Robert James Cunningham Jr.
President 1918

By Myra Chepack

Born on August 10th, 1860, Robert James Cunningham Jr., was the only son of Robert James Sr. and Isabella ( Robertson). His father immigrated from Ayrshire, Scotland and ultimately farmed lot 6, conc. 4 (Woodbine and 14th Avenue area). He resided on this property until his death at the age of 89, in 1912. His obituary notes his keen interest in all things agricultural and the fact that the year prior to his demise was the first in which he had missed attending Markham Fair. He was one of the Economist’s earliest subscribers and was considered progressive, warm-hearted and genial, as well as enjoying the love and respect of the community. He and neighbour John Reid were noted to be threshers in the south-west region quite early but the writer was unable to substantiate the validity of that statement. He was buried at St. John’s Presbyterian Cemetery on Warden Avenue, south of 14th Avenue.

Robert James Cunningham Jr. President 1918

Robert James Cunningham Jr.
President 1918

Robert, Jr. married Euphemia Ann Hagerman, the daughter of Nicholas and Jane, at Hagerman Presbyterian Methodist Church on April 2nd, 1890. The Nicholas Hagerman’s lived on the north-west corner of Kennedy Rd. and 14th Avenue, referred to as the Hagerman sideroad. The local school (SS#8) was located on the south side of 14th Avenue, across from the Hagerman farm. It is in use currently as a restaurant. Although they lived within such close proximity to one another and were schoolmates, it is noted the bride was age 28 and the groom 29, at the time of their wedding! The deed to the 100 acre parcel owned by Robert Sr. was transferred, in this year, to Robert Jr. although Robert Sr. continued to reside on the home farm until 1912. To-day this property is owned by The Miller Group .

Robert and Euphemia had three children, Ross Hagerman Cunningham who died at the age of 19 in 1910 and is buried at Hagerman Cemetery West. Elmo (or Elmer), was born in 1896 and Robert Harold Cunningham (1899 – 1959). Robert Harold married Lizzie Johnston and served in WWl. Elmo, at the age of 22, is shown to be farming 20 acres adjacent to Robert’s farm in the 1918 census but at the time of Robert’s death in 1942, he is listed, in his father’s obituary, as being with the RCAF in England.

Robert Jr., farmed most of his life but was employed by Markham Township in his later years, as the ‘roads foreman’ , holding that position until his death at the age of 82, in 1942. It is noted that his death occurred at Toronto East General Hospital as the result of a fall from an apple tree, likely on the home farm as there was an orchard on the property. His funeral was held at son Robert Harold’s home in Langstaff and Robert Jr. was interred at Hagerman Cemetery West. The pall bearers were prominent members of the community, being George Kelly, Aubrey Stevenson, Doug Hood, Fred Tennyson, W. Baker and Deputy Reeve Charles Hooper. These gentlemen were all residents of Buttonville, which had a population of fifty, in 1942. Aubrey Stevenson’s son, Leonard, is shown in a photo with Robert’s son Elmo, possibly in the 1920’s.

The President of the 1918 Markham Fair was a long serving Board member and appears to have been a solid and hard working citizen. To have been climbing apple trees at the age of 82 says a lot about him!

The Archive Committee sincerely thank Markham Museum for their research and assistance in gathering information for this article. The sharing of their expertise is very much appreciated.