Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Josephine Box Cunningham


Josephine Box, daughter of Thomas and Clarkey (Carpenter) Box, was born on the 8th of June 1849 in Henderson County, Texas.  Family stories say Josephine was very beautiful and had gorgeous long auburn hair. It appears that she also had a determined and feisty personality. Josephine was the youngest child and only living daughter in the Box family. Her parents moved from Henderson County to Ellis County, Texas in the mid 1850's.

In 1856, when Josephine was about 7 years old, her parents came in contact with the Mormon Missionaries. Thomas and Clarkey Box were converted the the Mormon religion and in April of 1856 were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church) in Ellis County, Texas. The Box family along with other Mormon converts in the Ellis County area formed a small branch (congregation) of the Mormon Church in Ellis County, Texas.

Sometime in 1857, the Box family migrated to Utah to live in "Zion" with other Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). They lived in Salt Lake City once they arrived in Utah. Thomas Box became quite well known in Utah and became friends to the leaders of the LDS Church including Brigham Young. In 1858, Thomas Box married a plural wife, Malinda Marden Pratt. She was a widow of Parley P. Pratt, one of the twelve apostles in the LDS Church.

In the 1860 Census for Salt Lake City, Thomas Box is listed in the 13th Ward and gives his occupation as a merchant. In addition to his wife Clarkey and their three children (Thomas, William Jeff., and Josephine), the Box household also includes Thomas's plural wife, Belinda (Marden Pratt) Box and her children from her marriage to Parley P. Pratt. Belinda had five children, including a teenage son. It could not have been an easy task to combine two families with pre-teen and teenage children. By the 1870 census, Belinda Pratt Box had taken her children and moved out of the Box Household. What caused this split between the two families is not known at this time.  

The Box household of 1870, includes Thomas, Clarkey, sons; Thomas & William, Josephine and two year old Emily Box.  Emma is the illegitimate daughter of Josephine. It is not known who the father of Emma (Emily) might be.
1870 Federal Census, Salt Lake City, Utah
Josephine married Dennis Cunningham in 1871. Dennis was a Civil War veteran traveling through Salt Lake City on his way to California, when he met Josephine. They were married in 1871 in Pallisade, Nevada. In addition to Josephine's daughter, Emma; Dennis and Josephine became the parents of Thomas J., born 1872, Margaret born in 1875, and Willie born in 1877 (two other daughters would also be born to Dennis and Josephine after they moved from Utah.)  In 1876,  Three year old son, Thomas Jefferson Cunningham died of scarlet fever just a week earlier than his half sister Emma, who also died of scarlet fever.  How heartbroken the family must have been when both little Thomas and Emma died.
Salt Lake Herald, 1876-04-09, Page 3, Utah Digital Newspapers, digitalnewspapers.org
Salt Lake Herald, 1876-04-15, Utah Digital Newspapers, digitalnewspapers.org
Both, Emma and little Thomas, are buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery next to each other. There is no headstone for either Emma or Thomas.  Eva Silvis Usher, a cousin from the Carpenter family is buried next to them.  Dennis Cunningham is listed as the adoptive parent for Emma in the Salt Lake County, Utah Death Record book, while both Dennis and Josephine are listed as the parents of  young Thomas J. Cunningham.

Dennis Cunningham could not be found in any other early Utah records -- so, who was Dennis Cunningham and where was he from and what happened to Dennis and Josephine? My research had hit a brick wall at this point. I was unable to find any further records in Utah for Dennis and Josephine after the deaths of their children. They seemed to have disappeared. They could not be found in census records, land records, newspaper records, Mormon Church records, and/or Catholic Church records of Salt Lake City or or any place in Utah .

Then several months ago (Jan 2009), one of the Dennis and Josephine Cunningham descendants contacted me and sent the following family story.

