The Intrigues, Amours, & Adventures of Rachel Cunningham

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The Intrigues, Amours, & Adventures of Rachel Cunningham  (1820) 
by Anonymous


Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu-1.png



THE

intrigues, amours, & adventures,

of

Rachel Cunningham,

CALLED FROM HER MANY CRIMES, THE

AMERICAN MILWOOD;

Detailing the Eccentric Course of her Career, and leading the imagination horror-stricken in the contemplation of her vicious propensities, and predisposition to the most depraved pursuits, through a labyrinth of appalling wonder, that such exuberances in nature can have existence.


Her Deceitful Conduct to her Aunt,

and Entrance into Public Life at Sixteen;

Is Debauched by Mr. Wallingdon;

Becomes the Mistress of Mr. Haverley, His Death in a Duel;

Intrigue with his Antagonist;

Her Attempt to Poison her Keeper

Mr. Green and Failure, Her Debut at the

Saloons of the Theatres:

Engages the Affections of Mr. L—, the Wealthy Merchant;
Intrigue with that celebrated Debauchee Judge F——;

Her Amour with the

Sheriff, George van Swearington,

and

Murder of His Wife;

Together with their Escape, Capture, Trial, and

Execution for Murder.


london: printed and published by

Edward Duncombe, Middle-Row, Holborn



THE

ADVENTURES

of

RACHEL CUNNINGHAM

 

————————;'Twas Nature's blunder,
In that so far an outward form should hold,
And wear within a soul so black.



In the following Biography, which will develope, perhaps the most extraordinary circumstances that ever attached to and in one woman, combined to blacken the features of the female character, and to give a form and colour to criminal depravity from which modest virtue and common decency shrink abashed with shame, and at which appalled humanity shudders in blood-freezing horror, a rigid adherence to facts as they occurred will be supported throughout with undevious veracity.

 

 

RACHEL CUNNINGHAM, (designated, in allusion to the enormity of her depraved pursuits, "the American Milwood,") who is the subject of this Memoir, was born at Philadelphia, in the Province of Pensylvania; her family, though not opulent, was highly respectable, her father being a medical professor of considerable celebrity and practice. In her early years, she evinced an uncommon liveliness and energy of spirit, exhibited an artfulness of disposition that was only equalled by her fascinating vivacity in displaying it, and her very shrewd conception of things coming within the sphere of her notice, which would have seemed beyond the reach of infantine comprehension; while she possessed those bewitching germs of beauty which won the favour and excited the admiration of all who beheld the superiority and contemplated the rising excellence of her charms. To these personal qualities and mental prefigurations of what, in their fond hopes they predicted, she might in future be, may be, not inaptly, attributed an overyielding indulgence, on the part of her parents, to all her little whims, desires, and growing caprices, without regard to the necessary restraint to curb that warmth and volatility nature had mingled with and implanted in her composition.

At a very early age she was put to a sort of preparatory boarding-school, and when she was in her ninth year, death deprived her of a kind mother's ever-watchful attention.—This, although she fell not then its weight, was a loss at once irreparable in itself and destructive in its effects; and as it effected the best interests of the blooming Rachel's future situation in society, fate could not, perhaps, have aimed a stroke more truly ruinous to her well-being.

At the seminary, before referred to, she remained but a short time subsequent to her mother's decease, when, for her better education and accomplishment for the station in life she was intended to fill, to be initiated in those branches of polite literature, deemed in the instruction of young ladies, as most imperatively necessary to the finish of the female character, she was removed to another establishment of higher order and repute, where in a little while, she preeminently distinguished herself by, for her age, the rapid progress she made in those acquirements and the facility with which she imbibed the benefits of tuition. She was now the almost worshipped idol of her father's most sanguine hopes, while he looked forward to the future day, when he should behold in his adored Rachel one of the most brilliant ornaments of female society, with anticipations that gladdened every coming hour of his existence with the heart cheering prospect before him. During the periods of school-vacation:, when she would be at home, and more immediately under his eye, he, as it were, absolutely deified her. Nothing was too much to gratify her wishes; no indulgence was withheld from her desires, and all she hoped and asked was granted almost before the request found breath of utterance; nor was any thing denied that could by any possibility of means within his reach, be obtained to please this daughter of his heart's fondest affections, this child of his fairest prospect and delight, while the approving admiration her youthful, but brilliant wit and blooming beauty gave birth to amongst his friends and visiting connections, most highly flattered his parental feelings.

