The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence dating from 1855 until 1882.
The letters for the years 1855 through 1859 deal with a violated contract concerning the hiring of slaves to cut trees for lumber. The correspondence follows the events until a suit for damages is filed in the State court.
There is a lack of correspondence for the war years, but it resumes in 1865. Two letters deal with the political situation in North Carolina immediately following the war. One concerns delegates and issues of the 1865 Constitutional Convention while the other, from Governor W. W. Holden, requests names of prospective political appointees for Halifax County. Other letters for 1865 concern Dunn's coming marriage to Ann Eliza Curtis of Portland, Maine.
Other correspondence for the post-Civil War years is related to business. Dunn proposed to take George Curtis, a member of his wife's family, as a business partner; and much of the correspondence is from Curtis concerning merchandise needed and ordered to expand the enterprise. There are also discussions of prices for supplies, speculation on the market, new equipment being used in the lumber business, and means of transporting goods from the North.
Letters from the year 1872 deal with the Grant-Greeley presidential campaign in Portland, Maine, and debates and rallies are described in some detail. A connection between the Dunn family and Horace Greeley is also mentioned. Other correspondence deals with family affairs, travel in the 1870s, the changes taking place in Portland, a Northerner's reluctance to move South due to hostile Southern opinion following the war, and the problems of finding adequate housing in Maine in 1866.
Also included in the collection are contracts and financial papers dealing with Dunn's business enterprises. There is a contract (1855) between Benjamin Johnson and Nathaniel Dunn for the hiring of slaves to cut timber and a sworn statement concerning the delivery of lumber as contracted to S. G. Bogart for the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. The financial papers consist of orders for supplies for the store in Enfield signed by Dunn or George Curtis.
Two daybooks found in the collection record work done in the mill, the supplies bought, and the accounts of store customers for the years 1844 through 1860 and 1864 through 1866.
Miscellaneous items consist of a notice for the Hillsboro (North Carolina) Military Academy in 1877 concerning its courses, charges, and testimonials to its standards; three tintypes; an advertisement for Smith's Illustrated Pattern Bazaar and a Raleigh
News and Observer for April 4, 1889.