Abijah Dunning 530
- Born: 28 May 1744, Newtown, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA 528
- Marriage: Elizabeth "Betsy" Gregory in 1763 in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
- Died: 18 Dec 1809, L'Orignal, Prescott, Ontario, Canada aged 65 529
The Dunning Family by Randy McConnell
Our history of the Dunning family begins with a Theophilus Dunning of Devonshire, England, who was born about 1618 and arrived in Salem, Massachusetts some time in the early 1640s. He and his wife, Hannah Lindell, had born to them two sons and one daughter, namely: Theophilus, Benjamin and Hannah. No further information is known concerning Theophilus; Hannah married an Isaac Hurd and they had no descendants; Benjamin married a woman by the name of Mary and they became the American progenitors of the Cumberland Dunning family. Benjamin and Mary had at least one daughter and three sons, one of whom was Benjamin who married a Mary Seeley. One of their sons, David married a Hannah Shepard and they had several children. One of their sons named Abijah married an Elizabeth Gregory. Abijah and Elizabeth became the Canadian progenitors of the Cumberland Dunnings. Even after having served under General George Washington in the Revolutionary War, Abijah Dunning, who was a 2nd great-grandson of Theophilus, came to believe so strongly in the British form of government that he and Elizabeth, ("Betsey"), and their four sons, Zalmon, Abijah Jr, Ithamar, William and one daughter, Chloe, left their native United States of America and arrived at St. Jean, Quebec about 1791. From there, the family made their way to Montreal and resided in that city for about the next 10 years establishing themselves notably in business and social circles. In March of 1801, Abijah, Betsey and their family, with Zalmon and Abijah Jr. being married, made the decision to leave Montreal and head up river (literally) to that eastern part of Upper Canada known as Cumberland Township in the County of Russell, having been encouraged by the government to do so as the result of promising to develop and open-up the area with such amenities and conveniences as roads and bridges. The Dunning family established themselves on four lots (or 800 acres) of land on the bank of the Ottawa River where today is situated the village of Cumberland. They cleared the forest and built their homes and other dwellings (such as out-houses) and in a very short time acquired the ownership of some 3,000 acres. Abijah Sr. also acquired land on the Quebec side of the river, some 1,200 acres in the Township of Buckingham and the same amount of acreage in the Township of Onslow.
In 1807, Abijah and his family welcomed their first neighbours, the Foubert family. These two families built up the settlement that would become Cumberland village. However, after expending a great deal of money and physical labour on improving the land, and having to pay outrageous prices to purchase supplies from Montreal and have such transported to them and the government failing to keep its promise to build roads, bridges and other means of assistance, the Dunning family sold their land holdings at great sacrifice and removed themselves to an area just south of L'Orignal called Cassburn in the Township of Longueuil, Prescott County.They purchased 200 acres of land which was equally divided between Abijah Jr. and William with William taking responsibility for the care of the parents. When Abijah Sr. died in 1809 and Betsey in 1820, William erected a gravestone for each of them. These stones are still readable in Cassburn Protestant Cemetery.
Ithamar did not locate at L'Orignal, but continued on to Chateauguay, Quebec where he and his wife, Lucy Bodsford Beach, settled and raised their family. Speculation suggests that Zalmon and his wife, Deborah Royce, remained in Cumberland as his eldest daughter, Matilda, married Amable Foubert about 1808 and settled in Cumberland.
William, eldest son of Zalmon and Deborah, returned about 1817 to Cumberland with most of his siblings. William, involved in lumbering and fur trading, moved into the Township of Buckingham in Quebec and opened a general store. Many of the children of Zalmon and Deborah married members of other families moving into the area.
Another daughter of Zalmon and Deborah was Eliza who married William Grier and had a family of at least seven sons and four daughters. Son William and his wife Mary Orten had four daughters and one son.
