TRACING OUR CUNNINGHAM HISTORY
Researched and Contributed by Kenn Cunningham
We have found definitive records to verify that the James Cunningham found on the 1850 census of Gibson County, Tennessee is the ancestor of our Cunningham line. We have copies of the Gibson County tax list of 1838 and later tax lists to show that James was there by then and that his oldest son William Henry was named as well. Finally, we have copies of some pages of a family Bible record held by oldest son William Henry that names some of the births, deaths, and marriages of this Cunningham line. I believe there are copies of this Bible to be found at the Gordon Browning Historical Museum in McKenzie, TN, which is near the old home area that William Henry Cunningham may have lived in. It appears to me that James (the father of William Henry and four other sons) first lived in the Holly Leaf-Skullbone area when he moved his family here from the Spartanburg, South Carolina area by 1838. The sons I attribute to (1777-1855) are as follows, and all are found on the 1850 census in Gibson Co. TN:
1) William Henry (b: 1808 in SC and d: 1889 - wed Masilda LITTLE in 1834 in SC)
2) Thomas Howard (b: 1811 in SC and d:1888 - wed Lucy Jane (SMITH) Crafton in 1850 Gibson Co. TN)
3) John A. (b: 1823 in SC and d: ? in TN - wed Mary HAMPTON in 1845 in Gibson Co. TN)
4) James Jr. (b: 1826 in SC and d: after 1880 - wed Mary WHITE in ?
5) Greenberry (b:1830 in Spartanburg,SC and d: 1914 - wed Mrs. Nancy MARTIN 1853 in Gibson Co. TN)
On that 1850 census of Gibson Co. TN 17th district we find the father James Cunningham (age 76 and born in PA) listed as a head of household, and living with him are his youngest son Green (age 18) and his 2ndoldest (and newly married) son Thomas H. (age 40). Living right next door is 4th son James Jr. (age 24 and married). Also in Gibson County is John A. (age 27 and born in SC), who wed Mary HAMPTON in 1845. Lastly, we find oldest son William Henry (age 41 and born in SC) living in nearby Carroll County in the 1stdistrict (Lavinia) with his wife and 7 children. In later decades census record will show that son James Jr. lists his birthplace as South Carolina as well. A family story handed down from 2nd son Thomas H. indicates that the father James may have died between 1853-1857 and that all of the property was handed down to the oldest son William Henry. We find that Thomas H. moved his family to St. Mary, MO about that time, and that youngest son Green Berry moved his family to Round Pond (Independence County), AR by 1860. It seems that sons William Henry and John A. stayed in the original area of Gibson/Weakley/Carroll counties and farmed there all of their lives. We will find 3rd son John A. living in Weakley County 16th district by 1860 and back to Gibson County 17th district in 1870 and 1880 (the Skullbone area). The Bible records from the William Henry Cunningham family show that he and his immediate family lived and died in the Carroll County area, and many are buried in the old Shiloh Cemetery near the Milan Arsenal. It is thought that John A. Cunningham (the 3rd son) is buried at the old Camp Ground Cemetery, along with his father James and other of this line. There are no marked gravestones that I have found.
I believe we have identified the father of James as well. I have found the will of Henry Cunningham (?-1802) in Union County, SC and in this document he listed his children. The first child listed is named James, along with other sons William, Robert, Henry and Arthur and daughters Elizabeth and Mary. To further cement my theory of this being the father of James, I found the will of Thomas HOWARD in the same county, as his will listed daughter Mary Cunningham, which would likely mean she was married to James Cunningham. We will note that James and Mary Cunningham likely named their children after their ancestors, with 1st son William Henry likely named after his father and his grandfather (William, father of Henry) and 2nd son Thomas has a middle name after his mother’s maiden name (Howard). I have also found the will of a William Cunningham in the Harrisburg, PA area that listed a son named Henry, but it is just reasonable speculation on my part that this is the proper family of Henry at this point. And by looking at the names of Henry’s children it does make logical sense that they were named after ancestors - look at the likely connections:
Henry Cunningham’s sons listed in his will:-James-William (could be named after Henry’s father- matching the William found in Harrisburg, PA)-Robert-Henry (this name later appears in James’ oldest son -William Henry)-Arthur (this name also found in William’s children, as he named a son Arthur)
The oldest son of James was William Henry Cunningham (born 1808-SC) and is well-documented. We have many census records, the pages of the family Bible, and county marriage records to work with. All of William Henry’s children were born and married in Carroll County, TN. It appears that he held about 1,000 acres six miles east of Milan, TN along what is now Highway 104 and near the Milan arsenal. It is said he gave each of his eight children 100 acres when they married. William Henry married Masilda LITTLE in 1834, and her family was from South Carolina. There is a descendant of this line named Jack Cunningham that lives in Milan today (and there may be others).
