Cunningham Family Papers, 1788-1928

Collection number: MC 203
Size: (1 box) (0.33 cu.ft.)

About the Cunningham and Mandeville Families

The Cunningham and Mandeville families were among those who left land and homes in New England to migrate westward during the 19th century in search of better farm land. In this particular case, both families settled Rockville, Illinois - the Mandevilles in 1839 and the Cunninghams in 1860. Benjamin Franklin Cunningham (1820-1900) married Clarissa Jane Maudville/Mandeville (1822-1926) in 1844; he was from Peterborough NH and she from Buffalo NY. Their only child, Jennie E. Cunningham (1852-1926) was born in Rockford and did not have children. The ancestors of both families included various veterans of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.

The Irish-descended Cunningham family's arrival in Peterborough began with American Revolutionary War Captain Thomas Cunningham (1706-1790) who was born in Townsend, Mass. but married Elizabeth (Creighton?) at Peterborough N.H. in 1749. His son James Cunningham Sr. married Mary McNee, their son James Cunningham Jr. married Sarah M. Cunningham, and one of their sons was the aforementioned Benjamin Franklin (B.F.) Cunningham.

The Mandeville/Maudville family were originally Dutch immigrants to New York during the 1600s. They descended, via several generations, to Michael H. Mandeville (1789-1844) who married Elsie Marie Corey (1799-1883). Both were born in central New York State and traveled west to Rockford Illinois. Their daughter Clarissa Jane lived to the remarkable age of 103, dying just months before her only daughter Jennie. Jennie proved her eligibility for the D.A.R. via Captain Samuel Cunningham (?-?) of Peterborough, N.H.

A 1924 article from the newspaper "The Republic" (Rockville, Ill.) commemorates (Clarissa) Jane Cunningham's 102nd birthday and describes the family's westward journey in 1839:

Jane Mandeville was a woman grown when the Winnebago Indians camped near her father's home south of the little village of Rockford. [...] Mrs. Cunningham recalls with interest the detail of that great western trip in 1839 when at the age of 17 she left New York state with her parents, sistars, and brothers, shipping from Buffalo to Toledo and driving the remainder of the way to Rockford. Skirting the swampy hamlet of Chicago for fear of becoming mired is one of her most vivied memories of that long distant day. And now this lady who came to the little cluster of homes which constituted Rockford in that distant time when Chicago was a marsh and all Illinois a vague expance of groves and waving grass [...] celebrates another of the momentous years which mark a worthy life."

About the Cunningham Family Papers

This small but richly detailed collection contains photographs, family correspondence, wills, land deeds, tax collection booklets, and receipts. There is also extensive genealogical information prepared by Jane Cunningham for her D.A.R. membership application. Remarkably, the entire 140 years of family history are present in nearly all the document types save photographs.

See also: Many published volumes of Cunningham and Mandeville/Maudville family genealogies from various sources.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], [Folder Number], Box 1, Cunningham Family Papers, 1788-1928, MC 203, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Purchase from Carmin Valentino Rare Books, date unknown.

Separated Material

Several newspaper clippings containing published obituaries of the Mandville family of Rockford, Ill. were removed due to their deteriorating condition. Other newspaper clippings were photocopied for preservation and the originals discarded.

Collection Arrangement

Arrangement is roughly chronological within material type.

Collection Contents

Folder 1Cunningham and Mandville Family Correspondence, 1828-1925

This folder is chronological by year. Most letters are from the 1830s, but a substantial number date from the other decades too. Topics include travel, family life, business, current events (including wars, westward expansion, and elections), vital records, and much else. There are only 2 letters from the 1860s; the Civil War is not well covered in this collection. The last document in the folder, undated, contains an account of the death of an unnamed woman, wife of a man named William. If this was William McNee Sr., his wife Mary Eckless Brownley died at Peterboro NH in 1759. If William McNee Jr., his wife Betsy Russell died at Peterboro NH in 1815.

Folder 2Photographs, Undated

Four photographs (see one additional in previous folder), three of family members and one of a steamboat. The photos are unlabeled and undated, but date to the late 19th to early 20th century based on clothing style and photographic technique.

Folder 3Thomas Cunningham Wills, 1788-1790

Two versions of the last will of Thomas Cunningham (1706-1790). One is dated 1877 and the other (which was probated) is dated 1790. Thomas Cunningham was illiterate, and signed his name with an X and a seal.

Folder 4James Cunningham Jr.: Bowdion College Materials, 1828-1832

Tuition statements, academic progress reports, book lists, and other misc. correspondence with the college during Cunningham's time there. The family struggled to pay the $16.10 for each semester, of which $8.06 was tution, $3.34 room and board ("chamber"), and $1.72 firewood. James graduated in 1832 with his teaching certificate.

Folder 5Land Deeds, 1789-1861

20-25 separate land deeds for the family's land in Peterborough (1789-1860) and one from their eventual move to Rockford, Ill. in 1861. The oldest are in pounds and pence rather than in dollars. In addition to recording land transfers, several contain names and signatures of Cunningham family members (including women), descriptions of property, and a beautifully drawn survey map dating to 1837. Several undated deeds are included in the rear of the folder.

Folder 6Receipts, 1806-1925

Tax receipts and other loans and barter agreements kept by various members of the family. The earliest materials date to 1806 and are tax slips from the town of Peterborough (their tax bill was $1.38 for 1805 and $2.17 for 1806). The family's move west is reflected in the shift in town tax bill to Rockford.

Folder 7James Cunningham Sr. Legal and Tax Materials, 1809-1810

A photocopy of a much later news article mentions Jane Cunningham finding a commission of enlistment for James Cunningham Sr. (actual document was not with the collection). An 1809 power of attorney document authorizing James Sr.'s lawyer to settle his estate, and tax lists for the town of Peterborough for the years 1809 and 1810 during which James Sr. was tax collector. Families taxed in 1809 were: Lynds, Richeson, McNeal, Goodness, Davis, Banetts (pos. Barretts), Page, Mainard, Evans, Ballard, Dennis, Whitemore, Andrew, Gould, Broud, Hall, and Marshal. The 1810 list is only partial: Allen, Ames, Allison, Abbott, Barker, Bowen, Barber, and Brackett.

Folder 8Mandeville Family Materials, ca. 1910-1920

A small amount of newspaper articles and correspondence related to the Mandeville family after their settling in Rockford (1860). Most of it is related to the historic Mandeville house where Jane Cunningham lived and her 1917 donation of the house for a historic museum and the land for a city park.

Folder 9Cunningham Siblings Birthday Announcements and Obituaries, 1910-1925

Mostly photocopies of newspaper articles (usually undated) celebrating the birthdays of Jane Cunningham between the ages of ca. 90 and 103. Each year her daughter Jennie Cunningham held a party for her mother's April 1st birthday, which was invariably covered in the newspaper. One wax-stained slip of paper contains an invitation written by Jane for her 103rd birthday party in 1925. Several other clippings contain obituaries for her husband B.F. Cunningham and his brothers William, Samuel, and Isaac Newton (all of whom died in their 90s or over 100).

Folder 10Jennie Cunningham: D.A.R. and Genealogy Materials, Undated

This folder contains extensive research into the Mandeville side of the family, reaching back to Samuel Cunningham Sr. (a Revolutionary War veteran). There are lists of births, deaths, marriages, and an honerable discharge for Michael Mandville [sic] after his service in the War of 1812. In the back of the folder is Jennie's (successful) application for membership in the D.A.R. as well as her dues slips for 1899-1905.



Genealogical Papers
Legal Papers
Letters & Postcards
Photographs, Slides & Negatives