History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, 1881
Cunningham, Capt. Allen, Biography
Cunningham, Capt. Allen, was of the Scotch-Irish stock, and was born in County Armagh, Ireland, in 1738. He emigrated to this country in 1765, and settled at New London Cross-roads, in Chester County, in 1775.
In the war of the Revolution he actively participated in the campaigns of 1776 and 1777, in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He commanded a company at the battle of Brandywine, in the division of Gen. Maxwell. This company was held in reserve, in a grove near Chads' Ford, during the whole eventful day, with positive orders not to fire a gun until specially directed; and although exposed to danger, and liable to be shot down by the enemy, not a man violated the order, but remained at his post, ready and eager for the order to fire. It was not given, and this brave portion of the reserve, in the evening, marched off the field as coolly as veterans.
He was a man of talent and education, as his letters written while in the service (some of which have been recently published) abundantly evince. He was noted for his probity and punctuality in his engagements, for his excellent judgment, and his industry and uprightness in business; so much so that his honor and industry were proverbial in his neighborhood.
The lives of few men have been more checkered with good and evil, and although not volatile or over-cheerful in disposition, he was never known to be despondent. To use his own words, he was "twice shipwrecked, twice robbed, twice burned out, twice married, and had two sons and two daughters." He never held an office, and although frequently and earnestly solicited, never could be induced to accept any station either in church or state, - a virtue with which the present generation are not very familiar.
He died May 15, 1801, at the age of 63. His remains were interred in New London graveyard, and the stone which covers his grave contains the simple record of his name, his years, and the time of his death, together with a line from Pope, -
"An honest man's the noblest work of God."
Gen. John W. Cuningham was a son of Capt. Allen Cuningham, and was born in the village of New London, Chester Co. (then, and until recently, known as New London Cross-roads), in the year 1779. In this village he resided during his entire life.
He represented Chester County in the State Legislature in the years 1809 and 1810, and was appointed prothonotary by Governor Wolf, Feb. 15, 1830. This office he held during the entire administration of Governor Wolf, - six years, - and was esteemed a very efficient and accomplished officer. He also held the office of clerk of the court during the greater portion of the same period. Gen. Cuningham was a Presidential elector in 1828, when Gen. Jackson was first elected to the Presidency, and was the Democratic candidate for Congress in 1836.
He possessed a strong and vigorous mind and great benevolence of character. He was a devoted friend of the soldiers of the Revolution, and was frequently called upon by them for assistance in making applications for pensions, and he prepared and put together the evidence of their claims for the mere pleasure of the task. Indeed, the whole neighborhood made frequent requisitions upon his services, and never in vain. To all he was kind, considerate, and obliging, and no one was more useful in his day and sphere. His name and his character inspired confidence, and a promise given to perform anything was followed by execution, or the most strenuous efforts at fulfillment.
His "stane of memorial," in the old graveyard at New London, contains this inscription, -
"Sacred to the memory of John W. Cuningham. In public life esteemed and variously employed. As a neighbour, upright, firm, and friendly. At home, tender and affectionate. Of the Presbyterian Church an attached member, and for twenty-nine years a ruling elder. He departed this life April 26, 1840, in the sixty-first year of his age."
Source: History of Chester County, J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope; Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts & Co.; 1881.
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