Dr. Samuel Blair Cunningham was one of the first physicians of the town of Jonesborough. He was born October 9, 1797 near Telford, Tennessee, the son of Ebenezer John Cunningham and Martha Laird Blair. He studied under Dr. Samuel Doak and graduated from Washington College in 1816, later receiving medical training at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky.
He first married Lucinda Doak Galbreath on August 18, 1824 in Greene County, Tennessee. Lucinda died May 4, 1844, and is believed to be buried at Salem Church Cemetery at Washington College. They had five children:
Martha Ellen "Ella" Cunningham, born August 3, 1825 in Jonesborough. She married Dr. William R. Sevier, Dr. Cunningham's junior partner. Ella died April 15, 1862 in Jonesborough, Tennessee, and is buried in the Old Jonesboro Cemetery.
Samuel "Sam"Alexander Cunningham was born in 1834 in Jonesborough. He married Alice Nelson, daughter of Judge Thomas A.R. Nelson and his first wife, Ann Elizabeth Stuart. He was the owner of the Watauga Flouring mills at Carter's depot until 1876 when he back to Jonesboro and lived there until 1882, when he went to Chattanooga to reside and for many years was actively engaged in business there as was manager of the agricultural business of C. Aultman & Co. At the time of his death he ws a member of the firm of McPherson & Cunningham. Sam Cunningham died March 17, 1905 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He and Alice are buried in the Nelson family plot in the Old Jonesborough Cemetery.
Sarah Jane "Sadie" Cunningham was born June 14, 1836 in Jonesborough. She married Dr. Nathan Bachman, Presbyterian minister. Sadie died July 26, 1864, probably of complication from childbirth. After Sadie's death, Dr. Bachman served for many years at the First and Second Presbyterian Churches in Chattanooga. Sadie is buried next to her sister in the Old Jonesboro Cemetery, but shares a double tombstone with Dr. Bachman in Westview Cemetery in Sweetwater, Tennessee.
Cornelius Eugene Cunningham was born about 1842 in Jonesborough. He married Lillian Morris. He died around 1915 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Samuel B. Cunninham's second wife was Ann Davis Foster, the widow of Rev. Stephen Foster. None of their children survived early adulthood, and all but one died in infancy and childhood. They are buried in the family plot in the Old Jonesboro Cemetery
Dr. Cunningham built this home, then named "Afton Hall," in approximately 1850 (in 1848 he was released from paying taxes on his house and lot because his house had burned).
The much told story is that Dr. Cunningham sacrified his practice as a noted physician to promote the first railroad to Jonesborough. It is said that he wanted the tracks to run in front of his large Federal-style home so he could sit on one of his porches and watch the trains go by on their way between Bristol and Knoxville. Much to his disappointment, the terrain forced the tracks to be built behind his house. Dr. Cunningham died in Jonesborough in 1867.
Apparently, the Cunninghams did not occupy this house for long, because an abstract from an 1872 "Herald Tribune" article mentions that the "house on corner near the Methodist Episcopal Church occupied by the late Dr. Cunninghtam for many years prior to his death is being torn down."
It's believed that the next family to occupy the house was Robert Newton Dosser, Sr., son of James H. Dosser. James Dosser built several homes in Jonesboro. His three sons, A. T. Dosser, Sr., F. F. Dosser, and Robert N. Dosser, formed a partnership in 1886 to run the Dosser store in Jonesboro when the business expanded its operations to Johnson City. See a circa 1880s photograph of the house during this family's ownership. (More information coming soon about the Dosser family).
The house was occupied for many years by the Broyles family, and is now owned by the Clayton family as a private residence.
If you have any additional information on this home and the families who occupied it, please contact Pat Sabin.
Samuel Blair Cunningham & The East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad
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Sevier-Cunningham Family Album
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