E-mail from W. Lane Rogers, a University of Arizona researcher, December 27, 2004:
Thank you so much for your reply. Your valuable information has filled gaps and led me to additional sources.
My Dunbar research is in its preliminary stage, however, I will share with you what I have discovered thus far.
The earliest document I have unearthed is: "Notice of the Dissolution of the Firm of Edward E. Dunbar & Co." Apparently the notice was printed by Joseph W.
Clary, "subscriber, resident & managing partner" of his "intention to carry on the business of the Mercantile Agency Office, without Mr. Dunbar." It is dated Boston, July 27, 1846.
That Dunbar sailed for San Francisco in 1849, I am aware. I have passenger lists from each of the vessels that sailed from Atlantic ports to San Francisco that year, but have yet found time to examine them.
On November 15, 1849, Dunbar opened the Merchants Exchange and Reading Room at Washington and Montgomery Streets, charging $5 per month to read European and East Coast newspapers. The establishment burned on December 23, but was soon reopened. On May 4, 1851, the Exchange was again destroyed by fire. There is no record of it having opened again.
References are oblique, but it appears that the Exchange was an adjunct to a banking institution of the same name, and operated by Dunbar. An advertisment in the Alta California (an early newspaper) made clear that he would negotiate coinage and specie issued by other institutions.
The following entry appears in the 1850 San Francisco City Directory: "Dunbar, E.E., Dunbar's Cal. Bank, Wash b K and M." I translate the latter part of the entry to mean 'Washington, between K and M Streets.' I have not determined what role he played in the California Bank.
Soon after the Gadsden Purchase (1854), Dunbar migrated to Arizona (then part of a larger New Mexico). He settled briefly at Yuma on the Colorado River (which separates Arizona and California) where he operated a trading post. His larger purpose, however, was mining exploration and development, and he brought with him from California an impressive title as head of a "paper" corporation.
He spent considerable time exploring in Sonora, Mexico and was highly critical of the U.S. Boundry Survey for not taking a larger chuck of Sonora, and not claiming the seaport at Guaymas. In Arizona he "discovered" the Ajo Copper Mines (worked off and on for centuries by Indians), and was involved in exploration near Arivaca which resulted in a similar "discovery" of silver deposits. A former commander of Fort Yuma, Samuel P. Heintzelman, bought Dunbar's paper corporation and hired him as a superintendent to start up a silver mining operation. In fact, most of Dunbar's time was spent in an effort to circumvent Heintzelman and raise captial for his own endeavors.
Meantime, he opened yet another trading post at Sonoita, near Fort Buchanan (then the only military post in southern Arizona). He was connected in one way or another with the Crabb filibuster in Sonora (I have yet to flesh this out).
As you may know, in 1857, Henry A Crabb, a former California legislator, took some 100 heavily armed men into Sonora in what became a suicidal attempt to overthrow its government. The men were captured and executed. An second contingent, which originated in Arizona, was to meet Crabb, but arrived after the fact. Half a dozen of its men had taken sick and remained at Dunbar's Sonoita trading post. After Crabb and his men were executed, Mexican troops crossed into Arizona and attacked Dunbar's post. The mercenaries were killed and the trading post destroyed. Dunbar, for reasons unclear, was away at the time.
That same year, 1857, Dunbar was a signatory on a petition to Congress to separate Arizona from New Mexico and establish it as a territory. The petition failed.
And that's about all I have at present. I do know that by the summer of 1858, and extending to at least the spring of 1859, Dunbar was in Washington and New York seeking financial backing for Arizona enterprises. I do not know if he returned to Arizona.
I should add that Dunbar heartily embraced the notion of "Manifest Destiny"--that he firmly believed it was our destiny to annex--by armed force if necessary--Sonora and Chihuahua, and eventually all of Mexico. Like most men of his day, he considered Mexicans an inferior "race," and thought it our duty to impose "civilization" on their nation.
I apologize for the vagueness and the gaps but, as mentioned, my research is in its preliminary stage and there is much to be done. When it is assembled as fully as it can be and the writing process begins, I will of course generate a detailed bibliography that I will be happy to share with you.
I do have a question about Dunbar's book, "The romance of the age...." Is it limited soley to a history of the California rush, or does it include biograhpical information? If the latter is the case, I will want to track down a copy.
I thank you again for your kind response and valuable information, and ask that you overlook my late night syntax and typos.
W. Lane Rogers
From: History of Berlin, Connecticut by Catharine M. North, The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Company, New Haven, Conn., 1916, pgs 147-148):
Edward Ely Dunbar was named after an uncle on the maternal side who lived at Goshen NY In early life Edward went to Boston and entered the establishment of Abbott Lawrence His business qualifications soon were apparent and he was sent to England to buy goods On his return he formed a partnership Dunbar & Motley and the firm's prospects were good but as stated his partner did not use sound judgment and Edward returned from another voyage to find the firm badly involved After this he went to New York and became a partner of Lewis and Arthur Tappan Here he recouped himself but had a disagreement with his partners and about 1845 withdrew After the close of the Mexican War he traveled in Mexico and returned from there in 1848 In November of that year he started for California and crossed the Isthmus of Panama arriving at San Francisco in January 1849 He amassed a fortune there in a short time He opened the first mint and the gold coins of Dunbar & Company were widely known and to day bring enormous prices at coin sales He came east about 1852 and after a brief season of leisure organized with Col Sam Colt of Hartford Conn a corporation entitled The Sonora Exploration Co He undertook the leadership of the expedition and led it through what is now Southern Arizona and the State of Sonora in Mexico There was great hardship and it laid the foundation of the disease from which he died consumption Once they were out of water and came near perishing In a valley a tiny spring was discovered and he took his station with a teaspoon and doled out the water to each man in turn not taking a drop himself until they had all had a supply He was bitten by a rattlesnake and only the prompt drinking of a quantity of whiskey pulled him through They discovered exceedingly rich silver ore ledges on the site of what many years later was known as Tombstone but the hostility of the Apaches and the long route to the coast rendered it impracticable to work the mines Returning to New York he resided on a fine estate near Sailors Snug Harbor overlooking the Bay In 1859 he married at Providence RI Mrs Sophia Sterry Dunbar She was the widow of Henry Dunbar of Baltimore The relationship was remote Mrs Dunbar had two children Henry Jr who died at Panama in 1883 and Sophia who married Henry D Hill of Brooklyn NY (History of Berlin, Connecticut by Catharine M. North, The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Company, New Haven, Conn., 1916, pgs 147-148). History of Berlin, Connecticut by Catharine M. North apparently confuses Edward Ely Dunbar and Edward Mauran Dunbar.