The Dunaway family name has played an extensive role in the history of Ellis County and Waxahachie. Various branches of the family have sprung from the lineage of Samuel and Polly Dunaway, natives of Virginia, former citizens of Tennessee, and pioneers to Texas. In 1866, at the close of the Civil War, the senior Dunaways moved to Texas with their children. The Samuel Dunaways were the parents of eleven children: Catherine, Clem, Foster, Jefferson, Mary, Jane, Eli, Lucinda, Eliza, Caroline, and Bashala. Eli died from cholera on the journey to Texas. Polly Dunaway, the mother, died soon after their arrival. Samuel, a Baptist Missionary preacher, died in 1878 and was interred with his wife in the burying grounds of the Lebanon community in Collin County.
Their son, Jefferson Madison Dunaway, had previously set out from Tennessee in late 1849 to join the gold rush in California. However, upon his arrival in Dallas, the mare he had been riding gave birth to a mule colt, so he settled in as a pants cutter in a tailor shop. There he cut a suit of clothes from sturdy denim material for the United States Senator Sam Houston, a long-time friend of the family. Through an advantageous trade with a veteran of the War of 1812, Jefferson swapped his old mare and her colt for 640 acres on Chambers Creek in newly formed Ellis County. In 1851, he moved his affairs to the Farmers Branch community of Dallas County, where he worked as a farmhand for ten dollars in monthly wages. While employed there, Jefferson Dunaway made the acquaintance of the E.M. Brack family, on its way from Alabama to settle in Ellis County. As a result of this brief encounter, Dunaway became enamored of Miss Sarah Ann Brack, whom he swore to meet again. In 1853, Dunaway set off for Waxahachie to locate his 640 acres.
As providence would have it, his acreage adjoined that of E.M. Brack, then serving as Ellis County Judge. Jefferson Dunaway soon became overseer of Brack's farm, where he continued his courtship of the young Sarah Ann. Jefferson Dunaway and Sarah Ann Brack were married in 1854. Ellis County pioneers Jefferson Madison and Sarah Ann Brack Dunaway had eight children, all sons. Their names were: William Jefferson, Eugene Jefferson, John Foster, Jefferson Richard, Samuel Madison, James Brack, John Emsley, and Ota Brack. The historic family home, built by Jefferson Madison Dunaway for his bride in 1855, still stands seven miles southwest of Waxahachie in the Bethel community. The fourth son, Jefferson Richard (J.R.), inherited the family homestead with his wife, Jo Anna Forrester, whom he had married in 1896.
The J.R. Dunaways had four children, three daughters, and a son. They are Sarah Maurine, Frances Lois, Ruth Lewelyn, and the late Richard Waldo. Waldo Dunaway inherited the family home from his parents in 1943. Succeeding generations of the family have maintained the 132-year-old structure in impeccable condition. It was recorded as a Texas Historic Landmark in 1970 and a medallion plate was permanently placed near its front entrance.
Dunaway Elementary School will serve the community pioneered by Jefferson Madison and Sarah Ann Brack Dunaway in the 1850s. The land on which the campus stands was purchased by the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees in January 1986 from the descendants of the Dunaway family.