Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 27, No. 3, Summer 2007, pp. 192-202.
In a column for the Lincoln Courier, a newspaper that actively covered the city's political and artistic scenes in the mid-1890s, William Reed Dunroy writes, "Young poets write what they know; what life has taught them." If his own poetry and imaginative prose are any indication, what Dunroy himself knew best, and cared about most deeply, is the Great Plains region-its weather, landscape, and the lives of its people. Dunroy's career as a poet and a reporter began in Nebraska, and his work is most remarkable when he is writing about the place he loved.
Dunroy has not been overlooked by those investigating or cataloging writers from Nebraska or the Great Plains, but little in depth study of his work has been undertaken. In the Nebraska Centennial Literary Map and Guide to Nebraska Authors, Bernice Kauffman describes Dunroy as follows: "A critic and poet, Mr. Dunroy wrote for the Lincoln Courier in the 1890s. He published three volumes of poetry." According to the criteria for inclusion used by Emily Jane Udzendoski, who lists Dunroy's three major works in a brief entry in A Handlist of Nebraska Authors, he qualifies as a "non-native writer." In the preface to her study, Udzendoski distinguishes between two types of non-native writers: "(1) those writers not born in Nebraska who were resident in the state for at least ten years and (2) those writers not born in Nebraska who, though residents for fewer than ten years, published works with subject matter of particular interest to Nebraska and the Great Plains region." Although it is fair to include Dunroy as a member of the former category, his work is most interesting when discussed in terms of the latter.
Dunroy may initially seem an unlikely candidate for inclusion among Great Plains poets. He was born in Galesburg, Illinois, on October 1, 1869, to Reed Dunroy and Catherine Sarah Davis Dunroy. His mother was born in Indiana, his father in New Jersey. Although his parents were married on September 13, 1868, there is a possibility that William Dunroy was not his parents'-or at least his father's-first child. Reed Dunroy is listed as the father of several children listed as only "Son Dunroy" who were born in Illinois in 1865, 1866, and 1868. None of these records names the mother more specifically than "Mrs. Dunroy," and William does not seem to have had any surviving siblings. Dunroy was raised in northwestern Iowa, attended one year of high school in South Omaha, and is first listed in the South Omaha city directory in 1889 when he was twenty. The last time he is recorded as a resident of the Great Plains is in 1900, and by 1905 he was employed by the Chicago Record; he died in that city in 1921 at the age of forty-five. All told, there is sufficient evidence to substantiate Dunroy's residence in Nebraska for only eleven years. However, those eleven years were undeniably productive ones for him, and much of his poetry and prose from this time amply demonstrate the influence that the Great Plains, and Nebraska more specifically, exerted on his imagination.