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James Calvin Cunningham


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"Spokane and The Spokane Country - Pictorial and Biographical - Deluxe Supplement." Vol. II. The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912. (No author listed.) pgs. 160-163.

       JAMES CALVIN CUNNINGHAM was one of the first to engage in practical irrigation in the Spokane valley and in this as in other fields of labor he has contributed in large measure to the substantial de-velopment and progress of this section of the coun-try. His name has figured prominently in financial circles for a long period and he is now vice president and manager of what was originally the Union Trust & Savings Bank of Spokane and is now the Union Trust & Savings Bank. He was born in Prince Edward county, Ontario, Canada, on the 10th of March, 1864, a son of James Robert Cunningham. The public schools of his native land afforded him his early educational privileges and following the removal of the family to South Dakota in 1881 he attended the Dakota Agricultural College of Brookings. In the meantime, however, he had made his initial step in the business world as an employe in a mercantile house in Chicago and while pursuing his college course his summer months were devoted to teaching, examination having won for him a first-grade certificate. Thinking to take up the profession of law as a life work he became a student in the office and under the direction of Judge Glass, of Watertown, South Dakota, and while thus studying he also occupied a position in the county treasurer s office of Hamlin county.
       Attracted by the rapidly growing west, Mr. Cunningham came to Spokane in 1889 and opened a real-estate and insurance office. In that field he gradually worked his way upward, becoming recognized as one of the leading insurance men of the northwest. From 1897 until 1906 he acted as special agent and adjuster for several Ameri-can fire insurance companies, his territory including the states of Washington Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana. Throughout that period he traveled extensively in these states and it would be difficult to find one more familiar with the country, its present conditions and its future possibilities than he. Seeing opportunity for judicious investments he became interested in farm lands in eastern Washing-ton and northern Idaho and in order to handle his property to better advantage organized a company in 1906 which has since operated under the name of the Cunningham Realty Company. He took up the study of irrigation and was one of the first to introduce practical irrigating methods into the Spokane valley. He saw the rich resources of the country and became a most active factor in the development of the northwest, his labors proving of great benefit to the district as well as a source of substantial revenue to himself. In 1903 he or-ganized the Valley Improvement Company which purchased and put under irrigation large tracts of land in the Spokane valley. On the organization of the company Mr. Cunningham became its president and still continues as its chief executive officer. His labors in that field were so successful that he further extended his efforts by purchasing the controlling interest in and reorganizing the Spokane Valley Land & Water Company in 1904. As its president he remained at the head of its affairs for some time but eventually disposed of his interests to D. C. Corbin. He had continued in the insurance field until 1906, when he severed all connection with that business and assisted in organizing the Union Trust Company of Spokane (later the Union Trust & Savings Bank), of which he was elected secretary-treasurer and manager. He served in that capacity for five years and at the annual meeting in 1912 he was elected vice president and manager of the bank and a member of the executive committee. Thus he is closely associated with the financial interests of the city. In 1905 he had established the Trustee Company of Spokane and was its president until he took up the duties of the Union Trust Company. His connection with the former concern still continues in the capacity of director. In 1907 he became the organizer of the Spokane Title Company of which he has continuously served as president. His financial activities have not been confined to Spokane for he became one of the promoters of the Connell National Bank of Council, Washington, and was equally instrumental in organizing the Okanogan State Bank of Riverside, Washington, of both of which he is still a director. He has been a director of the Fidelity National Bank of Spokane for a number of years and is a stockholder of the Union Securities Com-pany of this city and in the Reardan Exchange Bank of Reardan, Washington. He finds ready solution for intricate financial prob-lems and his ability to coordinate forces into a unified and harmonious whole has been one of the potent elements in his success.
       Pleasantly situated in his home life, Mr. Cunningham was married in Brookings, South Dakota, in 1889, to Miss Sarah A. Haber, a daughter of Jacob Haber, and unto them have been born five children but the eldest, Ila W., died in July, 1908, at the age of eighteen years, and a little daughter died in infancy. Those still living are James Russel, Dorothy Helen and Robert Wesley.
       Mr. Cunningham and his family attend the First Methodist Episcopal church, in which he has served as secretary of the board of trustees for sixteen years. He is also one of the trustees of the Deaconess Pension Fund Society, a national organization established in July, 1909. He cooperates in various projects for the growth of the church and the expansion of its work and in this as in business fields his Labors are practical and resultant. He became one of the organizers and procured the charter for the Maria Beard Deaconess Home and Hospital and is president of its board of trustees. His hearty sympathy with all projects and measures for the moral uplift of mankind has been manifest in many tangible ways. He became one of the foun-ders of the Young Men's Christian Association, assisted in erecting its building in Spokane, is now serving on its board of directors and is chairman of its finance committee. He has been equally loyal to the cause of public education and served for a number of years on the school board of Spokane.
       During his early residence in Washington Mr. Cunningham was a member of the Washington National Guard, and during the Spanish-American war he reenlisted as a member of Company L of the United States Volunteers. His fraternal relations are with Imperial Lodge, No. 134, I. 0. 0. F.; Oriental Lodge, No. 74, F. & A. M., in which he holds a life membership; Spokane Chapter, No. 2, R. A. M.; Cataract Commandery, No. 3, K. T.; Oriental Consistory, No. 2; and El Katif Temple of the Mystic Shrine. He is also a member of the Spokane University and Country Clubs. In 1910 he was elected one of the trustees of the Spokane Interstate Fair and at all times he readily cooperates in the projects for the development and uphuilding of the northwest. He enters into any work with con-tagious enthusiasm and zeal and never stops short of the successful accomplishment of his object. In no sense a man in public life, he has nevertheless exerted an immeasurable influence on the city of his resi-dence; in business circles as a financier and promoter of extensive industrial, commercial and financial interests; in social circles by reason of his charming personality and unfeigned cordiality; in citizenship by reason of his public-spirited devotion to the general good as well as his comprehensive understanding of the questions affecting state and national welfare; and in those departments of activity which ameliorate hard conditions of life for the unfortunate by his benevolence and his liberality.

Submitted by: Nancy Pratt Melton

* * * * Notice: These biographies were transcribed for the Washington Biographies Project. Unless otherwise stated, no further information is available on the individuals featured in the biographies.


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