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The Dunbar Family
A Foundation of the Community
Aaron Dunbar and his 22-year-old wife Hattie (Ayers) came to Manhattan in 1889. Dunbar emigrated from Wisconsin the year before to work in the sawmills (William Van Gasken’s sawmill in Des Moines being one of them) and on the Mosquito fleet. Dunbar bought 160 acres between 180th SW and 192nd SW, bordered on the west by 8th Ave. SW and on the east by First Ave. South. He cleared his land with oxen, using the timber to build his first house, a log cabin which was later replaced by a larger house.

A year after buying his land, Dunbar summoned his fiancee from Wisconsin. He met her at the train in Puyallup. The couple was married in Grandma Blasher’s home in Tacoma on August 5th, 1889. A robust man of 24, Dunbar rowed to Des Moines to get lumber for his house - then towed it back. He often rowed to Vashon Island, and even brought his new bride back from Des Moines in a rowboat.

The Dunbars had six children, five of whom - Margaret, Ella (Parks), Fern (Lingwood), Grant, and Roy - remained nearby. All six attended Manhattan School. The Dunbars grew corn, strawberries, tomatoes, and other crops which they sold at the Western Avenue Commission in Seattle, delivered on Dunbar's horse-drawn wagon, capable of carrying 80 crates.

Ella Dunbar Parks recalled that, "If there had been a heavy snowfall, my father would hitch up the horse and sleigh and make a path for us up to the school house. . . . Each of us had a fruit tree of our own for which we were responsible. When the fruit was ripe, we picked it, and sold it to buy clothing and other items."

Aaron Dunbar was a cornerstone of the Manhattan community. In addition to the schools, he supported many public enterprises, and sold part of his land to newcomers who brought needed skills and services to the area.

Continue on to learn about the Manhattan School.


14700 6th Avenue SW   /  Burien, WA 98166  /  Ph: (206) 988-3700  /  Fax: (206) 243-2784
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