Cunningham Connection

Cunningham Coat of Arms

Cunningham Coat of Arms

      Coat of Arms: Silver with a black shakefork. Motto: Over Fork Over.

The coat of arms of the Cunninghams usually features rabbits, which lends credence to the theory that the name came from a Scots term for rabbit (coney). The Cunningham district in Ayrshire, Scotland is so-named for Robertus Cunningham, who received the grant of the lands of Cunningham  1160-1180. Some argue that the name originated with Malcolm, one of the sons of the Flemish knight Freskin. The Cunninghams fought for Scotland during the Scottish War of Independence under Robert the Bruce. Despite this, the family appeared on the Ragman Roll of 1296 pledging loyalty to King Edward I. Bruce rewarded the Cunninghams with land in Lamburgton, added to Kilmaurs in 1319.

During the uprisings of the 17th century, the 9th Earl of Glencairn (the Cunningham title) fought for King Charles II of England (the grandson of James I of England, James VI of Scotland), a Catholic, against the Protestant Roundheads. In 1653 Cunningham raised an army of Highlanders for Charles and voiced his ambition to raise Scotland against Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell’s army defeated the king and the Cunninghams were forced to leave Scotland for Ireland. After the Restoration, Cunningham was appointed Lord Chancellor of Scotland and died in 1664.

Ulster Settlement Map

Ulster Settlement Map

During the 17th century the Cunninghams left Scotland to become part of The Plantation of Ulster. This was an effort by English kings to control the ‘Irish problem’ by stealing lands from the Irish Catholics and giving or selling the lands to Scottish Presbyterians and some English Anglicans. The English thought that the Scots and Irish would intermarry—which they did—and the Protestant Scots would keep the Irish Catholics docile to their overlords. It didn’t work, but it did lead to the evolution of the bravest and strongest fighting men and women, the Scots-Irish, many of whom would go to the New World, fight a revolution, and create a democratic republic.

My mother’s paternal grandmother was 1.Mary Ann Cunningham (b. 21 March 1842 in Indian Creek, Harrison or Ritchie Co, VA; d. 4 Jan 1929 in

Mary Ann Cunningham Mullenax

Mary Ann Cunningham Mullenax

Girton, Ritchie Co, WV; married to 1a.Jacob Mullenax (1842-1892) 23 Sept 1865 in Ritchie Co, WV). Mary Ann and husband Jacob, along with Jacob’s older brother Washington J. Mullenax and his wife and family, moved to Sherman, Putnam Co, MO (where Jacob’s father Solomon and stepmother Susan Moats had moved). Some of their children were born in MO, but Jacob and Mary Ann moved back to Ritchie Co, WV in the 1870s and stayed there until their deaths. After Jacob’s death from consumption (tuberculosis), acquired during his army service in the Civil War, Mary Ann applied for and received a Widow’s Pension from the government. My grandfather Melvin was just 9 years old when his father died. Likewise, Mary Ann had been only 10 when her own mother passed on.

1.Mary Ann Cunningham was the daughter of 2a.Mary Ann Clevenger (1822-1852) and 2.Abraham Cunningham (b. 14 Nov 1806 in Harrison, Charles Co, VA; d. 16 Sept 1886 in Harrison, Charles Co, WV; married Mary Ann Clevenger 1 Jan 1840 in Harrison and m. Rachel Minney 23 Dec 1853 in Ritchie Co, VA). Like many of the Cunninghams, Abraham was a farmer. His parents were 3a.Anne Randall (1757-1817?) and 3.Walter Cunningham (b. Dec 1749 in Dublin, County Mayo, Ireland; d. Simpsons Creek, Harrison Co, VA; married Hannah Leith in 1768 in Harrison, and married Anne Randall 23 Dec 1804). Walter had 12 children with Hannah Leith, who died in 1803, and had four children with Anne Randall. Walter Cunningham served in the Virginia colonial militia before the break with England and fought in the Revolutionary War and was placed on the pension rolls on 2 Feb 1833 for his service as a private in the VA Militia. His pension was $20 a month. He enlisted in Shenandoah Co, VA in 1776 and served six months under Captains Scott and Rador in the Virginia Line. He had supporting affidavits from Gass Winters and Anthony Kuhn. He was stricken from the pension rolls in March, 1835, probably because he died. 

