Friday, October 12, 2018

The Cunninghams of Clark County

I was pleased to see a recent "NICE SEEING YOU AGAIN ROBERT" comment by Phil Cunningham attached to the blog "The Merry Cricket" (29 Sep 2015). Phil is the great great grandson of William H. and Mary Ann (Reed) Cunningham, an Ohio-born couple who founded the Clark County Cunninghams. It turns out that he and I are third cousins (through Jackson Lowry) and also fourth cousins (through Nathaniel Sweet). Way back in 2003, when I was still very much a family history novice, Phil shared with me the research he had done on the “Descendants of Fairy Lowry,” which included Cunningham history, helping me unravel the genealogy of James Cunningham, husband of Mary Mallory, daughter of Emma Tapscott.

“Gertie,” Ruby, and Mary Mallory, daughters of Emma Tapscott, were heavily involved in early nineteenth-century Possum Ridge teenage society. (Possum Ridge School was located in Anderson Twp, Clark County, about two miles southeast of Freedom Baptist Church across Hurricane Creek.) Among their friends were Ruth, Reba, and Joy Cunningham, cousins of James Cunningham. So, of course, it was inevitable that Emma and William Mallory’s youngest child, Mary (born 8 Sep 1903) should meet James.

Born in Marshall, Illinois, 23 Dec 1899, James (“Jim”) Cunningham was one of eight children of Andrew (“Andy”) and Elizabeth Catherine (Smitley) Cunningham, a Clark County farm family. In his younger days, James worked as a farmhand in nearby Humboldt and as a general laborer. In 1923 he was working for American Car Company, a streetcar manufacturer, when he and Mary were married 3 July at the home of Rev. R. (Reuben) S. Wheeldon in Auburn.

The married couple soon returned from their first home in St. Louis back to Clark County, moving from farm to farm—in 1924 to the Charles Cline farm in the Freedom area of Anderson Twp, by 1930 to live with Mary’s widowed father, William, by 1933 to the farm of Mary’s widowed aunt Edna Tapscott when Edna briefly moved to Marshall, and in that same year to “Mr. Hollenbeck’s farm.”

But farming was not for James. By 1933 he had joined R. S. Wheeldon, the preacher at his wedding, in running the Wheeldon and Cunningham grocery on Marshall’s Main Street. Although the market was almost destroyed in a fire that year, James continued in the business, which became the James Cunningham Market after Wheeldon moved to Palestine, Illinois.

Rev. Reuben S. Wheeldon was a leading figure in the Pilgrim Holiness Church, founding during his life, churches at several locations including Marshall, Palestine, and West Terre Haute. Known for his tent-meeting revivals, he ran grocery stores in many of those towns, selling groceries during the day and preaching nights and weekends. Working alongside Wheeldon, James Cunningham became increasingly active in the Pilgrim Holiness Church. In 1934 he served as a church delegate to a conference in Frankfort, Indiana, in 1935 he was visiting other towns as an evangelist while continuing work in Marshall as a “merchant,” and in 1937 he was made a deacon and a trustee of the local church. In 1938 James was the pastor of Asbury Pilgrim Holiness Church, about four miles north of Greenup, Illinois.

The Pantograph, Bloomington, Illinois, 7 Apr 1947.
In 1940 James was studying at Bible Holiness Seminary in Owassa, Michigan, while his wife was doing laundry. From then on the family moved from place to place while James served as pastor and/or evangelist in Robinson, Illinois, Dryden, Michigan, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Joliet, Illinois. Then, in 1956, he was offered the position of pastor of the Fort Lauderdale church in Florida, the state in which he spent the rest of his life.

Mary (Mallory) Cunningham passed away in Pinellas County, Florida, on 11 or 12 Apr 1970 and was interred in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Clark County. James lived another three years before dying 27 Aug 1973 in Melbourne, Florida. His last position was pastor of the Wesleyan Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Holiness Church having merged with the Wesleyan Methodists in 1968. He was laid to rest alongside Mary.