Person:John Cunningham (95)

Facts and Events
Name John Cunningham
Gender Male
Birth? Abt. 1710 Dublin, Ireland
Marriage bef. 1738 to Mary Peterson
Death? 19 March 1758 Killed by Indians on the South Branch of Potomac River, Augusta County, Virginia

John Cunningham was one of the Early Settlers of Augusta County, Virginia


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John Cunningham Killed by Indians in 1758

John Cunningham is included in the list from Chalkley's of Indian Attacks of 1755-1759 in Augusta County of settlers killed by "the enemy" (most likely Shawnee Indians being spurred on by the French) in Augusta County.

Records of John Cunningham in Augusta County, VA

From Chalkley’s Augusta County Records:

  • Page 544.--18th August, 1761. James Trimble and Sarah to Mary Cunningham, of Hampshire, £12.5, 160 acres on North Fork of South Branch of Potowmack, above John Cunningham's Walnut Bottom. Teste: John McFerran, Malcolm Allen, Samuel ( ) Luisey. (Note: Mary was John's widow).
  • Page 547.--18th August, 1761. James Trimble and Sarah to Robert Cunningham, on South Branch in Hampshire County, £22.10, 300 acres in the Crab Apple Bottom, on a branch of South Branch of Potowmack. (Note: Robert was John's son).

Information on John Cunningham

From "Corrected Pedigrees", by Jeff Carr:

Cunningham/Peterson. I have had multiple contacts with researchers who descend from James and Agnes Cunningham of Pendleton, Bath, and Randolph Counties. Based on some great research, and ensuing articles by the late Mary Harter, their family has been much clarified (The Virginia Genealogist, Vol. 29, #1, #2). She meticulously documented the early Cunningham relationships, especially through land transactions. She reviewed proof that the Mary Cunningham who married Isaac Hinkle in 1781 was the daughter of the John Cunningham who had been killed by Indians in 1758. She further reviews circumstantial evidence that John's widow was the Mary Cunningham who married Sylvester Ward, and that James was another of Mary (Cunningham) Ward's children. Some notably missing evidence is any record that John Cunningham's wife was named Mary, or that the Mary Cunningham who married Isaac Hinkle was the daughter of Mary (Cunningham) Ward. There is also the potential inconsistency in dates wherein the mother Mary Cunningham was supposed to have been captured by Indians in 1757-8, yet she bought land in 1761; most of those captives were not returned until 1764. While all of the assertions in the article may be true, has anyone explored the possibility that Mary Ward may have been born a Cunningham (?sister to John Cunningham?) and was not a widow, with James being an illegitimate son.

The point of correction that I want to address is the Cunningham-Peterson connection. Mary Harter referenced Junkins' The Henckel Genealogy report that Isaac Hinkle's wife was the daughter of John and Mary (Peterson) Cunningham. As was often the case, the Junkins' did not reference any source for that information, thus making it suspect and undependable. Later in her article, Mary Harter was careful to place a question mark in front of Peterson as the maiden name for Mary, the wife of John Cunningham. Three paragraphs later, Mrs. Harter wrote:

While it is only tradition that Mary, the mother of James Cunningham, was a Peterson, the continued close association surely supports this identification. If (italics and bold added] Mary was a Peterson then she definitely belongs in the family following . . ."

What a powerful word, "if." Mrs. Harter continued by elaborating on the family of John Jacob Peterson, an early South Branch settler in Hardy County, who had emigrated from Switzerland as Hans Joggi Bidert. In the Peterson family records, which are quite good for that time period (ca. 1750), there is no record or rumor of a daughter Mary married to a Cunningham. There was a daughter named Ursula, for which there is no further adult record, whom they suggest never returned from Indian captivity. Mary Harter made the preposterous suggestion that since "Maria" is the commonly given first name for many girls in Germanic families, Ursula must have been "Maria Ursula," and became known as Mary [Cunningham]. This is no different than having an ancestor named John, finding a family of that given surname that has a son named Valentine, then concluding that this must be your ancestor, since most Germanic sons had Johann as their first given name! In addition to this, only 36 years separates the birth of Ursula Peterson and James Cunningham's oldest child, which narrows in practical terms the possibility of her having been James' mother. Mary Harter also sidestepped the obvious conflict of James Cunningham's traditionally reported birth date of 1741, and Ursula' s of 1731. This really was unlike Mary Harter to have made such a ridiculous jump, and taints an otherwise excellent article. As strange as that was, it is even more frustrating that other readers/researchers uncritically added this lineage to their charts.

Via some incidental researching, the genesis of Mrs. Harter's suggestion may have been found. In her book The Hammers and Allied Families of Pendleton County, WV (1950), Elsie Byrd Boggs reported (p.2) that the Petersons were "sometimes called Pedroes." While it is true that the Bidert family underwent several varietal name changes to Peterson, including Peters, I have not found any evidence that the Petersons were ever called Petro. Most of what Mrs. Boggs recounted were family traditions. She later (p.23) told about the Cunningham family, and the Petro family that came about the same time; ". . . their [Petro's] daughter became the wife of John Cunningham." Mrs. Boggs went on to recount the Indian captivity. With family traditions, it is hard to tell what is accurate and what gets garbled after 200 years. It is also unclear if the family legend was "Petro" and Mrs. Boggs changed it to Peterson, or if the legend was Peterson and changed it to Petro. As many in Randolph County know, there is a distinct family named Petro. They first settled in Hampshire County, and moved to Randolph County in the late 1700's. I ran across a brief narrative of that family, by James H. Petro of Chillicothe, OH; it is interesting to note that three members of the Petro family were also taken captive by Indians. He did not mention any connection to the Cunninghams. Their generational time-frames would not seem to accommodate Mary (Cunningham) Ward.

Another Peterson connection comes through the William and Mary (Bennett) Peterson family of Lewis County. A book by W. H. Peterson claims that William Peterson was of Swedish descent, the son of Lawrens Peterson; the author claimed that Lawrens married Nancy Jones and settled on the South Branch. Unfortunately, a rather imposing tombstone recounts this in a cemetery at Vandalia in Lewis County. There is absolutely no evidence of a Lawrens Peterson anywhere near the Hampshire County area. In fact, the available evidence suggests that William descends from the same Peterson family described above. While I have yet to find any proving evidence, William's circumstantial evidence (mostly tax lists) always place him in proximity to that family. Given William's approximate birth date of 1762, he was of the generation to have been a grandson of John Jacob Peterson/Hans Joggi Bidert Sr. Jacob Sr. had three sons: Jacob Jr., Martin, and Michael. The families of Jacob Jr. and Martin are fairly well documented. However, we can't just assume that William was a son of Michael, due to our lack knowledge of all the relationships and possible illegitimate relationships. In that same book by W.H. Peterson, a Henry Peterson was reported as a brother to William. Oddly enough, I know of no evidence of a Henry in relation to the Hardy-Hampshire County family. Henry Peterson was reported to have come to Lewis County in 1816 from Cumberland, MD; this may be accurate, and there may not have any relationship between William and Henry.