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Governor Daniel Dunklin


Governor Daniel Dunklin

The view from Governor Dunklin's Grave State Historic Site

Daniel Dunklin, the fifth governor of Missouri, was born near Greenville, South Carolina on January 14, 1790. His early education was attained in the common schools of his native state.

Dunklin moved to Missouri, settling with his widowed mother at Mine-a-Breton, near Potosi, in 1810. He later studied law, and was admitted to the Missouri bar. During the War of 1812, he served in the Missouri territorial militia, fighting in several campaigns in Illinois and Missouri.

After his military service, Dunklin worked in the farming and mining industries in Potosi, Missouri. In July 1822, a group of delegates from Washington County met at Dunklin's Tavern and nominated Dunklin to run for representative to the state legislature. Dunklin was elected and served in the legislature from 1822 to 1823.

Following his term, he spent the next four years in Potosi, living off profitable investments in the mines. He returned to politics in 1828 and was lieutenant governor.

In 1832, Dunklin secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was elected Missouri's fifth governor. While Dunklin was governor, the Platte Purchase added additional land to northwestern Missouri. During his tenure, construction plans for a state penitentiary were approved, the state debt was reduced, and nine new counties were formed.

Dunklin is often called the father of Missouri's school system. He sought to establish public schools on a firm and stable basis. In 1835, the General Assembly passed a law establishing the public school system in Missouri. The law outlined the minimum school year, established the basic curriculum, and allowed for local taxation to support schools. In the field of higher education, Dunklin recommended in 1834 that a site for a state university be chosen and partially funded through the sale of land. Five years later, the University of Missouri became a reality.

Gov. Dunklin resigned his office three months before the end of his term, to accept an appointment as U.S. surveyor general of Missouri and Illinois from President Andrew Jackson, a post he held four years. The discharge of his surveyor's duties conflicted with his business, and he retired to Potosi.

In 1840, he sold his holdings at Potosi and moved to the Herculaneum area, where he built a large house that he called Maje. In 1843, Dunklin was appointed by Governor Thomas Reynolds as commissioner to adjust and designate the boundary between Missouri and Arkansas. He held this appointment until his death on July 25, 1844, from pneumonia. He was buried two days later in a field near Maje. In 1851, his wife was buried with him at Maje. Dunklin's son, James L. Dunklin, inherited the estate upon the death of his mother. Not as successful in business as his father, James was forced to sell the estate. In 1885, the sale of the estate had one acre reserved on the only part James owned, free and clear. This was to become the present Dunklin Cemetery. Following the sale, Daniel and Emily were exhumed and reinterred in this cemetery.

The Missouri State Park Board agreed on Aug. 25, 1965, to accept the cemetery for the purpose of erecting and maintaining "a memorial park in remembrance of Daniel Dunklin…" This site was the forerunner of the statute enacted in 1967 "to suitably mark every grave of a former governor of this state and to maintain every grave of a former governor within this state which is not within a perpetual care cemetery." The Missouri Department of Natural Resources oversees Dunklin's Grave. The gravesite sits atop the limestone bluffs that overlook the Mississippi River and interpretive signage has information on Dunklin's life and his role in Missouri's history.

Visiting the Governor Daniel Dunklin's Grave State Historic Site

This historic site is open during daylight hours only.

Directions: The Governor Dunklin gravesite is located at the north end of Herculaneum. From US-61/671 turn onto Joachim Street and head into town, bearing left at the stop sign and fork. About a 1/4 mile after the stop sign, turn left onto Dunklin Drive. The cemetery is at the terminus of Dunklin Drive. The path to the site is handicapped accessible.

Governor Daniel Dunklin's Grave