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of Washington County, Tennessee

Descendants of Ebenezer John Cunningham
Martha Laird Blair

This is a summary of the Ebenzer John Cunningham family, as submitted to the Jonesborough Genealogical Society, August 2004.  Please let me know if any errors are found!  Pat Sabin  - patricia.sabin@comcast.net or patriciasabin2012@gmail.com. (Please note that my patsabin.com domain is being phased out.


was born in Augusta County, Virginia in 1768, and relocated to the Limestone area of Washington County, Tennessee.  In 1799, 160 acres on Little Limestone Creek were transferred from James Cunningham to Ebenezer John Cunningham, part of the original 320 acres deeded by Robert Gentry to Hugh Cunningham and James Cunningham in 1790.  

 He married Martha Laird Blair, daughter of John Blair and Martha Laird, who had migrated from northern Ireland to Pennsylvania, and then to Washington County, Tennessee.

 E. J. and Martha Cunningham had six children:   Samuel Blair Cunningham, Jane “Jenny” Cunningham, John Whitfield Cunningham, Alexander Newton Cunningham, William Madison Cunningham, and Martha Roe Cunningham.  Three of their sons became Presbyterian ministers.

 Ebenezer John Cunningham died after his will was written, March 5, 1812. , and Martha Blair Cunningham died November 8, 1823It is possible that they are buried at the Old Salem Church Cemetery at Washington College, but this is not confirmed.

 In Martha Blair Cunningham’s will, she designates, “all worldly property to support my 3 youngest children 1. Alexander Newton Cunningham; 2. William Madison Cunningham; 3. Martha Roe Cunningham until they be taught and educated.”




Samuel Blair Cunningham, the oldest child, was born in Limestone, Tennessee on October 9, 1797.  He graduated from Washington College, and studied medicine under the instruction of Dr. David Nelson, and earned his medical degree from Transylvania Medical School, Lexington, Kentucky.   He became one of the earliest physicians and surgeons of Jonesborough, Tennessee.

 On August 18, 1824, Dr. Cunningham married Lucinda Doak Galbreath in Greene County, Tennessee.  Their first child, Martha Ellen Cunningham, was born August 3, 1825 in Jonesborough.  She married Dr. William Robertson Sevier.  She died April 15, 1862, and is buried in the Old Jonesboro Cemetery. 

 The second child of Dr. and Mrs. S. B. Cunningham was  Samuel Alexander Cunningham, born 1834 in Jonesborough.  Samuel A. Cunningham married Alice Nelson, daughter of Thomas A. R. Nelson. He died March 17, 1905 in Chattanooga, TN, and, according his obituary,  both are buried in the Old Jonesboro Cemetery.

 The third child was Sarah Jane Cunningham, born June 14, 1836 in Jonesborough.  On June 2, 1863, she married Rev. Dr. Nathan Bachman, Presbyterian minister. She died July 26, 1864 and is buried in the Old Jonesboro Cemetery.  Dr. Bachman later served, 1866-1876, as minister of the Second Presbyterian Church in Jonesborough. Cornelius Eugene Cunningham, the fourth child of Samuel B. Cunningham, was born about 1818 in Jonesborough.  He married Lillian Morris, and died about 1915 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 Dr. S. B. Cunningham was one of the first and most diligent supporters of the East Tennessee & Virginia railroad from the original charter in 1848 until its completion in 1858, and he became its first president. 

In 1840, Dr. Cunningham built his home on Main Street which he called “Afton Hall.”  It was later owned by members of the Dosser and Broyles families, as well as several others.  Now known as the Cunningham-Clayton House, it is on Jonesborough’s historic walking tour.  

 Lucinda Cunningham, first wife of S. B. Cunningham,  died May 4, 1844.  She is believed to be buried at the Old Salem Church Cemetery. 

 On January 22, 1846, Dr. Cunningham married Ann Davis Foster, the widow of Rev. Stephen Foster.  They had four children together, all of them dying in childhood or young adulthood.  Their daughter, Sophia Moody Cunningham, married Presbyterian minister, Calvin Duncan, who served for a time in Jonesborough and for many years was director of Maryville College.  They had one child who died in infancy.  Sophie died the same year.  Samuel B. Cunningham died in Jonesborough September 4, 1867, and  Ann Foster Cunningham October 21, 1894.   They are buried beside their four children and grandchild in the Old Jonesboro Cemetery.

