Biography of George Earl Dunham



George Earl Dunham

April 5, 1859-October 29, 1922

George E. Dunham is the namesake of Whitesboro’s Dunham Public Library. He was born in Clayville, NY.  The only child of Reverend Doctor Moses Earl and Harriet (Hughston) Dunham, he would grow up in the Dunham family home on Main Street in Whitesboro, NY. Thanks to a life spent in public service, he would become a major leader of the Greater Utica area at the turn of the twentieth century. He was one of the best known, civic-minded and most prominent citizens of the area.

He attended private schools and graduated from Whitestown Seminary in 1875, the youngest member of his class. The Whitestown Seminary was the first institution of higher learning in the country to admit African American students.

He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hamilton College in 1879, where he was again the youngest in his class. The same institution would later confer upon him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1921.

In 1880, he was admitted to the Oneida bar, joined a law firm, becoming a junior member of the firm of Baylies & Dunham. The partnership was dissolved upon the death of Waite but he continued the office for literary work of a legal nature and for some general practice. He worked as a law clerk for two years in the office of Edwin Baylies of Johnstown, NY, where his father had been a pastor for two years. He aided in the preparation of law books written by William Waite and Edwin Baylies.  He also acted as a reporter on the local paper and studied law under Waite and Baylies. His first regular newspaper work was with the Johnstown edition of the Fulton County Intelligencer, after which he spent about 2 years as local editor of the Johnstown Republican.

George Dunham returned to Oneida County in 1881 and became vice-principal of the Whitestown Seminary, where his father was principal. He would serve under his father for fifteen months, teaching Latin, English and Public Speaking.

In 1882, he began working in Utica as a reporter on The Utica Daily Press, which had been in existence for three months. By July 1883, he began working at The Utica Daily Press as an editor and worked his way up the editorial staff.

On January 9, 1884, George Dunham married Helen L. Jones of Utica. They had one daughter, who died in infancy.

In 1886, he was named editor-in-chief and president of the Utica Daily Press Publishing Company and continued in the role until his death. T.K. Proctor was elected vice-president of the paper in that same election. He made the Utica Daily Press a financial success and a power for good in the community. His influence was also felt as an educator, writer, public speaker and business man.

In 1887, he was appointed a manager of the Utica State Hospital for the Insane by Governor Hill, was reappointed by Governor Flower and again three years later by Governor Morton. In 1905, he was made chairman of the board. Under reappointment from several governors, he continued on the board for thirty-five years. In recognition of his long service, one of the buildings is now called Dunham Hall.

He was appointed by Mayor Kinney to be chairman of the Utica Electric Light Commission and served three years. He was one of the founders and a member of the first board of directors of the Utica Trust & Deposit Company, director of the Utica National Bank, director of the Utica Mutual insurance Company and president of the Partlow Corporation. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Utica Chamber of Commerce and became its first president in 1898. He was the president of the board of trustees of the Young Men’s Christian Association.

He entered into the work of naturalization heart and soul as a patriotic duty and accomplished much. He taught naturalization classes for immigrants and received national recognition for writing a complete textbook on the subject. What Every Citizen Should Know was published in 1922. In February 1920, the University of New York Board of Regents expressed its appreciation of his citizenship work. In October 1920, the Postmaster General named the Devereux Street Post Office, Dunham Station, in recognition of his naturalization work.

He was elected a trustee of Hamilton College in 1891 and reelected in 1895. Fraternally, he was identified with Oriental Lodge of Masons and with the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. He also belonged to Psi Upsilon, a Greek letter society of Hamilton College.

When Mr. Dunham died, at age 63, flags flew at half-mast on City Hall, the County Building and the Fort Schuyler Club.