Frederick S. Dunning

F. S. Dunning portrait Elizabeth Dunning portrait V. C. Dunning portrait

"Portrait and Biographical Record of Portland and Vicinity, Oregon." Authors: "a compilation of this a number of writers". Chapman Publishing Co; Chicago, 1903. p. 701.


To dignify what must necessarily be one of the most cheerless and gloomy callings to which man is heir, to carry it on with tactful consideration, and brighten it with artistic and beautiful surroundings and suggestions, is the unceasing effort of F. S. Dunning and his capable son, Vander Cook. As funeral directors and embalmers they have one of the best establishments in the northwest, and have given to the upbuilding and development of their calling as much thought as any engaged in the business in the country. F. S. Dunning came to this city in 1882, locating in East Portland, purchased the pioneer business of Mr. Burton, which had been established by Mr. Clark, the pioneer undertaker, and at present is the second oldest in the city of Portland. Gifted with business ability, tact and a thorough understanding of his work, he won the confidence of the community by meritorious work. The business grew apace, and in 1892, his former quarters were exchanged for the commodious block at the corner of Sixth and East Alder streets, all of which he occupies, and which is 100x100 feet ground dimensions, and three stories in height. The firm have the finest funeral carriages on the coast; conduct their own morgue ; and the furnishing of their offices and reception rooms is in accord with the elegance and refinement of taste displayed by both father and son. To Mr. Dunning is due the distinction of introducing the art of embalming in Portland, and he was thus enabled to prepare bodies for transportation when the law went into effect that none would be accepted by the railroads without proper certificates, he having practiced embalming here for about twenty-one years. For this scientific part of his work he has thoroughly prepared himself, and carries diplomas from the Eureka School of Embalming, of California; Clark's School of Embalming; and from Professor Sullivan's school in New York.

Of an old established New England family, F. S. Dunning was born in Conneaut, Ashtabula county, Ohio, April 14, 1841, the third oldest of the ten children born to Ezekiel and Mary A. (Dibble) Dunning, natives respectively of Vermont and Conneaut, Ohio. Nine of the children attained maturity, and eight are now living, three brothers having served during the Civil war. Ezekiel Dunning was a contractor and builder during his entire business life, and as a single man removed from Vermont to Conneaut, Ohio, from there he removed to what was known as Lower Sandusky, now Fremont, of the same state, and there died. Longevity is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the maternal family, for the father of Mrs. Dunning was one in a family of twelve children, all of whom lived to be over eighty. Mrs. Dunning herself died at the age of eighty-four years, at the home of her son in Portland. In Fremont, Ohio, F. S. Dunning was educated in the public schools, graduating at the high school. About that time his father was doing a large business at contracting and building, and in addition was engaged in the manufacture of brick. The son naturally followed in his footsteps, and became a practical brick mason and manufacturer. At the beginning of the Civil war he entered the employ of the government as a teamster at Nashville, Tenn., and was later wagon master, and a year later entered the United States Franklin Railroad shops at Nashville, six months thereafter becoming foreman of the wood working department. His duties in this capacity included reporting on, and manufacturing railroad cars, pontoons, wagons, and gun carriages, a responsibility exacting in the extreme, and; having supervision over eighty-five men. The mechanics were divisioned off in a regiment, and known as the First United States Mechanics Regiment. They were repeatedly called into active service, and during the fall of 1864 were on the breastworks at Nashville, at the time of Hood's final defeat. At the close of the war they were discharged and returned to their homes, Mr. Dunning returning to Fremont, Ohio.

Until 1872 he engaged in building and contracting in Fremont, and then went to Parsons, Kans., looking for a permanent location. In the spring of 1873 he outfitted with teams and wagons and came over the old Santa Fe trail to San Bernardino, Cal. six months having been consumed on the overland journey. From there he went to Los Angeles, and by stage to San Francisco, there taking boat for Portland, and then locating at Salem. After two years in the furniture and undertaking business there he removed to Albany and was similarly engaged for seven years, in 1882 located again in Portland as stated. In January, 1902, he incorporated the business of which he is the president and his son. V. C., vice-president, E. Dunning being secretary and treasurer. Mr. Dunning has proven himself a wide-awake and enterprising citizen, while his business cares have occupied his attention he has always found time to evince the true western public spiritedness. As a Republican he has been a stanch advocate of his party, and among the offices maintained with credit may be mentioned that of city treasurer of East Portland, which he held for one term. He is a welcome member of several fraternal organizations, including Washington Lodge A. F. & A. M. of Portland, which he served as treasurer eleven years, he having formerly been connected with Brainard Lodge of Fremont, Ohio, and the lodge at Albany, this state. He is also a member of the knights of Pythias, Rathbone Sisters, Ancient Order United Workmen, the Grange, Eastern Star, Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Encampment, and Daughters of Rebekah. Mr. Dunning is a man of genial and kindly personal attributes, displaying tact and a broad knowledge of the world, all of which have contributed to his success.

For the past seven years Mr. Dunning has been ably assisted by his only son and child Vander Cook Dunning, who was born in Albany, August 20, 1876, and whose mother was formerly Elizabeth Vandercook, a native of Sandusky county, Ohio, the daughter of a well-known hotel man who died in the Buckeye state and was of Holland-Dutch ancestry. Mr. Dunning was educated in the public schools and Bishop Scott Academy, and one year's private instruction in Portland, supplemented by a year's attendance at Leland Stanford University, and in the meantime became familiar with his father's business at a comparatively early age. He is also an electrician of ability, having taken special courses in that line, as well as keeping abreast of the times by home study. He is a practical and scientific embalmer, having graduated at the Champion School of Embalming, and withal is a young man of great promise, inheriting his fathers appreciation of his calling, as well as business ability. Socially he occupies an enviable position, and is a member of Washington Lodge No. 46, A. F. & A. M.; Washington Chapter No. 3; the Oregon Consistory No. 1; Al Kader K. M. S. and the Eastern Star; the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; the Ancient Order United Workmen ; the Woodmen of the World; the Modern Woodmen of America: the Degree of Honor; the Woodmen of Woodcraft; the National Union; and the Native Sons of Oregon. He married Kulla C. McFadden, and they have two children, Margaret and Kulla.


Submitted to the Oregon Bios. Project in September 2009 by Diana Smith. Submitter has no additional information about the person(s) or family mentioned above.