Family Stories

John Cunningham Biography

I love reading the stories of the early settlers who came to Kentucky in the days when the journey was perilous!  I marvel at how they not only survived the trip, but flourished in the new land!  True pioneers!

from History of Bourbon, Scott, Harrison and Nicholas Counties, Kentucky, Perrin, 1882

Bourbon County, Kentucky

John Cunningham, farmer; P.O. Paris.  John Cunningham is of Irish descent.  His great-grandfather came from the Emerald Isle and settled in Virginia some time in the early part of the last century.  He had a son Robert, who, impressed with the advantages to be found in a new and rapidly developing country, determined to try his fortunes in Kentucky, toward which the tide of emigration was rapidly flowing.  Accordingly taking passage on a flat boat at Wheeling, he set out for “the dark and bloody ground” for the mastery of which civilization and savage fury was yet contending.  The voyage was a perilous one.  Simon Girty, with his Indian warriors kept watch from either bank of the Ohio, and whenever their frail craft drifted near the shore the sharp report of a rifle was sure to break in upon the scene.  finally, after many adventures the boat arrived at Limestone, as Maysville was then called.  From Maysville he went to Clark County and settled.  Here in 1795 was born to him a son, John Cunningham, who was destined to act a prominent part in the early days of Bourbon County.  He served for many years a Magistrate, and in 1833 was elected to the Legislature, and served until 1840 – a period of seven years.  He represented his district in the State Senate one term, 1851-55.  He was a noted turf-man, and owned among other horses the celebrated Woodpecker, who will be recalled in connection with the great race with Grey Eagle.  He married Mary Bean, daughter of John Bean, of Clark County, who still lives in vigorous mind and health at the green old age of eighty-six years, and sits at the head of the table (beneath the same roof) where she began house-keeping more than sixty years ago.  She is the mother of six living children:  Robert John, James, Louis, William, George and Naomi.  John Cunningham inherited many of the qualities which made his father distinguished.  He is a man of strong common sense, keen discrimination and unswerving honesty.  He has served on the Board of Magistrates for twenty years, and by his vigilant care of the public money has earned the soubriquet of the “Watch Dog of the Treasury”.  He was born the 15th of August, 1820, and resides with his aged mother in the house where he was born.  He owns 140 acres of land and gives his attention to farming and breeding short-horn cattle.  His herd, which was founded in 1851, now contains about thirty-five animals at the head of which is the Second Roan Duke of Oneida; it contains representatives of most of the popular families.  In politics Mr. Cunningham is a staunch Democrat of the Jackson type.

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  1. This is my gig grandfather. John Cunningham had a son named Cap, Cap had a son Lincoln, Lincoln had a son Delbert. Delbert had a son named Abel Cunagin. Abel had a son named Denny Cunagin. Denny is my dad.

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