The sun of promise shone with seemingly increasing splendour on her future fortunes, as if with each succeeding day the prospect brightened still: she was at this lime just fourteen; five years had her mother slumbered in the silent grave, when, lo! as if to complete that fatality, which like a blighting cloud, (though yet unperceived) hung over her, her father under an attack of apoplexy, also paid the debt of nature. This fatal stroke of adverse fortune happened while she was at school, and the too sad intelligence was communicated to her with the greatest care and precaution, lest an abrupt disclosure thereof might operate a shock more violent upon her sensibility than her delicate frame might be able lo sustain[1] under a sodden excess of grief, and her health be thereby endangered; for she had the heart-respect and interest of all who knew her in her favour.

However available, on such an awful occurrence, such laudable precaution might have been with some, with Rachel Cunningham it was decidedly unnecessary, and, I may add was in every respect positively useless; for with all her seeming perfections, nature appears not to have endued her with those little, tender, flexible cords of sensitive feeling, which, trembling under the most trifling touch, vibrate in soft affection to mark the genuine female character and stamp the kindly-framed excellence of the sex.

After the funeral expenses and some other demands were finally settled and his affairs altogether arranged, it was found that the property left by her deceased father amounted to a mere trifle in consideration as to what might have been hoped for his daughter's support thereafter; in consequence of which, she, at the expiration of the next half-year, was removed from the academy she was then a pupil in, and was taken to live with her uncle, (a brother of her mother's,) residing at Burlington, in New Jersey, by whom she was received and treated with all the indulgent tenderness of parental affection, till there, death again interposed his power and sped the shaft of fate with such sure and unerring aim, that only a few months had elapsed, when she was again deprived of that protection so immediately important (especially for a young female at that period of her age, of such exquisite loveliness, and formed of such fiery elements as she was,) to her future welfare; while thus the death of her kind uncle seemed particularly to mark the relentless malignity of her fate, she was again cast into the arms of chance for protection, and chance placed her now under the care of an aunt, a younger sister of her father's, then living at Bedford Pa. (a watering place, in the summer-seasons visited numerously by the American fashionables.) The extraordinary bounties which nature had lavishly bestowed upon her person in all those points which distinguish elegance of form and that external loveliness which she so abundantly possessed, were at this time developing themselves in the full luxuriance of beauty, and now, also, it was that the intricately-woven web of fate begun to involve and entangle her constitutionally-loose inclinations in its virtue-debasing inteastices.

As vicious example teaches more readily to effect than admonitory lessons instruct to honourable emulation, she (the ill-fated heroine of this memoir,) was early initiated in the principle-polluting vices and corruptions of that fashionable and licentious place of resort, (Bedford.) She there beheld that immodest demeanour in her own sex, (which, like the mildew-pregnant breeze blighting the tender blossom, blasts in the youthful mind each germ of feminine chastity,) not only countenanced, but applauded by those fashionables and esteemed as the true trails of good breeding and high accomplishment. Witnessing their licentious habits and that with a predisposed leaning to imitation of the example almost constantly before her eyes, she very soon entered into the practice of that, which as yet was only known to her in theory; and we need no supernatural agency to memorialize us of the fact, that she as soon found plenty of instructors there, ready to assist and perfect her in the accomplishment she desired.

At that place of fashionable folly, vice, and profligacy, (Bedford Pa.) while residing with her aunt, (who let off the greater part of her house, in elegantly furnished accommodations to the, what is called, first class of visitants taking up their abode there during the season,) it may be said, the ice of continence was first broken and she (Rachel,) went down rapidly with the full current of licentiousness that surrounded and bore away her youthful inclinations, finally to the wide and overwhelming ocean of sensual pleasures!

