Sam Dunning Born: 1813

Died: June 2, 1896


Children: Carrie Dunning, Douglas ("Dug") Dunning

Sam Dunning was an Adirondack guide. He is listed as a Saranac guide in Henry Perry Smith's 1872 The modern babes in the wood: or, Summerings in the wilderness, and Maitland DeSormo also identifies him as a Saranac guide in Summers on the Saranacs.

Essex County Republican, June 11, 1896

The Pioneer Guide Dead

Samuel Dunning, the veteran Adirondack guide, died at his New Russia home, Elizabeth town, Essex county, Tuesday of last week, in his eighty-third year. He was born in Ticonderoga in September, 1813,but had resided in Elizabethtown since he was a boy. He was well known, as is evidenced by the fact that his picture, representing him as the pioneer Adirondack guide, was on exhibition at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. His remains were buried in the New Russia cemetery Thursday afternoon. He is survived by a widow and several children.

Adirondack Record-Post, March 28, 1923

Samuel Dunning was born in historic Ticonderoga" in September, 1813, but came to New Russia to reside when a mere boy. He was the pioneer Adirondack guide, being one of those iron moulded men, over six feet in height and powerfully built and who in the days of his prime knew no hardships. He was a contemporary of such men as John Cheney, the elder Moodys, Smith Beede, William B. Nye. was three years the senior of "Old Mountain Phelps" and just two years older than Mitchel Sabattis, the Indian guide whom he first met at Saranac Lake in 1843. Mr. Dunning was well acquainted around St. Regis Lake long before "Paul" Smith ever cast a shadow in that now famous region. Mr. Durining acted as guide for James Freeman Clarke when he was at the zenith of his fame and came to the Adirondacks to recuperate overtaxed powers. He met "Adirondack" Murray when he came into the Adirondacks the first time and in after years often aided that famous writer in enjoying camp life. When George Thomas, the Philadelphia millionaire banker, accidentally shot himself through the leg with a revolver, it was Samuel Dunning who rowed the wounded man down the Raquette River and the great hearted financier gave him credit for saving his life. He also acted as guide for Verplanck Colvin when he first commenced surveying in the Adirondacks. That Samuel Dunning was famed far and near as a guide is evidenced by the fact that his picture, representing him as the veteran Adirondack guide, was on exhibition at the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893. Mr. Dunning died June 2, 1896, in the 83d year of his age, the end coming at his New Russia home.

Joel Tyler Headley, The Adirondack; or, Life in the woods, New York: Scribner, 1864. pp. 307-309

Everything is democratic in the woods, and several guides, engaged to go out with different parties the coming week, dropped in to have a chat with the gentlemen. One of these, whom they called "Sam," 1 was an original. He was a capital guide, willing, cheerful, a good cook, and strong as an ox. Standing full six feet in his stockings, he thought no more of putting his boat on his head, paddles, oars, and all, and carrying it for three miles over streams, and logs, and hills, and through swamps, than I would an empty basket. Sam has only one fault—his tongue never stops. He says a great many queer, laughable things, and great deal that is "stale, flat, and unprofitable." Still he is an honest, kind, capable, and accommodating guide. Last year he went out with a party from Boston and Cambridge, and his democratic notions received a shock from which he will never recover. His harmless rattle was considered disrespectful, and Sam, who had never before seen anybody too good for him, was taken wholly aback by the distance at which he was kept. He was treated simply as a paid servant at home. This was a new revelation to him. In his long life in the woods he had seen nothing like it before. A rollicking, free-andeasy set he had always been with hitherto, and so much stateliness and dignity in camp-life quite bewildered him. He said, however, that he had his revenge on one of them. On a long and uneven carrying-place, over which he was floundering with his boat on his head, the gentleman began to grumble at the difficulties of the way, and repeatedly asked Sam if there was no way for him to get across except by walking. "Yes," replied the latter, at last, "ketch a sucker, and put him between your legs and scull over." Sam said that ever after the man regarded him as some strange animal, whose company should be carefully avoided.

His dislike of Bostonians and Cambridge men, as he calls them, has become chronic, and he will run on for hours about them. He has a large tent, which my companions wish to take along with them. But I dislike tents; they are heavy to carry, in a rain they are damp, while you are afraid to build up those roaring fires near them which make a bark shanty so comfortable, by serving the double purpose of driving off the mosquitoes and of keeping you warm. They were, however, determined to strike a bargain with Sam, and I, who had hitherto been a mere listener, asked him how many his tent would hold. "Just two Boston men—I have tried it—they will fill it full, but it will hold six New Yorkers easy." "Why, Sam," I replied, "I did not know the Bostonians were so much larger than New Yorkers." "Well, they are," said he; "I have measured them with my tent. One takes up just as much room as three New-Yorkers." "It seems to me," I added, "that you bear the Bostonians some malice. What is the matter—why don't you like them?" He drew himself up, a la Webster, and in a severe, grave tone, replied: "Sir, they have got more dignity than dollars." Pretty fair hits, those, for a backwoodsman.



1. Headley gives no last name for "Sam," but Maitland De Sormo quotes this text in Summers on the Saranacs in a chapter on Sam Dunning, pp. 142-143