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Biography of James T. Cunningham
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James T. Cunningham, deceased, Mattoon; the subject of this sketch, whose portrait appears in this work, was born in Grayson Co., Ky., July 11, 1802; his early life was spent on the farm, and his education limited to a few months’ attendance upon the public or subscription schools of his native State; from a very early period in life, the support of the family mainly devolved upon him; in the fall of 1830, he came West to Illinois with his mother-in-law, Mrs. Yocum and her family, and settled in what is now Paradise Tp., Coles Co. He is mentioned in that township as being among the early settlers; when he came West he was possessed of but little means, but here he found a wide field for speculation; he was uniformly successful in his various undertakings, and his gains, though great, were always honorably gotten; he scorned to do a mean act, and, though at his death, he left a large competency to his family, no one could justly say that one farthing had been gained by trickery or dishonest means. He took a deep and abiding interest in whatever tended to advance the interests of his State. Being a man of good native ability, he was at an early day chosen by his fellow-citizens of Coles Co. as their representative; he served eight years in succession in the Lower House while the capital of the State was at Vandalia. His marriage to Elizabeth C. Yocum occurred Sept. 15, 1825; she died Sept.. 3, 1849; for almost a quarter of a century, she was to him a faithful helpmeet; he was married a second time, Feb. 3, 1853, to Mrs. Sarah E. Hendricks; from first wedlock five children were born -John, William, James, Mary J., James H.: of these William and James are dead; from the second marriage two daughters were given him-Nancy T. (deceased) and Elizabeth C. (now wife of Elder W. T. Mason). At his death, which occurred June 26, 1863, he left an estate valued (after the liquidation of all debts) at $300,000. This legacy he left to his family as the reward of a faithful, industrious, honest, upright life-a life of strict sobriety, and full of earnest, manly effort.
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