Three Rivers History Mystery: Ann Cunningham and Lot 289 on 5th Street, West Point, VA

 

3 rivers history mystery copy

Introduction

REACH has adopted the 7 tenets of the History Relevance value statement. One core value is engaged citizens. As we discover “brick walls” in our research or hear from other individuals or organizations with an unsolved research interest in the three rivers region, we will share them as a history mystery.

Okay local history nerds, let’s work together to introduce the past to the present! Are you an amateur FBI agent? Obsessed with unanswered questions? Do you love digging in documents or underground? Then this series is for you. Whether it is ghost stories, unidentified photos, places, objects or names that seem to have disappeared from the local narrative, this is a chance to collaborate and play history FBI.

The facts and nothing but the facts . . .

  • Circa 1832?: The 1870 Census indicates Ann Cunningham was born in Ireland; lists her age as 38, daughter Anne age 12 born in Pennsylvania. 
  • 1863: Ann Cunningham purchased 5 lots from the West Point Land Company
  • 1865: Ann Cunningham is listed as taxpayer for the following lots in West Point, Virginia in the tax records: lots 182, 183, 224, 289 and 349 (no buildings on those lots per the tax record at that point). Her residence is listed as Richmond. 
  • 1867-1871:  Ann Cunningham is the taxpayer for the same lots listed above, but her residence is now listed as Williamsburg.
  • 1870: She is living in Nelson, York, Virginia near Croxton Lomax and Jane Custis per the Census. 
  • 1872-1873:  On the tax records, Ann is only listed with lot 149 (no building, lot value $50).
  • 1874: Ann Cunningham is listed in the tax record for lots 149, 182, 183, 225, 289 and 349 (total value $900, no buildings).
  • 1875:  Her residence is still listed as Williamsburg and she has lots 145, 147, 149, 182, 183, 225, 289, 348 and 349 (no buildings, total value $975).
  • 1876: Ann’s residence is listed as Yorktown and she has lots 145, 147, 182, 183, 289 and 349.
  • 1877:  Ann’s residence is still listed as Yorktown, but now a building is included in the tax records. She has lots 182, 183, 145, 147, 289 and 349 (building $400, total value of lots including building $1000).
  • 1878-1879: Same residence as 1877 and lots owned, but beginning in 1878 lot 289 is listed on a separate line (building $600, total value including lot $675). 
  • 1880:  Ann is listed as the taxpayer for lots 145 and 147 on 4th Street, lots 182 and 183 on B street (later owned by the West Point Water and Light company), lot 349 (currently where town hall stands) and lot 289 on 5th where she has a building valued at $600. In the 1880 Census, she is a milliner living in West Point, Virginia (born in Ireland) near Bolivar Stark with her daughter Annie (age 20, born in Philadelphia, PA) and Ray Wormley (age 13, born in Virginia) whose relationship/occupation is listed as “servant, waiter in house.”  In 1900, Ray is a cook and boarder living on NW 10th Street in Washington, DC.  Given the comparisons below to Thomas P. Bagby, Dr. Whiting and Bolivar Stark, it is clear that Ann Cunningham was doing quite well in 1880. 

ann cunningham 1880.png

  • 1881/1882 : In the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Directory, Mrs. Ann Cunningham is listed as owning a boarding house in West Point with Beverly Allen Sr. This is the same year the Richmond and West Point Terminal Railway and Warehouse Company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

terminal stock exchange

  • 1883:  Ann Cunningham is listed as the owner/taxpayer for lot 289 on 5th Street in West Point, Virginia until 1884 (building valued at $700, lot $150, total value $850). 
  • 1884-1887:   W. H. Stewart is now listed as the taxpayer for lot 289 and the notes indicate it was from E. Wilkinson (no deed has been found yet)–building $700, lot $150, total value $850).  In 1884, lots 287 and 288 (corner of 5th and Main) are owned by the Richmond and West Point Terminal Railway and Warehouse Company. In 1888, a building is listed on that property valued at $1200. 
  • 1888-1891:  Lot 289 not listed on tax roll;  in 1888, Ann Cunningham conveys Lot 349 (where current town hall stands) to Edwin Wilkinson by deed for $150

cunningham to edwin wilkinson lot 349 09221888.png

  • 1892:  Lot 289 listed on tax record as H. L. Lewis Trust, building $800, total value with lot $910
  • 1894:  Lot 289 on 5th Street is now listed for Morgan Treat, building $800, total value with lot $910
  • 1895:  A building is displayed on the 1895 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map pictured below and it is still listed in the tax record with Morgan Treat, building $800, total value with lot $900

lot 289 in 1895.png

  • 1896-1900:  Morgan Treat is still listed as the owner of lot 289; the total value however is now $55 for the lot and no value for a building is recorded. 
  • 1901: A house now is recorded again on lot 289, value of lot $55, building $500, listed for Morgan Treat

current house lot 289.png

*Pictured above current house on lot 289 

The mystery . . .

Ann Cunningham seems to disappear from the record after 1888.  To date, we have not located a will, death certificate or any deeds in the King William County “burned” records showing how her other properties were transferred. Given the fact this was a female property owner beginning in 1863 without any mention of her husband or a trustee, why is there no local record of who she was? When did she die? Did she move out of town? Like every other historian, I continue to mourn the loss of the 1890 United States Federal Census.

Although Ann’s house on lot 289 appears on the 1895 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, it is gone by 1896 per the tax records.  What happened to that house? Fire? Demolished? Moved? Or was it partially destroyed and rebuilt? The current layout on record of the house on that lot and the layout from the 1895 fire map house appear to be the same.  Perhaps it was rebuilt.

In the Chesapeake Ohio Railway Directory, she is listed as a co-owner of a boarding house with Beverly Allen Sr. who was formerly enslaved and is known as the first “colored” property owner in the Town of West Point.  Per his testimony in a case from the early 1900s however, he became a resident of West Point several years before he purchased lot 105 at the corner of 3rd and Lee from the West Point Land Company.  Did Ann Cunningham act as trustee for land he owned in the same way Benjamin Robinson did for George Washington?

If you have information to help solve this Three Rivers History Mystery, comment or e-mail us at reachvallc@gmail.com

As additional information is discovered, we will post updates!

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Added 1/19/2019 1:00 PM

Ann Cunningham Lots Map.png

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