Janice Williams

The Porch Picture 1889

In Basic Family Information, General Musings, Original 12 Cunninghams, Sheriffs on July 26, 2020 at 5:29 pm

Of all the pictures we have of the Cunningham family members, “the porch picture” is the only one with James and Susie Cunningham and all 12 of their children. And, as far as I know, the only picture of James and Susie with ANY of their children. We have several pictures of them as a couple, but none with other family members—that I know of.

My understanding is that the porch picture was made in 1889 when all of the family members were gathered at the old homestead. Of course, the porch is still there today and many of us have had our family photos taken there to carry on the tradition. This was the gathering that is counted as the first Cunningham Family Reunion and this year’s reunion will be number 131.


I don’t know the circumstances that brought the family together for this group picture. It appears to me that it was the colder months of the year, just from their clothing (and John’s coat on the far left) and it appears that they are in their Sunday best.

I’ve been reading up a bit on fashion in the 1880s and 1890s and it appears that the Cunningham family stayed up-to-date on the latest fashions from the east coast and the big cities. All of the girls are wearing the long slender dresses with very tight sleeves and elaborate trim and high collars that were in style. They likely have a prominent bustle in the back, if we could only see more! Their hair, too, was very current style, the tightly slicked hair back in a bun so that hats could be worn.

I’m not as certain about the men’s fashions, but both bow ties and knotted ties were in style at the time, I read. I do think it is interesting to see the facial hair of the family. Only Captain James and Aaron, the oldest, continued with the more traditional beard. All of the younger men in the family had only the moustache, the more modern look. The first safety razor came on the market in 1880.

But my main purpose at looking at this photo is to consider the lives they each were living at the time.

In 1889, Captain James was 73 and Susie was 72. They had lived in Comanche County for 34 years and were prominent and prosperous members of the region. All of their children had married and there were about 70 grandchildren by this time. They, of course, went on to have about 100 grandchildren.

Captain James died 5 years after this picture and Susie lived another 5 after that.

Many of the pictures you see of the 12 Cunningham children has them in birth order. This one is in correct birth order on the back row, but not the front.

Starting with the OLDEST son—Aaron is the second man on the front, with the light pants and the beard. Aaron was 19 when the family got to Comanche County. When this picture was made he was 53 years old and already a grandfather of two children. His first wife Minerva had died six years earlier so there were several of her children and three new babies with his second wife Amanda.

Betty is the second oldest. She and Aaron were both born in Alabama and made the move to Texas with the parents. She is standing next to her mother on the front in this picture. She was 16 when the family arrived in Comanche and was the first person to marry in the county, at age 17. By this picture she had had all of her 11 children and even had 7 grandchildren. She still had most of her children at home, ages 5 through 17.

Dave is on the left on the front row. He was 47 when this picture was taken. His wife, Rebecca, had been dead 10 years already. Dave is the only son to lose a wife and not remarry. He still had 5 children at home with the youngest age 12. His oldest daughter, Molly, married David Christian in May of 1889…. could that be the reason for this gathering?

Dick is on the right on the front row. He was 45 at this time with all 10 living children still at home. His oldest had died 5 years before at age 18.

Top left is John, age 43. He was already a grandfather of three and still had three at home. He and his family lived in Abilene and he was the sheriff of Taylor County.

Next to John is Bill, age 41. His eight children, ages 4 to 20, were all still at home.

Jim is third on this row and he was 39. He had been sheriff of the county from 1884-1886, just previous to this picture, following along after older brothers Dave and Bill who had been sheriffs many years before. Jim had five children in his household, but he and his wife had had three babies and a 7-year-old die in the previous five years.

Joe is fourth on the back row. He was 37 in the picture. His first wife George Etta had been dead 6 years. George Etta and her older sister Minerva (who was married to Aaron) died with a few weeks of each other. Dave’s wife Rebecca was also their sister. So, oddly, three first wives in the family had died by the time this picture was made and they were sisters. Joe had remarried in 1887, two years before this picture. His new wife Nannie was raising the four children he had had with George Etta, but would be having ten of her own in the coming years.

Tom is next and he was 34 in this picture. He had three small children by this time, just getting started on his family.

George is the last man on the row, the youngest man in the family. He was the first child in the family born in Comanche County. I think he claimed he was THE first child born in Comanche County, but I need to research that. When this picture was taken, George was the first sheriff of Mills County. He and his wife Eliza (who would die the next year) had four children and lived on the first floor of the jailhouse on the square in Goldthwaite.