So here is the rest of the story about Josephine Box Cunningham according to Cunningham family tradition:
"Josephine was supposed to marry Brigham Young, although she did not want to marry that "old man." She supposedly informed her parents, after much dispute, that she was going to marry the next man that rode into town (Salt Lake City).
Along came Dennis Cunningham on his way to California from Dubuque, Iowa in 1871. Dennis had served in the Union Army, 2nd Kansas Volunteer Calvary from 1861-65 mustering in & out of Leavenworth Kansas. Josephine ran out into the street to greet him as he rode into town. She had auburn hair and my grandmother said her father said she was beautiful. Despite the fact that he was a confirmed 31 year old, Irish Catholic bachelor, they were married in Salt Lake much to the dismay of Brigham Young and Josephine's parents.
My grandmother, Margaret (Dunn) was born in Brigham City, Utah in 1875. She was a year old when little Thomas and Emma died.
In about 1876, the family moved to Fruitland, New Mexico. They lived on a farm, according my grandmother, as one day Billy the Kid rode onto their property and Dennis went out to greet him after he had hid his family. Their second daughter, Katheryn (Shultz) was born in 1883 and then their third and final daughter Josephine (Lacy) was born in 1884.
Josephine Box Cunningham died in 1884 or 1885 due to a ruptured appendix. (She may be buried in the Fruitland Cemetery).
Dennis took the girls back to Dubuque Iowa as my grandmother stated that he did not get along with the Mormon side of the family as they were never able to convert him. My grandmother stated that there had been a lot of turmoil with his in-laws. We were led to believe that they were ran out of Utah by Brigham Young.
Dennis left daughters at a Catholic convent in Dubuque, Iowa. Josephine lived with Catharine Cota (Dennis' sister or niece). Margaret and Katheryn stayed at the convent until Margaret married John J. Dunn of Dubuque and Katheryn was able to be on her own and then she married Theodore Shultz.
Dennis left his Civil War metals with my grandmother at the convent to remember him by. His service metal was given to me by my uncle and has spurred on my interest finding out their story.
Dennis lived in a boarding house in 1885 in Iowa City and worked as a plasterer. He finally went out to California in 1892, but returned to Doon, Iowa by 1915 and lived out his life with his daughter, Katheryn and died in Duluth, St. Louis, Minnesota in 1923. I do not believe that he ever remarried.
Josephine Cunningham became an RN, married a dentist, Robert Lacy and then divorced him when her daughter was a year old. She never remarried and lived her after-marriage life in San Francisco. She definitely inherited her mother's determination.
My father told us that all of Thomas and Clarkey's family money was given to the Mormon Church to purchase the organ in the SLC cathedral.
I grew up in Southern and Northern California and many summer vacations were spent driving to Helena, Montana via Salt Lake City and hearing the stories about Dennis and Josephine and their flight from their Mormon family."

Note: Census records, military records, death records and an occasional newspaper records support the above Cunningham Family Tradition. For more specific source information, please leave a query in the comments and I will post what source information I have researched thus far. This family (along with sources) can be found on my Ancestry.com familytree.

Josephine and her husband, Dennis Cunningham, moved to San Juan County, New Mexico in the early 1880's. They lived in La Plata, which is just a few miles from Farmington and Fruitland. The Dennis and Josephine Cunningham family was enumerated in the 1885 New Mexico Territorial Census in La Plata, Rio Arriba County (San Juan County formed in 1887). The following children were listed in the family: Maggie, a daughter aged 10 born in Utah; Willie, a son aged 7 born in Utah; Katie, a daughter aged 3 born in New Mexico; and, Josephine, a daughter aged 6 months born November in New Mexico.  This is the only record where son, Willie, is mentioned.

1885 New Mexico Territorial  Census, La Plata Dist., Rio Arribo County, New Mexico, 12 Jul 1885

Josephine Box Cunningham, died of a ruptured appendix on 9 Jun 1888. After Josephine's death, her husband, Dennis, took their daughters back to Dubuque, Iowa and placed them in the care of a Catholic Convent.  Little Willie must have died prior to that time because no mention is made of him after the 1885 census.  San Juan County, New Mexico in the late 1880's would have been a very isolated and rough place to raise three young daughters.  During that time period, there are numerous stories of outlaws who tried to run or scare off the farmers and Mormons.  Several of the early pioneer families (particularly the Stevens families) left the area because of the threat of outlaws and Indians.  In the above story sent by a descendant, Dennis hid his family when Billy the Kid rode unto his property.  It is no wonder Dennis took his daughters back to Iowa to live in a more civilized and safe environment.
After taking his daughters and leaving them at a Catholic Convent in Iowa, Dennis Cunningham returned to live in San Juan County, New Mexico. He can be found living in La Plata, San Juan County, New Mexico in the 1890 Veteran's Schedule. He homesteaded land in La Plata and became active in trying to bring irrigation to the area. Next to the La Plata Cemetery is a ditch called the Cunningham Ditch.

