I think Unity Lewis, the youngest child of the Cunningham family, must have had a close relationship with her big brother John Valentine Cunningham. He was 16 years old when she was born, already out fighting Indians and making a name for himself. Two years later he was married and off on his own, but there had to be some extra relationship between them. I say that because, one, when he died in 1921 he was living in Abilene, but was visiting her in her home in Brownwood while on a fishing trip. I’m sure all the Cunninghams visited one another, but the fact that he visited her and died in her home stands out to me. And, two, she named her second son for him.
John Valentine Lewis was born July 15, 1884, and she named him after her big brother… even though he wasn’t born on Valentine’s Day like John had been.
John Valentine Lewis was born when Unity and James Russell Lewis still lived near Priddy, Texas, and were farmers. But when John and his 3 younger brothers were still young, Unity wanted the family to move to Brownwood so the boys would be able to get a better education. They moved to town and J.R. Lewis was an elected county official.
John Valentine Lewis married Gertie Grindstaff of Burnet July 3, 1904. He was 19, but she was just 16. They moved back to the family farm in Mills County and began their family. They had 5 children over the next 12 years. In 1910 they were still in Mills County farming, but by 1920 the family had moved east to Pottsville in Hamilton County and John was working as a ginner at the cotton gin (and probably farming, too).
Gertie is the woman in this picture, standing next to her father-in-law James Lewis. John is the taller young man in front of her. Is her hand resting on his shoulder lightly?
By the late 20s they had moved to San Angelo. John was working as a laborer for the highway department. These were very hard times and I wonder if they moved for a job or moved because other family members were in Tom Green County or because of John’s health. San Angelo had a reputation for its dry air and in the time of tuberculosis many people moved there in hopes of healing. That is a possibility because John Valentine Cunningham died Feb. 6, 1931, from meningitis and tuberculosis. He was only 46 years old.
When John died, 2 of their children were still under 20. I don’t know if their 2 older daughters were married or not. They may have still been living at home as well. Gertie was left with a family to take care of in the Depression. Before many years passed, she married a young soldier, Charles Murphy, and she is buried with him at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
We have lost touch with the John Valentine Lewis family, probably because the children lost touch with his family after their mother remarried. I have information on one descendant from one daughter and know that their youngest son, John Valentine Lewis, Jr., died very young at the State Hospital in Austin without descendants and is buried in the Oakwood Annex without a headstone.
But John Valentine Lewis is buried in the Newburg Cemetery by his mother and father and near so many other Cunninghams that he grew up among.
I think this picture was in 1928 when the family gathered for the parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.