Dungey was born about 1820 in King William County and was the son of Joseph Dungey and Elizabeth, or Betsy, Collins Dungey, members of a free family of mixed African, Pamunkey, and white ancestry. Contemporaries spelled his first and last names in a variety of phonetic ways. Autograph signatures rendered in 1871 and 1880 demonstrate that he preferred the spelling Dungey. He may have been related to Shed Dungee, who represented Buckingham and Cumberland counties in the House of Delegates from 1879 to 1882. Some reference works confuse Dungey with John William Dunjee, allegedly a son of John Webb Tyler who was born into slavery, escaped to Canada in 1860, and after the Civil War became a Baptist minister in Virginia, West Virginia, and Oklahoma.
Dungey was a boot- and shoemaker and also practiced cupping and leeching, skills that increased his income and enabled him to buy land. His name appeared in the scant surviving records of King William County for the first time in the 1841 personal property tax returns. In 1847 Dungey purchased a 25-acre farm. By 1851 he owned 90 acres of land in the county and at the time of his death 248 acres. He was successful enough that in addition to paying taxes on his real estate and livestock, he was assessed for his above-average-quality wagons, furniture, clocks, watches, and sewing machines.
In October 1867 the local agent for the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands praised Dungey as a noteworthy community leader who had donated land and provided lumber for constructing a school and also had raised $100 toward the cost of erecting a new church. The agent reported that Dungey planned to teach in the school, and "when he gets his school & church in order he will start a Temperance Movement." In April 1868 Dungey and his wife officially conveyed the land, for the price of one dollar, to be used for the school and church in West Point, in King William County. In September of that year he was mentioned in a Freedmen's Bureau report as being a teacher at the completed school.
On November 7, 1871, Dungey defeated the Conservative Party candidate, with 634 to 530 votes, to win King William County's seat in the House of Delegates. A Republican, Dungey was appointed to the lowest-ranking seat on the Committee of Agriculture and Mining and to a low-ranking seat on the Committee on Officers and Offices at the Capitol. His legislative career, like those of many other inexperienced African American legislators of the time, was relatively undistinguished. Dungey attended and voted regularly but apparently did not make any motions, introduce any bills, offer any resolutions, or participate in debates. On the third day of the assembly he was on the losing side of an 81-to-31 vote on a motion that Richmond ministers, without regard to race, alternately open House sessions with prayer.
Dungey apparently did not seek reelection in 1873. He later ministered at several churches in King William County and in 1880 served as a census enumerator. Dungey died, probably at his King William County farm, on an unrecorded date in August 1884, possibly of Graves' disease. The place of his burial is not known.
ca. 1820 - Jesse Dungey is born free in King William County.
1847 - Jesse Dungey purchases a twenty-five-acre farm in King William County.
1851 - By this year Jesse Dungey owns 90 acres of land in King William County. By his death he will own 248 acres.
October 1867 - A Freedmen's Bureau agent praises Jesse Dungey as a noteworthy community leader in King William County who helped construct a school.
April 1868 - Jesse Dungey and his wife convey land, for $1, to be used for a school and church in West Point, King William County.
September 1868 - Jesse Dungey appears in Freedmen's Bureau records as a teacher at the school in King William County he helped to establish.
November 7, 1871 - Jesse Dungey, a Republican, wins election to the House of Delegates, representing King William County.
December 15, 1871 - Jesse Dungey votes with the majority to suspend payment on Virginia's public debt.
January 5, 1872 - Jesse Dungey votes with the majority in favor of discontinuing the issuance of bonds to fund the public debt.
March 2, 1872 - Jesse Dungey votes with the majority to override the governor's veto of a bill prohibiting the use of coupons to pay taxes and debts.
1873 - Jesse Dungey likely does not seek reelection to the House of Delegates.
1880 - Jesse Dungey, of King William County, serves as a federal census enumerator.
August 1884 - Jesse Dungey dies, probably at his King William County farm.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Jordan, E. L., Jr., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Jesse Dungey (ca. 1820–1884). (2018, April 20). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Dungey_Jesse_ca_1820-1884.
- MLA Citation:
Jordan, Ervin L., Jr. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Jesse Dungey (ca. 1820–1884)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 20 Apr. 2018. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: July 13, 2015 | Last modified: April 20, 2018