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08/02/2021 12:52 PM
Pennsylvania State Senate

James Darwin Dunlap


Session Position District Party
1845 27 Whig
 Counties   Erie


1809 - 1856

James D. Dunlap was the son of Erie physician Dr. James and Nancy Dunlap, born January 15, 1809, Kaskaskia, Indiana Territory.  The family relocated in Erie County via steamer down the Mississippi; the Gulf of Mexico; to New York; then to North East.  James enjoyed a good education; read law; and joined the Erie bar in 1837; moving from North East to Erie where he became Elijah Babbitt’s law partner.  During the Tippecanoe campaign of 1840, Dunlap was elected to the state House of Representatives – reelected through 1844. There, he was a good friend of Thad Stevens.  As a member of the state House, he offered strong support to the 1842 bill abolishing imprisonment for debt and shared Stevens’ passion for equal rights for blacks.  He succeeded law partner Babbitt in the state Senate, 1845-46.  While in Harrisburg he was a major proponent for the incorporation of the Erie and North East Railroad Company, as a major link to the Lake Shore Railroad.  He was instrumental in chartering the Erie and Pittsburgh line.  Dunlap was a school director; trustee for the Erie Academy; a founder of the Seventh Street Methodist Episcopal Church; Sunday school superintendent; and a major force behind the construction of the first Erie “High School.”  Senator Dunlap married Marian Finley Russell in 1853.  He passed away at age 44, on February 7, 1856, interred at Erie Cemetery.
Nelson’s Biographical Dictionary and Historical Reference Book of Erie County; also: Walling, Memoirs of Erie County, Pa., Bench and Bar”