Slack Wire Artist From Kittanning

My Hunt For Freddie Cunningham by Audrey John

  When Freddie Cunningham was born in Manorville, PA in 1893, he was the youngest of 5 children born to Westley and Elizabeth A. (Shaul) Cunningham. His Father was employed as a painter and specialized in painting very high edifices like bridges and coal tipples, etc. In 1903 at the tender age of 10, he lost his mother. His older sister Armintha was married, as were his two brothers Wesley and Chester. His brother Chester had joined his father in the painting business and when his sister Eva married the following May, Westley out of necessity began to take the young Freddie on the job.

Published in Simpsons Daily Leader Times on June 8, 1910

The young dare devil became quite adept at climbing the high towers and was fearless when it came to heights. At age 13 he had become renowned as a high wire artist, working with Rutherford Greater Shows. His father accompanied him on his tours. They continued to travel while doing painting work in the off season.

In May of 1917 at age 24, Freddie joined the service. He became a Corporal in the 14th U. S. Cavalry and was Honorable Discharged on March 17, 1919. While he was stationed in Texas in October of 1917, his Father and brother Chester fell while painting a coal tipple at Mohawk Mine in East Franklin Township. His Father was killed and his brother seriously injured. Freddie continued to work the high wire although little is known of when or where. In 1923, he traveled to Havana, Cuba to perform and there met Providenzia Lopez. They married in December of 1923 and traveled between San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the United States, residing in many areas. He had added trapeze artistry to his high wire act and was employed by Dixie Carnival Company.

On November 24, 1934, while traveling “over-the-
jump”, a term used by carnival workers when traveling between engagements, he fell from the back of a truck as it passed through Augusta, Georgia and was killed. He is buried in West View Cemetery, Augusta, Georgia. His wife survived him passing away in 1976.



Cunningham, Freddie C. 180117819
b. May 3, 1893 d. Nov. 24, 1934
West View Cemetery
Richmond County
Georgia, USA

Published in The Morning Herald on July 27, 1914

The Rutherford Greater Shows were owned and managed by brothers Harry and Irving Polack. Harry Polack dying in March 20, 1919. Find A Grave #87215265. Irving Polack living until 1949 and dying in California.

A Return to it’s Former Glory – The Meredith House

It’s a very rare occurrence when once a residence becomes a commercial property; it ever stands a chance to return to its former glory. The attempt is being made at “The Meredith House” renamed in honor of William Bolling Meredith by Lee (Frerotte) Walker who recently purchased it.  In staying with the historical theme of our site, I was also honored to be contacted by a descendant of the Meredith Family. She was gracious to provide photographs of the family residence and her recollection of visiting her grandmother Caroline (Meredith) Clayland as a child.

The Meredith House - 138 N. Water Street - Photo courtesy Meredith Descendant

The Meredith House – 138 N. Water Street – Photo courtesy Meredith Descendant

The brick work of the residence is something that a mason probably could not duplicate today. The detail may go unnoticed by passing motorists, but walking past, it wouldn’t take you very long to see the remarkable elegance as described in the 1905 newspaper article.

From the Kittanning Daily Times – April 27, 1905

 “One of the most modern and beautiful residences that has ever been built in Kittanning is that in which ex-senator William B. Meredith and family moved into only a few weeks ago on Water St.

The South Yard of the Residence

The South Lawn of the Residence Looking from N. Water Street – Photo Courtesy of Meredith Descendant

One of the most remarkable features that people familiar with the property mention were the beautiful flower gardens that occupied the residence. In this photo you can see the side yards steps which don’t appear in the original residence photo above and were added at a later date.

Later Porch & Arbormod

Looking towards N. Water St. from the South Lawn – Photo Courtesy of Meredith Descendant

South Lawn viewed from the N. Water St with St. Paul’s Church in the background. – Photo Courtesy of Meredith Descendant

Early Yard 1 Looking South

Looking south towards Market St. with St. Paul’s church and the one-time rectory shown in the background. – Photo Courtesy of Meredith Descendant

William B. Meredith Obituary in 1924

A brief sketch on the W. B. Meredith Family is noted in the obituary.

The residence continued to be lived in by daughter Caroline Clayland until she passed in 1954. With help from the Kittanning Garden Club and a great gardener the lawn would bring a place of peace and tranquility. Some of the family members unfortunately didn’t get to share the anticipated completion of the new home and future memories. Eldest daughter Margaret Meredtih died in 1903 and soon followed by mother Eliza in 1905, before the residence was completed.

The grandfather W. B. and daughter Caroline were able to provide joyous times for granddaughter Margaret Clayland who was born in 1912. They celebrated birthdays parties at the residence when visiting and spent time in the park across the street. The photos shown below with Margaret and her father Dr. John Clayland portray some of those occasions in Kittanning.

To give residents and visitors who are not familiar with the property a sense of it through time, I formatted some photos that are about 90 years apart in time. After the passing of Senator Meredith the residence was referred to as the Clayland House during Caroline Clayland’s time residing there.

One of the photos shows the north side of the residence with a small porch and the driveway to the carriage house that was added at a later date. The detail of the driveway and flowering is another beautiful example of care taken of the property. In all of the years I went to the YMCA, I never once noticed the door to this former side porch.  I had to make a trip to see if still present, which it is.

The front view shows that nearly all the structural integrity is still in place today even after the transformation to a commercial property. The main structure lasted the life of the YMCA to show the superior construction methods of the day.

The family prior to 1904 lived on a property above the courthouse, which had a long fenced road leading up to it. The house (at least into the 1950’s) was an apartment house in which the Mantini’s, Roncher’s, and other local families lived.

Former Meredith Residence prior to 1904.

Former Meredith Residence on the hillside prior to 1904. The white wooden fence follows the road to the residence. Armstrong County Historical Society Photo

Meredith Front House V2-vert

Meredith Residence at 138 N. Water Street currently(2016) and back to a 1930 view with Dr. Clayland at his vehicle.

Meredith North Porch-vert

The north side porch with Margaret holding her cat. Also showing the once used driveway to the carriage house, then along with a current view.

Margaret on the Cannon1918-horz

Margaret Clayland visiting Kittanning in 1918 standing on the cannon in the Kittanning Park across from the residence and riding “Prince” with her father Dr. John Clayland by her side.

Older Photos are Courtesy of a Meredith Descendant – All Photos can be clicked for enlargement. Please respect ownership of these pictures and not transfer to other sites.