Birthday of first Little Rock Mayor

Dr. Matthew Cunningham was born on July 5, 1782 in Pennsylvania. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, he ended up in New York City. It was there he met and married a young widow, Eliza Wilson Bertrand. After a brief stint in St. Louis, Dr. Cunningham was one of the first settlers of Little Rock in February 1820. He became the first physician in Little Rock.

In September 1820, Mrs. Cunningham and her children joined him. She became the first female in the Little Rock settlement. Dr. and Mrs. Cunningham had a son, Chester, who was the first baby born in Little Rock. They also had a daughter, Matilda, who would later marry Peter Hanger.

In 1831, Dr. Cunningham was elected the first Mayor of Little Rock. He won the race 23 to 15 over Rev. W. W. Stevenson. The first City Council meeting took place at the Cunningham house at the southwest corner of what is now 3rd and Main Streets (where Bennett’s Military Surplus is located).

Dr. Cunningham served one year as Mayor. He lived until June 15, 1851 and is buried at Mt. Holly Cemetery. His wife, son, daughter and her family are buried next to him.


5 thoughts on “Birthday of first Little Rock Mayor

  1. Also, Chester was the first free child born. There is some evidence that a slave child was born before Chester. Unfortunately, that child’s name and details are lost to history.

  2. And I am not sure if my other post made it through, but Matthew and Eliza Cunningham’s family still lives in LR. I am their great-great-great-great-great-grandson.

    1. I knew that there were still some descendants in the area, but wasn’t sure exactly who they were. Great to know you are one. I stop by the gravesite every year on his birthday as well as drive by the 3rd and Markham to pay my respects.

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