August 9 and 10, 2014—Around 400 members of the Cunningham family gathered on the historic reunion grounds at Mercer Creek in Comanche County, Texas, to carry on the family tradition.
Like our ancestors have done for 125 years, we laughed and visited, hugged one another and kissed babies, ate delicious pies cooked by sweet old ladies and hearty barbecue cooked all night by able bodied men, got bit by mosquitos and listened to music, took a group photo, sweated, and thought about those that came before us.
Of course we had the modern conveniences of fans blowing and helping the temperatures a little bit, a giant water slide for the kids, port-o-potties, ice, refrigeration, and lovely, air-conditioned motel rooms to return to at the end of the night.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the 125 years— none of us have had the use of cell phones on our reunion grounds.
If you weren’t with us this year, you missed a spectacular reunion. It was a little more “full” than usual with a wonderful historic presentation on Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday morning at the church by Randy Walton, telling about the travels of the Cunningham family and how they ended up in Comanche County and the construction of the homestead that, of course, still stands and was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. There was also the final church service at the South Leon Baptist Church, founded by our family and other pioneers. It is closing its doors for good because of declining membership.
We took a family panoramic photo with well over 300 people on the bleachers in front of the Newburg Cemetery sign. No one has had the patience to count every head in the photo yet, but someone will soon scan it, number it, and start identifying all the family members, if possible.
The hotdog supper Saturday night was a success and music from the Jim Foster Trio was perfect for the setting and the crowd. Jim is a George descendant and he created the Jim Foster Trio specifically for the reunion with guitar, stand-up bass, and fiddle. In fact, the fiddle that was played the opening number was the fiddle once owned by James Cunningham. It had been passed down through the Aaron line to Todd Sloan who owns the Manchaca String Shop in Austin. Todd had reassembled and refurbished and restrung the beautiful Italian fiddle and had it on display at the reunion. On Sunday morning, Todd’s brother Pat played it for the church service along with Todd on flute, Syble Holmsley on piano, and Dan and Christy Foster on guitar and fiddle.
Sunday morning’s breakfast of cowboy fried steaks and eggs from the campfire and a washtub full of coffee was well attended before the historical talk, church, and the photo.
Back at the reunion grounds before lunch, there was a short memorial service to talk about and thank family members that have brought us to where we are today. Some people thanked their parents or grandparents, others thanked Captain James and Susannah, some thanked other individuals who have kept the traditions going.
The awards for superlatives were handed out. Mary Norder of Austin, daughter of Marcia Gillespie-Norder and Naji Norder was the youngest at the reunion at only 10 weeks. She is from the Tom family, descended from the Perkins.
Ruth Adele Waggoner announced that Marie Henson, who has been the oldest at the reunion for several years, was not here this time. She has had some health problems and has a procedure coming up. She had purposefully scheduled the procedure after the reunion so she could be with us this weekend, but then was unable to come. She was certainly missed. Dorothy Jackson, who has lived in Amarillo, Texas, for the last 52 years, but just moved to Salado with her daughter Donna, was the oldest in attendance at 91 years old. She is from the Bill line and was a Hallford. The farthest traveled was David Butler who lives and works in China (yes, that China). He also came the farthest last year on his first time visit to the reunion.
The tables that stand on our reunion ground 364 days a year waiting to be loaded down each August were heavy with every kind of side dish and dessert you can imagine. There was no shortage of food. Virginia Wood brought the same recipe of lemon chess pie that she has brought to every reunion since 1950.
There was only the briefest of business meetings before the family broke up this historic reunion. Audra McClesky took over the reins as family president. She is from the Unity family…the great-granddaughter of Peggy Willis, granddaughter of Mary Lynn Chick, daughter of Jimmy Willis.
We did have an updated genealogy book for the 125th reunion. It is a bound book, 150 pages, with all of the descendants we are aware of in the family along with historical information and pictures. If you would like a copy, send a check for $30 for one, $25 for additional copies, made out to Cunningham Reunion. Mail it to Cunningham Reunion, PO Box 346, Comanche, TX 76442. Make sure you let us know the address you want them delivered to.
Thank you to Mark Hays for these great photos and many more.