Her countenance was the very mirror of every winning grace,—every fascinating beauty,—and every fascinating smile calculated to charm the soul, enslave the heart of man, and hold the lover spell-bound to most inextricable attachment. A midst and from amongst the gay throng, suitors innumerable were resistlessly attracted to her lovely person, fluttering about the shrine of her matchless charms, like butterflies sporting in the new-life-generating rays of a Mid-summer sun, each striving' to attain the summit of his happiness in her favour and amorous affection:

    and lo! wheree'er she turned,
The burning lustre of her eyes inflamed
And rouse the passions to excess untamed.

Wherever she appeared every eye, as if by enchantment lured and held in doating admiration of her charms by some resistless sorcery, seemed fixed immoveably upon her, while the love-inspired heart of each beholder bounding in the enraptured bosom towards her became instantly enslaved in magic-rivitted attachment to her beauteous person until excited affection raged in the very madness of desire to obtain a full possession of the so seeming inestimable treasure.

When she first arrived at her aunt's, it was near the close of that season and but few visitants were left remaining at Bedford, and those preparing for their speedy departure, yet from the few who had seen and witnessed this accession of loveliness to the attraction, of the place, report went forth and with the wings of lightning's rapidity spread through the country the intelligence of what a prodigy in superior beauty had made its appearance and become stationary in that summer resort of profligacy and pollution.

On the following year, at a much earlier period of the season than usual, the place was thronged with the beaux-garçons of fashion and votaries of the delectable goddess. Mrs. Wallingdon, (Rachel Cunningham's aunt.) could have let every apartment of her extensive establishment, (at an advance of almost double her common demand for accommodation,) more than a hundred times over, and the requests of the several applicants to be received under her roof, became so pressingly vehement that, and while she was yet ignorant of its being her niece's charms operating this talismanic effect, she not only did actually nearly double her usual price for each suit of furnished apartments, but was absolutely necessitated to have printed bills posted up in various parts of the town, (Bedford Pa.) giving notice that every room in her house was completely occupied, not only at the present time, but taken positively for the whole entire season, and therefore all further applications would be useless. These notices, however, tended very little to abridge trouble of giving answers, for as the house still contained the grand magnet of attraction, many and continual were the requests made for accommodation, by parties merely hoping thereby to gain a sight of this phenomenon of lovely excellence (Rachel.)

