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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


John Cunningham

One of the oldest and most respected citizens of Sebastopol and a prominent member of the farming community, John Cunningham is widely known throughout Sonoma county as an upright honest man of sterling worth. A typical representative of those courageous pioneers who settled in this county while the country was yet in its original wildness, he has witnessed the wonderful changes that have taken place here during half a century, and in the grand transformation has been an important factor. One of the sturdy sons of the Emerald Isle, he was born in County Monaghan October 7, 1824, the son of parents who were none to well-to-do as far as material things were concerned. However, they were rich in the more substantial and enduring things that make for the best in life and trained their children to a right understanding of its duties and obligations.

In his native land John Cunningham prepared for future usefulness in his youth by learning the trade of mason and brick-layer and had followed this dual calling in the old country for a number of years before he decided to cross the Atlantic and identify himself with this newer and more progressive country. Responding to the call of the west, on May 3, 1860, he set sail from his native land, making the voyage by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and after an uneventful but interesting experience of many days he finally reached his destination, California. Coming directly to Sonoma county,he settled in Bloomfield and for a number of ears was identified with agricultural interests in that locality. The fall of the year 1864 witnessed his removal to Bodega, also in this county, and there for eighteen years he concentrated his efforts and ambition on a ranch of one hundred and forty acres, devoted to general farming, dairying and cattle-raising. It was with a valuable experience of about twenty-two years as an agriculturist that he came to Sebastopol in the fall of 1882, at that time purchasing the ranch of two hundred and seventy-five acres which constitutes the old home place, upon which he now makes his home. At that time the land was in a very crude condition, in fact the entire country round about was vastly unlike what it is today, dotted with prosperous ranches which are the homes of contented and happy tillers of the soil. During the early days of his residence here he set out an apple orchard of thirty-five acres, and today this is in a flourishing condition, due to painstaking and intelligent care on the part of the owner. The remainder of the land was devoted to general farming, and in addition to his own land, Mr. Cunningham at one time rented five hundred acres of land near by for dairy purposes, owning one hundred cows. For many years during the younger and more active period of his life he was looked upon in his community as an authority in cattle-raising, dairying and fruit-raising, and indeed is still so regarded, although much of the actual work connected with these industries has been shifted to younger shoulders.

In 1853, a number of years before he immigrated to this country, Mr. Cunningham formed domestic ties by his marriage with Miss Mary Gordon, and four children were born of this union, William James, Robert, John and David. (A sketch of the second son, Robert, will be found elsewhere in this volume.) The success which has come to Mr. Cunningham since taking up his residence in the country has resulted from his own efforts alone, and has not been accomplished without buffeting with experiences which are a part of every pioneer's life, but nevertheless he kept his courage and fought his way through conditions, to the end that he is now classed among the substantial and dependable ranchers and citizens of this thriving county.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011