Mary Jane is second from the right. She was only 29 when this picture was taken and already had five children.

Unity is the youngest and last on the row. She was 27 and had five small children, one a newborn.

Most of this information is simply ages and children from the family trees. But I find it interesting to to try to see it in a perspective of where they were in their lives and in relation to each other. If I’ve missed something or need to make a correction, let me know.

Mills County Officers

In George Washington Cunningham, Mills County, Original 12 Cunninghams, Sheriffs on August 25, 2018 at 6:05 pm

I’ve neglected this blog for way too long. Today is a day to catch up after the fabulous Cunningham family reunion two weeks ago and I’m digging into some history again. Stumbled across this and instead of filing it and forgetting I had it, I will share it here first.

Rootsweb was once a site that provided lots of genealogy information. It was purchased by ancestry.com and unavailable for a long time. Now they are bringing some of the sub-sites within it back to use. I’m glad because I always found it very helpful and especially liked their search function for finding others’ family trees. A lot more functionality than ancestry or familysearch.

But I was looking at the Mills County site on Rootsweb (oddly there is not one for Comanche County) and found this newspaper photo.  Shirley Runnels contributed it to the site and it had once been published in the Goldthwaite Eagle.


Of interest to our family is George Washington Cunningham (one of the original 12 children of Capt. James and Susannah) in the upper right. He was the first sheriff of Mills County when it formed in 1887.

The picture was “furnished to The Eagle by R.E. Clements.” That would be Roger Earl Clements, a Goldthwaite druggist. He married into our family on Christmas Day in 1899 when he married George’s oldest daughter Gertrude Elizabeth Cunningham. His own father is pictured as well. He is standing next to George Cunningham and was the first County Clerk of Mills County, Phil H. Clements.

Betty Foster was back with us at the reunion with her husband Bill Foster. It was great to have them back and looking so well. Betty is the great-granddaughter of these two original Mills County officers, Phil H. Clements and George Washington Cunningham.

Tombstone Tuesday: Edrie Cunningham

In Oakwood Cemetery, Obituary, The OTHER Cunninghams, William Henry on January 24, 2017 at 11:20 am

Edrei from family portrait

I mentioned last week that the photo of Jim Holmsley came to me from Edrie Cunningham’s scrapbook. I realized I should honor her with her own post to thank her for her scrapbook of local news clippings. A great number of the Comanche Chief newspapers do not exist. The librarian Margaret Waring told me that sad news years ago and I wonder what pieces of information about our Comanche ancestors lives we might know if we had those newspapers.

But Edrie cut out many local citizens’ obituaries and most of her relatives. I haven’t made an inventory of them all, but it will be interesting to see the time span of her scrapbook. Even after she died, her daughter Mabel continued to put loose clippings into the book. And that is why we have Edrie’s obituary.


There is one fact about Edrie that no one else in the family can claim. She is our only family member whose name was Cunningham at her birth and still Cunningham after her marriage. Edrie married William Albert Cunningham, a member of the “other” Cunningham family that we’ve referred to before. His ancestors are buried in the Newburg Cemetery just like hers.

This was their wedding photo. They married December 4, 1902.


Edrie Susannah was born January 6, 1881. She was baby number 6 our of 8 born to William Henry Cunningham of the original 12 Cunningham children. Her middle name is the same as her grandmother Susannah.

Edrie lived her whole life in Comanche County, much of it in the Newburg Community before they moved into town.

Edrie and Albert had three daughters: Willie Mildred “Miller,” Mattie Lucille “Sade,” and Mabel Edrie “Bud.” They died at 87, 92, and 88 and they were all faithful to the reunion until their dying day.


Here are the “girls” in 2001 (Miller, Bud, Sade).

2001-08-07 14.12.46

Of course, Edrie was faithful to the reunion as well. Here is a picture of Edrie (third from left) with her brothers and sisters at the reunion.

2001-08-06 22.25.18

When Edrie died on May 11, 1965, she lived in a nursing home in Dublin. In the obituary I see that my grandfather, Arla Hallford, was a pallbearer. He was her nephew.

Edrie and Albert were buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Comanche.


Thanks to findagrave contributory GenLady for this photo.