas wanted to end rustling, misbranding and other problems affecting the stockmen in Southern Arizona. That same year, the political scrambling for appointment of Sheriff, caused a rift between parties, resulting in the Earp brothers animosity toward the new Sheriff. Through Thomas Dunbar’s influence, John Behan was named Sheriff and his brother, John O. Dunbar became Treasurer of Cochise County.
     The infamous “gunfight at the OK Corral” was for the purpose of gaining political favor on the part of Wyatt Earp & his brothers in an effort to influence public opinion that they were cleaning up the cowboy element from the town of Tombstone. At this time, Tom McLowery, who later was killed, was a ranch hand on the Dunbar’s Tres Alamos ranch. He, his brother Frank and the Clantons started out at the Dunbar Corral on Fremont Street to saddle up their horses, but had to go across the street toward Allen Street to retrieve some items, when Doc Holliday and the Earps opened fire on them. They were not armed, but had a rifle on the horse’s saddle which was not within easy reach. As a result, three of them were killed on the streets of Tombstone. There was a sham of a court hearing by a justice of the peace who was a friend of the Earps, who dismissed the murder charges against them. Thereafter followed a bloody vendetta in which many of both sides were murdered. The last one took place at the Tucson Train station where Wyatt Earp killed Frank Stillwell. Now, there are life-sized statues of Wyatt & Doc located at the downtown Tucson train depot.

Map of Tombstone 1880's
Click on Photo to enlarge

Thomas had four sons with Agnes; they were Edward, Thomas, John, & Andrew. Two years after he became a widower, he married Catherine Hanley in 1888; and had two more children, Helen and Ernest. Before Ernest was born, Thomas died following surgery for a severe ear infection in June 1892. The Arizona Daily Star on 6/18 claimed “a nobler man, a better husband, father or friend never made a track on Arizona soil.”

Andrew Dunbar


Helen A. Dunbar

     His brother, John Orlando Dunbar became a journalist who along with colleagues developed the Arizona Press Association in 1890; he published several newspapers including the Tombstone Epitaph (1886) & later the Phoenix Gazette and Dunbar’s Weekly. He was quite outspoken and controversial and ended up in court often due to his newspaper work.


     Thomas’s son Edward William grew up with many Spanish-speaking ranch hands; therefore, was fluent in the language which helped him court Delfina Soto whom he married in 1900 at the Courthouse in Tombstone. They had 6 children, Luisa, Inez, Edward, Anthony, Thomas, & Waldo, who were raised at Tres Alamos ranch, then Ray, AZ; then, after their father died in 1915 at age 44 from a ruptured appendix, the family moved to Los Angeles, CA .

Edward Dunbar

Delfina Soto, Inez and Luisa


Thomas Dunbar was the great-grandfather of Edward William Dunbar (D-9); Anthony William Dunbar (D-62); and Monica Dunbar Smith, Membership Director, Clan Dunbar and their siblings. D-9 & D-62 are cousins.

Account written by Monica Dunbar Smith based upon public records and oral history.

Photos at Top: Carmen Vasquez Dunbar, Edward William Dunbar, Delfina Soto, Inez and Luisa, Thomas A Dunbar Jr.


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