Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The mysterious Dunbar Townsite sign

On Highway 132 west of Hennessey, and south of Drummond, Oklahoma, is a road sign for Dunbar Townsite. I've driven past it hundreds of times. In March, I decided to go look. That lead me to a Mt. Zion Church and a building labeled Morrison Hall. It looks like the remnant of pioneer community, much like any other community in western Oklahoma.

Mt Zion Church and Morrison Hall
The brick pioneer monument sits in front of Morrison Hall on the left, and the Mt.
Zion Church is on the right.

Abraham Lincoln military grave marker
Soldier Abraham Lincoln, Co. E, 53 U.S.C.Inf.,
a member of the U.S. Colored Infantry
Down the road a bit is Morrison Cemetery. As I wandered through the cemetery, I noticed military markers for "U.S.C.Inf." or "USCC". Those were unfamiliar to me, so I searched online as I stood there. I was surprised to find those are the abbreviations for colored troops, U.S. Colored Infantry and U.S. Colored Cavalry. 
Update: reader W. Tandy Walker provided this link to the Wikipedia page for the 53 U.S.C.Inf's service in the Civil War.

After the Civil War, other "Colored troops" commonly called "Buffalo Soldiers" played an important role in Western Oklahoma's early history.

That's when I finally figured out that I was in a former "Black town" in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma. Oklahoma was home to a number of all-Black towns.  While there are lists of Oklahoma's All-Black towns, Dunbar or Morrison are not listed. In fact, I had trouble finding out much about it online. Dunbar was part of a cluster of All-Black towns in Kingfisher County, further west than most of the well-known communities. You'll find a map linked from the All Black Towns of Oklahoma page at the Tulsa Historical Society. Dunbar was north of the marker for Lincoln.

The most substantive record online about Dunbar is at the Geochaching site, which includes this description of the town:
Dunbar was a Negro community for many years. This [geocache] is not really where the townsite was located, but is where the school was. The school was known for its agricultural program, particularly livestock, and students took many prizes in the shows. After intergration, the school was closed and the students, went to Lacey, Drummond and Hennessey. The building was sold and torn down.
From reading the pioneer monument between the church and Morrison Hall, it seems that a religious order played a role in the community.

The cemetery is still in active use today, so I am sure that the families associated with it have more information about Dunbar and Morrison, but it's just not online.

Grave marker of Robert Tutt
From the grave stone of Robert Tutt:
"A man who, by his honesty and fair dealings,
earned the goodwill and respect of his
neighbors and has advanced the cause of
his race among all people."
More pictures at Flickr: Dunbar Townsite.

2021: Some updates from "Roaming Ryan" on Facebook:
Dunbar school site (foundation and ruins)
Dunbar Church (interior pictures)
Dunbar Morrison House (interior pictures) 

2023 updates: new links, corrections to USCInf  and Buffalo Soldiers service
Be sure to scroll down through the comments to Ron Nichols, who offered more first-hand information about the community, his family, and how they maintain the grounds even today. 
Added info sent via email from W. Tandy Walker to the comments.


  1. That is some neat information. I am a geocacher so I am aware of the cache that is there, you would be amazed what history you can learn from geocaching. You might want to try it out some time. I go by Kashiree on the website feel free to contact me.

  2. Thanks for this! We have Buffalo Soldiers buried in San Francisco National Cemetery, too. They fought in the Indian Wars in this state, also.

  3. We live in Drummond and have done the same thing you did. We decided yesterday to search out the townsite marker. My husband has lived in Drummond all his life and thought the town was not East but had to be where the school was. I also took pictures of Morrison Hall & the Baptist Church listed there. Thanks for putting this info on-line. TexasOkie

  4. Lol, same here. I finally had a chance as a passenger to search on my phone The Dunbar townsite sign. Your blog was the first to pop up. Thanks. I appreciate your time and pictures.

  5. Fascinating. I'm going to see if the Kingfisher County museum has any more information. This has been a really informative post.

  6. Great information, I wonder if there are anymore graves of buffalo soldiers in Kingfisher County?

  7. I live in Drummond, OK and have driven by the highway sign numerous times. Today I drove out and saw the Morrison church and cemetary, but no sign about Dunbar. Subsequently, I googled Dunbar townsite, which led me to your post. Thank you so much more the information! Really interesting.

  8. I live just down the road from the school site. There were some really great families there. Henlys the coles the prims. The Breckinridges Mrs Ladd and Mrs Nixon. Most are not around but all were like family.

  9. I am a Henley. My father was born is what is called "West of Hennessey in 1910. There is a lot of history there were black farmers raised their children who were educated at Dunbar Hall a one room school house. I have fond memories of the spending summers in Hennessey visiting my grandmother and other relative in that community.

  10. I am a Nichols. My mother and father both attended Dunbar. My grandparents and great grandparents on the Nichols side are buried in Morrisson Cemetery. I and my sons and grandsons and members of the Williams family have the privilege of keeping the cemetery mowed as well as Morrisson Hall. It is a labor of love for us and we do the best we can with the limited resources available. I am grateful for members of the community who pitch in and help from time to time. The side posts on the memorial are the actual gate posts from the Dunbar School site. I was there the day they were moved. We are currently looking for ways to preserve the structures before it is too late.

  11. I received this information via email. I have made corrections to the U.S.C.Inf. references in the story, and I wanted to share the additional information with all.

    W. Tandy Walker said:
    I was headed to Drummond yesterday for a basketball game and saw the sign for Dunbar town site. When I googled it I found your page and the photos. I was particularly drawn to the headstone for Abraham Lincoln of the 53rd US Colored Infantry. You mentioned it was a Buffalo Soldiers unit. It is not. The 53rd US Colored Infantry was a Civil War regiment. Below is some info from Wikipedia.

    "The 53rd U.S. Colored Infantry, also known as the 53rd Mississippi Colored Volunteers Infantry, was organized from the 3rd Mississippi Infantry (African Descent) on March 11, 1864 for three-year service under the command of Colonel Orlando Charles Risdon."

    "The regiment was attached to 1st Brigade, 1st Division, United States Colored Troops, District of Vicksburg, Mississippi, to October 1864. 1st Brigade, 4th Division, XVI Corps, to November 1864. Department of Arkansas to February 1865. District of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Department of Mississippi to March 1866."

    "The 53rd U.S. Colored Infantry mustered out of service March 8, 1866."

    Thank you for posting the photo. I will make a trip to that cemetery in the near future. Sadly, the Oklahoma Historical Society map that shows the location of the all black towns does not include Dunbar. These towns are something I am researching and I will make a trip to OKC to find out if there is any info there. There was a town of Emmanuel in western Blaine County that the mother of a friend had relatives that lived there. Sadly, Kingfisher County does not seem to have much information on the towns in that county.

    W. Tandy Walker
    Calumet, OK