The 2nd son of James was named Thomas Howard Cunningham (born 1811-SC). The name of “Howard” came from the maiden name of the wife of James, who was Mary HOWARD, and it seems the first name of“Thomas” came from his mother’s father, who was Thomas HOWARD. So it appears likely to me that the oldest son was named after his grandfather Cunningham (Henry). Thomas Howard Cunningham wed a widow named Lucy Jane (Smith) Crafton in Gibson Co. TN in July of 1850. Lucy Jane was a child of George SMITH, who is found on the 1840 census living near James Cunningham. She had married Fountain CRAFTON and had a son with him named William Washington. He eventually moved to Somerville, TN to live near his mother Lucy Jane’s relatives. Thomas H. and Lucy Jane moved to St. Mary, MO about 1855 and had 8 children. It appears that Lucy Jane died about 1872 and may be buried in St. Mary but I cannot find the grave or any records. After her death Thomas Howard Cunningham moved to Portageville, MO to live with his brother-in-law John ARBUCKLE until his death about 1888. It is believed that Thomas was buried in the Arbuckle family graveyard on the ranch, but that graveyard was destroyed when the state ran Highway 55 by Portageville (according to Arbuckle family researchers). Some of the children of Thomas lived near Caruthersville & Hayti, MO while others moved into the Paragould, AR area. We have good records of most of the children and can trace their children as well. One of the great grandsons of Thomas left his written record of family history and it was very helpful with this report.
The 3rd son of James was John A. Cunningham. I am guessing the initial “A” may have stood for “Alexander” but only because we see that name in the family of John’s brother Thomas’ son. John (born 1823-SC) married Mary HAMPTON in Gibson Co. TN in 1845. They had 6 children, naming their twin sons Thomas and James (born 1846 in Gibson Co. Tn). Their 3rd son was named Joseph, and descendants of his direct line still live in and near Bradford and Trezevant, TN. The last child born to John and Mary was named Mary Elizabeth, and she was destined to marry her first cousin Janies Alexander Cunningham, the oldest son of Thomas Howard Cunningham. This marriage took place in Gibson Co. TN in 1878 but they later moved to Knob, AR about 1897, where they stayed until their death. Both James and Mary (nicknamed “Sug”) are buried at Purcell Cemetery in Rector, AR. The line of James & Mary moved to California. Most of the children of John A. Cunningham stayed in the area of Skullbone, TN and there are some descendants in the area now.
The 4th son was named James Jr., (after his father). He married Mary WHITE and is found on the 1850 census of Gibson Co. TN living next door to his father. On the 1860 census he is in district 17 of Gibson Co. and in 1870 he is in district 2 of Carroll County TN (which would be just northwest of Trezevant). This family later moved to the Caruthersville area of Pemiscot county, Missouri by 1880 and several children married there by 1890. I have lost track of most of the family.
The 5th and youngest son of James was Greenberry Cunningham. His death certificate shows that he was born in Spartanburg, SC in 1830. He married the widow Mrs. Nancy MARTIN in Gibson Co. TN in 1853 and had moved to Round Pond, AR by the 1860 census. By 1870 Greenberry had moved to the Caruthersville, MO area, where he lived out his life. He had 8 children with Nancy, and upon her death in 1876 he married the widow of his oldest son Wilson L. “Bud” Cunningham (who had been killed by a horse). With this wife (Mary STAPLETON) he had 7 more children, most whom stayed in the same area. There are some pictures of Greenberry and his large family that exist, and many descendants are to be found but now scattered.
James also had at least two daughters. A daughter named Mary (age 22) is found on the 1850 census living with her father James but I have found no other information about her. The other daughter was Eleanor, (age 18) found on the same 1850 census, and I am guessing it is she who married a W.L. Cunningham in Gibson Co. TN in 1858. I know nothing of this W.L. Cunningham, other than he married Malissa Jane Cunningham in 1870, which would indicate Eleanor had died. Whose family that Malissa came from is not known to me at this time, nor is any information on W. L. Cunningham's background.
There is some information from the Union County, South Carolina area that helps us track our Cunningham family. Many of the Cunningham family members of the early Gibson county era married people that had South Carolina connections. Although I can find no record of it I think that James Cunningham likely wed his wife Mary HOWARD in the Spartanburg, SC area. I have a copy of the will of Thomas HOWARD (who was Mary’s father) from that location, and there are other clues regarding the family line there. It is unfortunate that many court houses (and their records) were burned down during the Civil War, and their information lost. Some of the other families that commingled with our Cunninghams and had South Carolina connections was the HAMPTON family, the WHITE family, the LITTLE family and the CROCKER family.
His parents, James Henry & Elizabeth JONES Cunningham moved the family to Union County, SC by 1780.
On the 1840 Census he was living in Gibson County, TN., where he remained and raised his family. The best we can tell, he had five sons and three daughters. James Henry born 1812 may be their son, since they usually named a son after their fathers.
Most of them scattered to the four winds. My husband's great great-grandfather, William Henry stayed in TN and raised his family in Carroll County, TN.
James B & Mary's daughter Eleanor White CUNNINGHAM married William Lewis Cunningham on September 8, 1868 in Gibson County, TN and reared her family there. I have not been able to find any information on her sisters, Mary and Belle.
It appears four of their sons moved to Missouri. Thomas Jefferson moved from Gibson County, TN to Beauvias, St Genevieve County, MO sometime after the 1850 Census. John A went to Mill Creek, Bourbon County, KS after the 1880 Census.
James Milton married Mary Ann WHITE. They have not been found. Greenberry B went to Little Prairie, Pemiscot County, MO before the 1870 Census.
by Maredia H C
Mary Howard Cunningham