 S. B. Cunningham’s will of 1856 describes his home at that time as “dwelling and lots where we now live on Main Street bounded by Genl. Jackson on the east and by Wm. Maxwell on the west adjoin lot bounded by Genl. Jackson Chestnut Street.”  From the May 2, 1872  Herald and Tribune:  “house on corner near the Methodist Episcopal Church occupied by the late Dr. Cunningham for many years prior to his death is being torn down.”




            Jane “Jenny” Cunningham was born in Washington County, Tennessee January 22, 1799.  On May 21, 1821, she married cousin James McLin in Washington County. Rev. McLin served as the president of Washington College 1829-1838.

             The McLins had eight children:  Martha Ann McLin, born Feb. 11, 1822; John Alexander McLin, born May 27, 1824; James McCord McLin, born October 1, 1826; Samuel Cunningham McLin, born November 9, 1829; Newton Beacher McLin, born Oct. 9, 1832;  Elizabeth Roe McLin, born March 16, 1835;  James B. McLin, born Oct. 9, 1837;  Deaderick B. McLin, born Feb. 14, 1841.  

             Rev. James McLin and his son, James McCord McLin,  died in Cassville, Bartow County, Georgia, May 11, 1848.

             On January 29, 1856, Jane Cunningham married cousin William Kelsey Blair.  It is believed that Jane and William K. Blair are buried in Abington, Virginia.



            John Whitfield Cunningham was born around 1802 in Washington County, Tennessee.  He was graduated from Washington College, and studied medicine in Abington, Virginia, but later decided to become a minister.  He studied theology at Princeton, graduating in 1829. 

            On October 20, 1831, he married Elizabeth Sevier, daughter of Valentine Sevier of Greeneville.   After three years in Hanover, Indiana, teaching and managing a small church there, Rev. and Mrs. Cunningham returned to Jonesborough, Tennessee, where he served as pastor of the Presbyterian church for eleven years. 

            After one year at the Presbyterian church in Knoxville, Dr. Cunningham accepted the pastorate of the Presbyterian church at La Porte, Indiana, where he remained fifteen years.  He was appointed home missionary agent for the state of Indiana by the American Home Missionary Society, and he continued that work until 1861 when he removed to Illinois.

            John Whitfield Cunningham and Elizabeth Sevier Cunningham had six children:   Jane I. Cunningham (died young);

          Nancy Jane Cunningham, born 1834 in Indiana or Tennessee, died Oct. 21, 1909, Minneapolis, MN.  ;  John Valentine, born 1835 in Jonesborough, TN, died Naperville, Illinois Aug. 23, 1867; Catherine Mitchell Cunningham, born March 17, 1837 in Jonesborough, TN, d. ; William Alexander Cunningham, born April 1841 (died 1842, buried in the Old Harmony Cemetery, Greene Co, TN); Lucinda “Lucy” Isabel Cunningham, b. Mar. 15, 1844 in Jonesborough, Tennessee.

 Lucy is the only child of this couple who had children.  She married Presbyterian minister, William Clay Porter, in Naperville, Illinois.  For many years, he served as minister of the Presbyterian chuch in Fort Scott, Kansas.  She died Feb. 7, 1909.  The Porter family is buried in the Naperville Cemetery, Naperville, Illinois.  

             In 1868, Dr. Cunningham accepted a call to serve the First Congregational Church of Naperville, Illinois, which was to be his last church.  He died February 8, 1874.  Elizabeth Cunningham died June 14, 1882.  They are buried with their children in the Naperville Cemetery, Naperville, DuPage County, Illinois.

SIDE NOTE: Our great-grandmother, Nannie Leila Sevier, lived with Dr. and Mrs. John W. Cunningham while she was attended Northwestern College (now North Central College) in Naperville, Illinois.  She was in the first graduating class in Naperville in 1875. Elizabeth Sevier Cunningham was Nannie's aunt (her father's sister). Dr. Cunningham was Nannie's great-uncle (her mother's uncle).



