Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897


[p. 186] a leading resident and business man of Ellwood City, is a large landed proprietor and a heavy dealer in real estate in the above-named city. He was one of the first as well as one of the most active and enterprising business men from the very date of the city's incorporation, and during the years of subsequent growth has kept pace with the developments, and still occupies a prominent position in commercial circles as he did at the beginning. He is indigenous to Lawrence County, his birth having occurred in Wayne township, where his family were numbered among the oldest residents.

William C. Cunningham, his great-grandfather, was born Oct. 10, 1767; he came to Lawrence County from Fayette County in 1796, and settled on a two-hundred-acre farm, now the property of J. P. Cunningham, where he died Sept. 3, 1852. His wife was Mary Smith, who was born June 24, 1779, and who passed away on Feb. 16, 1865.

Their son, Benjamin, born Dec. 17, 1800, in Beaver County, succeeded to the ownership of the land, which he had helped to clear, and besides purchased an adjacent piece that contained 170 acres. He put up a log-house, and after his farm was cleared, he discovered that the clay banks on his place could be suitably worked into good brick; so he set right to work, manufactured a large quantity, and built the comfortable brick farm-house, now the residence of J. P. Cunningham. He laid down his labors and entered into rest when he had reached three score years, and his wife filled out the allotted space of three score years and ten. Martha Cunningham bore her husband the following children: Elias; William W.; Joseph; David; Mary; Henderson; and several others who died before attaining adult age.

William W. Cunningham, the father of our subject, on arriving at manhood's estate, purchased fifty acres of unimproved land adjoining the parental estate, where he built himself a log-house, and brought the land into subjection and productiveness with axe and plow. He married Nancy Vaneman, whose father was George Vaneman of Moravia, Lawrence County. Mrs. Cunningham became the mother of Keziah, Slemons, Maria M., David L., Amos B., Sophia, Wiley and Frank, all of whom are living. Overwork caused Mr. Cunningham's health to fail, and he was only forty-two years of age when he was removed from the midst of his sorrowing family, being laid to rest in 1869. The wife and children carried on the farm with substantial success, and met with a fair reward for their pains, which enabled them to undertake needed improvements, among which was the replacing of all the old structures about the place with new buildings. Mr. Cunningham held a firm belief in Republican principles, and gave considerable time and attention to the consideration of political questions, though never aspiring to public office. During the Civil War, he was drafted, but was not called on for duty in the field of action.

David L. Cunningham, in whose life the chief interest of this personal history is centered, attended the district schools in Wayne township, and worked on the homestead until his marriage to Miss Agnes Parker, daughter of John Parker of Wampum, this county. This second great event in his life having been celebrated in due form, he went to housekeeping with his young wife on a farm of eighty-four acres near New Wilmington, in Mercer County. There they built a good house and barn, improved the land, and lived in peace and full contentment until 1890. At that date Ellwood City was springing into prominence in Lawrence County as a growing young city, full of rich opportunities for those who would but seize them and take advantage of them. After thoroughly looking the ground over, and becoming convinced of Ellwood City's splendid adaptation as a business center, he decided to rent his farm, and to merge himself in with the commercial life of the place. He erected one of the first buildings used for a store, and for two years Mr. Cunningham was engaged in dealing in merchandise on the corner of Seventh Street and Lawrence Avenue, where his office is now located. He has built eight dwelling-houses, all of which are rented except the handsome brick residence on the corner of Fifth Street and Fountain Avenue, which is familiar to all Ellwood City residents as the Cunningham home. In co-operation with George B. Nye, Mr. Cunningham owns a farm of thirty-five acres which they have laid out for a cemetery, and eight hundred acres in the oil district of Slippery Rock township with Robert C. Aiken. He was elected constable and tax collector of the city in 1892, which has been his only elevation to an official position.

Mr. Cunningham is one of the men who are chiefly responsible for the fine showing of the Ellwood City of to-day; from the very outset he possessed a firm belief in the city's future prosperity, and lost no time in assisting in bringing that good time along with success in his own business ventures. He is a man of recognized business methods, and has been of invaluable assistance in building up his adopted city. He is possessed of acute perceptions, and understands value in realty more thoroughly than many men with vastly more experience in common life. Combining thrift and energy, he has made for himself an admirable business man, and his dealings manifest an interest in his client's affairs as well as in his own profit.

Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897

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