Their Donation Land Claim states, “the family consist of an absent wife and four minor children. She has not performed duties of a wife and mother.” These statements were given on April 11, 1862. We read that and felt sorry for Joseph Cunningham and his children. What kind of a woman would desert her husband and small children?
As we researched the family we saw that Caroline Craemer was only 18 years old in 1830 when she married Joseph Cunningham, a much older man. At 35, he was almost twice her age. Perhaps they truly loved each other, or maybe he just needed a young healthy woman to care for other children.
Whatever the reason, she did marry Joseph. Over the next 14 years she had 6 children, Philander, Sarah, Lucinda, John, Drusilla and Jane. Even in the best of circumstances a woman who had given birth that many times would be a little worn out.
By 1845 she was pregnant again and on her way to Oregon.
But as luck would have it, her husband chose one of the infamous wagon trains. They did start out with the Tetherow Wagon train but ended up on the “Terrible Trail” with Stephen Meek. This was the wagon train that Stephen Meek chose to lead along a new route with disastrous results. After reading this we are beginning to feel a little sorry for the lady.
When they arrive in Oregon they didn’t go to one of the beautiful valleys with neighbors. Instead they went to an island. Sauvie Island. They settled on the farthest end on a 624 acre claim. The mainland (Milton at that time, later St. Helens) with some settlers was visible from the westerly tip of the island but a rough strip of water separated them.
Four more children were born in Oregon; Joseph in 1847, Nancy in 1849, Lucretia in 1852 and Benjamin in 1855.
During 1854 her daughter Sarah passed away, probably during childbirth. She left two small sons and her widower, Leonard Harris. During 1855 Caroline’s son John was captured and tortured to death by the Indians in southern Oregon. In 1859 her daughter Jane drowned at Warrior Point. In 1865 her son Benjamin drowned at Warrior Point.
Caroline died in 1867. She was back at home and Joseph was the executor of her estate. She was buried next to the two children who drowned at Warrior Point. She was 55 years old.
I once read of a person who lived a life of “quiet despair.” I think Caroline might fit that description.