Amongst the several parties, fortunate as they considered themselves in being inmates in Mrs. Wallingdon's house, under the same roof with such a prodigy of exquisite beauty, as, in the person of Rachel Cunningham, there presented himself to them, was a Mr Haverley, a young man of colour, RACHJiJ. CUNNINGHAM. 9 mony, who paid her particular and marked auention" a, moal aaaiduou, m hi, efforts to win and merit her .incere and'^" ^T"'" '^■x'"'"'" of delicate bearing toward, her and lavished very considerable sums in besloling v^uable LnZn,"T 'T' " F"*"' "™"' °f "'h Je»-'». diamond ornament,, &c.ic. to decorate her perfon/ moved thereto by passionate regard, as well as an ardent'desire to att^h her heart's constancy to him through a liberal gra.iflcl t^n ^ "^"J'Z- "' "*!','=•' "« ^^ "° '"'all »liare ; a^d if con^ suincy had been at all amongst the number of her qui il°e^ i^rZ^ ■ "' '"'^ of 'hange, avarice, and their concomi. lic.„.^r '"'°"' "' '^P """ developed themselves in ™er cla?arri..?Jr„' '►'" "'IT "PP""" the predominan cnaracteristics of her natal disposition. hi» gentleman had made some honourable advances and offered r "' '"'"°"'""X acquitted himself of .hrp™po"al. ?„,. .1'," ""^^ "?°" "npo^'anl 'o her advantage and fu- he wT,°" '° '°"«'yjl.'"'d he not. long belore the clo« of ie, in 1 ^""JT- <"«o'"ed that she allowed familiari- ties to many, and bestowed certain favours on other, of the occupant, m the house, which induced him to change hit mode of siege, as he now felt conviction that, that onlv ivas r.T""* '.° »■". "Staining the same privileges'wUh Z, "he ad conceded with so little ceremony to several of hf. mo«  successful though less honourably inclined rival.. Un this suggestion, lhou,:h noi without acme unpleasanC feelings of reluctance, fur hi, attachment for her, "^10 this,) was affectionately sincere, abandoning hi. former hoe, and .ntent.on, (for, a. he reall, loved her%e hopJa. well as intended,) of making her his wife, he alter^hi, ysten, of attack, and taking a new ground of appoLch ho succeeded in carrying his point ; she cnpitulaied 10 Mr,k! .res w.thout a struggle of resistance and yieWed her ner^n to his will more readily ihan he could willingly have ^,1^ reta ^a, much "". ""'"""• """" ""^ -Vumstances, ,0 once adorST. ^ °'""'°" " '"'"*'"' "• "■<■■ <"'J«' " »>«. During tbo remainder of the season, he freely wjojed h«r 10 THE LIFE OF •ociety whenever opportunity could be rendered fairly j,tjb- servient to their inclinations, and as he (Mr. Ilaverley,) liad the means with the disposition to feed both her vanity and vicious propensities, she seemed devoted to his embraces only, nolwlthstnnding that she artfulfy gave herself to mure ^ly intrit^ues wiih other gentlemen visitants, but all con- ducted with such consummate cunning of management, that Mrs. Wallingdon, her aunt, entertained not the slightest ^u»p^:ion to the contrary of her conduct being strictly correct. Thus she commenced, at that early age, (then but turned of sixteen, about two or three months.) her vicious career of life, polluted at the heart's core, every virtuous principle fled, both her mind and person defiled, she soon becapne wholly lost to every sense of modest feeling which should adorn the wx and stamp the woman truly amiable. At the end of the prolonged season her lover in chief, Mr Haver- ley took his departure from Bedford, previously to which, as he was young, hand:some, and, above all, rich; he had do difficulty in bringing Rachel to an arrangement for becom- ing his mistress. Her naturally loose principles, desire of gain for the advantage of gaiety, and her propensity to pro- flgate indulgences, were powerful advocates in favour of his proposals: she gave her decided prelerence to his terms, because she knew his means were ample to supply her extra- vagant wishes; therefore he had but to propose for Rachel to agree to his liberal ofl'er ; accordingly, he had been gone from her aunt's house three days, when on the evening of the third day, as agreed, he returned to Bedford Pa. in dis- guise and remained at a small Inn, in the outskirts, till the appointed hour should arrive : — Rachel was all in prepara- tion and expectancy ; the clock struck the signal hour for moving, she was instantly in the arms of her lover, the carriage was waiting to receive them at a short distance from the window whence she escaped, thus they eloped together that night, and with the help of swift horses, they were soon safe lodged in a handsome mansion on his estate in Chester county. — Mrs. Wallingdon's astonishment, on missing her niece Hachel the next morning, may be more easily sup- posed than told : every possible search was immcdiaely made the place and for some miles round, to ascertain the fugitive's retreat, hut, of course, no Rachel Cunningham was to be found, nor could any intelligence be obtained of in what manner she had lied, or what route she and her paramour had taken : all that could be called certain was that the young^ lady had eloped with some one or other, by her night-clothes remaining as the servant had left them on the previous day, and the bed, on which she commonly slept, not having been impressed with any one*9 lying on it the night before, while the door of her chamber was found locked on the inside, which under a horrible feeling of dread* was forced open, when the state of the room and window clearly indicated by what way the apartment had been vacated. Now in full possesfiion of her, enraptured in the charming acquisition of so much personal beauty concentred in the object of his heart's desires, and revelling in the unmeaaura- ble extacy and luxurious delights of her embraces, he in the burning fervor of his souls amorous happiness literally ido- lized her as a deity, while she waa no less sensible of the complete power she held over his enslaved affections, by which ascendancy she was the leader of his will and sole ruler of his actions, which controlling influence she took especial care to make the instrument of her own private advantage. Whatever she wished, and her wishes were not few, nor to be accomplished, in most cases, without some considerable sacriHce of pecuniary property, was always pro- cared lor her ; however extravag'ant the demand might be or difficult to be obtained, no consideration ofexpencewas ever opposed to the gratitkationof her desires. Two years he had cohabited with her in this state, and she receiving from him every possible indulgence that money and ample means could provide; every species of prodigal Caiety and profligate cxtraviigance was profusely resorted to for her amusement : travelling at times in the highest style

