Jones logo
William A. Cunningham
Born February 21, 1850

WILLIAM A. CUNNINGHAM, ice-dealer, Anamosa; is a native of Randolph Co., Ind., and was born February 21, 1850. When only 4 years of age. his parents came West to Iowa, and located in Jones Co.; they arrived in Anamosa in 1854, and he grew up to manhood here. He has been engaged in the ice business since 1868. He at first began carrying ice to his customers in a basket, and then in a wheel-barrow. He has increased the business until, the present year, he has sold 800 tons, and during the coming year, with enlarged facilities, will put up 1,500 tons. He has held the office of Street Commissioner, and is now a member of the City Council. He was united in marriage to Miss Helen Sales February 8, 1875; she was born June 18, 1855, and is a daughter of Dr. James T. Sales, and is a native of Washington Go., Iowa.

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Western Historical Company, Chicago, 1879, page 553.

Many of the business men of Anamosa have come here after the prosperity of the town was assured, attracted by the atmosphere of progress that surrounds it or because of the unusual opportunities here afforded. To their energy and ability all praise is due, save that which belongs to the men who started the town upon its upward career. Among the latter must be numbered William Alexander Cunningham, an ice dealer and the president of the gas company, who has not only watched the growth of Anamosa but has been most active in bringing about its commercial advancement, for many of the industries, in whose flourishing condition the citizens take a pride, were either instigated by him or given that encouragement which insured their development along extensive lines.
Mr. Cunningham was born in Indiana February 21, 1850, his parents being Samuel and Hannah (McQueen) Cunningham, the former a native of Pennsylvania and the latter of Ohio. In 1853 they came to Anamosa, where Samuel Cunningham engaged in the mercantile business, conducting a general store until his death, which occurred in 1866, when he was forty-nine years of age. His widow survived him for a long period, for she was not called to her final rest until 1904, when she was in her seventy-fourth year.
William Alexander Cunningham was enrolled as a pupil of the graded school in Anamosa and later attended the Hazel Knowl Academy. His first business venture was in the ice business, on which he embarked in 1868, and although he has still made it his principal concern the conditions connected with it forty years ago were very different from what they are today. Then delivery of ice was made by basket, and only one man is living in Anamosa today who was his customer at that time. For one season after he started in his business the supply of ice gave out, and the price rose to one dollar a hundred, three times the price at which Mr. Cunningham had made his contracts at the opening of the season. Such was his idea of honor, however, that although he might lose money by the transactions, he continued to serve his customers at the stipulated price, and they were permitted to buy as much as they desired. But one competitor, and that for only one season, has invaded the territory which Mr. Cunningham has come to consider his own, not that the town might not support another, but his patrons have been so well satisfied with his conduct of the ice business that they would need many inducements to bring them to the point of giving their custom to another. He supplies both wholesale and retail orders, but makes a specialty of winter shipments, and were one to inquire for a reason for his success he would undoubtedly modestly disclaim any part in it himself, laying it solely to the excellent quality of the Wapsipinicon ice he handles.
Among the other business enterprises with which Mr. Cunningham has been identified may be mentioned the Citizens' Savings Bank and the People's Gas Company. The former was organized March 14, 1907, with William A. Cunningham as president; William Thomas, as vice-president; F. G. Ray, as cashier; and as directors, William A. Cunningham, William Thomas, F. G. Ray, Colonel William T. Shaw, Dr. Hejinian and J. A. Belknap. The People's Gas Company was organized in 1909, with a capital of thirty- five thousand dollars and with important men of the town as its officers. William A. Cunningham is president. F. G. Ray is vice-president. J. E. Remley occupies the position of secretary, while E. K. Ray is the treasurer. The board of directors number W. A. Cunningham, F. G. Ray, William Thomas, C. L. Niles, J. A. Belknap, E. K. Ray and J. E. Remley. The concern is prospering and gives promise of a successful career, profitable alike to its organizers and those who will share in the Conveniences which it puts within the reach of all.
On the 8th of February, 1875, Mr. Cunningham was united in marriage to Miss Helen Sales, a daughter of Dr. J. T. and Sarah (Fleck) Sales, the former a native of Canada, and the latter of Pennsylvania. Some time in the early '50s they came to Iowa, settling in Brighton, where they passed the remainder of their lives.
Until 1900 Mr. Cunningham voted the democratic ticket but has since that time given his political allegiance to the republican party and has ever taken an active part in local affairs, serving the public well as chief of the fire department, as street commissioner, and for six years as constable. Fraternally he is prominent in the ranks of the Knights of Pythia and has held many offices in the lodge, filling the positions of grand vice-chancellor and trustee, besides serving on numerous committees Among the Mystic Workers of the World he has also been active, for he served as director for six years, and was afterward elected supreme master, in which capacity he served for four years. His religious adherence is given to the Episcopal church.
Liberal and progressive in his ideas, broad minded in his outlook upon life, Mr. Cunningham is one of those men who has let few opportunities slip through their hands. On the contrary he is ever on the alert to benefit through experience, and having discerned a need of the community and a ready means to satisfy it, he has the ability to carry it to its conclusion. These qualities united with a great fund of energy have procured him success, but more than that they have placed him among the important men of Anamosa and of the county.

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Past and Present, R. M. Corbitt, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1910, p. 136.


© Copyright 1997-2013, The Art Department, © Copyright 2014-2020, Richard Harrison.
Last updated on Friday, 16-Apr-2021 16:53:24 MST