By Selden Nelson
"CUNNINGHAM BUILT E.T. & V. RAILWAY"
"Samuel Blair Cunningham, the oldest child of Ebenezer J. and Martha Blair Cunningham, was born at Limestone, Tenn., October 8, 1797. He graduated at Washington college and studied medicine under the instruction of Dr. David Nelson, who was also a Presbyterian minister and who is noted for having written a book called, 'The Cause and Cure of Infidelity.'
"Dr., Cunningham took the course of medical lectures at Lexington, Ky., and becoming very prominent in that branch of his profession.
"Dr., Cunningham married Miss. Lucinda Galbreath of Greene county, Tennessee, May 31, 1825. Rev. Samuel Doak officiated. To this marriage were born four children.
"Martha Ellen Cunningham, the first born of Dr. and Martha B. Cunningham [this is a misprint- should be Lucinda G. Cunningham] married Dr. Wm. R. Sevier. They had two children. Samuel, who died before he waS grown, and Nannie. This family has been discussed under Valentine Sevier's descendants.
"Samuel Alexander Cunningham, the second child of Dr. and Martha R. Cunningham, married Alice Nelson. Six children were born to this marriage: Anna Mary, Martha Ellen, Elizabeth, Thomas Nelson, Samuel and Ida Helen Cunningham.
"Anna Mary Cunningham married Junius __? McPherson, a native of Washington county, Tenn. They have five children: Bessie, Samuel Cunningham, Curtis, Stuart and John William McPherson. The family now resides near Cleveland, Tenn.
"Samuel A. Cunningham died in Chattanooga, March 17, 1905.
Mrs. Cunningham lives at Chattanooga with her two daughters, Ella and Ida,
who are unmarried. Thomas N. Cunningham died at Chattanooga in 1906,
a young man of promise who was admired by all who knew him.
"Sarah Jane Cunningham, the third child of Doctor S. B. and Martha Blair Cunningham [same misprint- this should be Lucinda Galbreath Cunningham], married Rev. Nathan Bachman. She died in 1864, leaving one daughter, Sarah Jane Bachman, who married J. Charles Moore, a native of Philadelphia, Tenn. Mr. and Mrs. Moore now reside at 821 North Fifth Avenue, this city [Knoxville]. They have four boys, Charles, Nathan, Thomas, Laurence, and Robert Moore.
"June 22, 1846, Dr. Samuel Blair Cunningham married Mrs. Ann Foster, the widow of Prof. Stephen Foster, who was a professor at the East Tennessee college, now the University of Tennessee. She was also the mother of Mrs. Sarah Foster Rhea. Mrs. Foster's maiden name was Miss Anne Allison Davis, a native of Knox county. four children were born to Dr. and Mrs. Cunningham, but only one lived to maturity. Sophia Moodie Park Cunningham was the first wife of Rev. Dr. Calvin A. Duncan of this city.[Sophie had one child and died the same year. The baby, Rhea Cunningham Duncan, died at 14 months].
"In 1837 the subject of railroads was agitated throughout East Tennessee. One plan was to build a railroad along the course the South and Western is now taking. another was from Cincinnati via Cumberland Gap to Charleston, S.C. The latter road secured a charter about 1838. But it was Dr. S. B. Cunningham, of Jonesboro, who finally engineered and built the road from Knoxville to Bristol. In 1847 those interested in building the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia railroad had frequent meetings at Jonesboro and framed their charter. The names of those who would solicit subscription for the road, and the commissioners selected to receive money and issue stock in the E. T. & V. R. R. were set out in their charter. The charter was granted and signed by the proper authorities January 27, 1848. Two years' time was given for organizing the company. In 1849 John Blair was elected on the democratic ticket as a railroad man, to get an extension of the charter, and this was done every year until 185__, when, by the suggestion of Dr. S. B. Cunningham, thirty men bound themselves to finish the road. The amount of stock these thirty men shouldered was nearly $500,000, over and above what they had already subscribed to the road. This act of the thirty men saved the charter of the East Tennessee & Virginia railroad, and then the state complied with its part of the contract.
"Dr. Cunningham lifted the first shovel of dirt and drove the last spike when the road was completed. He give up a large practice and took the presidency of the East Tennessee & Virginia railroad at a very small salary, devoting his w_____ time to the construction equipment and management of the road. He was constantly at work for seven years and forty five days before he saw his dream of a railroad through the valley of East Tennessee. When this road was completed in 1858 , it meant rails all the way from Chattanooga to Lynchburg. The first engine bought by the E. T. & Va. railroad company was named 'The Watauga.' In August, 1855, 'The Holston' was bought. The Washington, Jefferson, Greeneville, Boaz, Jonesboro, S. Cunningham, McDaniel, Sullivan, Knoxville, City of Memphis, Bristol and Ross were engines bought before the Civil War.
"The 'Boaz' was run off the Loudon bridge into the Tennessee river by the federal troops and was so badly damaged it had to be sold for old iron. The 'Bristol' was run off of the bridge at Carter's depot into the Watauga river in 1863, and was taken out after the war, reparied at a cost of $8,000. It did good work for several years.
"Dr. Cunningham refused to serve longer as president of the railroad and in January, 1861, John R. Branner was elected president, and served in that capacity until his death, February 8, 1869. Thomas H. Calloway was his successor. Thus, the East Tennessee & Virginia railroad had three presidents. It was consolidated with the East Tennessee & Georgia railroad during Mr. Callaway's administration.
"The following resolutions were spread upon the records of the E. T. & Va. R. R. by the order of the stockholders, in reference to Dr. S. B. Cunningham:
" 'Whereas, On the 8th day of September, 1867, Dr. Samuel B. Cunningham, first president of the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad company, descended to the mansions of the dead; and
" 'Whereas, we, the stockholders of said road, feel it to be our duty, in addition to what has already been said by our president and board of directors, to express sorrow for the loss of a man we all so well knew. This being the the first meeting since the commencement of our great enterprise (that he had so much at heart), that he is not with us, adding another vacant chair to the list of old men that first started out with him that have gone down to their graves. In private life he was a man not only strictly pious, but of pure and nobile sentiments and eminently kind to a fault; and as a physician and surgeon, stood at the head of the list in his profession; and as president of our road throughout the darkest period of its history, he not only satisfied the stockholders and their board of directors, in accounting for the sale of near two millions of state bonds, that he was strictly an honest man, one of God's noblest works. But headed the list of individual endorsers to raise the additional means that enabled him, on the 14 of May, 1858, to drive the last spike, proclaiming to the world that after seven years and forty-five days of unceasing toil that he had triumphed, thus identifying his name with a monument that will go down to posterity.' "
"In some future article the writer hopes to give the names and something
of the lives of the thirty men who aided Dr. Cunningham to save the charter
of the East Tennessee & Virginia railroad."
|Believed to be S. B. Cunningham. From a large portrait in the possession
The Cunningham-Clayton House in Jonesborough, Tennessee
Back to Sevier- Cunningham Family Album