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Edward Hall Cunningham was among a few Texans who made the transition from slave holding planter before the Civil War to baron of industry. His wealth and influence became the thing of legend. The success of his business, based on the use of convict labor, made him a controversial figure admired by some and reviled by others.
Edward Hall Cunningham was born 7 July 1835 to Edward and Susan Dismukes Cunningham in Van Buren, Arkansas. His father was a successful merchant in Van Buren.
Edward and his younger brother, John Thomas Cunningham, came to Bexar Co., TX about 1854. On December 8, 1854, Edward was appointed captain of a slave patrol detachment in Bexar County.
In October 1856, Edward purchased 500 acres of land on Martinez Creek near present day St. Hedwig
, TX. This was the first of many land dealings that would make E. H. Cunningham a very wealthy man.
In July 1857, he registered his brand in Bexar County, and recorded his place of residence at the Hidden Rancho (Rancho Escondido) on the Martinez.
In 1860, John T. Cunningham, his brother, purchased 385 acres on the SW side of the Cibolo in Bexar County in what is now Selma, Texas.
During the Civil War, E. H. Cunningham served as Captain, Company F (Mustang Greys) of 4th Texas Cavalry (Hood’s Brigade).
John T. Cunningham also served in Company F. He died on July 10, 1862 of wounds he received at Gaines Mill on June 27, 1862. He is buried in Shockoe Hill Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
Haywood Brahan, the son of Robert Weakley Brahan, from a neighboring plantation also fought with the Mustang Greys. On April 18, 1872, E H. Cunningham married Narcissa Brahan, Haywood’s sister. She was the daughter of Robert Weakley Brahan and Martha Edwards Haywood, descendant of Judge John Haywood of Tennessee and the granddaughter Gen. John Brahan. Narcissa and E.H. had three sons and two daughters.
In May of 1868, E. H. Cunningham, now referred to as Colonel, gathered 3,000 head of cattle on his Cibolo property for a drive to St. Louis, Missouri. The herd was entrusted to drovers while E. H. Traveled to New Orleans and up the Mississippi by riverboat to meet the herd in St. Louis.
In January of 1874, Cunningham purchased the 2,750 acre plantation of his father in law, R.W. Brahan on the west side of the Cibolo in Bexar County.