Janice Williams

Generous Cunninghams

In Basic Family Information, General Musings on August 3, 2011 at 12:18 am

I had heard a story about the Cunningham generosity to their neighbors, but did not know where that story had originated. Over the weekend I finally read a book I’ve owned for a year or more and found the source of the story. The book is “Early Days in Central Texas” by F.M. Cross. The Brown County Historical Society republished the short book, which had originally been published in the early part of the 20th century. The original title page is reproduced and has “Second Edition, June 1910.”

Picture the time in the late 1850s when Mr. Cross came to the sparsely settled area where the Cunningham home stands today on Mountain Creek. No roads, no highline poles, no Newburg school, church, or cemetery. Only four families living along that creek.  Mr. Cross writes, “James Cunningham, better known as Captain Cunningham; Charlie Campbell, Thomas Dunlap, Jonathan Watson, all of them as good neighbors as I ever lived by in my life. I will tell you something of two of those neighbors, and I assure you I am not flattering them to their offspring who may read this book…”

He’s wrong about that. I (as one offspring) am quite flattered and proud, though that wasn’t his intention, I know.

“It is likely, at least I think so, that any of the rest of those neighbors would have been just of the same good principles if they had had the same opportunities. Campbell and Cunningham each had a small stock of cattle and when the new-comers would settle around them they would go to them, and if they wanted cows to milk, would tell them to make themselves cowpens and would pen them all the cows they needed to milk, and when either of those two men killed a beef they would just send a man to all of the neighbors, telling them to come over and get all the beef they wanted. They never asked a cent of pay for it, and this was done every two or three weeks during the summer season. Those were two of the best-to-do men in that country at that time.”

Then Mr. Cross gets to the real thought-provoker:

“Now reader, if you will show me two of the wealthiest men of your country today that have that kind of sympathy for the poor class of people, I will show you a black bird as white as a snowball.”

In my research, I have found descendants of Captain James and Susie Cunningham who gave away millions of dollars to the poor and those in need. It is a family trait that has definitely not been lost.


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