One of the younger sons of Zalmon and Deborah was George Gibb (right) who married his cousin, Lucy Dunning. George contributed greatly to Cumberland by serving as its postmaster for many years, as well as Justice of the Peace and Reeve. He also operated what would be considered the first general store as well as a telegraph office. Even worship services were held in his home. G. G., as he is referred to in various references, was responsible for the construction of the first school house in Cumberland. Some time in the 1830s or early 1840s, the Dunning family established a cemetery on their property and, although ploughed under many years ago, a couple of gravestones are still visible in the ground, one of which is that of Zalmon, himself, who died 8 February 1845. Other members of the immediate family were also buried in this family cemetery but, apparently, their gravestones were pushed down the embankment. Members of other families who married into the Dunning family include Armstrong, Golightly, Lowe, Orton, Russell, Stackhouse and MacLaurin, to name only a few.
A younger son of Zalmon and Deborah was Hiram who chose to move with his wife and family over to the Quebec side of the Ottawa River and locate in Six Portages where he was mayor for several years. He died at the age of 69 through the malpractice of a medical doctor.
In his MEMOIR OF THE DUNNING FAMILY, George Gibb Dunning states that his father, Zalmon, had received a fair degree of education while growing up in Massachusetts and made quite a study of world geography and the cultures of many countries. G. G. describes his father as a man of "sound judgment and calculation". At the time of the building of the Rideau Canal, in 1828, Zalmon is reported to have drawn a diagram of Canada and predicted that the several provinces from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean would eventually become united under one central government and Bytown be designated the seat of the Federal Government. What a prophetic prediction!
Abijah Dunning, Jr, second son of Abijah and Betsey, and his wife, Mary Henderson, decided to leave Prescott County sometime in the late 1820s and settle in what was at that time called East Templeton in the province of Quebec. There, Abijah Jr. became involved in the lumbering business and served as a Justice of the Peace. He died about 1846 and is buried in the Dunning Cemetery, along with some of his descendants, including one of his sons, Lewis, from whom Randy McConnell (author of this story) descends through, not one, but two of his daughters, Mercy who married George Frederick Giles and Diana who married Donald Duncan Dewar.
Ithamar Dunning, third son of Abijah and Betsey, married a Lucy Beach 7 August 1805 in St. Gabriel Presbyterian Church near Montreal. Ithamar and Lucy settled in Chateauguay, Quebec where they raised their family of 8 daughters and 3 sons, some of whom returned to Cumberland. Ithamar became very interested in and contributed to the educational system in Chateauguay. All his children were educated in both English and French. Ithamar was very enterprising and, as a result, established the first ferry system from Lachine to Chateauguay by utilizing large boats propelled by oars. He also entered into business with others by replacing the large boats with a small steamboat eventually building a large steamer named "None Such" which made two trips daily from Lachine to Chateauguay on to Beauharnois and then back to Lachine. As you can readily discern, the creativity and ingenuity of the Dunning family ext ended well beyond Cumberland. Both Ithamar and Lucy are buried in Chateauguay and, presumably, some of their descendants. However, upon a visit to the Dale's Cemetery, one will discover that there are approximately 13 descendants of Ithamar and Lucy buried there, along with some 23 descendants of Zalmon and Deborah.
Chloe Dunning, the only daughter of Abijah and Betsey, married a John Westover and they elected to move back to the United States to raise their family. However, before doing so two of their daughters married in Ontario, one of them settling in Pembroke with her husband and family, the other in Newboro located in Leeds County.
William, the youngest son of Abijah Sr. and Betsey, along with his wife, Lucy Brush, remained at Cassburn. They are buried in Cassburn Cemetery.
Noted events in his life were:
• Arrival: Abt 1791, St Jean, Quebec, Canada.
• He had a residence about 1792 in Montréal, Québec, Canada.
• He had a residence about 1801 in Cumberland, Russell, Ontario, Canada.
Abijah married Elizabeth "Betsy" Gregory, daughter of Ithamar Gregory and Rebecca Sturgis, in 1763 in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA. (Elizabeth "Betsy" Gregory was born on 14 Jan 1742 in Ridgefield, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA 455 and died on 2 May 1820 in L'Orignal, Prescott, Ontario, Canada.)