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A Dunham/Dunam family appeared at Fort Nashborough (later Nashville, Tennessee) in the spring of 1780. Two of these Dunham men, both named John, and probably John Sr. and John Jr., signed the Cumberland Compact there in May 1780. [1] The Dunham men had come with Colonel Donelson from the Virginia/North Carolina area which included the land between the Watauga and Nollichucky Rivers.

A John Dunham and Joseph Dunham were signers of the petition to annex the Watauga area to the Province of North Carolina in 1776. [2] This area later became Washington County, Tennessee. Many of the early settlers of this area were of Scotch-Irish descent. It is not known for certain whether the Dunhams were also of Scotch-Irish heritage, but they may have been. It is also not known for certain just when the Dunhams arrived in the area called Watauga, but the signatures of John and Joseph Dunham on the 1776 petition indicate that they were adult men, and were thus born before 1755. It is also likely that John Dunham (who signed the Cumberland Compact in 1780) was the father of these Dunham men, and thus born say about 1735-40.

The settlement of the Cumberland colony was also in process by 1778-9, and a Virginia settler named Captain James Robertson was instrumental in bringing his family from Watauga to the Cumberland settlement. A fleet of 30 or more boats was constructed by Captain John Donelson, and a large group of settlers went with him by boat to the French Salt Lick on the Cumberland River. In 1780 these Cumberland settlers signed a compact which laid out a proposal for their own protection and self government. [3]

It appears the John Dunham, Sr. returned to Washington County, but John Dunham, Jr. and Joseph Dunham remained in the Cumberland settlement and their land became known as Dunham’s Station. That area can be identified today because it is the site of the Belle Meade Plantation, an historic restoration which is open to the public.

NOTE: Two spellings of the surname are used in this document; Dunam and Dunham. Many of the local history books used the Dunam spelling, but the original Cumberland Compact signatures of John Dunham Sr. and John Dunham Jr. used the spelling DUNHAM. Until further research can help to identify the origin of this Dunham family, I have begun this line of Dunhams with the hypothetical father 1 Dunham who would have been born say about 1705-1710.



1. Henderson, Archibald, Conquest of the Old Southwest, The Century Co. Publisher, 1920 Chapter XII-XIV 2. 1776 Petition of the Inhabitants of Washington District to the Hon. the Provincial Congress of North Carolina 3. Op Cit., Henderson

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