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vital records sources
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John's signature from his father's probate file in 1766

The prevailing spelling of this family's name in John's lifetime was "Cuningham."

John supposedly came with his parents and siblings to Boston in 1717 from Coleraine, Ireland. His father and uncle Archibald Lamond (another Scots-Irish immigrant) bought land to settle on in Leicester, Massachusetts, where there was a small Scots-Irish presence. They divided their jointly-owned "great farm" into three parts in 1742. Lamond had already settled on the northern part and Robert in the middle. John bought the southern third.1 He had just started a family, having a wife and child by then, so his house may have already been built there. His wife was also from a Scottish family living in Ireland.

The "great farm" division of 1742. This area has changed little in 270 years. The area of water was created when a dam was made to flood a swamp.
The swamp is indicated on the 1742 map of the farm division and was the same shape as the lake is today.

This was undoubtedly John's house,2 probably built in the late 1730s, and is typical of the early to mid 18th century in New England. It would have had
a center chimney and smaller windows similar to John's uncle Archibald Lamond's house (on the 2nd floor) built nearby, shown in the old photograph.
The roof has been replaced, with a wider eave. The windows, cornice and door pediment on John's house were added about the 1830s or 1840s, then
the brackets were Italianate touches several decades later to try to update the look. The Lamond house doorway and first floor windows were probably
altered about the same time.

The town of Leicester grew to the point that a second precinct was needed. When they built their meeting house, John was voted to a committee to receive claims against the town treasury for work done in 1745.3 He was elected constable in 17474, but apparently declined, another person taking his place. He apparently accepted the vote for him to be a fenceviewer in 1752. 5 Good fences meant no stray livestock. Leicester's second precinct was permitted to form itself into a separate town called Spencer. John was elected a selectman for Spencer at the first official town meeting on 14 May 1753 and again in 1754.6 He was also a tax assessor in those years, surveyor of highways for the "North Side" where he lived and tax collector.7 He was on the Committee of Correspondence for Spencer in 1774, a position similar to representatives of districts that later served in the state government after the Revolution.8

     The administration of John's estate was given to his oldest son Robert on 12 February 1789. His son Nathaniel joined three others and made an inventory the following 30 March:

pair of oxen £10, 1 cow £3
two year old steer 40 shillings three year old heifer 48 shillings
yearling 20 shillings, horse £7, iron bar 10 shillings
chain 3 shillings, shovel and tongs 6 shillings, ax 1 shilling, iron pot 4 shillings
pair of dog irons 6 shillings, case of drawers 24 shillings, table 9 shillings
2 beds 20 shillings, 2 pillows, 1 boulster 3 shillings, beadstead 1 shillings
coat and jacket 24 shillings, great coat 2 shillings, hat 4 shillings
3 pewter basins 2 shillings, 4 pence, 4 pewter platters 10 shillings
12 pewter plates 6 shillings, 1/2 of an old saddle 9 shillings
note against Simeon Wood dated 5 July 1788 to be paid in three years from the date in neat cattle with interest £18, 12 shillings, 6 pence
note of Nathaniel Cunningham of 19 shillings, 2 pence
note of Jonas Lamb of £1, 4 shillings
note of Thomas Sumner of &poud2, 12 shillings, 10 pence
and a pew in the meeting house on the lower floor £7

total £65, 10 pence

List of debts due from the estate of John Cunningham

to Jacob Washburn £1, 18 shillings, 3 pence
Joseph Haywood £1, 1 shilling
Absolam Russell 16 shillings
Seth Washburn £7
Eben Mayson £2, 19 shillings, 10 pence
William Young £2, 14 shillings
David Prouty £1, 7 shillings, 5 pence
Mark Heard 7 shillings, 4 pence
John Frink 10 shillings, Henry? 1 shilling, 2 pence
Simon Potter £3, 14 shillings, 4 pence
to the administrator £12
to sunry other debts £30

total £63, 9 shillings, 4 pence

     In March 1783 John sold his homestead to his son Robert, probably with the agreement that Robert would take care of him and Ann, who were then elderly.

children of John Cuningham and Ann Sinclear:9

i. Robert b. 25 March 17(39/)40
ii. John b. 9 February 17(45/)46
iii. Jonathan b. 6 June 1748
iv. David b. 6 June 1748
v. Nathaniel b. 16 March 17(51/)52
vi. William b. 11 November 1754

vital records sources: His marriage intentions and marriage are in the Leicester town records (United States, Massachusetts, Worcester, Leicester, Town and vital records, 1714-1887, vol. A (Salt Lake City, UT: filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1971), film 007011115, images 112 and 121). His death date is on his gravestone in the Spencer Congregational Church cemetery and says he was "in his 80th year" (79 years old) when he died. Given that he died early in the year, he likely turned 80 in 1789, giving him a circa birth date of 1709.

1. Worcester Co., MA, deeds 15:42.
2. John Cuningham to Robert Cuningham, 105:479; Robert Cuningham to Reuben Cunningham, 142:320; Reuben Cunningham to Samuel H. Cunningham, 302:389; Pamela Cunningham to Samuel H. Cunningham, 584:437; Samuel H. Cunningham to Isaac Prouty, 584:438. Atlas maps and censuses confirm Prouty living in this house.
3. 2 Sept 1745, "Massachusetts, U.S., Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988," database online (Provo, UT: Operations, Inc., 2011), Spencer, Town Records [hereafter STR], image 7.
4. 2 March 1746/47, United States, Massachusetts, Worcester, Leicester, Town and vital records, 1714-1887, vol. A (Salt Lake City, UT: filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1971), film 007011115, image 11 of ms. pp. 4-5.
5. 23 Mar 1752, ibid, fenceviewer, image 21 of p. 25.
6. 14 May 1753, STR, image 15; 4 March 1754, image 17.
7. 3 March 1755, ibid, image 21.
8. Worcester Co., MA, probate file 14432.
9. Vital records of Spencer, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849 (Worcester, MA: Franklin P. Rice, 1909), 34-35. There are no dual years given in the town records to reflect the overlap in the Julian to Gregorian calendars. Robert's birth record says 1740. Since there's no evidence of his being conceived out of wedlock, the clerk was likely using the Gregorian year in his records. I've included the dual year where appropriate.

all text and photographs © 1998-2023 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted

marriage intention published Leicester, image 112, marriage 121, cttee , selectman list image 20
pew to be given to John Cunningham, Spencer,, image 6, committee to determine charges to town for building the meeting house (and William Sinkler cttee) image 7, cttee to lay out highways image 9, WS school lot cttee, image 9, 148
Jonas Wilson and Harvey Wilson from John Goodall 1831 John Goodall from Samuel H. Cunningham, son of Reuben and Olive