Born: Ap­ril 10, 1823, Trux­ton, New York.

Died: Jan­u­a­ry 1894, Cof­fey­ville, Kan­sas.

Buried: Oak Grove Ce­me­te­ry, Be­dford, Mas­sa­chu­setts.


Edward was the son of Miles Dun­bar and Cyn­thia Trow­bridge, and hus­band of Ca­ro­line M. Jen­ney (mar­ried 1849).

He was liv­ing in Ly­san­der, New York, in 1850, and in Bris­tol, Mas­sa­chu­setts, in 1860. Dur­ing the Am­er­i­can ci­vil war, he served in Com­pa­ny F, 2nd New York Vol­un­teer Hea­vy Ar­til­le­ry. By 1870, he was liv­ing in Still­wa­ter, Min­ne­so­ta.

The fol­low­ing story from To­pe­ka Ca­pi­tal will re­call to ma­ny the death of Rev. Ed­ward Dun­bar, in the ci­ty jail here two years ago.

The Rev. Ed­ward Dun­bar, who wrote the old Sun­day school song, There’s a Light in the Win­dow for Thee, Bro­ther, sleeps in a pau­per’s grave at Cof­fey­ville, Kan., where he died a tramp in the jail two years ago. His name be­came a byword in the plac­es where he was known and from a pri­son cell he went forth a va­ga­bond up­on the face of the earth.

In 1867 Dun­bar was ar­rest­ed at Lea­ven­worth while en­gaged in hold­ing a ser­ies of re­vi­val meet­ings, and tak­en to Min­ne­a­po­lis, Minn., where he was tried for bi­ga­my, con­vict­ed and sent to the pe­n­iten­ti­ary for three years and eight months. This end­ed his min­is­ter­ial ca­reer and he be­came a tramp.

One night in the spring of 1896, Dun­bar applied at the Cof­fey­ville jail for lodg­ing. He was ill and the au­thor­i­ties took him in. He died the next day. Pa­pers in his pock­ets re­vealed his iden­ti­ty and showed that he had tramped all ov­er the coun­try. Some church peo­ple have erect­ed a mar­ble slab ov­er his grave on which these words are in­scribed: Here lies Ed­ward Dun­bar, who wrote, There’s a Light in the Win­dow for Thee, Bro­ther.

When Dun­bar was a small boy he lived in New Bed­ford, [Mass­a­chu­setts], and worked in a fac­to­ry. His mo­ther lived at the foot of the street on which the fac­to­ry was lo­cat­ed and as the lad’s work kept him away till af­ter dark, she al­ways placed a light in the win­dow to guide his foot­steps home­ward. One day the boy took a no­tion to go to sea and off he went for a three years’ cruise. Dur­ing his ab­sence his mo­ther fell ill and was at death’s door. She talked in­cess­ant­ly about her boy, and ev­ery night she asked those around her to place a light in the win­dow in an­ti­ci­pa­tion of his re­turn. When she real­ized that the end had come she said: Tell Ed­ward that I will set a light in the win­dow of Hea­ven for him. These were her last words.

The lad had grown to man­hood ere he re­turned home, and his mo­ther’s dy­ing mes­sage has such an ef­fect up­on him that he re­formed and be­came a preach­er. In the course of his re­for­ma­tion he wrote the song, There’s a Light in the Win­dow for Thee, Bro­ther.

Coffeyville Jour­nal, Ap­ril 5, 1898



Help Needed

If you know where to get a good pho­to of Dun­bar (head-and-shoul­ders, at least 200×300 pix­els), would you ?