Walter was one of the Scots-Irish Protestants born and raised in Ireland who emigrated to the US and fought in the Revolutionary War as well as in the French and Indian Wars, the War of 1812, and pioneered this country. He came from Ireland with his parents and brothers. Walter was one of about 16 children; his mother was 4a.Nancy O’Neil (O’Neal) (1712-1807) and his father was 4.Hugh B. Cunningham (b. 1708 in Dublin, County Mayo, Ireland; d. 1789 in Bingamon Creek, Harrison Co, VA or 9 Aug 1782 in Battle of Blue Lick, Madison Co, KY; married Nancy O’Neil in 1728 in Ireland).

With their 8 sons Hugh B. Cunningham and wife Nancy O’Neill (O’Neal)  took ship at Dublin, IRE for America, finally landing in Fairfax Co, VA, near Alexandria, in 1748. Adam, Walter, Edward, and Thomas came to Harrison Co, VA.  Hugh died at the Battle of Blue Licks, KY during the Revolutionary War. Walter and his brothers settled on the banks of the Potomac, Fairfax, VA; after the Revolutionary War, they came to Harrison Co, VA and patented large tracts of land under the “tomahawk title” on Bingamon Creek.

[Unproven speculation: Many historical sources state that Hugh Cunningham was killed in the Battle of Blue Licks, KY, but they may be in error. Would a 74-year-old man be readily accepted into the Militia? The battle was preceded by a 44-mile night ride through the wilderness. Not a likely feat for an elderly man. Also, there is no record of Alexander’s son Hugh migrating to KY. Recent info suggests that the Hugh Cunningham involved in the Blue Licks battle was a much younger man, b. abt. 1741 and dying in 1820 in Lincoln Co, KY. His will was probated Dec 1820, leaving each of his sons, Thomas, James, and John, a third of his estate. A grandson was also mentioned. His wife’s name may be Elizabeth. The Hugh of Blue Licks was captured, not killed. This Hugh (b. 1740, d. 1819) was probably the son of Jacob and grandson of James Cunningham. He settled in Augusta Co, VA near Solon, north of Staunton.]

This Hugh (not my 4th great grandfather) and his family suffered two Indian raids by the Shawnees, in 1762 and 1764. His parents were killed in the 1st raid and his daughter, although scalped, lived through the ordeal. On the 2nd raid, the Indians discovered the young girl who had been scalped previously. This being quite a trophy, they took her back to camp and paraded her through various villages, wearing her scalp as a hairpiece. In this last raid, Hugh was severely wounded and his wife killed. At the time, Virginia extended to the Mississippi River and Hugh pushed on to Lincoln, Jefferson Co, KY. He remarried and joined the VA Militia. During the Battle of Blue Licks, Hugh was captured and taken to Canada by the British and their Indian allies. Hugh and his 11 fellow captives were released at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War and returned to Lincoln, KY. Hugh rejoined the Militia as a Ranger-Spy the day of his return. He had been officially declared dead months before and his estate turned over to his wife Elizabeth.

4.Hugh B. Cunningham was the son of 5a.Mary Rebeka Burns (1668-1749) and 5.Alexander Cunningham (b. 1653 or 1663 in Dublin, Ireland or Scotland; d. 1749 or 1747 in Ireland; married 1701 in Leinster, Ireland). Alexander was the son of 6a.Rachel Bruce (1611-1651) and 6.David Cunningham (b. 1607 in Scotland; d. 1691 in Ireland; married 1651 in Leinster, Dublin, Ireland). David and his family were evidently sent to Ireland to settle in the Ulster Plantation scheme of King James I of England (James VI of Scotland). His parents were 7a.Nancy Mary Blessington (1570-1640) and 7.Joseph Cunningham (b. 1568 in Scotland; d. 1637 in Scotland or Ireland; married 1605 in Leinster, Dublin, Ireland). Joseph’s parents were 8a.Sarah Wallace (1531-1631) and 8.John Cunningham (b. 1520 in Scotland; d. 1602 in Ireland; married in 1566 in Leinster). John was the son of 9a.Mary Robinson (1503-1528) and 9.Alexander Cunningham (b. 1498 in Kilmaurs, Ayrshire, Scotland; d. 1579 in Ireland or Scotland; married 1528 in Leinster). So, my 9th great grandfather connects our family to Kilmaurs, Ayrshire and the estates of the Earls of Glencairn, the traditional holdings of the Cunningham family. More later.


© Copyright 2015 Linda L Labin, PhD