Injun Joe Cunningham

From “Colonial Cunningham of the Virginias and their Descendants,”

by Kenneth & Marjorie Blech, 1982, page 180:

“On March 3, 1778 [error- 1776], a party of Indians came upon a number of children playing on the banks of Ten Mile Creek, in the yard of a house known as Fort Harbert. It was designated as a place of refuge in case of an Indian attack in the area, hence its name. The children ran screaming toward the house to appraise [sic] their elders of the Indians’ presence. John Murphy, running to close the door, was shot and fell back inside. The Indian, who fired the shot and not realizing that there were others in the cabin, rushed in to scalp his victim, but was instantly tackled by Mr. Harbert, who threw him to the floor and struck him with his tomahawk. In his struggle with the Indian, Harbert stood up and was shot by an Indian from outside the house, killing him instantly. While he was having his troubles with that Indian, Edward was having his own troubles with another Indian, who had followed the first one into the cabin. Edward had attempted to shoot him, upon his entry, but his rifle misfired. He grappled with the Indian and buried his tomahawk in his back, seriously wounding him. Meanwhile, Edward’s wife, Sarah, was hitting him with an ax, causing him to flee.

Another Indian in the cabin, was engaged in a struggle with a Mr. Reece and his daughter. Reece, too, would have been killed had not Edward wounded his opponent with a tomahawk, causing him also to flee.

In the yard, the Indians had rounded up all the children that they could find. They killed and scalped three of the children and took five captive, before they fled into the forest toward their territory in Ohio. The total casualties of this encounter were: One white adult and three children slain and four wounded, and one Indian killed and several wounded. It was in this raid that Joseph, the son of Edward and Sarah, was captured. They found him hiding under the treadles of a large loom in the weaving house. He was eight years old.

Joseph was adopted in the Shawnee family and lived with them for sixteen years, before being released by a treaty, freeing all Indian captives. After his release, he guided pioneering families and surveyors of the vast tracks of forests. While he was on one of these surveying trips, he had a hand encounter with a large black bear. The bear grabbed him by the knee and would not let go. He killed the bear with his hunting knife and pried his jaws open to free himself. He was lamed for life by the injury. After his return to civilization, he was known as “Injun Joe.” Joseph later married a Miss Ayres [Margaret “Peggy” Ayres] and fathered two daughters and one son. They were: Mrs. Samuel Warne of Parkersburg, WV, Mrs. George Sires of Clarksburg, WV and Dr. John Cunningham of Illinois.”

Edward and his family were also present in the June 1785 Indian attack which resulted in the deaths of his brother Thomas’ four children and the capture of Thomas’ wife, Phebe.

Edward’s will [Harrison County Will Book 1, p. 234] is dated 4 Dec 1800 and it was proved in the Harrison County Court on 4 Apr 1804. He signed his name as “Edward E. Cunningham.” Named in the will are his wife and children: Sary [Sarah], Joseph, Benjamin, Leah, William, Adam, Thomas, Enaith [Enoch], Rachel, Ann, Mary Elizabeth, and Kettery [Keturah].

Edward died May 5, 1804.

Both Edward and Sarah are listed in the D.A.R. Patriot Index for their public service during the Revolutionary War. Edward married Sarah Price on 15 Jun 1770 in VA. (Sarah Price died on 24 Dec 1800.)


  1. James Peters says:

    Edward and Sarah are my 4th great-grandparents.First heard this story in 1975.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. szterrell says:

      Hi Cousin James, thanks for stopping by. When I first found this story, though a hard one to read, I was in awe of the strength and endurance of our ancestors …


      1. James Peters says:

        My mother was a Cunningham.Her father Joseph came from Clarksburg, W.V. Nice to meet you.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Carole Jung says:

    I live in Alaska. Not sure how we are related exactly but my uncle Richard told me that we are related to the Cunninghams and McIntyres through my grandmother Gladys Hall Jung. Her father was Oscar Hall from Mannington, WV. Oscar Hall moved to Alaska at the beginning of the century and we have large family up here in Bethel, AK. Uncle Richard told me the story of Indian Joe. Very interesting!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jim peters says:

      Hello,I have a Richard Jung as a 4th to 6th cousin according to Ancestry.He does live in Alaska.My mother was a Cunningham.I also have some Halls on Ancestry.My mothers father was from W.Virginia,never met him.His parents were Wilmer and Virtue Belle(Robey)Cunningham.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Carole Jung says:

        Nice to meet you distant cousin! 🙂 It’s so interesting!! What a cool name, Virtue Belle!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Jim peters says:

      PS I live in Michigan.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Tamieko A Rinck says:

      Thomas Cunningham is like my 6th great grandfather. This story is so fascinating. I love our people

      Liked by 1 person

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