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John Dunn

By | Last Modified: January 24, 2018

John Platt Dunn III was a pioneering Bismarck businessman and pharmacist, and father to the pioneering Doctor Fannie Quain. He opened one of Bismarck’s first businesses in 1872 and North Dakota’s first drug store. He also was Bismarck’s mayor and one of Burleigh County’s first commissioners.

Dunn was born in 1839 on a farm in Indiana, which is now the site of Indiana University Hospital. He fought with the Union during the Civil War with his cousin, General George P. Buell (who later is the namesake of Dunn’s grandson).

He married Christina Seely from New Brunswick, Canada in 1872, the same year the pair relocated to the new town of Edwinton (now Bismarck). Upon arriving, he became aquainted with fellow businessman Asa Fisher and established a general store immediately next door to Fisher’s new billiard hall on Main Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets. It was one of Bismarck’s first businesses.

It’s unclear whether Dunn’s store was a drug store upon inception, but it had a druggist classification by 1873, making it the first drug store in what is now North Dakota.

Dunn’s wife, Christina, owned the first sewing machine in the new town, which presented them with the opportunity to sell locally made dresses and hats from their general store.

The Dunn store was destroyed by the 1877 fire that swept through downtown Bismarck. With about a week Instead, Dunn purchased and relocated the former Congregational Church to re-open on the same site.

Dunn was one of Burleigh County’s first commissioners when it was formed in 1873, and he was elected mayor in 1884.


Howard County was renamed Dunn County in 1883 for John Dunn.

Dunn’s daughter, Doctor Fannie Quain, also left a lasting legacy in her own right.

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