            The fourth child of Ebenezer John Cunningham and Martha Blair Cunningham, Alexander Newton Cunningham, was born in Washington County, Tennessee on March 16, 1807.  He was graduated from Washington College, and entered Princeton Seminary in 1830.  

 He was ordained by the Presbytery of South Alabama in 1833, and subsequently served churches in Montgomery, Alabama; Augusta, Georgia; Franklin, Tennessee; Shelbyville, Tennessee;  Fayetteville, Tennessee; and Aberdeen, Mississippi (his last church).  In 1863 he volunteered as chaplain and labored in the hospitals at Montgomery, Alabama.

 Dr. Cunningham married August 7th, 1834, Miss Margaretta A. Eason, daughter of John Goodman Eason of Washington County, Tennessee.  They had the following children:   Julia Cunningham, born about 1837;  Louisa Cunningham, born Dec. 1, 1838 in Augusta, Georgia; William Cunningham, b. about 1841; Margaretta Cunningham, born about 1844;  Alexander N. Cunningham, Jr., born about 1849; Frederick Cunningham, born August 1852 in Franklin, Tennessee; Charles Cunningham, born about 1855; Frances Alexana Cunningham, born Feb. 18, 1848 in Franklin, TN.

  Margaretta Eason Cunningham died of heart disease March 22, 1877 in Aberdeen, Mississippi.  Dr. Cunningham died September 5, 1878 in Franklin, Tennessee while visiting his daughter and her family.




            William Madison Cunningham, the fifth child of Ebenezer John and Martha Blair Cunningham, was born in Washington County, Tennessee, June 28, 1809.  He appears in the Federal Census of Washington County, 1830.

             He attended Princeton Seminary and served in the Presbyterian church in Lewisburg, Virginia in the early 1830s.  On August 28, 1835, he married Ann Elizabeth Withrow of Greenbrier, Virginia (now in West Virginia).  It is believed that W. M. Cunningham’s first two children were born from this marriage:  Sarah R. Cunningham, born 1836, died Troup County, Georgia, 1842; and Ann E. Cunningham, born around 1839.

             In 1840, William M. Cunningham married Martha J. White in Lexington, Virginia.  

 Dr. Cunningham served as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in LaGrange, Troup County, Georgia,  from 1841 until his death,  March 3, 1870, and is mentioned several times in the History of Troup County, Georgia.    The year before his death he had been elected President of Oglethorpe University but declined the honor.  He was in the process of trying to get Presbyterians to move Oglethorpe College to LaGrange.  

William M. Cunningham and Martha White Cunningham had seven children, all born in LaGrange, Georgia:  Margaret E. Cunningham, b. 1843; Henry M. Cunningham, b. 1845; Mary M. Cunningham, b. 1848; Irene W. Cunningham, b. May 25, 1852; Ada L. Cunningham, b. 1853; Willie D. Cunningham (female), b. 1856; Charles C. Cunningham, b. 1859.

 Dr. Cunningham died in LaGrange, Georgia, Feb. 2, 1870.  Martha died September 9, 1887.  They are buried in the Hillview Cemetery, LaGrange, Georgia. (SIDE NOTE: In the last two years, we discovered that our mother's life long friend from our brief two years in LaGrange GA in the early 1950s is a descendant of Dr. W. M. Cunningham, and they met at the Presbyterian Church in LaGrange. Small world!)



            Martha Roe Cunningham was the youngest child of Ebenezer John and Martha Blair Cunningham.  She was born 1810 in Washington County, Tennessee. 

 She married cousin, Robert Laird Blair, at the home of her brother, Dr. Samuel B. Cunningham, in Jonesborough, Tennessee, on November 1, 1838.  Robert L. Blair was the son of John Blair, Jr. and Susannah Kelsey.

Robert L. Blair and Martha Cunningham Blair had six children, all born in Jonesborough, Tennessee:  Samuel Cunningham Blair, born August 18, 1839;  John Nelson Blair, born 1842; Florence Elizabeth Blair, born August 15, 1843;   Ella Jane Blair, born Nov. 1, 1846; William K. Blair, born Aug. 9, 1847;  Robert Whitfield Blair, born Sept. 3, 1857.

 Robert died May 12, 1885.  Martha died December 21, 1889.  Both are buried in the Old Jonesboro Cemetery.

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