Patrick Cunningham, from Bally Hague, Calrea [Calry], Sligo, Ireland, entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1812. He served at various posts throughout the HBC territory, including Swan River, Point River, Fort Chipewyan, Churchill Factory, Merry’s House and Severn. He began as a labourer and advanced to postmaster.
About 1817, according to the “custom of the country”, Patrick married Nancy Bruce, the daughter of Benjamin Bruce, an HBC man from Orkney, and his wife Mathilda, a Native woman. Patrick and Nancy had six children, all born in the Northwest. The first four (John, Edward, James, and Mary) were baptised at York Factory by Rev. David Jones on August 27, 1826. Patrick’s residence was given as Churchill Factory and his occupation as postmaster.
Patrick was serving as postmaster in the Severn District when he drowned in the Severn River on 15 October 1831. His widow and children then settled at Red River, where daughters Nancy and Catherine were baptised on 14 August 1833. Nancy (Bruce) Cunningham died in November 1859 and was buried in St. John’s churchyard.
The HBC Archives contain a will, dated 7 May 1823 and signed by Patrick Cunningham, which lists his legatees as his wife Nancy and three sons: John, (1) Edward, and James. Patrick’s father and mother, Michael and Nancy, his brother John, and his uncle Bryan Cunningham of Sligo are also listed in the will.
(1) In 1812, John Cunningham was a passenger on the Robert Taylor to York Factory, listed as an HBC recruit. It is possible he was Patrick’s brother.