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John Orlando Dunbar

Cochise County Treasurer 1881-1882

Governor John Fremont appointed John Orlando Dunbar as the first Cochise County Treasurer when the Territorial Legislature created Cochise County from Pima County in 1881. J.O. Dunbar was born May 19, 1853, in Bangor, Maine, the son of Michael Dunbar and Honora “Nora” Evans. His father was born in Scotland and mother in Ireland. In 1876, traveling by train to Colorado as far as the railroad operated, then by wagon to Arizona, John joined his brother Thomas on his cattle ranch along the San Pedro River at Tres Alamos where they ran the local boarding house. There was also a military telegraph station with a repairman to look after the line. Thomas was appointed postmaster and stage stop operator leading the area to be known as Dunbar Station. The location was also called Cienega Station. The Arizona Daily Star of February 5, 1880, reported, “J.O. Dunbar has the best location between Tucson and Tombstone and anyone who has ever taken dinner at Dunbar’s will bear witness that the accommodations are not surpassed anywhere in these parts.”

The brothers opened a livery stable usually referred to as Dunbar Brothers on Fifth Street near Fremont in Tombstone.  John Dunbar and Sheriff Behan were friends and business partners; Dexter Stables being one venture. On March 11, 1881, the Tombstone Epitaph reported: “Sheriff Behan’s headquarters are at the office of Dunbar Brothers.”

John Dunbar was engaged in the work of printing, writing and publishing since he was sixteen years old. In the fall of 1879, he helped print Tombstone’s first newspaper, the Nugget, on a very primitive hand press. He was an extremely outspoken pioneer journalist working for the Tombstone Nugget, the Epitaph and in 1882, published the Tombstone Republican. He traveled to Dos Cabezas and started a newspaper named the Gold Note. Other publications he worked for included Arizona Democrat, Benson Herald, Arizona Register at Globe, Arizona Gazette and finally his own paper the Dunbar’s Weekly in Phoenix. Having a vividness of language and strength of his convictions gave J.O. the reputation of the firebrand of Arizona journalism involving him in numerous libel suits.

John and his wife Emma had a son Markis L. Dunbar. He also had a step-son William M. Dunbar. Treasurer Dunbar died of a heart attack February 1, 1923, and is buried at St. Francis Cemetery in Phoenix. Some comments from his obituary are: “While Mr. Dunbar was erratic, he was a big hearted fellow and had a host of friends throughout the state.”  “While in Tombstone, Mr. Dunbar was a witness of some of the most stirring events of the early history of Arizona, among them the sanguinary Earp and Clanton cattle feud.”

Photo courtesy Monica Dunbar Smith