Dates of birth, marriage and death from VanMeter family bible.
Migrated to Clark County, Kentucky about 1802, served as county magistrate, sheriff, state legislator, and state senator; said to have been confidant of Henry Clay; served in the War of 1812 and commanded a company of Bourbon County volunteers at the Battle of the River Raisin; was a breeder of fine livestock, imported English cattle in 1834 as one of the stockholders in the Ohio Company. The Lexington Herald, Magazine and Editorial Section, p. 1, Sunday, January 14, 1917.
Came to Kentucky by flat boat navigation of Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Limestone [Maysville], was then only twenty-five; bought the farm of Matthew Patton, who was the first importer of short-horn cattle to Kentucky, also bought some of the stock of Patton, and bred these animals, and imported; was one of the first to encourage the growth of blue grass in the State, and though pursued under discouraging circumstances, lived to see its success; intimate friend of Henry Clay; member of no church, but a man of exemplary life; at his death in 1842, Isaac VanMeter and he owned 4,000 acres of blue grass land. Robert Peter, History of Fayette County, p. 866 (O. H. Baskin Co., Chicago 1882).
"CAPTAIN ISAAC CUNNINGHAM.
"Captain Isaac Cunningham was born in Hardy County, Virginia, December 7, 1778, and January 5, 1800, he married Sarah Harness, who was born in Virginia, December 2, 1783 (with a twin sister who married John Hull). He commenced his business life as a merchant in partnership with a man who went to Philadelphia to buy a stock of goods, taking all the firm's money along with him (the man was not heard of after for more than ten years), which left Captain Cunningham flat broke and with a few debts unpaid. His father squared his accounts for him, and his wife's father gave her about $7,000 worth of property, consisting of negroes, stock, and money, with which they came to Kentucky and settled on a farm about four miles northwest of Winchester, which he purchased of the estate of Mathew Patton in 1802, and then and there he commenced his business life again, to become one of the most successful and influential men that ever lived in Kentucky. He raised only one child of his own, Rebecca (my mother), who was born in Hardy County, Virginia, October 14, 1800, and married Isaac Van Meter, of Hardy County, Virginia, June 17, 1817.
"While this was his only child, he nearly all the while had a house full of other people's children. He raised and educated nearly all of his sister's, Elizabeth Scott's, children. His wife's twin sister died quite young and left three daughters, whom he reared and cared for as long as he lived. He reared and educated George Grimes, a sister's son and orphan, who became quite a worthy and influential citizen of Bourbon County. He adopted and raised a child by the name of Thomas Landrum, and, being a member of the legislature at the time, he had the lad's name changed to Thomas L. Cunningham. He gave him a fine farm in Bourbon County, which he occupied to the time of his death, and some of his children still own it. Notwithstanding the general liberality of Captain Cunningham, by his extraordinary judgment, foresight, and skillful financiering he became one of the wealthiest men of the county. He was for many years a magistrate of Clark County, and, according to the law at the time, by seniority of rank as magistrate he became high Sheriff of the county.
"After this he frequently represented the county in the State Legislature. He was a member of that body in 1823-24, and at other times, and was afterwards a member of the State Senate for more than one term. He commanded a company in the War of 1812-13, and participated in some very severe campaigning on the shores of the lakes during that winter, "making his bed on the brush piles and covering up with the snow." At the head of his company of Clark and Bourbon County Volunteers he did some desperate fighting against the British and Indians at the battle of the River Raisin and in other conflicts. He was one of the most noted breeders of fine stock in the State. He bred the finest of thoroughbred horses for some years, and became quite a noted breeder, and was, with his partner and son-in-law (my father), one of the few Kentucky stockholders in the Ohio Company, which made the famous importation of Shorthorn cattle in 1834, and they became the owners of three of the best cows and a bull imported by that company. Previous to this importation he owned some of the best cattle which could be had in this country up to that time. They were a breed of cattle known as the Patton stock, and were of English origin, but derived their name from the fact that they had been brought to this State by Mathew Patton, the man from whose estate he had purchased his home farm.
"Captain Cunningham took a very lively and active interest in political affairs, and wielded as much influence as any man of his day in his section of this State. While he had no overweaning aspiration for political preferment, he was ever ready to let his voice and influence be as potent as possible in the selection of the representatives of his district and his State in the councils of the nation. Therefore he had many intimate acquaintances among the most prominent statesmen of his day. Notably among them were Governor Clark, who resided in Clark County; Hon. Richard H. Menefee, and Henry Clay, the "Sage of Ashland." These and other politicians made him frequent visits, especially in times of great political excitement.
"I have been told by old men who have been conversant with these times that for many years it was impossible for any man to obtain the majority vote of Clark County against the expressed wishes of Captain Cunningham.
"His wife, Sarah, was a daughter of Mikel [sic] Harness, of whom further notice is given elsewhere. . . .
"Captain Isaac Cunningham died at his residence in Clark County, November 7, 1842, aged 64 years. His widow survived him only a few years; she died April 12, 1845, aged about 62 years. They were buried in their garden, near their residence, and the remains of their only child (Rebecca) with her husband (Isaac Van Meter) and several of their children were afterward placed by their side, where their ashes now rest.
"Captain Cunningham left his large estate (after providing bountifully for his daughter) to be equally divided between all of his grandchildren after the youngest one became of age. Meantime the lands were to be kept as nearly as practicable in blue grass, and the surplus money as it accrued from rent, etc., was to be invested in land. Consequently the larger part of the land was in grass nearly twenty years, and a very valuable landed estate was divided between eight grandchildren in 1865, immediately after the close of the late war, several of the heirs being in the Southern army until that time."
B. F. VanMeter, G&BS, pp. 170-71.