Cunningham ancestor immigrated from Scotland in early 1800s

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 28, 2019

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Since the members of the Cunningham family were included in the Durell genealogy of last week’s column, it is timely for it to be reviewed in today’s writing. These two families merged in Covington County, Ala. where they both eventually settled.

First, a few references to Cunningham citizens who were in Covington County fairly early, but whose relationship to the family being featured today is not known. In 1847, Jonathan M. Cunningham was a surveyor of certain lands in South Alabama under the supervision of James H. Weakly, surveyor general of Alabama. In 1894, Joseph A. Cunningham purchased 80.83 acres of land in the Yellow River Township from the State. Then in 1900, he homesteaded two tracts, 79.89 and 39.91 acres, in the same area. In 1899, Malissa D. Cunningham homesteaded two tracts of land, 80.83 and 81.23 acres, also in the Yellow River Township.

The earliest ancestor found for the Cunningham line of this story was Duncan Cunningham who was born in 1746 in the country of Scotland. He was also married there in 1759 to Mary Buchannan who was born in 1748 in Perthshire, Scotland. Mary lived until 1776, and Duncan lived until 1780. They had a son named John Cunningham who was born between 1765 and 1770 in Perthshire. John married Regina Regnen who was of royal lineage and born in 1770.

John and Regina Cunningham were the parents of a son named Capt. Francis Harrison Cunningham who was born in 1797 in Scotland. According to family lore, Captain Cunningham was an accomplished boat captain. His father, John, died in 1826 in Portugal while fighting Napoleon under the Duke of Wellington. Records indicate his wife, Regina, became distraught and mentally unstable, so their son, Capt. Francis, sailed to Portugal to rescue her.  He took her to his home on Cunningham Bluff where he built a blockade type structure which became her special place of residence. She was able to live safely there even though she was confined and unable to wander about.

Captain Francis was married in 1814 in Jackson County, Miss., to Catherine Avery Combest, daughter of Simon or Samuel Combest and Marie Heva KOP. Catherine was born in 1795 in the Mississippi Territory of Florida. Francis rendered military service as a member of the 8th Regiment Tennessee Cavalry, Company C, formerly Company A, 4th (Murray’s) Regiment. Although the date of his arrival in American was not found, he had migrated from the Carolinas to Kentucky and then to New Orleans, which he could reach by water. He finally settled in the Mississippi Territory at Jackson County, Miss.

Captain Francis and Catherine Cunningham were the parents of the following 12 children: John Bartholomew, b. 1815, d. 1904, m. (1) 1840 Martha Ellen Lyons, b. 1820 (2) Effie Thompson of Kentucky; Catalina “Kitty” Ann, b. 1916; Francis, b. 1818, m. Martha A. Davis, b. 1822; William James Simon, b. 1820, d. 1894, m. Mary Rose Coleman; Rachel, b. 1822, d. 1823; Antoine, b. 1824, d. 1838, lost in swamp; Samuel Curtis, b. 1826, d. 1897, m. Rachel or Rispy ?; Mary, b. 1829, d. 1929; Benjamin, b. 1831, d. 1832; Rose, b. 1833; Margaret, b. 1835, d. 1917, m. Samuel Augustus Oliver; and Mary Ellen, b. 1837, d. 1931, m. ? Moore.

The oldest son, John Bartholomew Cunningham, was married in 1840 to Martha Ellen Lyons (1815-1880). They became the parents of two children: Andrew Martin, b. 1846, d. 1940, m. 1877 Mary Parker (1840-1900); and Clara, b. 1852. John was later married to Effie Thompson, and they had a daughter named Minerva.

The son Andrew Martin Cunningham was married in 1877 to Mary Parker. They were the parents of two sons: Edward Roland, b. 1815, d. 1985, m. Mary Alice Wallace; and William Ellis. Edward Roland and Mary Alice Cunningham were the parents of the following children: Grady C., b. 1906, d. 1973, m. (1) Bessie Dewrell (1913-1974) (2) Una Vae Morgan (1929-1977); Earnest, b. 1908, d. 1974, m. Lunie E. Phillips (1913-1989); Vernon, b. 1910; Dirla, b. 1913, m. Henry Morgan, b. 1897; Bertha, b. 1916; and Ruey, b. 1918, m. Bessie ?.

Grady C. Cunningham was married first to Bessie Mae Dewrell. They were the parents of the following children: Tollis Ray, b. 1929, d. 2008, m. (1) Sabra Jo Odom (2) Margaret ?; Vernon Richard, b. 1931, d. 1989, m. (1) Martha Pearl Tucker (2) Naomi Gwaltney; Clifton Carrie, b. 1988, d. 1962, m. Maydease ?; and Ruby Jean, b. 1936, d. 1973, m. Gerald Williams.

Tollis Ray and Sabra Jo Cunningham had a daughter named Beverly Renee who married Louie Lynn. They were the parents of the following children: Eric, m. Staci ?; Brandie, m. ?. Brandie had three children: Braylon Brundidge, Cameron Byrd, and Alaysia Salter.

Vernon Richard Cunningham and his wife, Martha Pearl, were the parents of a daughter, Shirley Gail, b. 1950, d. 2005, m. 1967 Joe Larry Willis. Shirley and Joe Larry had four children: Joe Larry Jr, b. 1998; Terry, m. Kim ?; Gary; and Tammy.  Vernon Richard Sr. and his second wife, Naomi, had a son, Vernon Richard Jr.

Grady and Bessie Cunningham’s youngest child and only daughter, Ruby Jean Cunningham, married Gerald Williams (1929-1990), son of Hobson Williams and Autie Emmaline Boyette. They resided in the Harmony community, Andalusia and Sanford. They were the parents of four children: Gerald Michael, b. 1954, m. (1) Debra Kay Smith (2) Angela Joyce Vernon; Phillip Jarome, b. 1957, m. (1) 1994 Linda Renee Peachee (2) Sheila Jane Edgar; Jennifer Lynn, b. 1958, d. 2009, m. Jerry Archie; and Sherry Elaine, b. 1960, m. Bobby Frank Hardy.

The oldest son, Gerald Michael Williams, was graduated from Straughn School where he excelled in the FFA. He also is a strong supporter of Confederate heritage and has rendered much service to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. In 1980, he married Angela Joyce Vernon, daughter of Monroe Ross Vernon and Gertrude LouEtta Martin. They have lived mostly in Montgomery and are the parents of three children: Melanie Denise, m. Derek John Jordan; Michael Ross, m. Amy Nichols; and Matthew Hobson. Gerald Michael was first married to Debra Kay Smith, and they had a daughter named Dana Lee, m. John Randall Haymons II.

The second son, Jarome Williams, was married in 1995 to Linda Renee Peachee. They are the parents of three children: Christopher Lee Batson; Ruby Earnestine, m. (1) Steven McCartey (2) Jason Pinkard (3) Chase Robertson; and Windall Gerald, d. 2006, m. Missy Forehand.

The daughter Jennifer Lynn Williams was married to Jerry Archie. They were the parents of Terry Leon, m. Donna Gentry; Jeremy Tink, m. Trina Canant; and Sandra Lashaun, m. Jeremiah John Overman.

The daughter Sherry Elaine married Bobby Frank Hardy, and they were the parents of Karen Jean, m. (1) James Bryan Walker (2) Scott Head; Kaine Ashley; and Karl Dewayne.

The source for today’s story were the family records of the above Gerald Michael Williams, a Cunningham and Durell descendant, with a few references from local histories.

Anyone who finds any error in the above narrative is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email:


The Covington Rifles Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans will be meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 3, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. Anyone interested in Confederate heritage is invited to attend.