Family Stories

John Cunningham, Sr. Biography

Scan032 1When I posted the biography of John Cunningham a week or so ago, I thought it was this gentleman, but fortunately realized my mistake before I added this photo!  Both father and son are interesting!  This Mr. Cunningham owned a horse named Woodpecker.  Did a little research and found he was chestnut stallion, sired by Herod through Miss Ramsden.  Isn’t the internet wonderful?  You can even find bloodlines of thoroughbred horses!  Genealogy for horses!

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

Bourbon County

John Cunningham, deceased, whose portrait appears in this work, may be truthfully said to have been one of the representative men of Bourbon County. He was born June 15, 1795, in Hardy County, Virginia. His parents were Robert and Mary Robinson Cunningham, both of whom were natives of the Old Dominion. Robert was born September 15, 1775. Robert was a son of John Cunningham, a native of Ireland, who immigrated to Virginia prior to the Revolution. Robert was a participant in the Whisky Rebellion of 1794, and served as major; his sword is yet in the hands of grandchildren here in Clintonville. He came to Kentucky in 1796, embarking at Wheeling in a flat boat, and settled on Strode’s Creek, in Clark County. To him were born John, Belinda, Jesse, Abner, Lucinda, Isaac, Jemima, Maria and Mary. John and Abner settled in Bourbon County; Jesse, Isaac and Maria settled in Clark County; Maria became the wife of Andrew Hume; Elizabeth, wife of John Flourney, of Scott County; Mary, of George Carlysle, of Woodford County; Isaac became the father of twenty-three children, but one of the number came to maturity, Rebecca, who married Isaac Vanmeter, of Clark County. John Cunningham, the subject of these lines, was married December 27, 1817, to Mary Bean, a native of this state. She was born September 22, 1796, on Strode’s Creek, in Clark County. She is the daughter of John Bean, and Eva, daughter of Dr. Peter Sensine, a native of Ireland. Mr. Cunningham removed to Bourbon County in 1818, where he spent the greater portion of his life. He was truly a representative man of his time. His early advantages for acquiring an education were very meager, but he made the best of his advantages and studied, and read much. Being a close and steady thinker, a liberal patron of good books, and the public journals, he became at length a well-informed man of the locality. He engaged successfully in farming; was a large land-holder at the time of his death; was very methodical and exact in his farming operations, building fence of the most durable character, stone being his choice, of which he has left many monuments in this line. He did much to encourage the breeding and growth of fine stock – horses seemed his favorite class. He gave especial attention to them, and owned the noted horse “Woodpecker”. He served as a soldier in the War of 1812, and was a warm and ardent admirer of Henry Clay. From 1833 to 1850 he served as Justice of the Peace; in 1853 he began handling short horns, and continued in this interest up to the time of his death. In 1833 he was chosen to represent his county in the legislature, re-elected in 1839, and to the Senate in 1851, ‘2, ‘3 and ‘4. In all matters that pertained to the good of the Commonwealth, John Cunningham ever bore a prominent part; he largely encouraged the building of railroads and pikes; he was free-hearted and unselfish in his aims and purposes, and labored for the good of his county and country generally, and at his death he was mourned as one beloved by all; he passed away peacefully, August 17, 1864. His wife yet survives him on the homestead, upon which lives John and Naomi; Robert and Lewis on farms adjoining.

5 replies »

  1. Thanks for the article. John Cunningham is my 3rd gg. He had a son George Washington Cunningham who had a daughter Naomi Cunningham Dean. She is my great grandmother.

  2. Cunningham *did* own a horse named Woodpecker, but not the one you mentioned, which was an English horse born in 1773 who never came to America. The Woodpecker that Cunningham owned was a Kentucky-bred born in 1828 sired by the great stallion “Bertrand” and out of the mare “Old Buzzard” who was a daughter of the imported stallion “Buzzard” (who was a son of the English Woodpecker, to confuse the issue entirely). The American Woodpecker was an important stallion, and his most famous offspring was the Kentucky champion racehorse Grey Eagle (born 1835 at a farm near Cunningham’s place in Bourbon County) who was also an important stallion. His most famous son was General Lee’s charger “Traveller”.

  3. I am looking for Cpt John Cunningham 1726-1817. Born in MD, moved to KY after Revolutionary War. Wife was Mary Mclan.
    Does anyone have any information on him or them? I am trying to prove that Jane Cunninhgam-Brimberry-Brashears was their daughter.

Any thoughts?

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