Joseph Dunlap is responsible for incorporating the village in 1878; however, in 1874, he built his home on the former Kaw Reservation lands. Dunlap had risen to prominence as a trader on the Kansa Indian Reservation and the Santa Fe Trail. Before its present name, the settlement was briefly known as Hillsboro. A post office was established in Hillsborough on March 19, 1874 then renamed to Dunlap on April 20, 1874. In 1878, Benjamin "Pap" Singleton chose Dunlap as the site for his second Singleton Colony, a community of freedmen who had migrated from Tennessee, because of land available under the Homestead Act. In the early 1880s, the Presbyterian Church in Dunlap founded the Freedmen's Academy to provide an education to freedmen's families in Kansas. The Academy closed in the mid-1890s. The post office in Dunlap closed on August 12, 1988.

This is a photograph of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in Dunlap, Kansas. Date: 1933 Courtesy: KS Historic Society Item Number: 228676 Call Number: 2013-122 KSHS Identifier: DaRT ID: 228676