Pages 468-470, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas: embellished with portraits of well known people of these counties, with biographies of our representative citizens, cuts of public buildings and a map of each county / Edited and Compiled by L. Wallace Duncan and Chas. F. Scott. Iola Registers, Printers and Binders, Iola, Kan.: 1901; 894 p., [36] leaves of plates: ill., ports.; includes index.




ALFRED CUNNINGHAM, who for thirty years has been a resident of Allen county, was born in Moultrie county, Illinois, in 1836. His father, Hiram Cunningham, was born in Virginia, and was reared upon the farm. In early manhood he removed to Kentucky, but after two years became a resident of Moultrie county, Illinois, where he soon afterward married Miss Amanda Wood. Her people were from Kentucky and were representatives of one of the old families of South Carolina. Hiram Cunningham served in the Black Hawk war under Captain Alfred Hawes. He made farming his life work and died in Illinois, at the age of fifty-five years. His wife, long surviving him, departed this life at her home in Moultrie county in 1896. They were parents of the following named: Owen, who died on the home farm in Illinois, leaving a wife and one child; Crawford, who died in Iowa; Samuel and Newton, who reside in Illinois: Jasper, who was a twin brother of Newton and died in infancy; Columbus, whose place of residence is unknown, and Alfred, our subject.

When Mr. Cunningham was only two years old his parents removed with their family to Macon county, Illinois, but when he was fifteen years of age returned to Moultrie county, Illinois. His educational privileges were such as the subscription schools afforded (for there were no public schools in that part of Illinois) at the time. He was reared to farm labor,


early becoming familiar with the work of plowing, planting and harvesting. As a companion and helpmeet on life's journey he chose Miss Armilda Swimm, who was driven from Kentucky by Morgan's men during the Civil var. They were married in Saybrook, McLean county, Illinois in April, 1866. Her father, Robert Swimm, was born in Fleming county, Kentucky, in 1812, and was a son of Hiram Swimm, a Maryland farmer who was killed while serving his country in the war of 1812. His children were Michael, John, Taylor, Ace, Robert and Barbara, who became the wife of Dan Hamm. All are now deceased. Robert Swimm married Sarah Riggs, and Mrs. Cunningham was the eldest daughter of their six children. Ambrose, the eldest son, died of consumption; Matthew is still living in Fleming county, Kentucky; Eliza A., is the wife of Robert Vanosdell, of Ottawa, Kansas; Margaret is the wife of Judas Bandro, of Purcell, Indian Territory, and Samuel M., who died at the age of twenty-five. The father of this family departed this life in Fleming county, Kentucky, in 1848, but the mother is still living, making her home with her daughter Margaret in the Indian Territory. Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham had three children, but Lela, who was born March 8, 1882, is the only one now living. The sons, Corlus B. and Ora D., died when four years of age.

Mr. Cunningham came with his family to Kansas in 1870, arriving in Humboldt on the 9th of October. He was then thirty-six years of age, strong and vigorous, with a realization that life was not all sunshine, and willing to hear his share of hardships if he could ultimately secure a good home for himslf[sic] and family. Grasshoppers, fire and pestilence have injured his income and taught him patience and endurance. In the spring after his arrival he rented a small farm of Mr. Smith of Salem township, and there lived for two years, after which he took up his abode on the farm which he yet owns. He purchased the property in 1871, and with characteristic energy began its development the following year, breaking about five acres of land where his house stands and laying the foundation for the building. He also planted a small orchard. In 1871 he purchased about sixty head of cattle, but soon afterward had his hay supply destroyed by a fire which started near Big Creek, and burned its way up into Anderson county. At the end of the third day the wind changed and the fire was thus driven back in a northeasternly course along the track west of that over which it had first swept. It traveled at a fearful rate and nothing could withstand its fury. Mr. Cunningham only escaped by running with the fire and jumping into the creek. He hurried on to his home, where his wife lay ill. In the woodyard was a small bare spot around the wood pile and there he carried Mrs. Cunningham on a feather bed, laying her on the wood and thus escaping the fury of the fire.

Malaria was prevalent in those early days and Mrs. Cunningham was forced in the fall of 1862 to return to Illinois to recover her health. Her husband remained in Kansas, built a new home for them and received her again the following spring. Though he was met with difficulties, Mr. Cunningham has persevered and prosperity has now rewarded his labors.


Aside from farming he has been very successful in the raising of hogs and has thus added materially to his income. He is now one of the prosperous residents of his community.

Since 1874 Mr. Cunningham and his wife have been members of the Methodist Episcopal church and are active in its work. Their well spent lives have gained them high regard and they now enjoy the esteem and friendship of a wide acquaintance.

Previous | Home | Next