  • By this it would appear that the parties were under

apprehensions that suicide might have been committed, which we think could scarcely have been conceived, considefi* ing her volatile disposition. Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/13 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/14 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/15 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/16 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/17 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/18 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/19 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/20 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/21 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/22 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/23 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/24 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/25 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/26 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/27 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/28 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/29 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/30 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/31 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/32 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/33 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/34 Page:Adventures of Rachel Cunningham.djvu/35 r RACHEt CUNNINGHAM. 3p jltogeiher, without a trace-step of the route they had taken being known. On the following day a Proclamation was issued by ihe Wernor, offering a large reward for their apprehension. They had crossed the country in various directions, and by bye-roads had successfully eluded pursuit, although par- ties in active chase were dispatched, and pressing forward through all parts to gain a scent, if possible, of the course they might have chosen, till however, at length their luck forsook them. They had passed the night at a tavern, the keeper, or landlord of which, happened also to be a post. master, rhey regaled themselves and enjoyed their supper and wine there, in seeminirly high spirits and jollity; yet mine hoai, for some cause or other conceived, that he discovered a some- thing sinzularly sirange in their manners. They retired to bed, l>r<'aklasied there the next morning, paid iheir bill, and departed, the mail arrived at the tavern with Governor Kent's Proclamation, describing the person of Van Swear- ingen and that of his paramour and accomplice in the murder of his wile. Suspicion was at once directed towards them, and the |K>st-raaster, collecting a few neii;hliours, set oH in- stantly ill pursuit and overlook them near the red-river, in Kentucky County. On being approached and ordered to surrender, he (the Sheriff.) drew and discharged a brace of pistols at the party, as also, the same did Rachel, swearing vehemently at rhe lime, that she would not be taken alive, and defending her.self in desperate resistance with the bull- ends of her pistols lo the very last eilremily against their n.ssailanls, till at length quite exhausted and overpowered by numbers only, or she. Rachel, would not have yielded, they were both taken, secured, and brought back prisoners to Alleghany County, to await the decree of justice and punish- ment of the law by and in exr>iation of their hideous offences and horrible crimes of matchless atrocity under the hands of the comrntm executioner. Her conduct, while on trial, was most vehemently out- rageous after sentence, in jail her imprecations and threats of vengeance to all around her were truly terrific .' and al her last moment, when there were not more than three breathings betweixt her and eternity, while she exclaimed, "By Go-! I'll suffer no injury without resenting it!", she struck her forehead with such violence, in teh effort, upon the face of the executioner, then near hers, that it actually blackened both his eyes, and brought a copious purple stream from his nasal organ; on the sight of which she burst into a fit of loud-laughing extacy, in the midst of which, death closed her life of infamy for ever.


Printed by Edw. Duncombe, Middle-row, Holborn


  1. It is said, that it was with the utmost astonishment observed, when she was made acquainted with the melancholy event, she did not betray even the slightest emotion or trifling symptom indicative of filial affection having existence in her bosom; but turned from the tale of grief to her usual common amusement, as destitute of every natural feeling and wholly regardless of what had happened.


This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.