I have wondered if Dennis returned to New Mexico to be near the place where he buried his beloved Josephine? Although, no grave marker has been found for Josephine in the La Plata Cemetery or surrounding San Juan County cemeteries -- at least in online or printed cemetery listings.

Dennis was probably born in Iowa, but both of his parents were born in Ireland. In most records, his birth place is given as Iowa but one listed Ireland and one referred to him being born on the ship coming to America. Dennis can be found in the 1850 Census and 1860 Census in Dubuque, Iowa in the household of John and Margaret Cunningham.  Family tradition says that his father's name was McCarty and the father died on the voyage from Ireland.  His mother, who was expecting Dennis at the time, remarried John Cunningham aboard the ship. More research needs to be done concerning his family.

As a Civil War veteran, Dennis received a Civil War Pension from the Federal Government.  One of the questions asked on the pension application, dated 5 Jun 1909, was: "places of residence since leaving the service have been as follows:"  In response, Dennis wrote the following: "Discharged in Washington DC 1866, went to Powder River, Wyo. and Sacramento, Calif. from 1866 to 1872, moved to Salt Lake, Utah 1872, remained till 1876.  Started East with a bunch of cattle and was on the road three years, residing in Laplata N. Mex. in 1879, which has been his residence since."

Handsomest Bachelor on the La Plata
Dennis Cunningham can be found mentioned several times in New Mexico newspapers during the late 1890's.  He is referred to as "Dennis Cunningham, farmer from La Plata".  A 1903 newspaper from Albuquerque, New Mexico states the following:
By 1915, Dennis had moved back to Iowa and in 1920 was living with his daughter, Katheryn (Theodore) Schultz, in Minnesota. Dennis Cunningham died in 1923 in Duluth, Minnesota.

Source for Dennis Cunningham's Civil War Pension:
Publication Number: T289. Publisher: NARA 
State: Kansas Arm Of Service: Infantry Regiment: 12; Company: E 
Name: Cunningham, Dennis 
Died: 21 Apr 1923 at Duluth, Minn. 
State/arm Of Service: Kans. Inf. Additional services: B. 2 Kansas Inf., E 3 Kansas Cavalry, G. 8 U.S. V. V. Infantry 
Date of filing: 30 Sep 1890 Certificate No.: 719.359 Application No. 961.727 Roll Number: 153

Please refer to the blog post on Josephine's parents, Thomas and Clarkey Box, for more information about the Box Family.

Additional information on the BOX or CUNNINGHAM families would be greatly appreciated.  I would love to hear from descendants of these families.  Thanks.


Anonymous said...

There is another interesting story about Dennis Cunningham. His father died aboard ship from Ireland. His mother remarried on the ship. His original surname was: McCarty. I often wondered how his mother could remarry so soon, then I was at Ellis Island and watched a short clip stating that they would not allow single women to come into the country, only married women!! He was born in Iowa, although she was obviously expecting on board the ship. He was her first born.

Anonymous said...

This is the way we heard the story: John had a wife - Maria McCarthy - and they lived in Table Mound Township. There were 2 children, Dennis and Catherine. Maybe they were twins. No one was sure about that. Anyway, Maria died in about 1841 and John must have remarried almost right away. John and Margaret's firstborn were twins, born about Mar 9 1842. Dennis was mentioned in his brother John's 1914 obit but not mentioned in the next (David 1917) or any subsequent obits.

John Cunningham said...

I just ran into this blog as an partial entry on Ancestry.com. Denis(Dennis) was raised by John Cunningham(1794-1879). I had very little about his mother other than her presumed death in 1841 after Catherine was born to John and her. If she married on board then John may have been on board with her. See my public tree at http://http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/1904443/family
John Cunningham