Undoubtedly there has been no more important agency in the development of any country than the great work done through civil engineering, and the men who have possessed the judgment and foresight, combined with the necessary technical knowledge, have accomplished results that have changed the life and commerce of not only localities but of nations. No reference need be made in this connection to the lately completed Roosevelt Dam, nor of the present stupendous operations at Panama, for much nearer home changes have been wrought that have proved of the utmost importance to present and future residents of Illinois, and those who have brought them about still live and. plan worthily for further endeavor. Joel Dunn, who is acknowledged to have done very much efficient work, in the way of drainage engineering, is one of the competent, experienced and trusted men of his profession. He was born January 20, 1846, near Lovington, in Moultrie county, Illinois, and is a son of Thomas and Catherine (Freeman) Dunn. Thomas Dunn was born in 1813 at Clarksville, Indiana, of Kentucky people, although on the maternal side the ancestry was directly of Holland.
On account of the early death of his father, Thomas Dunn was reared by his grandfather and in 1833 he came to Moultrie county, Illinois, where he embarked in the stock business and engaged in farming. In 1859 he moved to Bement, Piatt county, entering then into the general mercantile business, which he continued to follow until he retired, his death occurring ten years afterward, in 1878. He was a Democrat in politics and as an intelligent man was always more or less interested in public matters. He was an elder in the Campbellite (Christian) church. In 1843 he married Catherine Freeman, of Moultrie county, who died in May, 1907, at the age of eighty-three years. Of their family of ten children there are three survivors: Joel; Mrs. Betty Kelly, residing at Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Mrs. James Hicks, residing at Monticello, Illinois.
Joel Dunn was thirteen years of age when the family located at Bement, Illinois, where he continued to attend the public schools until properly prepared for more advanced studies, when he entered Eureka College, at Eureka, Illinois, where he was graduated in 1871, with the degree of B. S.. For two years afterward he engaged in the study of law and practiced considerably in the justice courts, for eight years was a school teacher and for two years was a farmer, and just here it may be mentioned that he owns a large farm in Jackson county to which he proposes to retire when he feels satisfied with the work he has completed as an engineer. About 1885 he began working as a drainage engineer in central Illinois and it was Mr. Dunn who made the surveys for the greater amount of ditching in the northern part of the Kaskaskia valley. During the past dozen years he has been continuously busy in Scott and New Madrid counties, Missouri, his present labors being in Jackson county as the engineer of the Degoria & Fountain Bluff Levee and Drainage district.
In 1876 Mr. Dunn was married to Miss Josephine Smith, and they had three children, as follows: Joel Ernest, who was born in 1879, graduated from the University of Illinois, with his degree of C. E., and resides at Dexter, Missouri; Thomas, who was born in 1886, is also a civil engineer .and is his father's assistant, living at Fordyce; and Eugenia, who is Mrs. B. D. Berkhart, residing at Gideon, Missouri. Mr. Dunn's second marriage was to Mrs. Mary E. Lyon. They attend the Christian church. In politics Mr. Dunn is a Democrat.