By Jim Harmon/Missoula Current

This is the residence of Edith and John Dunn on Alvina Drive, a home he built and later remodeled in Missoula’s Rattlesnake Valley.

Mount Jumbo can be seen in the background. If you look closely, you can see an old mine shaft on the hillside to the right of the home.

John E. Dunn was born in Medina, Ohio, in 1871. A carpenter by trade, he ventured west to Missoula in 1890.

John Dunn at 522 Railroad Street, Missoula
John Dunn at 522 Railroad Street, Missoula
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He helped build quite a number of (now) historical buildings in Missoula, including University Hall at the University of Montana and many homes in downtown Missoula and the University District. He was a charter member of the local carpenters union.

But it was his role as an amateur photographer that gave him a lasting place in western Montana history.

The "Dunn Photographs" include “Sacred Heart Academy, Lincoln School, Ravalli Mill, Garden City Brewery, the Missoula County Fairgrounds, the lower Rattlesnake Creek Valley, the University District, the University of Montana campus, and the Higgins Avenue business district between Front and Broadway streets.”

While the images of buildings and locations are interesting to review, his turn-of-the-century images of ordinary people (mainly his family and friends) doing ordinary things are perhaps his best legacy.

John E. Dunn died in 1935.

Here are some of his delightful photos (housed at the Archives and Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library at The University of Montana):

Man drinking beverage on side of dirt road. Dunn, John E., 1871-1935 Circa 1903
Man drinking beverage on side of dirt road. Dunn, John E., 1871-1935 Circa 1903
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Jack (John) Dunn, 31 years old, self-portrait. Dunn is using hand tools and is sharpening a handsaw with a file. 1902
Jack (John) Dunn, 31 years old, self-portrait. Dunn is using hand tools and is sharpening a handsaw with a file. 1902
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Edith Dunn (far left) on steps of Dunn home, Missoula, Montana. 1907
Edith Dunn (far left) on steps of Dunn home, Missoula, Montana. 1907
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Four women and three men. Women appear to be drying dishes. In the far left is a box with the word bread on it.
Four women and three men. Women appear to be drying dishes. In the far left is a box with the word bread on it.
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Edith and John Dunn (far left) on a picnic with another couple 1903.
Edith and John Dunn (far left) on a picnic with another couple 1903.
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Edith and John Dunn and friends fish from a bridge across Rattlesnake Creek, Missoula, Montana. 1903.
Edith and John Dunn and friends fish from a bridge across Rattlesnake Creek, Missoula, Montana. 1903.
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Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at harmonshistories@gmail.com. His best-selling book, “The Sneakin’est Man That Ever Was,” a collection of 46 vignettes of Western Montana history, is available at harmonshistories.com.

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