The Cunningham House is one of the very few examples of mid-19th century dwellings that are still in existence in Sonoma County. A goal of the Windsor Historical Society is to restore the home to it’s former glory so it can be shared with the community. It has a special meaning for the descendants of Robert and Isabella Cunningham and to the numerous families who made it their home over the years.
When Cunningham surveyed his vast acreage, probably on horseback, he was pleased with the level terrain, rich soil, and water that were ideal for raising crops and livestock. Other benefits included massive oaks, redwoods, and other trees ideal for construction and firewood, and easy access to the township’s main road. While he was exploring, he discovered an especially verdant area beside a lively creek, and he decided to build his house there, using huge redwood logs as the structure’s foundation.
He wasted no time getting started on the house, for his wife, Isabella, and their daughter, Mary Jane, were heading west, and he intended to have the home ready for them when they arrived.
While Robert worked in California, in Illinois Isabella and ten-year-old Mary Jane joined a wagon train. During the arduous trip across the plains, Isabella supervised two covered wagons loaded with the family’s household goods and pulled by teams of oxen. A strong woman, she single-handedly drove one of the wagons. Isabella and Mary Jane reached the Russian River Township in 1852.
Once his family was settled and the ranch established, Robert Cunningham, in cooperation with other industrious men, set about building a community. He donated land for a church, helped establish a school district, and he welcomed others to his corral for cattle branding and other ranch activities. The influence of Robert Cunningham and his homestead were of such importance that before the area was named “Windsor,” it was called “Cunningham’s.” Much of what is today west Windsor was developed on land originally owned by Robert Cunningham.