Cunningham is a small town, half way between
Kingman and Pratt on Highway 54. According to
the assessor's 1983 record, there were 601 people,
who call Cunningham their home town.
The town developed first south of the railroad
tracks. In 1880, before there were railroad tracks, it
was called "Ninnescah." It was on the Cannonball
Route Stagecoach Line, from Kingman to Greensburg.
By 1885, Ninnescah had a hotel, church, two
stores, land office building, and many homes.
In 1887, the Kingman, Pratt, & Western Railroad
Company built a railroad, bordering Ninnescah
on the north. The Santa Fe Railroad bought this
railroad in 1898 and still operates it. On March 24,
1887, tragedy struck the little town of Ninnescah,
when a tornado practiCally demolished the town.
Some people were injured, but no lives were lost. The
buildings were a total wreck. That is when the
people decided to rebuild the town, north of the
railroad track. Colonel James D. Cunningham, a
director and surveyor for the railroad, offered to
give and sell lots to the settlers. Many Ninnescah
residents built north of the tracks, and the new town
was named Cunningham. The Ninnescah Post
Office became the Cunningham Post Office in
1887. On May 17, 1898 another tornado destroyed
the southeast corner of Cunningham.
In 1903, Cunningham had a school, Methodist
and Christian churches, stores, two hotels, creamery
"skimming station," lumber yard, livery stable,
station house, elevator, and depot.
In 1905, Dr. Silas Nossaman had the first Car in
Cunningham. It was a 3-cylinder Cadillac.
In 1908, a two-story frame school building served
as grade and high school. This building was on the
site of the present lunch room. Three students were
graduated from high school in 1911. In 1917, a high
school was built with an indoor gymnasium. In
1949, a fine new brick grade school replaced the
1908 outdated building. In 1956, a new auditorium/gymnasium
was added to the system, east of the high school.
In 1965, the Cunningham schools became a part
of Unified School District No. 332. This newly
created district covered the western one-third of
Kingman County and included five grade schools
and two high schools. In 1984, there are 78 enrolled
in Cunningham High School and 133 in grade
school. The office of the Superintendent of Unified
District No. 332 was built in Cunningham. Milton
E. Brooks was the first Superintendent, succeeded
by Richard Turner in 1970. Melvin R. Ormiston
became the present Superintendent in 1981.
Cunningham also houses a part of the South
Central Special EduCation Cooperative, which
meets in the former Sacred Heart Parish school
Cunningham has had a newspaper since 1886,
beginning as the "Ninnescah Herald." It became
the "Cunningham Clipper" in 1902.
In 1984, Cunningham's three churches include:
the United Methodist Church, in continuous operation
since 1886; the Christian Church, with services
since 1897; and the Catholic Church, Sacred Heart
Parish, organized in 1908.
Discovery of oil north of Cunningham led to the
development of "Skellyville," three miles north of
town, which at one time had twenty-five houses.
From 1943-1946, there was a helium plant west of
Cunningham. At the present time, the Northern
Natural Gas Company has a huge gas storage
facility northwest of Cunningham.
Cunningham has been and is the home of small
manufacturing plants. In the 1940's, Cecil Sheldon
manufactured a gasoline pump, known as the Sheldon
Tractor Filler. At the present time the Kingman
Manufacturing Co., owned and operated bY Bill
DeWeese, manufactures cattle equipment at the
east edge of Cunningham. Dr. D.E. Thompson, a
former Cunningham dentist, maintains the Great
Plains Dental Products. Dan Cusenbary, east of
Cunningham, manufactures a specially designed
all-purpose table, as a part of the Walnut Hill
Industries & Fish Farm.
In 1984, public buildings also include: a public
library, cityhall, post office, lodge hall, community
building, swimming pool, and two city parks. The
city is governed by a mayor and council system. Ivan
Cain is the mayor. Hilltop Manor, modern nursing
home, serves some seventy residents. A reliable
bank, three filling stations, and three restaurants
serve tourists on Highway 54 and the local community
nity. There are two wheat storage elevators.
Flourishing organizations are: the 4-H Club;
American Legion and Ladies Auxiliary; Eastern
Star and Masons; Modern Homemakers E.H.U.;
Lions Club; Y.W.C.A.; and Cub Scouts.
Cunningham owes much of its prosperity to the
rich surrounding farmland, cattle production, oil
wells, and Highway 54. The residents enjoy dependable
utility services, good streets, friendly neighbors,
and a progressive community spirit.
Submitted by Rubie Cusenbary.
Much information from History of Cunningham,
by Bob Witt, 1969