go to Elizabeth Beal's page
David's placement in the family of John of Spencer, MA, is based on circumstance. He bought land from John Cunningham in Cummington, MA, in 1770. John and David were the names of sons of John of Spencer, who both moved from Spencer as adults. Further evidence ties in with that which says David Cunningham of Cummington was the same David who later lived in Richfield, NY. In Cummington, some of David and Elizabeth's children are recorded in the town's vital records. David of Richfield appears there shortly after David of Cummington sold his land and moved. David of Richfield also had a wife Elizabeth, and being the only Cunninghams of record in that town in the early to mid 19th century, they can be assumed to be the parents of Cunninghams of the next generation who appear there. Huldah, recorded in Cummington, is the most obvious, being buried next to David and Elizabeth in Richfield. Mrs. Anna Sprague, who apparently has a marriage record that hasn't yet been found that identifies her as a Cunningham, is also buried next to the Cunninghams. Her age matches the Anna recorded in Cummington, born to David and Elizabeth. John Cunningham is a name that also appears in the Cummington births and in Richfield. David and his presumed son John had real estate transactions between them in Richfield. John's burial record in Utica, NY, says he was born in Cummington, and his birth year, found on his gravestone and in the 1850 census, matches David's son John in Cummington. David and Elizabeth's gravestones in Richfield gave their ages at death, and they match David of Spencer, son of John, and Elizabeth Beal, presumed daughter of Josiah Beal of Cummington. A Bible that may have belonged to David Beale Cunningham, one of John's sons, lists David and Elizabeth's children. The names nearly match those in the Cummington birth records, but who made the entry and when isn't known. Another bit of evidence is that David B. Cunningham named one of his sons Arthur Sinclair Cunningham. "Sinclear" was the maiden name of the wife of John of Spencer, who was his presumed great grandmother.
There is no known record of David and Elizabeth's marriage. All evidence indicates they were married in or near Cummington. Although a number of Beal families settled in the area, only Joshua Beal of Abington moved to Cummington before 1780. He had a daughter Elizabeth, born the same year as Mrs. Elizabeth Cunningham of Richfield. Cummington deed records show that Joshua Beal, Jr. was a witness to one of the transactions. Another was Polly Hamlin, surely the wife of Isaac Hamlin and considered to be the same as Molly, daughter of Joshua. Her age at death matches, but other reasons to think she was a Beal have yet to be found. She did have a son named Joshua. Joshua of Abington sold his land there in 1778, but deed records have yet to be researched to try to determine when he moved to Cummington. Even if the Beals when the Abington land was sold, there was still time enough for David and Elizabeth to marry and have their first child of record late in 1779.
The land David bought in 1770 and more in 1773 from Silas Farr was likely the property on which he later lived with his family. Only One Cummington reports that their house burned in the 1827, and the house that replaced it was built in a similar form. Illustrated in the above book, it was in the "Cape Cod" style, which, although with Greek Revival style woodwork of the period, might have reflected the appearance of the Cunningham house in shape and openings. The newer house still stands. The idea that it was built on the Cunningham's foundation is reflected in the orientation of the house slightly away from the line of the present road. It is also very close to the road. This is typical of old houses that were built when roads were more like paths, and when modernized, were widened and straightened. The Cunninghams were next door neighbors of Dr. Peter Bryant, father of William Cullen Bryant. The Bryant Homestead is now a preserved historic site. Peter was a witness to one of the Cunningham's deeds.
David enlisted in the Revolutionary army in 1775. A record of 7 November of that year places him as a private in the company of Capt. Abel Thayer in Col. John Fellows regiment, which marched on an order for "bounty coat or its equivalent" in Dorchester. He was in Capt. William Ward's company of Col. Ezra May's regiment, raised in "Plantation #5" of Hampshire County to respond to the alarm of the Battle of Bennington, which was taking place in not too distant Hubbardstown, NY. The battle started on 16 August 1777. The company was raised the day after and arrived after the battle was finished. They were discharged on 22 August.
