J.M. and Emma Cunningham’s home at 411 Thornton St. was the first house built in Three Rivers when the town was founded 100 years ago, and on Sunday, Sept. 22, a historical marker was unveiled declaring the significance of the structure, and the family that built it.
“Can you imagine the inner strength it must have taken to build the first permanent house in Hamiltonburg? Or to enroll your kids in the first class ever to be formed here in 1913?” Huff asked. “Although we are recognizing the structure itself, it is the family that this house sheltered and their contributions that we are especially thankful for.”
The Cunningham family also brought the first newspaper to Three Rivers and were instrumental in forming Three Rivers Independent School District.
Superintendent Kenneth Rohrbach said Cunningham used his newspaper to spearhead the community into voting to form its own independent school district and break away from the county system in 1914.
He said the district plans on having its own 100-year celebration next year.
“It takes visionaries to make education a priority, and I cannot imagine forming a new community and making education priority one. But that’s exactly what men like Mr. Cunningham did,” Rohrbach said. “To form the little yellow schoolhouse in 1913 and break away less than a year later from the county and say we’re going to be independent and have our own district took a lot of courage, especially in those times.”
J.M. Cunningham’s grandson, Jim Cunningham, came to Three Rivers for the unveiling from his current home in Sunset. He said the process of making his grandfather’s home a historical marker has been a learning experience about his family.
“I think this is significant that the reflection that we can all share in this award, speaks not just to the Cunningham family but to the community over these many years,” Cunningham said. “This has been a rekindling of the thoughts and feelings I’ve had and a call to rethink how you’ve lived your life and what you’ve seen and experienced. Obviously, family has been a part of it, but the community too makes us all one family.”
Richard Hudson, local historian and historical marker chair of the Live Oak County Historical Commission, said it was a pleasure to work with the Cunningham family in gathering information about the town and their family. He said the project took years to complete and was pleased with the turnout for the unveiling.
“I’ve worked with some of the descendents, particularly Betty and Margaret Custer, and they are a wonderful group of people. The thing that I have really appreciated is their awareness of the rich history that this county has,” Hudson said. “I would like to encourage all of us to bring that history forward because it is something to be proud of. There are many more people that came to this county in the early days and built it, and their families grew up here, and they represent a strong heritage that this county has.”
Marker Sponsor with the Live Oak Historical Commission, Betty Dickinson, said had it not been for the critical information gathered by Richard and Janis Hudson she didn’t think their application for the historical marker would have been accepted.
“They (Richard and Janis Hudson) did it willingly, they wanted to do it, they just care about Live Oak County and its history,” Dickinson said. “There are so many other places that could get markers and are just waiting to be discovered...I want the people to take pride in their history and pass it to their children.”
Hudson said the commission hopes to bring more historical markers to Live Oak County in the next 12-18 months.
“I think it’s neat to show the community a picture of the past,” former Three Rivers Mayor James Liska said.
Leslie Walker, secretary for the Live Oak County Historical Commission, said when researching genealogy there are two key tools to use: tombstones and historical markers.
“It establishes culture and honors history,” Walker said.
Richard Hudson said the LOHC hopes to unveil the historical marker for Loma San Dia in the beginning of 2014. Janis Hudson said George West has until Nov. 15 to apply for its historical markers in order for them to be unveiled during the George West centennial next year.