Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897
[p. 470] a well-known notary public of Wampum and a farmer by occupation, was born in Shenango township, Oct. 12, 1843, and is a son of Joseph M. and Isabella (Wilson) Cunningham. Our subject's father was born on the home farm about 1813, and followed agricultural pursuits largely throughout his life, dying in 1843, when our subject was but a few weeks old. He had taken Masonic orders and was a member of the State militia.
The grandfather of our subject was Benjamin Cunningham, whose wife was Margaret Morton, who came of an old English family. Benjamin was born in Westmoreland County about 1768, and departed this life in 1843, having followed farming as a means of securing a livelihood, and providing for his family.
The mother of H. Ira, was Isabella Wilson in her maiden days, and was a native of Wayne township, Lawrence County; she was a daughter of William and Christiana (Van Gorder) Wilson; the latter was born in Germany, removed with her parents to America when she was nineteen years of age, and died at the age of seventy-four. William Wilson, grandfather of Mr. Cunningham on his mothers's side, was a Scottish Highlander, who came to America when a youth of sixteen summers, and was very successful in farming. He was a captain in the War of 1812. He responded to the final roll-call in 1864, his age being eighty-six years. He was a Democrat in his politics, and served his township as supervisor and as school director.
H. Ira Cunningham when only a lad of twelve began to earn his own living and face the stern realities of life; he drifted into various employments, and seemed to take after the typical Yankee, for he was a jack-of-all-trades, and was very handy in several lines of work. He labored on farms and in the mines, and for a time was cook in a restaurant. During this period of indecision in regard to his future, Fort Sumter was fired on, and the call for volunteers was issued. Mr. Cunningham was among the first who enrolled their names in the service of the Union, and enlisted at Pittsburg on Sept. 22, 1861. At the expiration of his first term, he re-enlisted at New Brighton in April, 1864, and served until July 24, 1865, when he was mustered out as a corporal. He was a sharpshooter for a great part of the time he was a soldier and was wounded three times in that service. He was again wounded in the battle of Weldon Railroad on Aug. 19, 1864, and was obliged to leave the regiment on sick leave for a matter of several months. Shortly after his return, on Dec. 25 of the same year, he was wounded while on the picket line before Petersburg.
On resuming the life of a civilian, Mr. Cunningham worked for a time in a nut factory until Dec. 26, 1867, when he married and settled on a farm in Shenango township near the borough of Wampum, where he has since resided. He espoused Louisa J. Wilson, whose parents were John I. and Elizabeth (Munnell) Wilson. John I. Wilson's father, James Wilson, was probably the first white child born in Slippery Rock township, that event occurring in 1803. Mrs. Wilson lived to attain the extreme age of ninety-two years; her father, James Munnell, was a soldier in the War of 1812. Louisa J. Cunningham, our subject's first wife, bore her husband two children, of whom Charles C. is the elder; he lives in Wampum and is in business with his father-in-law, William Braby. The other child, Effie, is deceased.
Mr. Cunningham in the,years since the war has devoted himself chiefly to farming, although he has worked at paper-hanging, and became an expert in that line. He is a genial, whole-souled man, who is not only respected, but cordially liked by all who know him. He is a good citizen of sterling worth, active in matters of public interest and always ready to do what he can to promote the general welfare—in short, he is the kind of man that is needed in every community. On Aug. 28, 1878, were celebrated his second nuptials, the bride being Ella Wilson, a younger sister of his first wife. This union has resulted in one son, John I., who is yet at home, attending school. Mrs. Cunningham is a consistent and valued member of the Presbyterian Church.
Politically, Mr. Cunningham is a solid Republican, and endorses the principles of that party with conscientious fidelity. In March, 1897, he was made a notary public in and for Lawrence County. He was poster and folder in the State Senate for several terms, and in 1891 he served as postmaster of that body. In Wampum borough he has acted as street commissioner. Mr. Cunningham's good fellowship and popularity is evidenced by his memberships in different secret societies. He is a Mason, and a member of both the blue lodge and chapter, affiliating with Mahoning Lodge, F. & A. M., No. 243, of New Castle. In the Odd Fellows order, he belongs to the Subordinate Lodge, the Encampment and the Grand Lodge, in which he has been a representative. He is a secretary of Wampum Lodge, No. 865, I. O. O. F.; a member of Lawrence Encampment, No. 86, of New Castle; and served as deputy Grand Master from 1882 to 1892. In the A. O. U. W., he holds a membership in Welcome Lodge, No. 65, of Wampum, and represented that lodge in the grand lodge. He is also a member of the junior Order of United American Mechanics, being associated with the Council in Wampum. As an old soldier he takes a great deal of pleasure in renewing old war associations, and has a membership in Wampum Post, No. 381, G. A. R.; he has been commander for nine years and is one of the leading spirits of the local organization.
In April, 1897, Mr. Cunningham was elected to the office of burgess, a position he is to retain four years.
Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897
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Updated: 9 Jul 2001