The Cunninghams farmed the rocky land in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains for over 20 years, but with about nine children to support, they may have decided to find a better region for farming. After the Revolution a massive migration took place west from New England. The fertile land of Central New York which became available for settlement after the Revolution attracted thousands of settlers and many Cummington families moved there. The Cunninghams settled in Richfield, also known as Monticello, in Otsego County, probably shortly after David bought land there in 1799. He and his family appear there in the Federal Census of 1800. The site of their home has not been found, the deeds being vague in their geographic description, but it may have been on the road that runs between Richfield/Monticello and Rt. 20 near the village of Richfield Springs. Although the Cunningham's were joined by other settlers, it was a wilderness. Early 19th-century censuses for neighboring towns indicate that the houses generally were pioneer cabins, many made of logs. The nearest town of note was Utica, 20 miles away. David and Elizabeth are buried under delicately carved headstones in the Hillside Cemetery, located on a knoll with panoramic views of the countryside. A history of Richfield seems to place this cemetery near a Congregational Church, which was not long lived and is no longer standing, but suggests that the elder Cunninghams continued their New England Congregationalism.
Although the 1790 census lists David and his family at Cummington, the births of his children do not appear there after John in 1786. The 1800 and 1810 US censuses indicate that there were two sons born before 1790. The Bible gives a son David born after John. Their later siblings were born after 1790. The original Cummington vital records haven't been seen, but they are probably recorded similarly to other towns beyond the older settlements in eastern and central Massachusetts. Births and marriages tended to be recorded when the event happened in the older towns. In Cummington, where settlement was sparse to begin with, birth records were probably gathered later. The Town Clerk would put a call out for the names and births of the town's families, and they would then appear in the records in groups. Sometimes marriage dates and mother's maiden names would appear as well, but that wasn't common. The Cunninghams probably gave the Town Clerk a list of their children about 1787, and didn't do it again before they moved away. Of the additional children mentioned in the Bible (who are arranged mostly chronologically by birth), David, Abigail and Sarah are unaccounted for. The 1810 census shows 3 girls between 16 and 26. Compared to the 1790 census, it seems Azubah Polly is the last on the Bible list, but must have been older than either Abigail or Sarah. She is said to have been the wife of Samuel Bloomfield, but the evidence of this hasn't been seen. The Bloomfields lived in the adjacent town of Warren, NY, and Polly's gravestone indicates a birth in December 1791. One of her younger sisters would then have to have been born afterward.
copyright 2003, Doug Sinclair
David's gravestone in Hillside (now Twilight Rest) Cemetery, Richfield, NY
children of David and Elizabeth (Beal?) Cunningham (*Cummington vital records):
i. Elizabeth b. 8 November 1779* m. Nathan Hawkes
ii. Anna b. 30 May 1781* m. Daniel Sprague
iii. Huldah b. 28 November 1782* d. 9/4/1836 (not married, buried beside her parents)
iv. Azubah b. 31 August 1784* (Zubial in the C. Bible; Azubah is a Biblical female)
v. John b. 15 February 1786*
David b. ca1788-9 (C. Bible only record; censuses indicate his birth must be placed here)
Abigail (C. Bible only record) either she or Sarah probably died young (see censuses)
Sarah (C. Bible only record)
Polly b. prob. December 1791, m. Samuel Bloomfield (gravestone, Bloomfield Cem., Warren, NY)
sources for vital records: Going on the assumption that he was the son of John and Elizabeth (Sinclear), David's birth record comes from the published Spencer, MA, vital records and his death date is found on his gravestone in Richfield, NY. He died "in his 70th year," meaning he was 69, which allows the possibiliy that he was born in June 1748.
The Cunningham Bible has a family record, written in several different hands. It was likely written by Horatia B. Cunningham since there are errors that her mother would not have made. The name given of the wife of David Cunningham is Ann Beale.
all text and photographs © 1998-2005 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted