Photographed 80 years apart, the assistant lockmaster’s house stood on Water Street in Old Eddyville, across from the Cobb-Hussey House (now the Rose Hill Museum). A huge bungalow with a split-level design, the assistant lockmaster’s house was essentially built into the sheer face of the rocky riverbank, jutting out over the cliff (as were many of the homes along this stretch of Water Street). It was spacious yet simple government housing, boasting a large yard and an easy commute to work.

Lock and Dam F on the Cumberland River were located below the house, just to the west of this site. Both lock and dam are still fully intact at the bottom of Lake Barkley today, under 40-plus feet of water.

Justice Bill Cunningham was born in this house, in a small room on the lower level. His father, Almon Cunningham (pictured), served as assistant lockmaster here in the 1940s.

‘I Was Born When I Was Very Young’

It is my pleasure to announce that Justice Cunningham’s newest book, and his first true memoir, will be printed by IngramSpark out of Nashville. “I Was Born When I Was Very Young” chronicles Cunningham’s first 15 years of life, including his cherished time in Old Eddyville, Kentucky. Cunningham contemplates how his formative experiences with the river, the prison, his prominent parents and siblings, and the unforgettable people of a dying American town, influenced his life and molded him into the successful jurist, public servant, veteran and family man he would later become. In this account of his earliest memories, Cunningham demonstrates that it is the first decade-plus of life which truly gives birth to who we are.

Each chapter is sprinkled with the author’s characteristic wit, wisdom, poignancy and joy; his lifelong affection for the fragile river communities of mid-century America positively leaps off the page. I was fortunate to observe the careful creation of this volume during the depths of the COVID pandemic this past year, and I can say with certainty that this is my personal favorite of Justice Cunningham’s written works. I suspect that demand for the book will be considerable.

“I Was Born When I Was Very Young” will be available to purchase in the coming days at