Robert Franklin Dunn, pioneer Methodist minister and circuit rider in West Texas, was born on March 11, 1855, near Charlottesville, Virginia. His father was a member of Gen. J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry during the Civil War, and one of Dunn’s earliest recollections was keeping hogs off the corpses of dead soldiers after a nearby battle. Devastated by the war and Reconstruction,qv the Dunn family moved by covered wagon to Texas in 1873 and settled on a farm near Stephenville. Dunn attended Granbury College in Hood County, where he graduated in 1882 and was ordained a minister. On June 21, 1882, he married Luella Spruill. They had nine children.
At Sweetwater Dunn received his first assignment as a circuit rider for the Sweetwater District, which extended from Nolan County to Tascosa in the Panhandle.qv He was the first full-time circuit rider for this area, and he reportedly preached the first sermon in the region at a saloon, by invitation of its owner, in Colorado City, then the western terminus of the Texas and Pacific Railway. Dunn covered his circuit four times annually, riding a sorrel horse and preaching in dugouts and homesteads of isolated settlers, at ranches, and under brush arbors. Later, Rev. J. T. Bludworth took over the circuit in the Panhandle and Dunn rode only the southern half. At the first Methodist conference Dunn conducted, renegade Comanches from the reservation in Indian Territory stole the preachers’ horses. As more settlers poured into West Texas, Dunn built and pastored the first churches in Sweetwater, Colorado City, Big Spring, and Snyder.
In 1890 he became vice president of and taught Greek at Granbury College, where he stayed for five years. After 1885 he continued his ministerial duties as a circuit rider and pastor until his retirement in 1926. In his later years the Dunn family moved to Lubbock. He died there on November 29, 1929, and was buried in the City of Lubbock Cemetery.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Tanner Laine, Cow Country (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1969).”The Peter Hurd Mural,” Museum Journal 1 (1957).
H. Allen Anderson
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