Janice Williams

Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

Tombstone Tuesday: John Valentine Lewis

In Gravestones, Tombstone Tuesday, Unity Ann Lewis on October 29, 2013 at 10:17 pm

This past Saturday I went on the Save Austin Cemeteries tour of the Oakwood Cemetery. It was a beautiful day to walk through a cemetery and hear actors and actresses tell stories of citizens that were murdered or had sad deaths.

But before I went there, I went to the cemetery just to the east, the Oakwood Annex. As far as I know, there is only one Cunningham family member buried in either of those old cemeteries:  John Valentine Lewis, Jr.  He was the son of John Valentine Lewis, the son of Unity and James Lewis. He, of course, was named after his famous uncle John Valentine Cunningham.

John V. Lewis married Gertrude “Gertie” Grindstaff in 1904 in Burnet. They made their home near Priddy in Mills County and then in Indian Gap in Comanche County. They had 5 children. The youngest was John Valentine Lewis, Jr., born in 1916 in Indian Gap.

I wish I knew more of the story of this family, and I am still  working on it. What I do know is that John Valentine Lewis Jr. died at age 21 in Austin of tuberculosis. When he died, he was living at the Austin State School and had been living there for 8 years (according to his death certificate) so since he was just 13. The State School at this time was primarily for mentally retarded individuals, so my assumption would be that he was developmentally disabled and his family moved him to the State School in order to be taken care of and get some sort of education. The school had a farm here in Austin and the boys lived and worked on their farm properties.

Two years after John Jr. had moved to Austin, his father died of tuberculosis at age 47. The family by then was living in San Angelo. I don’t know if they might have moved there because of his TB. He is buried in Newburg, but Gertie is not. I do not even know when she died, so she may have remarried.

John Valentine Lewis Jr. died in Austin of TB at age 21 and was buried in the Oakwood Annex cemetery. The State School had its own cemetery where many thousands of residents were buried, many with no marker or record. I make the assumption that the Lewis family must have bought a plot for him at the Annex cemetery.

Sadly, though, even though I knew clearly where he was buried (Section B-195, #7) there was no headstone for his grave. There are other graves around the area from 1937, too, so if there is any order to a cemetery (and there isn’t), people were being buried here in 1937. One grave near him is the grave of a 14-year-old newsboy who was hit by a car.

So there is no picture of the grave and no good picture of the cemetery gates or anything else to share with you this week.

John Valentine Lewis, Jr. born July 17, 1916 in Indian Gap, Texas. He died January 6, 1937, in Austin, Texas of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis.


Tombstone Tuesday: Amanda Jane Cunningham

In Aaron, Gravestones, Tombstone Tuesday on October 15, 2013 at 12:58 am


This grave is in the BIG cemetery of Comanche County: Oakwood. It is difficult to walk into that cemetery and find a specific gravestone if you don’t know where it is. But if you go in looking for Cunninghams in general, you are bound to find them.

It is easy to find the grave of Amanda Jane Cunningham. She was the second wife of the oldest Cunningham son, Aaron, and the mother of his 5 youngest children. She was born in Missouri with the name Amanda Jane McPherson. When Aaron married her she was the widow of William Henson. He died in 1881 and is buried in Hamilton county in the Pottsville Cemetery.

When Aaron’s first wife Minerva died in 1883 at the age of 39, she left him with 6 children–from 20-year-old Susa down to Thomas Jefferson Cunningham who was only 18 months old.

When Amanda’s husband died, he was only 33. She was only 28. She was left with 7-year-old Nancy and 4-year-old Mack Henson. And Amanda was also pregnant and soon would have the baby, Willie Pearl Henson.

Amanda was on her own with her 3 children for a few years. Aaron remained single after Minerva’s death for only 8 months. They joined their 2 families and their 9 children and then had 5 more.

When Aaron died in 1914, he and Amanda had been married almost 30 years, but he was laid to rest in the Albin Cemetery next to his first wife Minerva and babies they lost together. He was 78 when he died, but Amanda was only 61. She lived another 14 years and then was buried in the Oakwood Cemetery. She was buried near their son James Rector Cunningham who died fighting in World War I.

Bernard Cunningham: Part II

In World War I on October 9, 2013 at 12:24 am


To continue the saga of Bernard – or Bernie – Cunningham.

Bernie and Annie were married and lived in Fort Worth for just a short time when she died February 20, 1918, from pneumonia. He moved back to his home in Hamilton then and enlisted in World War I only 2 months after Annie’s death, on April 26, 1918.  His cousin James Rector Cunningham, his father’s first cousin, but closer to Bernard’s age, had already enlisted and was overseas.

Bernard went through his basic training at Fort Travis, a training facility in San Antonio next to Fort Sam Houston, that was set up specifically to train the soldiers for this war. He trained for 5 weeks and then shipped out with the 90th Division, Co. F, 359th Infantry.

James Rector Cunningham died on June 12, 1918, in France. I am not sure that Bernard had even arrived on French soil yet and I wonder if he knew his cousin had been killed.

Bernard fought in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel. He died on September 22, 1918. The battle was September 12 through 15, so I assume he was gravely wounded and died a week after the battle.


There is an American cemetery near the battlefield where Bernard died, but his body was returned to Hamilton and he received full military honors when he was buried in the I.O.O.F. Cemetery.


The Indian Gap band played in the funeral procession.


And Bernard was laid to rest.


The Comanche American Legion had already been named in honor of Rector Cunningham. Upon Bernie’s death, the American Legion #222 in Hamilton renamed itself the Cunningham Post and remains so to this day.