Thursday, July 29, 2010

A precious artifact resurfaces

We've been celebrating this month the reappearance of a precious Civil War-era artifact --- a small leather-bound photo album filled with 23 carte de viste photographs assembled by Col. Warren S. Dungan most likely as a remembrance of his distinguished Civil War service.

That's a larger photo from the LCHS collection above of Col. Dungan in Civil War uniform with the album open in the foreground to photographs of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (left) and Gen. Phil Sheridan (right). The opening page of the album displays a carte de viste of view of President Abraham Lincoln. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and Vice-president (and later president) Andrew Johnson are among other recognizable photographs. Most of the remaining photographs are unidentified, or so we believe (because the album and the photos in are in near-perfect condition no effort has been made to removed photographs in search of more information). Additional research may allow us to identify more of the subjects.

It seems likely that many of the men included in the album were more intimately associated with Dungan during his military service and therefore not widely known. All are in uniform, however, suggesting that the album's contents were assembled during or soon after the war.

Col. Dungan, born during 1822 in Pennsylvania, came to Chariton in the early summer of 1856, immediately after being admitted to practice in the court of common please in Pennsylvania. He continued to practice law in Chariton until he was well into his 80s.

In 1861, he recruited a company of fellow Lucas Countyans for Civil War service and was elected captain, then assigned to command Co. K of Iowa's Thirty-fourth Voluntary Infantry. In 1862, he was commissioned lieutenant colonel and on May 25, 1865, was made brevit colonel of volunteers.

After the war concluded, Dungan returned to Chariton where he resumed the practice of law, served in the Iowa Legislature and eventually, during 1893, was elected lieutenant governor. Among other accomplishments, he organized the Lucas County Historical Society's predecessor, one of the first in Iowa; was a leader in the Grand Army of the Republic, both locally in Iseminger Post and on the state and national levels. He died in Chariton on May 9, 1913, age 90.

Although Col. Dungan and his wife, Abby Kingman Proctor, had seven children, six of whom lived to become adults, none of those children had children of their own. As a result when the last surviving daughter, Edna (Dungan) Culbertson, was closing her home during the mid-1960s she selected the Lucas County Historical Society as the principal repository for family memorabilia. We have perhaps 200 or more items related to Col. Dungan and the Dungan family, including the Civil War album.

Because the museum consisted of only the Stephens House in 1966, when a majority of the items arrived, several of them --- including the album --- were duly accessioned and then stored. And then, as the museum expanded, they were for the most part forgotten.

Last fall, while working with the Culbertson inventory and deed of gift, I rediscovered the existence of the album and set out to find it. Finally, two weeks ago, while working to reassemble the Dungan book collection and examining the last unexplored storage area of the Stephens house, I moved a large book and discovered that both the album and the Dungan family photo album against which it is leaning in the photo above had slipped behind it. Now there's a cause for celebration!

We hope to make use of the album as work commences to develop a display commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, to be marked from 2011 through 2015. We also are working to expand a permanent display commenced some time ago in the library by curator Marilyn Johnson, so eventually the album will find a perminent and prominent home. For now, however, it is not on display because of its fragility and the lack of a secure location for it. But if you visit the museum and would like to see it, just ask.
By Frank D. Myers

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