McClellan-Cunningham House, Bonham, Texas
From the files of the Fannin County Historical Commission
On February 28, 1879, Eugene David (E. D.) McClellan, a district judge, purchased one acre of land out of the John P. Simpson Survey for the amount of $275.00. In the fall of 1879, he and his wife, Alice Hunt McClellan, moved into the new home at 304 W. 7th Street. The McClellan-Cunningham House is a Queen Ann style Victorian. The exterior exhibits the usual Victorian scheme of projecting bays on the left and double verandas on the right. The roof erupts with dormers and gables, the verandas are laden with jigsaw trim (bric-a-brac) and the facade undulates with wavy fish-scale shingles. The sunburst design on the gables is typical too, since predominant Victorian motifs were the stylized sunbursts and sunflowers associated with the English Arts and Crafts movement. These sunbursts are repeated on the stairway in the interior and on the back porch.
Judge McClellan was born March 6, 1848 in Fannin County, the son of Abraham and Mary Jane Galbraith McClellan. In 1876 he married Alice Hunt, the daughter of Richard Salmon Hunt and Aurelia Rowe Hunt. He served as District Judge for several terms and his name is inscribed as District Judge on the cornerstone of the 1888 Fannin County courthouse. His career was cut short by death on November 28, 1899. Judge McClellan's portrait still hangs in the district courtroom of the Fannin County courthouse to this day. He was a just and honorable man, both as a citizen and as a public officer. As a judge on the bench, he was unsurpassed for judicial acumen; deep and profound in his analysis of the law and conscientiously just in all of his rulings. Judge McClellan was considered a legal mind and his decisions were nearly always sustained by the Supreme Court. No man wanted to run against him for the job of District Court Judge. Alice Hunt McClellan was a gifted artist and musician and was the first piano teacher at Carlton College in 1870. She lived in Bonham and the McClellan-Cunningham House until her death in 1932. Judge and Mrs. McClellan are both buried at Willow Wild Cemetery in Bonham.
In 1907 McClellan's daughter, Cornelia, and Henry Allen Cunningham, were married and took up residence in the home, from the subsequent relinquishment to them by Alice McClellan, the widow of Judge McClellan. Henry Allen and Cornelia were for over 50 years an integral part of the cultural, religious, political, business and social life of Bonham and Fannin County. Affectionately known to many as "the Judge and Miss Cornelia", they happily gave of their time and themselves to the community.
Cornelia McClellan Cunningham was an accomplished musician. She served as an organist for the First Christian Church for 32 years. She received her musical training in Bonham at the old Carlton College and later in Dallas and St. Louis. She was a composer and teacher and was active in musical, literary and other cultural and social affairs in Bonham in her life time. Cornelia died January 3, 1962 and is buried in Willow Wild Cemetery in Bonham.
Henry Allen, properly known as H. A. Cunningham, was born in Ravenna, Texas, the son of Dr. John and Fannie Agnew Cunningham. He graduated from Whitewright College (no longer in existence) in Whitewright, Texas, and received his law degree from the University of Texas Law School in 1893. He returned to Bonham and entered the practice of law. As a young man he served two terms as County Judge, but did not seek re-election or further public office and remained in the private practice. He was also chairman of the board of the First Christian Church for over 30 years. He was in great demand as a speaker or master of ceremonies for many civic, political, religious and social events because of his wit and grace. He was director of the First National Bank of Bonham, the Bonham Savings and Loan and for many years gave his time as the chairman of the Allen Memorial Hospital board in Bonham. He was a fiercely loyal Democrat and served his party on the county, state and national level. In 1924, he was an alternative delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
Judge Cunningham and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn were close friends, as evidenced by the picture of them along with Judge Leslie and another unidentified man taken in the parlor of the McClellan-Cunningham home during a wedding anniversary reception for Judge Cunningham and his wife, Cornelia. He served as campaign manager for Rayburn in his early congressional races and was named by Rayburn as the original Trustee of the Sam Rayburn Foundation and as its first Chairman. On one occasion, Rayburn made this tribute: "Judge Cunningham has served his generation well and has influenced generations to come." Judge Cunningham died February 1, 1966 and is buried in Willow Wild Cemetery in Bonham, Texas.
The home originally sat on one acre, which was diminished to the present 1/2 acre lot that it stands on today through the sale of lots by Mrs. McClellan or her children. Prior to his death, Judge Cunningham gifted the home and property to his children, H.A. Cunningham Jr. and Virginia Cunningham Stocks in 1964. Subsequent owners of the McClellan-Cunningham House include: Sara Gibbs Keeton, 1965-1967; D. W. Hinkle, 1967-1968; John Weldon and Tomagene Sneed, 1968-1984; Donald A. and Louise S. Cowan, 1984-1994; J. E. and Karen Parsons, 1994-2001; Michael P. and Diane M. McDonough, 2001-2004; and David P. Stapp, 2004-present. The original home's floor plan stayed the same until the early 1920's when the west porch (entry from the Carriage house) was closed in to form the music room. In addition, the breakfast area, kitchen and the utility room (formerly the back porch) was added. In the 1950's the east porch (as shown in older photos of the house) was closed in for a family room and the house was painted all white. In 2006, the house was completely paint restored and the original color of green on the siding was discovered. Six total colors were utilized to exhibit the original theme of the house. In 2007, the patio porch was added, with the posts, floor and rail design virtually identical to the front porch.
The McClellan-Cunningham House was featured in a June 1984 Texas Homes magazine article describing the home, "Among the historic homes still occupied as residences in Bonham, four dwellings are especially noteworthy in both their architectural expression and historic value." With its pioneer fort, Fort Inglish, and tableau of grand old houses, the old structures of Bonham reflect both the rugged frontier and the salad days of the late 1800's, a rich legacy preserved for generations to come. As a symbol of Bonham's development in the late 19th and early 20th century, and due to the prominence of its original owners, McClellan and Cunninghma, this residence is an important landmark in town.
Photo of the dedication of the marker from the North Texas e-News
District Judge Eugene David McClellan and his wife, Carlton College piano teacher Alice (Hunt), built this home in 1879. In 1907, the McClellans' daughter Cornelia married attorney Henry Allen Cunningham, and the couple moved into the house, which stayed in the family until the 1960s. The exterior of the two-story Queen Anne-style house features a projecting bay and full-gallery veranda porches with elaborate jigsawn trim. Dormers and gables are prominent, as are patterns of fish-scale shingles and sunburst designs in the gables, back porch and interior stairway.
Location: 304 W. 7th Street, Bonham.
More information about Eugene McClellan is at the Fannin County GenWeb site.