Benjamin P. Dunning came from a seafaring and merchant family located in the vicinity of
Brunswick, Maine. Before heading to California during the gold rush, Benjamin Dunning was
master of sailing vessels and involved in the building of his own ships, which caused
considerable financial distress. He came to California shortly before 1853, while his mother
Abagail B. Dunning, father James Dunning (born 1793), sister Abby, and brothers Hiram A.
Dunning (born 1825), and Clement S. Dunning (born 1833) remained in Maine. While in
California, Benjamin, along with his uncle John Merryman, mined for gold and pursued
endeavors such as buying and selling claims, running a blacksmith shop, and operating a
sawmill. Benjamin returned to Maine between 1855-1858 to become master of the brig Ben
Dunning. Eventually Benjamin convinced his brother Hiram, his wife Mary Frances, and brother
Clement to join him in California. Although he returned to Maine periodically, Benjamin
Dunning remained in California for much of the rest of his life.
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