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Below is a family biography included in The History of Polk County, Missouri published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in 1889.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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Hon. Thomas W. Cunnyngham, one of the old and much esteemed citizens of Polk County, Mo., is a native of Knox County, Tenn., born June 8, 1814, and is the son of William H. and Magdalene (Lewis) Cunnyngham. The father was born in Shenandoah County, Va., in 1765, and when a young man went to East Tennessee, where he was married to Miss Lewis, who was born in 1771. They were married in a fort where they had to remain on account ofthe Indians. Riding out one day, the father was shot through the thigh by Indians in ambush. He followed the occupation of a farmer all his life and was quite successful. In his political views he was first an Anti-Federalist/ next a Democrat until after the election of Van Buren, when he became a Whig. His last vote was cast for Henry Clay. Both he and wife were members of the early school Methodist Church, when they were called “Babblers.” He died in 1845, and she in 1846. In their family were twelve children, seven sons and five daugh ters. The paternal grandparents of young Cunnyngham were natives of Ireland, and came to America in 1765. Thomas W., the subject of this sketch, attained his growth on his father’s farm, and received a very limited education, never having studied arithmetic but two months. He cared for his parents as long as they lived, and on November 17, 1842, he married Miss Disa Wilson, a native of Sevier County, Tenn., born February 14, 1819. In 1850 they moved to Polk County, Mo., and the following year to the property where he now lives. By this union five children were born, four now living: James H. W., Robert W., John M. and Thomas W. Both Mr. and Mrs. Cunnyngham are members of the Southern Methodist Church. In politics he was formerly a Whig but is now Democrat. During militia days he was captain, and during the war he was lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of Missouri Home Guards. For three years he was county surveyor, and in 1858-59 he represented Polk County in the Legislature. In 1862 and 1866 he was county clerk. The first two years he was county clerk, circuit clerk and ex-officio recorder. From 1852 to 1856 he held the office of county judge, and has been one of the prominent men and representative citizens of the county. He has farmed all his life, and is the owner of 450 acres of land; besides, he started all his children.

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This family biography is one of 132 biographies included in The History of Polk County, Missouri published in 1889.  For the complete description, click here: Polk County, Missouri History, Genealogy, and Maps

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