While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Thomas W. Cutrer

CUNNINGHAM, LEANDER CALVIN (1810–1896). Leander Calvin Cunningham, soldier, attorney, and prohibitionist, was born in East Tennessee on July 10, 1810, the son of James and Margaret (Cunningham) Cunningham. At the age of five he moved with his family to Alabama; he studied law and was admitted to the bar at Hanceville, Alabama, in 1832. He moved to Texas with two of his older brothers, Andrew and David, in April 1833, and became the first lawyer in the frontier community of Mina, now Bastrop. In May 1835 Cunningham was delegated by the ayuntamiento of Mina to deliver to the ayuntamiento of Nacogdoches information regarding Indian raids on the western frontier and to attempt to formulate a mutual-defense agreement. On September 7, 1835, he served as secretary to a meeting held at Mina to discuss the crisis precipitated by the arrival of Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos in Texas with an army of occupation. On December 10, 1835, Cunningham was appointed by the General Council, as representative of the Mina District, to assist James W. Fannin, Jr., in recruiting volunteers and collecting supplies for the Texan army then besieging Bexar (see BEXAR, SIEGE OF).

Cunningham and a few of his neighbors from Mina are said to have marched to San Antonio in an attempt to relieve Col. William B. Travis's besieged forces at the Alamo, where they found that they could not penetrate the Mexican lines. Thereupon he enlisted as a private in Capt. Jesse Billingsley's Company C of Col. Edward Burleson's First Regiment, Texas Volunteers, and fought at the battle of San Jacinto. It is said that he attended Sam Houston when the general was wounded on the field. On July 1, 1836, a J. Cunningham volunteered for three months' service in Capt. L. P. Cook's company of Col. Edwin Morehouse's First Regiment of the First Brigade of the Texas Volunteer Army.

In 1838 Cunningham married a widow, Ann Sloan Slaughter, of Frankfort, Kentucky. The couple had six children. Cunningham served in the House of Representatives of the Second Congress of the Republic of Texas and as chief justice of Bastrop County for three consecutive two-year terms; he resigned in 1840. On December 31, 1844, he was elected notary public of Bastrop. He was also instrumental in the establishment in 1840 of Bastrop Academy, a forerunner of Texas A&M University. About 1845 Cunningham ceased the practice of law and entered the mercantile business. By 1850 his property, including a number of slaves, was assessed at $40,000.

On October 9, 1852, he was named to the board of commissioners of the Colorado Navigation Company, of which Thomas J. Hardeman, also of Bastrop, was president, and on May 28, 1853, Cunningham chaired a meeting in Bastrop in support of internal improvements; those present at the meeting urged the state to give direct financial support to the construction of railroads. Cunningham also chaired the 1853 meeting of the Bastrop County Democrats that endorsed the candidacy of Elisha M. Pease for governor and William R. Scurry for Congress.

In September 1853 Cunningham was selected to represent Bastrop County at the Texas Temperance Convention at Austin. Bastrop, the first community in the state to "banish the liquor traffic," had voted itself dry on September 10. Cunningham was appointed one of the ten "permanent officers" of the convention and was also appointed to a committee of nine to draft the convention's resolutions. On December 27 he was one of seven signers of a proclamation, published in the Texas State Gazette (see AUSTIN STATE GAZETTE) attacking "those stupendous curses of the land-Dram Shops."

In 1859, after twenty-six years in Bastrop, Cunningham moved to Alleyton when the railroad pushed west to that community. There he erected a large warehouse and operated a commission business until 1872, then moved to Columbus upon the completion of the Columbus Tap Railway. In 1869 he moved to Austin, where he spent three years in the lumber trade. In January 1874, once again following the railhead, he moved to Waelder to become the railroad's agent. After a few months he resigned his agency to open a lumberyard, which he operated until 1892. Later he opened a furniture business, and a contemporary account noted that he kept "an excellent assortment of furniture of all kinds, besides paints and oils, and also deal[t] in coffins." After the death of his wife in June 1895 Cunningham moved to Seguin to live with a daughter. He died there on December 24, 1896, and was buried at Waelder. Cunningham was a member of the Texas Veterans Association, a devout Methodist, and "a pronounced Prohibitionist."

Compiled Index to Elected and Appointed Officials of the Republic of Texas, 1835–1846 (Austin: State Archives, Texas State Library, 1981). Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin, 1986). Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Telegraph and Texas Register, December 12, 1835. Texas State Gazette, October 9, 1852, June 11, July 30, September 24, November 29, December 27, 1853.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Thomas W. Cutrer, "CUNNINGHAM, LEANDER CALVIN," accessed May 25, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fcu23.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...