Obituary Details

Joseph "Joe" Francis Dunn

(08/25/1873 - 05/17/1963)
Courtesy of The Harrison Sun, 05/30/1963

Death of Joe Dunn Closes Colorful Wyoming and Nebraska Pioneer Life

Joe Dunn, 89, colorful early day cowboy, round-up cook, rancher and business man, and one of the last of the real western pioneers, rode the last long trail May 17, as he rested at his home in Harrison, Nebraska. He was in unusually good spirit and very happy that morning. He lay down to rest and died peacefully in his sleep about an hour later.

He had suffered with arthritis for years but his mind remained keen and alert and he loved to relate happenings of the olden days. He especially enjoyed the Dunn Round-up Reunion which was started about eight years ago in celebration of his birthday, and he had expressed his desire to live to attend his ninetieth birthday. Last year he was released from the Scottsbluff Hospital early the day of the reunion at Fort Robinson, but he attended even though he was in very frail health. He was a life long Catholic and one of the promoters in building St. James Catholic Church in Douglas, Wyo.

Joseph Francis Dunn was born Aug. 25, 1873 at South Boulder, Colo., and he was the youngest son of Patrick Francis and Margaret Burk Lacey Dunn, both natives of Ireland, who came to the South Boulder valley in covered wagons from Ottumwa, Iowa, in 1866. The Indians were very restless and on the war path at this time.

In 1887 he came to Harrison, and a few years later he moved on to Douglas, Wyo., and the LaBonte area. He was working for the Guthrie out-fit at the time of the Johnson County War, and of the Gunny-sack episode, which was a war between the sheepman and the cattleman. He also went on a hazardous mission to Montana to help recover stock stolen by the rustlers. Then he went to Denver to work as an apprentice to learn the saddle and harness making trade. But the lure of the West called him and he returned to the LaBonte area, where, about the turn of the century, he married Anna Patterson, daughter of the Taylor Patterson's of LaBonte. They were engaged in ranching for a number of years, both at Harrison and on LaBonte, and then sold out and moved to Douglas where he and his brother-in-law, Luke Patterson had a barber shop and pool hall and Mrs. Dunn operated the Goodwin Rooming House. In 1919 they started another venture in ranching at the Sam Dewey place near Douglas where they remained until her death in December 1925. A few years later he ranched with Henry Bolln on Mr. Bolln's place.

In 1938 he married Margaret Hunter Oestreich, a life long school teacher who was the daughter of pioneer Judge Hunter of Harrison and whom he had courted as a youth. They ranched west of Douglas with her brother, Tom Hunter, and later on LaBonte, until ill health forced his retirement. They moved to Glenrock, Wyo., and rented apartments in their home, later selling out to Albert Sewell, and going to Redding, Calif., to be near her son, Bill Carroll. But they longed for the old places and faces, and returned to Harrison about holiday time in 1961 where they have since resided.

Mr. Dunn was preceded in death by his parents and by all of his brothers, Philip, Richard, Patrick, John and Thomas and by all of his sisters, Kate Lacey Dunn, Margaret Rapler, Mary Fidel and Lizzie Coleman.

Survivors are his wife, Margaret, and a step-son, Bill Carroll of Redding, Calif.

Funeral services were held at St. James Catholic Church in Douglas May 20, at 10 a.m. with Father O'Flanagan of Glenrock. The choir was under the direction of Mrs. Ed George. Grand nephews, Billy Philip and Tommy Bruner, served as altar boys. Honorary pallbearers included Clyde Bower, Billy Curtain, Jake Schneider, Henry Bollin, John Dunn, Gene Payne, George R. McGeheee, Alex Cross, George McConnaughey, Ben Sherrill, Lloyd Froggatt.

Pallbearers were all nephews, Lester Dunn and Vernon Dunn of Harrison, Ferris Bruner and Charles Bruner of Douglas, Gordon Holden of Casper and Lawrence Prager of Garrett, Wyo. Burial was in Douglas Park Cemetery.

The poet Badger Clark, wrote A Cowboy's Prayer, and seems to have expressed in it much that fits the character and philosophy of life of Joe Dunn.

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