The Descendants of Senator Dr. John Lunney of South Carolina


Occasionally, I correspond with some of the descendants of


Senator Dr. John Lunney  

of Ballybay, Ireland and Darlington, South Carolina, who had a very interesting personal history and career, had many wives and children, and has a large number of descendants living today all across the USA.  I believe that John Lunney was  either the brother or a cousin of my great grandfather William Lunney.


John Lunney was born at Ballybay, County Monaghan, Ireland on December 12, 1833.  He was the son of William and Martha (Green) Lunney.  He, together with his parents and other members of his family, emigrated to America in the late 1840’s and settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  John attended Jefferson Medical College and also supposedly graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical College with highest honors on January 27, 1864.  He then joined the Union Army as a surgeon, serving first with  the Second Army Corps in Virginia until the end of the Civil War.  Following the end of the war, he was sent to South Carolina, where he initially served on quaratine duty at Hilton Head Island, until being posted to the Federal Garrison at Darlington.  He resigned from the Federal Army in 1868, and then he and his first wife Jane settled permanently in Darlington. 


In Darlington, he had a prominent private medical practice and became very active in politics.  In 1868, following a special election, he was elected to the South Carolina State Senate, representing the Darlington District in the 48th General Assembly (1868-1870).  While in the Senate, he served on committees for county offices and officers, enrolled bills, lunatic asylums and medicine.  During 1869, he also was the State Land Commission representative in Darlington, a position he later regretted.  In 1871, he was accused before a grand jury of having "abused the confidence reposed in him as a public officer, and sacrificed the interests of the taxpayers to his private gains" for allegedly purchasing land and then selling it to the State Land Commission for double the amount that he paid; however he was not indicted by the grand jury.  He also served as President of the Darlington County Labor Union Protective Association, and as the delegate for Darlington to the state labor convention in 1869.  He served as the Darlington County Auditor (1869-1870 and 1872-1875), Deputy Collector for the Internal Revenue (1870), Assistant Marshall of the Census (1870 and 1875), Delegate for Darlington at the 1872 Republican Convention, Commissioner for Elections for Darlington County (1874), Judge of Probate for Darlington County (1876-1878), Postmaster for Darlington (1879), Member of the Darlington Guards (1896) and President of the Darlington County and Pee Dee Medical Associations (1904).  He was also a long-time member of the Darlington Presbyterian Church.



The Dr. John Lunney House in Darlington, SC


His first wife was Jane Brown of Philadelphia.  He and Jane had two sons: Alexander B. Lunney and William J. Lunney (who later became a prominent physician, pharmacist and drugstore proprietor in Seneca, South Carolina). After Jane’s death in 1874, he married Julia A. Fountain of Darlington, with whom he had a son, Robert J. Lunney, and a daughter, Nellie Lunney.  After, Julia’s death, he married Julia’s sister, Ellen L. Fountain.  After Ellen’s death in 1888, he married Nancy Frances Howie, with whom he had three sons: John Wilberforce Lunney, George Lunney and Joseph Franklin Lunney. After Nancy’s death, he married Mrs. Maggie Lucas McXeese in June 1907. Maggie died several months later.  He then married (for a sixth and final time) Margaret E. Campion. 


Senator Dr. John Lunney died at Darlington on February 17, 1917 at the age of 83.  His many descendants now live in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and New Mexico.


William J. Lunney, a son of Dr. John Lunney and his first wife Jane, also became a physician and settled in Seneca, South Carolina.  In 1909, Dr. William J. Lunney and his wife built a remarkable home in Seneca at 211 West South First Street, which in 1970 became the Oconee County historical museum, is now called the Lunney Museum, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1909, West South First Street was in an area then known as "Silk Stocking Hill", because of the stately Victorian mansions which other successful business men had already built along the tree-shaded avenue. However, in choosing a style for their new home, the Lunney’s were looking forward into the new century, and settled on a new style of architecture, called "bungalow".   Bungalows were designed to be less formal than the earlier Victorian homes, and often feature a long, low silhouette, emphasized by wide, overhanging porches. The use of dark earthtone colors was intended to unite the building with its surroundings, while a row of dormer windows placed above the front door interrupts the steep roof line.


In the Lunney Museum

expert craftsmanship is evident everywhere, from the handcut crown molding that rims the eleven-foot ceiling in the Music Room, to the gleaming, knot-free sugar pine floors throughout the house, to the elegant, hand-beveled glass panes (almost a half-inch thick) which grace the front windows. Visitors today are struck by the apparent contradiction between the rather modern-looking exterior and the much more formal Victorian interior.  The explanation for that is simple: like most people moving into a new home, the Lunney’s brought their old furniture with them, and what they had were mostly Victorian pieces. The furniture the visitor sees today is a composite of pieces which are original to the house, some pieces that are replacements for original pieces, and some that have been purchased for the Museum.  In addition to its fine collection of antiques, covering a period from the late 17th through to the early 20th century, the Lunney Museum contains a fascinating collection of Oconee County memorabilia.  Hours of operation are 1:00 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. For more information, call (864) 882-4811.


I once asked George Lunney of Charleston, South Carolina if there were any rumors about his great grandfather (Senator Dr. John Lunney), regarding the deaths of five of his six wives.  George replied that the head of the South Carolina Historical Society had asked him the same question.  He pointed out to me that during the late 1800’s, it was common practice for doctors to use heavy metals and other poisons as "cures" for many ailments; and in those days, there were no antibiotics to treat infections.  Maybe having a doctor in the house back then was not such a good thing.


Elizabeth Anne Lunney Benson (a/k/a "Ananda"), a great granddaughter of Senator Dr. John Lunney, now lives in Socorro, New Mexico.  She writes: "I am the 3rd child of Thomas W. and Violet Lunney.  My oldest brother is Thomas E., my sister is Cheryl R., my younger brother is Bob H. and the baby is Jim V.  My siblings are spread across the USA, from VA, to NC, OH, and I live in Socorro, NM.  My greatest desire is to get to know my relatives.  If anyone would be so kind as to email me, I would appreciate it more than I could ever say.  I realize that I have so many cousins, their children and grandchildren.  Please, if you have it in your heart, email me at …"  


Ananda, I hope that this posting helps you to connect with other members of your large, extended family.


1 Comment

Filed under Muintir Luinigh Matters

One response to “The Descendants of Senator Dr. John Lunney of South Carolina

  1. Does anyone know where his gravesite is?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s