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Preserving Pocahontas

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Dr. John M. Cunningham was born on May 31, 1868 in Rockingham County, Virginia, to William Alfred and Elizabeth Koogler Cunningham. He came to Marlinton to practice medicine in 1891. In 1892 he married Eula Yeager, eldest daughter of Henry A. Yeager.
In 1900 Dr. Cunningham was appointed Deputy Grand Master of I.O.O.F. of West Virginia, elected to the Marlinton Town Council and appointed to the Board of Health. In that same year his wife died at the age of 33 leaving behind an infant daughter.
Articles from The Pocahontas Times in 1902 piece together the sad last chapter of Dr. Cunningham’s life.
In the archives we find that the doctor became seriously ill with a neck abscess and underwent surgery at John’s Hopkins Hospital.
In September his little daughter suddenly died.
In October he married Miss Cora Combs. And then, his sudden death on November 18, 1902 was reported in this obituary beginning with the headline:

Expires Very Suddenly at His Home In Marlinton.
Dr. J. M. Cunningham died at his home at this place last Tuesday about noon after an illness of less than one day. The cause of his death is supposed to be peritonitis occasioned by eating something from a tin can which had been open some time without the contents being removed. Drs. Yeager and Price were in attendance. He was taken sick at night and Dr. Price reached him about daylight. The following conversation took place after the diagnosis had been made.
Dr. Price told him that he thought he was in a desperate condition and that if he wished to make any disposal of his property in the event of his death that he had no time to lose. Dr. Cunningham said that he did not think he was so dangerously sick. However he immediately felt his own pulse and remarked, “I am nearer dead than I thought I was.” He then sent for Lawyer McClintic and made a will. He survived until about the middle of the day.
Dr. Cunningham was thirty-four years old. He attended school at Blacksburg, Va., and afterwards graduated at Louisville in medicine. He located at Marlinton in 1891 and has practiced his profession here ever since. He had a large practice and had accumulated considerable wealth.
Dr. Cunningham was a member of the Presbyterian Church. He had taken all the degrees of Masonry which fraternity buried the remains with the rites of that order. He also belonged to the Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias and the Modern Woodmen. He carried $11,000 life insurance.
John M. Cunningham, M.D., was buried at McLaughlin Cemetery in Marlinton. In December a Resolution of Respect from Camp No. 9766 Modern Woodmen of American was published in The Marlinton Messenger and The Pocahontas Times with a copy delivered to his widow. Photograph from the Carter Family Collection, ID: PHP001439

Access the “Preserving Pocahontas” Digital Library at www.pocahontaspreserva or If you have historical records or photographs to be scanned for the county Historical Archive contact Preservation Officer B. J. Gudmundsson at 304-799-3989 or email Prints of photographs are available.

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